Monday, 28 April 2014

Book Review: After Darkness by Christine Piper

After Darkness
Christine Piper
Allen and Unwin (Australia)

As the first Vogel winner in two years, Christine Piper has the weight of high expectations on her shoulders.  2013 famously saw no Vogel Award given to any entrant, judge Geordie Williamson justifying this decision on the grounds that no entry was of high enough standard to fit in with the award's terms and conditions.  Since the early 1980s, the Vogel has been a prize which searches for excellence among Australia's unpublished writers.  It was the award which gave us Tim Winton in 1982, when his book An Open Swimmer shared the award with another writer.  A few years later it gave us Kate Grenville's Lillian's Story.  And now we have After Darkness.  




In 1942, Dr Tomakazu Ibaraki is taken from his place of work in Broome and transported to an internment camp for enemy aliens at Lovedale, South Australia.  In Lovedale camp, Ibaraki-sensei's loyalty will be tested- as will his trust in authority and his sense of discretion.  It is Ibaraki's discretion which defines him, but as the novel progresses we see what it has cost him, also.

After Darkness is not a long novel, nor a complicated one but it shows a depth that speaks of a true understanding of subject matter.  A lot of research has clearly gone into this project, but the author is also emotionally invested and strikes a neat balance between fact, exposition and action.  This makes the novel flow; reading one chapter becomes reading two, which soon leads to effortlessly reading the whole book in a single sitting.  While the subject matter is often sinister and dark, the voice of Ibaraki-sensei allows the reader critical distance from the material.  We see, then we feel, what Ibaraki is going through, but though he is struggling, he is not doing so overdramatically.  This is a difficult book to analyse without giving away spoilers, but through interspersed scenes set in the present day of 1942 and the years leading up to the war, Piper expands on themes of morality, loyalty, nationalism, mateship, displacement, family, love, duty, and spirituality in the face of a changing twentieth century.  This is no small achievement, given that the book is barely 300 pages long!

There is also some joy in the book; in the blossoming but forbidden attraction between Ibaraki and his ward sister, Sister Bernice; in the baseball tournament played by the men in the camps; in the scenes of homemaking that Ibaraki-sensei shares with his wife.  This is a book which understands the edict that "The shadow proves the sunshine."

I have not given a five star rating in a while, but I feel this remarkable book deserves one.

Five stars.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Book Review: Frog Music by Emma Donaghue

Frog Music
Emma Donaghue
Picador Australia
9781447249771

In the summer of 1876 in San Francisco, the people are gripped by two terrible plagues.  The first, a terrible heatwave, has tempers and temperatures rising.  The second- small pox-  is much more deadly.  In Chinatown, Blanche Beunon and her lover Arthur Deneve live in blissful ignorance in a boarding house Blanche has bought with money she has earned from dancing at the House of Mirrors, a bordello catering to expensive tastes.  Blanche, Arthur and Arthurs bosom friend Ernest are all former circus performers from a famous travelling show in Paris, but they have emigrated to America, Arthur having sustained an injury to his back which prevents him from working.  Blanche is happy to support the men; she loves her job and she loves her man.  Everything is perfect.

And then, the cross-dressing frog catcher, Jenny Bonnet knocks Blanche over in the street one day.

Jenny is the kind of woman who attracts the wrong kind of attention.  She is frequently in and out of the lock up for dressing in men's clothing, and she carries a Colt pistol in her trouser pocket.  She rides a penny farthing about the streets of San Francisco, and asks altogether too many questions.

Like: Why doesn't Blanche know what type of farm it is her son is being raised on?

So when someone kills Jenny in cold blood, Blanche blames herself.  After all, it's an association with Jenny that has changed Blanche's world forever.



Frog Music is a fascinating novel, based on real historical events which is sometimes slow to move along.  The main character, Blanche Beunon, has a tendency to get weighed down with internal monologue, and while her realisations do further the plot along, this massive book reads better in it's action based scenes.  While Donaghue's commitment to historical research is certainly applaudable, one thing I know is that is is extremely difficult to get the balance between accuracy and pace perfect.  In this case, the book comes just shy of the mark.

The thing I loved about this book, however, was its characterisation.  Each and every figure, from the main cast to the supporting figures, were living, breathing things.  I could hear their voices, picture them walking, and never questioned an action because they all seemed perfectly on track with what I knew of them.  In particular, the characters of Jenny and of Ernest were enticing, original, and had fully formed character arcs of their own which enhanced, without taking away from, the plot.  I would have loved to have seen a little more of Jenny's back story come into the plot... Blanche only just begins to scratch the surface of her dead friend's past by the end of the story, but in itself, this is excellent characterisation, as Blanche suffers from a massive case of solipsism.

