Short Stories and Secret Shame September

Fáilte my fabulous, fascinating Bookbaggers!

Oh my gosh hello! It must seem that I have been away more than not this year and that I am a terribly neglectful blogger since I last posted near the end of August! I hate making stupid excuses like work and sickness and a social life because really I know that life gets in the way for all bloggers at some point, and I never judge the bloggers I follow for being absent, but this time I actually have a pretty interesting excuse. My absence over September was a self-imposed necessity to keep my lip zipped because on the 1st I had jury duty and was picked for a three-week-long case.

I did think about posting a quick note to let you know that I would be on a hiatus, but as we were instructed not to post on social media what we were doing, I thought blogging would also be a big no-no. When the case finally finished on the 22nd I thought “Huzzah! I can finally blog!” but I did not factor in that I would be going from listening to people talk while sitting on my butt, back to my regular job where I would likely have a pile of work to catch up on and would be exhausted once I got home.

Then I had the very strange experience of doing just four days of work before we were on term break and I had a week off! Logically this would be a perfect time to catch up on the blog, but I found that once I was able to relax I just wanted to unwind after the bizarre month I had and try to do things I hadn’t had time for like doing my tax return, catching up with the grandparentals after their trip to Bali and shopping for summer pajamas before our Australian weather devolved into the 7th circle of hell (my hometown of Perth especially doesn’t seem to understand what Spring is if the mix of hot days and freak thunderstorms are anything to go by).

I returned to work Monday and since we’re now in the final term of the year it has calmed down enough that I have the time, energy and motivation to finally tell you about my September 🙂

Firstly, I never got around to introducing my new pile which gives a second life to the Short and Sweet challenge, so that’s a good start.

As I said in my last Challenge Update I no longer had any books under 200 pages to continue Short and Sweet, but I did have a large number of short story collections which I have made its own pile. I think that means that Short and Sweet will at least go until the end of the year, but if I enjoy having an anthology of short fiction on the go all the time then I’ll make it a regular thing like I did with comics 🙂

At the moment I have 13 books of short stories that I have put together in the pile (mostly my own, but two borrowed from my mate Scott – the Richard Matheson’s since I loved I Am Legend):

The book of the dead
edited by jared shurin
The Book of the DeadGrimm Tales: For young and old
by Philip Pullman
Grimm Tales Philip PullmanThe Complete Illustrated Lewis Carroll
by Lewis Carroll
The Complete Illustrated Lewis CarrollLiving With The Dead
by Martin Livings 
Living With The Dead by Martin LivingsUnder My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron
edited by Jonathan Strahan
Under-My-Hat Fantastic Wonder Stories
edited by Russell B. Farr
fantastic-wonder-storeis The Girl With No Hands
by Angela Slatter
The Girl With No Hands by Angela SlatterThe Lady of Situations
by Stephen Dedman
The Lady of SituationsMatilda told such dreadful lies
by Lucy Sussex
matilda-told-such-dreadful-lies-webFearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome
edited by Stephen Jones
illustrated by Alan Lee
Fearie-Tales-Stories-of-the-Grimm-and-GruesomeThe Powerful Owl by Candida Baker
powerful owlButton, Button by Richard Matheson
button.tifDuel by Richard Matheson
duelLooking for jake and other stories by China Miéville

looking for jake

I’ve been really slack with reading any stories from The Living Dead zombie anthology lately because I have been reading some cracking books (more on that later) and in fact I haven’t read any since the last update, so I have re-set myself the challenge to read at least one story a week and then maybe I might actually get to pick a new one before the end of the year!

In addition to the revamped Short and Sweet Challenge I also set myself a special challenge for September which I meant to announce at the end of August and then when I didn’t finish in time I though “Well I probably will only have jury duty for a week tops so early September should be fine”….yup, that worked out well past me :/

The challenge involves reading a single book that I call my Secret Shame to friends and family that I have admitted my secret too. I think if you look deep enough every avid reader has one Secret Shame – maybe it’s a genre of books that they don’t want to be associated with, or a bad habit such as dog-earring pages that they don’t want to admit to, and I think for many it would be that sad book at the bottom of their TBR pile or pushed to the back of their groaning shelves.

Mine would be in the latter category:

Secret shame september

Back in 1997 when I was a shy, odd and exceptionally nerdy 11-year-old in Year 6, I had a brilliant teacher called Mr Stein – a sort of aging hippy who was passionate about books, music and the environment and was by far my favourite teacher throughout school. However, at the start of the year I did not have this opinion. All of us new Year 6s had been told by the older kids that Mr Stein was the worst – really strict, grumpy and a man who would not put up with mucking about – and being the nervous little mite I was, I was terrified that I would be in the class with this monster instead of with the second Year 6/7 class. When I saw my name on his door my heart sank, but it took maybe a day to realise that the older kids had greatly exaggerated and while Mr Stein was strict and certainly wouldn’t suffer fools, he was a fair and engaging teacher and only made trouble for kids who attracted trouble in the first place.

