3rd Wednesday Book Club- May 2013- Artreads

For this month’s theme, Artreads, we looked at book covers and book art. What goes into making a good book cover? What attracts us to certain book covers? And the all-important question- do you judge books by their covers?

We were fortunate in that at the same time we were pondering on the answers to these questions, award winning Australian author Kate Forsyth happened to wander into Nowra Library (don’t you love it when authors wander in at precisely the right moment?) Kate was happy to talk about the cover art on her novel Bitter Greens with us in an imromptu interview session in the tea room, moments before she appeared for an author talk in the library upstairs.

Bitter Greens is a re-telling of the traditional fairy tale ‘Rapunzel’, interwoven with the story of the woman who first published the fairy tale, French courtier Charlotte Rose de la Force. Much of the novel is set in the Palace of Versailles, at the Court of the Sun King Louis XIV, and also in Venice, where Petrosinella, the ‘Rapunzel’ character, resides. Also living in Venice is Selena Leonelli, the sorceress who buys Petrosinella for  ‘a handful of bitter greens,’ whose beautiful red hair inspires the artist Tiziano Vecelli (Titian.) For these reasons, Kate explained, the image of a beautiful young woman with tumbling red hair graces the cover of Bitter Greens.

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Kate also told us that the novel spans two distinct historical periods — Renaissance Venice and 17th Century France, which both feature in the over design. Venice lies in the distance behind our mystreious red haired lady, while the beautiful scroll work at the edges of the cover  is based on a traditional French wall-paper from the 17th century. The antiquity of the fairy-tale and the artistic essence of the novel is further echoed in the parchment- like quality of the sky above Venice.

“Looks as ancient as the fairy-tale,” according to Kate!

Thanks, Kate!

We also chatted to our book club members this month about how they feel about book covers. Opinions varied. Some people feel that the cover design has little to do with their reading choices, while others are very sensitive about the physical appearance of books they choose to read. One of our members chose books this month based entirely on their covers, and was pleasantly surprised with the new authors she discovered this way. (Personally, I love book covers, especially beautiful fantasy and historical ones, and I love adding new books to my shelves. So much so that I often purchase books I love in both print and e-book formats, so I can have the best of both worlds- my Kindle in my handbag, and shelves of beautiful books at home. Perfect!- Kelly)

Now, for our May reads….

The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy by Barbara Vine
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Follow the Money by Peter Corris
A Kingdom Beseiged by Raymond E. Feist
A Feast for Crows by George R.R Martin
The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth
Vlad the Impaler: In Search of the Real Dracula by M. J. Trow
The Man Who Lives With Wolves by Shaun Ellis
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
Harvest (Hyddenworld 3) by William Horwood
Here and Now: Letters (2008- 2011) by Paul Auster and J.M Coetzee
Foe by J.M. Coetzee
Youth by J.M. Coetzee
Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles by David Thomson
Lost Voices by Christopher J. Koch
Affinity by Sarah Waters
London by Edward Rutherford
Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster
Journey to the Stone Country by Alex Miller
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce
Spies by Michael Frayn
An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel

What makes a good book? We decided it should be easy to read, use appropriate language to the setting and character, voice and point of view, have intriguing characters, a story that grips you and keeps you turning pages, and, as well as all that, have clarity, credibility and beauty. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

Happy reading!

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Library & Information Week 2013

This week is Library & Information Week, when libraries and information services take the opportunity to showcase their resources, facilities, events, contacts and services. To celebrate, we’ve created a ‘Behind the Scenes at the Library’ display, so you can see exactly how the library operates, as well as the mysterious and magical process library books and items go through before they become available for you to borrow. Come in and have a look!

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Notes from a Well-Read Alice – May 2013

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Alice is one of our home library borrowers who generously shares her thoughts and reviews with us!  Thankyou, Alice, and happy reading! : )

The Summer Garden by Pauline Simons

‘What joy. A long, riveting saga. From Russia to America -covering several wars- Vietnam included. From childhood to old age- both comedy and tragedy. Torture, explicit sex and the horrors of war are dealt with, but the story is so strong it overrides scenes that would normally cause offense.  Family values are revered and I found it brilliant.’

The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy

‘A good read. I don’t normally choose short stories, even though I know from experience how much re-writing and editing is required (had a writing spate in the 70’s- even sold a few!) but still prefer the flow of a full length novel. Maeve Binchy’s stories are beautifully bound together by her warm portrayal of human nature.’