I couldn't help but draw comparisons between this Blanche and another, that of Tennessee Williams' Streetcar named Desire.

As a non-French speaker, it did slightly irk me to have to flick to the back of the book every time I needed a translation.  However, having the characters speak in French added to the flavour and authenticity of the novel.  Perhaps if the translations were placed as footnotes they would not have interfered so much with the flow of the text.

This is a salacious (really, at times it's quite saucy), intriguing, genre-bending novel which will surprise those who loved Room in it's total departure from Donaghue's previous work.  While it didn't quite thrill me, I still had to keep reading to the end, and I almost didn't guess the killer, so that definitely counts for something.

I give Frog Music three stars.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Guest Post: Welcome to my Bookshelves with Emma Chapman

A Tour of My Bookshelves


I was recently offered a wonderful piece of advice, originally spoken by the film director and comedian John Waters.


N.B. John Waters used slightly different language (unsuitable for this blog)

The first thing I do when I visit someone’s home is to look at their bookshelves.  I love to see what other people read: it gives a great insight into their personalities.  It’s like looking at what artwork they choose to have on the walls: a very good indicator of another person’s tastes. It can also act as a great conversation starter.

Thank you Emily, for inviting me to share my bookshelves.  It won’t take long: I have a limited ration of books in my apartment in Indonesia as most of them are in storage in the UK.  You’ll be pleased I’m not taking you through all of those: there are hundreds of them.  I have a horrible medical condition that prevents me from ever throwing a book away.  I got it from my father. 

Living overseas forces me to be careful.  I only brought a few books with me: the rest are ones I have bought or been sent as gifts.  I’m constantly promising not to buy any more books.  I lived in Perth for 4 years, and when we left, the majority of what we sent home (20 huge packing boxes) was books.  I haven’t read them all.  That’s the problem.  I know I will: one day.  Either that or I’ll start a bookshop, where I will refuse to sell any of the books to customers. 

I’ll let the shelves speak for themselves, but here are a few interesting facts about my choices: 
·    
         I bought Big Brother by Lionel Shriver at Ubud Writers’ Festival last year, where I saw her talk about the book.  I was totally star struck. 
·      
      I recently wrote a series of blog posts about Donna Tartt’s books, and may have become her biggest fan as a result.



      You’ll spot a lot of books about photography, the Vietnam war and foreign correspondents: research for my new novel, about a war photographer


·       
      I have been meaning to read the Bible (and other famous religious texts) for a long time.  I’m not religious, but I feel it’s something so intrinsic to so many cultures that they need to be read.



·       
      I studied the poems of Keats and Wilfred Owen at school.  I keep them around as reminders of brilliance.
·       
      I’ve not read almost half of these books (and I need to stop buying new ones)
·       
      The books I would most recommend would be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood
·       
      The History of Exploration is my husband’s and shows our utterly different interests: he’s a geologist
·       
      I’ve been learning Bahasa Indonesian for six months and it still gives me a small thrill when I understand something
·       
      The big yellow ornament just visible on the top shelf is a model of a giant Durian fruit.  It’s the emblem of Jakarta, which people call The Big Durian due to the fact that people either love it or hate it. 



You’ll also be able to make out my inspiration frame, filled with quotes to keep me going.  Here’s a close up view of it.  I also have a pin board filled with pictures of setting, time and place of the current chapter of my work-in-progress. 



Thank you for taking the tour with me! I hope it made you feel better about your own book hoarding habits.  Have you read any of these? 


Emma Chapman's first novel, How to be a Good Wife was published in early 2013, to critical acclaim.  The paperback is available now at all good bookstores!

You can visit Emma at her blog, which is www.emmajchapman.com or send her a tweet using her handle, which is @emmajchapman

You can also LIKE How to be A Good Wife on Facebook



Book Limbo

As I write this, I am propped up in bed with the beginnings of a pretty nasty head cold, and a virulent case of book limbo.

You could call it post-project blues if you want, too.

Last Saturday, I finished the latest draft of my novel-length project, and I was ecstatic for all of about five minutes until I realised that I am completely un-confident in its readiness for the big wide world.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  I'm completely un-confident in my readiness for the big wide world.  But deadlines loom.  It's prize-entering season, with the deadline for the 2015 Vogel award racing towards me like a freight train and the deadline for the TAG Hungerford not far behind it.  I've got some other avenues open to me to, but connections are all well and good so long as the material is worth it's salt.  And maybe, just maybe, it's not.

