30 Day Book Challenge….in one sitting.

1. Your 10 favourite books of all time.

Let me hear your best groans: my favourite books of all time are without a doubt the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. To a degree unparalleled by any other work of literature, the Harry Potter books had me hanging on for every word, waiting with bated breath for the next instalment, going to sleep at night and literally dreaming of Hogwarts and incessantly tempted to read and read and re-read in spite of my ever-growing pile of other unread books. But back to the actual question, my ten favourite books of all time:

  • The 7 Harry Potter books – J.K. Rowling
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  • The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel

That was so difficult, it was actually painful and I feel deeply sad for all of the books I had to exclude.

2. Your 5 least favourite books of all time.

  • Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  • The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

3. Your favourite characters and which books they’re from.

  • Dobby and Hagrid – Harry Potter
  • Julie Powell – Julie and Julia
  • Red – Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
  • Ellie Linton – Tomorrow When the War Began
  • Robert Langdon – The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons
  • Natalia’s grandfather – The Tiger’s Wife
  • Bridget Jones – Bridget Jones’ Diary
  • Scout – To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Characters you hate and which books they’re from.

  • Jessica Stanley – Twilight
  • Nanny – The Nanny Diaries
  • Alaska – Looking for Alaska
  • Tybalt – Romeo and Juliet
  • Lucius Malfoy – Harry Potter
  • Demetrius – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • John Tate – DNA

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what five books would you take with you? Include one reason for each.

  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho – I would take this book with me as a reminder that you can achieve anything at all that you desire if you focus your thoughts in the right direction and believe in the possibility of their fruition. I think this would be especially useful information given the momentous task I would be faced with of escaping the island.
  • Julie and Julia – Julie Powell – I would take this book because although it may seem, to the unsuspecting eye, to be just another culinary biography, it’s in truth and without exaggeration the funniest book I’ve ever read. And humour, on a desert island, would be a necessity.
  • Hatchet – Gary Paulsen – I read this book as part of a reading competition when I was in grade seven and I remember making a very clear decision that if I were ever to be faced with a situation of man versus nature, I would call upon this book. As the story of a young boy, the sole survivor of an aeroplane crash in a forest, and his journey of fighting the elements of nature, this little novel is simply brimming what handy hints for basic survival.
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel – Well, Pi got stranded in a life boat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger and he managed to survive. A book to put the wee issue of a desert island in perspective.
  • The Passage – Justin Cronin – This book happens to be the fattest of the unread books on my self and although I have no idea yet whether or not it’s any good, if I were to be stuck on a desert island, I would definitely be in need of as much fresh material as possible.

6. The best book you’ve read in the last year.

  • The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht

7. The worst book you’ve read in the last year.

  • The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

8. Your favorite quotes from books.

Oh my goodness, there are just so many quotes from books that I’ve collected over the years and have adored!

  • “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” – The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • “If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” – Looking for Alaska – John Green
  • “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
  • “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light.” – Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
  • “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
  • “Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.” – Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

9. Your favorite quotes about books.

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx
  • “That is a part of the beauty of literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “I am by nature a dealer in words, and words are the most powerful drug known to humanity.” – Rudyard Kipling

10. Name five absolutely great film adaptations of books.

This category is totally brilliant because there actually are some films that represent their literary counterparts in pure style.

  • Into the Wild – directed by Sean Penn
  • Fight Club – directed by David Fincher
  • The Shawshank Redemption – directed by Frank Darabont
  • The Blind Side – directed by John Lee Hancock
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Directed by David Yates

11. Name three absolutely awful film adaptations of books.

  • My Sister’s Keeper – directed byNick Cassavetes
  • Eat, Pray, Love – directed by Ryan Murphy
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – directed by Peter Weir

12. Your favorite authors.

  • Mitch Albom
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Mark Twain
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Yann Martel
  • Tea Obreht
  • Markus Zusak

13. Your favorite book from childhood

  • I’m Glad the Sky is Painted Blue: Poems of the Very Young

14. A book you regret not having read sooner

  • Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – Susan Jeffers

15. A book you haven’t read but is on your “will read” list.

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

16. A book you haven’t read and have no intention of ever reading.

  • The Host – Stephenie Meyer

17. A book you want to like, but can’t get into for whatever reason. Why can’t you get into it?

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathon Safran Foer – I’m not sure why I can’t get into it…I have tried but perhaps not hard enough. I just find the style prohibits my ability to become absorbed by the story.

