Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: East of Eden – John Steinbeck

3 Sep
“And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars”
Timshel – Mumford & Sons

East of Eden
I have a new author crush.

This is my second Steinbeck novel and I am thoroughly smitten. East of Eden. I only read it because it is a classic, and now I know why. It’s surely one of the best novels I have read, not necessarily because of the story itself even though it was a sweeping epic kind of story, and not necessarily because of the characters, although they are now so real in my mind it feels like they are people I once knew. It was one of the greatest novels because of the way both the story and the characters so beautifully written, conveyed some of the greatest truths of human nature and our universal condition.

“There’s more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.” ~ East of Eden, Chapter 28 part 2, p360

I came across a review of this book in which the writer complains that she didn’t like it because it was too dark and depressing. I fear they have missed the point entirely! The beauty and hope in East of Eden is because the author dares to explore the darkest rankest tendancies of people; lust, rage, jealously, hatred, cruelty and murder, and yet reminds us that the greatness of man is that we have choice. We can overcome our darkness and choose a different way.

“Now, there are millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”  ~ East of Eden, Chapter 24 part 2, p 305

This is a story that probes the age old questions about good, evil and free will. It carries the themes of love and hatred, fathers, sons and brothers, disappointment and hope. What is man? As I read I decided I’m glad I didn’t read this as a set novel in high school English class. I was far too naive about the world. Life was neatly divided, black and white, good and evil. And I was blissfully unaware at the depravity I too was capable of…thought too highly of myself and my idealistic world. I had the answer to everything. Yet now, a couple of years later and a few knocks and hurts and bumps along the way, I feel that this book came along at just the right time for me to appreciate the depth of it. It’s a keeper. I know I’ll read it again and dip into it’s lovely quotable-ness for many years to come.

“But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed – because ‘Thou mayest.” ~ East of Eden, Chapter 24 part 2, p306

 

Library Days

24 Feb

I love our library visits. I love the way the children all disappear into their own book worlds as soon as we arrive. (Except Sam. He sat still with a book for a nanosecond and spent the rest of the visit tearing around and playing on the little kiddy slide thingy) The older three all take out armfuls of books which they read in the car on the way home, and the rest of the afternoon at home is usually very quiet.

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I haven’t been reading much lately…too much else going on with getting the house painted and getting rid of stuff, and packing boxes ready for our move. It’s still looking like a few months away, and has taken longer than we initially thought, but there is no particular hurry…apart from my own impatience.

Warning: Malfunction

24 Feb

I had one of those moments this morning where one small event leads to another and then another and then another.

It all started to unravel while I was in the shower when Samuel (2) hit Ryan (nearly 5) on the head with a broom handle. There was a loud protest but no tears so it wasn’t very hard.  I think it was an accident but I can’t be sure. Emma (9) came to the rescue with a bag of frozen peas to ice the sore head. I was receiving regular updates through the bathroom door, and I was dutifully shouting instructions back at them like this “LEAVE EACH OTHER ALONE! For goodness SAKE!”

So when I was informed that “Sam is stealing the peas!” I shouted back “EMMA! PUT THE PEAS BACK IN THE FREEZER!”

Apparently he got them back out because after my shower I found a kilogram of peas now defrosted and tipped all over the lounge floor, quite evenly spread from one room to the next. They were too soggy to vacuum, so I swept them into a pile. This is some of them:

While this was happening I asked Ryan to get the vacuum cleaner, and he had trouble plugging it in. Ben (7) came to his aid but not before accidentally leaning on the book shelf and tipping it resulting in this:

So when I heard a glass smash on the drive way  just a few moments later, I kind of flipped out.

Because there was a barefoot two year old to consider, I stopped cleaning up the peas to get to the glass, all the while letting rip with sighs, and groans, and the ranting began. “You’ve got to be joking, this is Ridiculous! Just stop it! Stop making messes! All of you! How can you make so much mess in such a short time? I’m sick of cleaning up disasters around here. I just can’t believe you guys!”

