January 30, 2009

One Book...

I saw this meme over at Kiss A Cloud and A Striped Armchair:

One book you’re currently reading:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay By Michael Chabon
One book that changed your life:
Fast Food Nation By Eric Schlosser
One book you’d want on a deserted island:
The Collected works of Jane Austen (I have to agree with Eva on this one!)
One book you’ve read more than once:
Persuasion By Jane Austen
One book you’ve never been able to finish:
Les Miserables By Victor Hugo
One book that made you laugh:
The Other Side of The Story By Marian Keyes
One book that made you cry:
Atonement By Ian McEwan
One book you keep rereading:
Persuasion By Jane Austen
One book you’ve been meaning to read:
A Suitable Boy By Vikram Seth
One book you believe everyone should read:
The Book Thief By Markus Zusak
Finally,Grab the nearest book. Open it to page 56. Find the fifth sentence
"Hook still had the power to haunt their dreams" From, Peter Pan in Scarlet By Geraldine McCaughrean.

January 25, 2009

Writing and Other Bits of Creativity

My friend Tamara at Thyme for Tea has very kindly reminded me that one of my blogging goals for this year is to to write one post a week about writing - mine and others - as opposed to only writing posts directly related to my reading.

When I first started BookBath I had every intention of using the blog space to write about writing as well as reading - but for some reason that hasn't really happened. I think that is probably consistent with my own writing practice at the moment - writing was once something I was continually doing - now it is really only something I do for work or academic purposes (not really as much fun!).

Back in my high school days I kept a journal, I wrote letters to my best friend every night and gave them to her the next day at school, I had pen friends from all around the world who I kept in regular contact with, and I also remember writing a series of short stories involving my friends and our antics (I can only imagine what they would sound like if I read them now!).

Even when I got to Uni I was still hanging in there for a while - letter writing, keeping my journal (in an ad hoc manner) and keeping note books and scrapbooks full of ideas for stories. I even completed a creative writing course as part of my BA - now that I think back this may have been the beginning of the end for my writing! My competitive nature came to the fore and I struggled with not being "the best" at writing - instead of just enjoying what I had for myself.

This year I have made a decision to go back to my writing and one of the steps I am taking to pursue this is to take part in an 8 week online writing mentoring program starting in mid February - I am excited about this but also a little nervous. As a way of starting to get my mind into gear I have been digging up some of my old writing pieces - I have even discovered a VERY descriptive piece I wrote as a 16 year old school student so long ago! Very cringe worthy and bloody awful writing but kinda sweet at the same time.

I have also discovered some very basic pencil drawings I have done in the long ago past (see above)- as childish as they appear they do help to remind me that I can create - when I put my mind to it.

January 24, 2009

Premio Dardos Award

I am really excited and honoured to be given this award by my beautiful friend Tamara at Thyme for Tea - thank you so much!

The Premio Dardos Award is in appreciation of the merits - culturally, literary and individually - of every blogger who expresses him/herself on his/her blog. The conditions are:

1. To be tickled pink
2. To copy & paste the award picture to your blog
3. To write down the regulations
4. To link to the blog who bestowed you the award
5. And finally, nominate 15 blogs for the award

I realise that some of the blogs I nominate will most likely have already been nominated for the award by one or more other bloggers but I don't think you can ever have too many awards so here it goes:

1. Thyme for Tea - not sure what the rules are about awarding to the person who awarded you but I think it is well deserved in this case!

2. A Work in Progress - such a well thought out blog with wonderful posts everyday.

3. A Striped Armchair - I know Eva will have been awarded this award previously for sure but her blog is just so amazing I don't think she could be given enough really!

4. Between Concrete and Sky - such a beautiful blog filled with reading, photography and even dancing!

5. Charlotte's Web - an honest, thought provoking blog.

6. In Spring it is The Dawn - I love this blog for it's beautiful content and presentation.

7. Life and Times of a "new" New Yorker - Fun, spirited and entertaining - I love this blog.

8. Little Breeze - This is a new blog find for me but already I'm checking in quite a bit, beautifully set out and expressed.

9. Reading Writing Living - As the title suggests this blog covers it all - wonderfully.

10. The Reading Life of an Antipodean Owl - A great Australian blog.

11. Under The Dresser - always honest and always fun to read.

12. Caribousmom - This blog is simply stunning, gorgeous to look at and the posts are always so informative and interesting.

13. Gondal-Girl - Another wonderful Australian based blogger.

14. Another Nutter - Yet another Aussie with fantastic wit, humour and honesty.

15. Austenprose - One of my favourite blogs encompassing everything Austen.

January 23, 2009

More Library Loot

I am really getting back into the swing of borrowing from my library - now I just have to read all of these books I have picked up!

