Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 in review

Another year is ending, marking two full years of book blogging for me. It’s a funny business, blogging. I have no real idea, each time I post, whether anyone is reading, or interested. Hopefully each post gets a reader or two and perhaps, occasionally, someone seeks out a book or doesn’t bother reading one, because of what I’ve written.

This is my 2012 reading in review.

My favourite non-fiction for the year was the very first book I read:

“Worse Things Happen at Sea” by William McInnes & Sarah Watt (2011)

…William and his [late] wife …  tell a meandering collection of anecdotes about their lives together, their children, their parents, their successes and their heartbreak. They tell it through words and pictures … One anecdote wanders off into another anecdote, before strolling casually back over to the original one. It’s a lot like having conversations in and amongst a group of people you know very well, when you stroll through different memories and funny tales, only to look at each other for a moment, as if to say, wait, where were we, and then the words take you back to where you started…

My favourite fiction was:

“Vernon God Little” by DBC Pierre (2003)

Vernon has moved into my heart, along with Jacob from “Water for Elephants”, Ed from “The Messenger” and Quick Lamb from “Cloudstreet”. He will stay with me, of that I am sure. I encourage you to invite him over and see if you like him too.

My favourite YA fiction was:

“Graffiti Moon” by Cath Crowley (2010)

I read it in one sitting. I couldn’t, didn’t want to, didn’t need to put it down. The characters are real, believable, engaging, flawed and fun. The plot is uncomplicated but not predictable. The language is poetic and fluid and a pleasure to read.

Browsing the blog, I came across a couple of comments that I thought were worth revisiting. I think I summed up my taste in novels effectively while discussing my 5 all-time favourite books, which are:

“Cloudstreet”; “Water for Elephants”; “The Orchard”; and everything by Markus Zuzak (yes, I know that’s cheating) (no, there aren’t any classics, so shoot me). There’s a common theme, actually. Each of my favourite books is character-driven and employs a simple narrative regarding simple folk. It is the absurdity and extraordinariness of ordinariness that delights me in a novel. And a descriptiveness that leans towards sparse rather than flowery, I suppose.

And then there was my reaction to my birthday present… a Kindle:

… man, I love my Kindle! I have been so dubious about e-books and using an e-reader, but I’m a total convert. I mean, real books are still delicious, but the Kindle is light, easy to use and the perfect accessory for the camping trip we’ve just been on. Best of all, the font size is adjustable which meant I could relax and read the book in a comfortable manner, even in the lower light of our unpowered nights at Bathurst. Since the Kindle is not back-lit, it means lighting is still important, but by being able to enlarge the font, it meant I could read by the light of my cute little string of LED lanterns.

Two years ago I suggested, when asked, that I probably read around 50 to 60 books a year. Then I started blogging, and it turns out I actually read about 35 books a year. That means that even if I don’t purchase or receive a single book, I have enough books waiting on my shelf and my Kindle to keep me going for the next 5 or 6 years. The question is, do I enjoy the feeling of wealth that 150 books waiting provides, or do I cull the collection down to a more manageable pile? This, perhaps, is a question without an answer…

See you back here for book 1 of 2013… a book I promised to read in 2012, and started yesterday! Oops! The deadline has eluded me.

Happy New Year, and happy reading.

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Book 32 – The History of the World According to Facebook

“The History of the World According to Facebook” by Wylie Overstreet (2011)

Gift book one of three in the Christmas haul from hubby, this one is a rare beast… a book I loved reading that I didn’t even know existed until I unwrapped it.

A highly entertaining examination of random bits of history – from The Singularity and The Big Bang, right through to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden – as told through status updates, comments and check-ins. This is a laugh-out-loud book that takes the piss out of Facebook and demonstrates a thorough understanding of selected bits of history in a very clever way. Twice during reading I had to go looking for it, as both hubby and son were trying to sneak off with it and read it at the same time.

Five stars for a couple of hours of holiday reading fun.

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Book 31 – Micky O

“Micky O” by Michael O’Loughlin with Jim Main (2012)

This was a first for me… reading a sportsperson’s autobiography. I bought the book for hubby and after he read it he suggested that I might enjoy it too. As a Swans fan directly because of hubby’s passion for the team, I have to admit that Micky O was one of my favourite players to watch from when I first started attending games in 2000. He was already an established player by then, and his skill on the field was highly impressive.

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you are very familiar with my opinion on what good quality writing requires. Unfortunately, this is not a book that could be described as good quality writing. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it. It just means the typos and poorly structured sentences caused me to stumble occasionally. I’ve decided to blame Jim Main for that. He was surely the one employed to ensure that a footballer’s language skills were enhanced, supported, polished? And who am I to judge whether or not that happened. Perhaps Main did a lot of work and the original drafts were much more poorly constructed? Or perhaps Main just doesn’t understand that we shouldn’t split infinitives. Or perhaps I’m too fussy…

Michael O’Loughlin’s story is a story of grit and determination. A hard-working player with a fine attitude towards success and a total commitment to the team to which he was devastated to be drafted. Carlton’s loss was the Swans gain which is not only O’Loughlin’s story, but also my own. I’m glad I read this book and I am sure all of my fellow Swans supporters would enjoy reading it. But it’s no masterpiece. At best, it is an honest and simple recount of the spectacular career of a thoroughly decent man.

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Book 30 – The Casual Vacancy

“The Casual Vacancy” by J. K. Rowling (2012)

There are so many things about this book that are exactly my taste in a novel. The focus is on my favourite thing – characterisation – and there is absolutely no doubt that Rowling is an extraordinary story-teller. However, I have come immediately to the blog from reading the last words… and it is with a heavy heart.

As readers, we come to books for many different reasons. I have written on this blog many times about how my personal context has affected my reading of a book. Fay (bloody) Weldon argues in “Letters to Alice…” (mentioned in previous blog and generally one of the most detested books I’ve ever read – but she has a point) that personal context is not relevant, but the times we live in and the time the author lives or lived in are. So, fair enough, Rowling lives in England and some bad things happen in London. That’s the context of her times. Probably it mattered a lot for her that her first non-Harry book was uber-non-Harry. Probably these people are as real to her as she claimed they were in an interview I watched.

The problem with the book, for me, is that my personal context involves a massive dose of NO THANK YOU. I don’t want to deal with stories MORE miserable than real ones I know. I don’t want to be dragged into a sadness when I read. Reading is escape, not a time for gritty reality. There is not one likable character in this book. Not one.

But I’m not going to write anything about the plot or the strengths of the narrative. I’m not going to bother commenting on the juggling act of trying to keep up with the ensemble of characters. I’m really saddened by this book. It sucked. A lot. And you shouldn’t read it. Really.

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