Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Maggie's Orchard" by Maggie Beer

I found this book yesterday at the second hand bookstall at the Adelaide Central Markets. It appears to be divided up by seasons, with chapters on particular seasonal ingredients, information and anecdotes by Maggie Beer, as well as recipes to showcase how to cook each ingredient. As Maggie Beer is South Australian, I thought this would be a great book to read to get ideas about which local produce to buy when, and interesting and tasty things to do with seasonal ingredients that I might not generally have considered cooking.

It's a non fiction book and full of recipes so I will be reading this slowly, in between reading novels. Once I finish reading the book I will post a review here, but it may be a while away :-)

Started reading: 23rd March 2014

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman

Reading this book is not part of the Aussie Author Challenge, Neil Gaiman is an author from the UK. This is the first book I have read by this author, although I'm aware he has written quite a few, and across different genres. I love the cover art of this book, even though I actually read it in kindle format which didn't have images. To me, this book is a mix of fantasy, fairytale, darkness. It's told from a child's perspective, and is childlike and simple in many ways, but it's not a book for young children. It is dark and magical and disturbing. Some aspects are very simple "bad vs good", others are more complex. It reminds me of the film "The Dark Crystal"...not in the storyline, but in the emotions I felt when I read it, or like a dark version of Enid Blyton's Far Away Tree. It's not a long book and I'm not going to go  into the details of it, I'm sure there's plenty of synopsis reviews available online. I can't say the book was totally enjoyable, but it did keep me turning the pages, and I didn't know what to expect, it felt like watching a dream sequence, I was aware on more than one occasion of experiencing that feeling you get when you wake up suddenly in the middle of a dream and struggle to figure out whether something that occurred was real or part of a dream/nightmare. 

Started reading on my kindle: 23rd March 2014
Finished: 1st April 2014
My score: 7/10

Friday, March 21, 2014

"I Came to Say Goodbye" by Caroline Overington

When I was doing the Aussie Author Challenge and Australian Literature Month last year I discovered Caroline Overington's books. The first one I read, "Sisters of Mercy" still haunts me at times. While "I Came to Say Goodbye" was also a page-turner, I think "Sisters of Mercy" is a more complex and chilling story.

I'm beginning to notice a bit of a theme running through Caroline Overington's books though...she is very good at depicting realistic characters on the fringe of society; often mentally ill or intellectually challenged, living pretty sad lives, possibly failed to be cared for adequately by society, who are caught up in horrific crimes (as victims or perpetrators or both). I think part of the chilling aspect often comes from the fact that the person who commits the crime often seems to be without remorse or even without the ability to see what they have done is wrong, and sometimes even think they are in the right. Lots of small pieces come together to tragic effect, sometimes making the reader consider the systems in place in society and whether they could have been effective at preventing the crime if different action was taken earlier. Caroline often tells her stories from an interesting angle or side character rather than from the character in the centre of the novel, in this case, most of the story is told from the perspective of the grandfather of a missing child, who is writing down a statement for a court hearing of events leading up to the crime.
"I Came to Say Goodbye" starts with a situation caught on CCTV footage which appears to involve a woman brazenly walking into a hospital and placing a young baby from the maternity ward in a green Woolies shopping bag and simply walking back out of the hospital and driving away with the baby.  Then the story jumps forward in time to the grandfather of the kidnapped child, who provides all the background story, revealing what could have happened to someone in order for them to do such a thing. Unlike "Sisters of Mercy" which was criticised by some reviewers for having an ambiguous ending, "I came to say goodbye" has a clear ending, even if it is pretty heart-breaking.

Started reading on my kindle: 21st March 2014
Finished: 22nd March 2014
My score: 7/10
Aussie Author Challenge Stats: Female author; Genre: crime

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Sorry" by Gail Jones

This book was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2008, and was recommended to me by a lady who works in Dymocks bookshop in Rundle Mall as a great 'Aussie author'.

I found the actual writing style and prose of this book to be quite captivating, it was simply beautifully written. I enjoyed reading the book just for the beauty of the language used. However as the book progressed I was left a bit unsatisfied with the actual story; it was quite a short book (approximately 200 pages), and so many of the themes and characters could have been explored in more detail. All the characters seem to be lonely misfits in one way or another, and the characters and the story are all quite tragic, and pretty far-fetched and unbelievable in many ways. Little snatches of Shakespeare appear throughout the book, and while at first I enjoyed this, it soon became overdone and a bit ridiculous in the remote Outback setting. The main character, a girl named Perdita, lives in the outback with her two strange, apparently mentally-ill parents.  The book spends a lot of time skirting around a traumatic event in Perdita's life that leaves her with a debilitating stutter, and although it is finally explained towards the end of the book, there is no justice, so I found the ending pretty empty and sad. My favourite characters were Perdita's two friends - a deaf and mute boy, Billy, and an Aboriginal girl, Mary, - they were by far the characters that I felt the most empathy for, and I would have liked to read more about them, and less about Perdita and her melodramatic mother and unlikable father.

Started reading: 9th March 2014
Finished: 21st March 2014
My score: 6.5/10
Aussie Author Challenge stats: Female author, New to me, Genre: Literary fiction.