Monday, March 30, 2009

Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold.
It's hard to believe that this is Sebold's debut novel, it's so well written.
It's the story of Susie Salmon who is murdered at 14. The murderer, an absolute creep, lives just a few doors down from her family home. Her father knows he did it but there's no evidence.
Susie narrates the story from her Heaven - she watches her family and friends as they try to deal with her death. She watches as her parents falls apart and then struggle to get back to some sort of normality. She watches her brother and sister grow from children to young adults. She sees her friends grow up. All of these people struggle to come to terms with Susie's death. It's not until they do come to terms with it that Susie is able to let go.
It's not a morbid book by any means and I found myself smiling quite a lot. Susie is a heart warming character and her observations are insightful as well as moving. At times I was also moved to tears.
The novel is a great examination of how people deal with the death of a loved one - the lows they sink to and the way they eventually rise from those lows to carry on.
Highly recommended.

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Road trip :: sounds good

  2. Pool hall :: snooker

  3. Extraordinary :: special

  4. Jackson :: Browne

  5. Heartfelt :: sincere

  6. Wet :: water

  7. Strangle :: asphyxiate

  8. .com ::

  9. Touched :: felt

  10. Insipid :: ineffectual

from here

Sunday, March 29, 2009

First game of the season

And the Saints have started with a win. They beat Sydney (in a pretty scrappy game) by 15 points. Yay!!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Fill-ins

1. "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit."

2. "She did like to natter but that ain't no matter."

3. "After dark the rain began to fall again, 'twas a dark and stormy night."

4. "Captain Jack Sparrow plucked the hair from his back, twisted it into a rope and escaped from the hold of the Spanish galleon."

5. "There was a hand in the darkness and I held it tight."

6. "Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, which is why it pays to be suspecting."

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to just a quiet night, tomorrow my plans include watching the Saints play their first match of the season and Sunday, I want to be celebrating a Saints win!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It begins....

Child 44

by Tom Rob Smith.
Three words: Stalinist Russia. Bleak.
The book is essentially a murder mystery but, set as it is in 1950s Russia, is also a 1984esque story of the individual's struggle against the totalitarian state.
Both Orwell and Solzhenitsyn did it better.

There are enough twists and turns to keep the story interesting - the finaland quite significant twist did, in fact, come as something as a surprise.
However, I got fed up with Smith constantly bludgeoning me with the evils of the Stalinist state. And bludgeon he does. Endlessly.
Still, the hunt for the murderer was sufficiently well told to keep me intrigued. Leo, who works for the State Security forces, the MGB, is sent to tell his friend that their child was not murdered, it was just an unfortunate accident (it happened near a railway line). The fact that the boy's stomach had been removed and his mouth filled with dirt was seen as irrelevant somehow. There is no crime in Stalin's Russia you see.
Meanwhile, Leo's wife comes under suspicion as a spy - which she's not but that's irrelevant too. An accusation is the same as a guilty verdict. (And I wish I had a dollar for every time Smith made that point.)
Leo is demoted and they're sent to a town out in the East. While there, another child is murdered in the same way. Leo starts to investigate. He finds that there have been 44 such murders across the country - following the railway line.
What follows is Leo's attempts to hunt down the murderer - against the orders of his superiors who have already convicted various undesirables for these crimes.
That part of the story is worth reading.

One other thing that annoyed me - this is a book in dire need of a decent proof reader!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Studio :: recording

  2. Meetup :: should be two words I'm sure

  3. Ostrich :: feathers

  4. Jokes :: can vary in funniness

  5. Estranged :: alienated

  6. Random :: haphazard

  7. Slap :: slip slop slap

  8. Hotel room :: sterile

  9. Inscribe :: write in

  10. Polar :: star

from here

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt

This week's theme is yellow:

Yellow, originally uploaded by jsarcadia.