Books borrowed this week:

The Good Parents By Joan London and The Lost Dog By Michelle de Kretser - both of these are books on my Best Australian Reads of 2008 that I want to work my way through this year.

A History of the Middle East By Peter Mansfield and Nicolas Mansfield - this is a book I saw on the shelf as I walked into the library. This is an area I want to read about for The World Citizen Challenge and having a quick flick through I thought this might be a good place to start. Has anyone else read this one?

My Sister My Love By Joyce Carol Oates - I love Oates' writing and this story, a fictionalised account of the JonBenet Ramsay murder, really interests me for some reason.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay By Michael Chabon - this is one of the books I have chosen to read to complete The New Classics Challenge and having picked it up this afternoon from the library I have already flown through 150 pages - an amazing story!

January 21, 2009

High Heels Getting Me Through the Year...

I've picked up a couple of books so far this year that I will be dipping in and out of as the year progresses. One of these is A Year in High Heels By Camilla Morton. I admit I was really only drawn to this book for its title - I LOVE wearing high heels (might have something to do with my short stature!) and my new job actually doesn't offer me many opportunities to wear them (too much walking up and down many corridors all day long) so I thought I needed something to fill the gap in my life.

A Year In High Heels is really a fashion, lifestyle kind of advice book - not sure that that is actually the best way to describe it or not as I have only read the first chapter so far. The book is divided into the 12 months of the year with each month covering a different topic. January was all about renewal, detox and diary writing (including blogging). The "Muse of the Month" was Jane Austen so that made me happy.

Not sure this book is going to re-define my life in any major way but I think it will be a fun read to dip into now and then throughout the year.

January 20, 2009

Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies is a book I was reading for the New Classics Challenge - a challenge I have been a little neglectful of but I now only have another 3 books to read to complete the challenge before it ends on the 31st January so I'm going to do my very best to finish this challenge alive!

It was a no brainer for me to pick Interpreter of Maladies as one of my books for this challenge after reading (and absolutely loving) Lahiri's later book of short stories - Unaccustomed Earth last year. This book made my top 5 reads of 2008 and actually made me want to seek out short stories - a genre I had never really been interested in before.

Unfortunately, Interpreter of Maladies did not strike the same chord with me - I found it really hard to be interested in the stories and the characters in the same way and even though the writing is brilliant and evocative - I just didn't care. The title story was probably the only story that stays with me now that I have finished the book.

I know others have told me that they enjoyed Interpreter even more that Unaccustomed Earth but I just could not get there - my feeling is that Unaccustomed Earth is more a new classic for me.

January 18, 2009

Blog Improvement Project - Week 1: Setting Goals

I'm a little late for Week 1 of the Blog Improvement Project but better late than never I guess! I'm wondering if my lateness is actually related to my aversion to setting goals - the need to be specific and measurable not one of my finer points!

Having said that - I am going to give the goal setting in relation to my blog a go. The outline for this weeks post involves:

Set some goals for your blog. Think about where you would like to be a year from now, and try to set clear and specific objectives that you’ll be able to measure in some way once we get to the end of 2009.
Write a post about your goals. If you can think of any, also include ideas about projects or activities that you think could help you achieve those goals.

So, my goals for BookBath (and consequently my reading and writing) are:

1. To complete and post about all of the challenges I decide to participate in which start in 2009(this might sound simple but I noticed last year I got very excited about joining challenges but then my participation levels dropped off a little as I over committed myself).

2. To write one post a week specifically about my writing activities. My heading does say that the blog is about reading and writing experiences but I have done very little posting about writing since starting my blog so I would like to change that.

3. Find and read (and make a comment on) at least one new book blog a week and add it to my blog roll. One of the main reasons I wanted to start blogging in the first place was to connect with others who shared a similar passion. I think I have been building up a really good blogging network but I would love to extend and expand on that.

So, nothing too adventurous but hopefully these are goals I can work towards and achieve by the end of 2009.

January 17, 2009

Addition - Toni Jordan

In pursuit of one of my personal reading goals for this year, to read all of the books on this Best Australian Fiction 2008 list, I have just finished Addition by Toni Jordan.

This was a book I had seen and heard a lot about last year but for some reason it just never made it to my reading pile. I'm glad it has now.

