fifty shades

I cannot do anything….except read.

Happy weekend peeps!

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The Blood Countess | Tara Moss

The first e-book I’ve read on Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was Tara MossThe Blood Countess. To sum it up briefly, it was a joyful mind-numbing 4 hour read!

“Pandora English is no ordinary small town orphan. When she’s invited to live with her mysterious Great-Aunt Celia in New York City, she seizes the opportunity to escape her stifling hometown, break from her tragic past and make it as a writer.

Things, however, are not what she is expecting. For starters, her great-aunt’s gothic mansion is in a mist-wreathed Manhattan suburb that doesn’t appear on maps. And then there’s Celia herself – a former designer to the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age – who is elegant, unnaturally young and always wearing a veil.

Pandora lands a job at a fashion magazine and her first assignment is covering the A-list launch of the latest miracle cream, BloodofYouth. But something is not right about the product, nor Athanasia, the drop-dead beautiful face of the brand. It seems there may be a secret ingredient in BloodofYouth, a secret worth killing for…

In The Blood Countess – the first novel in the new Pandora English series – bestselling author Tara Moss brings her trademark macabre and lifelong love of the paranormal to the fashion world with a twist.”

The Paris Wife

At Dinner Club last night I received a pretty package tied with ribbon from the Jacksons!

pretty package
my birthday book stack

The first book that I am reading from my stack is

I think it’s fascinating when a writer melds fiction and fact.

Of course, there is always truth to the essence of something that is written, but I’m talking about when a biography of someone’s life is added to and expanded upon.

“Although Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway and other people who actually lived appear in this book as fictional characters, it was important for me to render the particulars of their lives as accurately as possible, and to follow the very well documented historical record.”

That is an excerpt from ‘A Note on Sources’ at the conclusion of the book
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I’m only one chapter in and I can tell its going to be wonderful. Her writing is rich and alive and it very much reminds me of Hemingway himself. She writes as the voice of Hadley Hemingway, Ernest’s first and in a sense “starter” wife, and their five years of marriage spent in living in Paris.

While A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s own account of his first marriage, McLain uses many sources, including a multitude of biographies on Hemingway and letters of correspondence between the couple and friends of the couple, to include the factual accounts of their marriage but from a fictional voice of Hadley.

How wonderful! How exciting!

I’ll review once finished.

aa gill is away

I’m going to break up my blogging week of Melbourne lovin’ to write a review on the latest book I just finished;

AA Gill is Away (funnily enough by AA Gill). 

Adrian Anthony Gill is a food and travel writer who I first read as a regular feature article in Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine. He’s a handsome, 50-something journalist who literally fell into the profession after an unsuccessful stint as an artist.

The first thing I love about AA Gill is that he’s funny. Literally laugh out loud funny. After you accept his decidedly British humour then you can focus on his in-depth knowledge and sublime prose. When his first editor at GQ magazine asked him what he wanted to achieve as a journalist he said “I’d like to interview places. To treat a place as if it were a person, to go and listen to it, ask it questions.” And that he does. He’s not your usual travel writer. He is brutally honest with no regard for political correctness, which I find extremely refreshing, but whether or not he falls in love with a destination (whether it be village, city, country or restaurant) he takes the time to explore and gets to know it intimately.

Away is written in essay format and sectioned into four parts; north, south, east and west. The North focuses on Europe, South mainly on Africa, East on Asia and West on the Americas.

I love the story on The Kalahari entitled ‘Out of their Element’ so much that I read it twice. I had tears rolling down my eyes as I read the description of his bowel movements in the middle of a gargantuan dessert storm.

And similarly, the story of how he came to be a porn producer in Hollywood was both fascinating and surprising. Read ‘When DD met AA’ for a titillating account of a journalistic man’s wet dream! (and many other men, I’m sure)

For those who know his magazine and newspaper columns (he writes for UK Sunday Times, Vanity Fair and Australian Gourmet Traveller) the noticeable difference in his book is that he swears. A lot. Most people say that people who swear have a limited vocabulary but this is simply not the case with Gill. I have to look up words on more than one occasion. The swearing doesn’t bother me but I’m sure some people would take offence to all the F-bombs. But then again, those same people would probably take offence to half of the essays in this book considering his satirical, non-censored account of the people and places he visits (refer to East essay ‘Mad in Japan’).

I am envious of his exceptional talent and the number of stamps on his passport. But you know that he works for it; in one essay he references that he took 30 minutes to write the previous sentence and it’s common knowledge that he has a serious case of dyslexia (his articles are written by dictation); and you admire him for that.

