The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared

Jonas Jonasson
Allen & Unwin
Published 12th September 2012 (in Australia)
Gifted by Allen & Unwin (thank you!)

The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared – this title pretty much wraps up the book. My friend started to ask me what it was about, saw the title, and was like “ah. I got it.” But the question on everyone’s lips – the director of the nursing home, the police, the media – is where did he go?

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Lyrebird Hill

Lyrebird Hill
 Author: Anna Romer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: August 24th to 25th, 2014
Read Count: 1
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.

Anna Romer has written an intriguing story of family secrets, lies and tragedy that takes place at Lyrebird Hill, a three thousand acre property that has been in Ruby’s family since her great-grandmother’s time. After discovering her boyfriend is a cheating prick and also finding out her sister’s death on that same property eighteen years ago may not have been the accident she always thought it was, Ruby returns to Lyrebird Hill seeking answers she had locked away in a vault in her head after suffering amnesia from a head injury that same day her sister died. As her memory returns, she also uncovers family secrets from the diary and letters of a relative from the late 1800s that show that violence, tragedy and death are no strangers to their family. Ruby must search her memory and herself to face the truth of her sister’s death.

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The Romances of George Sand


The Romances of George Sand

Author: Anna Faktorovich
Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press
Star Rating: 3/5
Date Read: July 18th to 28th, 2014
Thank you to LibraryThing and the author for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.

 Who is George Sand? Before I started this book I had no idea, and was lead to some moments of confusion when ‘George’ is referred to as a ‘she’. George Sand, successful 18th century author of romantic novels, was the pseudonym for Aurore Dudevant, nee Dupin, an aristocratic woman who suffers throughout her life with the constraints placed on women during those years. Forced into marriage with a man she doesn’t love, Aurore is on a search for a love that is lasting and true and this leads her to men and one woman companion outside the ties of her marriage while she fights for a divorce and essentially, the right to just be.

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I Am Juliet

Author: Jackie French
Publisher: Harper Collins
Star Rating: 4.5/5
Date Read: June 14th to 15th, 2014
Read Count: 1
 Thank you to the publisher Harper Collins for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.

I have loved Jackie French’s writing since primary school, and Shakespeare since my first time reading Romeo & Juliet in high school. I was that one kid that really got Shakespeare. I thought he was funny and witty, I could see it all as I read it. I went on from Romeo and Juliet to read a lot of Shakespeare plays (my favourite being Much Ado About Nothing), but its funny that the one play that got me into Shakespeare I had some issues with. Romeo was arrogant and rash, Juliet melodramatic. I saw it as a waste of young life. Jackie French’s I am Juliet made me rethink the story I thought I knew.

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Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Author: Tasha Alexander
Publisher: Harper
Star Rating: 2.5/5
Date Read: June 4th to 11th, 2014
A word of warning: you need to be careful when representing historic figures – and also when you’re reading them. It is easy to mistake a fictional account of real events for what really happened. But this is only how the author wanted Elizabeth and other figures to appear. While I’m sure she has done her research (I assume so anyway), there is no one alive today who really knows what Elizabeth was thinking or feeling. Just something to keep in the back of your mind when you’re reading this.

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After Darkness

Author: Christine Piper
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: May 30th to June 1st, 2014
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.

Usually, when it comes to history, particularly war history, we are only really interested in what happened to us, our country, who we consider our people. We always look at things from the way they impacted us. After Darkness shows another side to the story, to the history, of World War II.

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A Little Bush Maid

Author: Mary Grant Bruce
Series: Billabong, Book 1
Publisher: Ward, Lock
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: September 20th to 22nd, 2013
Read Count: 1
I’d never heard of Mary Grant Bruce or the Billabong series until one day my grandmother started talking about the books she read as a child, some 70 years ago now. For all I knew she was making it all up because I had never heard or seen of it anywhere…until I stumbled across the first book A Little Bush Maid in a secondhand bookstore. I bought it immediately, and sat down to see what the fuss was about.

Of course, I loved it. How could I not? It’s Australia, it’s the bush, it’s history (though fiction I believe this portrays an accurate picture of rural Australia at the time), it’s a plucky little heroine who you can’t help but love and a whole other cast of characters. I can see why my grandmother loved this as a child and I only wish I, too, had discovered them at a younger age (being now about 10 years above the target age).

