Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Your meme is hosted here:

I’m still reading  1Q84 for the readalong, and I’ve made it all the way to page 114. It’s … slow going. I’m hoping to get into it a bit more tomorrow  - it’s Patrick’s first day back at kindy and my last day on holiday so I”ll have the morning to get some reading done.

I also started Waiting by Ha Jin, which is my January diversity read. Well, better late than never, yes?

Next up … hrm. Good question. Not sure yet. J

Friday, January 20, 2012

Billie's Kiss review

The Tempest is my absolute all-time favourite Shakespeare play. I love the setting, and the concept of it and basically everything it chooses to be.

I’ve owned Billie’s Kiss by Elizabeth Knox for a few years (won it on the Trade Me book quiz actually – lol) and decided this year I’d give it a smack, finally. Also I’m trying to read more of my own books but that’s another story ….

Anyway. It’s Spring, 1903. Billie Paxton is travelling to a remote island with her sister and brother-in-law where he’s set to take up a position as curator for the local lord.

However, things don’t exactly go to plan when the ship explodes. Billie survives because she jumps ship before the explosion, although she can’t say later why she jumped, and Henry her brother-in-law survives but Billie’s sister and Henry’s wife Edith drowns.

So begins Billie’s new life on the island of Kissack and Skilling under a very black cloud.

She negotiates her new life under the suspicious gaze of Murdo Hesketh, a fellow passenger on the ship.

I keep going back and forth. I loved The Vintner’s Luck, which remains one of my favourite books, and I liked Billie’s Kiss – a lot – but I think love is too strong a word. I kept waiting for … something, and I still couldn’t tell you what I was waiting for.

There are a lot of scenes in which nothing exactly happens, although the subtext is rife, and then there are several action-driven sequences which kind of go … I’m not even sure.

I will say, though, that I loved Billie as a character. She’s complex, independent and fearless and the absolute opposite of a shrinking violet.

My feelings for Murdo Hesketh were more complicated – mostly by the fact that he suspected Billie of sabotage for longer than he should have in face of the evidence presented.

If I were opening a box of Roses chocolates, let’s say this  is the one with strawberry filling. Never a favourite, but still tasty in its own way.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday – what are YOU reading? Your meme is hosted here:

At the moment I’m mostly reading 1Q84 still for the readalong with Care and Kailana. I’ve stalled a bit on page 53, which is no fault of the book itself but rather of the fact I over-exerted myself on Friday and my poor battered body is still paying for it – lol.

So my concentration is a little bit shot as well. However, I’m planning on getting back into 1Q84 in as big a way as I can this week.

In the meantime, for a little light relief, I’m re-reading Half-blood Prince. I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter over the past year or so and I’ve been working my way up to this one for a few months because of how sad it made me last time. Once I’ve read it I’ll watch the movie, then do the same for Deathly Hallows.

So. What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

General random update

I’m on holiday. I haven’t had a proper holiday since … last February.

Traditionally, I take the bulk of my leave around the Oscars, because I always take that Monday off anyway so build the rest of my time off around it. Yes, really.

Then I usually have two to three weeks off later in the year, depending on how much leave I have to take.

Of course last year most of my leave plans post-February were jossed because of events outside of my control.

I had a couple of weeks off when I had surgery, and a week or so when Mum died in July but apart from that, nothing.

So I’ve been hanging out for these three weeks since I put the request in – lol.

Patrick’s off from kindy as well so we’re both kind of hanging out. He wants me to build him  a car out of cardboard boxes. I can’t see that going well for me, but he’s four so will hopefully be easy to please – lol.

Other than that, I’ve been surfing and reading; doing some cross stitching, watching the odd movie and catching up on some TV programmes.

At the moment – and I’m aware that I’m more than a bit behind – it’s The Borgias, and I have two episodes of season 1 to go. I’m finding it rather fun in a strange, slightly depraved sort of way. After that I have season 2 of Downton Abbey and season 1 of Game of Thrones to work my way through.

Hopefully by the time I’ve come to the end of those, the terrible summer programming has given way to something with a bit more substance.


