Tuesday, December 31

Happy New Year + News for 2014

On this the last day of 2013, I want to thank you for your support and encouragement.  Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm about the things you love.  Thankyou most of all for giving me this space to find and express myself.  

I hope your new year is full of great books and learning and plenty of opportunities to grow and wonder!

Important Changes for 2014

There are going to be a few changes to Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils next year.  
  • The biggest difference is I am going to begin using my REAL NAME and FACE on this blog, replacing my pseudonym 'The Book Florist'.  A few of you have asked to see the real me and at last you'll be able to!
  • I will be linking this blog to all my other social media accounts.
  • New and updated pages to explore on Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils!

I would like you to be aware of the reason for these upcoming changes.  As an emerging writer attempting to get new work published, online presence is extremely important.  My blog and social media accounts will be a way that my future publishers and readers can contact me or learn more about me personally.  

Of course I adore my book blog and never intend to stop doing what I love.  Therefore I'm excited about this opportunity to be more personal and present in it.  Should be good yay! 

Because January is a very busy month in my family, it may be a little while before these updates come into effect.  Expect a big announcement about the changes within this month!  Thankyou again!  

Thursday, December 19

Nothing can dampen my enjoyment of Tampa

Alissa Nutting's debut novel Tampa is a fast-paced, captivating read on a controversial subject.  

Basically, Tampa about Celeste Price - 8th grade teacher and paedophile.  Tampa was published in August just this year and reviewers are hailing Celeste as the modern female counterpart of Nabakov's Humbert Humbert.

After only a couple of sittings, I'm 3 / 4ths in and utterly enthralled.  I feel like the writing itself is invisible, allowing the racing plot to hold its own.  It feels completely unselfconscious.  

I have found the reading process to be effortless.  While my moral conscience sends up warning flares every few chapters, I can do nothing to resist the slow, painless suck of the story.  

I think people expect books like Tampa to challenge conceptions of right and wrong.  However, what this novel details is so obviously wrong - legally and morally - that it makes me wonder if insisting on a grey area is actually the point of it at all...  I guess it still remains to be seen.  

Regardless of the topic, Alissa Nutting has written a book that is utterly readable and nothing can dampen my enjoyment of it.  It's a book I look forward to discussing and arguing about.  

Saturday, December 14

My Summer Holiday Reading List

Reviews for the books on my holiday reading list.  
Please share your summer reads in the comments below.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

This is the 2nd book in Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi trilogy, Dune.  Dune is continuously hailed as the No. 1 sci-fi book of all times and for good reason.  

I adored the first book with its epic scale and complex plot weaving prophecy, subterfuge, religion, war and politics on the desert world of Arrakis.  Dune Messiah is just as compelling as the first and a much more manageable length so it can be happily devoured within a day or so.  

While it is a highly entertaining book, it's emotional impact makes it incomparably more important than the common pulp paperback fiction.  It is a series I will return to again and again for its great plot and superb writing.  

  The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket

This is the 12th and second-last book is Lemony Snicket's grim Series of Unfortunate Events.  While I'm yet to finish the series, I've enjoyed every bit of it so far.  

The pace is quick, the wit knife-sharp and surprising.  Snicket's writing is full of ingenious side-steps, upside-down logic and hilariously memorable anecdotes.  The Baudelaire orphans are endearing heroes for whom I cheer for through every turn of their tragic story. 

Filth by Irvine Welsh

Have you heard about the new film adaptation?  As a lover of Welsh's classic Trainspotting, I jumped at the opportunity to read something else of his.  

What I adored about Trainspotting was the constant and confronting grittiness, the Scottish accent that pervades the narrative and the fast pace.  Unfortunately, Filth doesn't have any of these things.  After Trainspotting, it's grittiness seems wane and the voice suffers from its lack of rollicking dialect.  

I'm sure this book is good in its own right and nothing could lessen my appreciation of Welsh as a writer.  I just struggled to enjoy it as my expectations were set on something very different.  

 Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

I was thinking about a new children's story idea I'd like to write during the holidays and the mood of it reminded me of a Roald Dahl book.  Feeling I could use his inspiration, I checked out what my library had on stock.

I've never read Esio Trot before but I'm sure that when I get to it I won't be disappointed.  Roald Dahl is always sure-fire in his voice and imagination.  It's also only a little book so I'll probably enjoy it in one sitting with a cup of tea.  

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is one of my favourite writers.  You might remember how much I raved about his masterpiece Atonement.  Set in 1972, Sweet Tooth is his latest release and I'm eager to discover how his voice has developed since then.  

It's a story of espionage and seducation.  I'll be definitely blogging about this one.  McEwan's writing is crystalline in its perfection and everything I've read of his has been charged with intrigue.  I was in the mood for a spy thriller, and who better to satisfy this craving than a literary master.  
Tampa by Allisa Nutting

It was this borderline pornographic front cover that compelled me to learn more about this book.  Published this year, Tampa is praised as presenting the female version of Nabakov's Humbert in Lolita with great success.  

