Friday, 16 December 2011

Challenge 8: 'Hunting Party'

You are being Challenged!
Your Book: Hunting Party.
Your Challenge: To read it.

Hunting Party is book one of the Serrano Legacy - probably one of my favourite Sci-fi series of all time. I chose Hunting Party partly because of this, partly because my other candidates included a 600 page book which is really only an introduction to the rest of the series and a book which I know Emma wouldn't like, and partly because it doesn't need the rest of the series to be good, it works just fine on its own. So yeah, have at it Emma, hope you enjoy yourself.

Review 7: 'Seven Little Australians'

Another challenge, another classic. I think Em was right when she said I would have enjoyed it more when I was younger, but it was still alright. Similarly to some of the previous challenges (Emma, I'm looking at you), I am not a massive fan of the book, but it did however mange to elicit a chuckle or two fairly regularly, so I'm not unhappy with having to read it.

Tune in for the next Challenge in just a moment!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Author Visit: Matthew Reilly

Last week, I went to a local Author Talk - Matthew Reilly promoting his latest book, Scarecrow And The Army Of Thieves. Luke first introduced me to Matthew Reilly a few years ago - best recommendation he's ever made - and we both read the latest book as soon as it was released.

Matthew Reilly discussing the painting used for the cover of Scarecrow And The Army Of Thieves.

I've never been to an author event before, and I quite enjoyed it. I know he did some other appearances that we just listed as Signings or Visits, but this was an hour-long presentation by Matthew Reilly about (it seemed) pretty much whatever he wanted to mention. He spoke about the various cover art decisions (Americans like explosions and calling people Matt instead of Matthew), where he gets his ideas, film and television possibilities, and his next projects.

I really wanted something that I wouldn't have been able to get from the internet or didn't already know, and I got it:
Spoiler warning he used before showing something from the new book.
the main character of his new novel is a girl. At least I think so. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a major but not main character.
I also really wanted news on when the next Jack West book is coming out, and the answer is: keep waiting, buddy. I feel like authors should be like story-writing robots, and as soon as one book comes out the next one should be nearly ready to go. Turns out it's not quite like that, if you are Matthew Reilly. I will be very eager to read Four Whatever Whatevers when it is eventually released, but since I just learned that books don't write themselves, it may be a while.

From Hovercar Racer.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Challenge 7: 'Seven Little Australians'

As we mentioned in our Twitter posts, we have decided to suspend the audiobook Challenge, for reasons that we will discuss in an upcoming post. Therefore, we're moving on to Challenge 7!

Luke, you are challenged to read Seven Little Australians, by Ethel Turner.

Fun fact: In 1994, this was the only book by an Australian author to have been in print for 100 years.

It's an Australian classic, and while you may have enjoyed it more when you were a bit younger (and therefore closer to the characters' ages), it's never to late to catch up on your classics. I imagine it will be a quick and easy read, and it might even be fun for you.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

I'm Reading: 'The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society'

I'm not sure where I first heard about this book, but The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society has been on my list of Books To Read for quite some time. I think the fact that I really had no idea what it was about prevented me from getting to it sooner. But who could resist that title?

As it turns out, it is about an author, Juliet, who begins to correspond with (and later meets, and later becomes one of) the members of the Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, who live on the island of Guernsey, which was occupied by Germany during the Second World War.

I also didn't realise it was written in "epistolatory style", as I since read somewhere. I have read a few books written in letters and email and didn't particularly enjoy them - I think because there is so much telling and not showing, and because while telling long-winded stories it is hard to maintain a character's letter-writing tone. I did enjoy this one, once I had gotten used to the style and started to get all the characters straight.

The final thing I didn't know before I read it was that the author's health problems meant the book was finished by her niece. I didn't notice any major difference in writing style, but maybe I would have if I'd known. I think I like that I wasn't distracted and analysing in that way. 