Sheldon: Would you like some advice?
Leonard: Sure, why not.
Sheldon: Then now would be the perfect time to launch a blog with an interactive comments section.


I was reading an author bio in the back of a new book earlier this evening and thinking about the things that make author bios interesting.  Hardship.  Travel.  Juggling other careers with making time to write.  I don't really have these sorts of details in my life.  My author bio might read 'Elimy is a twenty something year old bookseller who spends all her free time reading and writing.'  If that's not a cure for insomnia, I don't know what is.  Also, please excuse my melancholia, it's the Book Limbo talking.

I've started making lists of pros and cons for various things I'm considering doing with the manuscript, and I'm pleased to say that the idea of binning or abandoning it hasn't crossed my mind.  It's going to go somewhere, I just don't know where yet.

Does anyone else get the post-project blues?

How do you deal with book limbo?


Here are some great articles I've been reading lately that inspire me to get out of this limbo and just get on with it.

Christine Piper on winning the Vogel

Natasha Lester on not giving in to the tiny voice that whispers you can't


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Book Review: Let Her Go by Dawn Barker

Let Her Go
Dawn Barker
Hachette Publishing
9780733632228

Publication date: July 2014

Dawn Barker's debut novel of 2013, Fractured, was a breakaway hit, beloved by book clubs and reluctant readers alike.  Naturally, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the release of her follow up, Let Her Go.  Like Fractured, Let Her Go explores a complicated moral and psychological grey area from multiple perspectives, allowing the reader to decide who they are in agreement with.  The book follows two step sisters, Zoe and Nadia, as they negotiate the emotional battlefield of a surrogate pregnancy.

When Zoe discovers that, due to lingering health issues, she is unable to conceive a child of her own, she is upset, and confides in her step sister Nadia who has three children of her own.  To Zoe, Nadia has the perfect life, although Nadia would not be so quick to agree with her.  Nadia's husband is often busy with work, and uninvolved with the children, though I would not go so far as to classify him as neglectful or uncaring.  Nadia decides to offer up herself as a surrogate for Zoe's baby, despite the misgivings of both her own husband and Zoe's.  The baby is conceived, using Nadia's egg and Zoe's husband Lachlan's sperm, and everything seems set to be perfect for all involved... or is it?

Years later, the child conceived in this arrangement, Louise, begins to rebel against her parents and feels alienated from them for some reason.  It's as if there's something they are not telling her...



Barker's skill as a writer is her ability to develop realistic plots based on complicated issues.  She does this with sensitivity and a balanced understanding of the situation from many points of view.  Her characterisation of Zoe is most striking; Zoe is the slightly overweight one, always comparing herself to her older, more perfect step sister, who feels intensely lonely when her husband is away working in the Kalgoorlie superpits.  At times, Zoe can be grating to read, as she seems to feel like the world is out to get her, but this adds to the development of the plot as she is forced to go back to work when Lachlan quits his job, and then discovers that Nadia is muscling in on her family.  I admit that Zoe's feelings about the situation led me to believe that something much more sinister would happen.  In the sections told from Louise's point of view, the mother and father are never named, and I thought perhaps in the end it would turn out to be Lachlan and Nadia who ended up together, united by their conception of this child.

Nadia was an interesting and sometimes frustrating character.  She is the easiest to like because she is so normal and independent, but could at times be contradictory.  While she was fierce in her love for Louise, her thoughts only turned to her own children when it was convenient for the plot.  I would have liked to have seen her interact more with them.

The choice to involve Louise as a teenager in this book added an edge to the narrative that moved it from psychological drama to something deeper.  Barker's understanding of the teenager in rebellion made Louise's voice compelling and also leant sympathy to her feelings.  I particularly related to her plight in being dragged along to family counselling, and her fear of missing out when it came to schoolies week on Rottnest.

Let Her Go is poised to become every bit as popular as Fractured, and for good reason.  It is well thought out, well plotted, well paced and most of all, it is well written.  This is like Jodi Picoult with a soul, written not from a formula but from the heart.

Four stars.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Book Review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Boy, Snow, Bird
Helen Oyeyemi
9781447254225
Picador

Helen Oyeyemi is a novelist you may or may not be familiar with.  She was listed as one of Granta's Best Young British novelists in its most recent incarnation, and was a guest at the 2010 Perth Writers Festival, on the back of publication of her book, White is for Witching.  Oyeyemi's previous novels also include The Icarus Girl and Mr Fox.  This novel, her first since being listed by Granta, is perhaps her most ambitious yet; Boy, Snow, Bird is an updated version of the Snow White myth which uses different cultural understandings of the fairy tale and of womanhood to tell a story of belonging in mid twentieth century America.

