Monday, 12 April 2021

The Book of Wonders - Julien Sandrel

This book has been translated from the French by Ros Schwartz.

This book is not the first book I have read in my Reading Europe Challenge but I have only chosen 4 for the challenge and I have already read more than than 4 books from European countries.

I would call this a heart-warming, feel good book. It is quite short and certainly an easy enough read - but to be honest I had to read the synopsis again to remind me of what it was about. It didnt really stay or resonate with me.

Its about a very busy, career orientated single-monther in Paris who has a 12 year old son. The son has a skateboard accident and is in a coma for some time and the prognosis is not good.

The mother finds it difficult to cope with the tragedy and finds her son's 'bucket list' (Book of Wonders) in his room. She decides to fulfil his dreams and embarks on a number of adventures.  She films them so her son can experience and follow along with her via his iPad in the hospital. She goes on a number of these 'adventures' - i.e. a trip to Tokyo, football training camp.

While it was a farily light book, it was heartfelt and did have some important themes like how we respond to grief, family dynamics, guilt over work/family life, love of your children and forgiveness.

I enjoyed the book and was going to read another by this author, but wanted something a little more challenging, but a nice gentle read.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

New Year - new challenges

2020 was a wipe out year.... I'm just erasing it!  I think I got less done in 2020 than in other normal years. 

I did read more, but only just and didnt particupate in any reading or sewing challenges. 

I feel like 2021 should have some aims so I dont fall into the habit of just cruising by.

So, I am going to try again to do some book challenges - just so I get a variety of books in my reading and try to read from my tbr piles (3 x bookcases of tbr if I want to be really honest 😄)

European Reading Challenge: I am doing this one again this year.. signed up for the Honeymooner level - 4 books from 4 different countries - can be fiction, non-fiction, travel etc. I'm already on country number 2 now, so I should be able to complete this challenge.

Back to the Classics:   This year I have chosen just 4 categories to read from so as to not overwhelm myself...
Classic by a Women Author - Willa Cather novel
A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction) - Charmain Clifts Travels in Greece
20th Century classic - Virginia Woolf novel
A children's classic - The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper

Victorian Reading Challenge:  Again I am signed up to this one.  I am going to aim to read 5 books, one each at least, from the following categories:

  • NONFICTION. Read nonfiction books (autobiographies, biographies, etc.) published during the Victorian era OR nonfiction books about the Victorian era or specific Victorians;

WW2 Reading Challenge: 
this is a new one for this year. Im going to choose 4 books from the following categories:

  • Fiction published during 1939-1945
  • Fiction set during 1939-1945
  • Fiction that is about the leading up to the war
  • Fiction that is about the direct aftermath of the war
  • Nonfiction books about the War
  • Biographies or Autobiographies with sections about the war
  • Essays, Articles, Op-Ed pieces
  • historical-historical (straight up historical with no sub-genres)
  • historical romance
  • historical mysteries
  • historical coming-of-age
  • historical thrillers/suspense/spy novels

The Historical Fiction Challenge: I already read alot of historical ficiton and its one of my favourite genres, so always enjoy this challenge.

I've committed to the Renaissance Reader - 10 books.

Read Scotland:  this will be the 8th year I have participated in this challenge and I have never quite reached my goal. The idea is that you read books by Scottish authors, set in Scotland or about Scotland.  I have signed up to the 'Robert Burns' level which is 6-10 books. I only read 3 last year, so need to up my reading.

Australian Women Writers Challenge:  again I am joining in the fun of this and trying to read more books by Australian women writers... last year I managed 1 book in this category which is kind of abysmal.  Need to up this as there are so many good books by Australian women or about Australian women.

The Backlist Reader Challenge:  This is the second time I have tried this challenge. I need to read more from my tbr piles. They are growing by the day! 

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Book challenges for 2019

I love the idea of book challenges but I always seem to run out of puff and get side-tracked with books not related to any of my challenges.  But I continue to do them with great enthusiasm, and I love the whole process at the beginning of the year thinking about them, choosing books for them sorting through my bookshelves looking for elusive books that I know I have.  Its not easy keeping on track and this year I seem to have gone overboard with the amount of challenges I have signed up to... you cant fault me for my ambition in this regards at least.

I try to do challenges that will challenge but that also the books I read might fall into multiple challenges.... doesnt always work... but when it does its great.

This year I have signed up to:

The Historical Fiction Challenge: which I have done for a number of years now and always really enjoy it... I always read historical fiction so its a no-brainer for me but I do try and increase the number of books in the genre that I read each year.

I've committed to the Medieval level, which is 15 books....

