February Book Club

After a one year hiatus we began our book groups last week with a new leader at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart. 90 people are participating in several groups of twelve readers the first week of each month until December. It is lovely to see familiar faces once again and meet new ones.

Last week was a simple meet and greet group. We each talked about books that sustained us during 2020 and what we gained from them. I thought that today I would share one or two books that were talked about just so readers can see the diversity amongst our Wednesday evening group. So here goes…

Author Migeuel Syjuco

N – held up a Phillipine history book called Illustrado. She had been involved in a group of year 11 and 12 students who travelled to the Phillipines and talked about the effect of the poverty and extreme population in that country that they experienced. She said it was quite life changing for those who have had it really good living in Tasmania. We enjoyed hearing about her experiences.

Author Amy Newmark

J 1 – said she read one book entitled Life Lessons From A Cat. She told us she had to read light amusing books as she founds much about 2020 stressful.

J- (another J name) picked up Girl, Woman, Other several times but could not get into it. Then one day she started over again and really loved it. She loved the writing once she got used to it and we all agreed that the author should have won the Booker on her own and not had to share it with Margaret Atwood. A couple of others in the group had read and enjoyed this book also.

S- who is a retired teacher, said she not only read Oliver Sack’s book Gratitude again and again when she felt she needed a positive perspective, she also gifted it to several people.

H- enjoyed books by Kate Atkinson and she particularly mentioned Big Sky. She said it pulled her into the story as many of Atkinson’s book do and she definitely removed herself from 2020 while reading it.

T- read the autobiography Lioness. The story of the adoptive mother, Sue Brierley of the young boy, Saroo, who featured in Lion. Some of you may have seen the film. As most of you will remember, Saroo became lost in India while separated from his brother and eventually ended up being adopted by a family in northern Tasmania. He tracked down his family again once he reached adulthood via Google maps. It is quite the tale. I attended the Fullers event when this book was launched in Hobart awhile back. This is his adoptive mother’s tale.

V-read a Singaporean book named How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee. It is an Indian tale. She said she enjoyed the story though didn’t go too far into depth about it. Some book group members are quieter than others!

J 2- gave us a whole list of books she read. I will mention two. Where the Crawdads Sing was one of her favourites and she also enjoyed an Australian book, Flight Lines, which is about environmental issues affecting birds in Australia. It focuses on one type of bird in particular that the author is very interested in.

We were meeting in the book shop after hours. Only the morning groups meet in the pub down the road. Darn! We meet in the evenings and I enjoy the quietness of a closed bookshop in the evening. We all looked at the walls of books and picked out various books on the most recent book wall we would like to own and read.

We meet in the front of the store. Well lit, quiet and surrounded by new books.

We had some good laughs. We enjoyed our facilitator, R, who we found out studied and taught 16th century history amongst other subjects at universities in Washington State and Michigan in the States and also taught at Oxford in England. She has now returned to Australia and is working at Fullers for the time being. I guess this is not a good time to get a position in a university. She is a gifted instructor and we really do enjoy her company.

The rest of the shop.

I know we are fortunate to be able to meet face to face in a book group when so many around the world are still cancelled. I’ll just have to attend on behalf of those who aren’t able to meet and share with you what we do.

If you ever visit Hobart let me know and I’ll shout you a coffee (or tea) in their cafe.

Our March book discussion next week will be the City of Ghosts by Ben Creed. It’s a great Russian crime novel located in Moscow in 1951. I really enjoyed it. It’s graphic but in context and the story is complex, interesting and the crime unusual.

Happy reading…book group or not.

Happy Booking….

Good News in Books and Music

I have a couple of things to share today. While Mr. Penguin (who never follows sport) is off with friends watching the American superbowl Ollie, Peanut (her new name from Dolly) and I have been working outdoors a bit in our ‘lockup’. Our lockup is a patio area behind the house that we enclosed with lattice and laser light ceiling years ago in order to have an enclosed area outdoors and one in which our cats can play in without roaming. I have a herb garden and our clothesline is out there too. There is too much wildlife around here to let our cats out.

Hadley’s Hotel in Hobart is our new Book Group venue.

Anyway, once back in the house, we filled up a box for the tip shop. I keep an empty box in the hallway and as I find things in closets and drawers we haven’t used/don’t need, into the box they go. Once full the box goes off to the tip shop. I like our tip shop as they employ people who have been out of work for quite awhile. They teach job skills and offer art projects and recycling classes to the community. However recently some teenager burned down half of it but they are now up and running again.