The central character in Jordan's first novel is Grace Lisa Vandenburg - a woman obsessively connected to counting everything in her life. The mental health professional in me was seeing "disorder" written all over this character but I was glad I was able to get past my judgemental labelling and see this character for what she was - a funny, smart, engaging woman who probably had a better handle on her life than many people she came across (scenes in the later part of the book when Grace attends "group therapy" are hilarious!).

I guess this novel is essentially a self-discovery/love story - Grace meets a man (adorable and accepting Seamus) and they of course have to go through the stages all relationships must - the meeting, the greeting, the getting to know etc... But all of this is done through the filter of Grace's need to count, and count, and count...

The writing is sharp - as is the character of Grace. I finished it feeling satisfied in the story but still wanting to hear more about Grace and her world - a sign of a great book for me.

January 13, 2009

The World Citizen Challenge - 2009

Eva is hosting another great challenge this year - The World Citizen Challenge:

Welcome to the home of the World Citizenship Challenge, hosted by Eva! This is a reading challenge that invites participants to get to know the world better and become true world citizens. Not only will we be reading lots of interesting books, but we’ll be discussing them as well. Anyone can join, even those without the time to read a full book. The only real requirements are an interest in the world and willingness to discuss it with others!

The goal of reading to find out more about the world we live in has always been an interest for me but I have found myself becoming a little lazy in my reading in this genre - sticking to areas of the world and issues that I already know a reasonable amount about. For this reason I really hope I can use this challenge to stretch my reading further.

I'm going to join the challenge at the Minor Level - I would like to go a bit further if I can but I don't want to over commit myself just yet:

The Minor Level You’ve taken a couple classes in World Citizenship and decide to go ahead and get the minor. After all, you’ll learn more stuff and you can still have a practical major! For this level, you need to commit to three books, from at least two different categories.

I haven't decided on my reading list/books for the challenge as yet. Eva has some great possibilities on the challenge site but I would welcome any other suggestions people may have. I really like to focus my reading on the humanistic side of the world - people's stories etc... and I am also really interested in reading something about the situation in the middle east or Gaza. Any ideas??

January 12, 2009

Library Loot This Week

Eva at A Striped Armchair has come up with a great idea - Library Loot - a way to keep a track of what we are picking up from the library each week.

Since the new year I have been busily placing holds on books in my local library - the savings plan is in place again so I am trying to hold back on buying as many books as I can - therefore the library is becoming my new best friend! I have to admit there are still some books that I just want to have for my own, or that my library doesn't hold - but for all the others it will be borrowing, borrowing and more borrowing.

This afternoon I picked up the following:

Addition - Toni Jordan - an Australian book that came out last year and that I have been meaning to read for a while. I've heard lots of good things about this one.

Tales From Outer Surburbia - Shaun Tan - another Australian release that I am keen to read. Shaun Tan produces amazing books.

Three Junes - Julia Glass - I am currently reading another book by this author (The Whole World Over) and I am loving her style and prose so I thought I would pick this one up as it is supposed to be even better.

January 11, 2009

Getting Chunkier!

Call me crazy but I have decided to move up an option in The Chunkster Challenge and add another book to my list. I am now going to be doing in the second option which is the:

Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big? - this option is for the slightly heavier reader who wants to commit to 3-5 Chunksters over the next ten months.

I've decided to move up a level because I really want to read Gone With The Wind this year so I thought I may as well add it in because at 960 pages it definitely fits the definition of a chunky read!

January 10, 2009

Little Women - Louisa M. Alcott

A discussion over dinner with a friend the other night led me to pick up Little Women - a book I had thought I had read before but I think I have actually only ever seen movie versions of the novel. A recent version with Christian Bale playing Laurie is a firm favourite!
I have a gorgeous old copy of the book which belonged to my mother - with a delightfully kitsch cover reminiscent of the 1960's I feel. I can't actually find a publication date anywhere on the book but that would be my guess.
The story, as I'm sure most of you know, is about 4 young girls - Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy and their trials and tribulations growing up in the Boston area during the American Civil War in which their father is involved in as a Chaplain for the Union Army.
The character of Jo is an autobiographical portrait - and to me the most engaging character in the book - feisty, fun and full of life.
As I was coming to the end of the book I realised that some of the significant events that I knew to be a part of the story where not going to happen - no marriages or deaths to be seen. When I looked up the novel through Wikipedia I read that the book was actually originally published in 2 parts - the second part coming along after publishers realised that the first was so popular - and the copy I was reading only consisted of the original first part of the novel.
Feeling very cheated I will have to go looking for the second part - or simply watch the movie again!

January 09, 2009

The Chunkster Challenge 2009

I've taken a big, deep breath and have decided to dive into this challenge - well, more like dip my toes in the shallow end!

