March Already!

My reading has slowed a bit during the last couple of weeks. World events are very distracting at the moment. However our book group is talking about This is Happiness by Niall Williams the first week of April and I have begun it. The writing is lovely. I was going to highlight various quotes to share at the meeting that I love but found I was making pencilled marks on every page so have given it up.

I have put the Togo book, The Village of Waiting by George Packer up just for a week or so. It was my random pick for the Armchair Traveller reference book.. I am enjoying the book quite a bit but it is long. I will continue but will be slow to report on it.

Theme this month: Reinvention

My Womankind magazine arrived and I am enjoying it. It comes out bi-monthly and has the most beautiful photographs and articles.

I have also been working on learning more Photoshop and Lightroom editing techniques via instructors on You Tube. My good photographer friend in Sydney and I chat all the time about photography. There is so much flooding and non stop torrents of rain there now I have to keep an eye on her. All up the east coast of Sydney the flooding has been dire. 13 People have died last count and it is hard seeing their homes and lives washed away. Then there is continued Covid and the horrible stuff going on in Ukraine. When does it end? I try to stay away from the news but it is really in our faces much of the time.

I am continuing to “play” with IOUMA Art postcards.. I received a couple of lovely cards yesterday, one from Postcrossings that came from the Czech Republic and an Art card from Texas . Really lovely to get real mail from random people that is gorgeous and interesting.

This Art Card came from Texas, USA
This was sent to me by a young woman who lives in the Czech Republic. She took this photo of the most beautiful butterfly

I also bought a new book that is gorgeous. Alison, in Cape Town posted information about it on her blog, The Booksmith. (here). It is beautiful in cover and words. Described as “See the British year afresh and experience a new way of connecting with nature- through the prism of Japan’s seventy-two ancient microseasons. The book covers the year in sections of 2 to 5 days and focuses on what is happening in the natural world during those days”. A beautiful short reminder of what is beautiful in our world each morning. It is definitely a book that ‘sparks joy’.

I realise it is more important than ever during these times to spend time being creative (even when you think you’re not good at it), reading books and magazines you love, moving your body even when you don’t feel like it and don’t binge on a lot of junk food as much as you might want. Turn the news off from time to time too.

I have also pulled a couple of photos from the archives that I took on trips in the last five years. I will share two of them from Sri Lanka that I took and posted up on the World Wildlife Photography fb page this week. It is a site that shares wonderful photographs of wildlife/birds, from around the world in their natural settings.

This leopard came out of the bushes as we drove by. He was stunning.
This little guy came out to investigate us too. So curious.

I look forward what anyone who might come across this post is doing to manage their life and mental health at the moment. Please feel free to share.

Some Books & Local Artwork

It’s catch up time again so I’ll get right into it. I just finished a wonderful book by 2021 Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah. The title is After Lives, published by Bloomsbury 2020 in the UK and my copy in 2021.

The blurb on the back reads:

While he was still a little boy Ilyas was stolen from his parents by the German colonial troops. After years away, he returns to his village to find his parents gone, and his sister, Afiya given away.

Another young man returns to the town he once lived in. Hamza was not stolen for the war, but fled into it to escape a life of bondage. In the war he has grown up at the righthand of an officer whose protection has marked him for life. With nothing but the clothes on his back, he seeks only work and security- and the love of the beautiful Afiya.

As fate knots these young people together, as they live and work and fall in love, the shadow of a new war on another continent lengthens and darkens, ready to snatch them up and carry them away.

Located in East Africa in the first half of the 20th century it is a wonderful tale of the interlinked relationship between a few characters that goes from the war with the Germans against the British, right to the end of their lives.

I loved this book and as it went on I could not put it down. It is one of those books where you read the first half and don’t ask questions. It will all become clear once the war is over about half way through (if that.) I will never forget these characters and I cared about them deeply. I also learned quite a bit about the post colonial conflicts of Eastern Africa around Tanzania.

I read this book as part of the Fullers book group I’m in and I look forward to our discussion during the first week of March.

My car book is something completely different. I am listening to 78 year old New York dancer Twyla Tharp read her book Keep It Moving. As I try to exercise with longer walks and two weight sessions at the gym each week I find her a role model I can respect. Everyday she gets up first thing and heads to her studio and dances. It is a pledge she made and as she states not a goal. Goals can be ticked off when finished and then you’re done. Her pledge is an activity she does as part of her entire life and she never waivers from it. I am enjoying her discussion about the benefits, especially of older people ensuring they move regularly and how to put it into your life and not just for a new year’s resolution. She applies her teachings to many creative pursuits and I find her a very inspiring and interesting woman.

