Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 20 - An author of a book you just don’t get

Ian McEwan

This one is easy, without a doubt it is Ian McEwan. In fairness I've only read one and bit of his books (The Cement Garden and Atonement) but I really dislike him as an author and I've never been able to understand why people adore him so. When I began Atonement I was bored, plain and simple. I found his language to be overly flowery and contained all sorts of unnecessary adjectives and I just could not get into the story, so I gave up. With The Cement Garden I had to read it for university and I just found it bland, not scandalous or disgusting, as so many people assume must be why I didn't like it. I actually liked the direction the story took and the focus on the slow decline of the siblings but I thought they were all extremely boring characters and that once again the writing was terrible and didn't fit with the story. I tried to like it (considering I had to read it through 2-3 times for my assignment) but I just couldn't, it was so...blah. I actually found it really frustrating at uni when students would go on and on and on about how much they love McEwan yet would steadfastly refuse to give Stephen King, Bryce Courtenay or Harry Potter any credit what-so-ever. Different people different tastes I suppose, yet I was able to vocalise why I loved those three authors/books and no one was able to tell me why McEwan is such a fantastic writer, at least not without suggesting that I simply don't "get" literature and I simply don't recognise "real" or "quality" writing. Snobs. However if someone who does like McEwan can explain what it is about him that they like, or perhaps why I would like his other work (and not like the two I read) without resorting to my classmates snobbery then I will hire out the McEwan novel of their choosing and read it with an open mind and perhaps find them right which I will happily document on this here blog!

Day 19 - A book that disturbed you

Sorry this one is a day late everybody but I had a blinder of a headache last night and a computer screen was the last thing I wanted to see. Not that you've really missed out on anything because I honestly can't think of a book that really disturbed me. Unless by disturbed you mean scared, in which case 90% of Stephen King's novels have done that, as well as a myriad of other horror novels.

Actually now that I've said that I was fairly disturbed by It by Mr King. I saw the movie (TV special?) of it and was petrified of Tim Curry's Pennywise and for who knows what reason decided to hire out the book from the library. I must have been about 12 at this stage and I remember reading half of the first chapter before visions of Tim Curry's creepy smile kept floating across my vision and I threw the book across the room. The next day I returned it and I've never been brave enough to pick it back up.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 18 - A book you think should be made into a film

This is one of the most difficult questions so far, at least in my mind. More often than not book adaptations turn out to be utter poo and I'm not sure I want to flag any of my favourite books for that kind of destruction. So instead I'm going to list a couple of books that have been made into (terrible) films and should be remade.

1. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
First off, this series needs to be made in its entirety. If the filmmaker isn't prepared to do so, they shouldn't start at all. The original film was OK, Nicole Kidman was a bad choice in my opinion (but that's mainly because I hate her and her frozen face) but a lot of the atmosphere from the book was there. Basically the filmmakers need to ignore the complaints of the Christian community and recreate the story as it is in the books. Personally when I first read the book (I think I was 11 or 12) I had absolutely no idea there were Christian connotations, I just liked it because I thought it was a ripper of a story, and with the right cast, crew and script-writer I think this is a series that could blow all over YA films outta the water.

2. Almost any film adaptation of a Stephen King novel
I love Stephen King, and there are some adaptations (Carrie, the Shining, the Green Mile) that are marvelous, but then there are others which downright stink. I would love to see someone other than a Z-grade horror director take on a Stephen King project. With a decent cast (no more ghastly over-reactions and wooden dialogue) and today's special effects, King's words could create some real movie magic. Don't get me wrong though, I love me some shlock horror just not when it's adapted from one of my favourite horror authors!

3. Harry Potter (1-7) by JK Rowling
I have long been a critic of the film series, but I don't actually mind them. For the most part I think they do a fairly good job with the material considering things like time constraints and so forth, and they certainly are getting better as they go. What I'd love though, is a TV adaptation of the books, because I think with TV they could include all the minutia that simply can't be included into a 3 hour movie. We could watch the Quidditch matches, the petty arguments  between the three, the cramming for OWLS, the blossoming loves, the Hogsmeade trips, the highs, the lows, etc etc. Those are the bits of the novels I often love the most, I know the battle between Harry (good) and Voldemort (bad) is always at the crux of each tale but it is the stuff in between that made me fall in love with the characters and the magical world. I'd love to see that explored just a bit more.