Now it is time for my coffee and a sit down. I have the book 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die. It has been on the shelf too long so lately I have it beside my reading chair. I have a random org app on my tablet and since there are 934 pages of listed music dating from Pre 1700 to Present(2017) I use the app to randomly choose a page. Today we are listening to Domenico Cimarosa / II matrimonio segreto 1792. I am not familiar with this composer but I am enjoying the orchestral work very much. We have a subscription to Amazon Prime music and a few bluetooth speakers around the house. I find they have everything I’ve asked of them lately so am not disappointed. We also use it for gym work. So I’d say we get our money’s worth.

But back to the books. I received an email from Fullers Bookshop in Hobart that our reading groups are starting back in March. I have missed our book group so much. We are not meeting in the shop as before as the small circle of people is not Covid friendly. Instead we are meeting in an old pub/restaurant down the street from the shop. Hadleys Hotel/Restaurant. They have held book festivals there before and there is a big bar area where we can purchase drinks and there is plenty of room for social distancing. I am looking forward to it. The book list has been released for a few months and we have a new facilitator. She is a history/literature PhD who has returned to Tasmania after teaching in the USA and UK for the past 15 years. The book list is very different to book lists of the past. We have authors, both female and male, from UK, USA, Australia and more specifically Tasmania. We have translated fiction, mysteries, popular and non fiction. We are all to meet soon in February as a meet and greet. It is suggested we each provide a reading from something that kept us going through lockdown.

The March book is one I have begun as it is due first week of March. It is a Russian mystery and I am really enjoying it so far. I am reading at least 30 pages a day to ensure I get it completed as there are other things I want to read alongside it. The book is called City of Ghosts and the author is Ben Creed published by Welbeck Publishing Group, London.

The publisher’s site states:

Welbeck Publishing Group has signed a three-book deal with debut historical writer Ben Creed. (Ben Creed is the pseudonym for Chris Rickaby and Barney Thompson.)

Jon Elek, fiction publisher, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights to City of Ghosts and two sequels from Giles Milburn at the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. Welbeck will publish in October 2020. 

City of Ghosts is set in the Soviet Union in the final years of Stalin’s regime and follows senior lieutenant Revol Rossel as he investigates the discovery of five mutilated corpses neatly laid out on a railway track outside Leningrad. Rossel sets about piecing together fragments and clues from the murders, following a trail that leads to the heart of the Soviet establishment.

Creed commented: “I have always been fascinated by Russian and Soviet history, and I’m magnetically drawn to the human stories that show how people navigated the perils, terrors and absurdities of life under Stalin.”

The cover of the book states that investigator Revol Russel who was once a virtuoso violinist with a glittering future (until Stalin destroyed his fingers). The mystery takes him into the dark heart of Leningrad’s musical establishment and ultimately to the highest levels of the Kremlin.

It will be interesting to see how a book of this genre is discussed as I don’t believe we have had crime books in our groups in the past. It is quite graphic and I wonder how people will go with that. References to WWII in Russia, certainly in context. The writing is very good and I was hesitant when I first looked at this book but I sat down and read the first 50 pages and am now right into it. I’m getting my head around all of the Russian names. I’ll let you know how we go with the discussion.

I’m still listening to the Odyssey and enjoying it but I did put it on hold a couple of days to listen to a couple of Backlisted podcasts and do life things.

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My Weekly Journal

Caught up last week with a good friend at Fullers cafe for a bite of lunch, a short shop and then coffee at the beachside. A lovely day. Ollie was at the vets for a day being checked over. He is being looked at for Addison’s disease though his blood work is in the gray area. His ultrasound showed small adrenal glands and we will monitor how much cortisol they are producing. So no firm diagnosis but might or might not be later. He has picked up quite a bit living with our little Peanut. What a ittle firecracker she is.

Peanut has settled in very well.

I am starting back at the gym next week after my surgery and will hopefully get my condition back I lost during the past two months. Taking it easy at twice a week for the time being and will get some longer walks in also.

I guess this post has turned into a Monday Miscellaneous but I feel caught up now. Stay tuned to see if anything exciting happens this week. 😊🐧

It’s nice how the music puts Ollie and Peanut to sleep.

A Little Miscellany Today

Beautiful day today. We have been having a very chilly, windy, showery summer this year so far. I’m not complaining because that is better than bush fires and terrible heat. However it is nice to go outside in shirt sleeves.

I am half way through the book Nada by Carmen Laforet. I am enjoying it very much. What an unusual and I must admit very strange family tale in Barcelona just after the war. Life in the 40s in this family is not only very poor but also extremely bizarre. It is translated by Edith Grossman who I really liked as a translator having read her translation a few years ago of Don Quixote. (Bill, I will be sending this book to Perth before too long.)

