Monday, 18 September 2017

The Park Bench

I saw a few people talking about The Park Bench on booktube recently (although now I can't remember who) and was suitably intrigued. I was very happy to find The Park Bench on my first bookshop visit in Melbourne recently. 

Chabouté sounded like a French name which added to the appeal, and indeed it is. Christophe Chabouté is a French author and artist who seems to have had at least three of his books published in English this year. Not that The Park Bench requires all that much in the way of translation. An essentially wordless graphic novel (or rather more excitingly a Bande Dessinée, and it's my first Bande Dessinée), there is very little English- some graffiti, a few newspaper headlines. 

It would be fascinating to find and compare the original French version Un peu de bois et d'acier (oh dear, I actually think the English title is better). Actually there is no translator credited and the words appear in the actual images so perhaps Chabouté himself needed to redraw the particular drawings that contained words. It would be fascinating to know, but I suspect he did. I do wonder what the sad old Barbara Cartland reading lady reads in the French version.

The Park Bench uses an ordinary looking park bench in an unnamed  park to share the lives of the many people who use the park- those who quickly walk past on their way to work, those who have the time to sit and read or sit and share a patisserie, those who skateboard over the bench, the dog who likes to raise a leg on it. There is a homeless man who wants to sleep on the bench and a gendarme who chases him away each night, and as someone who has inadvertently transgressed the rules in a French park it is very true that justice is swift. I love that the park maintenance man is never seen without a cigarette dangling from his lips. 

The French use their parks in many different ways, Parisians leave their apartments and enjoy the extra space, the beauty and atmosphere in the parks as an extension of their home (see my glorious Sunday afternoon in the Luxembourg Gardens). I remembered all of this and more as I read The Park Bench. It's a beautiful celebration of community and life in all its forms, and a contemplation on the passage of time and progress. In a beautiful example of art imitating life The Park Bench was given away on some park benches in London. 

Completely drawn in black and white The Park Bench is a very eye catching book. While I was reading I was aware that while it was a super quick read, it must have taken Chabouté quite a time to create the book. There's a French film (and a concert)! This guy has made an animated film of the book it seems, and taken liberties by adding red. 

I'm very pleased to have discovered Chabouté and will be avidly searching out more of his books, in English and in French. 

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog  

Friday, 8 September 2017


There are many month long healthy activities now. Movember. Dry July. Sugar Free September. Obviously I can't grow a Mo (well not yet anyway), but I contribute money each year. This year a friend did Dry July- I don't drink enough as a rule, I actually need to make an effort and drink more I think.

This September I'm doing Steptember. I've done a similar spring work based step challenge a few years ago, but it didn't have the catchy Steptember name. This year I'm doing it again.

I was thinking about combining it with Sugar Free September again, but I'm starting my September off in Melbourne, where I could hardly claim my activities as Sugar Free. So I think maybe I won't, but I don't know. (Spoiler, I didn't)

In Steptember the challenge is to walk 10, 000 steps every day from September 4 to October 1. I got a Garmin vivosmart HR a few months ago, and I've been using it daily but my daily average has been languishing more around the 9, 000 range, so I do need to step it up a bit (oh I've amused myself now) to get to the 10, 000 average. 

Five days in and I've made my target every day. It's taken some doing- I've had to walk laps of the building after work, walk laps of the street in the cold while waiting to pick up takeaway for dinner, walk in the cold with a cold. I stalk the aisles of Bunnings and my local supermarkets more than I need to. Sometimes I even get to take the dogs out. Still, I haven't dropped the ball yet and it all raises money for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 - The Books

Whenever readers go away the first thing we always do is pick our holiday TBR. We do this long before thinking about what clothes or other sundry items we might need to pack. Even if we're going to a readers festival, where we absolutely know that we will buy more books, we pack books to take with us. 

And so I did. 

A mere five books. I'm getting better though. Last year I took six. And this year it was all MWF themed reads, books for authors I hoped to see. I managed to read 2.5 of them, and had 4 signed.