4. I am Legend by Richard Matheson
Hollywood has tried time and time again to recreate this fantastic text and they keep failing miserably, Matheson himself said that he doesn't "know why Hollywood keeps coming back to the book just to not do it the way I wrote it". That is the core of the problem, they keep altering it so that it better fits their action adventure genre which completely destroys the purpose of the story, the central meaning that Matheson created. Personally I'd take it as quite an insult if I were him, that they seem to hold no respect for him and his work and keep destroying it over and over. Matheson said that Romero's Night of the Living Dead was the closest to ever come to recreating his book, even though it is not an adaptation, it simply understood Matheson's intention and the mood and tone that I am Legend held (FYI I am Legend was a great source of inspiration for Romero). Matheson has said it is too late for them to now try to recreate the book, that it should have been filmed when the novel was first released, but I'm willing to sit through one more movie adaptation. On a few conditions, no big Hollywood budget, much of the movie takes place in his house, an indie company could easily do it, no big name actors (i.e. Will Smith) especially when they don't fit the role and it needs to be re-written for them (i.e. Will Smith), and stick to the damn book. Do not change the ending, do not change the central meaning, do not add a freaking love interest and do not add explosions and battle scenes. To all the filmmakers out there, think less Mission Impossible and more Let the Right One In (either version, though preferably the Swedish). You have one more chance!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2 trailer!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 17 - Your favourite book that has been made into a film

There are probably far more favourite books that have been destroyed by film than successfully made into a film I can love and admire, but there are two that stand out as champions. Neither is completely reliable to the text, but I think what matters is that they understand the tone and context of the film, if they have that then a few nips and tucks rarely matter. These two movies are coincidentally junky fiction, I'm not sure why but this is a subject I often gravitate towards in literature, perhaps because of my aversion to that particular sub-culture in real life, but I think it is because it is so... real. None of that happy ending crap you get in Hollywood where no one has any issues or problems and in the end they all get what they want. Films and books with drugs at the centre of them show life as it really is, gritty, hard-work and as easy as hell to screw up. It isn't really about the drugs I guess, it's just that this level of truth often only comes out in films when there are drugs involved. Anyway I'm rambling and I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to say so here are my two favourite books that have been made into films.

1. Trainspotting
Written by Irvine Welsh
published in 1993
Directed by Danny Boyle
released in 1996
starring Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Ewan Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller

* Hopefully you've all read Trainspotting or at least seen the film, if not it is "a loosely knotted string of jagged, dislocated tales that lay bare the hearts of darkness of the junkies, wideboys and psychos who ride the down escalator of opportunity in the nation's capital" (quote via the Herald). I love that quote, it so perfectly summed up the story for me that I can't even try to compete. Unfortunately all of the Trainspotting scenes I wanted to pick on youbtube had the embed button disabled, so instead you get to see Sick boy impart his wisdom on Renton as they lay in the park shooting dogs.

2. Candy (A novel of love and addiction)
Written by Luke Davies
published in 1998
Directed by Neil Armfield
released in 2006
Starring Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish and Geoffrey Rush (fabulous Australian cast)

*I'm not sure if this book/film made it overseas but basically it is about Candy and the narrator (unnamed in the book, Dan in the film) and their tumultuous love affair with one another and heroin. The book covers their 10 years together while the film condenses that somewhat, but it is still a wonderful film made from a fantastic book. There is so much to love about both and I highly recommend them. This clip is from the opening of the film, oh my god, what a way to open a film...beautiful, poignant, and so heavy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 15 - A book you read when you feel down

I'm not sure how to answer this one, which is why I've ignored it for two days! I don't really read a specific book when I'm feeling down, I might shy away from certain books (i.e. ones that'll make me cry) but if I'm really down I'm far more likely to watch a film, because I can just sort of sink into it and be distracted from whatever is making me down, yet not have to use any real concentration. I guess I probably turn to my young-ish books, so I'll list a couple here that are nice, simple happy reads that will bring a smile to my face no matter what.

Day 16 - A book you’ve always meant to have read and never got round to

 by Leo Tolstoy

There are so many books on my bookshelf that fit into this category, I am guilty of constantly buying books to add to my collection much faster than I can possibly read them! However Anna Karenina is my choice today because I have been dying to read this book for quite some time but I keep putting it off, reading other books instead. I think this is partly because I'm intimidated by the enormity of this book, both in the literal sense and in the cultural sense, but I also think it is because I want to be able to read this book with no distractions. I don't want to be thinking about upcoming uni assessment or work while I read this book, nor do I want to hear washing machines, lawn-mowers or computer games while I attempt to read this landmark in Russian literature. The setting needs to be perfect, or at least that is what I keep telling myself. I put off buying the book for months and months looking for the perfect second hand copy, but apparently this is one book no one likes to part with so I had to settle with a paperback copy from the bookstore. Excuses, excuses.  I will get to this book eventually, I am determined to, I think I just need the right push to get me started. Any ideas on how to launch into this momentous book readers?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: Worth Dying For

Worth Dying For 
by Lee Childs

Published: 2010
Synopsis: Jack Reacher stumbles across a small Nebraskan community that has been frightened into submission by a group of four men. When he hears the story about a young 8 year old's disappearance 25 years ago which is linked to the 4 men Reacher decides it is up to him to get to the bottom of it.