Cross by James Patterson

‘Psychopathic horror is not on my agenda.’

The Dark Mountain by Catherine Jinks

‘Dark indeed. Only about twenty pages of its 470 give light relief. I found the portrayal of convict flogging too horrific, but I devoured the book and learnt so much. I couldn’t help comparing what I knew of Victorian London from my grandparents to early life in the Southern Highlands. Two extremes. I know now why I never choose an ‘A’ rated book over an orange- dotted one, I prefer to chuckle off to sleep rather than shudder. There were, nevertheless, unforgettable beautiful phrases and passages in this book. Enthralling to the end.’

Campo Santo by W G Sebald

‘This man is praised as a noted writer so I felt inadequate in that I did not appreciate him. I did not even finish the book! To me, he was stolid, a sort of diarist without the light touch of Samuel Pepys. Somewhat like a literary travel writer who goes off at a tangent. Even so, I am pleased I had the opportunity to read what all the fuss was about.’

Alice

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3rd Wednesday Book Club – April 2013 – CrimeReads

This month’s book club theme was Crimereads, and our book clubbers were faced with a veritable banquet of murder and gore- there’s just so much crime fiction out there to choose from. Of course we had our usual mix of genres and tastes as well, along with with our man of the moment, Paul Auster : )

April Reads

Stravinsky’s Lunch by Drusilla Modjeska
The Invisible by Paul Auster
The Music of Chance by Paul Auster
Unplugged by  Eosin Colfer
7 Ways to Kill a Cat by Matias Nespolo
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
The Woods by Harlen Coben
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell
Miracle Cure by Harlen Coben
Listening to Country by Ros Moriarty
Nefertiti Street by Pamela Bradley
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
Murder in the Ashhram: Welcome to the Dark Side of Delhi by Kathleen McCaul
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The End by Bianca Nogrady
Fetish by Tara Moss
Here and Now- Letters 2008-2011 by Paul Auster and J.M Coetzee
Beyond the Red Notebook Essays on Paul Auster (Penn Studies in Contemporary American Fiction)
The World that is the Book – Paul Auster’s Fiction by Aliki Varvogli
HG Wells- Another Kind of Life by Michael Sherborne
Point Omega by Don DeLillo
Kraken by China Mieville

Most Talked About Reads

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Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell

‘This non-fiction book is about one of the most horrific and unsolved murder mysteries in history.  Examining old case files and remaining evidence of the 114 year old unsolved murders with 21st century technology, the author has written an exhaustive, alternate and highly probable analysis of the true identity of Jack the Ripper:  a famous actor and artist named Walter Sickert.  Ripper mythology has always been a consuming passion for me.  Many people who have also read and reviewed this exposé clearly feel that parallel times, places and events in Walter Sickert’s life are just coincidence.  That begs the question that after 2 or 3 unexplained and coincidental events happen (and more and more follow), at what point should the evidence be taken seriously and the Jack the Ripper identity and case be considered closed?  The author has convinced me and this book is an eye opener and well worth reading.’ – Elaine

Kraken by China Mieville

‘There is a preserved giant squid in the Natural History Museum in London and curator Billy Harrow is in charge of the visiting tour groups.  One day the squid disappears and so begins the search for it which leads Billy to things he could never have imagined.  Among these are “…warring cults, surreal magic, assassins, mythical gods and the end of the world.”
Only read 136 pages of the 481.  To call this science fiction would be an insult to the genre.  Full of annoying and weird characters as well as foul language, the reader cannot help but think that the end of the world cannot happen soon enough.  Mankind deserves extinction.’ – Elaine

The End: The Human Experience of Death by Bianca Nogrady

‘The author, a freelance science journalist takes us on a journey to understand death from every conceivable angle – spiritual, physical, metaphysical.  From chapters on why we die; palliative care; dying at home  to death and belief, this book may be just what we all need to help dispel our fear of death.   Nogrady covers organ donations, palliative care, diagnosing death, where to die and so on.  Fascinating and informative.’ -Lyn

