Sunday, February 27, 2011

A brief hello and book challege update

My life is a mess of stress right now, I moved into my beautiful new house and had two friends come up to stay the day after we moved in (while our house was still a maze of boxes!) and on the first day of their trip I found out I had been accepted into my post-grad studies and had to come to the orientation which was to happen at 12pm that day. It was 10am at that point! Since then I've been running around trying to enrol and sort out classes, unpack the new house, clean the old house, work, organise internet at the new place (which we're still without) and at some point manage to get at least 2 or 3 hours of sleep a night! Unfortunately even as I tick things off my to-do list more things are added or other items stubbornly refuse to leave the list so my presence on this blog has well and truly suffered.

Amazingly I have actually managed to get some reading in, mostly graphic novels and mostly late, late at night when I can't sleep because of the stress whirring through my body or at the crack of dawn when I am up and unable to do half of the things on the list because nowhere is open! Other than helping me calm down and de-stress these books are helping me cut down on my target for the 2011 book challenge!

I've added the Goodreads challenge widget to my sidebar, keep an eye on my progress and keep your eyes peeled for the reviews that I'll start posting once I have the internet at my house and less that 100 things bearing down on me!!

Edit: It appears that Goodreads don't count graphic novels towards your total books read which I think is a pretty terrible offence so I'm going to keep a separate running tally here on my blog where I will count graphic novels because I do count them as books!

So far in 2011 I have read:

The Walking Dead, book 1. (Robert Kirkman)
30 Days of Night (Steve Niles)
30 Days of Night: Dark Days (Steve Niles)
30 Days of Night: Return to Barrow (Steve Niles)
Freakangels, book 1 (Warren Ellis)
Skin and other Stories  (Roald Dahl)
No Hope For Gomez (Graham Parke)

Edit #2: I'm an idiot! I had been entering the books I'd read straight into Goodreads as 'read' rather than 'currently reading' then moving on to 'read' so there is the answer to my problem! It came to me last night in bed, so now I've rectified the issue on Goodreads and my little side bar widget should be all up to date now. Idiot!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day!!

Happy Valentines Day people of the inter-webs!! 

Regardless of whether you're spending this with someone special or just treating it like any old day I hope the 14th of February is a day of happiness and other good things.

Here in Australia it is just about over, and it certainly has been a wonderful day for me. Like so many people I spent it at work but when I finished at 5.30 I was greeted by my smiling boyfriend (and soon to be roomie) Tom with a bouquet of daisies and a lovely kiss. We spent the night together quietly eating the tasty dinner I made and watching TV. But the shining star of the day came in the special housewarming/Valentines gift I bought for Tom and myself.

The wonderfully talented and beautiful miss Lauren Carney, a dear friend and local artist extraordinaire created a customised portrait of Tom and myself tumbling down the rabbit hole รก la Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It's an amazing piece of work that perfectly sums up both Tom and my individual personalities and the whimsical nature of our relationship. This picture will be taking pride of place in our lounge room, and every time I look at the darling caricatures I'll be transported back to this lovely Valentines Day on the eve of our co-habitation, in the relative early days of what will be a long and wonderful life together.

Image courtesy of the fancy miss Lauren Carney, visit her shop here

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Character's I'd name my children after

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!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bookfest treats!

Once or twice a year Brisbane holds the wonderful Lifeline Bookfest, a week long massive second hand book sale. As well as raising money for a wonderful charity this sale is responsible for adding a significant pile of titles to my overflowing bookcase each year. This year was a little disappointing, normally I walk out with several beautiful old (and often out of print) editions of Dickens or Greene or Shakespeare for absolutely bargain prices, but I failed to find anything like that this time. That said there were a couple of real winners that I managed to scoop up, namely a wonderfully retro copy of John Updike's Rabbit Redux, an Anthony Burgess novel that isn't A Clockwork Orange (rare as ducks teeth here in Aus) and three Stephen King titles on my TBR list. And really, any day you come home with this many books and only spend $16 is a winner right?!

2011's Bookfest finds were:
Tom Wolfe - A Man in Full
Stephen King- Four Past Midnight
Stephen King- Pet Semetary
Robert Ludlum - The Bourne Ultimatum
Robert Ludlum- The Bourne Supremacy
Nick Hornby- Juliet Naked
John Updike- Rabbit Redux
Roald Dahl- My Uncle Oswald
JK Rowling - HP and the Philosopher's Stone
Anthony Burgess - The Doctor is Sick
Stephen King- Delores Clairborne
Michael Crichton- The Terminal Man

Friday, February 4, 2011

The aftermath

all photos courtesy of

These are pictures of Cairns post Cyclone Yasi and while I thank god that most of the damage in my home town was rather superficial (trees and fences knocked down primarily) the devastation further south is much more severe. Early footage of Tully and Innisfail is heartbreaking, especially considering they had only just begun to recover from 2006's Cyclone Larry, but what fills me with fear is that Cardwell, the town expected to have been worst hit, is still inaccessible. Cardwell was evacuated before Yasi hit but reports have stated that 100 people are unaccountable, and assumed to have stayed in their homes, whether from a foolish belief that they could beat Yasi or because they simply couldn't leave. So far there has only been one fatality, and this comes down not to the overreaction of weather experts about Yasi but the fact that we were so well prepared. My fingers are crossed that all is well in Cardwell and that all affected by Yasi can rebuild and recover in the shortest time possible.