I really enjoyed this book and I’ve got the order in for two more.

four eyes over five books

I haven’t bought new books in a while, so I’m extra excited about the fantastic five I ordered on Book Depository:

“The Zombie Survival Guide, written by American author Max Brooks and published in 2003, is a survival manual dealing with the potentiality of a fictional zombie attack. It contains detailed plans for the average citizen to survive zombie uprisings of varying intensity and reach, and describes “cases” of zombie outbreaks in history, including an interpretation of Roanoke Colony. The Zombie Survival Guide was also featured on The New York Times Best Seller’s list.” Wikipedia

Faithless: The victim was buried alive in the Georgia woods — then killed in a horrifying fashion. When Sara Linton and Jeffrey Tolliver stumble upon the body, both become consumed with finding out who killed the pretty, impeccably dressed young woman. And for Sara and Jeffrey, a harrowing journey begins, one that will test their own turbulent relationship and draw dozens of lives into the case.”

Indelible: When medical examiner Sara Linton and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver take a trip away from the small town of Heartsdale — an escape from all the pressures which complicate their relationship — it should be a straightforward weekend at the beach. But they decide to take a detour via Jeffrey’s hometown and things go violently wrong when Jeffrey’s best friend Robert shoots dead an intruder who breaks into his house.”

AA Gill is Away:”Vitriol, humor and lashings of insight as British columnist Gill visits a smorgasbord of far-flung places.” – Kirkus Reviews

Dead Reckoning: “With her knack for being in trouble’s way, Sookie witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte’s, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is now known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but her attention is divided when she realizes that her lover Eric Northman and his “child” Pam are plotting to kill the vampire who is now their master. Gradually, Sookie is drawn into the plot-which is much more complicated than she knows…” – Penguin.com

review | water for elephants

I am one of those people who likes to read the book before watching the movie.

I’d heard of the NY Times best seller Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen but hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. That was until I started seeing ads for the film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. I just had to read it before seeing the film.

There isn’t a lot for 90 year old Jacob to do alone with his thoughts and flailing fragile body in his room at the retirement home. His mind is as active and imaginative as it always has been, it’s just his body that isn’t willing or able.

With his wife gone and his grown family absorbed in their own lives, Jacob spends his days & nights remembering back to the time when at the cusp of the Great Depression he is orphaned by a car crash, quits university just shy of his degree, jumps a train and finds himself aboard the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, changing the course of his life forever.

The story is not only that of adventure, love and friendship but a reminder that age is purely the passing of time.

Jacob finds a makeshift family among the circus’ vagabonds, freaks and animals but it is Marlena the beautiful star of the equestrian act who takes his breath away. She is married to August a ruthlessly cruel task master who flits between bouts of charismatic brilliance and maniacal violence.

The arrival of Rosie the elephant brings hope for the struggling circus and what happens in the following months becomes stuff of circus legend.

For Jacob the circus is both a salvation and a living hell, but through it all Marlena, Rosie and Jacob form an unlikely trio and create a binding bond that will save them all.

An enthralling and beautiful read!

Anna Karenina | A novel by Leo Tolstoy

What is it about Leo Tolstoy‘s novels, written and set in 19th century Russia, that still proves relevant after all these years?

On the surface, Anna Karenina is a beautifully written account of love, betrayal and Russian high society. But delve deeper into the themes and structure and it gives way to thought about the ease of which society’s collective morals shift to accommodate popular opinion, differences of social expectations between genders, the relationship between love and marriage and, the importance of status & class.

I know. It’s heavy! But it’s well worth the read. And at 815 small-print pages, it’s a lengthy one at that!

Anna Karenina was first published in serial form in a weekly magazine The Russian Messenger between 1873 to 1877. It was published in full in 1878.

1. Cover page of the first volume of Anna Karenina. Moscow, 1878.

pic source 1

The story is woven in two strands. One concerns Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky; the other Kitty Oblonsky and Konstantin Levin. The stories bisect each other while remaining the very opposite; Anna Arkadyevna Karenina who is married to Aleksei Alexandrovich Karenin a parliamentary minister, embarks on a torrid love affair with Aleksei Kirillovich Vronsky a young Count who is headed for distinguish in the military. Princess Ekaterina “Kitty” Shcherbatsky is newly Of Age and sees the world innocently and with deep emotion (the effect of the juvenile infatuation with Vronsky), while Konstantin Dmitrievitch Levin is a serious countryman who’s only dalliance is his obsessive love of Kitty.

Love, heartbreak then love-again surround Kitty, who marries Levin on his second proposal and together they settle down to a commonplace existence, while the full emotional spectrum are experienced by Anna, who has a cordial and somewhat tender relationship with her husband until she can no longer fend off the brazen advances of Vronsky. Her world becomes saturated with their love affair that progressively deteriorates and in-turn causes her demise.

At times there are chapters of sheer dullness (mostly of Levin’s activities), and there are other times when I want to hurl the book across the room from frustration of all the arbitrary communication that consume these high society Russian’s, but generally the novel is an artistically written window into beautiful but tragic disorder.