I’m working on a Hairy Maclary cross-stitch for Patrick’s birthday in May and while the pattern is lovely, I should have switched out the fabric and maybe the cottons. The fabric is awful – it’s 14ct aida and very stiff. 14ct isn’t my favourite to work on usually – I prefer 16 or 18 because for me it gives a slightly finer finish but I haven’t worked from a kit for so long that I forgot. The cottons, at least, are DMC so I can replace them if I run out but the colour names given (“pepper grey”, “anthracite grey”, “garlic cream” [garlic cream for goodness’ sake – what is that]) are ambiguous at best.

Hopefully I’ve matched them all pretty well but if I haven’t … well. That’ll be our little secret. :p

I finished Billie’s Kiss by Elizabeth Knox yesterday, which turned out to be my third finish for 2012 although I had started my previous two finishes as December 2011 wound down. I’ve counted them anyway – lol.

Elizabeth Knox is one of my favourite writers and I need to sort my always rambly feelings in order to write a review.

I started IQ84 today for the readalong with Care, but only got about 19 pages in before I dozed off. That’s what being on holiday with a four year old does for you. Heh.

It’s baking hot and dry here at the moment, and as I understand it we’re nearly the only part of the country not being excessively rained upon. I’m no heat-seeker so have been spending the bulk of it inside and forgetting that the heat pump also has air-conditioning. Oops.

I’m not going back to work till January 25 so I have another two weeks off, basically.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Windup Girl - review

In a distant, dystopic future, food is at a premium and human life is balanced on the very edge of survival.

Anderson Lake – undercover man for AgriGen, a somewhat shadowed US company, is working at an algae factory in the Thai Kingdom, trying to track down the source of the Thais’ all-important – and pure – seedbank.

Anderson’s days are filled with the factory, and with carefully investigating and asking questions, trying to locate the seedbank. Things are going – slowly, but not badly – until he meets Emiko, the Windup Girl.

Emiko is one of the New People: genetically engineered with certain traits by the Japanese. Ditched in the Thai Kingdom by her former owner, she’s making a living of sorts as a prostitute, catering to those with a taste for the exotic and bizarre.

This rather bleak future is the background for Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut novel, The Windup Girl.

There are other key players as well – Anderson’s corrupt assistant at the factory, Hock Seng. The incorruptible official Jaidee – known as the Tiger – who is the scourge of bribetakers everywhere.

The story, by and large, though, belongs to Anderson and Emiko. Anderson isn’t exactly what I’d call a sympathetic character. He’s a company man through and through, nearly until the end. The only humanising influence in his life is Emiko who is not – for all intents and purposes – actually human.

She’s regarded with suspicion by nearly everyone and the Thai Kingdom regards Windups as little more than genetic mistakes, good for nothing but recycling.

Emiko fights hard against her genetic heritage – the rather doglike obedience that has been introduced into her DNA; against her telltale tick-tock Windup movements that betray her origin, and especially against her soul-crushing job as a prostitute in a very dissolute bar.

Anderson’s fascination gives her hope to reach for something better, but it also has devastating consequences for both of them.

Emiko … Emiko is just haunting. I felt so much sympathy for her, and frustration when her innate obedience forced her to do things that did nothing but degrade her. When she breaks her programming and fights back, she does it in spectacular – and bloody fashion.

I couldn’t like Anderson. I suppose he was supposed to be some kind of anti-hero but really … mostly he’s unpleasant. Emiko does give him back some of his humanity but not enough in the end to redeem him as a character.

Perhaps because of the somewhat grim nature of the future Bacigalupi has created, there are very few sympathetic characters – and they’re the ones who tend to be punished.

However, having said that, there are some bright moments, and some characters are allowed redemption – or at the very least, peace.

The Windup Girl is a very thinky, dense novel; packed with ideas  and terrifying what-ifs.

Good stuff.

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I haven't done this meme for ages!!! Hosted here:
Right now, I'm working my way through The Wind-up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. I'm about half way through and I  have to say, it's a very interesting read. Rather grim, and dystopic but very good. 

 I'm also still plucking away (slowly) at the van Gogh biography that's the same size as my head - lol.

I've just rearranged my bookcases and the one neares my bed is my TBR for the year. Hopefully. It's largely unchanged from last year, so we'll just have to see how well that goes ...

Also on the agenda is IQ84, which I'm planning to start on Saturday for a co-read with It's a BIG book, but I'm on holiday until January 25 so ... bring it on! :D :D