EDIT: For a much more indepth photographic display of the aftermath of cyclone Yasi please go here, they make the photos I posted here look like child's play (not in terms of photographic skill but in the devestation they display).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


As an FNQ girl I've lived through countless cyclones, the ones that hit and the ones that we fear but then peter out before they hit land, but not once have I seen something of this size bearing down straight at us.  This is the monster heading straight for my home. While I am tucked safe and sound down south in Brisbane my family and friends sit and wait until it will be safe enough to come out and see what can be salvaged. Because if this storm holds its current strength and size that is all they will be able to do, salvage the scraps of their lives left by this tumultuous storm. My thoughts haven't strayed from my family and friends and everyone else back home since this cyclone was first announced and all I can do is hope and pray that they all make it through the other side. Until then I'm sure they won't sleep a wink of sleep, and neither will I.


My literary forays in Japan

I've got a few general Japan blog entries planned for the next week or two but I thought I'd kick the whole holiday reflection off with something a bit more specific for my blog, my Literary encounters in Japan!

 Obviously the biggest literary phenomenon in Japan is the manga craze, and huge it is! You can find a wide variety of manga in just about every shop you walk into, and the manga section in bookstores is insane, generally an entire level (if not more) is dedicated to the thousands of series that have been created.

Apart from arcades (oh god the arcades were amazing!) much of our time was spent in these bookstores. Even if we couldn't decipher the text the sheer volume of novels and manga was enough to capture our attention and flicking through the manga and reading the pictures was a wonderful way to spend an hour or two- and keep out of the cold! We quickly learnt how to recognise the manga and bookstores from the hentai stores though not until we found ourselves crushed by pornographic manga and magazine more times than I'd like to admit!!

I found so many manga that looked amazing but unfortunately finding manga in English is almost impossible, and when you do it is primarily One Piece or Dragon Ball Z with a smattering of other titles, and generally about double or triple the price of Japanese manga. That said I did buy myself the first issue of Neon Genesis: Evangelion which brightened my relatively lit free holiday substantially!

For those of you who do not read manga (because if you do you'd know about Neon Genesis!) this series is both a manga and an anime that began in the mid-1990s and is probably one of the most famous Japanese series known internationally. It is a fantastic apocalyptic action story about a group of teenagers who pilot giant mecha known as Evangelion in order to save everyone against the brutal Angels. This series has exploded across almost all media platforms, not only is it a manga and an anime but there is now a movie series (the latest of which is in production with an unlimited budget!), video and arcade games and an amusement park. As far as I'm aware no series worldwide (except perhaps Harry Potter) has managed this broad a level of success!

I also bought myself the film series of manga for Howl's Moving Castle. I've mentioned Diana Wynne Jones several times on this blog and she is certainly one of my most beloved youth fiction authors, and her novel Howl's Moving Castle and the Hayao Miyazaki anime film that was created based on her story are two of my favourite things in the universe!

Most anime films are eventually converted  to manga and this transformation is generally pretty easy because of the nature of anime techniques. I didn't find any of these film mangas in English but that didn't stop me from buying the four Howl's Moving Castle manga! For 400 Yen each they were a steal and will be a real motivation for me to get back into my Japanese studies (I studied it for most of my school life).

We also found some marvelous book related destinations while we was in Japan, some with the help of the Lonely Planet while others were lucky finds as we meandered the narrow streets in Japan.

The International Manga Museum in Kyoto was amazing. Not a traditional museum, it is more a library where you can't remove the books from the premises! It is located in an old school and as you make your way from room to room you come across rows and rows of bookshelves filled to the brim with manga from across the world and across the decades. A large central room provides the history of manga in Japan and how it has evolved and migrated across the globe as well as displaying manga from several hundred years ago! Unfortunately you can't take photos inside the premises or I'd fill an entire post with pictures of the massive shelves and the dozens of people lounging around the museum with a stack of manga beside them. Luckily they have an English section, small though it is in comparison to the Japanese sections, with quite a broad range of manga which had Tom and I busy for quite awhile. 

It was also Cosplay Day while we were there so we saw huge groups of Japanese teenagers and adults dressed as their favourite anime and manga characters swapping cards and taking photos on the grass quad at the front of the museum. The effort some of these people put into these costumes is phenomenal, the detailing their costumes contain and the accuracy to the characters is mind blowing. All my costumes to fancy dress parties feel pretty pathetic now compared to these guys!