World at War Reading Challenge: this is a new challenge for me. My reason for joining is that I want to read WW1 fiction and non-fiction this year as I have alot on my bookshelves that I need to read.

It is set out as a 'bingo' challenge and I hope I can get at least one bingo, if not two.  The categories are:

Any book published 1914-1918
_ Any book published 1918-1924
_ Any book published 1925-1930
_ Any book published 1931-1938
_ Any book published 1939-1945
_ A nonfiction book about World War I
_ A nonfiction book about 1910s and 20s
_ A nonfiction book about 1920s and 30s
_ A nonfiction book about 1930s
_ A nonfiction book about World War II
_ A fiction book set during World War I
_ A fiction book set 1918-1924
_ A fiction book set in the 1920s
_ A fiction book set in the 1930s
_ A fiction book set during World War II
_ A book set in the United States or Canada
_ A book set in England, Ireland, or Scotland
_ A book set in Europe
_ A book set in Asia or Middle East
_ A book set elsewhere (a country/continent not already read for the challenge)
_ A book focused on "the war"
_ A book focused on "the homefront"
_ Watch any movie released in 1940s
_ Watch any movie released in the 1930s
_ Watch any movie about either war 

 Reading Women Challenge:  I posted about this in December. I have not set my list as yet and may not do so and just go along and see what I fancy throughout the year.

Read Scotland:  this will be the 6th or 7th year I have participated in this challenge and I have never quite reached my goal... this will be the year that I do..  The idea is that you read books by Scottish authors, set in Scotland or about Scotland.  I have signed up to the 'Robert Burns' level which is 6-10 books. Last year I read 5 so I am not far off. I love to read about Scotland, we lived there for 4 years and my husband is Scottish so there are lots of connections that I have.  I first fell in love with it by reading Lillian Beckwith books in my late teens and early 20's I hope to revisit some of her earlier books this year.

European Reading Challenge: I am doing this one again this year.. signed up for the Honeymooner level - 5 books from 5 different countries - can be fiction, non-fiction, travel etc. I'm already on country number 2 now, so I should be able to complete this challenge.

Victorian Reading Challenge:  Again I am signed up to this one as I failed miserably last year.... again I am going to do the bingo challenge option.  I need to read 5 Victorian books this year... its an area of literature that I am lacking in so hopefully I can read some.

Australian Women Writers Challenge:  again I am joining in the fun of this and trying to read more books by Australian women writers... last year I managed 10 books in this category so here's hoping I can trump that number this year.

Back to the Classics:   I've done this for a couple of years now. This year I have chosen just 4 categories to read from so as to not overwhelm myself...
Classic by a Women Author -Miles Franklin - My Brilliant Career
Classic from Americas - Willa Cather novel
20th Century classic - Virginia Woolf novel
Place you have Lived Classic - Scotland - not sure what book yet

The Backlist Reader Challenge:  This is a new one for me as well and I hope alot of my other reading will also fall into this category...

Art in Paris

We went to alot of the usual art gallery's whilst in Paris.. there are still plenty more to see next time.  Below are a few pictures of my most favourtie of art/sculpture etc we saw on our travels around Paris.

Sculpture of a head and hand

Detail of lace on a dress - not sure who the painting is by but the detail was astounding

One of my all time favourite images and I got to see it in the flesh
Women on a Sofa by Matisse - I really loved this one. The kind of Parisian room I can imagine myself in
Van Gogh - Women in a Garden (Provence) painting. I love this - evokes so many lovely memories of gardens and Provence
Van Gogh - another of his Provence paintings. I love paintings of gardens, especially vegetable gardens - see photo below which I took on our travels - similar subject - lots of lovely neat rows of vegetables.
Taken at Chatillon-sur-Loire - a gorgeous town in Burgandy at the end of our week on a canal boat.
The Lace Maker by Vermeer... one of my favourite paintings as it depicts women and textiles making as its subject

One section of the Waterlilies painting by Monet - I didnt realise how large it is

Friday, 4 January 2019

2019 - the year ahead

Happy New Year to everyone...

I am now back at work after a restful 10 days off but my goodness it rained here in the tropics, which kind of put a damper on things... that tropical downpour scenario where you just cant go outside without getting thoroughly drenched. I have to admit that cabin fever did set in despite my pile of DVD's to watch.

Looks like we might be headed for some more rain soon and possibly another cyclone - early for the season (having already had one skirt on by us in December).