Because I was such a shy and nervy kid I often did badly at the start of the year before I got my confidence up and even if my work was top-notch I was always behind in social interaction and class participation, but Mr Stein – unlike some teachers before him – endeavoured to break me out of my shell by encouraging me to get involved in areas that interested me, like creative writing and environmental issues. By the end of the year I had improved noticeably, so much so that I won the “Most Improved” award for my class. Mr Stein chose the books for my prize – a dictionary of nature, and Watership Down by Richard Adams which if you are a Bookbagger from way back you will know is still one of my favourite books. Since, as he predicted I adored the book and it hadn’t been too much of a struggle despite being a little above my age level, he loaned me his own copy of another Richard Adams novel called Shardik.

Shardik was a different kettle of fish than Watership Down as it was an adult fantasy, but I gave it a go anyway. I never really got past the first few chapters as the language was more advanced and I hadn’t quite gotten into Fantasy at that point (at least beyond children’s fantasy/adventure), but every time I asked Mr Stein if he wanted it back, he told me to keep trying. Somehow in the midst of Year 7 I not only gave up trying to read it, but I forgot to give it back and Mr Stein never reminded me. For years after I kept meaning to read it and then return to my old primary school to give it back, but it never happened and eventually in resided at the very back of my bookshelf, behind another layer of books – out of sight, but not forgotten. If I was close enough to someone and the subject of old books on TBR piles came up, I would spill my Secret Shame and swear once again that I would read it, but again it never happened.

Then a few months ago I acquired a small additional bookshelf from what my mum calls Le Verge (that often magical collection of odds and sods people put by the road in front of their house for pickup by the council or perusal by treasure-hunting locals) to help tame the overflow from my other shelves, and during a cull I found Shardik again, tattered, musty and forlorn amongst dozen of past op-shop and library discard purchases, many of which went in the donation box.

ShardikAt that point I decided that I would finally read the poor thing (even though I may not be able to find Mr Stein and return it to him after) and since September was approaching I thought Secret Shame September had a great ring to it – my love of alliteration at play once more 😛

Since the book has a little under 60 chapters I set myself the very ambitious goal of reading two chapters a day, but since it is so fragile it is a purely read-at-home-while-cradling-gently-so-it-doesn’t-disintegrate sort of book and thus I’m still making my way through. I’m about half-way now (chapter 32) so not doing too badly. Like I said above I have been distracted by some pretty awesome books recently (which I may even share with you in a separate update-ish post since I don’t want my returning one to be too giant) so I haven’t read any for a little less than a week, but I’ll try to read a bit more sometime this week.

I think that’s sufficient for now Bookbaggers, but I’ll leave you with a few fun things to make up for my disappearance 🙂

Firstly I took this quiz during Banned Book Week and posted it to the Book Polygamist Facebook page:Which banned book are youI got Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut which I had never read, so I thought why not buy it and read it for Banned Book Week? I didn’t end up getting it until the last day of Banned Book Week and I didn’t start it until the 1st of October, but it was so good and such a short read (177 pages) I polished it off over one weekend.

This leads onto my next bit of fun which is another Thug Notes video:

Lastly, it’s Mental Health Week here in Oz and our public broadcast station the ABC is doing an initiate called Mental As…, showing a series of programs related to mental health in an effort to promote awareness, stop the stigma of mental illness and raise money for mental health research. As I have an anxiety disorder and most of the people in my life have struggled with mental illness at some point in their lives or have loved ones that have (and don’t we all really?) this event is important to me and I was keen to watch the programs, particularly Felicity’s Mental Mission, a doco by Felicity Ward which aired Monday. There are a few short clips on YouTube from the show, but I thought I’d share with you the hilarious, but poignant song by comedic musical duo Sammy J and Randy:

If you are in Australia (or elsewhere but you know how to get around all the technical stuff which stops you from watching geographic-specific videos) you can watch the full show on iView until the 5th of November.

I think that’ll do for now, O wonderous Bookbaggers 🙂

Stay tuned for a run-down of all the books I’ve read since I last posted (at some point soon) and some Notable Quotables which I’ve been collecting, but until then:

Don’t be afraid to ask somebody R U OK? even if you think they’ll give a stupid answer…

don't be lasagna

or have a extreme reaction…

post-51047-Doctor-Who-shut-up-gif-Imgur-s-Puqd

and a hug is always nice, even if it may be one-sided at first…

doctor-who-deep-breath-peter-capaldi-clara-hug

And if you or someone you know are struggling with mental health issues there are tonnes of organisations and associations out there that can help such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue (Australia), Mental Health America or NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness (USA) Mind or Rethink (UK). These are only a couple of examples of organisations in the countries that most view this blog, but other international organisations can be found on The Centre for Global Mental Health website or by Googling something like “mental health help *insert country/city/town/desert island/etc.*”.

