Wednesday, September 30, 2020

OcTBR: October is for your To Be Read pile

Hey all! I'm jumping back into this blog, and starting with OcTBR, and my To Be Read pile. 

I saw a FB memory about this earlier this week and realised that it's happening again this year, and that my To Be Read pile is more out of control than ever - so tonight I'll be working on collecting everything that I have yet to read in one place, and putting everything else away. That last part might be wishful thinking! 

I'll take a photo and share it, so you can see the scope of my To Be Read pile, and what I'm tackling! I don't intend to read it all, and won't be able to get through everything in October, but I hope that I can make a real dent, and also get some clarity on what exactly I do want to read and what I maybe need to let go. 

I'm also going to try not to buy any more books in October - although I do have an order coming from Dymocks, and All Star Comics! I'll hold onto those, and they can be my reward at the end of the month!  

You are most welcome to join in on the challenge as well, and you can sign up on the official website here

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What I'm Reading: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Okay, so it's been a while since I've posted, but I'm getting back into the swing of it! I've got some fun stuff to catch up on blogging about, which I'll get to over the next few weeks. For now, I'm looking for some comfort and familiarity, which means Jane Austen for me!

There has been a lot of sadness lately in the world, with some really terrible things happening. It's even worse that these things are happening at Christmas, a time of joy and love, and peace. I have not felt peaceful lately.

Luckily, when I put that out there, a few friends did a great job of reaching out to me to comfort and reassure me. I am so lucky to have people like that in my life.

There are also general things that I like to do in my life, when I realise that I'm struggling to cope:

  • Make sure I'm getting enough sleep. You are almost certainly not getting enough sleep, so make it a real priority. A couple of nights this week, I went to bed at 8:30. I didn't fall asleep then (I read!), but I was in bed, preparing for sleep. There was no phone, no news, no Facebook, no email... Ah, heaven. 
  • Make sure I'm eating properly - for me, that means, making sure I have lunch covered and I don't have to race around in the morning and throw together a cheese sandwich. A cheese sandwich will get you through the day, but it's not really living is it? And even if you are going to have a cheese sandwich, make it the night before. 
  • Feeling the love. This is where my awesome friends stepped in and shared wonderful things that were happening in their lives, or reminded me of wonderful things happening in my life, or just talked to me about other things that are wonderful (in this case, comics). It was pretty great. 
  • Revisit wonderful, familiar things - I'm avoiding most television at the moment, but I try and catch Bitchin' Kitchen whenever possible (it's a hilarious cooking show) and I'm re-watching Community, because it really makes me laugh (although some bits are weird and I don't like them, but on a DVD you can just fast forward). And of course, I'm re-reading Pride and Prejudice! 
I first read Pride and Prejudice many years ago as a teenager, and I had the delight of studying Jane Austen with John Wiltshire at La Trobe University during my Bachelor's degree. The subject was called 'Re-reading Jane Austen', and there was a lot of focus on how Jane Austen often recaps events, and how brilliant it is. In Pride and Prejudice, the best example of this is when Elizabeth re-reads Darcy's letter, and we see how it affects her differently every time, and how she gradually comes to understand and accept what he says. 

So, in case you don't know the story of Pride and Prejudice, it's essentially a love story. It was written in 1813 and is set at the same time, during the Napoleonic Wars. At that time, the community you lived in was really the only people you ever saw - people didn't really travel far throughout England, and letters took ages to get anywhere. Plus, there were strict social conventions about who you could write to - if you were a girl, and you met a guy at a party, and he was going off to war, you couldn't write to him. And you would have had to be introduced to him at the party by someone who knew you both. So you can see how people's social circles were really small! 

The book opens with a rich guy moving into the neighbourhood, which is a real boon for all the families with single daughters! The main character of the book is Lizzy Bennet, who is the second daughter of the Bennet family, who have 5 daughters. They live at an estate called Longbourne, but due to the conditions on inheriting the estate, it can't be left to any of the daughters - instead, it goes to a more distant, male, relative. It's just like Downton Abbey! 

So there's a lot of reasons for the women of the neighbourhood to want to meet and marry the man who has moved in, Mr Bingley - not to mention his even richer friend who is staying with him, Mr Darcy. This is another thing that happened a lot in those times, people had really long visits with their friends and family. Because the visits were so rare, when they did happen, it could be for weeks or even months at a time. 

I just love this book, because it's about mistakes and misunderstandings, but everything still ends happily. If you know me (and if you don't, you're probably not reading this blog) you know that I love that. I know I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I'm probably not done yet, but it does kind of feel like everything is going to end well. 

So I guess all my tips worked! I'm feeling more positive about everything. 

I'll have another post up before the end of the week, and I'll always tweet and Facebook that they're up, but if you want to know immediately, you can subscribe to the blog and get an email whenever I put a post up. 