This year I decided to share my book buying love around Melbourne. I was also on a bit of a quest to visit some new bookshops. My recent fondness for certain corners of book tube has obviously had quite an effect on my book buying habits. 

My first visit was to Hill of Content, obviously not a new destination for me. I bought two books, but one is a present, and still a surprise so not included here. 

Next it was The Paperback Bookshop, a small gem near Hill of Content. For some inexplicable reason I'd never managed to darken the door. This time I did and came aware with a positively restrained three books. 

Then my first visit to the Readings Festival Bookshop was similarly restrained, just two books added to my smallish stack. I had been planning to by The Hate U Give as part of my MWF purchases, and so it was this day. I wasn't expecting to buy Dark Roots, but I have a burgeoning interest in short story (especially Australian short story) and remembered that this was very well thought of. 

One day I popped into Bourke St Book Grocer, a discount chain where books are $10 or less (or 6 for $50, but look how good I was- I stopped at 3!)

Soon after the downfall really started. I stumbled down the stairs of City Basement Books on Flinders St, a great second hand bookstore. I found some long sought after books for my 1001 quest. 

Then the next day I went back to get another six books that I had rather sensibly checked if I already owned. 

At this stage I knew that I needed an intervention. So I mailed 4 kilos of books home knowing that I still had some festival buying to go. I'd planned to buy the top three of these books, but the bottom two were a little surprise. There are of course more festival books that I will buy over time, I just won't be able to get them signed.

All was then going extremely well (I think over 24 hours had passed without me buying any books whatsoever!) and then I had two hours to wait at Central Station in Sydney. I tried going to White Rabbit Gallery in nearby Chippendale, but it was a Monday, and so they were shut. Nothing for it then and I was off like the proverbial white rabbit down the hole to Basement Books. And oh my- I did some damage...

And wouldn't you know it? I got home and two books had arrived while I was away!

Now if you'll excuse me I've got some reading to do. 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 #MWF2017

I've long been a fan of Melbourne Writers Festival. I attended my first MWF back in 2007, but my second wasn't until 2012. Happily since then I've been able to attend most of these annual delights of bookdom.

It's a bookish city when the taxi boots have book ads!

Melbourne is definitely my favourite Australian big city festival (well of the two that I've been to so far). It's so accessible. Mostly all held around Fed Square, the transport is easy (even if you don't get to stay across the road like I do...), it's so compact, you can easily do back to back sessions.

Joyce Carol Oates Keynote

Plus you're in Melbourne. Lots of opportunities for yum cha, cafes, dinner. Eat Melbourne 2017 is in the pipeline, in the meantime we can revisit 2016. And the art galleries are fab too, I caught a few amazing exhibitions this year. More to come on that. And I caught the start of Melbourne Fashion Week which was much more fun than expected. 

This year I saw an astonishing range of Australian and International writers. 

Alice Pung (twice)
Amie Kaufman
Angie Thomas
Anni Hine Moana
AS Patrić
Bruce Pascoe
Charles G Gross
Danielle Binks
Ellie Marney
Hannah Kent
Jennifer Ackerman
Jennifer Down
Jenny Valentish (twice)
Joyce Carol Oates (twice)
Kyo Maclear (twice)
Laurie Penny
Maxine Beneba Clarke (twice)
Megan Abbott
Melanie Cheng
Melissa Keil
Omar Musa
Randa Abdel-Fattah
Reni Eddo-Lodge
Rutger Bregman
Ryan O'Neill
Sarah Schmidt
Shaun Tan
Tracey Chevalier
Zana Fraillon
Zoë Morrison

Sadly, of course I missed many writers that I would have loved to have seen, including

Brian Castro
Jane Caro
Julia Baird
John Safran
Tim Flannery
Tony Birch
Tracey Spicer

But you just can't be everywhere at once. 

Angie Thomas YA Keynote

I am particularly keen to read many (most) of the authors that I saw. Some of them were completely unknown to me before. I was particularly blown away by Angie Thomas' YA Keynote Address. I do hope to do a blog about her session soon(ish), and a number of others, but I tend to be bad at that. I've already started reading The Hate U Give. I also particular keen to read Kyo Maclear, Melissa Keil and Hannah Kent. 