I had a fantastic year.  We did our big trip to France and the UK for our 25th wedding anniversary in July and we had a ball. France was everything I had imagined (and read about for the past 20 odd years) and more... we are already planning another trip.  I really cant describe it. Paris was busy and bustling and frustrating but so beautiful in so many ways. I loved just about everything we did, despite the heat and the endless lines of tourists everywhere.. a few pics below from out and about... I'll put some more up next week about some of the wonderful artwork we saw in Paris.

Art Nouveu at the Metro station
The Seine

The Black Cat shop - we saw lots of cats in Paris

View from the Eiffel Tower

Sacre Cour
Eiffel Tower from below

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Reading Women Challenge - 2019

I am joining the 2019 Reading Women Challenge.. I do read alot of women writers but want to expand my reading horizon and challenge myself to read different types of books from writers I may not have read before.
Below are the categories you can choose from.. the challenge is not to necessarily read all of them but to choose books from different categories. 

  1. A mystery or thriller written by a woman of color
    • Check out our episode about mysteries and thrillers for some great options.
  2. A book about a woman with a mental illness
  3. A book by an author from Nigeria or New Zealand
  4. A book about or set in Appalachia
  5. A children's book
  6. A multigenerational family saga
  7. A book featuring a woman in science
  8. A play
  9. A novella
    • A novella is a text of written, fictional, narrative prose normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, somewhere between 17,500 and 40,000 words.
  10. A book about a woman athlete
  11. A book featuring a religion other than your own
    • If you have no religion, then choose to read about whatever religion you like!
  12. A Lambda Literary Award winner
  13. A myth retelling
  14. A translated book published before 1945
  15. A book written by a South Asian author
  16. A book by an Indigenous woman
    • This includes Native, First Nations, and Indigenous women from anywhere in the world.
  17. A book from the 2018 Reading Women Award shortlist
    • 2018 RWA Fiction Shortlist
    • 2018 RWA Nonfiction Shortlist
  18. A romance or love story
  19. A book about nature
  20. A historical fiction book
  21. A book you bought or borrowed in 2019
  22. A book you picked up because of the cover
  23. Any book from a series
  24. A young adult book by a woman of color
  • A book by Jesmyn Ward
  • A book by Jhumpa Lahiri

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Playing catch up - Historical fiction challenge

I have once again neglected my blog this year... my reading has continued and I will now do my update on my historical fiction reads (challenge) for the year on this one blog post...

Last Christmas in Paris by
As we were Paris bound in July my reading in early 2018 was anything French/Parisian... this is a nice little story set in WW1 about Evie and Thomas who carry on a romance by letter while Thomas is fighting in France...its is done using the epistolary style and I must say it is done really well... abit like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  An fairly easy book and worth reading if you like a light and romantic read.

My Name is Mary Sutter by
Set in the Americal Civil War, this story is about a young lady who wants to become a doctor. Trained as a mid-wife by her mother she wants to take it one step forward and become a surgeon. In order to follow her dream and leave behind some romantic heartbreak, Mary travels to Washington DC to help tend the thousands of wounded soldiers.  Under the guidance of two progressive surgeons Mary starts to undertake more hazardous and difficult medical work and her dream to be a surgeon looks like it might be fulfilled. However, she is called home to  help with the difficult birth of her twin sisters baby.  Mary Sutter is a strong heroine, who is to be admired and pitied. She wants a life she can not have because she is a women and faces continued sexism and disappointment. Despite this she rallies forward and her determination is eventually rewarded and she finds happiness in life and love.  I have not read a huge amount of historical fiction set in the Civil War but this has wetted my appetite for more.

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
I listened to this on audio.  I was not sure what to expect having not read much of pre-revolutionary America, espeically old New York.  It was an intriguing read. One minute is was a mystery, the next a love/hate story, a horror, it was often farsical but rarely boring! A story of fortunes won and fortunes lost, men beaten down to only rise again, treachery and deceit all this woven into seamless and vivid descriptions of the beginnings of New York.  I really enjoyed this and its was a pleasant surprise...

Mrs M by Luke Slattery
Story set both in Mull and Ulva as well as the colony of New South Wales. A historical fiction book about Governor Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth who spent 11 years in the colony. Governor Macquarie often made bold and radical decisions. He wanted the colony to be more than just a prison, he believed that pardoned convicts could make worthwhile contributions to the development of the society, once gaining their 'freedom' they would help to build a new world. Macquarie was much maligned during his last 2 years of life as a report on the colony ridiculed his endeavours. A sad story in the end for Macquarie who was progressive in his vision.
A very good rendering of the historical fact, swathed in a fictional story of their lives together and a romantic liaison for Elizabeth with a convict architect.
I really enjoyed this one but I think it helped that I had studied convict history at University.