 This isn't the kind of book I naturally gravitate towards. My mum bought it at the airport bookstore on her way down to stay with me this long weekend and I decided to give it a read since it was here, really what I should have done was leave it in her luggage!

This was my first in the Jack Reacher series and my first Lee Child book (has he written anything apart from the Jack Reacher series, I don't know?) and I imagine probably my last. The setting in the Nebraskan wilderness 60 miles from the nearest police station made for an interesting premise, but ultimately all we had was an ex-army psychopath who could comfortably take the law into his own hands without fear of the cops breathing down his neck, and that is exactly what he did. I know these action/thrillers are never too realistic, but this book is so far removed from reality it annoyed me. For the action in this story to have a semblance of realism it really should have taken place in a post-apocalyptic society or a lawless community in the middle of a jungle in some un-developed country, not the United States.

The other problem was the 'mystery' aspect of the novel, from the outset we know several details about the young girl's disappearance, but there was no attempt at any red herrings or to disguise the case as something less obvious than a mole on the end of your nose. This was a case that went unsolved by 3 different police organisations and was of great interest to the community but it was obvious from the second her disappearance was noted (which incidentally doesn't occur until about 150-200 pages into the book). Couple this with the two-dimensional characters and you have a book with no drive, there is nothing to hold your interest so it becomes a chore to read. I'm fine with violence in my novels when there is a need, but 500 pages just to describe a series of ways to kill a guy without any real plot progression or character development is boring.

rating: 2.5/5

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 14 - The book you can quote best

Hunter S Thompson

The Doctor is one of my favourite authors, both his fiction and non-fiction is some of the most evocative, interesting and down right crazy stuff I've ever read. He had a command over words that journalists and writers alike would kill for and that readers will continue to be caught up in for generations to come. Fear and Loathing was my first HST and I watched the film at around the same time I read the book. Both are fantastic, both are completely bonkers. They amaze me. Both the film and the book have added greatly to my repertoire of literary and film quotes and these tend to come in handy a bit more than some of the more lofty or historical writers I love, at least out at parties! 
Some of my favourites are...
"We can't stop here, this is bat country!"  

"Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits -- a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage." - The quote I kept going back to while I was studying journalism, before eventually deciding to pack it in.

"Jesus Creeping God! Is there a priest in this tavern? I want to confess! I'm a fucking sinner! Venal, mortal, carnal, major, minor - however you want to call it, Lord... I'm guilty." 

"One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die."

"Turn the goddam music up! My heart feels like an alligator!" 

"You took too much man, too much, too much."  
-Always said as Benico Del Toro says it in the film, well overused by yours truly whenever I see drunks stumbling around on a Friday/Saturday night!

"No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 13 - A book you lent out once, never got back and miss

I'm one of those people who have a hard time lending out their books in fear they're never returned, and for good reason. I've lent out both books and dvds to friends and never received them back, the borrower having misplaced them, or downright lying and telling me they'd already given it back (they went onto the blacklist!).

Donna Tartt

 I lent this one to a friend from high school and never saw it again. I'd only just finished it and had eagerly discussed with him how much I loved it. Such a talk up left him desperate to read it so I submitted and handed it over. This was just before I left home to move to Brisbane, and about 2 weeks before I was due to leave I asked him for it back, he said he'd lent it to his mum, but he'd get it back to me before I left. Two days before I was meant to leave I called him to ask when I could pick it up, turns out his mum had finished it and passed it on to his aunt, who passed it on to a friend, who passed it on to another friend, on and on until the trail went cold. At that stage I couldn't even be mad, half a dozen people had managed to get through the one copy within about 4 weeks, I think that marks a good book don't you?

It is a shame because I'd love to read it again because my memory of the plot is growing fuzzy (well it was four and a half years ago that I read it!) so I'm going to borrow from Goodreads the plot summary for anyone reading this who has never read The Secret History.
"Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning...."

I found myself completely caught up in the mystery of this story, even if the secret was given away straight away. I thought it was very well-written, thought-provoking and interesting. I'd have to read it again to give anything more substantial, but this was a book that I remembered for a very long time. It is long, I think it gets close to about 700 pages, but I never found it a chore, it held my attention well. Perhaps I'll have to borrow a copy of this off a friend to re-read and fill the gap it once held in my bookcase!