I love festival stacks of books

even more than regular bookshops

so pretty, so much potential. 
The Top 20 MWF Bestsellers at the Readings Festival Bookshop. Writers festivals always give me hope that maybe the world isn't really going to hell in a hand basket, lots of clever, involved people are buying and reading those books.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

SLJ's Top 100 Must-Have YA Books

You can only imagine how excited I was to find this list this week. SLJ's 2015 attempt to list the books that would fill out the 100 YA books that (American) librarians should fill their shelves with- as voted by 300 librarians. Naturally, I had to check it out straight away and Listmania it. 

1 Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling (1/7)
2 The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins 
(see my review)
3 Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
4 The Fault in Our Stars - John Green (see my review)
5 Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
6 The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak
7 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie (see my review)
8 Divergent series - Veronica Roth
9 The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (see my review)
10 Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
11 Looking for Alaska - John Green
12 Monster - Walter Dean Myers
13 The Giver - Lois Lowry (see my review)
14 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 
15 The Maze Runner - James Dashner
16 Graceling - Kristin Cashore
17 Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
18 Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
19 Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
20 I’ll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
21 The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton (see my review)
22 If I Stay - Gayle Forman
23 Legend - Marie Lu
24 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz
25 Feed - M.T. Anderson
26 We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
27 Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card
28 Crank - Ellen Hopkins 

29 Unwind - Neal Shusterman
30 Cinder - Marissa Meyer
31 Twilight - Stephanie Meyer
32 American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang
33 Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins (see my review)
34 Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli
35 Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
36 Every Day - David Levithan
37 Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
38 The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (see my review)
39 The Selection - Kiera Cass
40 A Wrinkle in Time - Madeline L’Engle (see my review)
41 Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
42 Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith
43 Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan
44 City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
45 Eragon - Christopher Paolini
46 The Crossover - Kwame Alexander
47 Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas
48 Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green & David Levithan
49 Winger - Andrew Smith
50 Hatchet - Gary Paulsen (see my review)
51 The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart
52 Wonder - R.J. Palacio (see my review)
53 Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins

54 The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman
55 A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness (see my review)
56 Ash - Malinda Lo
57 Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
58 Sold - Patricia McCormick
59 The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
60 Brown Girl Dreaming.- Jacqueline Woodson (see my review)
61 Just Listen - Sarah Dessen
62 Matched - Ally Condie
63 Paper Towns - John Green
64 Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson
65 Forever - Judy Blume
66 Gabi, a Girl in Pieces - Isabel Quintero

67 I Am the Messenger - Marcus Zusak (see my review)
68 It’s Kind of a Funny Story - Ned Vizzini
69 Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
70 Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo
71 The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey
72 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
73 Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
74 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (see my review)
75 Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood - Marjane Satrapi
76 The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
77 The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater
78 An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
79 Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank (see my review)
80 Bone Gap - Laura Ruby
81 Maximum Ride - James Patterson
82 Sabriel - Garth Nix
83 Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli

84 The First Part Last -Angela Johnson
85 The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer
86 The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater
87 Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass - Meg Medina
88 Beauty Queens - Libba Bray
89 Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
90 Delirium - Lauren Oliver
91 Hate List - Jennifer Brown
92 Little Brother - Cory Doctorow
93 A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
94 A Northern Light - Jennifer Donnelly
95 Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
96 Ask the Passengers - A.S. King
97 Grave Mercy -Robin LaFevers
98 How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff (see my review)
99 More Happy Than Not - Adam Silvera
100 All American Boys - Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Ethel & Ernest

Ethel & Ernest is a graphic memoir by well regarded, multi-awarded  Raymond Briggs. It tells the story of his parents marriage and lives from the time they meet in 1928 to their deaths in 1971.

I've read a few of Raymond Briggs' books now. Probably my favourite so far has been When the Wind Blows, which I read for the first time just a few months ago and I feel the need to reread it, think about it some more and do a post about it. I have also read Burglar Bill, Fungus the Bogeyman and Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age.