The Book Tube I followed for a few days did his spin on Sunday and number 15 came up. I have two months now to read the book I listed as number 15 which is a book I am looking forward to. You can see what it is about, if you haven’t on my post Book Tube Part 3 (here). It is The Only Way Home by Liz Byron. Travel writing by an Australian female writer. In 2004 she undertakes a 2500 kms trek of the Bicentennial National Trail over nine months with two donkeys. I am hoping this is an interesting book but in any case the premise of it certainly appeals. I will start it as soon as I finish Nada.

On Audible I am listening to the Odyssey by Homer. The narrator is Charles

Purkey and I enjoy listening to him of this version. Of course we visited this in high school, back in the 1960s but who pays attention then? It all went over my head that was filled with horses and social events.

I picked up Italo Calvio’s Book Why Read the Classics and the first essay is about the Odyssey. I had a new credit and used it for this so I can read both the essay and listen to it. I am enjoying it very much. We touched on several of the characters from this and also The Iliad in our play reading class which has sadly met its demise. Once I got all the characters pretty straight in my head and heard the correct pronunciations of them I have well

and truly settled into the story. Such a journey. I think this might be a book I read like Mortimer Adler suggests in his book, How To Read A Book from back in the 1930s of a classic book. Read it, ask no questions, do not stop to look up things, just go. Then go back and reread it and then look up things if you need to but by then much of it will be in your head. I would have enjoyed meeting Mortimer Adler. I read his book twice and again here and there a third time. When one grows up in a family where I was the only one who truly loved books and reading a bit of outside direction from various learned people comes in handy.

Outside of the books, we are still working with the vet around Ollie’s medical condition. Much has been ruled out but his ultra sound has shown smaller than usual adrenal glands on his kidneys and so far he has picked up quite a bit on his anti-biotics and steroids but Addison’s disease is being looked at. He does feel good most of the time. He has lost his energetic bursts of speed though and acts more like an older dog. More tests are coming up soon and the vet is working with a specialist from Sydney university.

In the meantime we have changed Dolly’s name to Peanut. We thought Dolly would be a retiring, timid little girl puppy who would slot into our family on a quieter side. However, Miss Turbo Pants is full of piss and vinegar and has two speeds, run full on and drop wherever you are and sleep. She has been with us about 10 days and is already pulling the tennis balls out of the bushes where Ollie hid them and banging on the back door to be let in as she runs through the house chasing the cats. She has been slapped once and is now leaving Cousin Eddie, our tabby alone more. She is such a tiny Peanut little hell on wheels. We love her.

Built by convict labour in 1824.

Sunday our senior group had an afternoon tea at a heritage listed home/hotel in Richmond which is about 25 minutes from Hobart. We had nine of us, a real girls day out, enjoying a garden, a courtyard and a stately room with lovely chicken salad with tarragon sandwiches, a lovely Tasmanian sparkling Rose wine and several assorted pastries followed by a choice of assorted teas and coffee.

There is a legend that a woman named Elizabeth Buscombe his her jewels somewhere in the house in 1860, but then could not remember where she put them. They have never been found. Evidently people still look for them.

A pleasant way to spend an afternoon with friends. Tasmania has been completely Covid free now for 2 months so a safe place to hide out from the world. The Australian state leaders, no matter what one thinks of their politics have handled Covid safely in our states, no thanks to our Prime Minister who is usually more interested in getting adulation from America’s past president than helping the Australian people in any way. (No more as I don’t want to ruin a perfectly good post.)

We’ll see how the rest of this week goes. I am hoping to just finish the books I have picked out, do some more cooking and maybe experiment with some baking after watching reruns of both the Great Australian and British bake off shows. I have a Mary Berry book being delivered today that I am looking forward to. I really like her. She said in a television program her mother cooked right up until she passed away at age 105. There remains hope for us all.

Enough for today. Now I’ll go hunt out some photos for this post. Stay tuned and for goodness sakes, stay well.

Book Tube Spin – Part 4

Today I’m featuring the last five books of the list for the Book Tube Spin on 31 January. Without further adieu….. Let’s begin.