Glass done and onto the peas: “I can’t believe this…why didn’t you guys stop him and take the peas away!What the heck is going on around here?” I was quite focussed on my little rant and cleaning up as fast as possible in case something else happened…but I gradually became aware than Emma had placed something down on the carpet and was slowly, with head down leaving the room. Backwards. Strange. Then I saw this:

 I was completely undone and the rant dissolved away into unbridled laughter. I love these kids who are so wise and funny and light hearted. They don’t take life too seriously. Who cares really about peas on the carpet!?

The pages came from this book called M.O.M.  – Mom Operating Manual by Doreen Cronin, that Emma has taken out from the library this week.

The Books of My Childhood

8 Sep

Last night I was thinking about buying a gift for a friend’s young child, and I thought how I didn’t want to buy clothing or toys that might not last, but something more lasting. And I got to thinking about books and how they have such a lasting impact, planting the seeds of the earliest imaginations. I started thinking about which book every child should get to read…which made me drift back to my childhood…. and these are the books I read as a young child that I can still remember to this day.

A Fish Out of Water – Helen Palmer


This is the story of a little boy who gets a goldfish, and is warned by the pet shop man not to overfeed it. And true to human nature, the urge to test it out and see what happens is too great. Alas, the goldfish is over fed, and grows and grows, until as you can see by the picture, it out grows not only his bowl, but the bath and the entire house. Great rhyming story and illustrations that capture the imagination. It struck the fear of overfeeding gold fish into me, so I guess there was a lesson there too.

The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek – Jenny Wagner

A very sweet story of the mythological Australian Bunyip. Darkish illustrations both delighted and spooked me as a child. The bunyip emerges from the creek not knowing what he is or what he looks like. He proceeds to ask a platypus, a wallaby, an emu, and finally a man who answers by saying that bunyips simply don’t exist. Poor bunyip goes away sad lonely until another strange creature emerges from a nearby billabong.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

I defy you to show me a child who doesn’t poke their finger through the little holes in this book.

Mr Tickle – Roger Hargreaves

I particularly remember having this book read to me and the anticipation building page by page because I knew what was coming. If you weren’t careful reading this book, you might find Mr Tickle and his long arms reaching around the corner of the room you’re in right now and find yourself well and truly tickled!! I love how children ask to be tickled, then scream with laughter and beg you to stop. This book reminds me of that.

Possum Magic – Mem Fox

Another Australian classic. It has become a favourite of my children too. When I was about 10 my uncle took me to a reading of this book by the author Mem Fox, accompanied by the Australian Symphony Orchestra. She signed my book. I love the illustrations in this one, and have enjoyed other books illustrated by Julie Vivas as well.

In the Night Kitchen – Maurice Sendak

Perhaps not as well known as Where the Wild Things Are, this is still a great book. I still LOVE the illustrations! It’s about Mickey who is supposed to be going to sleep but finds himself floating into the ‘night kitchen’ where the bakers are busy baking the morning cake. He finds himself almost baked into a cake. They chant “Milk! Milk! Milk for the Morning Cake!” So Mickey flies in his dough plane right up to the Milky Way, dives into a milk bottle, swims back to the top and pours some milk down for the three fat bakers. The bakers rejoice and all is well. Thanks to Mickey there will be morning cake. Apparently this book was a bit scandalous at one stage because Mickey is naked. My 1980’s Australian primary school evidently didn’t have a problem with it.

There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake – Hazel Edwards


The hippopotamus gets to do all the things the little girl in this story wishes she could do. That is, take showers instead of baths, watch TV instead of going to bed and eating cake whenever she feels like it. I understand. I really do.

Has anyone else out there enjoyed these? What are you favourite books from childhood?

Book Review: The Eve Tree by Rachel Devenish Ford

14 Jul

The Eve Tree – Rachel Devenish Ford

When I describe this book to people, I tell them that it’s about family, mothers and daughters, the land and belonging to it, mental illness, love and fires. It also has trees. And a donkey. And some goats.  I also tell them that it was written by a hippy mother of four children who lives 6 months of the year in a community in rural India. Rachel blogs at Journey Mama, I’ve been reading there a while now, living vicariously through her a tiny bit. Mostly for the beautiful beautiful places they stay. Right now, near a lake close to the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. Absolutely stunning.

