Monday, 26 January 2015

Monday Moods

I must laugh as I have realised since I retired I really like Monday.  It seems like a clean slate, the beginning of a new week, much like the new year but on a smaller scale.

Looking ahead to bookish goals for this week there is one major one really. That is to finish Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  I am one of the one or two people in the world that has not read this book.

American Lit classes never covered it and I must say it isn't the most recommended read in Australia either. However I felt I could not live a lifetime without reading it.

I won't review it. What could I possibly say that hasn't been said by a million people before me. I am enjoying it though. Very much.  I have the boxed set of Jane Austen Penguin classics books and I don't know if it is the story itself or the cloth covered book I am enjoying so much. I jest.

The beautiful cloth covered Penguin Classics
There is a specific set of 7 Jane Austen books that I have and am now enjoying.
 I was told I must read at least three Jane Austen books to get the language in hand. Well that has not been true. I have figured that out rather quickly and if I were to read it out loud I think I might sound rather English instead of this cross between an American and Australian accent I now have.

The copy I am currently reading

I must say I did google the words. "Which Jane Austen book should I read first?"  It was a toss up between Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. I will read Sense.... next.

I quite like this Penguin copy of the book too

I have seen the films and mini series of both and did enjoy them. So I sort of know which way the story goes.  I do enjoy Austen's sense of humour. I am thankful for that because the books wouldn't be what they are without it. I love her observations of people. She really had a knack for it. (I realised what a scholarly sentence that just was.)

I would dearly love to own a copy of this book.
I collect the Penguin Illustrated classics and haven't acquired it yet.

I really enjoy all of the various book covers these books come with also. I thought I would scatter a few of them throughout this post.  I just can't see reading Austen on a kindle. I think you must have the covers because most of them are quite gorgeous. However I did find a couple I didn't like.

 Not much else is happening this week. Today is Australia Day and we have a lunch with friends today. That will be fun.

This is just bizarre.

Wednesday is my bike club day.  Nothing like reading Jane Austen and riding with a motorbike club the next.  Kind of defeats the image of the tough biker.

I am getting ready to go to Sydney again next week.  I have five nights there but will address that more next week.  I am meeting my sister in law who is arriving from Ontario, Canada. She has had enough of bitter cold and snow and is spending a month here. I hope Tasmania warms up a bit for her. It still has a ways to go to qualify as summer here in most people's books.

Jane Austen as pulp fiction. It does make me laugh.

That kind of wraps up this Monday. Stay tuned to see how the week turns out here on Friday.

Happy reading and what books are you reading this week? What other activities will keep you busy?

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Grand Ledge High School - Class of 68 Book Club

As many of my book friends know I emigrated from the USA to Australia.  I actually originated in a little town of about 5500 people when I lived there in the 1950's and 1960's.
The state of Michigan. Grand Ledge is in the middle of the mitten.

I left Grand Ledge in 1973.  Recently I was playing around on Facebook and I found a Facebook page for the Class of 68 in Grand Ledge.  I checked it out and suddenly all of these memories came flooding back.  I joined the group and have been chatting to many of my past classmates.  I had not heard of anything to do with all of these people since I was in high school.  It has been a really fun experience.
Grand Ledge High School - we all left from Grade 12  in 1968

Well to make a long story short we decided to set up a book group. Many of my past classmates have moved away and we seem to be scattered all over the place now. But some loyal classmates have stayed in Michigan and it has been great fun to visit them.

Our book group is called....Grand Ledge Class of 68 Book Group.  We might think of something more original in future but we have now started on the first book assigned.

To set up the group all of us put forward two books and one topic of interest.   I have written all of the names onto little coloured slips of paper and put them in the Book Jar.
March Book

April Book

Today I gave the jar a good shake and the paper book nuggets were scattered onto a bed in the spare room.  Then Cousin Eddie, my 14 month old kitten came in and thought he would check this out. It looked like a lot of fun to him. So I asked him if he wanted to choose the books.   Of course he did.

Travel Writing - Free Choice for May

The inaugural book for 1 March is Beach Music by Pat Conroy.  Cousin Eddie picked To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for the April book and he chose a Travel Book of any kind for May. Each of us will read a travel book and then talk about where we went and what we did, what we saw. This is not going to be a standard book group. We are going to do lots of fun things. We will read literary fiction but we will also be reading a variety of crime, spy and adventure books.  We have several men in this group which is excellent because men aren't known for joining book groups.
I folded up the titles so Eddie wouldn't cheat and read them.
He had a great time checking these out.

