21 December 2011

A Prayer for Owen Meany

I am in a book club with a group of girlfriends. We meet once a month (on average) drink wine and eat too much, and most of us usually attempt to finish a book in the between-weeks. This month our book was "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving. I had heard good things about it, and had been wanting to read it for a while. 

It was a long book. Potentially made longer by the fact that the average chapter length is 60-80 pages of small typeface. I am usually quite a quick reader, but this book was a little like running through mud. I'm sitting here, staring at the computer, trying to figure out what to say about it. 

I have mixed opinions about "A Prayer for Owen Meany". Parts of this book I really liked, but unfortunately I had to wade through a lot of long winded, and unnecessary, descriptions of things and situations that didn't appear to have anything to do with the plot. There was a lot going on, and I wasn't sure which plot lines to pay attention to and which ones were superfluous to the storyline. 

One of the major themes is faith, and Owen's unfailing belief that he is a direct instrument for God's work. Possibly one of the reason's I struggled to find the story in any way believable is that I am not religious. I felt that Owen used this belief as an excuse to get away with doing whatever the hell he wanted and offending anyone he felt like. Instead of observing manners or courtesy, he took no personal responsibility for his rudeness. I found his character self righteous, self important, and just plain irritating.

I think this is an interesting point, because a) I have friends who loved this book who aren't religious, and b) I'm sure that some of the religious opinions put forward in this book would have offended some who are. 

I did like the ending of the book. I thought it was original, and it did wrap up a few questions I had... and justified a couple of small annoyances I also had. Another thing I liked about the book was the writing. Not a whole lot to say on that point really, apart from outside of the fact that I found segments of the books boring and irrelevant, it was relatively easy to read. 

If you're looking for a book that will provoke some interesting conversations, this one will do it. Certainly kept my book club in discussion - with lots of different opinions!

Has anyone read it? Opinions? 

12 December 2011

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Last night I went to see "We Need to Talk About Kevin". I am always hesitant to see any movie made from a book that I like - I usually don't feel that the movie has done the book justice. It also tends to taint my opinion of the book retrospectively - I feel like if I don't enjoy the movie, I have to question whether I really liked the book. Irrational, yes, but still.

Kevin is a book that I've actually read a couple of times (not too many books make that list - there are so many exciting new stories out there!). Luckily, the most recent reading wasn't that recent - maybe 12 months ago. This means that I can overlook (or more likely - not notice) small differences.

The big things were there. The plot wasn't played with. Obviously to take a 450+ page book and turn it into a 2hour movie there needs to be some concessions. My opinion is that one of these concessions was the depth of the relationship between Kevin and his sister Celia, and all that he did to her.

On the whole, I really quite enjoyed the movie. I thought it was very well cast - Tilda Swinton was the perfect Eva, and that evil little toddler! So good it was almost creepy. I thought they could have developed Franklin's character a little more, and played more on the wedge that Kevin drove through Eva and Franklin's relationship. Because of these little intricacies, I would very much recommend you read the book before seeing the movie. You will get the themes out of the film, but you'll definitely understand them much more fully having read the book. 

I thought the book was very well written, and this translated into a very disturbing movie. My friend said it best - "I've never been so put off having children". So there you have it people, this movie is great contraception.

What is your opinion on books into movies? Any hits or misses that stand out in your memory?

04 December 2011

Christmas Reading

One of my favourite things to do is wander through book shops. It's so much fun just looking at what's there, getting ideas for everyone's Christmas presents, and exploring the new authors and old favourites. There are a number of books out at the moment that I've got on my Christmas wish list ;) 

These include (but is certainly not limited to!):

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

The Streetsweeper - Eliot Perlman

The Marriage Plan - Jeffrey Eugenides

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

I've also got a little stack of books that has been piling up beside the bed - it's such a busy time of year that my reading has taken a bit of a back seat to my birthday and Christmas celebrations! So I'm hoping to get through a few of these during the holidays...

A Song in the Daylight - Paullina Simons

Bloodlines - Richelle Mead

Cross Stitch - Diana Gabaldon

So it looks like I've got a busy time in front of me! Fire up the kettle and I'm all set.

What's on your holiday reading list, and what new books are you hoping to get for Christmas?

30 November 2011

The Slap

I read "The Slap" by Christos Tsiolkas when it first came out a few years ago. To which I definitely had mixed emotions. I loved a number of things about it - it was incredibly well written, the story just flowed. It was set in Melbourne which I relished - I could immerse myself even further into it as I knew the area it was set in. 

I HATED all of the characters. Which I'm kinda OK with. Any author who can have me disliking all of his characters and still loving the book is all good by me. I liked that he dealt with a hot topic, provoking many a (heated, I'm sure!) discussion between friends who may differ in opinion. 

We read it for my book club. Now it's a pretty informal style book club, just a group of friends catching up over good food and wine and a good book. But boy were there some different opinions! The interesting thing was, everyone's opinions on this were strong. Everyone was either vehemently against disciplining other peoples children/other people disciplining their children, or they were of the 'it takes a whole village to raise a child' mindset. 