The moment I decided I had to love the book was on page 122, when Juliet sends a telegram to one of the Society's members regarding a recent letter. Up until now they had all only communicated by mail, but clearly this was an event worthy of sending a telegram:

Telegram from Juliet to Isola
23rd April 1946
Did Elizabeth really slap Adelaide Addison STOP If only I had been there STOP Please send details STOP Love Juliet

The book does finish with a happy ending, but not the ultimate happy ending that could have gone down. It was an interesting look at a very small part of the impact of WWII. It was easy to see how the authors (Juliet the character, and the actual author, Mary Ann Shaffer) could become so involved in the lives of the people living on the island.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Challenge 6: Reading With Your Eyes Closed

Luke and Emma, I hereby challenge you to read without reading a word. In other words, I would like you both to enjoy the aural pleasures an audiobook can give. I personally really enjoy audiobooks and often use them to fall asleep to when the old noggin won't stop whirring.

The book is Straight by Dick Francis.

This particular book is by an author who is somewhat of a traditional read in my family, with his books being crime-thrillers and always having something to do with horses or horse racing, but from quite varying angles. He does a lot of research to make his angles credible and I more often than not find myself learning stuff about random things, which is always nice.

Anyway, I like this one, so I hope you guys enjoy the story and the experience of listening to it.

Review 5: 'Never Cry Wolf'

First of all, I would like to tell you about the aspect of the book that I didn't like: whatever the hell the cover was made of. Touching it felt like fingernails on a blackboard, if that bothers you which it never did me, but I can imagine.

Next I would like to tell you that I really enjoyed this book. As Luke said, it is by biologist Farley Mowat, who is sent out to the wilds of Canada to find out why wolves are killing all the caribou. (Spoiler: They're not.)

Mowat describes the two summers and a winter he spends there, as he studies and gets to know a family of wolves. It is Bryson-ish in tone, which keeps it light and entertaining even though there is lots of factual science and nature elements in there. It was a surprisingly quick read. It really got me interested in the wolf family - when it was done I wanted a sequel so I could find out what happens to them after the book.

I would definitely recommend this book, and I may even investigate some others he's written. I think this is the most enjoyed and agreed-upon book in the Challenge so far.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Review 4: Put Yourself In My Shoes

Well this challenge certainly was interesting. The first book I read was one of the Goosebumps series, and it made so little impression on me that I can't even remember the title (something about mud men? - ah yes: You Can't Scare Me). It was followed by a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys book - Gold Medal Murder, which was easily preferable (If nothing else because the cover had Nancy on it, and she's hot :P). Apart from the cover art it was a bit more complex, and I had to think for at least a few moments to figure out what was going to happen.

Next up were the two horse books (Western Star and Star's Chance for Thoroughbred and The Saddle Club respectively). These were mildly entertaining, but unfortunately did have any hot girls on the cover art... disappointing. Although I probably did learn something about horses while reading them, so that was good. Last of all was Sweet Valley High (The Treasure of Death Valley). I can't say I particularly enjoyed this one all that much, and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps just because it was so divorced from what I usually read. On the bright side, it did have treasure, so it wasn't all bad.

Now, on to the most important matter: From my studies, and extensive research in these books, I have concluded that Long Blond hair is preferable to strawberry blond, and that you can never go wrong with blue eyes.

So, all in all, while I am not in awe of these books, they did provide a moderately entertaining 3-4 hours reading. Thinking about it, they really didn't last long... It was also interesting see how much my tastes in books has evolved, which is to be expected, but is still interesting.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Challenge 5: 'Never Cry Wolf'

Emma, you have hereby been Challenged!
You must read Never Cry Wolf,

By Farley Mowat.

I have only actually read this book twice, but that is mostly because (until a short while ago) I didn't own it. It is the true story of the naturalist Farley Mowat, who is sent to the Arctic to find out why wolves were killing all the caribou. This may not seem like a good basis for an entertaining read, but he tells his story well and with a fair amount of humour.
I think Emma will like this book (It has wolves dude!) it's mix of humour, the recounting of the idiocies of bureaucracy and dealings with the local population (and wolves) are just great. And she may even learn a thing or two.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

I'm Reading: Girly Books

I've been reading a lot of, well, crappy girly books lately. Partly because my reading happens on the train, which means I need something that doesn't require a long attention span or detailed attention to plot points, partly because I am swamped up to here with uni assignments so I need something light to give my brain a break, and partly because I like them.