South American-Spanish- Non fiction- Travel

16. How To Travel Without Seeing by Andrés Neuman. This author was born in Argentina and grew up in Spain. Lamenting not having more time to get to know each of the 19 countries he visits after winning the prestigious Premio Alfaguara, Andrés Neuman begins to suspect that world travel consists mostly of “not seeing.” But then he realizes that the fleeting nature of his trip provides hin with a unique opportunity: touring and comparing every country of Latin America in a single stroke. Neuman writes on the move, described as a kinetic work that is at once puckish and poetic, aphoristic and brimming with curiosity. Even so called non places- airports, hotels, taxis – are turned into powerful symbols full of meaning. He investigates the artistic lifeblood of Latin America, tacklig with gusto not only literary heavyweights such as Bolaño, Vargas Llosa, Lorca, and Geleano, but also an emerging generation of authors and filmmakers wose impact is now making ripples worldwide. (paraphrased from back cover).

Netherlands- Fiction

17. Lost Paradise by Dutch novelist, Cees Nooteboom. Alma and Almut share a fascination for Australia and its ancient peoples; their ceremonies, sand drawings and body paintings. After Alma suffers a traumatic attack, they board a cheap flight from São Paulo to Sydney, and together begin their journey across their secret continent. Alma slowly recovers through a brief love affair with an Aboriginal artist, and both women become involved with the Angel Project in Perth, where actors dressed as angels are concealed around the city for the public to discover. I bought this book as it sounds imaginative and very unusual.

USA- Fiction

18. I have always been attracted to the publishers descriptions of Marilyn Robinson’s books but not yet read one. I have read reviews of this book and it sounds really interesting. Housekeeping published in 1980. This copy is a Faber Modern Classic and was picked up second hand in an op shop.

It states: Abandoned by a succession of relatives, orphaned sisters Ruthie and Lucille find themselves in the care of their eccentric aunt Sylvie in their rural home town of Idaho. Ruth narrates the sisters’ story as Lucille moves out into the world and Ruthie falls further back into her own family’s dark past. Against the stunning backdro of a bleak wintery landscape in a small desolate town, Marilynne Robinson’s first novel is a powerful portrayal of loss, loneliness and the struggle towards adulthood.

Australian Non Fiction Memoir- Animal

19. Red Lead: The Naval Cat with Nine Lives, an Australian non fiction book by Roland Perry. I have mentioned this book previously and have begun reading it but was then distracted by events at the end of last year. I had not picked it back up again but do think about it so will continue with it.

The story goes: Australia’s most renowned Cruiser, HMAS Perth was sunk by Japanese naval forces in the Sunda Strait off the coast of Java. Of the 681 men aboard, 328 survived the sinking and made it to shore. And one cat. Her name was Red Lead, and she was the ship’s cat, beloved by the crew.

However surviving shellfire, torpedoes and the fierce currents of the Strait was only the beginning of what they would face during the next 3 1/2 years. From Java to Changi and then on the Thai Burma Railway, red Lead was their companion.

It is an amazing tale of a cat who survives this ordeal and goes on to live for 24 years before her passing in Australia. Sorry, I had to read the last pages before I bought their as I don’t like surprises with animal tales.

Australian Poetry and Narrative

20. Last but not least is a book of Aboriginal Narratives and poems entitled The Nearest the White Man Gets: Aboriginal Narratives and Poems of New South Wales collected by Roland Robinson. Published in 1989, this was a one dollar bargain from a sale bin in an op shop. It is a short book and could be read in an hour. I needed one shorter book on this list. It looks a charming little book and I have not read much, if any indigenous poetry so should enjoy it.

Well….there you have it. A good list I think of 20 books from my shelves. I must say, having pulled these books randomly off the shelves does show me what lovely tales of travel, adventure, heartache and laughs await and I think I will begin on this list with or without the Spin at the end of the month.

Once read I can move them on to their place in the broader world so we’ll see how I go on this pile of books during the next two months set aside to read.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these and can remark on them. Until next time…

That’s the list folks!

Book Tube-Part 3

I read Simon’s post earlier this week from Stuck in a Book and he introduced Rick McDonnell who presents on You Tube as Book Tube Spin. I went and had a look and it is a very easy challenge. You pick 20 books from your TBR shelf, list them and on 31 January Rick will announce a number and you have two months to read your book. Two months is quite a while so I thought I’d join. I am already devoting time to my TBR shelf so I thought I would put up four posts this week of five books each that I am choosing for my spin.

Canadian- Non fiction

11. Wisdom of the Elders by North American authors Peter Knudtson and David Suzuki. This is one of those long term TBR books picked up in 1992 when it was first published. I have handled it so many times shuffling it around but time to read it.

It explores the beliefs about the delicate relationships between humans, nature and the environment held by two traditions commonly thoght to be diametrically opposed: Western science and the age old wisdom of indigenous peoples around the world.

Australian-Indigenous Non Fiction

12. The Stranger Artist by Australian author Quentin Sprague. This book is written in gouache, acrylic, blood and tears: the story of the modern frontier, where high art, for a brief, magic time was made from the trust and tension of two worlds (Nicholas Rothwell author)

I really enjoy stories about art and indigenous artists are very interesting to me.