It begins with Boy Novak, a fair skinned, fair haired New Yorker who escapes from her brutal rat-catcher father, Frank, to a place called Flax Hill, Massachussetts (because it is the furthest stop away from home that the bus will take her.)  Arriving in Flax Hill is like the arrival of the beautiful princess in the medieval village.  Flax Hill is a town of artisans, where everyone has a craft.  There, Boy's craft appears to be her beauty, something which she feels disconnected from even though she is almost aloofly aware of it.  Whilst living in a boarding house for young women (this is the 1950s after all), she meets a woman named Webster, who teams up with Boy in order to provide a date for a friend of her regular beaux.  This man, the 'prince' of the story, is named Arturo Whitman.



Despite not feeling much passion for Arturo (and in fact being in love with another man), Boy marries him for the stability and 'normal' life that he represents.  She then transitions from fairy tale princess to stepmother, as Arturo has an almost inhumanly beloved child named Snow, and is a widower.   At first, Boy is taken in by the charm of Snow, but she comes to see her as unnatural after the birth of her own child, a girl named Bird.  When Bird is born, she has dark skin, and exposes the Whitman's as light-skinned African Americans who have become Massachussets socialites almost by accident, after Arturo's father managed to walk into a golf club un-noticed.  Snow has been raised in absolute ignorance of her true heritage and the kind of treatment usual for people of her 'skin colour' at the time.  Fearful of what Bird's arrival will do to the family's reputation, the Whitmans beg Boy to send Bird away, but she sends Snow instead.  Her transition to evil stepmother is complete.

The novel then switches point of view, and the thread of the story is taken up by Bird, years later.  Snow is still away from home, living with her Aunt Clara who is dark skinned like Bird.  She and Bird exchange letters, talking about their strangeness in worlds where they know they don't quite fit.  This manifests itself in bizarre ways, such as Bird's ability to talk to spiders, and her not always appearing in mirrors.

The cast of the novel is almost entirely female, and explores a full range of feminine roles, from the socialite mother in law, to the old biddie, to the tough woman journalist, and also explores the silent hardships women have endured over the centuries.  One character, Mia, has an abortion, but as the event is told from 13 year old Bird's point of view, she assumes that her 'aunt' Mia is dying.  She also overhears her mother telling a strange man that she loves him over the phone.  The world of the woman in 1950s and 1960s America is almost as difficult as the world of the African American, although the discrimination is not so overt, says the book.  These women's lives are contrasted against various fairytales, and it is shown that the solution to all problems is not always love, marriage and babies.

The novel's final bizarre twist shows that there is not so much difference between the Novaks and the Whitmans at all... when Boy learns that her father is not who he says he is, she sets out to find and forgive him... this was the only part of the novel that did not sit well with me, as whoever Frank was, he still locked Boy in the basement and encouraged rats to gnaw on her face...

There were some indications throughout the book that we were supposed to see Boy as a somewhat unreliable narrator, but her earnest voice, and her cold, emotionless treatment of the world made her easy to believe although not easy to feel compassion for.  It is Bird who most comes alive on the page; a tenacious mix of Harriet the Spy and something completely new.  I would have liked to have seen more from Snow's point of view as well, but her silence did add to the mystery of her character.

While I did not love this book as much as I loved White is for Witching, Boy, Snow, Bird is still a literary gem, and I give this book four out of five stars.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Love Thy Villain

It's really easy to create a protagonist who you can love.  After all, they are often the germ for the story.  J.K. Rowling is often quoted as saying that Harry Potter just walked into her brain one day, fully formed, while she was minding her own business on the train.  And your protagonist is fun to think up interior lives for, to flesh out and make real.  This is very important because if your reader doesn't give a hoot about your main character, you can assume a fair chance of them not finishing the book.

But I'm not here to talk about main characters today.  I'm here to talk about villains.

The book that I am working on right now features two villains.

The first is a forty seven year old man named Robert Willis who owns a successful cigarette factory (or two, or three, depending on where you're up to).  I have always imagined him looking a little like the man who plays the boss in television's Monk.  


Robert was a fairly intuitive character for me to write because he is the antithesis of my protagonist's hopes and desires.  In subsequent drafts, because I had the bare bones of him, I was able to flesh him out further and explore in more detail why he is such a negative person.