Easter long weekend must do!

Made by Cyberdrone, found on DeviantArt

Day 12 - Your favourite book to recommend to friends

A lot of my friends back home have pretty safe reading lists, mostly Jodi Piccoult or Janet Evanovich or whoever else has been recommended on Oprah recently, so I try and help them stray from that path with some books that'll challenge their typical views. I don't have one single book that I push onto people because I know that not everyone likes the same kind of book but I have a couple that I rotate fairly often amongst my friends.

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
This one is usually pretty easy because people have seen the film and enjoyed it. That familiar ground always helps, even if it then changes quite drastically from what was in the film. It's such a fun book, with such great characters, dialogue and absurdity that I am yet to meet anyone who didn't enjoy it. Plus it has  books that follows it, so I'm almost guaranteed to get this person reading 4 more fantastic titles.

2. Misery- Stephen King
Some how this seems to be a Stephen King title my friends haven't heard of so it becomes the one I often suggest. I have to be careful with this one because I suggested it to one friend and she didn't like it, saying it was too slow. However she'd never read horror and only ever watched the jump out of your seat horrors like I know what you did last summer so I completely understand what she meant. It isn't your typical mainstream horror, it's a slow build with a focus on the characters, but that is what is so great about it. Number one fan Anne Wilkes only hints at her insanity for so long and then BAM!

3. Anything by Irvine Welsh
Not enough people know Mr Welsh, they might have seen Trainspotting and known it came from a book, but that's about as far as it goes. So I've taken it on myself to remedy this problem. If someone asks me for a book recommendation I'll suggest one of his. If they seem like the kind of person who can handle a little work with their reading I'll suggest Trainspotting, or if they don't seem like they'd be able to decipher the Scottish brogue I'll suggest something like The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs. Sometimes I hit the mark and create a new fan for Welsh, sometimes they are not impressed and never read another of his books.

Friday, April 22, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge changes

I'm starting to find this 30 day book challenge a real drag, not because I'm having to post everyday or think about books that fit the topic, it is just that the list is kind of moronic. Being the skim reader that I am I read the first few and completely missed the gems "A book you later found out the author lied about" and the 12th variation of what book made you cry. So instead I'm switching lists! This one comes via So many books, so little time, but since I was already 11 days in I've eliminated the days which were similar to those topics I've already discussed. I guess you could say this is a bit of a hybrid list, hopefully it works out a little better/more interesting!

Day 12 - Your favourite book to recommend to friends
Day 13 - A book you lent out once, never got back and miss
Day 14 - The book you can quote best
Day 15 - A book you read when you feel down
Day 16 - A book you’ve always meant to have read and never got round to
Day 17 - Your favourite book that has been made into a film
Day 18 - A book you think should be made into a film
Day 19 - A book that disturbed you
Day 20 - An author of a book you just don’t get
Day 21 - A book where you wish you were one of the characters
Day 22 - The most over hyped book you have ever read
Day 23 - The book that made you look at life in a different way
Day 24 - A book you wish was real life
Day 25 - Your favourite book by a non-British author
Day 26 - Your favourite book of last year
Day 27 - A book you honestly read in one sitting
Day 28 - Your favourite autobiographical book
Day 29 - Your favourite series of books
Day 30 - The book by your bed right now

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 11- The Book that made you fall in love with reading

I'm not sure how to answer this one, because I can't think of the book I read as a child that set the wheels in motion for my future as a bibliophile. Honestly I don't think there was one, I think it was in my genes. My mum is a bookworm, my grandparents are bookworms, I never met my great-grandparents but I'm pretty confident that they were bookworms too. When you live in a house where reading is encouraged and your parents supply you with the most creative, imaginative, interesting and peculiar books they can find it is hard to not follow in their shoes. Every now and then I will read a book that reminds me why I do read and why I love it so much, The Book Thief was definitely one such book, as was The Great Gatsby. Since I've already spoken about The Book Thief it looks like todays selection will be Fitzgerald's masterpiece!

by F.Scott Fitzgerald

I have a bit of a thing with American literature, it truly is like nothing else. Considering my early love affair with authors like Kerouac, HST and Burroughs I was actually late to discovering Fitzgerald, but I made up for that by devouring his work super quick after that! The Great Gatsby was my first Fitzgerald, and I think it's fair to say that your first Fitzgerald is always the one you remember with the fondest memories!