The Chunkster Challenge 2009 is all about reading chunky, big books. Not something I am necessarily adverse to - it's just that my reading hasn't exactly been flowing along lately and with a new full time job and a PhD to consume most of my time I'm not sure how much dedicated reading time I am going to have this year. Having said that though - I want to give it a go.

Here is the run down of the challenge from Think Pink Dana:

HERE IT IS! As promised! The Chunkster Challenge 2009 Edition!
There have been a few changes to the rules so please read closely:
*A chunkster is 450 pages or more of ADULT literature (fiction or nonfiction) Don't complain folks, I read all thousands of pages of the Twilight series and they were good, but not a challenge. A chunkster should be a challenge.
*If you read large type books your book will need to be 525 pages or more I asked around and the average LT book is 10-15% longer or more so I think that was a fair estimate.
*No Audio books in the chunkster. It just doesn't seem right. Words on paper for this one folks.
* You may start any time after signing up. You must complete your reads before or on Nov 15th.
*Short Stories and Essay collections will not be counted.
*Books may crossover with other challenges (see option 4 for a collaborative effort with TBR challenge)
*Only option 4 requires that you make a set list of books to complete the challenge
Those are the basics. Here are your options:

*The Chubby Chunkster - this option is for the reader who has a large tome or two to read, but really doesn't want to commit to more than that. 2 books is all you need to finish this challenge.
*Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big? - this option is for the slightly heavier reader who wants to commit to 3-5 Chunksters over the next ten months.
*Mor-book-ly Obese - This is for the truly out of control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to 6 or more chunksters OR three tomes of 750 pages or more. You know you want to.....go on and give in to your cravings.

And lastly, in an intriguing collaboration with the wildly popular Miz B of
the TBR Challenge we have:
*Too Big To Ignore Anymore - this option is for those chunksters on your TBR list. You may select any number of books over 450 pages but you must LIST THEM to complete the challenge and they must be on your TBR list as well (honor code folk, I don't have time to be the challenge police)

I am going to ease myself into this challenge and sign up for the first option - The Chubby Chunkster. The two books I am going to commit to are:

1. The Annotated Version of Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen and David M. Shapard (739 pages)

2. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth (1488 pages)

Both books I really, really want to read so hopefully I will make it to the end of this challenge!

January 07, 2009

Pondering 2008 Meme

I saw this meme over at Jen's blog and thought I would give it a go...

What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I tend not to make new year's resolutions - it only ends badly! I try to concentrate more on my goals for the year (not sure what difference the different terms make but I seem to like it!).

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! 1 new niece and 2 new nephews; Evie, Edward and Isaac all born in 2008.

Did anyone close to you die?
No, thankfully.

What places did you visit?
Not too much travel in 2008 but did manage trips to the South Coast of NSW (Kiama - simply beautiful), Melbourne and Sydney.

What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
International travel - which will happen in September 2009 with our trip to England and Ireland.

What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory?
13th January - my 7 year anniversary with my boy - and no itch in sight!

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I think finally getting some clarity in regards to my professional life - very satisfying to know where I would like to head at last.

What was your biggest failure?
I don't think there were any major failings - although still not having finished the scrapbook for my beautiful little man, Sammy is one regret. It was supposed to be a present for his 1st Birthday and he has now just turned 3!!

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing major at all thankfully.

What was the best thing you bought?
Books, books and more books! Oh, and the perfect bra!

Whose behaviour merited celebration?
All of us!

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
No one comes to mind...

Where did most of your money go?
Books, food and the (very) occasional pair of shoes

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Planning my next overseas trip and my Birthday trip in December. Having dinner at the top of Sydney Tower was also pretty exciting.

What song(s) will always remind you of 2008?
Black and Gold by some guy whose name I can't remember - my partner absolutely hates the song but I love it!

Compared to this time last year, are you:Happier or sadder? Happier Thinner or fatter? I have no idea and for possibly the first time in my life - don't care!Richer or poorer? Richer I hope!

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Travelling and reading - can't get enough of either.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

What was the best book you read?
The Book Thief

What did you want and get?
Varying experiences.

What did you want and not get?
My own private jet.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More travel and holidays by the sea.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Ballet flats

What kept you sane?
My boy and my cat.

What political issue stirred you the most?
Sorry Day in Australia and the election of Obama in the US.

Who did you miss?
My pop.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008
You know what is best for you.

