Monday, April 30, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy

I started reading the Hunger Games because I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie (which I still haven't seen). I loved the first book so much that I quickly read the next two. They are a great trilogy by Suzanne Collins - very well structured - and suitable for a wide variety of readers. I think they are aimed at young adult readers, but I wonder if the young adult reader will fully understand the mental health problems that Katniss develops.

The Hunger Games is the first novel. I don't want to focus on the plot or what happens, since the story is probably generally known by most already - or you can go to Wikipedia and find the plot. So, I don't know what else to say - except it should be read quickly, like you're scoffing down and indulging in a delicious dessert!

Catching Fire is the second novel. Continuing to read this trilogy was very indulgent - I am meant to be reading classics and literary works that extend my writing. By the ease that I can slip back into reading young adult science fiction is amazing. This adventure with Suzanne Collins has made me think that I should not try to buck what I like most, and perhaps I should be writing young adult science fiction, instead of struggling with historic sagas.

Mockingjay is the final novel of the trilogy. I didn't want to let these characters go! As simply written as it is, the characters are very well developed. Obviously, particularly Katniss, whose turmoil is palpable. I rejoiced, in a way, when Katniss could let go of some of her barriers and find solace in Peeta. I felt that there is hope, after all.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tiger Men

I just finished reading Tiger Men by Judy Nunn as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. This is the first book by Judy Nunn that I've read, and I did enjoy it. I will be looking out for her other novels. The style reminds me a bit of Bryce Courtney, because it was a long saga without a real plot. It was just about life, and the reader really gets invested in characters.

The tiger referred to in the title is not the typical big cat that is brought to mind. The tiger is the Tasmanian tiger, now extinct. Throughout the novel, Judy Nunn draws snippets from another book written nearly 100 years ago, about the systematic extermination of the Tasmanian tiger. It was heart-wrenching.
    In fact, the whole novel was quite educational. Tasmania lead Australia in many respects, including having electrical street lights installed. The last part of the novel was also a good overview of Australia's participation in World War I.
   The story starts by following three men; Silas Stanford, a wealthy Englishman; Mick O'Callaghan, an Irishman on the run; and Jefferson Powell, an idealistic American political prisoner. It is also the story of the strong, proud women who loved them. Then the story branches out and follows the three families for three or four generations.
   Highly recommended.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Guide To Writing

I know I have been quiet, and a bit slack with my writing lately. I am busy, but I can make all the excuses in the world. The fact is, I should make time to write.
   I'm certainly making time to read.
   Today, a friend sent me a great link; to Timothy McSweeney's Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do. It's funny. It's inspired me again.
   Please, help me. All those followers; keep reminding me why I'm doing this. Give me little tips. Ask me why I haven't posted for a while.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Happy Prince

Another classic for the 2012 Classics Challenge: The Happy Prince and Other Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde. This book of little moral tales is charming. I wish it had been read to me as a child, so I am keeping them book to read to my own children (when I have some ...). I was put onto this book by the First Tuesday Book Club.

The Happy Prince is one of the nine fairy tales written by Oscar Wilde. It is the tale of an ornately decorated statue who is saddened by the poverty around him. So he asks his only friend, a late migrating swallow, to take his jewels to those in need.
   When the Happy Prince has given all he has, and is no longer so beautiful, the rich men of the city meet to decide his fate.
   The Happy Prince's selflessness opens up the eyes of his friend, the swallow. The swallow doesn't feel the cold of the winter, because he is warmed by doing good and bringing joy to the needy. The swallow eventually sacrifices his life, by not migrating, and dying from the cold, once his task of dispersing the Happy Prince's riches is done.
   What I found interesting throughout these fairytales, and which I don't really appreciate in a child's book, are some of Wilde's own views put across - such as some very religious references, and also some references to Jews. I found them subtle and confronting.
   All these fairytales are little tales of morality. I really enjoyed them. Great lessons for kids.

Monday, April 9, 2012

There Should Be More Dancing

Another novel towards the Australian Women Writer's Challenge: I read There Should be More Dancing by Rosalie Ham last week. I've read Rosalie's two other novels (Summer At Mount Hope and The Dressmaker) and I enjoyed them far more, I must say. This novel is not as wickedly funny. It took me longer to read, and it was probably more emotionally challenging.

Margery Blandon was always a principled woman who found guidance from the wisdom of desktop calendars. She lived quietly in Gold Street, Brunswick for sixty years until events drove her to the 43rd floor of the Tropic Hotel. As she waits for the crowds in the atrium far below to disperse, she contemplates what went wrong; her best friend kept an astonishing secret and she can't trust the home help. It's possible her first born son has betrayed her, that her second son might have committed a crime, her only daughter is trying to kill her and her dead sister Cecily helped her to this, her final downfall. Even worse, it seems Margery's life-long neighbour and enemy now demented always knew the truth. There Should Be More Dancing is a story of Margery's reckonings on loyalty, guilt and love.
   I didn't like Margery, and I didn't feel much empathy for her. She was a nasty, narrow-minded woman, who purposely closed off her emotions to her family. It's sad that she wasted her life, and realises too late. She's eighty, and what kind of life can she now lead?
   The characters are vivid, unique and have realistic traits. They are three-dimensional characters, and Rosalie Ham is very good at character development. Unfortunately, I think there is a reason why so few novels' central characters are elderly, and that is that they don't generate much action.
   It's a great novel on its own, but Rosalie Ham's other novels are so brilliant that I was disappointed by comparison.

Friday, April 6, 2012

April Prompt - A Classics Challenge

I read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations most recently, as part of the Classics Challenge. I'm ashamed to say that I have never read Charles Dickens before. This month's prompt focuses on the cover of the book.
   The edition that I bought and read had close-up of a pair of iron manacles laying in a swamp. It's a fitting cover, having now read the book. But when I first picked it up, it wasn't an appealing first impression. Originally, I couldn't find an image online of my cover, but this time I found it and I have also included a number of other covers from other editions (there has been so many).

The above covers reflect many aspects of the book. My cover, with the manacles, are obviously the chains that Magwitch filed off in the swamp when Pip was a child. The second cover is of the crazy old Miss Havisham, in her wedding gown and dead flowers. The third is of Magwitch and Pip in the graveyard, where the story begins, with Miss Havisham, Estella and Howard in the background. The fourth is just a painted image of Pip himself.
   My favourite part of the story is Miss Havisham, so I really like the cover with just her on the front.