Cousin Eddie grabs one and our May book is chosen.
 We have created a separate Facebook page for our group and we will use it to discuss the books at the beginning of each month.  I think the Penguin and I are going to have a great time with our very diverse group.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle- Whew !

What an amazing book this is.  This is a good length novel of more than 600 pages and it never stops for a minute. One starts reading it and meets Toru Okada at home in Tokyo, Japan.  

It seemed mundane enough as I met Toru and his wife. It all seems simple enough as they share a breakfast. Then the cat disappears.  Toru consults psychic sisters to see if they can shed some light on this and we're off and running.  

As I read this book by Haruki Murakami I felt as though I was on a journey. A very long journey. Every page I turned was as though visiting a different place, a different country. There are twists and turns as Toru is flummoxed by the strange phone calls and the psychics that now become part of his life.

As I was thinking about the disappearing cat,  his wife disappeared.  There is no indication of anything being wrong with the marriage so that is a surprise.  

As he walks around his neighbourhood looking for the cat he meets an unusual 16 year old girl in the back yard of one of the houses.  A very strange friendship ensues.  There is also a very haunted house in the area that plays a significant role.  Enter a very old war veteran with horrific stories combined with a scheming politician relative and somehow all of this comes together to make up a terrific story.

This story is about the elusiveness of love, the atrocities of war, the scheming of politics and the ongoing actions of a very passive man trying to sort out all of this as it relates to his everyday life. He is trying to get his "normal" life back but everything only becomes more bizarre.

Toru is a passive man. He is a very passive man.  He can become quite irksome. The only problem I had with this interesting novel is that all these very weird things are happening to him and he just takes it sitting down. Give him another cup of tea.  

He does not get wound up much about anything. When he realises his wife is not coming home from work he really doesn't seem to do much about it except to ring her workplace.  If I were him I'd be checking with the police or the hospitals. I'd be doing something more than ringing her workplace.

I loved the way that all of these eccentric events came together to make up a very surreal, magical journey and how it appeared to become all so logical as the story progressed.

I enjoyed this book very much and part of me did not want it to end.  Yet I wanted things to start making sense. I will offer a warning though of some quite graphic situations that are most disturbing. Some chapters are definitely not for the faint hearted.  I found myself skipping over a few pages here and there when it got to be too much. I got the picture and did not need quite so much description.

This book was published in 1995 but not translated into English for another couple of years. In any case it counts for my Century of Books challenge.  

The first time I read a book by this author was several years ago when our book club discussed Norwegian Wood. I enjoyed that book very much, mainly for the visual descriptiveness of it. I thought it was beautiful.  It was very different to this book. 

After reading two of his books I am definitely looking forward to reading more of this author. I think his descriptive language is entrancing and the story certainly didn't bore me.  I could predict nothing.
I did have to let go of any kind of rationale thinking and completely disappear into this story. It was a story I didn't want to surface from.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Kate Chopin's The Awakening

Amazon describes this book as :

The Awakening shocked turn-of-the-century readers and reviewers with its treatment of sex and suicide. In a departure from literary convention, Kate Chopin failed to condemn her heroine's desire for an affair with the son of a Louisiana resort owner, whom she meets on vacation. The power of sensuality, the delusion of ecstatic love, and the solitude that accompanies the trappings of middle- and upper-class convention are themes of this now-classic novel.

Published in 1899 this book was seen as quite shocking by American readers. I loved this book. It is as relevant in today's modern society as it was back then.  The story involves Edna who is married to a successful but boring man and they live in New Orleans.  Edna can't reconcile herself to the confines of marriage and appears to care little about being a mother to her two children. She has a "quadroon" to take care of them in her household. A "quadroon" is a person who is 1/4 of being black  and along with many  black people worked as servants in New Orleans society.

She meets James at their summer house at a resort area at the Gulf of Mexico and realises she is falling in love with him. He is the son of a resort owner and is a happy go lucky flirtatious man in the community.  

I loved the time they spent on the island. Everything appears to be brilliantly fun and a most carefree lifestyle. However Edna is always alone in the throngs of friends and family members, lonely to her core. 

But Edna's dissatisfaction continues to grow and the reader watches the many consequences as they play out.

After Kate Chopin wrote this book she was quite ostracised because of her seemingly accepting ways of what happens to her characters in this story.  After all this was turn of the century southern United States and not that long after the Civil War.