I'm not going to recount the plot for you since I'm sure you've all read it before (if not then hop to it!) instead I'm going to tell you why I love this book. What I love about this book is how it so beautifully paints the extravagant 1920s for all of us poor things who'll never truly now how extraordinary it was. I love that the characters beautifully embody all of the characteristics of this era, both good and bad the extravagance,  mystery,  shallowness,  richness and complexity. Their lives are as dizzying as the parties Jay throws. I love how much Jay loves Daisy. I love that the prose is so beautiful it makes my heart ache. I love that this novel is only 180 pages so that I can read it over and over and over, all in the one sitting. I love that this was made into a film with the stunning Mia Farrow and then adapted into a graphic novel. I love that this novel introduced me to Fitzgerald and the writing that so wonderfully demonstrates how amazing he was for having written it. And I love this quote...

"She’s got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It’s full of-“
I hesitated.
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.
That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money-that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it."

Day 10- The first novel you remember reading

This is a tough one. My mum is one of the biggest bookworms I know, and for as far back as I can remember I was mimicing her with my nose in some book or another. I read alot of series when I was younger, The Baby-Sitter's Club, Sweet Valley High, Goosebumps and anything like that was always piled high in front of me at the library, as was anything by Roald Dahl. So I guess that's what I'll go with, not because it is the first novel I remember reading, but because I know that anything by Dahl was favoured by me from an early age!

By Roald Dahl

I remember quite distinctly watching the film of this at around the same time as I read it and I found both quite frightening, this probably pre-dated my foray into the Goosebumps world actually and maybe it was the catalyst for my love of all things supernatural and creepy.

This story is about real witches, not the fairytale style witches with the tall black hats and warts on their noses. A young boy, warned by his grandmother about the danger of these witches finds himself smack bang in the middle of a hotel of them when they meet for their big witch convention. Adventure ensues as does some lovely Dahl types whimsy (of course). I actually desperately need to re-read this because I'm really clutching at straws trying to remember the plot of it, but what I do remember is having a deep distrust for old ladies with curly hair (thanks to the movie) and rich people (because they so closely resembled the hauty expressions of the witches in the movie adaptation) but also I remember absolutely loving it, and reading it over and over again.

So since I've been so sketchy with the details I'm going to compensate with a clip from the film adaptation so you can get a glimpse into this wonderful creation by Mr Dahl.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Your pick!

 Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!


Today we get to choose any of the Top 10 topics from the past that we hadn't taken part in, it was hard to choose but I decided to pick "Top 10 favourite quotes" because what is better than a quote to convince people to check out some of your favourite books?! Some of my most loved books lend themselves to fantastic quotes because of the beautiful or humorous ways they are written. So here are just a few that I could not resist sharing with you all, in no particular order.

Day 9 - A book you've read more than once

Is this a joke? A book I’ve read more than once? Unless I didn’t enjoy it I’ve read 95% of the books I own several times over! There are a couple of books that stand out as ones that I can read over and over and over without ever growing tired of, Harry Potter (1-7) comes to mind, as does The Power of One, The Dangerous Lives of Alterboys. But I’m trying really hard to use a different book for each day so instead I’m going to pick a book I love and have read multiple times and which I suppose is some what impressive due to its size.

Stephen King

This book was phenomenal! I picked it up when I was travelling down south and was picking up a few books from a second hand book store for the flight home. I got into a conversation with the bookseller about the copy of Misery I was purchasing and he said that if I enjoyed Stephen King I had to check out The Stand. I was intrigued, the bookseller raved about the novel and its complexity and character development for awhile and I made a mental note to pick it up from somewhere. As it would happen I came across it a few days later in a bookstore and immediately picked it up. I devoured all 1153 pages over the course of a weekend, I barely slept and I definitely didn’t waste any time talking to my family or friends! The story absolutely captivated me, the writing combined with the story was fantastic, and I don’t think I’ve ever read characters so well defined.

The accidental release of a virus (also known as Captain Trips) from a military lab decimates the human population of the Earth, leaving a mere 1% of people behind. Here I want to borrow from the Goodreads synopsis, because it’s a kind of perfect summation for me, better than I could probably try to explain…“And here is the bleak new world of the day after…A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides – or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail – and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man”

So far I've read this book twice, and I intend to re-read it again very soon. I've also begun the graphic novel adaptation and let me tell you, it doesn't let Stephen King down. It is simply amazing, just like the original it is based off.I don't really know what else to say about it, except if you haven't read it yet, add it to your TBR shelf!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 7- A Book that’s hard to read

I'm not sure if this question is about a book that is actually difficult to read because it's dense or like most Russian novels have 80000 variations of the same name or if it's difficult to read because of the actual content of the story. I'm going to go with the first interpretation of the question I think!