Friday, March 20, 2009

a big boy did it and ran away

by Christopher Brookmyre.
My brother recomended I read this author. At first I wasn't convinced it was such a good idea but, by the end, I was more than glad I did.
Ray Ash has recently begun his career as a teacher of English in a Glasgow school, where the kids give him the runaround well and truly. He prefers to play computer games and also had a brief career playing drums in an indie pop band - one hit wonders.
He has a wife and new baby and is wondering where his life has gone. He likes to go to the airport and dream. While there he sees Simon Darcourt, a major figure from his university/musician past. The only problem with this is that Darcourt has been dead for three years, killed in a plane crash. His body was never found though.
It turns out that Darcourt is the Black Spirit, a major terrorist. He has no cause, no beliefs. He just carries out terrorist activities for others, whoever pays. He is the most wanted man everywhere, except that nobody knows who he is.
Darcourt has Ash kidnapped (after a failed attempt to kill him) because he doesn't want Ash blabbing that he's seen him. Ash, of course, has blabbed to the police, but they don't believe him at first. While the kidnap is taking place a couple of smart-alec truants from Ash's class sneak into the baddies' truck and are also, inadvertantly, kidnapped.
What follows is a very entertaining action thriller. Darcourt is trying to blow up a major hydro-electric plant in Scotland. Ash and the detective who finally believes him are trying to stop him. The two kids also do their bit, mainly just by being naughty kids. They are hilarious.
There are lots of flashbacks throughout the book as Ash and Darcourt's back story is fleshed out. This back story is necessary to explain the motivations behind Darcourt's chosen career as a terrorist - ego has a lot to do with it. It also helps explain why Ash acts as he does.
Language warning - the f and c words are used regularly and most dialogue is in Glaswegian Scottish (a weird and very colourful language all of its own!).
Very entertaining.

Friday Fill-ins

1. Why do we have to grow old?

2. Flickr and FFI are now habits.

3. I have been out all day.

4. I had never heard the phrase "____ " and I still haven't.

5. I do everything the way I always do.

6. How was I to know what to write for #4?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to starting a new book, tomorrow my plans include another family dinner for visiting relatives and Sunday, I want to maybe play some vinyl records!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Sunburn :: avoidable

  2. Aquarium :: fish

  3. Otter :: sleek

  4. Awesome :: the world's most overused word

  5. LOL :: hahaha

  6. Accordion :: squeeze box

  7. Hot Pocket :: the money's burning a hole in it

  8. Grandstand :: MCG

  9. Shaved :: head

  10. Upgrade :: computer

from here

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Fill-ins

1. When I look to the left, I see the view out my window.

2. Probably one of the rooms in the granny flat up on top of the rise is the room that has the best view in my home.

3. Let it ME work.

4. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap!

5. Paying taxes is a responsibility that all qualified citizens must share.

6. If you have any spare cash feel free to give it to poor impoverished me.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching the NAB Cup Grand Final, tomorrow my plans include family dinner for the overseas relatives who are visiting and Sunday, I want to take it as it comes!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

First Casualty

by Ben Elton.
A murder mystery set in 1917, at first in England and then at the Western Front. As with all Elton's crime fiction, the book is not so much concerned with the crime and its solving, but with an examination of the society within which the crime occurs.
Douglas Kingsley, a London policeman and the central character, has refused to fight in WW1. His objections are based on intellect and logic and he is swiftly denounced as a traitor by all and sundry. He is sent to prison where he is nearly beaten to death for his "crime". Meanwhile Captain Abercrombie, a decorated soldier, celebrated patriotic poet, aristocrat and son of a leading parliamentarian, and also a closet homosexual, is murdered while recovering from war wounds in a Belgian hospital. It's announced that he was killed in action because it just wouldn't do to let it be known that such a famous member of society had been murdered in his bed.
Kingsley is spirited out of prison (and is announced as shot dead while trying to escape), is given a new identity as a military policeman and is sent off to the western Front to investigate Abercrombie's murder.
What follows is a thoroughly good read.
There are numerous references to the politics of the time - the domestic political situation, the question of Irish Nationalism, the threat of Bolshevism, the Suffragettes, the British class system. All get an airing as Elton weaves his way through the mud of Flanders.
The curious situation of Kingsley is central to his examination of the effects of that horrendous war on the people involved in it. Kingsley is utterly opposed to the war but finds himself forced to fight in it as he conducts his investigation. Elton's descriptions of the slaughter, the shell-shocked men, the privations they faced on a daily basis are detailed but not in any over the top way. He is very matter of fact about it - that's the way it was and men dealt with it as best they could. There are several passages where Kingsley ruminates on the treatment of these millions of men by the government that has sent them to fight on its behalf - the lack of decent food, the chronic shortage of fresh water, the way they are herded from place to place like sheep, the sheer senselessness of trench warfare in general.
Elton uses language that is highly appropriate to the times - he is very adept at that sort of thing I've noticed. He is also very adept at giving a realistic but entertaining snapshot of the society he has chosen to write about. This particular book is extremely ironic but not laden with the outright humour that other books of his have been. I guess there's nothing in the trenches of WW1 really to laugh about.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Mourning :: grieving

