Thursday, 28 February 2008

Booking through Thursday

Who is your favorite female lead character? And why? (And yes, of course, you can name more than one . . . I always have trouble narrowing down these things to one name, why should I force you to?)

I don't know of a female character whom I could name as my perennial favourite ... there's always Elizabeth Bennett, I guess, and lots of people will think of her first. And I imagine the 'spirited' one from Little Women - Jo? - will get a few votes as well.
I get right into books I enjoy, and fall for many of the characters straight away. But it will all be over in a flash as I move on to the next book. It's hard to pick the most outstanding. So many books, so many great people to meet!
For example, while I was recently reading Barbara Pym's Excellent Women, set in post-war Britain, I thought her lead (Mildred? Winifred? I don't have the book with me right now) was a great character: strong and principled, with warmth and great wit, plus a healthy dollop of cynicism and a self-deprecating sense of humour.
Just like the character of Marie Sharpe in Virginia Ironside's No, I Don't Want to Join a Book Club, which I read just a few days ago.
I suppose my answer is that I like a certain type of female lead more than any one particular fictional female.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Booking through Thursday
This week's question:
All other things (like price and storage space) being equal, given a choice in a perfect world, would you rather have paperbacks in your library? Or hardcovers? And why?

Hardbacks are so much more expensive and cumbersome ... so perhaps I lean more towards paperbacks. They're lighter, cheaper, usually smaller (so they don't need extra headspace on shelves), and soften up as you read deeper into them, so they become more comfortable.
I'd rather go to bed with a paperback.
I can get a bit anal about any hardcovers I own, making sure their dustcovers remain neat and tidy, and that they are stored correctly.
Paperbacks are far less formal, more like old friends than old relatives!
In the city
Hi all, here I am in Perth, beautiful, sparkling city on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Also the most isolated capital city in the world; more cut off than Anchorage; almost as close to our national capital as we are to Indonesia. They've been having a sweltering summer here, with a whole month of temperatures that never got below 30 C and were more often up in the high 30s and even the 40s.
But for this visit we've jagged a cool, breezy week, with temps in the high 20s. Brilliant.
All is well in Albany, with both patients on the mend. Thanks for all your kind, good wishes and comments and messages.
Dave arrived from the US three hours later than scheduled on Tuesday, and very happy to be here - as I was to see him. We've seen his mum - turning 80 today - and his dad, and we've been rushing about trying to see all our old friends and catch up.
I'm still not able to get to a Mac and get any pics posted, but what the hey! I've taken loads and will get them upo ASAP.
Tomorrow, after coffee and lunch with friends and former workmates, we're heading south to beautiful, beautiful Eagle Bay, where David's family have a house almost on the beach - the sea is at the bottom of the garden. We shall sleep in our old familiar bed, with the windows open to let in the breeze and the sound of the waves. And you ought to see the Milky Way from down there - wow!
More later ...

Monday, 18 February 2008

You wouldn't read about it
Now my brother, poor old Garry (or Little Garry, as my mum likes to refer to him, refusing to acknowledge the fact he is 51), has succumbed to post-surgery infection and is in Albany hospital on massive doses of pethidine and antibiotics. Just like my dad was. What's going on down here?
And I'm leaving tomorrow to drive to Perth and meet Dave off the plane from Melbourne and the US. What a worry.
At least my dad is making slow steps towards getting better again. He even had a bit of colour in his cheeks this morning.
Yesterday, I took him and Mum to Emu Point for some sunshine and sea air, which was just great. The city of Albany has a wheelchair permanently parked in a little shed outside the ice-cream shop that you can borrow for no cost. It's an amazing contraption, with giant balloon-like front wheels and two little wandering wheels at the rear that you steer by - like a giant pram. Apparently it is amphibious, and you can wheel your subject into the sea to a depth of 15 cm!
We had a lot of giggles and attracted lots of smiley comments from people as we pushed and heaved Dad about on the edge of the sea, and he thought it was the bee's knees.

:: This arvo, I was looking at my watch and calculating that David's plane must have taken off from Los Angeles. But no!
About an hour later, much to my surprise, he rang me to say his plane was still sitting on the tarmac at LA, and had a problem with the air-conditioning, which engineers had come on board to fix. They must have been idling there a long time, as then the plane had to refuel for the long haul across the Pacific. Dave knew before he'd even left LA that he'd miss his flight to Perth by the time he got to Melbourne. Sigh.
Still, it means I shan't have to rush up to Perth tomorrow. I do so love the drive between Perth and Albany - all that space, and all those sheep! I so appreciate the quiet, and the big empty landscapes after living in Southern California: there are as many people living in LA and San Diego, and in-between, as there are in the whole continent of Australia.
Well, this is boring stuff, isn't it?
Wish I could show you some pics ...