I must say that I have a bit of a hit and miss relationship with Raymond Briggs. Sadly Ethel & Ernest was more of a miss for me. I wanted to like it. I expected to like it more. Lauren from Lauren and the Books recently included it in her Mid Year Best Books of 2017, it was a reread for her, and she feels so kindly towards it that she wants everyone to love it too. I wish I had.

Ethel was a ladies maid when she caught Ernest's eye as he rode past on his bike.

Certainly Ethel & Ernest has the gentle charm of Raymond Briggs' rather distinctive cartoon strip artwork. And there are a few moments of wry humour, but I just didn't get a great feeling for the characters of Ethel or Ernest. The book felt more like a vehicle for the historical facts- which I did particularly enjoy. 

Ernest was a milkman, he was a Labour voter true to his working class roots, and he was always reading the paper and commenting on the news of the day. There were quite a few fascinating details about life in London especially during the war. Of course young Raymond was evacuated to the countryside to escape the Blitz, but it was the small details that were especially intriguing to me.

Scrap metal such as gates and saucepans were collected for the war effort, said to be turned into Spitfires. (What became of the gates and railings is even worse that that)
Baths were allowed to be 5 inches deep. Even the baths at Buckingham Palace had the 5 inch lines on them!
I also learnt about the Beveridge Report (1942) which was instrumental in setting up essential social welfare still in existence in the UK. Sick pay, unemployment benefits, government pensions and free, universal health care were all thought up during the rationing and hardships of World War II!

I'm going to seek out the 2016 movie, with Brenda Blethyn and Jim Broadbent voicing Ethel and Ernest, it looks lovely.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of Roald Dahl's most famous and beloved stories. There have been two wonderful film versions made, and many people rate it as their favourite Dahl story. I've seen both the movies (quite a few times) and read the book twice, and while I liked the story well enough I didn't love reading the book that much. So recently (well actually last year - as I just found this post written languishing unpublished) when it came time to re-read the final of the six Dahl titles for my 1001 quest I was a bit hesitant, and not all that keen. But then I had the rather brilliant idea to listen to it instead. My Roald Dahl Audio Collection has James Bolam reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and he does a fine job of it, although I was secretly disappointed not to have the Eric Idle version.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is of course the story of Little Charlie Bucket, who lives with his parents and four grandparents in a two room house. The family are terribly poor, all trying to survive on the meagre wage that Charlie's father earns putting the tops on toothpaste tubes at the toothpaste factory. The family subsist on bread and margarine for breakfast, boiled potatoes and cabbage for lunch and watery cabbage soup for dinner. "Sundays were a bit better..... everyone could have a second helping." The Buckets saved up each year and Charlie is able to have a single chocolate bar on his birthday which he nibbles at and makes last for a few weeks.

The family follow the big news when Willy Wonka starts his competition to find five golden tickets that will allow each of the winners entry to his usually out of bounds factory on one special day only. Four impossibly named children win tickets - Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregard and Mike Teavee. There is only one ticket left to win. It's no secret I suspect that Charlie finds that very last golden ticket. More than half the story is the action and delights when the five children and their parents, or grandfather Joe in Charlie's case, tour the factory.

And what a factory it is- the factory itself is a masterpiece of Dahl's imagination. That chocolate mixed by waterfall is the best chocolate in the world. The various rooms. The buttons on the Great Glass Elevator. Sugar-Coated Pencils for Sucking. Luminous Lollies for Eating in Bed at Night. Rainbow Drops -Suck Them and You can Spit in Six Different Colours. The Oompa-Loompas, how Willy Wonka rescued them from all the dangers of Oompa-Loompa Land- the snozzwangers and hornswogglers.

I was glad that I took the time to listen to the audio, it was a lovely experience. I then rematched the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Master Wicker. We should rewatch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sometime soon.

RN did a great story about the Roald Dahl Museum to coincide with Roald Dahl Day last month (2016). Naturally it's rather high on my travel wish list.