Many who read these books today may be shocked by some of the terms and behaviour used by even the children toward the Aboriginal stable boy. I think it is important to realise, while we should in no way encourage this behaviour, we also shouldn’t try to cover up that part of history. That was the way life was in the 1900s and is clearly very different to life in 2010s. Just to put my two cents in, I see no reason to politically correct any novels, including the Billabong series and also Enid Blyton books, which I believe have been ‘edited’. I think that adults shouldn’t be so shocked that those attitudes did once exist, and I also think that children who read the books should have an understanding of how life used to be different and why it’s not like that anymore.

But I digress! This book is wonderful and I look forward to scrounging around a few more secondhand bookstores to get my paws on the rest!

The Joy Luck Club

Author: Amy Tan
Publisher: Penguin
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: September 30th to October 4th, 2013
The Joy Luck Club is another one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for ages, but without really knowing anything about it, and have finally gotten around to it after buying a slightly battered copy from an op shop (for $1!). The Joy Luck Club is a beautiful and tragic and interesting collection of stories of four interwoven mothers-and-daughters, who together form The Joy Luck Club where they play mah jong and gossip and compare daughters. Each daughter causes her mother to shake her head, and each daughter feels the same way about her mother. There is such a culture divide, even though the daughters are Chinese too, between the American raised daughters and the Chinese raised mothers, that they often have trouble making connections and understanding each other. It is only when Jing-mei’s mother dies that she realises, too late, all the things her mother had to teach her, all the things she never wanted to listen to.

This was written different to what I thought it would be. Instead of a flowing novel, we get snippets of the lives of the women in the novel, from their childhoods, in China and in America, and throughout their lives. It’s interesting to see the contrast between the mothers and daughters. What was the same, however, is how each mother feels misunderstood by her daughter, and each daughter feels misunderstood by her mother. I found it sad how neither seem to reconcile this fact and how both seem incapable to changing it. I would hope the daughters might learn from Jing-mei how much they had to lose, and as mothers make not the same mistakes their own mothers did.

Still, who am I to understand how the relationship between Chinese women and their Chinese-American daughters (who identify more as American than Chinese) work? It is easy for me to stand so far away and identify the flaws, when I don’t know how hard it would be to change.

All in all, a good read that left me with a tear in my eye by the end!

Gulliver’s Travels

Author: Jonathan Swift
Publisher: Collins Classics
Star Rating: 2.5/5
Date Read: February 12th to 24th, 2014
My first review uploaded here in real time, rather than just as part of my backlog of reviews!

Whew. I finished. Go me!

12 days is much longer than it would usually take for me to finish a book less than 300 pages, but you know, there’s been an exam to study for, wakeboarding to do and just, well – this book was just a tad boring. I don’t know how else to say this but it was good and not good at the same time. Let me try to tell you how…

Gulliver’s Travels is firstly a satire of the travellers’ tales so popular at the time (released only 7 years after Robinson Crusoe – which I found rather boring and infinitely worse than this book) and secondly one of the first fantasy-type novels to be published, where Gulliver is thrown into various situations where he is the outcast to miniscule people, giant people, the scientifically advanced people of a floating island, and talking horses. The talking horses is the part that really got to me (despite being quite fond of horses!) but I will get to that later.

Lemuel Gulliver could either be the most unluckiest or the luckiest traveller in the world – depending of course on your point of view. First he is shipwrecked, then abandoned, then attacked by strangers and finally attacked by his own crew. It’s enough to wonder why you would keep heading back out to sea when you had a family and a profession as a surgeon at home. But then followed all the wonderful places he happened upon and people he met, that no other human being had ever laid eyes on (Really? No one else stumbled upon these other magic islands?). Then come some small adventures, mainly a lot of conversation. There is a pattern that follows whenever Gulliver washes up on an island – learn the language (as he is already proficient in languages this isn’t too hard to believe – except when he learns ‘horse’), befriends the natives – usually a king, queen or some other notable individual, becomes adapted to their ways, and then is either unceremoniously asked to leave or himself asks for a passage home – even when none of his hosts know where ‘home’ is.