My other project (if one wants to name it that) is to get cracking with the TBR books on the shelves. A couple of weeks ago I went through every book I own and made a whole new Library Thing catalog. As I went through each book, one by one, I tossed those read, those found in op shops that sounded a good idea at the time and old gifts I’ll never gravitate to. I filled three large shopping bags and off they went. I whittled down the books listed on Library Thing significantly and now it is completely up to date.

Today, once finished with After Lives, I randomly selected three books (using randomiser app) from Library thing. I have decided I will randomly choose three and from that I will choose the one that appeals to me at the time. If a book of short stories comes up I will read at least three of the stories before I put it back on the shelf. I don’t enjoy reading a complete book of short stories unless they are interlinked. I think three will have me remembering them more.

The three books picked are: Worst Journeys: The Picador Book of Travel. It represents a selection of shorter experiences of things that went wrong while travellin to some well known authors. It happens to everyone who travels a lot sooner or later. It has happened to us. Like the time we were in South America, arrived for our connected flight and they had no record of a ticket because the travel agent changed hands during the booking of the trip and screwed up to be succinct. We had to get another ticket that involved finding a cash machine and being escorted with a guard from the airport. Why not use a credit card, you ask? We had it eaten in Bolivia and it was only through the kindness of our hotel manager in La Paz we could travel ahead to Peru and Mr Penguin’s very good use of Spanish that helped a lot.

Or when my father died and I decided to fly to Michigan from Hobart for his military funeral I did not want to miss. He was a large part of my life. Qantas flights were twice cancelled. I couldn’t get a flight to Michigan from Los Angeles. I had a complete meltdown in the airport after travelling for a very long time and a kindly staff member organised me to get to Chicago and then leave Chicago to Lansing, Michigan. I had my sister pick me up at the airport. After almost three days with no sleep, I slid into the funeral service 45 minutes before it started. I know I will enjoy this book.

The second and third book chosen is a small book, part of a Penguin boxed set. Boxed sets that have sat on the shelves for a long time looking very pretty but unread. Now all of those individual books from the Penguin 70s and Great Ideas boxed sets plus a few others are individually catalogued. So I will probably read both of the books chosen. The English Journeys set has me about to read Voices of Akenfield by Ronald Blythe. I haven’t got a clue what it will be about but that will be fun.

The second one is part of the Penguins Pocket Penguins (70s collection I think) called Dressmaker Child by William Trevor. As someone who absolutely loves watching the Great British Sewing Bee this has major appeal. I grew up attached to my grandmother’s side while she sewed dozens of clothes for my sister and I, my Barbie doll who has a complete wardrobe including lined woolen suits and a satin dress with a fur collar around the cape. She also sewed dance costume for my cousin who was an exotic dancer and all of her costumes had sequins hand sewn through out.

That sums up the past couple of weeks of books. I could add I started the audio of Trent Dalton’s Love Stories but it was a bit too saccharine for me. I loved the concept that he sat in the city centre of Brisbane, Qld and asked people to tell him a love story. It was very random. I enjoyed a few of the stories butter awhile it became a bit too much. I know a lot of people will love them but they didn’t excite me either way. Maybe when Covid is over I will be more receptive to really sweet tales. To be fair, not all of them had happy endings and that didn’t appeal either. 😍😍😍 I am not a saccharine person nor was I raised to think the world was brilliant all of the time. So I moved on.

While taking a good walk last week I went through South Hobart to see the new artwork on the side of a popular cafe. The Hobart rivulet goes from the mountain into the city and it passes through South Hobart. There is a platypus who lives in the rivulet and people post about it and keep an eye on it and any friend or family that appears. A local artist has painted a wonderful mural of him and I finally got to see it.

Our South Hobart platypus.

I also received a lovely card from Holland from a IOUMA member. (International Union of Mail Artists. I made a few collaged postcards. I am by no means an artist but I enjoy cutting up papers and calendars and old magazines and organising them on small postcards. There are some wonderful sticker books out there too for all those bullet journalers and I decorate envelopes too. Very relaxing.

I really like this.

I’ve reached the time now when I should stop chatting to you all and make a move out of this seat. As usual, I hope you are all well and doing something you enjoy and also moving those bodies. Old age is so much easier when your body knows how to move.

Keep Calm & Read.

Saturday 5 February 2022

Time gets away from me but you’ve heard that one before. I have been reading and listening to books so I’ll catch you up on that.

As I said before, I finished These Precious Days by Ann Patchett so won’t talk about it again.

I am almost finished with the book by Helen Garner, How To End A Story. I enjoyed her second diary more than this one but she does lead a very interesting life. I see her 80th birthday is approaching in November this year. Everyone is getting older.

