Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

1. Catch 22 by Joseph Hellercatch22

This was the first book that came to mind when compiling my top books of the year, firstly because I read it for a decent chunk of the year, from mid-January to mid-November, secondly because it was part of my War & Pages challenge, and thirdly because it really was a memorable and affecting book. If you’ve always wanted to read Catch 22, don’t let my slowpokeishness (yes that’s a word now) deter you – sometimes I just take ages reading a certain book, and it has nothing to do with the quality of writing or my enjoyment of it. I recently lent it to my 17-year-old brother whose been in a bit of a reading rut, and he’s zipped through it in a couple of weeks. Granted, he’s out of high-school now and looking for a job so he has some time on his hands, but if a teenage boy who is somewhat out of practice with regular reading can breeze through it, it is possible 🙂 Recommended to people who like war stories but think they don’t address the absurdity of war enough.

2. Kraken by China Miévillekraken-by-china-mieville-UK

This is another book that I read for ages – from  mid-January again to mid-August, because every time I read a bit it was the literary equivalent of a hallucination and I needed a moment for it to sink in. Not only was it a wonderfully bizarre premise – when a giant, preserved squid inexplicably disappears from the Museum of Natural History the young scientist who preserved it in the first place is thrust into an alternative, hidden facet of London with countless cults, magic-working cops, and terrifying baddies with unfathomable abilities – but Miéville has such a unique writing style with fantastical word combos and evocative metaphors (check out the Notable Quotables from Kraken to see what I mean). This one may not be for everyone, but if like me you enjoy books that are a little different (or a lot different!) and a good brain-twister then give Kraken a go. You cannot resist the Kraken! 😛

3. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaimananansi boys

This was the first Neil Gaiman title I read last year, in March, and as with every Gaiman book I’d read previously (Good Omens; Coraline; Stardust and American Gods) it instantly became my favourite…until the next one 😛 The thing that stood Anansi Boys apart from the others I’d read was it was so funny in a witty, quirky sort of way that I’ve now come to associate with Gaiman, along with his themes of modern mythology, Gods masquerading as everyday people and family relationships. For people who have never read Gaiman, this would be an excellent starting point.

4. World War Z by Max Brooks

world-war-z-book-coverThis was the other book in my War & Pages challenge but that was not the only reason it was a highlight this year. It was, without question the smartest, most realistic, and most chilling zombie book I have ever read, and creepily true to what would likely happen if we were to face a zombie epidemic. On top of that it was a novel that crossed genres in an unexpected way. Yes, it was a zombie book so lumped in with horror and the like, but there were so many moments where it was more like a war-time drama and the zombies just replaced the traditional foes. Also because it was a series of personal accounts that wove together to get the big picture of each stage of the war, it was quite similar to an anthology, but a clever one where all the stories are connected. I would recommend this even to people who aren’t normally fans of the zombie genre, but if the undead interest you this is a must-read!

5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaimanneverwhere

As my comment above with Anansi Boys would suggest, Neverwhere instantly rose to the top of the Neil Gaiman pyramid in my eyes once I started it, and the next one will have to be pretty fantastic to take its place. This book had so many elements that have made Neil Gaiman break into my list of favourite authors in the last few years – humor, heart, glorious descriptions, an immersive world with so many unexpected and interesting details, and a true modern fairytale sort of storyline – but it also reminded me of one of my other top reads of the year, Kraken, in that it was about a hidden London. I would recommend Neverwhere to pretty much anyone with even the slightest interest in urban fantasy, and in fact I have already put my best friend Sarah onto it (she loved it too so huzzah!) and my brother, who read the graphic novel adaptation since I don’t own the book and will likely read the original when he can.

6. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

house of many waysI have talked before about how much I enjoyed the first two books in the Howl/Castle series, and this third and final installment was no different, in fact this would have to be my favourite, which I never expected as Howl’s Moving Castle was so wonderful and the first in the series often outshines the rest. Every moment of this book was a delight, and it quickly became like an old friend that I was happy to see every day after work. While I’m sad that there are no more books in the series I am sure I will find other Diana Wynne Jones books just as magical and I also want to add the Howl/Castle series to my collection so I can revisit them over the years 🙂 I would definitely recommend this for older children, young adults and adults who need a bit of magic and laughter in their life.

7. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

shadesofgreyThis fantastic book I read near the end of the year (over about a week in December, just after the start of my holidays) and in fact, I haven’t even talked about it on here yet, except for  a couple of Notable QuotablesShades of Grey is one of those books that has such a fascinating and odd world (one in which colours are a precious commodity and you are categorised by what area of the colour wheel you can see) that you are instantly drawn in by all the little mysteries and the sheer oddity of things which are perfectly commonplace to the characters. I became so caught up while reading it that it was pretty much all I could talk about, and when I wasn’t reading it (which wasn’t often) my mind was turning things over trying to puzzle them out. It was also one of those books that I wanted to just read, but I was enjoying it so much that I started to ration it so it wouldn’t be over so fast. Luckily, when I got to the end with a multitude of questions, old and new, still buzzing around my head, I saw that it was the first in a trilogy. Unluckily, despite it being published in 2010 the sequel isn’t expected until about 2015 as Jasper Fforde has been writing up a storm in multiple other series. So really that’s a bit of a lucky point too, because even though I have a bit of a wait, there is heaps of his work out there that I can turn to, plus he has a fabulous website with a page dedicated to Shades of Grey. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a sort-of dystopian story which is clever and has a lot of humor.

8. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

the thief of always

Thief of Always was a bit of a backwards step for me, as I have read a fair amount of Barker before, but pretty much all of it was very adult and quite lengthy, while this is a short children’s book complete with illustrations on some pages. Sarah had recommended it to me for years as it was her first trip into the mind of Barker, so when I bought it at an op-shop I put it on my pile, and as fate would have it, it got picked in January of last year. At first it was odd to be reading a Barker book which didn’t instantly disturb me with his unique brand of creepy (mainly gore and violence mixed in with sexual depravity), but despite the PG rating I quickly discovered that this was just as creepy as his other works, just in a different way. This story got to the heart of childhood fear and once I started it was like I was transported back to that time, and imagining myself at the age of the characters if I were in their position. Plus, maybe because it’s a kids book the story was like a twisted fairy tale, which I always love and unlike many Barker novels, it got to have a happy ending. I would recommend this book to kids and young adults as a perfect entrance into the realm of Clive Barker.

9. The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey

the-amber-amulet

It’s probably no surprise that a Craig Silvey book would be on my Top 10 as his two previous novels are at the top of my Top 10 Books of All Time (which may have changed slightly since writing it, but not for the Craig Silvey books :P) but The Amber Amulet was very different. Firstly, it was originally a short story featured in 10 short stories you must read in 2010, a free anthology given out when you bought a book from Get Reading’s “50 Books You Can’t Put Down” campaign. Itthen got turned into a play toured by the Barking Gecko Theatre Company in 2012, then a short film airing at the Sydney Film Festival in 2012 where it won the Crystal Bear for Best Short. It’s 4th incarnation was this lovely little book filled with drawings, clippings and diagrams to make a beautiful hybrid of children’s literature, short adult fiction and graphic novel which pulls at the heart-strings, makes you think and also makes you giggle. I have already passed this on to several people and I would highly recommend it as a starting point to Craig Silvey’s unique storytelling.

10. The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufmanthe-tiny-wife

I read this around the same time as The Amber Amulet (in fact since they’re so short I think I read them both one lazy afternoon) and it made as much of an impact on me, if not more. A fascinating modern fable, The Tiny Wife starts with a bank robbery in which the thief takes one item of sentimental value from each person present rather than a bundle of cash. Following the event all the people he stole from start to experience highly unusual changes to their lives, some positive, some negative and some in a weird place in-between, including a woman who slowly shrinks each day, hence the title. This book left me with an odd mix of emotions as it was partly uplifting, quite horrifying in parts and overall pretty ridiculous but in a surprisingly believable way. I would recommend this to people who loved fairy tales as a kid, but are looking for something a bit more gritty, plus lovers of short but memorable reads.

Well there you have it – the Top 10 Books I Read in 2013 (finally!). The comics/graphic novels list will be up as soon as possible followed by The 2013 Book Polygamist Awards! 😀

I’d love to know the best books you guys read last year too, so share away in the comments, especially if you’ve got a link to your own post, and until next time:

Happy Reading!
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Top 10 Reads of 2012!

1. The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus

I absolutely adored this book (which is clearly apparent in my review ) and even though it was one of my first reads of the year (read from mid-January to mid-February) I knew even a few chapters in (heck, maybe even a few pages in!) that It would be in my Top 10 reads of the year. Since I read The Night Circus I have recommended it to friends and family, and the three that followed my recommendation loved it as well. My mind boggles every time I remember that this is Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel and I look forward to more delights from her in the future. According to her website’s not really a FAQ page, she is working on a book which is a “film noir-flavoured Alice in Wonderland” (squee!!) and she is also painting a black-and-white tarot deck inspired by her work (double squee!!) so I’m sure many delights with be had in the near future, and in the meantime I’m glad I own The Night Circus so I can read it again 🙂

2. American Gods by Neil GaimanAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

Another book I knew would be on the list early on (I started it at the same time as The Night Circus) because even after a few chapters it blew me away. You can see a succinct summary of what I thought of American Gods in my latest Micro Reviews post, but let me just say this – American Gods now one of my favourite books of all time as well as of 2012. Neil Gaiman is slowly becoming one of my favourite authors (I say slowly because I have only read a few of his books and I personally like to read all of an authors works before they are officially one of my favourites), and American Gods was a big part of this. Unlike The Night Circus I borrowed American Gods from the library, so this year I’ll have to find and purchase it so I can read it again and again!

