Monthly Archives: February 2012

eBook of the month

Out-of-print and unavailable? Not any more for the lovely selection of titles reissued by Bloomsbury with its new digital imprint ‘designed to resurrect out-of-print titles’ by British  writers.

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Eight stories

The winners of January’s National Year of Reading Our Story competition have been announced.

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Phyrne Fisher: crime doesn’t play?

Kerry Greenwood’s popular crime novels have been made into an ABC TV series, starting next weekend.  With the catchy tag-line ‘Who says crime doesn’t play?’, these programmes look set to capture the glamour and seediness of 1920s’ Melbourne, and the cool elegance of Greenwood’s gorgeous detective. I predict a rise in the sale of false eyelashes, cigarette holders and strings of pearls, as well as in the  books and audiobooks that make up the series.

Borrow a Phryne Fisher novel from the library and settle in for the evening with a martini or a Maiden’s Prayer!  If you feel particularly creative, you could try writing the first lines of your own 1920s murder mystery: the ABC is sponsoring a Phyrne Fisher writing competition (first prize is a weekend at the Windsor Hotel, where some episodes  of the series were filmed.)

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Love is in the air?

If you want to read about love – the good bits, the bad and the ugly – then Jane Austen is a perfect choice. The plots and themes of her novels are built on relationships and love. Will Elizabeth Bennet marry Mr Darcy? Will Fanny Price win her cousin Edmund’s heart? And will Emma ever realize that she loves Mr Knightley?

Austen is marketed as ‘chick lit’ but of course there’s more to her novels than this.   Continue reading

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Melbourne Athenaeum (Library of the Month)

I spent a week in Melbourne this month, at the biennial VALA library and technology conference. I heard about Drupal and Joomla!, research data management and digitized archives, mobile technology and Twitter. It was fascinating, but by the end of the conference, I couldn’t wait to get hold of a book – I was really looking forward to relaxing with the soothing weight of a paperback novel in my hands.

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Like Water for Chocolate (Book review)

This delicious novel – it includes recipes for dishes like Quail in Rose Petal Sauce – is perfect to read in February (as close to Valentine’s Day as possible!) Published in English in 1992, Laura Esquivel’s book is romantic with a bizarre twist of magic realism. The heroine, Tita, is forbidden to marry the man she loves because she is the youngest daughter in the family (the book is set in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth  century.) In order to stay near Tita, Pedro agrees to marry her older sister, Rosauro.  The novel describes the mayhem that ensues, as Tita pours her frustrated passion into her cooking and her other sister, Gertrudis, elopes with a revolutionary soldier after eating the quail with rose-petal sauce.

Delightful, entertaining and a pleasure to read: a different kind of romance. The film was  very popular and successful and an online book group called ‘Cook the Books’ went to the trouble of cooking and critiquing all of the novel’s recipes, from the turkey mole to the cream fritters and chocolate with ‘Three Kings’ Day Bread.’

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Happy Anti-Valentine’s Day!

Some of the best modern fiction that I have read has been about ‘Love Gone Wrong’. Think, for example, of Richard Yates’ 1961 novel, Revolutionary Road. When it was first published in America, the book competed for awards with titles like Catch-22 and Yates was acclaimed as one of the finest of America’s post-war novelists and short-story writers. Revolutionary Road is about a young married couple, Frank and April Wheeler,  who live in the suburbs with their two children – and slowly, inexorably tear each other apart.  Continue reading

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