The highlight of this month was my reading of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty, a Texas author who sadly died a year or so ago. I have always heard excellent things about this book but have put it off as it is more than 800 pages long, the paper in the pages is thin and the font is very small. Once I got into this book (it didn’t take long) I forgot all about the font being small. I also have new reading glasses and for the first time I can see quite clearly. I have inherited my grandmother and father’s eyes, so this is wonderful. So I jumped in and took off on a horse from Texas to Montana as part of a very large cattle drive. This book won McMurtry the 1985 Pulitzer Prize. I think the last western book I read was The Sister’s Brothers by Patrick DeWitt which I did not care for at all a few years ago. Then I read Shane by Jack Schaefer probably in the early 1970s or even the late 1960s. That book, I believe is in the 1001 Books You Must Read.….and I really enjoyed it.

Good Reads describes it as:

A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize— winning classic, Lonesome Dove, the third book in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America.

Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember.

I enjoyed this book so much. It had many twists and turns, births and deaths, blizzards, snake attacks, Indians that were wonderful and one who was incredibly evil. When you read this book, you will feel as though dust is settling on your face and you will become saddle sore. It is an epic of the last wild days of the American west and I loved it. It was wonderful to read a book where the author wasn’t afraid to kill off characters to surprise the reader, to set up weather events you could taste and feel. The twists in the plot are throughout the book. I read it one day from about 11 am in the morning 2:30 the following morning. You don’t even have to enjoy westerns to enjoy this book. The first 5 ***** read I’ve had in awhile. I will remember the characters for as long as I live.

I finished the Audible Book, Cuba: Beyond the Beach (Stories of Life in Havana) for my Lonely Planet, Armchair travel book. This was a car book. It is written by Karen Dubinsky. She isn’t actually Cuban but has spent a great deal of time there every year. The reason I chose this book is because I will not buy books for this challenge. I use either the library or Scribd which I joined recently. She is a professor at Queen’s University in Canada and teaches in the department of Global Development Studies and History. What she doesn’t know about Cuba isn’t worth knowing. Politics, history, life style, economy, music, art, sport. The book is quite dry to read but I achieved my aim by finishing it and I achieved the goal I wanted to achieve. Learning something about Cuba. Now I can randomly choose the next country.

Our book group read and discussed the Labyring by Amanda Lohrey. Actually everyone loved it too much. There was no fun polarity of issues to discuss as one member pointed out. We also ended up talking about the labyrinths to be found in Tasmania and a couple of us went out and visited them after reading the book and shared photos of them. It was a fun event.

The book for March is Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah’s, Afterlives. Here is the Good Reads description for those of you who might not be familiar with it. Should be an interesting read but much different from the Labyrinth.

While he was still a little boy, Ilyas was stolen from his parents by the German colonial troops. After years away, fighting in a war against his own people, he returns to his village to find his parents gone, and his sister Afiya given away.

Another young man returns at the same time. Hamza was not stolen for the war, but sold into it; he has grown up at the right hand of an officer whose protection has marked him life. With nothing but the clothes on his back, he seeks only work and security – and the love of the beautiful Afiya.

As fate knots these young people together, as they live and work and fall in love, the shadow of a new war on another continent lengthens and darkens, ready to snatch them up and carry them away…

That sums up the reading part. I haven’t done a lot of photography lately. Though I have been working on a challenge for our club in the Open category. I really like street photography and urban photography. Much of Tasmania photography is a glut of trees and moss. It is beautiful, but I need something different.

Back in 2007 I was visiting my brother and mother in Tennessee. We went to a small town market. It was quite a warm day as we walked around this place. I saw this man and couldn’t help photographing him. It was an old point and shoot camera so it is not as clear as my fancier camera but the picture tells the story so I don’t believe it needs to technically perfect, though I doubt my photo club will agree. Anyway, I think with street photography, it is the story the counts so I’m submitting it anyway. It’s not like I lose a kidney if it fails to place. Here it is:

I doubt very much that this man reads my blog, or anyone from Tennessee actually so I feel safe posting it here. Tennessee is currently banning books through legislation about the Holocaust. I’ll say no more.

I have also joined the International Union of Mail Artists (IOUMA). It is site of many people around the world who share post card art with each other. You send it and you receive it. I’ve been feeling a bit unsettled after living with Covid and other things so long and my doctor wants me to do things to relax more and get away from things that I don’t enjoy. So I’ve dropped one group and picked this up. Along with the activities of Fullers and also deciding to do my own thing with the photo club. There is one member that just harps and harps at me about my photos. So I am now a non responder and will do as I well please. So there!!