January 06, 2009

Best Australian Reads - 2008

The ABC Radion program "The Book Show" ran a poll asking it's listeners to send in their best Australian reads of 2008. The fiction list is copied below with the ones I have read in bold:

Addition – Toni Jordan
Breath – Tim Winton
Enigma – Graeme Base
Everything I Knew – Peter Goldsworthy
People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks
Saltwater Moons – Julie Gittus
Sea of Many Returns – Arnold Zable
Tales from Outer Suburbia – Shaun Tan
The Boat – Nam Le
The Build Up – Phillip Gwynne
The Good Parents – Joan London
The Lieutenant – Kate Grenville
The Lifeboat – Zacharey Jane
The Lost Dog – Michelle de Kretser
The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
The Spare Room – Helen Garner
Wanting – Richard Flanagan

There are still quite a few on this list I haven't read so I think I will make the completion of this list one of my personal reading goals for 2009. Can anyone give me any feedback on any of these I haven't read so far?

January 03, 2009

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler

Half way through reading Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict I came to the realisation that I had read it before - and I hadn't really liked it all that much the first time around! The reasons for me not enjoying it the first time all came flooding back - although I did keep reading until the end so there must have been something keeping me hanging in there.

First of all, I love everything even slightly related to Jane Austen and the city of Bath in particular. Even though I know all of Jane Austen's letters etc... clearly state she couldn't stand the place I still feel it is my spiritual home! So, when the blurb for Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict talks about trips to Bath and balls in Assembly Rooms, I'm in.

The book is basically a time travel/body swap tale - a modern day LA woman, Courtney Stone (the Jane Austen addict of the title) wakes to find herself in the body of a nineteenth-century English gentlewoman, Jane Mansfield after spending a night drowning her sorrows in a bottle of vodka and Pride and Prejudice after breaking up with her rat of a fiancee.

The premise to the story (I think) is that Courtney/Jane needs to "stop thinking" and give in to her destiny (whatever that may be) in order to find herself back in her own body and century. Now, I can suspend all belief and give in to the time travel thing - that isn't my problem with this book. The problem I have is that Courtney/Jane is annoying, whining and boring! I simply don't care if she does get stuck in 19th century England for the rest of her miserable life! Her constant reflections and self-talk got in the way of the story for me.

I did stick it out to the (predictable) conclusion though - not really sure why! I so wanted to enjoy this book and be taken away to the world of Jane Austen - unfortunately I got stuck in the mental meanderings of Courtney/Jane and I couldn't seem to find my way out.

January 02, 2009

The Classics Challenge - Not Quite Achieved!

I was really excited and eager to join in the 2008 Classics Challenge hosted by Trish but unfortunately I did not complete the challenge by the end of December 2008.
I did manage to read Wuthering Heights and A Room With A View as well as a future or "should be" classic - Small Island.
I think the time of the year didn't help me - I found I really struggled to read classic novels during the second half of the year when life was a little crazy and hectic - I found myself reaching for "easier", less taxing reads to get me through! So, I would really like to join in this challenge again if it is going to be held again in 2009 - there are many books in this classification I am still very keen to read - just when the time is right!

January 01, 2009

A New Year - An Improved Blog!

I was thinking (as you do when a new year comes along) about improvements/changes/additions I could add to my blog and along comes Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness with her 2009 Blog Improvement Project - just perfect!
Here is how Kim describes the project/challenge on her blog:

The 2009 Blog Improvement Project is a year-long challenge that will consist of twice-monthly activities to improve your blog. Every first and third Monday of the month I’ll post an activity here at Sophisticated Dorkiness that will related in some way to making your blog better. Each participant should spend the next two weeks focusing on that aspect of their blog. Possible topics include goals setting, writing better content, building community with readers, getting more readers, and blog layout and design.
If you choose to participate in this project, there is no obligation to participate in every challenge, and you can customize each challenge so it makes sense for your particular blog and goals. Think of the design as similar to Weekly Geeks — participate when it makes sense for you. This is a group effort, because getting better is always easier when you have a support system, but the ultimate commitment remains with you — how do you want your blog to be better by the time we get to December 31, 2009?
This weeks challenge/activity is to look at your blogging goals. When I first started this blog in March 2008 my original goal was really just to become a member of the book blogging community - I was really enjoying what I was reading from others and I wanted to join in. Now I think the blog has also become a really good way for me to keep a track of, and expand, my own reading choices and opportunities. So, I don't really want to quantify my blogging goals too much except to say that I want to keep using my blog as a way to reflect on the reading I do and also a way of challenging the reading I do. I also want to continue to discover new book bloggers/blogs and continue to build blogging relationships with those I have already discovered.