Cya next time Bookbaggers!

tumblr_inline_mnbnqwxr2A1qz4rgp

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Challenge Update – Failed Week 2 of Short and Sweet & 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy + a Winning Weekend

Why hello there my jaunty, jocular Bookbaggers!

Welcome to what I have laughingly called the second update of my new challenges, Short and Sweet and 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy, despite the fact that last week was a bit of a fail challenge-wise.

As it was my first week back to work after term break, as well as my first week on a diet/exercise plan, it wasn’t a huge surprise that I had barely enough time over the week to complete my challenge goals. Add in planning for my boss’ birthday lunch last week, and her going away party this week, and a wonderfully fun weekend including seeing a comedy gig on Friday night and celebrating my friend Scott’s birthday on the Saturday and Sunday and it’s no wonder that my challenge results were lame:

Short and Sweet challenge badgeI didn’t read any more stories from either Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan or The Living Dead zombie anthology, but I have been reading No Nice Girl by Perry Lindsay a lot to and from work, and in fact I finished it yesterday morning.no nice girlIt wasn’t a life-changing book, or as amazing as High-rise, but its charmingly cheeky, late 1940’s humor made it a fun commute book, and by the end I was surprisingly invested in the characters and longed to know what would happen next. Even though last week had almost no action in this challenge, on the flip-side there wasn’t definite inaction either and I have picked a new book to replace No Nice Girl which I can tell you about in my next update 🙂

1000+ pages of epic fantasy challenge badgeThis challenge was more actively inactive…

The Sending:

Maruman on the cover of The Sending0 pages (0 chapters)

Pages remaining: 441

Brisingr:

Brisingr0 Pages (0 chapters)

Pages remaining: 570

Total:

0 Pages

Pages remaining: 1011

Not a great result so early in the challenge, but as there were good reasons behind my lack of reading, rather than just laziness, I’m not going to beat myself up about it, and as I have a much less eventful weekend planned this week I hope to make amends 🙂

Now onto the much more exciting update of my weekend!

It all kicked off on the Friday, when Sarah and I had tickets to see Felicity Ward’s show, “Iceberg” as part of the Perth International Comedy Festival!

Image from laughingstock.com.au

Image from laughingstock.com.au

It was absolutely hilarious – even more funny than Sarah and I were expecting (we had only seen/heard her on TV and podcasts, never live before) and like any really good stand-up show it also was quite poignant and revolved around a central concept. If this wasn’t enough Felicity announced at the end of the show that she would be selling DVDs of a previous show – The Hedgehog Dilemma – outside for $10! Sarah and I obviously stayed behind to grab one each and were surprised to see that Felicity had set up a modest little selling area (pretty much a little table with DVDs on that she stood next too) and was happily signing DVDs and chatting to people. When we got to the front we had a nice little chat too and left a little stunned that someone who was so amazing on stage was also a really nice, down-to-earth and humble person.

Saturday the fun continued as Sarah and I journeyed into the city centre to celebrate Scott’s birthday and participate in Free Comic Book Day! While Scott is a regular Free Comic Book Day goer, Sarah and I had heard about it (and of course last year Scott kindly picked me up a few comics) but never organised ourselves enough to check it out. Since the event always falls on the first Saturday in May, and this year that’s the weekend before Scott’s Very Important Birthday (I won’t say what number makes it Very Important so he can remain mysterious to all you other Bookbaggers 😉 ) so it seemed a perfect way to kick off celebrations.

Staring from 10ish (AKA Sean Connery at Wimbleton time) we traveled around to four comic book stores in Perth – starting with Comiczone of course, where we got the majority of our free loot, and Sarah and Scott purchased additional bounty; then to the newest of the bunch, Perth Comic Centre (which were hosting the event for the first time and looked quite shocked/pleased by the flood of people going through their tiny shop) where Sarah gasped with joy at the free copy of The Tick which we had not seen at Comiczone; then to Quality Comics where we nabbed a couple more freebies; and lastly Red Griffin Games where I bought a Dr Seuss bag to carry my growing load of comics, plus The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You.