I have engaged in this conversation with a few different groups of friends, and it never ceases to amaze me that those with children just don't feel that those without children have a valid opinion. No, I don't have children. But does that mean my opinion doesn't count? Surely not. Sure, my opinion may change when I do have children, but then again, it may not. I know women with children on both sides of the fence. Some who are for discipline, and also some who are against. 

I have now finished watching the TV series, and I was really quite impressed. I thought it was well cast (I still didn't like any of the characters. No, I lie. I liked Anouk. Who, admittedly, wasn't particularly central to the storyline. I found most of the others to be lying, manipulative children who were only interested in themselves.) I also thought the event was well portrayed, not sugar-coated. And all of these same discussions were re-visited! 

My personal opinion is that I would be happy to have my child disciplined by someone else, had I left the child in their care. As this is clearly a person I trust. And I would expect my (at this point theoretical) child to behave at someone else's house. And vice versa. That's todays thought. 

23 September 2011

Difficult Books. Satisfying or a waste of time?

I am currently reading 2 books. One I am thoroughly enjoying, and one not so much. I am, however, determined to get through it. It takes a lot for me to put a book down without finishing it, which I must admit, can get painful at times. I can count on one hand the books I've started and not finished. And not for want of trying. There are also a small number of books that I've started and am YET to finish. Those that I am going to persist with. So I guess you could say that I'm currently reading about 5 books... some are just taking longer than others!!

Two books that I never plan to even think about again (after this post, of course ;) ) are the second Bridget Jones' Diary - The Edge of Reason, and The Children's Book. I lost patience with Bridget Jones. I didn't like the first book, so really have no idea why I even picked up the second. Didn't get very far in. The Children's Book, I tried, I swear. So hard. I finally conceded that I had to give up when I had chewed my way through almost 200 pages of the 700-odd page epic (which took me a month), and realised that I had absolutely NO CLUE what I had read. Other than that there were children in it. Sigh.

Apparently the lyrical style of writing confuses my brain. I'm led to believe these types of books are easier to understand if read aloud, but that looks (and sounds) slightly odd on a crowded train.  So I - grudgingly - gave up. I find it incredibly difficult to stop reading a book, even if once I get to the end my thoughts are solely "Well there's 2 hours/days/decades of my life I'm never getting back." I suppose I feel I have to give it every chance to prove itself.

A couple that I've struggled but persisted through are 1984, and Cloudstreet. One that I've finished, and one that I've yet to - but am still planning on. 1984 took 5 tries, and about 3 years, but the sense of satisfaction I had once I closed that final page was amazing. (Note to self: must have another go at Cloudstreet...)

Why do I continue to do it to myself? Oh yeah. I (mostly) enjoy it. Give me a good book and a decent coffee and I'm set. Tim tams wouldn't go astray either. But I digress. Silence or the iPod on shuffle and you've got my perfect Saturday afternoon. I know I'm completely hooked when it takes physical violence to get my attention.

Anyway - back to the topic at hand. Hmm, maybe Friday evening isn't the best time for me to blog - I don't seem to be able to maintain a consistent stream of thought! But the topic. I am currently loving Last Summer by Kylie Ladd - a current novel exploring how the death of a friend, brother, husband, father impacts everyone, and the repercussions this loss reverberates through their lives. This novel I started 2 days ago and will have finished by the end of the weekend.

The other novel I'm reading is Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins. A book for our book club that I hadn't completed by meeting time. Oops. So far has taken up a month of my life, but I am DETERMINED to finish it. Partly as the reason we had it for book club was because it is a friends absolute favourite book. And partly because I'm intrigued. I am enjoying the story - it's definitely different to what I usually read - but I am LIVING in Struggletown with the writing. It is roundabout, lyrical, and difficult to follow. For me. Here's hoping it won't take me another month to finish!



21 July 2011

Some Great Reads

I read.

A lot.

So I thought I'd share some of my favourite books that I've read in recent months. In no particular order of course.

The Hour I First Believed - Wally Lamb

One Day - David Nicholls

Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen

Tully - Paullina Simons

Room - Emma Donoghue

I first read "Tully" when I was in my early 20s, and loved it. Re reading it now 7 or 8 years later (although it feels like a lifetime ago), I still quite enjoyed it. I did find, however, that the title character frustrated me much more than she did the first time around. I re-read it for book club, with a group of girls around my own age (ranging between late 20s to mid 30s), some who have read it before, some who were experiencing it for the first time. Interestingly, not many enjoyed it too much. Those that hadn't already read it disliked the characters and the story, those who had found Tully much more immature and dislikable. I guess it just shows how moving through different life stages can totally influence how you experience the written word. Definately makes me question whether I REALLY liked or disliked some books I've felt strongly about!

What are some of your favourite books? Have you re-read them? Would you?

15 July 2011

Just a quick post to say, after years of sometimes hellish, sometimes blissful shiftworking, I started working Monday - Friday, 8am-5pm, or as I like to call it - "Proper Grown Up Hours". So I finally have a reason to say - and mean - and properly understand the relief in...