  2. Approval :: go ahead

  3. Lotion :: moisturiser

  4. Perspire :: sweat

  5. Language :: communication

  6. Defection :: treachery

  7. Play :: drama

  8. Graphic :: novel

  9. Spicy :: food, yum.

  10. In love :: Friday I'm

from here

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Piece of My Heart

by Peter Robinson.
Robinson is a British crime writer who's main character is Inspector Banks. This is the first Banks novel I've read.
Two murders - one in 1969, one in the present day (roundabout 2005). There is seemingly no connection between the two, until Banks works it all out towards the end of the book.
The first murder was of a young woman at a rock festival in Yorkshire. She was killed while, wait for it..... Led Zeppelin were playing. Well, any book that mentions the mighty Zep on the first page just has to be read. The band's name pops up regularly as the story progresses but, really, they have nothing to do with the plot. Lots of other names pop up too, all actual musicians/bands (except for the fictitious band which the story revolves around) - it's almost as if Robinson is trying to prove his musical credibility by name-dropping at every available opportunity.
The second murder is of a 30ish man, also somewhere in Yorkshire.

The story flits back and forth between 1969 and 2005 as two sets of detectives try to solve their respective crimes. Banks appears only in the 2005 sections. Initially, there's no rhyme or reason to this double story. It's almost as if Robinson has written two seperate murder mysteries and spliced them together at random. Slowly, however, the links between the two cases begin to emerge and eventually all loose ends are neatly tied off.
An easy read.

Saturday Photo Hunt

This week's theme is space. Here's 10 minutes of space....

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Fill-ins

1. Patting a dog was my last random act of kindness.

2. Another place another time.

3. I am a failure in matters of the heart.

4. Coffee, tea or alcohol.

5. We are all on separate paths.

6. Our response to the bushfire crisis reminds me that there is hope for humankind.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching some football on TV and getting the new place sorted out, tomorrow my plans include family gathering for Peter and Clare's birthdays (27/2 and 3/3 respectively and Sunday, I want to finish getting the new place sorted out!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Status report

It seems that the fire danger is over for now. Rain overnight has eased the pressure. The big fires continue to burn but are safely controlled at the moment.
For the first time since that horrible Saturday - Black Saturday, as they're calling it now - I woke today to a sky clear of smoke. 'Twas a beautifully ordinary sight.

Settling in to the new place has been an interrupted process due to evacuations. I'm back here now and intend to try to stay here for more than one day at a time!

Internet access is intermittent at the moment. I'm tapping into an unsecured wireless network which may or may not belong to the main house. It probably does as there's nothing else around here for miles. I haven't had a chance to sit down and work it out with the owners yet as we all keep rushing off to safer destinations!

The signal is very weak and keeps cutting out. I'm going to have to do something about this!!!!

It is, as they say, all up from here.

The first thing I did was set up the stereo - can't believe I'm listening to David Coverdale though. He does have Jimmy Page playing guitar for him though so it's not all bad. Kind of what Led Zeppelin would have sounded like if they'd been a mainstream metal/heavy rock band. Makes me appreciate the sheer genius of the awesome unit that was Bonham/Jones/Page/Plant all the more.

Hope everyone's well.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Almost feel like I can relax

I think, finally, that the fire threat to this part of the world may be over. Friday's predicted "danger" weather didn't cause any fresh outbreaks - in the Valley, at least. There were several new fires that started in other parts of the state however. None are threatening communites though. There are about half a dozen large blazes still burning but the containment lines appear to be holding. This includes the Kilmore East-Murrindindi Complex South fire, which is the one that was threatening Warburton and the rest of the Yarra Valley. This, together with the North side of the fire complex, is a HUGE blaze. I'm amazed that the authorities have been able to control it. Really, you have to admire the fire fighters and other associated personnel. Most of them are volunteers. It's been over three weeks now, of constant firefighting and vigilance. They must be exhausted. Help has come in from other states and from other countries - more welcome than you could ever imagine!
They say that Tuesday is the next day to worry about as very strong winds are predicted. It's the wind that caused all that devastation on "Black Saturday" as it fanned the flames faster than anyone could believe. Or escape from.
But, because of what happened that day, now everyone just evacuates. The lesson has been learned at huge cost.

And....I've finally moved into my new abode. It's a smaller room than I've had but lots more space around the property. Of course, now I have to put everything away. I'm not sure what's more onerous - packing or unpacking.