Then feeling slightly foot-sore and over-excited by the sheer volume of free (FREE!) comics we had acquired, lunch was on the horizon, so we ventured down Shafto Lane (a hidden-gem alleyway in the Perth metro with a Irish pub, eateries and shops) in pursuit of Japanese. Unfortunately when we approached the large Taka’s Kitchen we encountered closed doors with a sign proclaiming they’d had to close due to a problem with their gas. Unperturbed we decided that we’d eat at one of many other Japanese places nearby, but before we left Scott suggested we browse the neighboring bookstore, Stefan’s Books. Now, Sarah and I had vowed beforehand that we would be partaking only in free comics and would save our cash for lunch and dinner…yes, we may have already broken that vow by buying a few comics but as Sarah’s were both Tank Girl they didn’t count (Tank Girl being as important, if not more than food) and my carry bag and new Sandman were also vitally important, so we felt we could safely enter a bookshop without being tempted.

We were wrong. Within moments of entering the store Sarah spotted a tantalising shelf of Clive Barker, including the second omnibus of Books of Blood (containing volumes 4-6) which she had been looking for since she found the first set in an op-shop maybe 10 years ago. As I had also read, and loved, volume 1-3 we both stood and stared at the book, almost openly salivating, but managed to avert our eyes and peruse the rest of the books. Then the shopkeeper (Stefan himself) tempted us further by producing a hard cover volume of re-imagined Grimm’s Faerie Tales featuring prominent authors such as Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris (these being the two I especially went “Ooooooo!” over) which he accidentally got instead of paperbacks so was selling at a paperback price!

At this point Sarah and I gave in and I suggested to her that if she got Books of Blood I’d get the faerie tales and we could loan them to each other. That was the only crumb of convincing we needed, so we headed to the counter where I noticed a beautiful display of the new hardcover Discworld books. Since I am now up to Eric I pulled that one out to take a look (just a look!) which prompted Stefan to tell me about an even more exciting volume he had – a single copy he had found in a supplier warehouse of the rare first illustrated hardcover edition (all of those words fill me with glee). I was doomed from the moment he said there was only one copy, as I’m a sucker for lonely, abandoned goods and one look at the illustrations by Josh Kirby throughout, and I was doomed. I couldn’t justify buying it that day however, but Stefan is holding it for me until Friday 🙂

eric

This is the kind of art found inside - just stunning

This is the kind of art found inside – just stunning

We then had Japanese at a little place down the road before heading off to Scott’s neck of the woods to examine our haul of comics and watch some comic-themed DVDs, detouring on the way to buy additional beverages and for Scott to show us the awesome owl sculpture in front of his local library. Once we got back to Scott’s and unburdened, Sarah and I gave Scott his birthday presents and then we looked through our free comics (we each got around 20!) and chatted about our fabulous day.

free comic book day collage

My haul spread out, plus the official Free Comic Book Day poster which Scott made into badges for us all, my Dr Seuss bag that managed to handle a crazy amount of comics and books, and the fantastic owl sculpture

For the viewing part of the birthday celebration day we started with the newest Simpsons episode, which was about movie piracy and very funny; followed by two episodes of the Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which featured the 11th Doctor played by Matt Smith; then a documentary about the development of comics from the 1930’s-’80s called Comic Book Confidential; then an epic two-part animated Batman movie, The Dark Knight Returns which sees Batman come out of retirement to clean up Gotham and generally be badass; and lastly another two-ep arc of The Sarah Jane Adventures featuring David Tennant, the 10th Doctor.

movie collageOur amazing weekend continued the next day when Scott surprised Sarah and I with gifts (just comics and DVDs he didn’t want/need anymore, but still – it’s his birthday!) and then we got ready and headed off to have a big breakfast-for-lunch of pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns with maple syrup and iced-coffees (aw man my nutritionist is not going to be pleased with my weekend eats! I get a free day but I may have dragged it out over two :P).

As the bought books in the top row are outnumbered by the gifted ones below, and definitely by the load of free ones, they don't count as spending money....that's what I keep telling myself anyway :P

As the bought books in the top row are outnumbered by the gifted ones below, and definitely by the load of free ones, they don’t count as spending money….that’s what I keep telling myself anyway 😛

From the top my new goodies are: Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome by various; The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman (writer), Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, Dick Giordano, George Pratt, Stan Woch (artists), Daniel Vozzo (colourist), and Todd Klein (letterer); Morning Glories Vol. 1: For a Better Future by Nick Spencer (writer), Joe Eisma (artist), and Rodin Esquejo (cover artist); iZombie Vol. 1: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson (writer), Mike Allred (artist), and Laura Allred (colourist); and last but not least, Hoax Hunters Book 1: Murder, Death, and the Devil by Michael Moreci, Steve Seeley (writers) JM Ringuet, Axel Medellin Machain, and Emilio Laiso (artists).

Overall it was a fantastic weekend, and I hope that Scott had a wonderful time too – he deserves it 🙂

That’ll be it for now Bookbaggers, but hopefully next week I will have a more prosperous challenge update for you!

Until then here’s some animals waving:

whale

bear

  Mike