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Booking through Thursday
This week's question:
Have you ever fallen out of love with a favorite author? Was the last book you read by the author so bad, you broke up with them and haven’t read their work since? Could they ever lure you back?

I've been thinking hard about this one, and the only books that spring to mind are the sort of series like Lee Child's and his ilk. Oh - and Carl Hiaasen. They can be funny, and fast and entertaining reads, until you crack the formula, and then ... yawn.
I can almost forgive Hiaasen, as he's at least on a mission to draw attention to the over-development and unscrupulous exploitation of his beloved Florida. But after four or five, I simply cannot be bothered any more.
I have broken up with other writers only temporarily. I'll give them a little breathing space, and I'll see other people, but I'll return to them eventually.
Such as Minette Walters. I did get a little bit tired of her books after a while, though not so tired that I wouldn't read her again. She does great characters.
Same with Ian Rankin - only because his books are so gritty and occasionally bleak that you have to be of a robust disposition to read a lot of them one after the other. But I so admire his writing, and always know that whatever I pick up of his, I'll finish.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Approaching normal
I can't figure out how to get pictures from my camera on to Mum and Dad's cumbersome PC, or I'd show you the beautiful paddocks, hills and other views of Albany, in the Great Southern, where I'm staying.
In the meantime, here's some of my news in brief bulletins ...
:: I'm very happy to report that Dad is out of the woods, and home with the help and support of the State Government's excellent 'Hospital in the Home' scheme (Hillary/Barrack, please note). It will be a long slow process getting him back to full health, but he's definitely on the way.
:: My brother had surgery for a hernia on Monday, but on Tuesday he marched with me through the streets of Albany to celebrate our Prime Minister, Mr Rudd's, sterling decision to say sorry to our country's Aboriginal people.
:: While I have been looking after things here, I have knitted my brother half a pair of very splendid socks to wear with his Blundstones in winter. I should get the other one done well before I return to Perth next week.
:: I've been tagged by Laura to tell you the sixth to eighth sentences on page 123 of the nearest book to hand, so here goes:
New violence flared as a result of the arrest and brutality. Edward Jones and Peter Chidlow were speared to death at Northam by angry Aborigines who took lime in mistake for flour and thought they had been deliberately tricked. A York settler named Woods was reported to be leaving poisoned damper on a shelf where it could be found and carried away by Aborigines.

The year is 1837; the book is Broken Spears - Aboriginals and Europeans in the South-West of Australia, by Neville Green (Focus Education Services, Perth 1984).
:: I hope you all had a great Valentine's Day. David rang me to wish me happy Valentines from the US, which was doubly impressive as it wasn't February 14 there yet!
:: I'm staying with Mum and Dad in Club Med their seniors' village and it's great ... but though Mum tells me, in all seriousness, that David and I could get our very own place here in just a couple of years (when we turn 55), I, um, think I'll wait.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

And now heading south ...
Well, I was having a wonderful time in San Francisco (above), but I have to fly home to Australia tonight. My dad's not recovering very well from major surgery, so I'm off home for a while.
I had to fly home to San Diego this morning to pick up my passport and some summer gear, now I'm off to Los Angeles to catch the night flight to Australia. See you in a month or so ...

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Heading north I'll be away from today for a little over a week. We're leaving the boys in charge and we're heading north to San Francisco and Portland, with all stops in between. See you when I get back!

Friday, 1 February 2008

Booking through Thursday
This week's question:
Sometimes I find eccentric characters quirky and fun, other times I find them too unbelievable and annoying. What are some of the more outrageous characters you’ve read, and how do you feel about them?

I'm usually drawn to weird and eccentric characters in life — they're often much more fun than the bland and boring! — so I'm usually quite happy reading about them.
And, it can be fun, sometimes, to exist vicariously though characters who show more intellect, daring, nerve, talent and just all-round general gorgeousness than we may do ourselves: that's fiction for you!
What makes eccentric characters irritating is when they are badly drawn and totally unconvincing, and when you can't believe in them.
I have to whinge, therefore, about the utterly, utterly ridiculous character of Claire in Diana Gabaldon's hit, Outlander. She's a nineteen-forties military nurse (and unbelievably sexually liberated) who is suddenly whisked back in time to the 1740s; she's married (in her own time) but still falls in love with a brutish eighteenth-century lout; marries him as well; lets him beat the living daylights out of her and then says, meekly, 'Well, I supposed I deserved it really!' At that point, that book hit the bedroom wall. It's actually one I am ashamed to say I even started.
More recently, I was outraged by the character of Ali in Yasmin Crowther's Saffron Kitchen. He's a simple peasant boy living in an Iranian village way beyond the black stump in the 1960s and '70s, and yet he teaches himself English by listening to the radio with a dictionary — presumably Farsi-English — on his lap. And, to cap it off, he spouts Matthew Arnold!