Also the white characters of course are quite developed in her writing whereas the black characters, although they feature quite prominently in the story are never really developed and are written more as props to the lifestyle of the richer people for whom they work.

I really enjoyed this story. I loved some of the eccentric characters that were Edna's friends. I too felt frustrated by the confines of her husband's ways and his authority and I could completely understand the choices she made at times.  For the seemingly carefree lifestyle of the characters in this book, of being in the upper classes of New Orleans society I could feel Edna's frustration with her seemingly meaningless life.  This is not a happy book but I cared so much about Edna and hoped things might turn out better for her.  

The remainder of this book contains selected short stories that I have yet to finish. If anyone else is familiar with Kate Chopin's work I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Sunday Wrap Up

I have decided to start a new feature on my blog for this year. I'll see how I go.  It will be the Sunday Wrap Up and I will simply reflect back on the week's activities.  The weeks go by so quickly and sometimes I wonder what I have achieved.  

I have been reading a couple of books this week, more on that soon and of course a couple of newspapers. Mainly, I notice I have been watching a lot of TV or more specifically the news.

In hindsight I don't think that was a good idea. The other night I listened to the radio the entire night as the BBC broadcast the events in France. This was the night (for us) that the police were closing in on the terrorists in France.  It was so interesting at the time but it wasn't the best for a mind trying to be upbeat.

This next week there will be a few changes. Hopefully nothing dire will happen in the world and if it does I won't spend my days living in it.

Odie (left) and Wally express their joy at being at the dog beach. I think this is my favourite picture of them.

I cannot believe how fast Sunday mornings seem to come along. Already January is almost half over. I think I want the world to stop for a few days and no one to move.

I am reading the book the Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami and I will give my thoughts on that soon as I think I'll finish it today or tomorrow.  What a journey it has been.

I think the week went so fast because of all the bad news this week. Australia had a very sad domestic  situation that has been taking up a great deal of news and there is also the tragic events in France.

I really think I have reached a point where I just can't deal with anymore of really tragic news. It just seems non-stop and never ending. Each day seems to be worse than the day before.

Our beloved Uncle Buck and Cousin Eddie (right). They are the best of friends.

It is easy to say "Turn off the TV" but it hits from every angle. The media is everywhere.  I have decided I will just try and read and read and turn off all the screens a bit more.  Already I have turned off the screens at night. I can't bear the images that go through my head from newspapers, computer screens and televisions.

I am listening to The Rosie Project on audio book at night and I find an audio book can put me to sleep faster than anything else. Must be the narration that has a soothing tone. I can listen for 1/2 an hour but then start to fade out.

Odie with his most favourite thing in life, except maybe food.

I also organised my music for my iPod yesterday.  I am having to think differently how I interact with technology and news.  I don't think I am alone in this.

Well today promises to be a lovely day weather wise. 23 Degrees C (76 F) and we might get outdoors.  I also have all my silly animals to make me laugh too.  I think I will share a couple of their photos on here today in order to balance out the week.

I needed something really light and silly for today.  I also include my yellow sunflower. That is a funny story too.  Every year I plant sunflower seeds. I can see in my mind tall willowy sunflowers that people admire. All that ever pops up is a scrawny little thing that passes through its life in a week.  So this summer I found a lot of old seeds in drawers around the house. I have a big corrugated iron garden plot and I decided to rake it up, and just throw the seeds in and not look at it again except maybe to pull the occasional weed.  I walked out into the yard the other day and look at this flower that had unfurled after a big rain storm. Actually there were 2. I have them on the dining room table and they brighten my every morning.  It makes me laugh that I fuss and potter and nothing happens in  my garden but once I ignore it everything is blooming like mad.  Already I feel better.

I can't believe this grew in my backyard garden.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Our Hearts Are In France

My blog is not political.  I also do not discuss religion.  But what has happened in France is neither religion nor politics. It is terrorism pure and simple by people that don't know what they are doing.

The irony of the situation is when terrorists conduct atrocious acts they only bring the people of the world closer together. People band together from every corner of the globe and become even stronger as a unit against the terrorists. I fail to see that the terrorists accomplish anything except utter mayhem for themselves.  Nobody wins in this situation.  The families lose their family members but the terrorists also lose everything close to them and their message gets completely lost in the united public demonstrations of support for the victims.