18. A book that you think is highly overrated.

  • 1984 – George Orwell

19. A book that you think is woefully underrated

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

20. The environment you most enjoy reading in

  • In transit – on a train, on a bus, on a plane with nothing to do but drink warm liquids, eat salty snacks and read juicy literature.

21. The most disturbing book you’ve ever read

  • Roxy’s Baby – Catherine MacPhail – granted I read this book when I was twelve and so its themes, which may seem relatively mild to you, were quite intense for me at the time and I therefore remember it as disturbing. Excellent, but disturbing.

22. A book you once loved, but don’t anymore. What changed?

  • Twilight – Stephenie Meyer – I know, I know, I’m ashamed to admit that as an impressionable thirteen year old, I had a love for Edward Cullen. However, I can honestly say that having actually gone back to re-read this global phenomenon, I’ve been horrified to realise how poorly written it actually is and how little appeal it now holds for me.

23. A book you once hated, but now love. What changed?

  • Macbeth – William Shakesepare – I truly despised this play when I had to study it at school. But as I’ve grown older and have explored more thematic elements of literature and theatre, I’ve come to realise how poignant and juicy and loaded with subtext much of this play actually is.

24. Your favorite series

  • It be incredibly boring and cite my very first answer: the Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling

25. The nerdiest book you’ve ever read.

  • Le Petit Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery – nerdy because I read it in French.

26. Your favorite type of nonfiction book

  • Biographies and Memoirs
  • Philosophy books

27. Your favorite genre

  • Literary fiction

28. The first book you can remember reading on your own

  • Hi Fella – Era Zistel

29. An author you wish was more well-known

  • Yann Martel

30. The book you’re reading right now.

  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Quote of the Day – Silverstein says spread the love!

“I will not play at tug o’ war.

I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.”

Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

The Self-Publishing Revolution

I heard the other day that 81% of people say they want to write a book. However, from the same source, apparently only 1% actually do. There are myriad unexpected difficulties that aspiring authors stumble across, from lack of time to writer’s block, but I think what stops writers in their tracks most often is the publishing process. Sending manuscripts away, receiving rejection letters, trying as best you can to sell your idea to publishing houses that receive countless wannabe-books everyday…it’s a difficult business and if you don’t believe me, just take a look at J.K. Rowling’s journey. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone quite quickly become a global phenomenon but not without a substantial fight from Rowling to get it published in the first place. Best-seller potential or not, publishing is not a walk in the park.

Things are changing, however. The technological revolution has taken the world by storm as companies, unparalleled in their enormity, compete for your business with constant product innovation. Thus we are bequeathed with things we never thought we needed but now couldn’t possibly live without: iPads, tablets, smart phones, Kindles, laptops and iPods along with numerous other thingamajigs and doodads. We live in an age when everything is available online and if its not, then its value is almost questionable. If a company doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t exist. If you’re still stapling flyers to telegraph poles to get your message out there then you have officially been left behind. As I drive into Brisbane city, I always pass this building, and I think it says it all:

Orange Digital

This same virtual principle now applies to the literary industry, as much as I’ve tried to crusade against the phasing out of tangible, touchable books. My one-woman cries for literary justice have been drowned out by the incessant whirring and beeping of new gadgets springing to life. However, although my heart tells me that nothing can parallel the look, feel and smell of a real book, I am determined to not be left behind. I have therefore arrived at the doorstep of the eBook world. 

EBooks number themselves in the millions now and due to their low prices and weightlessness (if you have a Kindle, you can take your entire library with you onto an aeroplane), are streaking ahead in the literary popularity contest. Easily downloaded onto any of your smart devices, eBooks are also instantly accessible, directly feeding you information with only milliseconds of delay. Yes, eBooks are apparently magical.