Reviews suggest that Tampa will inspire controversy and discussion as a great book club read.  I'm excited to try Nutting's debut novel and see what sort of reaction it inspires.  

I'd love to hear about your holiday reading so leave a comment below to share.

Friday, December 6

Review: Cloudstreet

Tim Winton's modern classic Cloudstreet is unavoidably a masterpiece. But unlike the works that we normally associate with the esteemed "M word", it isn't prim, cold and correct.  

This book is life and grit and salt and sweat.  It is the dirt you build a home on and it is a gift.  

Source: au.news.yahoo.com
My aim in writing this review is to acknowledge the impossibility of summing this book up.  How can I possibly describe a book that has changed my life?  It's futile trying to give you my experience in a nutshell when you can only really know by experiencing it yourself.  

So this is really a lousy stab at revealing my heart. 

Cloudstreet is deliciously well-written.  I read it in a state of constant swoon.  Tim Winton treats Australia like rare magic, and now the sky and earth appears to me imbued with dreams.  

The book is life.  I've never been so shocked and so upset.  Great sadness sits beside great happiness in its swelling tide.  It was real for me, every bit.  

When I finished reading it, all I could do was weep and hold the book tight against my chest.  I felt that for the first time, I had been given a piece of life and hope all my own.  It is a gift I didn't feel worthy to receive, but no one can take it from me because now Cloudstreet is in my veins.  

I never felt alone reading it.  This is a book that deserves to be read in community and togetherness, to be shared and talked about until you're forced to admit that you could never get to the bottom of it. It is an individual and communal experience.  

Cloudstreet for me is an epiphany of what it is to love.  What is it to be a family? And what is home - people or places?  Within it's pages I found an indescribable surety I was alive.  

Thursday, December 5

The X-Ray Car

Tim Winton pounces on his unsuspecting reader with gorgeous passages like this one:

They came home from the river one day to find Lester Lamb waiting for them on the bonnet of an ancient Rugby, dressed in his threadbare suit and gorgeously pleased with himself.  He showed them the car.  It was a dusty, black old banger with tyres smoother than a baby's bum and rust beneath the paint like a spreading cold sore.  He showed them every angle, every virtue, including the side-blinds he's made himself from old X-rays which gave a curious effect of mortality to an afternoon drive: you saw the world through compound fractures, you saw the river in an old soldier's lungs, sky through the skulls of shellshocked corporals.  
It's yours, he said, you need a car.  
We need a car, said Quick.
But this is more than a car, said Rose, it's an experience.

Tim Winton.  1991.  Cloudstreet.  Viking.  p 359.

I found this startlingly beautiful, the last thing I expected to hear and forever memorable.  His imagination is sacred to me.  How does he produce things like this?  

Cloudstreet is so teeming, chockablock full of his insanely beautiful images.  Having finished the book, I hold it now with reverence, unable to escape the feeling that I am holding something living, breathing and invaluable.  

Please watch out for my concluding review of Cloudstreet!

Monday, December 2

Tidbits from Tim Winton

I've almost finished reading Tim Winton's classic Cloudstreet and what an unforgettable ride it's been.  But I want to back track to share with you three tidbits from his beautiful writing.  

Just near the crest of a hill where the sun is ducking down, the old flatbed Chev gives up the fight and stalls quiet.  Out on the tray the kids groan like an opera.  All around the bush has gone the colour of cold roast.

Tim Winton.  1991.  Cloudstreet.  Viking.  p 25.

The thing that I so adore about this passage is the use of images.  More specifically, I adore how you have to provide your own interpretation as to what those images mean to you.  

"...the bush has gone the colour of cold roast..."  This is pregnant with so much meaning.  For me it means hot turning to tepid cool, red turning to pinky grey, fragrance changing from burnt to wearily smokey.  For you it might bring to mind completely different things.  It might mean anything depending on who is reading it and therefore it is alive.  

She was at the piano one evening a few weeks after, mulling over the possibilities for diversion, when her heart stopped.  She cried out in surprise, in outrage and her nose hit middle C hard enough to darken the room with sound.  Her nose was a strong and bony one, and there was middle C in that library until rigour mortis set in.  The room soaked her up and the summer heat worked on her body until its surface was as hard and dry as the crust of a pavlova.  

Tim Winton.  1991.  Cloudstreet.  Viking.  p 36.

This is grisly, crunchy and haunting.  "Middle C" becomes a theme throughout the story.  It's a disturbing introduction to the house but so succinctly sets up the atmosphere.  

Fish Lamb is flying.  The trees pass in a blur as he glides low, and the glass is cold against his cheek. On the back of his neck, his mother's hand feels like a hot scone.  

Tim Winton.  1991.  Cloudstreet.  Viking.  p 46.

In everything, there is a hint of deliciousness - an allusion to sultry, toothsome fragrance.  The world he writes is our world but the magic is brought to the surface.  

I have a few more things to share before I write my concluding review.  This book has been such an experience, such a lifetime, that I can't bear to let it go just yet.  There's so much to talk about and yet so much I can't put into words.  I hope that you will decide to treat yourself to this book.  It is a masterpiece and a gift.