Here are a couple of cards I received and sent.

A woman from Germany after reading my blog embroidered a penguin under a star for me. The little green booklet has lined paper for noting my travels no matter where they are.

This is the farm collage I’m sending off Monday. On the back I wrote down books about the land. Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck
A Reader lives a thousand lives before she dies.

I have one more photo to share and one more piece of bookish news from Tasmania. ABC Broadcasting put up a photo of the southern aurora we had the other night. I don’t go out alone to dark spots to take photos but there are enough others who do.

Southern Aurora or Aurora Australis

The piece of news is to share with you a new group that is being started at Fullers Book shop before too long. Here is the clip from their newsletter. “

Calling all millennials (and the millenial-ish): we’re starting a new reading group, with a focus on contemporary themes and issues, with a special focus on books by LGBTQI+ authors and authors of colour. This should start in the next few months — see below to register your interest.

Such a wonderful idea.

Well I guess I’ve carried on enough. Tassie may be small but there is a lot going on down here.

It will be the start of another week soon. I’m hoping to see the Agatha Christie film, Death On The Nile, staring 10 November at our State Cinema. Another book related activity. Stay well everyone. The penguin has been safe.

Tassie Life – 22 January

I thought I’d better do a catch up here. So easy to fall behind. Our bodies get in the way of our lifestyle. We must tend to teeth, eyes, bones and whatever else starts to fall apart as we age. Lots of appointments but pretty caught up now. I am getting new reading glasses next week. I have had a year of very poor left eye vision and now it is as good as it can be, two pairs of glasses have been ordered. One for life, one for books.

So I’ll start with what I’ve read this month and what I thought of it.

First off is the Armchair Explorer book by Lonely Planet project. I spun the wheel and ended up with the country Haiti. I did a bit of exploring and travelling through google and settled on the female Haitian author Edwidge Danticat. The book I chose is called Krik Krak.

Her Wikipedia profile reads: Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, was published in 1994. Danticat has since written or edited several books and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. 

From Good Reads: At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become a celebrated new writer. She is an artist who evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti–and the enduring strength of Haiti’s women–with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people’s suffering and courage.

When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak! Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.

My thoughts: This book is not for the faint hearted. The atrocities committed by the soldiers as they sweep through villages is enough to make one want to stick your head deep into sand and not look up. Absolutely horrific. I’m talking nightmare materials. Her stories of experiences under the dictatorship of Haitian leaders and actions of the soldiers as they sweep through villages. The atrocities….are just that. I’m glad I read it and understand more of the history of Haiti but I will have a rest from exploring future books. The writing was wonderful and the author doesn’t shy away from the hard issues. Although she resides in the USA now she still considers herself very much linked to her homeland.

The other book I finished was These Precious Days by Ann Patchett. I listened to it on Audible and it was narrated by her. A series of vignettes about her life, well written but I must admit I got weary of repetition in this book. She begins one chapter about her views on not wanting to have children in her life. Okay, fine. Then it comes up again. And again. And again. And again. It made me wonder if she was as committed to her choices as she claims.

I wanted her to talk more about other aspects of her writing life and her life in Nashville with her book store. She did move on to another important story in her life. She did some work with Tom Hanks. During the interview she met his personal assistant, an Asian woman in her 60s who she was really drawn to. Long story short, when this friend she makes develops pancreatic cancer in the time of Covid and needs to attend medical trials, Ms Patchett whose husband is a doctor organises for it to happen in Nashville. (ignore the grammatical structure of that last sentence.)

The woman moves in with the Patchett family and from there the description of the friendship finishes off the last section of this book. It is quite emotional but it is also. r e a l l y o v e r d o n e in my humble opinion. I found everything she wrote about was hammered into the earth like a person driving a very long spike into the ground with a sledge hammer. I know there are many who love this book. The only book of hers I have read is The State of Wonder. I enjoyed it very much and I want to read the Dutch House. I hear so much about her books and I’m sure I’d enjoy them. I think writing fictional stories well and then changing to writing memoirs well are two different things. In this case I’ll stick to the fiction.

New Books waiting to be read: Latest Readings by Clive James and Allegorizings by Jan Morris. I have started Latest Readings and am enjoying it quite a bit however he does mention British authors who I am unfamiliar with and has discussions around them. I don’t mind this as I enjoy his writing. I will share a short blurb from inside dust jacket: In 2010, C James was diagnosed with terminal leukemia. Deciding that “if you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do.” James moved his library to his house in Cambridge, where he would “live, read and perhaps even write. ”

As he unpacks boxes of books to set up his library I enjoyed hearing him rediscovering favourites of the past and talking about his desire, or not, to reread them. I am only part way through this book so will certainly continue.