Fortunately, the perks of the eBook revolution extend far beyond the reader’s convenience. Aspiring writers now have a new avenue through which to distribute their work: the digital avenue. Gone are the days when the writer’s only route was through an official publishing agency. Gone too are the days when self-publishing involved trying to navigate the confusing print and distribution process. If you have a complete body of text that you feel is worthy of a readership, you can digitally bind it within seconds, upload it onto either Amazon or your own website and be selling your eBook in a matter of minutes. Easy as that (or so they say).

So, the question I pose to the blogosphere is this: why doesn’t everyone write an eBook if it’s so easy? Is it because they don’t believe they can, they have no desire to, they don’t have an idea for the content, they’re intimidated by the technology side of things or simply because they’re unaware of this opportunity? Surely the eBook revolution is a means to increase that 1% statistic?

I know that I personally have a desire to write and publish an eBook. I am a writer at heart but have always been intimidated by the business side of the literary industry. Now however, that is no longer a stumbling block. So why I haven’t I uploaded a best-seller to the web yet? Well, that’s another thing I wanted to speak to you all about. Given my complete and total incompetence regarding plot development, I think my forte is non-fiction, both creative and formal. My mind has been browsing through the wide world of possible topics and I have narrowed it down with the advice: “write what you know”. If I were to write an eBook with the intention of delivering genuinely helpful and accurate information, I would write about one of the following: health, vegetarianism and veganism, the English language (report writing, research techniques, essay writing etc.) or possibly even drama. My question to you, dearest readers, as a little bit of market research, is this:

Within these broad topics, what do you want to know? If you were to purchase an eBook, what would you like it to include? What questions would you like it to address? 

Sorry, Queen Rowling.

The Casual Vacancy Launch

As I’m assuming much of the novel-reading world knows, J.K. Rowling recently released her first book outside of the Harry Potter empire. The Casual Vacancy, specifically aimed at an adult audience, is about the small town politics of Pagford, England and is, to the great dismay but not surprise of all her fans, totally void of wizardry. From a woman of humble beginnings but fabulous, deserved success, we are bequeathed with what is essentially a very straight-forward book about the life and times of the English working class, the nastiest of corners included…

Although I consider myself an avid and loyal fan of the Harry Potter books and do, on the odd occasion, hope to find my mailbox stuffed with Hogwarts letters, I did not await the release of Rowling’s new work with the kind of fervour I did the final Harry Potter instalment. I braced myself for what I knew would invariably be something vastly different to the story of magic that has captured and held us all for the last fifteen years. I did not get my hopes up.

I was however, incidentally browsing through a Dymocks Bookstore in Melbourne (on a wee little holiday!) on the day of The Casual Vacancy‘s release and, having just finished reading the novel I had taken with me, I decided to deposit a little more gold into J.K.’s Gringotts vault. I bought the whopping great boulder of a book and lugged it around in my handbag for the return trip home (involving taxi, plane and bus…plenty of reading time.)

Although I had been incessantly reminding myself that this was not Harry Potter, I did expect to be entertained and interested by she who has become known as the greatest living author. I began its first page with a melange of trepidation and excitement but found myself, a three hour flight and five chapters later, quite under-whelmed. To put it bluntly, I knew at the sixty page mark that I would not at all be impressed by The Casual Vacancy. 

My very honest thoughts:

The entire spectrum of swear words and adult themes (sexuality, domestic violence, drug use and adolescent disobedience) had been either directly included or at least alluded to before I had even read my way through the first quarter. Now, I’m nineteen and am therefore no stranger to profane language and rule-bending behaviour, but I cannot say I was impressed by The Casual Vacancy‘s flood of irreverence. When it comes to the use of profanities in literary works, I personally find that less is one hundred times more – not because I’m at all bothered by it but because after you read the word ‘fuck’ twenty times, you become immune to its impact. If used only once or twice, it knocks the reader back for a moment with its poignancy and isn’t that the point of using it at all?