Listening to Country by Ros Moriarty

‘Ros Moriarty is a white woman married to an Aboriginal man.  This warm and wonderful book tells of an emotional journey Ros takes with women of her husband’s Aboriginal family to perform ceremony  for women only.  Much of this even Ros herself is forbidden to talk about.  The book also tells the story of Ros’s husband, John, and his abrupt removal from his mother at the age of 4.  It also details John and Ros’s  life, their children and the path of their design company Balarinji.  The Balarinji company were the designers of the Aboriginal paintings on the Qantas jets and so much more.  The warmth of the Aboriginal women shines through as does their love for each other, the children and the newcomer, Ros.  They are such forgiving people despite the hardships inflicted by whites and white settlement.  Humour abounds such as the story (pp.58-59) of their elderly neighbor, Glad.  So many of them  are still suffering from the various diseases that lack of good nutrition and housing can cause.  I felt despair when I read of the way the tribe can be isolated in the wet season and often runs out of food, despite requests to the government to improve the road to enable them to get to town to purchase food at ridiculously inflated prices.  Great read.’ -Lyn

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

”R’ is a zombie. He has no name, no memories and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.
Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows – warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can’t understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins.
This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won’t be changed without a fight…’ (From goodreads.com)

Author Love- In: Henning Mankell

2f5f03596b9a0a7d9362d4_L__V188025836_SX200_“Although my father passed away before my first novel was published I knew he believed in me and was confident that I would have success as a writer.”

Henning Mankell was born in Stockholm 1948. When he was two years old the family moved to Sveg where the father worked as a court judge. The family lived in the court house in Sveg and young Henning much enjoyed listening to the grown-ups discussions on crime and punishment. At age 16 Henning Mankell dropped out of school in order to work as a merchant seaman for two years before settling in Paris. After a year and a half in the French capital, Henning returned to Sweden and got a job as a stagehand in a Stockholm theatre.

In 1973, Mankell released his debut novel, Bergsprängaren (The Rock Blast). In the same year, he went to Africa for the first time. Ever since he has divided his time between Africa and Sweden and since 1986 he is the artistic leader of Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique.

In 1991, the first novel in the Wallander series, Faceless Killers, was published. Since, Henning Mankell has written nine more novels in the series, including the novel Before the Frost, about Kurt Wallander’s daughter Linda. Next to the Wallander novels, Mankell has also written more than twenty novels and a dozen children’s and youth books. In addition, he is also one of Sweden’s most frequently performed dramatists.

And, lastly- what genre is Jane Eyre, anyway?

We had some discussion about what genre of fiction Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre falls under. I have always considered it to be a mix of Gothic and Romance, although it’s interesting to see what others think…

Sparknotes.com says Jane Eyre is a “hybrid of three genres: the Gothic novel (utilizes the mysterious, the supernatural, the horrific, the romantic); the romance novel (emphasizes love and passion, represents the notion of lovers destined for each other); and the Bildungsroman (narrates the story of a character’s internal development as he or she undergoes a succession of encounters with the external world).”

Shmoop.com puts dear old Jane into no less than 5 genres: Coming of age, Romance, Gothic, Mystery and Autobiography.

‘We know, that’s five genres – but Jane Eyre is a complex book, OK? Think about it – there’s the whole following-Jane-from-her-sad-childhood-as-an-orphan-to-her-happy-marriage thing, which definitely sounds like a “Coming-of-Age” story to us, especially because at every stage we’re focused on her developing morals and ethics.

jane-eyreJane’s passionate attachment to Rochester definitely makes this qualify as a “Romance” – think of all the times Rochester grasps her and clasps her to his chest. Whew! We get hot and steamy just thinking about it.

Then there are all the supernatural and “Gothic Fiction” elements. Even though most of them get explained away – Bertha may look like a vampire, but she’s just a woman from Jamaica struck with madness – the novel depends on making us feel that creepy, suspenseful atmosphere.

There’s definitely a strong “Mystery” quality here; like a younger version of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (whose first name, we’d like to point out, is also Jane), Jane gradually unravels Rochester’s seedy past to figure out what’s going on in the attic at Thornfield.

Then there’s the issue of “Autobiography,” which is the subtitle: after all, the novel is called Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. Because this is a first-person novel, our protagonist describes herself as though she’s telling us her autobiography…but since she’s not real, it isn’t exactly one.’ Hmm. Interesting.

Other sources we perused also put Jane Eyre in the Bildungsroman genre – and if you’re thinking ‘huh’ when you see Bildungsroman (so are we) here’s a little definition:  ‘Bildungsroman [is] a class of novel that deals with the maturation process, with how and why the protagonist develops as he does, both morally and psychologically. The German word Bildungsroman means “novel of education” or “novel of formation.” (www.britannica.com)

You don’t say?

: )