It takes place in the East Kimberly region of australia. An art adviser he finds himself deeply immersed in the world of a group of senior Gija artists. The bonds he forms with renowned painters Paddy Bedfort and Freddy Timms backdrop the establishment of the ground breaking Jirrawun Arts.

USA-Travel- Non fiction

13. This next book is a reread that I adored. Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman. I read this book probably in the 1990s and I never forgot it. She wrote three books before she died. She was such an interesting woman. She was a journalist and author who won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1985. She lived and worked in Baltimore, Maryland.

This is her memoir of when she took a year off to explore Euro[e and rediscover what it was like to be an independent woman again. She left her job, family, friends and routine behind. The result, Without Reservations, became a bestseller and inspired women everywhere to take that leap, if not in reality, at least in their imaginations. She focused on travelling, writing and learning. This is such an enjoyable book.

Australian- non fiction-memoir

14. Number 14 is another Text Australian classic. Nino Culotta author of They’re a Weird Mob. Just off the boat from Italy- the north- Nino Culotta is in Sydney. He thought he spoke English but he’s never heard anything like the language these people were speaking. They’re a Weird Mob is a hilarious snapshot of the immigrant experience in Menzies era Australia, by a writer with a brilliant ear for the Australian way with words.

I purchased this book as coming to Australia myself from the USA and working as a speech pathologist for many years I think I can relate to much of his experience.

Australian- non fiction-memoir-travel

15. Another Australian woman writer, Liz Byron wrote the travel memoir The Only Way Home, published in 2020. On a warm day in May 2004, the author set off from Cooktown with her two companions, donkeys Grace and Charley, on a self imposed challenge to walk 2500 kms of the Bicentennial National Trail over 9 months. It was a rite of passage to mark leaving 40 years of marriage and embarking on life as a single woman at the age of 61. She foresaw that self-reliance, physical stamina and route finding would be challenges, but she couldn’t have known how the outback environment in Queensland was to test her to the limit.

I love travel writing about lone women doing unusual things. Especially in later life. I know I won’t ever have any of these experiences but I like to vicariously follow others.

Book Club Spin -Part 2

I was reading Simon’s post today from Stuck in a Book and he introduced Rick McDonnell who presents on You Tube as Book Tube Spin. I went and had a look and it is a very easy challenge. You pick 20 books from your TBR shelf, list them and on 31 January Rick will announce a number and you have two months to read your book. Two months is quite a while so I thought I’d join. I am already devoting time to my TBR shelf so I thought I would put up four posts this week of five books each that I am choosing for my spin.

UK- England

6. English author Jeanette Winterson’s book Frankissstein. I chose this book as my mood was taking me to books outside of the usual genre I read. I have not read much transexual lit or fantasy lit and this sounded so unusual I was attracted by it.

As Brexit grips Britain, Ry, a young transgender doctor, is falling in love. The object of their misguided affection: the celebrated AI-specialist, Professor Victor Stein. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with his Mum again, is set to make his fortune with a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.

Ranging from 1816, when 19 year old Mary Shelley pens her radical first novel, to a cryonics facility in present day Arizona where the dead wait to return to life, Frankissstein shows us how much closer we are to the future than we realise.

Australian

7. Australia Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things. I recently read and enjoyed her book The Weekend. This has been on my shelf for quite some time and though I realise it is much different to The Weekend I wanted to polish it off.

The blurb: Two Women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two insept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’.

…….the girls can only rescue themselves.

UK Ireland

8. This is Happiness by Irish writer, Niall Williams. I picked this book up at the beginning of the Covid lockdowns. Many people at this time gravitated towards books about the natural world and the cover drew me in. Though this tale seems to be more of a coming of age tale I think I’ll enjoy the location.

The blurb: After dropping out of the seminary, 17 year old Noel Crowe finds himself back in Faha, a small Irish parish where nothing ever changes, including the ever falling rain. But one morning the rain stops and news reaches the parish- electricity is finally arriving. With it comes a lodger to Noel’s home, Christy McMahon. Though he can’t explain it, Noel knows right then: something has changed.

Australian

9. I chose this next Australian tale as I love these yellow Text Classic books. I have read several and enjoyed them all. They are reasonably priced lovely books and this one remains unread.

The Long Prospect by Elizabeth Harrower. It states: Growing up neglected in a boarding house, 12 year old Emily meets Max, a middle aged scientist who encourages her intellectual interests. For this innocent friendship Emily faces scandal, snobbery and psychological torment from her elders. Sharply observed and darkly funny, The Long Prospect confirmed Elizabeth Harrower, author of the Watch Tower, as one of Australia’s most important writers.