Take care everyone. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

PPOM: Something that makes me happy

It's August, which means it's Potentially Problematic Opinions Month! Except this year, it's now just a great group blogging attempt, with weekly themed posts - the first post is things that make you happy.

What is making me happiest at the moment is my family. I caught up with a cousin last week, and had a great time reminiscing about lots of family events. And things have been really great with my family as a whole lately - we've had a family wedding, and overseas trips, and school performances, and an engagement announced, and everyone is home safely and getting along. That makes me so happy.

And just today, I did a thing that made me really happy - I bought tickets to a convention that is happening in Germany, and am making plans to go to Europe for three weeks next year. I am SO EXCITED and can't wait for it to happen, but I know that it's a big commitment, and a big trip. I'm giving myself today to ignore the reality of all that, and just bask in the delight of being able to say 'I'm going'.

Finally, this got me laughing - a post on an ancestry blog, where the family historian author wrote hatemail to her ancestors. It's a hilarious post, about naming your kids better, and leaving better records for her to find - in fact, the whole blog is great, especially if you're a family historian. It's called Clue Wagon, and the post is here.

Take care everyone, and I hope you have lots of things making you happy in your life.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A return, and Meat Free Week

Well, have you missed me? Sorry about the long gap, guys, it's been a crazy, crazy time. But I'm glad to be back now!

There have been a few bookish things happening, but I think I'll leave them for a post next week. You see, this week, I've been doing Meat Free Week - which is a pretty big change for me. I am known in my family for being perfectly content with meat (or fish) and potatoes, and skipping most vegetables. This week, every meal I ate has been without meat or fish.

It has been a lot better than I thought it would be, to be honest! While I certainly haven't been eating all vegies, all the time, it has been fairly simple to do, certainly very delicious, and there were only a couple of cravings I had to deal with. A lot of my meals have been egg based, like the fantastic pumpkin and feta tart I had later in the week, and I had eggs on toast a couple of times. Looking back, I wish I had included vegetables with the eggs on toast - that would have been easy to do, and still pretty quick, which was my main concern at the time I was cooking.

I've really taken a few lessons away from Meat Free Week:

  • Meat free doesn't have to mean it tastes yuck, or isn't a complete meal. While I'm not a fan of a lot of meat replacement products, I have definitely decided that a meat free meal doesn't just mean a margherita pizza and chips! There are plenty of things you can do with pasta and with eggs that feel really filling (even with a reasonable size portion!) and are also delicious. 
  • Going meat free wasn't about losing weight for me, although I have dropped a bit. But there's no point going meat free and eating giant portions of everything else. As with everything, balance is key. 
  • I really want to get more COLOUR into my diet. Even going back to including meat in my diet, I want to aim to have a rainbow on my plate every time I eat. I occasionally get caught up in having the same thing over and over, so making sure to change things up and keep it interesting every meal is really important to me. 
  • Some people get really freaked out by the idea of not eating meat. Although Meat Free Week was about doing something that is good for your health, good for the environment and good for animals, there are always people who can only see the extreme version of your actions. MP George Christensen held a 'Free Meat' lunch which specifically did not include green vegetables (although onions were "allowed"). Mr Christensen says that Meat Free Week is trying to convert people to vegetarianism, and said that not eating meat meant you weren't supporting Aussie farmers, which is "un-Australian". Sigh. I think he's forgotten that not all Aussie farmers raise sheep or cattle, and lots still grow vegetables! If you like, you can email Mr Christensen about this through his website here, or you can leave a comment on his Facebook page about the event, here. Please note that unlike some of the other comments, I do not endorse comments about Mr Christensen's personal appearance, that's really unkind. 

Another part of Meat Free Week was that you could raise money to support one of their three charities, Voiceless (an animal protection institute), the Australian Conservation Foundation, or Bowel Cancer Australia. I chose to support Bowel Cancer Australia, as I am quite concerned about the health affects of too much meat. I was amazed at the donations I received from my friends, and really touched by their support. I even received an anonymous donation, which still has me stumped! If you'd like to donate, you can still do that (up to the end of April, 2014) here

In conclusion, I plan to continue with Meat Free Monday, and maybe even Faceless Friday. I'm never going to be a complete vegetarian, but cutting down on meat has made me feel really good. It's also made me aware of the portion size of the meat that I am eating, which is often more than I should. The Australian 'Eat for Health' guidelines say that a serve of meat should be 65 grams, a serve of chicken should be 80 grams and a serve of fish should be 100 grams. It's always a bit difficult to measure grams like that, so the usual correlation to use is that a serving size should be about the size of the palm of your hand. Not with the fingers, just the palm! I know that I often eat more than that, and I'm going to try and cut back. 