This evening when I sat down to write, I decided it was time to give a bit more depth to my other villain, who only appears in part four of the book.  This part takes place on the Thai Burma Railway, and this character, who I've called Nakamura, carries the burden of representing the fearsome force that was the Japanese Imperial Army in the eyes of the Australian soldiers taken prisoner in Singapore.  I realised, as I sat down to write out his motivation a little more that I had no idea why he was in the army, what his spiritual beliefs were (which is important because he plays a key role in the plot because of something he does for spiritual reasons)... I hadn't even given him a first name!!!!

This fantastic book gives some
fictional insight into the Japanese mind...


During tonight's writing session, instead of doing my usual 1000 words, I spent a bit of time with Nakamura and got to know him.  I gave him a first name, (Hiroshi, meaning generous), and an age, 32.  I decided he was a major, and a career military man.  His father was a veteran of the Russo Japanese war of 1905, and his brother Haruki had been killed during conflict in China in 1938.  At one point in time, around about the time my protagonist Winston was beginning his story (1937), Hiroshi Nakamura was growing tired of the military life and considered retiring from active service to become a high school teacher.  This changed when his brother was killed.  Nakamura becomes easily exasperated when he feels he is not being listened to, and his history in the army has developed in him a tendency to solve his problems with force.  He is a Buddhist.  His parents are still alive.  He is from Shinjuku, Tokyo, and University educated in civics and history.

He is nothing like the images of the Japanese enemy Winston would have encountered.



After doing this exercise, I now feel more equipped to go forth into the turning point of part 4, and write a more gripping twist in the tale!

Tried something similar?  Let me know in the comments.  

Wednesday, 16 April 2014





Easter is probably one of the most exciting holidays for me because it's a largely no-fuss affair at our house, none of the shops are open, and it's perfectly okay to consume your own body weight in chocolate.  HOORAY!

I won't be getting any extra days off from work this year, as I already get Friday through Sunday off anyway, but it will be nice to stay at home instead of running errands.  I'm planning on sinking my teeth into a few books as well as a few chocolate bunnies.

Long weekends have always signified reading binges to me...

On top of this, I am almost finished with the eighth draft of my book!  I'm starting to get a little antsy about it, because this is usually around about the time in a rewrite where I decide that I am no good at this, and I start planning my next draft.  I think I'm hiding behind these redrafts though, and when I am honest with myself, this draft is the strongest yet.  So it's off to a lovely friend for proof reading, and then time for the baby manuscript to go door knocking in the big wide world.  (I really should be working on it now, actually...)  For a brilliant post on the nasty voice of doubt, check out Natasha Lester's blog...

Would love to hear what you are all reading at the moment, or if you've read any of the books I'm reading, would love to hear your thoughts.  No spoilers please, particularly not for Storm of Swords.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Book Review: Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

Lost and Found
Brooke Davis
Hachette, Australia
978073363275

Publication due in July 2014

Once in every so often, I have the privilege as a reader to discover a book that changes the way I see the world, even if it is only ever so slight a change.

Lost and Found is one such book.

I heard the buzz surrounding this book long before I even read it.  Brooke Davis, author of this forthcoming release, is a Perth bookseller and tutored Creative Writing at Curtin University, where she did her PhD.  The book, Lost and Found, was written as part of her doctorate.  Her journey to publication is nothing short of a fairytale.

Lost and Found begins with a dead dog.  One of the three narrators, seven year old Millie Bird, becomes obsessed with death and dying.  She starts a book of dead things, never knowing that less than thirty entries away she will be including her father in the list.  As a seven year old, Millie struggles to understand the grief that is associated with dying, although she has a mature perspective on the fact that everyone must die at some point.

And so, Millie's father passes away, and Millie and her mother go to a department store to buy some things.  Millie's mother asks her to wait by a rack of 'Ginormous women's undies' and Millie does.  She waits, and she waits, and she waits.  And then she sees a pair of boots she likes on another child and so she wonders off, but not before leaving a note so her mother can find her.  But when she comes back to the spot, her mother is not there.  And she is not there by the time the store closes.  Millie waits in that store for several days before she realises that something has gone very wrong...

With the help of Karl the Touch Typist, Millie evades store security and child services, and makes it to her home.  Across the road, a strange and judgemental widow watches out her window, and Millie watches back.  Eventually, Agatha Pantha is moved by seeing this little girl on her own that she decides to do something about it.