Allegorizing by Jan Morris- blurb from the cover: Soldier, journalist, historian, author of 40 books, Jan Morris led an extraordinary life, witnessing such seminal events as the first ascent of Everest, the Suez Canal Crisis, the Eichmann Trial, the Cuban revolution and so much more.

This book was not to be published until after her death, which occurred last year, age 94. She revisits key moments and talks about her travels across the USA, across Europe to trips she loved on trains and ships. She talks of experiencing the deaths of her old friends Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and also about the relationships in her own life.

I am really looking forward to reading this.

I could go on with a couple of more books I’m really wanting to get into but I will leave it now. The future looks promising. Beginning in February a shared reading will begin of Oscar Wilde at Fullers book shop. Book groups will begin there too. Fullers book shop are going to have socially distanced, vaccinated and masked book groups of 12 and also will be holding Zoom book club meetings for those who are worried about coming into the groups face to face. They are beginning poetry nights once a month and I have applied to be in one but numbers are limited so I may not be able to go. I am in a couple of their groups already and I know there are others who want to join in. (Can’t be selfish…..can I?)

I’ll leave you here as this is long enough. I will try to get back to you before another three or four weeks goes by. All the best and stay well. Get those jabs and wear those masks (whether you like it or not).

Stay Well

Labyrinths in More Ways than One

The path

I won’t talk about this wonderful book The Labyrinth by Amanda Lowry too much as there are conversations everywhere online about this Australian Miles Franklin winner. Except to say I really loved it and felt sad when I finished. I loved the characters with all their flaws. I liked the fact the author didn’t go overboard in describing them yet they were well enough drawn I could see them in my mind. I loved the pace of the book. I loved how there weren’t tied up solutions to all of the issues shared by the various characters. It is a book I would recommend to others and wouldn’t mind reading it again. It will be discussed in more depth at our February book group and I look forward to that.

But it did have me researching labyrinths. I hadn’t thought about them before. Not at all. I had to see how they differed from mazes. One can get lost in a maze and the object is to enter it, then find your way out. A labyrinth doesn’t have tall shrubs at the edges. It is a designed path, often made of rocks where one can meditatively walk and then arrive at the centre where meditation can take place. It is calm and peaceful. You would not get lost in it.

The Red Star marks the spot.

I wondered if Tasmania had any labyrinths one could visit so I googled it and found one in a council bush reserve about 45 minutes from where I live. I live in the Cascades area. Potters Hill is across the river and south.

I thought as my first project of undiscovered Tasmania for 2022 I would visit and get a photo. Yesterday was the day I chose. It was warm out with a cool breeze. I followed google directions in the car and it took me to the front door.

I parked in a pullover at the bottom of a hill and followed the sign. No motorised vehicles allowed. I walked 400n metres up hill along a tree lined path. I saw many rosellas flying amongst the trees. Upon reaching my destination a large field opened up and to the right there it lay. There were swooping swallows everywhere around the trees. I had a 360 degree view of the land and water around me. If you look at the map you can see the amount of water around this area. I hope you enjoy the photos.

The labyrinth (view towards Derwent River)

Who would have thought the first book of the year I explore turned out to be such an adventure. I have ideas of combining future books with photographic experiences if at all possible. It is something different that gives me thought. Enjoy the photos.

A bug’s view
A view in the opposite direction
Walking back to the car. A view of Kunanyi (Mt. Wellington)
What adventure will the next book bring?
Here’s to a new year of books and adventure!

Merry Christmas and All the Best for 2022!

Like everyone, everywhere, time has slipped past quickly and it has been a busy time. I’m having a technology break over the holidays and will be back in January with new books, plans and possibly a project, hahaha. Those that know me will chuckle at that.

We are having an Icelandic Christmas this year. Our family is all in North America and friends have been catching up during the month. We will have a quiet dinner on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day we have some presents for the neighbour kids and some new books for ourselves. We plan to read over the next few days.

Tasmania has opened up to the world as of the 15th Dec., and our Covid numbers, although not high, are increasing. Lovely to stay home and not run around with a mask all the time. Mr. Penguin has been enjoying the Australian author Chris Hammer and his crime books. I am reading the Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey for the beginning of February’s book group at Fullers bookshop. Looking forward to it. I am enjoying this book very much.

There are new books to open as of tomorrow, some fiction, some non fiction and a photography book.