Ayn Rand

I don't usually like passing opinion on books I haven't finished, and I certainly didn't finish this one, but it was so hard going, and dare I say, dull.I decided to start it because it seemed to be one of those books that an avid reader should read, but I quickly decided a few chapters in that it was not for me, and from that moment I made sure I read books I wanted to read because of the story rather than the label attached to it.  
It was verbose to the point of being painful and the characters seemed really flat to me. For those who haven't heard of it, the basic storyline (thanks to Goodreads since I haven't read enough to tell you myself!) is;

"Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life - from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy - to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction - to the philosopher who becomes a pirate - to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph - to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad - to the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels." This is a mystery story, not about the murder of a man's body, but about the murder - and rebirth - of man's spirit. It is a philosophical revolution, told in the form of an action thriller of violent events." 

Has anyone read this and loved it? I'd love to hear what you have to say about it!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 06- A Book that makes you cry

by Bryce Courtenay

So many books make me cry, it's almost embarrassing, and a reason why I can't read certain books on public transport or in public! Harry Potter and the Half Blood Price is one such book, I get about half way through and I start to get teary because I know what's coming. Poor Dumbledore! But one book that had me in tears and really affected me was Smoky Joe's Cafe. This fairly short novel deals with an Australian Vietnam Vet's life after the war. Plagued by health and psychological problems since returning from the war, it is his wife and daughter who give him the strength to continue. When his daughter is diagnosed with leukemia and he doesn't have enough money for the expensive bone-marrow transplant he hatches a plan with eleven Vietnam vets friends and an ex-Viet Cong to save her life.

I've mentioned Bryce Courtenay before, I love his writing but even more I love that he tells the stories we so rarely hear about here in Australia. Everyone thinks of the Americans when they think of Vietnam, but we were there too, and our soldiers suffered greatly from being in a war they should never have been a part of. Vietnam vets returned to Australia and were spat on by passers-by on the street, they were excluded from the veteran day marches and the Government refused any form of counselling to deal with the torments of war and denied the health affects that plagued both Vietnam vets and their children. Bryce Courtenay addresses these issues by weaving them into a beautiful story of love, justice and forgiveness and it brings me to tears every time almost from the first page. That said this is also a hilarious book, it beautifully switches gears between being funny and sad and angry and thoughtful, rather than falling into the trap of becoming just another angry or over-emotional war novel. I highly recommend a trip down to the library to give it a read, or if you're in the states perhaps buy a copy and share it around with your friends, get some Aussie literature out there!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 5: A non-fiction book you enjoyed

by Lynette Ramsay Silver

The key to a truly great non-fiction book has nothing to do with the topic and everything to do with the writing. Just because it is factual doesn't mean it has to be dense and colourless. This book is possibly the most interest, poignant and fantastically written non-fiction I've ever read. I found it via a fictional text I was reading, Four Fires  by Bryce Courtenay, who is known for his extensive research into the subject he's writing on. A great source of inspiration for him was Silver's book, and he listed it in his acknowledgements.

The book deals with the often overlooked story of the Australian POWs during World War 2 in Sandakan, Borneo. The Australians were incarcerated by the Japanese during their failed attempt to hold Singapore, with the majority of the captured soldiers (English, Scottish, Indian and some Australians) being sent to Changi to work on the railway and the remainders (almost purely Australian) were sent to Sandakan, where they were to construct an airfield for the Japanese. Barely fed and suffering greatly from the tropical diseases and tortures administered regularly the death toll was astronomical. And as the close of the war loomed the POWs were forced to march from one end of Borneo to the other, as it was assumed that in their weakened state that they would all die during the trip, and the possibility of survivors was not acceptable. Of approx 2000 men only 2-3 survived the ordeal.

But this wasn't the worst of it. Those who survived were ordered to remain quiet about the events as the Australian Government tried to push the whole event under the rug. It wasn't until 50 years later, due to the dedication of certain families and historians that the government finally released the 'Sandakan secret' to the public, and set forth teams to Borneo to exhume the lost soldiers remains and return them to their families.

This book reads like fiction, it was so heart-wrenchingly sad, yet it filled me with an immense feeling of pride in Australia's soldiers, in their abilities to stick together and help one another out, even at the darkest of times. Though it deals with such horrendous events, Silver manages to remain detached enough to report the events without any sort of bias, and without that grandiose exaggeration which is so often present in reports about war. This book resonated with me because of my nationality and because of the impact of Four Fires on me, which incorporates many of the soldiers stories into its story, thereby adding an extra (albeit fictional) dimension of emotion for me. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it is important to eliminate the gaps and silences about the past that governments and nations so eagerly employ, in order to learn from our pasts, we first have to know our past.

