Review Books (or Books I Look Forward To Reading)

google nutcracker ballet 120th anniversary

Google celebrates the 120th anniversary of the Nutcracker Ballet today! Don’t you think the image looks wonderful?

That’s sort of an opening to the bunch of books that I received for review in the past couple of months and look forward to reading, which fittingly starts with:

Nutcracker - ETA Hoffman, Maurice Sendak
Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

I was very happy to receive this classic that the famous Nutcracker ballet is based on, sent all the way from RandomHouse New York! It’s big, beautiful, and has colored illustrations by Maurice Sendak (who I mentioned sometime ago). It looks so Christmas-y, and I would definitely spend some time reading it during the Christmas season if I’m not going for a road trip to Spain for 17 days (also a way of telling you that I’ll be off starting from 22 December). So sadly the book has to wait.

Frankenstein Galvanized

Frankenstein Galvanized by Mary Shelley, published by  a new publishing house red rattle books that “is dedicated to publishing literary classics but in unique editions that offer fresh  perspectives from experts.” The book contains the 1818 classic Frankenstein text, plus 8 essays and commentary. I was thinking to read this around Halloween, but then time passed…

Sea of Ink

The Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe is one of a recent publication by Peirene Press. I have always wanted to try one of Peirene books. I have Beside the Sea on my kindle too. The Sea of Ink is about a 17th century Chinese artist – very unique to say the least considering the author is Swiss and the book is translated from Swiss German!

Break into Travel Writing

Break into Travel Writing by Beth Blair is one of the books in Teach Yourself series. I was given a few choices and I picked this one because of my recent interest in travel writing. A rather odd story comes with this book, as just last week Beth Blair the book author found the post I wrote about (as linked above) and tweeted it. I thanked her and asked if she found my travel site from her publicist, and both of us were very surprised to find that no that is not the case, and she just happened to find my post on the Internet (her publicist just told her the book was passed to “someone in London”). It was a rather weird episode for both me and her, and shows how the world gets smaller with social media!


I was offered by Whole Story Audiobooks to pick one audio book from their website. Anything I like! There’s nothing like “pick any one you like and we’ll send it to you for free” that makes you go all wild-eyed and Tasmanian Devil like!

Tasmanian Devil

I was looking for a non-fiction in particular. I have tried fiction on audio a couple of times, and while I quite enjoyed it, the habit didn’t stick with me. In the past year I have spent lots of time listening to history podcast, so I’m thinking that maybe non-fiction on audio is the way to go.

If you’re interested my shortlist included Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. But at the end I picked Londoners by Craig Taylor. And OMG I could not pick a better audio I think. I have listened to the first few CDs (there are 12 CDs altogether) and I am so so so loving it. I cannot wait to tell you all about it in full gushing emotional way after I finish. So definitely look out for it!

So if you miss that first couple of paragraphs, I’ll be off for a road trip to Spain-Gibraltar-Morocco for 17 days and will be off the blog world during that time. Happy holiday season to you all and happy reading! :)


10 Aussie Books to Read Before You Die

My favorite book club show The First Tuesday Book Club has recently come up with 10 Aussie Books to Read Before You Die, as voted by readers. You can go to their site to watch the whole show (this particular one is the latest show of the year December 2012).

The book list, plus comments from yours truly:

10. Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay
I’ve watched the movie a couple of years ago. Enigmatic, beautiful, and very Australian (the Hanging Rock is a real place in the state of Victoria). I’m not sure if I’ll ever read the book. In fact most of the people in the panel seem to have a hard time reading the book without being highly influenced by the movie. So this might be the case of the movie being better than the book. (You have to accept that sometimes!)

picnic at hanging rock
scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock

9. The Secret River – Kate Grenville
A historical fiction of an Englishman being transported to Australia for theft. Clash with the Aboriginal people. The panel agreed that it is a very important book, exploring an important topic, and there should be more books like this.

8. The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
A portrait of contemporary Australian suburban life, The Slap was #1 on any top book lists in the country for a long time. I happened to live there when it was out, so I went along and read the book. You may like it you may hate it, but it surely brings out strong reactions from people and interesting discussion points.

7. The Magic Pudding – Norman Lindsay
Norman Lindsay wrote The Magic Pudding in 1918 to settle an argument with a friend who claimed that children only liked to read about fairies. Lindsay insisted that they liked to read about food. I went to one of the exhibition when I was in Australia, but have not read the book. This seems to be the quintessential Australian children’s book. I’m sure I’ll get to it at some point.

The Magic Pudding
Illustration from The Magic Pudding. Notice the Koala character. Aussie much?

6. Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
Jasper Jones was everywhere in Australia when it was out just 3 years ago (I also happened to live there at the time). Somehow I never had the interest to read it. This book also seems to divide the panel, and Marieke went as far as saying it doesn’t deserve to be on the list. In short, Jasper Jones sounds like the Australian To Kill a Mockingbird (that I have read).

5. The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
Bryce Courtenay is a very popular Australian author and he’s written tons of books though I’m never compelled to read any. The Power of One is not set in Australia, but in South Africa, with Anglo-African man as the main character. I don’t know what’s the connection between Australia and Africa. It reminds me of J.M. Coetzee, a South African who became Australian citizen a while ago (him, I have read). Courtenay was also born in South Africa, and he passed away very recently in November 2012.

4. The Harp in the South – Ruth Park
It’s very odd that I had never heard of this book prior to the show and the panel unanimously loved the book. It is set in Surry Hills – what used to be a Sydney slum. I lived in Sydney and my family live there, so I plan to read the book at some point.

3. A Fortunate Life – A.B. Facey
The only non fiction book that slipped into the list, A Fortunate Life is a non fiction account of a man who sounds like a very endearing character and master storyteller. Though the writing quality is arguable, the panel again unanimously loved the book. I still have doubts, but the book came up very high on the list!

2. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
The Book Thief has been on top 3 New York Times best seller list for 200 something weeks, just lots and lots of years. This one probably does not need an introduction, and I’ve been meaning to read it for ages. It is now currently sitting with highest average rating on my 99 books-to-read on goodreads! (If you’re a fan of Markus Zusak, he joined the First Tuesday shows a few times which you can watch on the site, looking very good.)

1. Cloudstreet – Tim Winton
The number one on the list was not a surprise, to me or to the panel. Tim Winton is a much beloved author in Australia, he always tops the list of top Australian books, and it’s usually with Cloudstreet (published 1991). His last book published in 2008 titled Breath was huge when I lived there.

I’ve been meaning to read Cloudstreet, The Book Thief, and the Secret River for a while. Now I’m adding The Harp in the South and the Magic Pudding.

What do you think about the list? Do you have any favorites? Any book you intend to read?

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