By the way, if you love Penguin books there is a new reference book called The Penguin Modern Classics Book (just out!) edited by Henry Eliot. It lists every Penguin Modern classic ever published with illustrations of all of the covers and lists at the back of the books year by year. (Kaggsy- it is written for you). The index is extensive too. I love it!!!

The Armchair Traveller has me listening to a book of short stories by a Haitian author as Haiti is the random country selected for me. More on that later.

Keeping this brief, I wanted to say how much I appreicate my online, bookish friends and although I never get a chance to comment on all the blog posts I read, I enjoy them and I am always close by seeing what you’re up to. Let’s hope 2022 has all of us staying well and moving forward and finding much to enjoy in our world that really is full of beauty. Sometimes we just need to look for it!

I might add, this photo regarding the Find Fullers bus ad competition saw me winning a $50.00 book voucher to their 101 year old shop I love so much.

The Penguin saw the Fullers bus in town so rushed to it carrying his Fullers cloth bag.

Books our group read.Books we’ll read.

I went to our end of the year Book Club Christmas get together the other night. Fullers book shop have 9 book groups of 12 people each. The event probably had close to 50 readers who turned up for drinks and nibbles at a lovely hotel in the city. We had a raging rain storm during the event with loud thunder which Tasmania rarely hears, lightning flashing past the windows and many areas around Hobart were flooding.

We calmly ate, chatted and then we had a ten questions trivia quiz about the books we read in a power point presentation. Book vouchers went to the top three who answer$20.00 book voucher to the store. It is always welcome.

Readers also had a survey to fill out before our end of year event and first and foremost we wanted to know what books were the most popular with the group. At the end of the event we were given a list of books for next year up until June, 2022. We were all itching to get that list. I am sharing all of it here with you.

The Group’s Most Popular Reads of 2021

  1. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle
  3. Here We Are by Graham Swift
  4. A Perfect Spy by John LeCarré
  5. The Yield by Tara June Winch
  6. Collected Stories by Shirley Hazzard
  7. Gilead by Marilyn Robinson
  8. The Master and Margarita by Mikail Bulgakov
  9. City of Ghosts by Ben Creed

I laughed at this list as my favourite book was City of Ghosts, followed by the Graham Swift then the Master and Margarita. Boy, am I ever out of step.

The list for 2022 is as follows:

February: Amanda Lohrey, “The Labyrinth” (2021) – Miles Franklin Winner / Tasmania
The Labyrinth is a hypnotic story of guilt and denial, of the fraught relationship between parents and children, that is also a meditation on how art can both be ruthlessly destructive and restore sanity. It also shows Tasmanian author Amanda Lohrey to be at the peak of her powers.

March: Abdulrazak Gurnah,  “After Lives” (2020) – Nobel Prize Winner / Tanzania
In 2021, Abdulrazak Gurnah was awarded the world’s highest literary honour, the Nobel Prize, for “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.” His most recent novel, Afterlives, follows the interlinked stories of a group of friends in East Africa who live and work and fall in love in the shadow of a war that threatens to snatch them up and carry them away.

April: Niall Williams, “This Is Happiness” (2019) — Ireland
This Is Happiness is a tender portrait of a small Irish community – its idiosyncrasies and traditions, its paradoxes and kindnesses, its failures and triumphs – and a coming-of-age tale like no other. Luminous and lyrical, yet anchored by roots running deep into the earthy and everyday, it is about the power of stories: their invisible currents that run through all we do, writing and rewriting us, and the transforming light that they throw onto our world.

May: Louise Erdrich, “The Sentence” (2021) – Indigenous / Native AmericanLouise Erdrich, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author (and bookshop owner), is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native American writers today. In The Sentence, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted by the store’s most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls’ Day, but she simply won’t leave the store. In this stunning and timely novel, Erdrich creates a wickedly funny ghost story, a tale of passion, of a complex marriage, and of a woman’s relentless errors, and a bitter pandemic year many of us will never forget.

June: Damon Galgut, “The Promise” (2021) – Booker Prize Winner / South Africa

The winner of this year’s Booker Prize, The Promise is a taut and menacing novel that charts the crash and burn of an Afrikaans family, the Swarts. Punctuated by funerals that bring the ever-diminishing family together, each of the four parts opens with a death and a new decade. 
The characterisations are razor sharp, the dialogue dramatic, the action gripping. As we traverse the decades, accomplished author Damon Galgut interweaves the story of a disappointed nation from apartheid to Jacob Zuma.

July: Laura Jean McKay, “The Animals in That Country” (2020) – Arthur C. Clarke Winner / Science Fiction / Australia
As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed grandmother Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean’s infected son, Lee. Bold, exhilarating, and wholly original, The Animals in That Country asks what would happen, for better or worse, if we finally understood what animals were saying.