It’s interesting to learn that Tolstoy himself was born into Russian aristocracy but had his fair share of relationship mishaps. It’s been said that he based Anna’s character on the daughter of Alexander Pushkin whom he met at a dinner party, and the character of Levin on himself.

my copy of Anna Karenina

Beautifully surmised, English poet Matthew Arnold once said “We are not to take Anna Karenina as a work of art; we are to take it as a piece of life.” And in 2011 that’s what we can take away from this piece of Russian literature.

the magician’s elephant

“Magic is always impossible… It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it is magic.” – The magician, p 154

Jay is always telling me I am like a child. Sometimes this is said with frustration when I am in the throws of a tantrum, but mostly it’s said lovingly – that I am joyful, playful & naive like a child, which I am quite pleased to hold on to for as long as possible! So, it is unsurprising that I also enjoy reading the odd children’s book every now and then…

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon in 2010 that I came across Kate DiCamillo’s latest book The Magician’s Elephant in the Clarke’s library. The American author received the Newbery Medal for The Tale of Desperaux (made into the adorable animated film in 2005) and the Newbery Honor for Because of Winn Dixie.

It’s a short but sweet story, abundant with the perfect themes that make children’s literature a real pleasure to read no matter what your age; hope, belief, loyalty, compassion & forgiveness.

It’s a magical story that draws you right into a fantastical town called Baltese (think Paris meets Prague on a small scale) where you meet orphaned 10 year old Peter Augustus Duchene who is living with a stern war veteran who is intent on training Peter to be a soldier. In a “Jack and the Bean Stalk” type moment, Peter spends their little money meant for bread on a fortune teller who gives him hope that he may just have family after all… She cryptically says  “The elephant… You must follow the elephant… She will lead you there.”  That seems an impossible feat as Baltese has never seen an elephant.

Through a myriad of quirky characters and magical events Peter is lead with heart-warming hope on a quest of truth and love.

There is truly magic on every page.

ee cummings

Third in this week’s fandom series is the tribute on American poet Edward Estlin Cummings. October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962 

Those who know me well, know of my love of poetry. I read poetry, I write poetry. In my opinion, poetry is food for the soul. 

EE Cummings wrote poetry of love, eroticism, political satires and everyday life (drunks, prostitutes, cafes, Salvation Army workers) during a time when it was unpopular to do so. Although his poetic technique is known for its unusual lyric free form; using the rhythms of common speech rather than metrical regularity, avoiding wornout dictation, using verbs as nouns, omitting punctuation marks and utilising lowercase letters to depict meaning (his use of lowercase “i” was his self-depiction as a man unnoticed, downtrodden, a dreamer), he was actually quite traditional, usually using modern twists on sonnet structure. 

He was born in Massachusetts in 1894. His Dad was a professor at Harvard and his Mum fostered his love of literature early on, regularly reading him poetry. He wrote his first poem when he was three:
“Oh,the pretty birdie,O;/with his little toe,toe,toe!” 

After graduating from Cambridge and then Harvard in 1916 he enlisted in the US Army to fight in WWI, spending a brief period imprisoned in France for suspicion of espionage. Here he wrote his first book The Enormous Room. Later, he studied art in Paris, worked for Vanity Fair in New York, married three times, travelled throughout Europe, had one daughter named Nancy. He was deeply affected by his father’s sudden death by a gruesome train accident in 1926.
see “my father moved through dooms of love,” which is a profoundly moving tribute. 

I am a huge fan of his odd typography and punctuation combined with the whimsical romanticism and satire. My two favourite poems being: 

I carry you in my heart (I carry it in my heart)
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
i am never without it
(anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling) 

i fear no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;
which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
 i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart) 

 *** 

you said Is
there anything which
is dead or alive more beautiful
than my body, to have in your fingers
(trembling ever so little)? 

                           Looking into
your eyes Nothing, i said, except the
air of spring smelling of never and forever. 

….and through the lattice which moved as
if a hand is touched by a
hand (which
moved as though
fingers touch a girl’s
breast, lightly) 

        Do you believe in always,the wind
said to the rain
I am too busy with
my flowers to believe, the rain answered 

*** 

He published 15 poetic works during his lifetime and 2 posthumously. The more well known being Tulips and Chimneys (1923), is 5 (1926), Collected Poems (1960) and 95 Poems (1958). He was also a Playwright, publishing 4 Plays, as well as many articles for various magazines and literary organisations. In the 1950s he took positions at various universities reading poetry and undertook a lectureship at Harvard for a couple of years.
He died in at the age of 67 in New Hampshire. But his spirit lives on through his prose.
ee cummings

Researched from Wikipedia, Notable Biographies.com, American National Biography Online & American Poems.com