Australian

10. Number 10 is a dog story. I hope it isn’t too sad. No explanation why I chose this is needed. Love Clancy: A Dog’s Letters Home by Richard Glover, Australian radio presenter, journalist and author.

Human beings often write about their dogs, but the dogs don’t usually get a right of reply. In this book Richard Glover has collated the letters sent by Clancy to his parents in the bush. They are a young dog’s musings about the oddities of human behaviour, life in the big city and his own attempts to fit in.

It goes from puppyhood, trips, adventures, songs, trials, all told with a dog’s deep wisdom when it comes to what is important in life. (paraphrasing back cover blurb).

Book Tube Spin- Part 1

I was reading Simon’s post today from Stuck in a Book and he introduced Rick McDonnell who presents on You Tube as Book Tube Spin. I went and had a look and it is a very easy challenge. You pick 20 books from your TBR shelf, list them and on 31 January Rick will announce a number and you have two months to read your book. Two months is quite a while so I thought I’d join. I am already devoting time to my TBR shelf so I thought I would put up four posts this week of five books each that I am choosing for my spin.

It is a way to share some of the lovely books on my shelf and remind myself they are there. I have had a good look and many of the books are Australian authors which I really want to read. Then a threw in a few others that are of interest but I don’t know much about. They were gifts or recommendations from other people or I simply loved the cover and it drew me in. So Part 1- Here we go.

Australian Fiction
  • 1. Flames by Robbie Arnott. This Tasmanian author has received quite a bit of publicity about his first book. From the blurb: A young man named Levi McAllister decides to build a coffin for his sister, Charlotte- who promptly runs for her life. A water rat swims upriver in quest of the cloud god. A fisherman hunts for tuna in partnership with a seal. a father takes form from fire.

I put off getting this book because the premise sounded so weird frankly but reviews have been positive and fun and I do need to read outside of what I normally pick. I’ll give this a try.

Russian Fiction

2. Alina Bronsky writer of The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine. When Rosa discovers that her 17 yr old daughter “stupid Sulfia” is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnance, employing a variety of folkloric home rememdies. Despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born later at the Soviet Birthing Center.

This is a Russian tale of an “uproariously dysfunctional family that bind mother, daughter and grandmother into the fray.” It sounds fun and interesting and I love the cover.

Spanish

3. Nada by Carmen Laforet. I don’t remember how I came by this book. Eighteen year old Andrea moves to Barcelona to stay with relatives she has not seen in years while she pursues her dream of studying at university. Arriving in the dead of night she discovers not the independence she craves, bt a crumbling apartment and an eccentric collection of misfits whose psychological ruin and violent behaviour echoes that of the recent civil war.

Sounds an interesting Spanish tale.

Australian Indigenous

Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko. This Australian novel has been listed for many awards here and I have read quite a few reviews in posts online. The blurb states: Wise cracking Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things- her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup so she heads south on a stolen Harley.

She plans to spend 24 hours, tops, over the border. She quickly discovers though, that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. Old family wounds open as the Salters fight to stop the development of their beloved river. The unexpected arrival on the scene of a good looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds to more trouble- but then trouble is Kerry’s middle name.

Australian Fiction

Number 5 is Robbie Arnott’s second book The Rain Heron. I attended the launch of this book last year as one of Fuller’s book store events. Ren lives alone on the remote frontier of a country devastated by a coup. High on the forested slopes, she survives by hunting and trading- and forgetting. But when a young soldier comes to the mountains in search of a local myth, Ren is inexorably drawn into her impossible mission. This is their story. Bits of fantasy and imagination drew me into this plus the enthusiasm of the people attending the book launch.

Happy Times

Two books and a puppy!

👀 A Real Book

Leaving the best until last.

I have begun an interesting biography called Notes From A Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi. Alfred Knopf publisher. 2019.

I am reading this because I have become much more enthusiastic cooking not having to cook in a kitchen out of the dark ages. I have also been watching cooking shows on tv. Repeat series of the Great British Bake off and travels with Rick Stein. Not to mention a copy of Two Fat Ladies vintage cookbook I found in the tip shop. I loved them. I will probably settle down before long but for now I am enjoying many food related tasks.

Kwame Onwuachi is the executive chef at Kith and Kin and owner of the Philly Wing Fry franchise in Washington D.C. He was born on Long Island and raised in NY City, Nigeria and Louisiana. He was first exposed to cooking by his mother, in the family’s modest Bronx apartment and he took that spark of passion and turned it into a career. From toiling in the bowels of oil cleanup ships to working at some of the best restaurants in the world, he has seen and lived his fair share of diversity. This is his story.

He trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has opened five restaurants before turning 30. He has a twitter account: @ChefKwame and an Instagram account: @bastedmind

The author of this book is Joshua David Stein who is a Brooklyn based author and journalist. He was a restaurant critic for the New York Observer and has been a food columnist for The Village Voice. This book is also available on audio. (inside back flap)

👀 👀 Audio

The book I’m listening to currently on audio is Twyla Tharp- The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Simon and Schuster; Illustrated edition 2008.

I have chosen this book because after a break from my photography because of the distractions of ill health (all better now), Christmas and all the events in the United States (also all better now) I needed to get my mojo back. Our photography club is meeting again face to face as we are currently Covid free in our state and several excursions in interesting places coming up. This book talks about the way to develop more creativity in all the arts and encourages the reader to establish the routines to be productive in ones chosen field. The author gives several examples of well known dancers, artists and writers in their routines and how productive they become as a result of them. I know…. common sense….but it is nice to have a coach when working alone with any endeavour. It will also encourage me to be more consistent with my journaling and attemps at drawing.

She is one of the world’s leading creative artists, choreographers and creator of the Broadway show, Movin’ Out. She is a well known American dancer, choreographer and author who lives and works in NY city.n In 1966 she formed the company Twyla Tharp Dance. Her work often uses classical music, jazz and contemporary pop music. From 1971 to 1988 she toured extensively around the world performing original works.

The focus of her work and book is going through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work and getting out of ruts and into productive grooves. The wide open realm of possibilities can be energizing and she explains how to take a deep breath and begin. (paraphrasing from Amazon and Wikipedia)

I have always enjoyed book that are related to New York City so to have two on the go at once is great fun.

👀 👀 👀 Personal Journal– Now for the good news. (I think.)

Dolly. Born 27 November, 2020 Pug/Maltese/Toy Poodle……I know.

Meet Ollie’s new little sister…. Dolly. Since we lost our beloved little Molly, Ollie has been at loose ends. He walks around eating stuff that makes him sick, sleeps too much and generally is not himself. He has not been well and has just had xrays and an ultrasound that is backing up his illness that is still being investigated.

We brought Dolly home yesterday. Yesterday was her 8 weeks old birthday. She is a mixture of (get this) pug, maltese and toy poodle. As we get to know her we can see a lot of pug in her (without the flat nose that causes respiratory problems in some breeds). She has a little toy poodle/maltese face with the squatty body and curled up tail of a pug. She is a little feminist, not letting Ollie boss her around as he has tried to do. When that didn’t work, he has now taken all his tennis balls in the front yard and hidden them in the bushes and in the house he has hidden his favourite toys next to bookshelves and behind furniture. It has been very funny to watch. He has that “only child” syndrome. Like a couple of toddlers. We are seeing a new side to him.

Ollie Meets Dolly for the first time.

As we are probably not travelling anywhere for any length of time this year we have lots of time to train her during her first year and to give Ollie a job which he needs. I think most dogs need a job to keep them focused and stop them eating all manner of things they find in the yard. The laughs just keep on coming watching the interaction of these two. As for our indoor cats, they have just rolled their eyes, looked at each other, sighed….’Another puppy!’ and moved on to their daily routines.

What a week it has been. This coming week has the builder coming back and painting our laundry room and before too long installing the kitchen floor to finish off the new kitchen.

I have a couple of friends dropping by to visit Ollie and Dolly and sharing a cup of tea or coffee. Ollie has a vet appointment to continue his diagnosis and treatment and I will take Dolly along to get her checked out as I always do with a new dog. I imagine she will be the last puppy we get in our lifetime as we are not getting any younger and we will go into “older age” together.

They better not forget about me !

As they say in an Olympic year- “Let the games begin!’

Grandma Schavey’s Prune Cake

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my grandmother’s cook book I have. You can see that post here. It actually belonged to my maternal great grandmother whom I’ve never met. She passed it on to her daughter in law, my maternal grandmother. Somehow my paternal grandmother ended up writing a recipe or two in it and then my father’s sister (my Aunt Bea) gave the book to me. I have no idea of how it transferred between all of these women on both sides of the family but I am happy to have it.

In the back was a hand written recipe from my mother’s mother, my Grandma Schavey. (Schavey is a German name. She had Scandinavian blood in her as she was a Petersen but her husband was German.)