3. The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadderravens heart

Another debut novel (in fact 4 of the books on this list are debut/only books of their authors and all but one – American Gods – are books by authors I hadn’t read before!) and one by an Australian author too, this book was a gem and the only true Historical novel I read in 2012. As I said in my Micro Review post, it is set in Scotland during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, which I found really interesting as I had never read a book exploring that particular period. I will certainly keep a keen eye out for any other novels by Jesse Blackadder!

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

Reading this classic was a big moment for me this year as I have been meaning to read it for many, many years (unlike many schools mine sadly didn’t designate it as required reading). As I said in my Micro Review (wow a lot of these are on the same Micro Review! O_o) because of the language and subject matter it is sometimes hard to stomach, but nevertheless I am glad I did. Now I just need to tackle the other 9 classics on my list !!

5. Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbinsstill life with woodpecker

I have to say a big thank you to the person who gave this book to me and so introduced me to Tom Robbins – thank you Shayne if you happen to read this! 🙂 I am very glad that Still Life With Woodpecker is not a debut or single-child-novel because of all the “new” authors I have discovered this year, Tom Robbins is the one I most want to read again (ooo spoiler for the upcoming Book Polygamist Awards!). I haven’t yet written a review of this wonderfully quirky little book, because every time I try it’s so hard to fully capture and explain the bizarre story, hilarious characters and thought-provoking prose style. I promise I will get around to it at some point (and when I do it will definitely be a full-length one as a book this unique can’t be summed up in a Micro Review) and I hope to read more of Tom Robbins works this year.

6. Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjaliansecrets-of-eden

This one was a surprise highlight of the year for me. The subject matter (domestic violence; murder/suicide) was quite heavy and the plot wasn’t particularly complicated, but it was the way it was arranged and written, and the distinctly different voices of the main protagonists/antagonists that made it memorable. Because the book was broken up into quarters narrated by four different main characters (the town priest who was close to the abused/murdered wife; the detective investigating the crime; a renowned author who had experienced  the  murder/suicide of her parents when she was a teen and took an interest in the couple’s daughter and the priest; and the dead couple’s teenage daughter) a simple and tragic event morphed into a complicated whodunnit, where I doubted the “facts” of the crime and changed my mind over what really happened at every turn.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

hungergames To me 2012 will be the year that I finally read The Hunger Games trilogy, and Suzanne Collins claimed another fan girl for her growing horde! 😀 I had an inkling that I would love this book/trilogy because as I’ve said before I have been meaning to read them for a while following some glowing recommendations from fellow book nerds, and I really enjoyed the film, but I didn’t suspect that I would love it as much as I did, especially considering the fact that I knew the progression of the plot beforehand! In fact I became so engrossed that when it came to key heart-breaking moments (which I won’t spoil here in case any of you are yet to read the book or see the movie) I actually became quite emotional, as if it was a surprise. Bravo Ms Collins, that is a fine feat 🙂

8. Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCover - Catching Fire

As sometimes happens with a trilogy (at least a good one) I loved this second installment more than the first and devoured it over three days. This may be in part due to the plot being completely unknown to me, as the second film has not been released yet and I managed to avoid the spoiler landmines littered around the Interwebs, or purely because the world and plot were more expanded in this book, and the final setting was amazing! Either way, despite the first and last books being equally amazing, I think this was my favourite of the trilogy, and I am positively bursting to see how they managed to convert it into a film 😀

9. Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsMOCKINGJAY-jacket

As I said above, this final installment was just as brilliant as its predecessors, and a fitting end as it was extremely intense and wrapped up all the loose ends that had developed over the series (whether they were wrapped up positively or negatively I won’t say :P). Of the three this one took the longest to read (in saying that it still was only a little over a week), mainly because of the intensity of most of the scenes, and I will be very interested in seeing how it is adapted for the screen, and more importantly what rating they’ll be able to give it!

10. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groffmonstersoftempleton

This was a last-minute gem as I only started it at the end of the year (November) and finished it a couple of days into January, even though it has been on and off my library To-Read pile for a really long time. Barely a page in I already knew I was going to love it because even the first line was alluring: “The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.” What followed was a beautifully written and ambitious novel (especially for a debut!) which gave me countless delicious lines, some of which I made into Notable Quotables, and a story which was an interesting blend of contemporary and historical novels, including old photographs, a map (you know I love maps!) and other tidbits to deepen the historical parts of the story.

So, there you have it: my Top 10 Reads of 2012! If you have read my recent update post you will know that these books will play a very important role in the 2nd Anniversary of Book Polygamist celebrations – one of my fantabulous Bookbaggers (that would be you guys!) will win the book off this list of their choice!! The competition will officially begin on the date of the anniversary (March 5th) so you have a couple of weeks to think about which book you would want the most, and why and I’m really excited to see all your choices 🙂 In the meantime I would love to know what your top reads for 2012 were – did we have any in common? Did you have a fantastic batch this year or a sort of crummy one? And what books are you looking forward to as 2013 trundles on? Feel free to sound of in the comments, and as always I wish you all:

Happy Reading!