But now I will say no more and leave everyone with their own thoughts.

Our hearts are with the people in France as the French were with the Americans during 9-11 and Australia during the recent Sydney siege.  As all good people in the world are, who are the vast majority, in times of crisis and terror.

I hope justice reigns in this case. I believe it will.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Tassie Travels and Throw In a Penguin

Well as stated previously my friends and I got to the cafe in Hamilton. If you remember I was going to ride up there to see if there really are books lying around and perhaps an old vintage Penguin.
We had a wonderful day for the ride. In fact too wonderful. It was 32 degrees up there (94F). As we are riders who wear all the gear when we ride because we are not stupid women motorbikers  (in sandals, sundresses or little helmets because we value our safety as life is such a joy at times) we were a bit warm. In fact it was miserably hot.

It's as though we tied the horses out front, kicked the mud off our spurs and pushed our way into the saloon. I watch too many westerns.

We arrived at this cafe to smiling faces and an outdoor courtyard with flowers bursting. The menu looked good too. I had the thin pancakes with maple syrup and ice cream and my friends enjoyed their food also. I had a well rounded coffee to give me a bit of caffeine to pick me up for the ride home and the heat.

I look down the road to the left. It's quiet.

Alas, no books. Maybe they were in the back but by then I didn't care. I just wanted a bit of food and a sit down in a shady area.

I look down the road to the right.  It's quiet.
As we sat around chatting, one of my friend's mentioned a shop down the road a bit in New Norfolk was going out of business. It is a second hand shop and they have a book shelf in it. They also have a few vintage Penguins on it.  I didn't know if I would stop by as it was so hot.  I decided I would ride past it and if there was a spot to park in front of it I would stop.

You might wonder why any one wouldn't stop but consider by the time I park the bike, get the helmet off, the gloves off, lock everything up under the seat in 32 degree heat while wearing denims and a leather jacket I wasn't sure I wouldn't melt all over the pavement.  There was a car park vacant in front of the shop so that was my sign to stop and go in.  I am glad I did.

We enter the cafe. We leave the bikes safely out front.

They did have a few Penguin books. I had them already except this green crime one. I have almost all of the green crime books published so I was happy to find one I didn't have. I also found a first published edition of Brideshead Revisited. I have the reprint but not the first published. Since it is numbered at less than 1000 I thought I would replace my reprint with it. It was a closing down sale after all though they didn't act like they were closing down.

We choose a table in the pleasant little courtyard.

I paid for the books and back to the bike, the helmet, the leather gloves, the melting pavement and headed for home. With a quick stop for apricots being sold next to the roadside and 45 minutes later I sat down in an air conditioned room, bike, helmet and gloves safely put away. I happily

We admire the flowers.
thumbed through my new (to me) Penguins.  I was wishing that old books came with a history of where they'd been previously. I always wonder who brought these books to Australia, who read them and what everyone thought of them.  A good day out.

I loved the napkin holder in the cafe. I want to steal it.  I didn't.  I don't want to give bikers a bad name. We struggle enough.
Brideshead Revisited is a first published Penguin. Captain Cut-Throat is a newly found book I don't have, also first published.   It suited the day.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Tassie Travels

People who know me know I live in Tasmania. Today is supposed to see temperatures here of 28 C. That's 86 F for my North American friends and family.  So three of us are going to do a motorbike ride up to the little town of Hamilton.

I have ridden through this town any number of times and there is a cafe that hasn't been there too long, though probably longer than I think that has motorbikes parked in front of it and books in the window.  I am curious as to know if there are any old Penguins here.  So I decided I am going to ride up there, have some coffee and maybe something else nice they serve and see what is on their decorative shelves.  People here seem to like to decorate their shelves with Penguin books.

I always worry I will see a very rare Penguin on the shelf and the owner won't want to sell it to me so I will need to work out a way of stealing it without them knowing who did it.   I have never stolen anything since my mother took me back to the supermarket at age 7 with the Snicker's candy bar I had hidden under my hat and left the store a crook.  I got caught upstairs stuffing it down my mouth to hide the evidence and had to go back and apologise and pay my nickel to the lady who saw me leave with it in the first place. I was searched, the car was searched but none thought to look under the little crochet black and white beanie I wore.  I digress.

I'll come back here later on with some photos of the cafe,  the books, maybe the food and perhaps the bikes.  So stay tuned.

It takes about 90 seconds to travel through Hamilton.