everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Book Review – Aiyaiyai

Aiyaiyai is not the name of the book (although that would be a cool title), it’s an expression to summarise how I am now feeling. On the plane this afternoon I read Charlotte Wood’s novel, “The Natural Way of Things”. I had started reading it almost a week ago, on my flight to Perth, but had only read a few chapters and was mostly confused, to be honest.

I chose the book from my favourite local bookshop, The Grumpy Swimmer, because it had a sticker on it saying that it was the 2016 Stella Prize Winner. And the font was nicely spaced out so I knew it would be easy to read on the plane. A shallow choice, I guess, and the purchase definitely went against my new “one in, one out” policy (to limit the number of books stacked on my bedside tables, and bookshelves, and side tables, and on the floor next to the bedside tables).


Anyway, I am writing this on the plane after just finishing the novel (don’t worry, my phone is in aeroplane mode and the post will publish after landing). I am afraid that it’s one of those books (or movies) that has left me feeling as though I can’t speak. 

The praise from other authors (featured on the book’s covers) includes words like: “A brave, brilliant book.” And, “terrifying, remarkable and utterly unforgettable”. And, “it gets under your skin, fills your lungs, breaks your heart”. 

I can see what they mean, but I would describe the book as “bleak”. Really bleak. (I can see that mightn’t help to sell as many books though.) And it’s powerful, but in a horrible way that made me quite happy to get to the end, albeit with a hollow feeling inside. But then I was disappointed with the ending, which made the whole thing even darker. Yikesy mama, what a ride.

In a nutshell, Charlotte Wood is undoubtedly a great writer and this raises some interesting points about how women are seen in society. But it was too dark and bleak and empty for me – definitely not a light or uplifting holiday read!

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EverydaySparks Book Club – Wonder

I am excited to report that I have read three books during my two-week festive holiday from work. I have also finished at least five magazines (and they were really big ones, guys, full of lots of words and info graphics and stuff). This has reduced the remaining magazine stacks to only semi-dangerous height now. (I did tear out quite a lot of pages for future reference, but since they go on a completely different pile, it doesn’t really count.)

Anyways, back to the books. I dedicate the first EverydaySparks book review for 2015 (the first of at least three reviews, I’ll wager) to a book that was recommended by my fabulous niece, Kate. The book is Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. The age guide is 10+ and let me say that it comes extremely highly recommended by a panel of reviewers aged 12, 30-something and 70-something.

"You can't blend in when you were born to stand out."

“You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”

It is outstanding. Accessible to kids, with its short chapters and contemporary pop culture references. Of universal appeal and education due to its incredible messages around being courageous, different, kind, grateful, and accepting the cards that have been dealt.

Without giving the game away, Auggie is a young boy who was born with severe facial deformities. Really severe. He is a source of much curiosity, sympathy, horror, and ridicule. But people can be so awesome. And that is all I’ll say about this book.

My dear old Dad says it should be compulsory reading for every school kid. I think it should probably be compulsory reading for every human. But we can start with the kids, I guess. You can buy it from book stores all over the world – and I really think you should!

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EverydaySparks Book Review #1

I have come up with a clever plan to help with my effort to read more books in 2014. It’s not a resolution, mind, it’s just an effort. Cos it was a resolution last year (along with painting my nails and seeing one new release movie per month) and that didn’t turn out quite so well. I’ve always been a reader – I am very grateful to my folks, who must have passed it on in the genes. I can’t hope to compete with my Dad in the reading stakes, though – he’s chain-reads books like a champ (well, books and more recently that Hay Day farming game on the iPad…grandpas these days…).

Anyways, I have a stupid number of half-read books perched menacingly on my bedside table – from funny books about the Camino, to sad books about the Camino, to educational books about packing for the Camino (probs should’ve finished that one before we went), to a book on advertising in the Mad Men era, to one about passengers on the Titanic. And, for good measure, there are a few more bookmarked on my coffee table. I’m sure there’s probably a name for it somewhere in that psychiatric handbook – bibliodistracta or something like that. But that’s so 2013 – this year, I’m all about making time to read (and that includes finishing) more books.

My clever plan? To read them and then tell you about them here, in case you might like them (or need a gift idea for a book-loving pal). Now, given that I’m recovering from bibliodistracta…and it’s only the beginning of the new year…and [insert another excuse here]…my first book review is for a small, 97 page non-fiction number from 2008. Ann Patchett is an American writer, though I must confess that I’d never heard of her until I read some reference to this book that she wrote following her inspirational commencement address to the almost-graduates of Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

An easy read with a cup of tea. Maybe two cups.

An easy read with a mug of tea. Maybe two mugs.

What now? is a nice little piece of motivation for people who are looking for a new direction or a bit of a sanity check about what they’re doing. I like Patchett’s style – it’s not an over the top, rah-rah, YOU ARE AWESOME kinda pep talk. It’s more of a story about the twists and turns that make up your life’s journey and how there’s really no ‘wrong’ decision –  it’s only in hindsight that you can see how the student became the waitress and the cook and the teacher and then the super-successful award-winning author. Hey presto – just like that!

NB, most pages have more words than this.

NB, most pages have more words than this. But I do like this inside cover.

I think this book is a nice gift for someone who’s finishing their studies or a job or whatever – it’s a small hardcover with lots of cool photos, full of sensible, practical inspiration. It’s a thought-provoking book, but overall I think it’s mostly reassuring: don’t get too stressed about the big question of WHAT AM I MEANT TO BE DOING???? Stop over-analysing; always keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities; learn from the people around you; and be ok with the fact that you’ll never be 100% sure that you’re on the ‘right track’. Because (in my words, not Patchett’s), there’s no such freakin’ thing.

Because I couldn't resist including this pic of grannies in a maze.

Because I couldn’t resist including this pic of grannies in a maze.

If the thoughtful, academic analysis of my first EverydaySparks Book Review makes you realise that you need this book too, you can check it out on Amazon here: What now?

Now, I’m off to finish another book to review before 2015 flies around…

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