*note* I've attempted to remember these details by memory, so certain aspects such as death toll, and the nationality of those sent to Changi etc may have suffered accordingly. I've done my best to only incorporate facts I was 98% sure of, but please don't attack me if I'm wrong!


I'm facing an all-nighter which will turn into an all-dayer until this assignment is finished and handed in. 

Damn you procrastination and your luscious desirability, you will forever ruin my sleep!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 4: A book that reminds you of home

The Harry Potter Series
By J.K. Rowling

This series fits into so many of the 30 day challenge topics, but most of all it reminds me of home, and by home I mean my family. I started reading the series when I was in year 6 (1999) with a group of friends and we all absolutely fell in love with it. This was just before the boom of HP popularity, and I remember at the time thinking that my friends and I were responsible for its popularity!! By the time the third book came out my entire family was reading and loving the series, probably the only time that has ever happened. Every time a new HP came out we'd speed read through so we could pass it on to the next family member who would do the same so that about a week after its release all 4 of us would have finished it and have begun re-reading it again! All of our books are so tattered and loved, their pages stuck haphazardly back to the cover with miles of sticky tape.  Debates about characters, story-lines and the movies make up about 90% of our conversations, and while they can get heated, it's fantastic to be able to discuss something in such detail with the entire family. Now that my brother is older he's joined in with the family tradition, although my sister's love for the series has probably far exceeded the rest of us. It's almost frightening how devoted she is to the characters and story, her room is full of HP memorabilia and she knows far more details to the novels and films than I could ever hope to retain. Still she isn't nearly as full on as the guy below!


Day 3: A book that surprised you

by Markus Zusak

This is the only book that comes to mind when I think of a book suprising me. This was a set text in one of my classes last year and although i'd always heard good things about it, it was one of those novels that I just wasn't interested in reading. Thank god for that class, because I am absolutely in love with this book. For those of you who are yet to read this book it is big, but I managed to churn through it in a weekend, simply unable to pull my eyes away. If you have a look at the reviews on Goodreads the readers vary in their opinion, but I am very much of the camp that believes that this book is a work of wonder.

When you read this book it is not hard to see that this was a labour of love for Zusak, the book oozes emotion and creativity and has a complete life of its own. While it is set in Nazi Germany during WW2 it is completely different from anything i've ever read about that time before. He weaves the traditional holocaust fiction themes with new storylines and themes that are a breath of fresh air to a genre that has been done over and over, yet also add a depth and new complexity to the issues we've seen time and time before in holocaust novels. His use of death as the narrator was inspired. In interviews Zusak said that he rewrote the novel dozens of times with different narrators but the only one who felt right was Death, and he is so right, who better to narrate one of the darkest moments in human history than the man that had to be present and watch it all?

The size of this novel has put me off reading it again since I've still got so many books in my TBR pile, but I can't wait until the pressures of uni are off and I can just take the time to re-read it in my own time because I think this is one of those novels in which you learn something new everytime you read it. If you were like me and putting off this book then I implore you to give it a go, maybe you won't like it, but maybe like me you'll see it as a wonderful novel by a young author who can be expected to deliver big things over the next few years.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I'd like to see made into movies

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Day 2: Least Favourite Book

There are very few times I read a book and dislike it, and to be completely honest it is never a book I choose to read myself, it's either a uni allocated text or a present from a friend/family member. There are a few books I've begun and just can't finish, Heart of Darkness for one, but I usually try to fight my way through and at least finish it. I've found, thanks to uni and peer pressure that while Ian McEwan is well regarded as an author by everyone else, I am yet to find something of his I can get in to. I began Atonement and threw it against the wall when I was about half way through because I detested his story-telling that much, but as I didn't finish it I won't count it as my least favourite book, that honour goes to his novel The Cement Garden.

by Ian McEwan

Now I want to start off by saying I have no issue with the content of this book. I say this because normally when I say I dislike this novel people usually make that annoying squished up pretentious face and say "Oh it's OK, it's pretty heavy going, it isn't for anyone I guess." If done well family issues, incest, coming of age, death and all the other 'heavy' aspects of this novel are a real attraction for me, the psychology of the characters in novels like that just draw me in and affect me far greater than some happy go lucky character in another book. But I didn't find these themes well done in The Cement Garden. Maybe it was because it was his first book but I felt like while the bones were there (and could potentially be an interesting book) he was way out of his depth, and instead of an interesting and thought provoking story I had to sit through 144 pages of terrible, unpolished prose, half-done characters which was a complete waste of my time. I'm aware that I'm in the minority here, most people seem to worship at McEwan's feet but I feel like he's one of those authors that people rave about because everyone else does, because he's 'literary' and not liking him means you don't understand the 'complexities of the literary world' and perhaps they aren't quite being honest with their feelings of his work. Or maybe I'm projecting. Who knows, all I know is that this is my least favourite book.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 1: Favourite Book