Anyway, the book. A simple story, about a family on a ranch that is threatened by a forest fire. This event is a catalyst for the coming together of the Molly’s family – her mother, children and husband to join together to save their property. As the pressure and stress of this event build, long time issues, past regrets and brokenness spills out of the cracks.

The strength of this book is the way the author writes about relationships…their complexities, and the baggage that we bring to them, how messy they can be, and how generational they actually are, but running beneath it all in this story is the strength of love. That love doesn’t always come easy, never comes cheap, but brings healing and reconciliation. It wasn’t syrupy or tidy. This book is very real, but graced with redemption and hope.

Book Review: Healing Spiritual Abuse – Ken Blue

8 Jun

Healing Spiritual Abuse – Ken Blue

Helpful little book with a redemptive motivation. Even though it is written mainly for victims and perpetrators of abuse, it’s a useful book for everyone, so don’t be put off by the title if you don’t think it’s for you.

The author contrasts healthy and unhealthy church leadership by looking at the leadership demonstrated in Christ’s servant-hood as well as the parity and non-hierarchical structure of the early church shown clearly through Paul’s New Testament writings.

Bosom Books

7 Jun Words Grow

What follows is a shameless plug for a little creative venture that my friend Zo and I have been busy with.

Bosom Books are one of a kind, hand bound and hand painted books for unlimited uses. Journals, poetry, inspiration, shopping lists, book lists, reminders, sketches or whatever you like.

“A bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.”
~ L M Montgomery

You can find them on Facebook at Bosom Books.

Book Review: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

2 Jun

A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

Set in the mid 1970’s in India during the Internal Emergency, it weaves the story of four people who develop an unlikely friendship.

The first part of the book introduces us to Ishvar and Om, an uncle and nephew duo of tailors who leave village life after tragedy to find work in the city. Their story entwines with Dina Dilal’s after they take on consignment sewing for her in her apartment. Her boarder Maneck is the fourth character.

And so we begin the unfolding story which gives insights into timeless India, but also gives account of injustices which occurred during the political turmoil of the 1970’s.

“You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.”

Despair. Yes, this book deals with despair. The despair of poverty, crooked politics and the injustice of caste. But it is interwoven with hope, and in the face of despair, the beauty of humanity shows itself against the backdrop of ugliness. The characters are well developed and all throughout I hoped for better for them. I hoped they could overcome the injustices raging against them. And yet, though the darkness seemed to triumph, and the atrocities that they suffered just kept coming, this book was a compassionate and sensitive picture of the human ability to endure. Once again, suffering seems to bring out the best and worst in people, and both are so very human and makes us what we are.

A solid long read of 600+ pages, I think my recent reading drought has broken. A great novel.

Book Review: Bono on Bono

27 Jan

Bono on Bono: Conversations with Michka Assayas – by Bono and Michka Assayas

I don’t like fame. I don’t like idols and the way people get all excited about a person. They are just a person after all. Flesh and blood like the rest of us. But if I had to choose one famous person I’d like to meet it would be Bono.

I find him inspiring and interesting. The kind of person I’d like to have a long chat with over dinner. He’s someone who people are always trying to define, and yet he seems to enjoy defying people’s categories and labels.

Anyway, this book was recommended to me and I’m so glad I read it. I was completely inspired…to see what a person can do, how influential and creative and unique a person can be when they are free to be themselves. He doesn’t fit in with most people’s idea of what a Christian is, and yet his faith is so evident, and in many ways his life more Christlike than the vast majority of Christians I know (including myself).

I loved reading Bono’s comments about faith. I could resonate with a whole lot about what he said on the subject of religion versus faith. If there is one quote to sum up what I took away from the book, it is this one:

“Religion can be the enemy of God. It`s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship.”

Highly recommended.

Book Review – To Kill A Mockingbird

19 Jan

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Working my way through prize winners and classics. This makes for great reading. I guess they don’t become classics for nothing.
So glad I read this book at last. I didn’t really know what to expect but I really loved this book. The characters are just wonderful, and I feel like they are long lost friends now and I’ll never forget them.

Atticus Finch. An unusual name, but for me memorable for being a great Dad.

Scout. What an intelligent, engaging and inspiring little girl. I love her!

This is a great book, that deals with adult subjects through the eyes of a clever, strong little kid.

Read it!

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