Top 10 Reads of 2011!

I have been making a list of my fave books of the year for a while now, but before now they have only been chronicled in my reading journals or on Facebook last year, so its pretty sweet to have it out in the blogosphere for the first time 🙂

1. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman 

This was the first book I started in 2011 (on the 1st of January and all!) and was also one of a few books I read around that time that were the final instalments in major trilogies I had been reading for a while (the others are Destiny by Fiona McIntosh which is also in this list, and The Reawakened by Jeri Smith-Ready that I finished on January 1st so it missed out being on this list :P). I read the first two of the His Dark Materials series, Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass) and The Subtle Knife in 2009 and late 2010 respectively and each one was more gripping and imaginative as the story went on culminating with The Amber Spyglass which was just amazing. Philip Pullman brought everything to light and wrapped up all the loose ends that had developed throughout the series and although many of these conclusions were heart-breaking, the ending felt right. I was left with a sense of awe at Pullman’s abilities and it certainly opened up my year of reading with a bang.

2. Destiny by Fiona McIntosh 

Destiny was another wonderful conclusion to a gripping series, but one that I had been invested in for much longer. As I have said before there was a big gap between starting the Trinity trilogy and finishing it as I read the first book, Betrayal way back in 2008, then the second book, Revenge a couple of months later but was unable to acquire Destiny until early 2011! It was lucky that I re-read the first two books before finding it but even still it was at least a year between the end of Revenge (which was quite a cliffhanger) and the beginning of Destiny so it took me a while to understand what was going on. However once I was caught up this final instalment certainly didn’t disappoint with more twists and turns then  the most intense rollercoaster and countless moments that made me gasp in shock or burst into tears. There were so many satisfying conclusions to conflicts that had carried through the whole trilogy and the final ending was very emotional and riveting, showing Fiona McIntosh’s ability to weave a great ending that doesn’t shy away from harsh realities and fall into the “happily ever after” trap.

3. The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll 

This was a beautiful, quirky, charming little novel which was a surprise highlight of my year. Andrew Nicoll described the fictional Baltic town of Dot as well as all the unique characters inhabiting it with loving detail that made me eager to read for hours on end. The story was quite simple – a forbidden love story between the Mayor of the town and his married assistant – but it was the execution of it that was so addictive to me, the dancing around the two did, never admitting their feelings for each other and by the end I was quite frustrated with them both (which made me want to read even more just to see if they’d ever get their act together!). Even ‘tho it took a really strange turn at its climax this only made me like the book more as it was so unexpected. A great read for someone who loves a good RomCom but one that’s a tad odd 🙂

4. Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

This one was a big surprise because as I am a huge fan of Joanne Harris and am use to her usual fare of magic, food and small town politics (or other tight-knit communities like a college or nunnery), or as in her earlier works gothic styled historical novels with a touch of mystery and Blueeyedboy certainly doesn’t fit into those categories. Well and truly in the modern age, this novel tells its story exclusively through LiveJournal posts which gave it a creepy atmosphere of confession and mind games. It was a frightening, disturbing and unsettling book where the lines between fiction and reality and between online and offline personas was very blurred and I was constantly changing my mind about who was the “monster” and who was the victim. The twists were often very unexpected and sudden, so I found myself reeling through most of it, but by the end I was left impressed by Joanne Harris’ talent (to create a fantastic psychological thriller so different from her usual style) and even that early on in the year (I read it over a week in February) I knew it would be on this list as I stayed with me long after the last word.

5. Twilight by William Gay

I almost didn’t read this fantastically atmospheric book because of its title, but I am so glad a bunch of glittery vampires didn’t put me off as it was a fantastic, if quite confusing read. This is the first of my Top Reads that I have reviewed on this blog, and that review can be found here. Since I went into why this book was so amazing in that review I won’t go into it much here, but will just say that this book showed some of the finest writing of my readings this year as well as being one of the more creepy and vividly described novels I read in 2011. Not for the faint hearted or easily confused, but for lovers of language and spooky imagery this is a real treat.

6. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

This is another book I reviewed this year so I won’t go into too much detail, but as soon as I finished it I knew it would be on this list as it certainly made an impact on me. This is one of those novels that grew on me (like my friend Sarah would say, like a fungus :)) and the second half was read in huge devouring sessions as opposed to the snail’s pace of the first half. If any of you decide to give this little french gem a shot I would highly recommend that you watch the movie adaptation afterwards as it cleverly takes the story from page to screen and was a lovely little film in its own right 🙂

7. Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker

This one is definitely not for those light of heart (or stomach!) as it is a classic Barker tale filled with gruesome creatures, violent sexuality and lots of gore. I have yet to review it, even ‘tho I reached the end on the 20th of October (naughty naughty!) as it has been hard to find the right words to explain it. It is a blend of absolute horror in the craziest supernatural form that Clive Barker excels at, and a tale of the underbelly of Hollywood from its Golden Age of ageless movie starlets in glorious black and white and blissful silence, to the modern age of plastic idols. Not one I would recommend as an introduction to Clive Barker (it would likely scare many away) but once readers are used to his work (maybe starting with lighter novels like Abarat and then moving on to his crazier stuff like Sacrament?) this is an excellent example of his expansive and very warped imagination. He’s a freak but I love ‘im 🙂

8. The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

This was a more light-hearted read of 2011. Although there was some murder mystery elements and other dark parts It was always easy and fun to read as opposed to some on this list which I dipped into less often. I love a good Historical Saga, especially one that is based on real events rather than just a certain time or place in history, and this little beauty was exactly what I was looking for. More details can be found in my review but be warned, this one may be a bit difficult to find. I was lucky enough to find it at my local library, but since reading and reviewing it a friend and fellow Library student has been trying to find it in bookstores to no avail. My best bet would be an online bookstore such as Book Depository or second-hand and rare book supplier Abe Books.

9. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This book was a fairly recent read (I finished it on the 8th of December) but I knew from a few chapters in that it would be a highlight of 2011. I first heard about it from my mum who saw it reviewed on Australian morning show The Circle and thought I would like it as before my Library studies I was a floral assistant and I have always been intrigued by the Victorian custom of courting lovers communicating through flowers. She then bought it from me as part of my amazingly generous birthday presents and I was lucky enough to choose it out of my To Read pile at the beginning of November. I have yet to review it (I’ll get there I promise!) but it was a beautifully touching story with an interesting and solid background in the meaning of flowers and the effect the foster child/adoption system has on children even into adulthood.

10. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier 

This last book almost didn’t make it on the list as when I started it on the 9th of December, even ‘tho I loved it from the first chapter I didn’t think I would finish it before the start of the new year. But thanks to some marathon reading, mostly due to the fantastic writing skills of Tracy Chevalier and my ardent wish to include it in my Top Reads I finished it the day before New Years Eve 🙂 This was a very interesting and touching novel that amerses you in a historical time and place perfectly. Tracy Chevalier is wonderful at capturing a time and place and inventing believable details surrounding a pivotal artistic (or in this case scientific) movement. I have loved every book she has ever released from the moment I read The Virgin Blue as they were all sound Historical novels with a backbone of facts and a great deal of heart. This one is based on the true story of Mary Anning, a working class girl in 19th century England who discovers the first aquatic dinosaurs and sets the scientific world alight with talk of extinction and the age of the earth, but it is also about the friendship between two women (Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot) who are from a different class and background and two decades apart in age but share a love of fossil hunting. I promise I’ll do a proper review as soon as I get through the 8 that are still backed up 😛

Stay tuned for my other highlights of the year in the form of my 2011 Book Polygamist Awards! which I will post within the next couple of days, and I hope to see all my usual Bookbaggers as well as lots of new faces throughout 2012 🙂

In case you weren’t aware 2012 is The National Year of Reading in Australia, which libraries around the country are getting involved in with special activities and programs as well as extra storytime sessions, displays and the like, so expect some extra little tidbits this year 🙂

One idea I had was to post a small quote from one of the books I’m reading every day as part of Project 365 but what with my last semester of study being this year as well as continuing casual work at libraries, and hopefully some form of social life, I don’t see myself keeping that up for longer than a few weeks, so maybe I’ll make it something more achievable like a quote once a week?

Let me know what you guys think in the comments and as always, HAPPY READING!!!! (in caps for added New Years emphasis :P)

Top 10 Books of All Time

Yes, I left the best for last 🙂 For those of you who haven’t been reading over the last few days, I’ve been writing a series of “Top 10” lists. First my “Top 10 authors” , then my “Top 10 Books from Childhood” and now my last “Top 10” (perhaps :P) – my “Top 10 Books of All Time”! This was surprisingly the easiest to come up with, because the really good ones stick in your head. It would take a lot for a new novel to knock any of these off their pedestal!

1. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

If you read  my previous post about Craig Silveythis won’t be a big surprise as I waxed lyrical about both his books – and for good reason! I can’t recommend this book enough, and If you don’t like it…well frankly, we can’t be friends anymore 😛

The sweetest peach

2. Rhubarb by Craig Silvey

Like Jasper Jones this is a book I wax lyrical about, but unlike Jasper Jones I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. Rhubarb is a very unusual and poetic book, so If you’re willing to read something a bit different then it’s perfect, but If you like traditional writing styles then It’s probably not your cup of tea.
*If you want to read more about Rhubarb or Jasper Jones then check out my post on Craig Silvey and his work: Craig Silvey: Jewel of the West*

Winner of the most non-sensical title award

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A beautiful book set in Nazi Germany with a unique narrator – Death (or the Grim Reaper). I love an anthropomorphised Death (like the one in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series) so that point initially drew me in, but it’s when you get into the meat of the story that it really shines. It’s hard to explain how much I loved this book when I read it – I laughed, I cried – read it! Also this interview with Markus Zusak about writing the book is really enlightening.