After our foray amongst the manga we headed to a cafe mentioned in the Lonely Planet, Cafe Bibliotec Hello!  It took us a good hour to locate it but man was it worth it! The food was amazing and Tom's mango and coconut smoothie was unbelievable!The cosy and quirky interior was complimented by bookshelves filled with books and manga on a variety of subjects. I saw architecture books alongside literary classics alongside science texts and many of the patrons were seated with a book or magazine in their hands. My idea of heaven!

So now you've all had the first brief look into the amazing three weeks I spent in Japan. I can't wait to show you more of my terrible photos of the places and people who took my breath away.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Debut Novels

This house hunt of mine is dragging on longer than I'd hoped, I have my heart set on a sweet little Queenslander cottage and there simply aren't enough of them around in my price range!

So I've decided to give myself the morning off and take part in Top 10 Tuesday. This week is top 10 debut novels, I think this list might be a little more difficult than the ones I've done in the past, but let's have a crack shall we!

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!

In no particular order...

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
I'm not even going to elaborate here because I KNOW that 99% of participants taking part will pick this novel for their list but seriously, how many other people can say their debut novel captured the hearts and minds of not only almost every child in the world but every adult!!

2. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
This novel blew me away when I read it last year. Ever since Twilight blew up I've been suspect on any vampire related novel but Lindqvist's debut succeeds everywhere Twilight fails. I was completely enthralled with the dark, troubled characters and the action which built and built to a completely satisfying conclusion. I am eagerly awaiting my move so that I can finally buy his new novel Handling the Undead, it's about zombies! YAY!

3. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Welsh is one of my favourite authors, I find his stories and characters incredibly authentic, despairingly so sometimes, and I love the Scottish accent that pops into my head every time I read something of his, completely unavoidable as many of his novels and short stories are written phonetically in his native Edinburgh brogue. So it is no surprise that I love, love, love his debut novel, which I first encountered as the film with the delicious Ewan McGregor.

4. Carrie by Stephen King
I am a fervent defender of Stephen King against those classmates of mine who believe that his success and wide spread appeal apparently means he is a talentless hack who doesn't write substantial or quality novels. Needless to say these are 19-26 year old wannabe authors who already know they're never going to make it and take it out on successful authors like King, Courtenay (The Power of One), Rowling etc because they'll never rise to that level (isn't jealousy pathetic?!). Anyway, I love Stephen King, his ability to develop characters successful in the most bizarre of settings/scenarios shows a true understanding of writing not to mention an uncanny ability to scare the pants off me every time! Carrie was fantastic, short, sweet, terrifying, sad, interesting and 100 more things that describe the brilliance of this debut. No wonder he still sells books like there is no tomorrow!

5. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
My mum gave me a copy of this novel when I was 11 and I devoured it, I think I read it through something like three times back to back. Little did I know it was a children's edition and finished halfway through the original text! Luckily for me this meant I got a second chance to fall head over heels when I read it in full 2-3 years later. This was the novel that made me fall in love with Courtenay's storytelling ability, a love affair that has only just begun to dull (his latest books have lost the spark his earlier work had I think). This book is remarkable, if you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favour and buy/borrow/steal a copy!

6. Hell's Angels by Hunter S Thompson
Apart from being a fascinating read this is the work that raised HST's profile enough to give him the freedom to spread his wings and let his freak flag fly (or at least investigate those who do)! This was an aggressive, informative investigation into the world of the Hell's Angels that showcased HST offbeat, intensive and astounding ability to investigate and write.

7. The Dangerous Lives of Alter boys by Chris Fuhrman
I'm not actually sure what it is that makes this book so important to me, but I cherish this novel and my battered old copy is one of the most precious things I own. The characters are flawed yet accessible and lovable and the storyline is so simple (and somewhat twisted) yet tugs at my heartstrings every time I read it. After 10 years and countless re-reads I still bawl like a baby every time I read it.

8. Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
Ok I'm breaking the rules here as technically this wasn't her debut novel but it was the debut of her Chrestomanci series and while it was her third novel released it was this novel which set the age bracket and fantasy level that the majority of her following books would conform to. Just like Harry Potter it is filled with quirky well-dressed magicians (think young, jaunty Dumbledores) with fantastic humour and magical worlds to fall into and in love with.

9. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I love Fitzgerald's writing style and I love being transported to the roaring 20s with his words but one of the best things about this debut novel is that while it launched his career it also was enough to convince his beloved Zelda to finally agreed to marry himnawwwww!

10. The Gremlins by Roald Dahl
Another cheat, The Gremlins was Dahl's first published children's book and second novel published (the first being aimed at adults). I haven't actually read The Gremlins myself but I couldn't help adding it because it was the first of many books written by Dahl that generations of children read and love over and over. I started this list with HP asking how many people could say "their debut novel captured the hearts and minds of not only almost every child in the world but every adult," Dahl's debut novel may not be as well known or beloved as HP and the Philosopher's Stone  but he certainly joins J.K as an author who has amassed a score of devoted fans, child and adult alike. I'm rather proud that I managed to bookend my list this way!


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