Millie, Karl and Agatha set out on a road trip to find Millie's runaway mother, but they might just find themselves in the meantime.




Narrated by each of these three characters in turn, Davis showcases a talent for getting inside the head of her highly original characters.  She has a reverence for the elderly that comes through in her work.  But it is the voice of Millie which really shines; Millie's seven year old questions and her theories of the way the world works are heart-wrenching, funny, and most of all accurate.  You will be transported back in time to your own childhood, as Millie describes what it's like to be hugged, getting in trouble, and being abandoned.

While this book has quite serious subject matter, don't be alarmed!  Lost and Found writes the dichotomy of living and dying in such a way that is uplifting and frequently funny.  Perfect for gifts, book clubs, or for when you want to curl up with a great Australian debut, I urge everyone to read this brilliant book and benefit from it's life and love affirming perspective.

Five stars.


Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Book Chain #1 : Six Degrees of Separation

The Book Chain Meme is hosted by Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman.

April's book is: Burial Rites!

1) Burial Rites by Hannah Kent



A fabulous novel set in Iceland in 1829, told from the point of view of real-life 'criminal' Agnes Magnusdottir, which ends (as is historically accurate) with her execution.... which leads me to....

2) Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy



After Tess is raped by the dastardly Alec d'Urberville, whom she is sent to claim kinship with, her life is set on a tragic path.  Like Agnes, she is driven to murder, and while her crimes are excusable to the reader who has grown to love her, Tess must face the consequences for her actions in the end.

3) One Day by David Nicholls



In 2008, Nicholls adapted a screenplay for the BBC's version of Tess of the D'Urbervilles.  Nicholls is most well known for his novel One Day which tracks the lives of Dex and Em on the same day each year throughout their lives as they almost, but not quite, get it together.  (Nicholls has also been quoted as saying the novel was inspired by Hardy.)

4) Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie



Both One Day and Half of a Yellow Sun are great books with TERRIBLE filmic adaptations.  I had the misfortune of sitting through the film for Adichie's Orange Prize winning novel on it's opening night and was saddened by the subtle nuances absent, the minor characters and subplots mising, and the diminished role of two of the protagonists in the book.  Both films were ambitious in trying to take on a complex and intricate novel, and both failed.

5) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver



The only other Women's Prize for fiction winner that I have read... yet!  I have vivid recollections of reading this book on the train and being so stunned by it's conclusion that it perplexed me how everyone else in the carriage was okay, just carrying on with their lives.  This book is amazing and never fails to provoke complex discussion.

6) The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis



The mother in the adaptation of We Need to Talk about Kevin was played by the captivating Tilda Swinton, who first came to my attention as the White Witch in the Narnia series of the early 2000s.  Swinton was exactly how I imagined the Witch to look, with her icy eyes and long, sharp nose.  She brought to life this beloved children's novel for me.


That's all from me for this month's meme, but please check out Annabel and Emma's blogs for more.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Welcome to MY Bookshelves... the Unread Edition

So a reader pointed it out to me today that I am to be held responsible for the almost nuclear proliferation of unread books accumulating in her house.  I'd say that I'm sorry for that but I'm actually kind of proud!

And I thought that in a show of solidarity, I would do a post about all the books in MY room that I haven't read yet...

So here goes:


Lately I've been getting into literary magazines... I've been trying to get a short story or two published and the best way to do that is to get familiar with the market, as well as supporting the magazines so they can stay open.  That one on top is a new one which I was introduced to at work, and if you look closely you might see the latest issue of Island Magazine, which was my birthday gift to myself.  It's the first issue in which Geordie Williamson was fiction editor.  When I grow up, I want to be Geordie, right down to that beautiful voice....




Can you tell I really love African literatures at the moment?  (I say literatures because Africa is a continent and all three of those books are based in different countries within it.  For more, see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's brilliant TED talk.)



I fear I am incapable of passing a bookstore without taking a look...


That little fella hanging out on the corner there is Patch... I've had him since I was a baby!


And up on top there is me as a baby... cute, hey? :P



A lot of these are proof copies that I get through my work as a bookseller.  I try to read the first fifty or so pages and then I pass them on to friends who will love them.  A lot of my friends are students and artists, so books are always appreciated.  Hey, even when you have to pay full price for them, books are appreciated in my world!!


I've been accumulating this collection (as well as the ones I've read) since I could buy books myself... I got my first job when I was 14 and the rest, as they say, is history.



So, never ever ever feel bad about having more books than time to read them.  No matter how many books in that To Be Read pile, it's probably not as big as mine.

Elimy