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February

The Hobbit – J.R. Tolkein

This was the book that started my love of reading. The story was a million times more interesting than what we were reading at school (readers mainly) and the pictures in my mum’s edition were beautiful – I spent hours staring at the elves and wishing I could be one (unfortunately, I remain 5 foot and especially un-elvish). This is a good children’s fantasy – underdog hero Bilbo embarks on a quest he feels is completely beyond his abilities, only to find that he has more in him than anyone ever expected, and that you don’t have to seem heroic to achieve great things. The rhymes and songs are fantastic and I learnt the riddles by heart. The language, however, struck me as very childish on re-reading as an adult, and I think this is one best left where you love it. I still think it’s brilliant to read to children, or to read as a child, but for me it doesn’t carry through into adulthood the way some childhood favourites do.

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel

There are particular historical contexts I’m drawn to – the majority of them are from the most recent century. In school, when learning history it was where, to my mind, all the really interesting things happened and while I read the occasional novel set earlier they’re usually ones which were written close to the time in question.

Despite my lack of interest in early 1500’s Britain, in the Tudors and the politically fraught period that surrounded them, and despite the leap of faith it requires for a present-century girl in her 20s to identify with a middle-aged, shrewd man who died almost five centuries earlier, Wolf Hall pulled me in and kept me going back despite the practical issues reading a book the size of a brick causes. This might have been because the writing was excellent while the plot reminded me of Game of Thrones, and yes, I know I should be saying Game of Thrones reminded me of Tudor England and not the other way round…

Well written, recommended, but I’m not enamoured enough with the historical context to ever re-read it.

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami

Loved this, but I’m  a convert – I would read this man’s grocery lists. I’m sure they’d be just as calm, and strangely removed, and slightly bizarre as this story about a young girl determined to be a writer who falls for elegant, older woman Miu. Unrequited love is the main subject certainly, but Sumire’s desire to write something worth writing and her inability to be satisfied with any of her feverishly produced work is fascinating in and of itself.

On another note, Murakami is one of the few authors I read for their use of language far more than the stories they tell (though that’s certainly a part). But since I don’t read Japanese I am reading him in translation. I always find this confusing. After all, is his use of language the result of his original writing? How much is due to the translator? Interesting.

The Castlemaine Murders – Kerry Greenwood

I have to sheepishly admit I don’t often read books set in more than 20 years ago in urban Australia – the Phryne Fisher series is pretty much it. So it’s always interesting to get a glimpse of what life (with a lot of creative license I can only assume) would have been like in early 20th century Melbourne. Likewise it’s interesting when the detective leaves Melbourne even for short jaunts – it opens up the world Kerry Greenwood has created (or just accessed?) – and a murder in Castlemaine is apparently as good an excuse as any for an outing. Side note – extra points for Luna Park being present.

Bad News: Murdoch’s “Australian” and the Shaping of the Nation – Robert Manne

Loved this, felt like a very intelligent, case study-specific look at what exactly is wrong with Murdoch’s media empire and The Australian in particular. I found the main case studies convincing but as I’m the already converted (it’s not the paper I read), don’t read non-fiction regularly AND I’m not an expert on the state of the media in Australia I’ll spare you my uninformed opinions on the matter. The only judgement I feel comfortable giving is that it was interesting, and it reads well.

Beautiful Darkness – Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Yes, I went to see a film to laugh at it – then it completely backfired because even though the film was just as ridiculous as I’d hoped, I still wanted to know what happened. I shouldn’t be surprised – I even read all the Twilight books because I wanted to know what happened – and these are, thank god, better than Twilight. Think all the supernatural funtimes, romance and teen angst Twilight’s known for with an extra side of apocalypse, bookworm heroes (and heroines) and a helping of southern gothic. They didn’t hold the fated-to-be-together-die-without-you-can’t-be-with-you love, but I guess that was a little too much to hope for. Entertaining, fun supernatural YA – though I’m not sure I’ll be admitting to having read on a regular basis. At least, not in public.

Bring Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel

The plot thickens. By her second book Hilary Mantel’s characters are generally well established, allowing Bring Up The Bodies to focus on a comparatively short period of time – the time leading up to Anne Boleyn’s death. We all know what’s going to happen here, but Hilary Mantel still manages to make the thought processes and political alliances which lead to it fascinating, and Thomas Cromwell is as interesting a character as ever.

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