August (?): Sei Shonagon, “The Pillow Book” (1002) — Classic / Japan / Translation (depending if enough copies can be acquired).

Our Classic read of the year is The Pillow Book, a fascinating, detailed account of Japanese court life in the eleventh century written by a lady of the court at the height of Heian culture. Written at the same time as The Tale of Genji, this book enthralls with its lively gossip, witty observations, and subtle impressions of a vanished world.

Note the penguin is holding a Fullers shopping bag too.
We are really looking forward to the new books.

In a final note, Fullers bookshop has another competition going. They have a large advertisement on the side of one metro bus that drives around Hobart. If you see it, snap a photo of it, send it in to them and each week they award a $50.00 gift voucher to the lucky winner. I spotted it this past week on my way to the gym. Snapped a photo, then photoshopped the beloved Penguin onto it and off it win. Here’s hoping!


A very happy Ollie.

Windows are open and the sun is shining. The eastern half of Australia has just been inundated with rain the past few weeks. And like everyone else I keep saying, Can you believe it is the end of the year already? Okay so getting on with it.

Books: I finished the audible book The Happiest Refugee by Anh Doh that is a biography that spans from his treacherous arrival into Australia as a small child aboard a leaky boat, attacked by pirates, hunger and all kinds of danger. It is amazing they actually made it thanks to a German ship that picked them up. He details his family’s activities, the highs and lows of life in Sydney and he really does have an indomitable spirit. He is very successful as an artist and comedian and I enjoy his tv series as he paints a portrait of his featured guests while talking to them. The guest is then presented with the final portrait at the end of the program. Anh’s Brush With Fame featured on the ABC (Australia).

I have also visited my Lonely Planet Armchair Traveller book of writings and music from the countries of the world and picked Peru for me a couple of weeks back. I downloaded a book of short stories by Peruvian author Julio Ramon Ribeyro. The book is titled Marginal Voices: Selected Stories. I am loving these stories and his writing is just brilliant. It is narrated by Kenneth Lee, part of the Texas Pan American series, University of Texas Press 1993. Translated by Dianne Douglas.

Amazon describes the book as:

Julio Ramón Ribeyro has been widely acclaimed as Peru’s master storyteller. Until now, however, few of his stories have been translated into English. This volume brings together fifteen stories written during the period 1952-1975, which were collected in the three volumes of La palabra del mudo. Ribeyro’s stories treat the social problems brought about by urban expansion, including poverty, racial and sexual discrimination, class struggles, alienation, and violence. At the same time, elements of the fantastic playfully interrupt some of the stories. More importantly, Ribeyro’s characters are culturally diverse, yet they share a common destiny—a life nourished by illusions that falls short of their expectations and invariably leads to solitude. As the characters become swept up in circumstances beyond their understanding, Ribeyro shows that the only freedom or dignity left them comes from their own imaginations.

I am enjoying these stories very much. The writing is excellent and the characters very well defined. I have also been listening to the music listed on the page of the Lonely Planet book through Amazon Music or Spotify. It is just wonderful to be able to stream music from other countries so easily. Artists: Eva Ayllon, Arturo Cavero, Bareto and Los Mirlos to name a few. I have decided to use Audible for the books I read suggested by the Lonely Planet Armchair Explorer. I can stream the book at nighttime or while driving. The same goes for the music. I am really enjoying this project and using my audible credits are useful and I also have time to read my other copies of book books.

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman- Our shared reading group finished this book last night. We applauded the end of it. Then we had a round of Vodka shots and our facilitator Ebi did a Russian phrase for Salud. We also enjoyed a table of black bread, caviar, sausages, pickled onions, blinis that someone made with smoked salmon and sour cream. A few of the members that had Ubers coming later stayed on to enjoy their shots of vodka. The vodka was packaged in a beautiful carved glass bottle with lovely foil labeling and made in St Petersburg. It was such a fun evening. Now we are on break to read other books over our summer. New events will begin at Fullers in February.

One more project I am “diving into- as the popular trend of the moment”….is a photography project I am just getting off the ground inspired by the book launched at Fullers Undiscovered Tasmania by Rochelle and Walter Dare last week. They are a couple with a young daughter who explore the hidden areas of Tasmania and put their photos up on Instagram. Instagram name is “LetsGoDare”. They were approached by someone who wanted them to turn it into a book and to make a long story short, that is what they did. None of the iconic tourist areas of Tasmania are presented but instead they visit small country towns, wildlife areas and beaches that are out of the way.

I’ve been wanting to do some photography away from the iconic areas that everyone sees when googling Tasmania and I have bitten the proverbial bullet.