Ironically I had to re-purchase this book because my first copy went missing...stolen perhaps?

 4. The Messenger by Markus Zusak

Hmmm I seem to be going in twos don’t I? The Messenger is a very different book to The Book Thief (a bit like Jasper Jones is a very different book to Rhubarb…is anyone else seeing a pattern here?) but made as much of an impact on me, if not more because its more relatable. The book is set in Australia (where Markus Zusak is from) and is broken up into four parts named after the four suits in a deck of cards (Clubs, Diamonds, Spades, Hearts). I won’t give away why the parts revolve around the suits, but Its a really interesting and unique story idea. Like any good book (in my opinion) this made me feel sick to my stomach in parts, but also unwilling to stop reading, and then pages later I would find myself bursting into fits of laughter.

Protect the Diamonds, Survive the Clubs, Dig deep through Spades, Feel the Hearts

5. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I borrowed this book off a friend of the family and read it while I was studying Art and Written/Oral Communication at TAFE. For one of my Written/Oral Communication assessments I had to write a review and I wrote a glowing review of The Red Tent which the lecturer commented on, saying It was obvious I greatly enjoyed the book. That is an understatement. I LOVED The Red Tent. That love was even more pronounced because before I started it, I didn’t think I’d like it at all! The book is set in biblical times and tells the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and deals with many traditions of women in that time. The “Red Tent” refers to a tent where all the woman of the household would retire to during menstruation. At that time in my life I had very little interest in books based on Bible stories (being a newly devout Pagan) and anything that I perceived as feminism was a pet hate. But I was forced to re-evaluate a few beliefs with this book, because it was such an engaging story. I now am drawn to “religious” fiction and am slower to judge something as a feminist work.

Proved me wrong

6. The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

If you read my first Top 10 post you would know about my mixed feeling for Jeanette Winterson’s books, but there is no mixed feelings about The Passion, just passionate ones. The Passion is set in France and revolves around two young people – a young man who is sent to fight in the Napoleonic wars and a young woman in Venice who dresses as a man. It’s an amazing little book – strange and evocative like a fairy tale, but unlike any fairy tale ever written. If you are going to read just one book by Jeanette Winterson, read The Passionbecause it’s truly a brilliant story.

Everyone wears a mask

7. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is truly a master to have created a world as rich as the Barcelona in The Shadow of the Wind. This is a novel that is fully immersive – when you love the characters you truly love them, when you hate them you truly hate them, and most of all you want to know what happens to them. I cried and gasped far too much while reading this book – If it was all documented I’m sure I would’ve looked like a nutcase – and that’s what really makes a book great. I have heard that the sort-of sequel The Angel’s Game is not as good, and I can see why it wouldn’t be – it would be very hard to recreate the magic of The Shadow of the Wind. Hopefully one day Carlos Ruiz Zafón will recreate that magic and then he too will get a double spot on my Top 10 🙂

A world all its own

8. Mister God this is Anna by Fynn

I could go on and on about this book, but since I happened to write a review about it this month, I would just be repeating myself 😛 So go read the post to see why I love this book so much 🙂

A lot of food for thought

 9. Watership Down by Richard Adams

This is the only book that is on the Top 10 Books from Childhoodas well as the Top 10 Books of All Time, because, well it’s wonderful 🙂 Check out the Top 10 Books from Childhood to read why it has remained a fave of mine, or go read it – and remember, bunnies can be exciting!

Bright eyes, burning like fire...Oh stop it you'll make me cry!

 10. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Cloudstreet is one of those intricate family sagas that appears once in a blue moon, written by an equally rare and precious author. It revolves around two working class families (the Pickles and the Lambs) who move from rural Western Australia into “the city” (Perth) and live in two halves of a giant old house – No.1 Cloud Street. It spans the 1940’s and 50’s as it traces the many ups and downs of the two families and how they are both affected by an old run-down home. The book has recently been turned into a mini-seriesthat played on Showcase, and was also adapted for the stage and toured in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, London, Dublin, New York and Washington DC.

I can't wait til the miniseries is released on DVD 🙂

So there you have it, my last “Top 10”, I’ve written exactly 10 posts a month again and all is right in the world 🙂
So far I haven’t had any comments saying I should make this a regular feature but I’ll give you all a bit more time, just in case 😉 if there is still no feedback proclaiming yay by the end of June, I’ll take it as a collective nay and it will only be reviews, new books and other random crazy from now on 😛

Top 10 Books from Childhood

This was the hardest “Top 10” to create (even harder than the Top 10 books of all time, that I’ll be doing tomorrow) because I have so many book-related memories from childhood (I could’ve done a Top 20!) so I’ve cheated a little 😛 which you’ll see as the list goes on.