Next week will be a post about the comics I'm reading, and Oz Comic Con in Adelaide which I'll be attending next weekend. It should be a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to sharing that with everyone! Expect the post on Monday 7 April. Until then, keep reading! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Melbourne Rare Books Week and great service

I went to a fantastic event on Wednesday night for Melbourne Rare Book Week, at Reader's Feast and had a really wonderful time. It was Never Do That To A Book, readings from Anne Fadiman's book Ex Libris.

I arrived early, intending to have a browse and only realised when I got there that the shop might have intended to shut and then re-open. Thank heavens they didn't! It gave me some time to have a lovely browse. The staff at Reader's Feast are always so great, and checked in with me to see if I was there for the event and then left me to it.

The event itself was wonderful, and was introduced by Mary Dalmau, an inspiration to booksellers everywhere. Mary has been involved in Rare Books Week from the beginning, and introduced Zoe Bertram and Roz Hammond, actors who read three essays each from Ex Libris. I have the book, and have read it a number of times, and thought that both women did a great job in bringing the essays to life.

After the readings, Mary spoke again and asked the audience to think about their favourite books, while she asked Zoe and Roz about theirs. That created a lovely atmosphere, and a few people shared their thoughts.

It was a really lovely night, and I look forward to many more events at Reader's Feast. Melbourne Rare Book Week was certainly lots of fun for me, even though I only attended a couple of events - I hope you were able to attend some too! I recommend registering for the mailing list on their website, which you can do here.

As well as being on this mailing list, I am also on many, many others, including international book newsletters. One of those newsletters is from Publishers Weekly, which includes a blog called ShelfTalker, written by children's booksellers. This entry caught my eye, and actually really touched me.

There are a few things happening in the post, but the story of a how a bookseller tried to cheer up a grumpy young girl on holiday with her family really touched me. For many years when I was younger, I was this grumpy teenager, not content to be grumpy myself, but actively trying to bring down others around me. It's not a time in my life that I'm proud of, and I work hard every day to be a completely different person. This bookseller really went above and beyond for this customer - she wasn't just out for a sale, she was really trying to cheer up someone who needed it.

That idea of service is something I really try to exemplify myself, and I just love to see it in others. As well as being an admirable quality, it makes me want to shop at stores staffed by people like this, and tell everyone about them, and come back to shop again and again. If I get the chance, I'd love to drop by the store staffed by this blogger.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 22, 2013

All the things

Phew, I've been all over the place the last couple of weeks - sorry, no time to write! I hope you've been reading something good!

As I've been all over the place, this is going to be a post with a whole lot of things included.
Firstly, last Thursday I went to the opening of Rare Books Week, Beautiful Books at the Wheeler Centre. It was such a great night, hosted by Steve Grimwade, the former Head of the Melbourne Writers Festival. I volunteered for the festival when Steve worked there, but of course he wouldn't remember me - that was years ago, and there were hundreds of us! But it was still nice to feel a connection to someone on stage. The talk was really wonderful, lots of pictures of beautiful books, both historical and more modern. The cover is what gets most of us to pick up a book in the first place, but it's interesting to think about the inside as well - what font is used, how much white space is there, are there illustrations or decorations at the start of each chapter? How much does the beauty of a book influence your willingness to buy it, or how much you love it?

I've been reading the Game of Thrones series on a e-reader recently, and although I love the books, the e-books are some of the ugliest things I've ever seen. No care has been taken with them, they are really just electronic versions of the paper book - blank pages and all. Blech, not attractive. I think it's the lack of care that gets to me. But it's much easier than lugging those 1,000 page behemoths around!
I've had to re-think going to the Bendigo Writer's Festival - I couldn't get the leave I wanted, and I've accidentally booked myself into some events here in Melbourne. I think I'll still try to see my friend Megan's panel on Sunday, but it will just be a day trip.
I came across this article over the past 3 weeks, and was not surprised to hear that Jamie Oliver has never read a book - he's dyslexic, and he pointed out he gets bored quite easily. That's cool - get into audio books, Jamie!

But what if a friend of yours came to you and said that they had never read a book, or hadn't read since high school (over 10 years ago for me), and they would like you to recommend what they should read first. What responsibility! Your choice could either turn them off reading forever, or help them fall in love with reading, a love that will last the rest of their life. What books would you recommend?