Such a hard question to begin with!! I don't think I truly have a favourite, favourite book, I have a select few much loved novels/comics that I will always love and re-read, but they all represent a different appeal. After much deliberation I have chosen just one book, one that I truly believe would be the closest thing I have to a favourite book.

by Chris Fuhrman

I've mentioned this book in a Top 10 Tuesday post of mine, and it probably is my most beloved of all books. I re-read it at least once a year, and in the 9 years since I first picked up my copy, the story has never tarnished, or bored me or reduced me any less to tears. The story takes place in the 1970s and follows a gang of misfits in their last days before separating to go to different highschools. While they're troubled by the typical problems a 12 year old faces, love, lust, parents and school they're different from their class mates, as they're an unbelievably talentsed group of artists who use that medium to question the deeper and more existential problems of religion, power, and humanity.

Everyone on Goodreads summarises the story much better than I do, I think i'm too emotionally invested to be able to look at it simply! I picked this book up of the bookstore's shelf while I waited for my mum to pick up some christmas presents for my grandparents and I read the first chapter. At the same age as the boys in the story it resonated deeply for me so I begged my mum to buy that as one of my christmas presents. Now it is tattered, and bent and stained (with both food and tears) but takes pride of place on my bookshelf. It is one of those books I will never throw out, it is more than just a book for me, more than a wonderful story, it is a chapter in my childhood and one of the books that acted as a stepping stone for my desire to read and question and learn.

It is the best coming of age story I've ever read and I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone. I'm yet to meet any one (of any age) who reads it and who doesn't fall in love with it as I did.

30 day book challenge

In a desperate bid to procrastinate a little, I've been taking part in all the 'challenges' going on in the world of facebook. I'm part way into the movie challenge and am just starting the book challenge so I figured I'd replicate it on here, with some additional details, for all of you. It's just a bit of fun, each day has another topic, i.e. day one is your favourite book, and you write as much (or as little) as you'd like. Thanks to Book Luv on tumblr, here is the full list...

Day 01-Your favorite Book
Day 02-Least Favorite Book
Day 03-A Book that completely surprised you (bad/good)
Day 04- A Book that reminds you of home
Day 05- A Non-fiction book that you actually enjoyed
Day 06- A Book that makes you cry
Day 07- A Book that’s hard to read
Day 08- An unpopular book you believe should be a Best-Seller
Day 09- A Book you’ve read more than once
Day 10- The first novel you remember reading
Day 11- The Book that made you fall in love with reading
Day 12- A book so emotionally draining you couldn’t complete it or had to set aside for a bit
Day 13- Favorite childhood book
Day 14- Book that should be on hs/college required reading list
Day 15- Favorite book dealing with foreign culture
Day 16- Favorite book turned movie
Day 17- Book turned movie and completely desecrated
Day 18- A Book You can’t find on shelves anymore that you love
Day 19- A Book that changed your mind about a particular subject (non-fiction)
Day 20-A Book you would recommend to an ignorant/racist/closed minded person
Day 21-A guilty pleasure book
Day 22-Favorite Series (Edit)
Day 23- Favorite Romance Novel
Day 24 - A Book you later found out the Author lied about
Day 25-Favorite Autobiographical/Biographical book
Day 26-A Book you wish would be written
Day 27- A Book you would write if you had all the resources
Day 28- A Book you wish you never read
Day 29- An Author that you completely avoid/hate wont read
Day 30 - An Author that you will read whatever they put out

If you've got a bit of spare time I'd love to hear your answers for each day, or thoughts on the books I've chosen. I'm going to link the books to either goodreads or amazon so if it is something you've never heard about you can find out a bit more, and perhaps learn to love it (or hate it) too!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm enjoying my honours studies way too much...

I'm Baaaaaack!

Today marks the return of your faithful narrator to the world of the internets! It has been a long 6 weeks without it, slowly reducing my uni internet allotment on a combination of uni research, amazon buying and blog reading just wasn't the same when stuck in a corner of the library on my laptop surrounded by students who look like they haven't washed in a month.

This is just the briefest of entries to let you know that i'm back, yes, finally I can return to writing tedious updates and flooding the interwebs with images and youtube clips. I simply cannot wait.

Keep an eye out for me, I'll be spamming you reading lists real soon.


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