There is a mix of books from different stages of my childhood – the first is my absolute fave from that time (and was my fave for a long time into teenage-hood and a bit of adulthood as well) the next three are books that were read to me at school and made a big impact and there’s the cheating ones of course 🙂

1. Watership Down by Richard Adams

Bunnies can be exciting!

I was given Watership Down as part of the “Most Improved” award in year 6 (as well as The Dictionary of Nature). My year 6 teacher, Mr Stein, was the best teacher I had in primary school (or ever really) and he told me that as soon as he knew I was getting the award, he wanted the prize to be Watership Down because he knew I’d love it, despite it being beyond my recommended reading level (I never let that stop me!). It took me a while to read it the first time, but I was enthralled for every moment. I have since read it 4 or 5 times at different points in my life, and it’s still one of my favourites.

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

The gift of a story

The Giver was one of the novels that my year 7 teacher read to us in the morning before maths. She had a wonderful story-teller voice and always held our attention, and because of this the three books she read that year have remained with me as major literary memories. The Giver was the first novel to really affect me and make me think about life. Watership Down was very touching and made me cry in moments, but moments from The Giver stuck with me for hours, days or even weeks and made me really ponder humanity. I read it again a couple of years ago, and while it didn’t have as much impact as that initial reading, it was still one of those books that stops you in your tracks and you can’t put down.

3. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

All you need is a hatchet 🙂

In hindsight I know why our teacher chose to read us Hatchet – to teach us about survival and make us imagine what we would do in an extreme situation,  and make us thankful for what we have – but at the time we kids didn’t think too deeply into it, we just thought it was wicked! As soon as we finished it in class I went to the library to find the follow-up books: Hatchet : Winter, The Return, and Hatchet : the Call. I loved them all, but the original is still the best. I have read it a couple more times since and it’s always an exciting and riveting read, even though I know the end :P.

4. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I want a Shiloh!

Awwww Shiloh! This book started my love for beagles – I wanted a cute little beagle so much after our teacher read this, and I still love the breed (I often get told off at airports coz I want to pat the sniffer dogs :P). Another really touching and tear-jerking book – even worse if you see the movie! – and about a classic theme – the love between a boy and his dog.

5. Sly Old Lockjaw Croc by Marcia Vaughan

Wham bam. Pass the jam. Oh, what a hungry croc I am!

This is the first book I remember making any and every adult who happened to be in the area read over and over. It’s a Cocky’s Circle Little Book, which for anyone not in Australia is a series of books for young children that could often be found near the checkout in supermarkets (perfect for impulse buys fueled by whining and big wide eyes – after all what parent can say no to a book?). The story is very fairy-tale-big-bad-wolf-esque except from an Australia point of view. Basically Sly Old Lockjaw Croc is a crocodile with an insatiable hunger which he tells all his friends about…before he eats them. It’s ok though, like all good Big Bad Wolf stories in the end he’s forced to open up and all his mates come out unscathed :). Awesome.
Sorry bout the dodgy pic – it was the best one I could find O.o

6. Anything by Morris Gleitzman

King of hilarious titles

Ok, so this is where the cheating begins. Australian children’s novelist, Morris Gleitzman hasn’t written a book called ‘anything’, so really this is a fave author rather than book, but I couldn’t choose!!! I devoured Gleitzman’s books from about year 4 to year 7 and he was my undisputed favourite author for those years. If you’ve never heard of Morris Gleitzman (which is highly likely if you’re not from Australia, and quite probable even if you are) he wrote classic children’s humor novels like: The Other Facts of Life; Two Weeks with the Queen; Second Childhood; Misery Guts; Worry Warts; Blabber Mouth; Sticky Beak; Puppy Fat; Belly Flop; Water Wings and Gift of the Gab.

7. The Penny Pollard Series by Robin Klein

HANDS OFF!

Another cheat :P. I was introduced to the Penny Pollard books (which are: Penny Pollard’s Diary; Penny Pollard’s Letters; Penny Pollard in Print; Penny Pollard’s Passport; Penny Pollard’s Guide to Modern Manners and Penny Pollard’s Scrapbook) when I had read everything I was interested in from the school library and I asked the librarian what I should read. I was about 9 and the librarian knew me well so she gave me a Penny Pollard, but I’m not sure which one. I loved the diary style of the books and all the little sketches, photos and other bits and pieces that were “pasted” in making it look like the real diary of a little girl. They’re buckets of fun – I still own a couple :).

8. Piggy in the Middle by Catherine Jinks

This little piggy...

I think I read this in my first year of highschool, and It was the first book that could come close to bumping Watership Down from the top spot. It’s about animal cloning (of a pig to be exact) and was published not long after the cloning of Dolly the sheep, so it was a very topical and unsettling subject. I would like to read Piggy in the Middle again some time to see if it’s still good now I’m all grown up :).

9. The Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin

It's like a cult - once you're sucked in they have you...