Sisterhood Everlasting - Ann Brashares

I am a fan of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books. Mostly the first one, I think. (I always want authors to write more and then get mad when they fail to impress with later books.) Sisterhood Everlasting jumps to when the girls are adults. Some things that should have changed are exactly the same (move ON, girl!), and some have changed that I didn't like.

The main thing about this book is that it is SAD. A mind-fuck event happens quite early on. The rest of the book is quite emotional, but as soon as I figured out that what appeared to be true could not be, I was mad at her for continuing to jerk my emotions around. There are some good emotions that happen later - whatever else, she does emotion well.

10/10 for the message about the power of friendship.

Chasing Harry Winston - Lauren Weisberger

Lauren Weisberger also wrote The Devil Wears Prada, which I have not read although I've seen the movie. Although I didn't really want to read that book, I was interested in what else she might have written. I read this one a while ago, so this might be a bit vague and fuzzy.

Three friends make a bet to take place over the course of a year re: being a slut and getting engaged and something else respectively.

It was a fun read, the interactions between the girls were mostly supportive, there was lots of name-dropping (people and brands and places).

Minus points for neediness in finding a man.

Smoking Seventeen - Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter who is really bad (but lucky) at her job, and who has two totally hot men crazy for her. This is the seventeenth book about her, and while I was annoyed several books ago about the decline in quality over the series (and length of book, and complexity of mystery), I've accepted that it's light, fluffy adventure, and can now enjoy it as such.

Nothing particular awesome or particularly offensive, girl-power wise. Oh, she does get the vordo - an Italian curse that makes her want to have lots and lots of sex. Lucky for her, she gets to have it with Ranger and Morelli. I suppose having two hot guys on the go at once might be empowering for her.

The Rouseabout - Rachael Treasure

Rachel Treasure is an Australian author that I've been wanting to try. Her books seem to feature Australian country girls doing it tough and then (I assume) returning home to the land and making a (happy, with husband) life there.

I haven't actually finished this one yet, but I'm pretty sure I know enough to write about it. I like it, it's easy to read, there's a ton of Australian references (too many?). I like Kate, who is tough and independent and loves her property fiercely. Sometime the mothering stuff is a bit too real - I think I like my heroines a bit nearer to perfect sometimes. I wish she wasn't quite so obsessed with Nick, pretty sure there's a better message in it if you make a life for yourself with friends, daughter, work, family, and then find yourself ready for a bloke.

Yay for independence, Boo for obsession with a bloke, Yay for mates, Boo for killing off a bunch of people, Yay overall.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Guest Review: 'The Eyre Affair'

When I began
The Eyre Affair, it felt a little uncomfortable and was difficult to understand what alternate reality I had stepped into. This is probably because I knew pretty much zilch about the author, the setting or the main character prior to reading. The setting seemed futuristic, but then claimed to be the 80's. I found this unsettling until I realised that I was in a parallel universe with society built entirely around literature! What an amazing concept - people changing their names to John Milton, trading in currencies of rare manuscripts, crimes against literature are considered the major crimes in society, ordinary folk off the street coming to fisticuffs and joining cult groups about who the real author of Shakespeare's plays was. This world... was comforting! How good would it be to live in a world where, to help solve crimes, you have to read a book?! I was hooked.

I like the way that 'prequels' are coming out now to 'explain' occurrences in classic stories eg Wicked for The Wizard of Oz. I wonder if I'll ever read Jane Eyre again and not think about Hades throwing Bertha off the roof rather than her jumping. Luckily, I don't think this phenomenon ruins the originals.

I found the writing style easy to read and liked the quotes at the start of each chapter, which give the story depth. I thought Thursday was 'definitely written by a guy' at first, but by the end of the story, I was relating to her well. As a sciency person, I really liked the gene-splicing of extinct species and Mycroft's inventions. Boy, does this author have a colourful imagination.

Also, bonus points for the cover design. I like it.

A little bird tells me that this is a series, so I am planning on becoming delightfully embroiled in Fforde's world again.