I have been curious about this recipe for some time. So I decided it is just too windy and rainy to go outdoors this week and I am tired of sitting still reading. Not in the mood for much else so I decided to make the prune cake.

I am not a baker (from scratch). Growing up in America most people just use mixes in a box. Also this recipe only has the ingredients listed and no directions. However I have watched a zillion episodes of the Great British Bake Off which I love and I thought I could figure out a cake. No temperatures are given for anything either so I guess I had my own Great Tasmanian Bake Off.

Note: should read baking SODA.

I cooked the prunes on the stove top in a little bit of water until they were really soft and falling apart. Use pitted prunes as you don’t want to be messing around with pits.

I put all the wet ingredients in one bowl and stirred them up well. Then I put all the dry ingredients in another bowl. I then got the mixer out and slowly added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients while mixing them all together. I greased the pans with Crisco which I get from USA Foods.com as I will never get used to baking paper but you can decide how you do that.

I baked it for 20 minutes in a fan forced oven at 170. I should probably have lowered the temperature a bit, maybe to 160 and taken longer but it did come out pretty good. One side of it was slightly darker on top than the other but I’m sure that is my fan oven. I will never get used to a fan forced oven but not much I can do about it.

The Final Product

I had Mr. Penguin taste it with his afternoon cup of coffee and he thought it was really good. However I could give him slop and he would tell me it was very good so I tasted it myself. I LOVED it. It has a. nice taste of prune and if you enjoy prunes you will like it. However I have no idea how I am going to go tomorrow after eating all of those prunes so I think I shall start out slowly with a smaller piece.

It would be lovely with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream with it, neither of which I have. So it will be a plain old prune cake for today.

Let me know if you try this but I would certainly recommend it and it really was easy as.

READY – SET – BAKE

Another Monday Morning

Ok. Where are we walking to now?

It’s been a fairly uneventful week around here so I did get some reading finished up. Our photography club starts up meetings this coming week so working on a couple of photos for the digital challenges. Ollie is also doing better and has a quick checkup on Thursday at the vet’s to see if his ear infection has cleared. We have had a day at the beach so he is happy. Our weather is spring like and you’d have no idea it is actually summer. Cool days and quite windy. The clouds are good for photography but not much else as every time I decide to take the camera out for a walk the rain comes pouring down or the wind is gale force.

I could not stop diving into this book. It requires a deep dive.

So let’s get started with the books. The first book I finished was Robert MacFarlane’s book Underland: A Deep Time Journey. This was a five star read for me. I really enjoyed it. The blurb from Good Reads states:

In Underland, Robert Macfarlane (British) delivers an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself. Traveling through the dizzying expanse of geologic time—from prehistoric art in Norwegian sea caves, to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come—Underland takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind.

Global in its geography and written with great lyricism, Underland speaks powerfully to our present moment. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world.

Yes, it sounds dry but I assure you it is anything but. It had so much information of which I knew nothing about, it had suspense, it had calm, isolation and beauty. It really does let you see our earth in an entirely different light and I really loved it. It is a book I would consider reading again.

The second book I finished this week was Away With the Penguins by Hazel Prior. This is what I call a fluffy book. Fluffy books are books that are comforting, easy reading and entertaining. They don’t require a lot of brain power.

Not for serious readers but great for a bit of fluff. It does have a good environmental messages though.

The story goes:

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea in Scotland. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this. (Good Reads)

I didn’t like Veronica at first when I began this book. Did not like her at all. But I don’t think you are supposed to. Then I learned about her life. She lives in Scotland and her memories go back to World War II. I almost gave this book up until….. things began to happen.

Did I mention she ends up in Antarctica?

It was fun and I know I will remember the characters for a very long time as they were very well developed. The book is one that gets much better as the writer gets more and more into it.

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I now have letters of author initials M and P completed in my TBR Author Alphabet challenge. Time to pick another random choice from the TBR.

Our photo club challenge has us choosing two photos we took in 2020 and ones we thought were pretty good. These are my two entires. The Waterfront is my favourite of the two but I’m entering the Covid sign one as I think it is important and it documents 2020.

A Sign of the Times

Hobart, Tasmania- Waterfront at Night

My new year now begins Thursday here which is the Wednesday inauguration day of Joe Biden in the U.S. I will be watching it. I will again be thankful Trump is going to be gone and I will then focus on everything else in life besides politics and Covid which have been all consuming. We are fortunate in Tasmania as we have not had any cases in the community for months now. I’m not sure when vaccinations will be available here but I have heard murmurs of March. Who knows? I do think of those in other countries who are doing it so tough. My heart goes out to you. Stay well.

I’ll be back soon.