And I can relish the thought that I can sleep in tomorrow morning, feeling like a normal person. Aaaahh. Bliss. Love.

Have a lovely weekend people!


12 July 2011

Headaches... The bane of my existance. *sigh*. For most of my life I have suffered headaches when

A) I get stressed
B) I am having what I will tactfully refer to as 'those bothersome girly iss-wahs' (spoken in a delightfully light French-esque lilt)
C) Those occasions where I forget that my glasses/contacts aren't, in fact, an optional accessory to make me appear smarter
D) My day has been going too well, and the planets align to shoot me down in flames

So I guess what I'm saying is I suffer a lot of headaches. "Suffer" sometimes being the operative word - I like to share my woes. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved and all that ;)

Unfortunately, most of the time, if I am unable to alleviate it and go to bed with a headache, it tends to be approximately 47.6 million times worse the following morning.

Sometimes analgesia works, sometimes it doesn't. It has been suggested to me that Acupuncture can work miracles for persistant tension headaches. Any thoughts or experiences with this? I acupuncture-naive and am thus suitably intrigued, hopeful and apprehensive, but excited to try it! Now I just need to find a reputable practitioner. My other thought is that I should vastly increase the frequency of my attendance at my local beauty salon/day spa... Massage time for me! I wonder if my accountant would see this as a good investment?
Keep your eyes out - I'll write a post of my acupuncture experience once experienced.

Or... volunteers to come over and feed me chocolate and give me a head massage?


03 May 2011

So I achieved something today. Actually I achieved many things.

I pulled off day one of the first course I have ever fully organised and ran completely on my own.
I survived my first lecture to a large group of people without running screaming for the hills.
I troubleshooted (troubleshot?) a number of minor issues - unregistered participants, special diets dropped on me at last minute, missing signs, computer glitches...

Sounds like all in all a pretty successful day, right? Sure, there are things that I may do differently next time. But all in all I was pretty happy with my performance and the way I coped with everything.

So why is it, in all that 'feel-good-ness' that the one thing that affects my perception of the day is the bad feedback? In perspective, approximately 90% of the feedback was great. But the 10% that wasn't so great is what stays with me. Why, as humans (or as women? But that opens a whole different issue...), do we do that? Belittle our achievements, no matter how great, instead choosing to focus on the minority, the one piece of feedback that says you could do better.

I intend to try to change this about myself. Starting now. I had a good day and I climbed - and conquered - one of my personal mountains.

I got up and spoke in front of a large group of people, remained coherent, and didn't have a panic attack.

And I'm damn proud of that.


27 April 2011

I'm an INFP personality type.

Apparently this means that I tend to keep to myself. I don't need other people to keep me going, I draw my energy from an internal source. I find, in fact, other people can often exhaust me, and I tend to dislike large groups, particularly when a) it is a large group of people I don't know, and b) I am the centre of attention. This does not bode well for me when I have to do a presentation in front of around 50 people. Now I realise that 50 people may seem to some like a small group, but in my mind, 50... 500... same difference. So I am trying to prepare while also trying not to think about it too much.

No wonder I have a headache.


26 April 2011

I have written a journal since I was a little girl. As I have grown obviously the content changed, but so did the context. Looking back through my diaries shows more than just life events. They show the mental and emotional changes that a girl goes through as she moves from youth, through puberty and adolescence, and then the progression from young adulthood to mid and late 20s - where we find ourselves now.

When I was young mostly the entries were chronicles of my day, events both good and bad. This moved onto, well, to be blunt, a bit of a poor me period, or teenage angst I suppose you would call it. As I matured, I wrote less, putting to paper both the good times and the bad, but only those that I felt 'noteworthy', events in my life that I either felt needed recording so that I could look back and remember fondly, or decisions that I needed to ponder on and figure out exactly what I thought and wanted.

As I move through my 20s, technology is advancing at a rate that - for someone moderately technologically incompetent such as myself - feels like it is running away from me. So I thought that I would move some of my thoughts into a forum where I can put it out there for others to read and ponder on themselves, and perhaps share some thoughts on so that we can all grow.

I enjoy writing and hope to develop my skills via this blog. I will aim to post at least once, if not a couple of times a week, but this may vary due to work commitments and fluctuations. I have recently started working in a job I did not - and at times still don't - feel ready for. But as this is a short term thing, I feel that I have to give it the best that I've got - knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as it were. I have decided to look at it as a chance for me to prove to myself that I am able to do it, whether or not this is a job that I actually WANT to in the long term. Knowing that I CAN do it makes it an easier decision to make, as I know that I am not turning it down because I'm scared that I CAN'T do it.

Personal development is something that I feel strongly about, but I also feel that it should be development that you want. Otherwise it just becomes a chore. I also wish to clarify that personal development does not necessarily mean career development. Take a class, learn a language, join an online dating site, go dancing... whatever it is that gets you involved in life. If all you have in your life is your career, then no matter how satisfying your job is, there will always be something missing. It is just that you may not notice this until you stop to think about it.

I'm going to leave it at that for now... Mx