For me, it would depend on the person. This was something I loved when I worked in bookstores, talking to someone, asking what they liked - not books, just tell me what you like. If they had just read something they loved, or hated, sure, that helps to narrow down the possibilities to suggest, but it's not really necessary to talk about books to find the perfect book for someone.
Speaking of bookshops, the Australian Booksellers Association is running a poll for people to vote for their favourite bookstore. You can win book vouchers worth $500, and you can vote here. I voted already! And I'm planning what I'll buy with my $500, so I hope I win!
One of the genres I wanted to get into this year was comics and graphic novels. I'm stalled on the graphic novel area, but I'm powering ahead with comics! One of my very lovely friends works at Classic Comics, at the top end of Bourke Street, so I dropped in one Sunday afternoon and had a delightful time getting a personalised recommendation. I was so excited to see that The Phantom is still in production, as I have fond memories of reading this series as a kid - I used to spend $1.50 of my $2 pocket money on a Phantom comic every week, and still get a giant bag of lollies to read. I laughed to see that the price had hardly gone up at all - a regular issue is still just $3.50!

I also bought a Captain America comic, The Winter Soldier, which I was excited to read. I loved the movie that came out in 2011, and decided then that I wanted to read the comics, and I'm finally getting round to it.

My friend recommended Green Lantern too - I haven't seen the movie, and the comic was so interesting. A really fascinating story, which led to a lot of talk the next time I visited - yes, I am now one of 'those' people, who argues in comic book stores about whether Green Lantern or Batman is better! Green Lantern all the way!

I'm hardly a regular yet, but I am loving seeing more of my friend, and talking about comics. They are really such a fascinating area of literature, and I'm really in awe of some of the fans I've met at the store, and the staff, who can reel off Green Lantern's oath, and all the names of Batman's sidekicks, and tell you the Kryptonian names of Superman's parents, and so on. The depth of knowledge and passion some people have around comics is just fantastic!
Finally, I'm going to another Rare Book Week event on Wednesday night (24 July), Never Do That To A Book. I think tickets might still be available, but you will definitely have to book. Get onto it! Love to see you there.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rare book week - Melbourne

I almost missed Rare Book Week! It's on in Melbourne from Thursday 18 July and runs until Sunday 28 July (a little longer than a week, but it's wonderful, so we'll forgive the extra few days). You can find all the information online here, but below are my picks of the events I'd like to attend, and the events I'd encourage YOU to attend, if you can.

In a long session on Saturday 20 July, you can bring along family treasures, which might turn out to be real treasures, to the Rare Book Discovery Day at the Melbourne Museum. Even if you don't think your book might be a national treasure along the lines of Phar Lap, you can still take your treasures along to get advice on how to care for them and store them properly, to prolong their life. This session runs from 11am to 2pm.

On Sunday 21 July, there's a session called People's Passion For Words, featuring Professor Kate Burridge. Professor Burridge is going to "examine the passion we all have when using words to express our selves." Of course, with my love of books and my willingness to listen to passionate people, I'm interested in this session.

Monday 22 July has two sessions I would dearly love to attend, but I just won't be able to get the time off work to attend the one during the day. That session is Treasures of the MCC Library, running from 12:30pm to 1:15pm - so short! I did a placement at the MCC Library at the Melbourne Cricket Ground - did you know there was a library there? It's the most amazing library in Melbourne, in my opinion, and if you have the chance to visit it and see some of the jewels of their collection, you definitely should! There's another session on Tuesday, so do try. I will have to do a post on my time at the MCC Library later on...

The other session on Monday I would like to attend is They Are Still Strange People, These Book Collectors, which is on during the evening and I'm going to try and get to. The session is about novels written about people committing crimes.

I really love Federation Square, and this next session looks like so much fun - Retro Storytime! They will be reading some classic story books, which is something I really miss - hearing books read out loud. It is a real art, and I fondly remember my own childhood bedtimes, having a story read and pleading for 'just one, more!'

An event being held in one of my favourite bookstores, Reader's Feast, is Never Do That To A Book. This is readings from Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman. I've just pulled my own copy of this book off the shelf! Reader's Feast is such a gorgeous store, with those high vaulted ceilings, and row upon row of shelves filled with old favourites and new favourites, just waiting for you to discover them. I'll definitely be going to this! It's on Wednesday 24 July.

The last session I want to attend is like The Book Thief in real life - it's called The Book Theft Century, and is about exactly that: people stealing books, and committing crimes against books. It talks about the crimes, and about "recognition of books as cultural objects whose value cannot be adequately captured by market price." This is something I find really fascinating - how do you put a price on something that is totally unique, such as a folio illuminated by hand by a monk from the 13th century? If someone deliberately damages that book, what is an appropriate punishment? Oh, even thinking about someone damaging such a book gave me shivers! This session is held at Melbourne University on Thursday 25 July, and I'm really going to try and get to this too.

I love that Melbourne is a City of Literature, and I love celebrations like this around books. Festivals are such hard work, and putting them together really takes a team, and blood, sweat and tears from many, many people. All of these events are free, which is also something I love! By making events like these free, especially where the events are as varied as these, it allows as many people as possible to participate. Valuing books, valuing education and valuing literacy and literature are wonderful traits, and I am glad to see so many Melbournians attending events such as these. I hope I'll see you there!