Gulliver doesn’t have too many adventures within his adventures, instead as he learns the ways and laws of the people he meets, he compares them to his happy home in England, which at the start of the book he is very proud of and by the end he doesn’t want to return to. I was enjoying the satire until the story arrived at Part Four, where Gulliver lands on the home of the Houyhnhnms, or the talking horses. This is where it got way too far fetched for me to enjoy. The horses of this island pronounce distinguishable words through variants of neighing and our little adventurer is able to not only understand but become fluent in their language. These horses are able to, with the hollow between pastern and hoof, use tools and milk cows (are you thinking what? yet?) and keep a herd of brute-like humans known as ‘Yahoos’ for labouring, etc. It is here that our protagonist, kept as a pet, sees the evil of human nature for the first time and laments when he is told to return to his country and the other Yahoos who live there. He doesn’t want to be banished among the others of his kind because he can’t stand their deformities or their smell. Well somebody is up on their high horse now! (Excuse the pun.) I did agree with many of the observations made by Gulliver’s Master Horse but Gulliver only embodies the worst of humankind when he dreads going home to his wife and family, even though he has been gone for five years, and rejects the kindness of the man who rescues him and helps him home. There is so much Gulliver could do with his new knowledge but instead he locks himself up at home, sure he writes a memoir of his travels, but surely once you’ve been exposed to the villainy of humankind wouldn’t you be motivated to inflict some change? Nope, not Gulliver. Sit at home and cry that the horses kicked him off the island and now he has to live with smelly Yahoos who actually have been nothing but kind to him.

I actually think through writing this review I dislike the book and the man more than when I was reading it. 2.5 stars for the enjoyment I did get.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe
Publisher: Reader’s Digest
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: November 6th to 24th, 2013
*Warning, this review contains spoilers!*

‘We ought to be free to meet and mingle – to rise by out individual worth, without any consideration of caste or color; and they who deny us this right are false to their own professed principles of human equality. We ought, in particular, to be allowed here.’

When a book has already been so widely discussed, and for so long, it can be hard to write a review that’s fresh and original. Because what more can be said about Uncle Tom’s Cabin that hasn’t already been said?

I love that books can change people. I love how their influence can shake up society. Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been credited as the book that ‘made this great war’, spoken by Abraham Lincoln about the Civil War. But as stated in the Afterword of this particular edition, by Alfred Kasin, the Civil War would have happened regardless of this book – maybe a little slower, but it would have still happened. This book brought the plight of the slaves into the homes of the average American and made them question what they thought they knew.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a masterpiece, not only for what it achieved but also for the lyrical prose, the larger-than-life characters and that horrible sense of foreboding the author is able to instil. From the beginning, as much as the reader hoped otherwise, it was clear that things were not going to turn out well for Tom. Despite this feeling, I continued to read and get attached to him, even as things got worse. While Tom is himself a fictional character, there were so many like him. As much as it is painful to read of how badly most of the slaves were treated, this book is so important in documenting an embarrassing period for the Americans, which could also be representative of any other body or nation of people who used other humans this way. Nobody wants to believe that their fellow humans could be so cruel. Unfortunately, it did happen.

Reading of people such as Mr. Shelby, the kind master of the plantation where Tom comes from, and St. Clare, who buys him from the slave trader to please his daughter, it seems to me that men such as them represented quite a few slave-owners. They were not inhumane men, they treated their slaves well. The Shelby family educated theirs, while St. Clare was lazy and let his slaves get away with things others wouldn’t.. St. Clare knew that he had made them the way they were, by not educating them or demanding they behave in a certain way. He allowed for it because he knew he was at fault. He also knew the system was at fault, as Mr. Shelby did when he disappeared from the farm the day Tom was taken away. Yet neither did anything about it. While they protected the slaves when they were with them, in the event of debt or death they had not made provisions for their slaves as you would for a family. It makes you start to wonder, what’s worse?

At the end of the novel, young George Shelby, now the plantation owner, learnt from first watching Tom be sold and then watching him die, and was kind to his slaves and also smart about it, too. By granting them freedom but providing somewhere for them to work and live may have been all he could do, but was something more than just setting all the slaves free in a world that they may have been lost in. George Harris risked everything for his freedom and was then able to support his family once free – but not all slaves would have been like George. As seen in Gone With The Wind it was easy for the freed slaves to drink and plunder – they did not accept freedom the same way and it became very hard for the white Americans to live side by side with the freed slaves, and I don’t believe the outcome originally achieved was what was desired. As seen in the character of Miss Ophelia, the Americans from up North wanted the slaves free – but wanted nothing to do with them afterward. Her initial reaction to Topsy shows this. St Clare oft makes a point of this and her coming to live with them was quite a shock to her system, but it gave her a chance to see things for herself. If you truly wish to help the slaves, you must be willing to accept them as equal. Ophelia adopting Topsy as one of her own showed the true character development possible when you learn to see them as people – something Mrs. St Clare never did. I hope that people like her read this novel.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a wonderfully written novel, though shocking in parts. It is a true classic of American literature and I hope this is something they never try to hide. It is important that those times are recognised for what they are, and that we continue to move forward out of a racist history, where people were judged on the colour of their skin and their ancestry.

‘Think of your freedom, everytime you see Uncle Tom’s Cabin and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was.’