Sunday, 25 November 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas for the Bookworm in your Life

One: For the burgeoning chef... Delicious Home Cooking or Nigellissima

Two: For the fiction reader.... The Secret Keeper or The Casual Vacancy (Both out in beautiful but pricey hard cover- the perfect gift for people who can't wait for the paperback!)

Three: For the crime lover... The Racketeer

Four: For the Young Adult... Looking for Alaska

Five: For the Sport fan... This is Me (Ian Thorpe) or Malthouse

Six: For the historically minded... Pacific 360  or Eureka

These titles can all be sourced here.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Summer Reading List: The Vintage Teacup Club

The Vintage Teacup Club
Vanessa Greene


The popular 'club' novel has been around for some time now, with several examples including Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club being adapted into movies based on their great critical reception.  Like TJABC, The Vintage Teacup Club follows multiple viewpoints and story lines with the club providing a centre and point of discussion and relief for each of the characters.  There is Alison, who is a retro queen with two daughters and a husband, who makes her money through vintage handicrafts- but she is facing the difficulties of raising teenagers-, Maggie who is unlucky in love and Jenny, whose impending marriage has her freaking out about a missing mother.  These are the key story lines.  For me, this book falls flat because these plots are allowed to take a back seat in comparison to the mission of the club, the finding of 100 vintage tea cups for the group to share.

It is a neat premise.  Tea sets and vintage collectables have enjoyed a recent growth in popularity, and I will admit that I was drawn to the cute cover and the promise of an easy, nostalgic read.  However, I was disappointed to find that ALL three characters were vintage obsessed, and too similar for it to be a coincidence.  To me, it seems like this book was written in an attempt to celebrate an interest in all things twee without any actual intent to explore the deeper concerns of the book.  For example, Jenny is haunted by ideas of there being no Mother of the Bride at her party, but when her mother shows up she sends her away, and the only resolution of the tension is provided by a trite letter in the epilogue.  And Maggie and Jenny suspect that Alison's husband Pete is cheating on her, but they never say anything and Alison never hints that she knows, and again, there is a line in the epilogue that explains it away.  This is a novel with multiple crisis points which are glossed over, and lack dénouement.

Things I did like about this book include its multi-generational view points and its easy, conversational style.  IF you're looking for something to read on holidays this year, then you might find this a good book to take along, because it doesn't require too much thinking,  and you wouldn't be too upset if you had to leave it behind when your suitcase got too full.

One out of five broken teacups.


Friday, 9 November 2012

Summer Reading List: The Secret Keeper

The Secret Keeper
Kate Morton

I know a lot of people who are thinking about splurging on this one for Christmas.  It is a whopping $35 a copy, which is exorbitant for a book, I know!  Luckily, I got my copy free from Allen and Unwin- I won it by retweeting a link and I couldn't believe my luck.  This means that I, poor starving student (well actually, not anymore...hmm...) can review this lovely tome for you all before you part with your cash.

I've met Kate at a launch of her last book, The Distant Hours which was hosted by my local Dymocks. She also replied to a rather squee-ing fangirl email I sent her a few years back after I devoured her first two novels.  She's Queensland's very own Glamazon author.  Gorgeous, a mother, and a fabulous author, it was almost too much that she was nice as well, but she was.

But far be it from me to try and win your support of this book with a discussion of it's author.  After all, some of the meanest people out there can be excellent writers and it stands to reason that sometimes the nice ones... well they suck.

I have mixed feelings about The Secret Keeper.  Kate's earlier novels captivated my young imagination.  They were books that I read in a flurry of excitement, and once finished I was totally inspired.  The Shifting Fog, or The House at Riverton as it's known in other countries was the kind of book that I wished with all my heart that I had written.  But The Secret Keeper, while deftly plotted falls a little short in the romance department.  I think to some extent, this is a book which strives a little too hard for a standard set by previous publications.  At times, the prose becomes bogged down by flowery adjectives and introspective thinking.  It says in about 400 pages what it could probably say in two.  If you can forgive that and allow yourself to be swept up in the story however I think you will find that this is captivating, clever read, and once again a sort of love letter to great literature- this time, making reference to Peter Pan.  The book is also set during the London Blitz which is a popular topic among romantic historians.

If you liked The Distant Hours, have a read of The Secret Keeper.

I give this book three and a half out of five.

**If you would like me to do a tutorial on how to do the make up look from the cover of this book, let me know in the comments.**

*What was your favourite Kate Morton book?*

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

What Watching Weeds Has Taught Me About Business.

Get Rich, but Do Whatever you Can Not to Die Whilst Trying...

So you've finished your University Degree.  Congratulations.  Maybe you have a job that you like, flipping burgers or bagging groceries.  Maybe you hate it.  You're there a few days a week, you make some spending money and you can usually afford petrol and your phone bill, and that's great.  But now November is no longer part of the summer break- it's just November.

It's time to start thinking about a Career.

If you're me, you do this thinking whilst reading novels and watching whole series' of TV shows you missed out on while you were studying.  Lately that's meant the Showtime classic Weeds which stars Mary-Louise Parker as a suburban housewife turned marijuana dealer, who has been forced into financial despair by the sudden death of her husband.


While I think the real message of the television show is a) damned good entertainment and b) a comprehensive, creative and dramatic look at the human condition (wow, deep), there are a few things that I think this show can teach the graduate job hunter, and I'm going to share those with you today.

1.  Do what it takes.

Be a jack of all trades.  Take odd jobs, take temp jobs, be flexible.  Okay, so you got a degree in writing and you want to work as a publisher or a writer, but you find a job that advertises for someone to write web content.  Don't think "Well, this isn't exactly what I wanted" and click off the advertisement!  It's SO hard to get a graduate job because most places want experience, but there is no experience to be had without first getting a job.  It's going to be tough for the first little while, but if that means taking a job which will OCCASIONALLY give you work in a related field to the one you're qualified in, whilst keeping your retail or hospitality job, then you should consider it.  You never know how good it is to have money until you don't any more.

2.  Have standards.

Nancy may sell pot, but she never sells to kids and she never traffics or sells heroin.  Get it?  Never do anything that would hurt yourself or others, and keep your integrity and dignity in tact.

That being said; photocopying and making coffee is NOT an affront to your dignity.  It's the ground floor.  Get in on it.  Everyone else did.

3. Cultivate a skill set.

Part of Nancy's problem is that prior to her husband's death, she was a housewife.  She didn't have a job, and there's been no mention of a degree.  What could she do to pay the bills and continue supporting a household?  If you are constantly learning new skills, even if it's just Microsoft Power Point then you'll always have something to put on your resume.

4.  Network.

Business can sometimes be about who you know.  I know people who have been offered work at parties, and one of my own jobs is with a friend's mother who knew what kind of thing I was set up to do.  Go to places where you might meet people in your industry, be professional and prepared, and make contacts.  You never know when they may come in handy.  

5. Tough it out.

The number one thing that Weeds has taught me is that the real world can be tricky to get by in.  So long as you can keep your chin up and think clearly- and some love and support from friends and family can help too- then you can find your way out of most problems.

Of course you can choose to never take risks, but I somehow doubt any big, life changing opportunity is going to find you in bed or at a check out.

What tips do you have for Graduate job hunters?

What are your favourite job hunting stories?

What life lessons have you learned from TV?