Ok, so I’m not so proud of this one, but it had to be mentioned because like so many girls my age in the 90’s I was obsessed with the Babysitter’s Club. I was even a member of the Babysitter’s Club book-club so I got a new book every month (plus added books like the Babysitter’s Club Mysteries or a Super Special). Anne M. Martin wrote 131 books in the Babysitter’s Club series, plus 122 Babysitter’s Little Sister books, 15 Super Specials, 36 Mysteries, 4 Super Mysteries, 6 Portrait Collections, 3 Reader’s Requests and lots of companion books. Of course I didn’t read them all (because I grew out of them when I reached Highschool) but I did read a lot and I owned a whole bookshelf of them….everyone has a dark past :P.

10. The Wait-for-me Kitten by Patricia M. Scarry AND
The Curious Little Kitten Around the House by Linda Hayward

Wait for me!

Two kittens is better than one 🙂

I justify this cheat by the fact that they’re both Little Golden Books and are both about Kittens? Well it was worth a shot :P. My mum reminded me about these two, because I made her read them a gazillion times and once I could read by myself I probably read them a gazillion more.

So there you go – the second “Top 10”. Tomorrow I’ll conclude with *drumroll please!* my Top 10 books of all time!! Should be fun 🙂
Once again, If you think the “Top 10” list should be a regular thing let me know in the comments, because I definitely have more in me 🙂

Craig Silvey : Jewel of the West

May has been quite light on posts, mainly because I have been bombarded with assessments. But since a couple of these assessments were presentations that fit in quite nicely with the theme of this blog, why not mix business with pleasure? 🙂

The first presentation I did was for a training unit – we had to choose a book, book series, or author and “train” a small group on the topic. I chose my favourite author, and one who is not very well-known – Craig Silvey.

He's a handsome devil isn't he?

I discovered Craig Silvey a few years ago when his first novel, Rhubarb, was chosen as the “One Book” for the Perth Writer’s Festival and there was promotional material in my local library. I couldn’t get my hands on it for a while as all the copies were out on loan, but when I did it was well worth the wait. Rhubarb was one of the most unusual and beautiful books I had ever read, and became my new no. 1 book of all time (a position held by Watership Down by Richard Adams since I was 11).

Rhubarb

The plot was simple while also, somehow being complex – It is very character and setting focused and so the plot seems like a natural progression of little interwoven stories, taking a simple thread of plot and weaving it into an intricate tapestry. The main character is Eleanor Rigby (yes, like the Beatles song) who is young, delicate and blind. She goes through her (newly) sightless world with her faithful if somewhat incompetent guide dog Warren, as she wanders the vibrant streets and beaches of Fremantle, Western Australia. She lives with her mother who has become almost comatose on the couch, immersed in her own television world, and has only vague, lonely acquaintances. The other main character is Ewan Dempsey, a young man who is agoraphobic and spends his days smoking weed, making cellos to sell and playing his own collection of cellos. The two meet when Eleanor passes by his house and is drawn by the sound of his music, and an awkward, confused, but touching romance begins. The book is written almost like poetry – Silvey uses a lot of alliteration, repetition and strung together words, which create a wonderful sense of pace and panic, especially in parts where Eleanor is trying to negotiate the Fremantle streets. Even after all these years Rhubarb is still on my list of top 10 books I’ve read.

Jasper Jones

When the second novel of Silvey’s, Jasper Jones, came out in 2009 I was so excited because I hadn’t even heard he was writing another. I was surprised by how different Jasper Jones was to Rhubarb, but I was even more surprised when I grew to love it more than Rhubarb. The book revolves around a 13-year-old boy called Charlie Bucktin (I bet you were expecting me to say Jasper jones :P) who is a quiet, bookish boy who aspires to be a writer. it is set in rural Western Australia in the 1960’s. The book begins with Charlie reading in his sleep-out bedroom when he gets a surprise visit by Jasper Jones, a half caucasian, half aboriginal boy a few years his senior who is the troublemaker and scapegoat of the town. Charlie has never had prejudice towards Jasper, maybe because his best friend, Jeffrey Lu, is Vietnamese also is victim to the towns racism and small-mindedness, or maybe because he sees that the town is not in the right and Jasper may be a good person. So, when Jasper asks for Charlie’s help, and to follow him into the bush at night, Charlie goes with him. What Charlie discovers is a secret too big and heavy for any teenager to have to keep, but he does, for the sake of Jasper Jones. Jasper Jones has been compared to Harper Lee’s To kill a mockingbird because it has the same Southern Gothic feel to it, but in an Australian setting, as well as themes of racism, small-town-small-mindedness, and growing up. It is an amazing book, touching and disturbing then just a hop-skip-and-jump away to complete, youthful hilarity and triumph. It gets added points for making me cheer out loud at a cricket game, when I have never had the slightest interest in cricket.

I would recommend both Rhubarb and Jasper Jones to anyone, because they are amazingly written, especially for such a new, young writer.
If you would like any more info check out the slide show that I used for my presentation: Craig Silvey
and the group of bookmarks I’ve collected on del.icio.us that relate to Craig Silvey: Craig Silvey del.icio.us bundle