From my perspective, Rowling’s overuse of mature language was a blatant attempt to get her foot in the door of adult literature, to shatter her image as ‘the author of Harry Potter’ in favour of a more general ‘best-selling author’ title and to prove that she really can write outside of the children’s fiction genre. However, by using certain literary techniques for the sake of her author’s reputation rather than for the sake of serving the novel’s actual content, I found she missed the mark.

Another aspect of The Casual Vacancy that I found less than impressive was its structure: numerous characters, multiple perspectives, countless sub-plots and too grand an array of themes – all of which happened to be exhaustingly dark. The plot felt scattered and unfocused and, although many books successfully include an abundance of different characters, in this instance, I felt torn between too many perspectives and was therefore unable to ever really get into the book.

To J.K. Rowling’s credit, she did not compromise the filthy truth of lower class English life for the sake of entertainment. Exposing the dirty underbelly of small town life and politics, Rowling painted quite a shocking picture and I applaud her for her bravery and honesty. However, that’s where my praise ends.

Although I wasn’t expecting another Harry Potter, I was thoroughly disappointed by J.K. Rowling’s newest literary venture. The Casual Vacancy, for me, left much to be desired in all literary arenas, inclusive of plot, character, style and scenery. Sorry, Queen Rowling, but I simply cannot recommend your latest read.

Goodreads Choice Awards 2012 – Have you voted?

As 2012 begins to end (All evidence points to it being November already!), we’re invited to squeeze in one last title for this year: Goodreads Choice Awards 2012! Check out the nominees, see which you’ve read, decide whether any are worthy of your vote and if so, help that book secure the pleasure of a Choice Award! There is a category for every kind of reader, from Biographies, to Science Fiction, to Romance!

Goodreads

If you tell me who you voted for, I’ll tell you who I voted for!

(I only voted for one book this year, in the Nonfiction category, surprisingly:  Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative – Austin Kleon)

Why, as someone who devotes much of their time to running a blog about books, did I only vote for one book in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012? Well, it’s the only book of the nominees that I’ve read, to be honest, and fortunately for my integrity, I did really love it. I guess I just didn’t read many new releases this year! I’m just itching to know – who did you vote for and why?!

Quote of the Day – can you say ‘ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaah’?

“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likeable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make your brain go all like ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaah.”

– John Green

Am I too old for Christmas Wish Lists?

Some seem to think that at nineteen years old I should already have a healthily developed sense of maturity and responsibility. And with this, I am certainly in accord. But….but…does this ‘maturity’ extend so far as mean that Santa Claus no longer exists? It cannot be! As a writer and a reader and therefore an accomplished imaginer, I declare that I am forever entitled to believe in whomever I like…And so to the grand point of this blog article: my Christmas Wish List. You may scoff at the fact that I still write one but I dub it as a ‘Cheers!’ to my eternal youth.

As every word addict comes to realise at one point or another, reading can be expensive. Sure you can go to the library and read books for free but if you’re a special breed of addict, the kind who adores owning books as much as actually reading them, then you’ll appreciate the significant financial impact of this literary addiction. It is for this reason that I use every opportunity, inclusive of Christmas, birthdays and congratulatory occasions, to drop hints about the deepest desires of my nerdy heart. And this year, I have so far compiled a list that reads as such:

  • The Portable Dorothy Parker – Dorothy Parker

The Portable Dorothy Parker Cover

  • A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces Cover

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Cover

  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe – Edward Albee

Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe Cover

  • It – Stephen King

It Cover

Have you read these books? Do you think they’re worthy of a place on my Christmas Wish List (the last on my adolescence!)? Do you have any books that you’d love for Santa to bring you this year?

BooktoberFest!

Booktoberfest

To my Ravishing Readers,

I just thought I’d share with you all an exciting little opportunity that I stumbled across! In the lead up to Christmas (is it that time of year already?!), Booktopia, an online bookstore, is running a competition in celebration of books and their publishers. With over $14000 worth of literary prizes on offer, there are dozens of chances to win yourself an early Christmas present! I got so excited when I discovered this that I actually giggled out loud while alone in my house. Jump online here and see for yourself!

All the best!