I bought a Tasmanian map and a book of camping areas and places to see around those areas and am starting to explore in the southern part of the state. I have decided I will share this project on this blog but in separate posts called Exploring Tasmania or something similar. Have not decided on that title yet. I have quite a bit of bookish activity on during the year so will keep books separate from photography. That way if you’re not interested in both fields of interests you can ignore those posts.

Another area of interest I want to do in 2020 is a new bookish feature called From My Shelves or something similar. Still thinking. I have quite a few unusual books of interest on my shelf, some read, some not. I thought I’d feature a specific book from my shelf just to share it with readers. I have books on the classics, cookbooks, photography books, reference books, etc and things I inadvertently come across here and there. I know how much I like to see a book displayed. It will be more like walking through a bookshop, picking up the book and thinking….I wonder what this is about. No review of the actual story or characters, just a review or display of the book.


In summary for 2022 you can look for: Photography with the Penguin. The Penguin shares books on our shelves. Bookish activities and short synopsis or reviews and Lonely Planet Armchair books from other countries. I think the Penguin will need to have some new outfits made.

I’m getting a jump on 2022 as no doubt others will be doing soon and I do look forward to seeing what you will all get up to in our new year. Stay well. Get vaccinated.

Sunday 21 November, 2021

I have just begun reading this book.

Reading groups, new books, nuisance appointments and photography updates.

I know I shouldn’t say “How fast is this year going?” But now Christmas and 2022 are in sight it is hard not to think this. For not travelling anywhere it seems quite a bit has happened. Just not things we always chose.

First off family and pets are all fine. Moving right along on this turbulent river we call Life.

Lots of books have come along and I look forward to summer months without so many commitments and some reading outdoors. My favourite places to read are in a bath or outdoors in a lounge chair surrounded by Ollie and Peanut.

First off, the Russian book, Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman will probably wrap up in one more week. It has been the most interesting time. Tomorrow night we have a guest lecturer from the University in the department of philosophy visiting the group and I imagine we’ll be delving into good and evil of what happens in war. What is evil for one group appears to be good for the other. Is it innate? Do we chase after it? How do these atrocities develop between people who were once friends because of war? I’m not sure about the subject matter but Life and Fate sure gives one plenty to think of. These sessions have become very similar to post graduate tutorials and I really thrive on them. Next year we are hoping to share reading of possibly a Dickens book. We all need a bit of lighter reading.

The book group is finishing up and the 90 members of the Fullers book shop readng groups are invited to an end of year Christmas get together of drinks, book chat and nibbles the first week of December in a lovely local hotel. Fullers is putting this on for us. A chance to meet other group members and there may be a quiz over the books we read this year. Should be fun.

I had a birthday this past week and was given several book vouchers for the day. As well as chocolate and a jig saw puzzle that might be a bit tricky. It was a good week and my vouchers have already been cashed in. Here is the lovely book haul that waits for summer calm.

Gifted by a friend. Looking forward to this.

I have had na two month break from photography and all things linked to it. The you tube instructional videos, the post editing, taking photos of the same old things all the time. Just a full stop. However the break worked and I look forward to getting into it again. This coming week I am attending a Fullers book launch of a book that highlights the off beaten areas of Tasmania to visit. When living on a small, beautiful island that attracts tourists from all over the world, the same geographic places are advertised time and time again. Cradle Mountain, Port Arthur, the west coast activities of Gordon River cruise in Strahan and the wineries everywhere along the east coast. For a photographer it seems all the photographers are taking photos of the same thing. Yes they are beautiful but moss covered trees, the red rocks of Binalong Bay, the myriad of waterfalls. I need some different and more unusual places to visit so that will be my photography goal for next year. Stay tuned.

Atmospheric nocturnal walks through major cities of the world.

The good thing about this year ending is all of the various health appointments Mr. Penguin and I seem to spend time on. Often scheduled in the middle of the day they seem to go on and on and just bust the days in half. Also the five weeks of solid rain we’ve been having, with even one day of snow last week has been beyond ridiculous. I think we can see summer approaching at the end of this cloudy, dreary tunnel and in good health, with good eyes, good teeth, good feet (haha), we should begin to embrace a more interesting life. We can live in h0pe.

Well known poetry and prose to read aloud for each week of the year with information about the author.
Edited by Robert MacFarlane who’s choices I will really enjoy. I enjoy anything he is involved in.
Young, dissatisfied woman runs around Britain over 301 days, facing her fears and learning new skills.
Australian book of 49 essays that came out of the 10 year Conversations project attended by 100 world wide journalists. I attended the launch of this book last week and it really is fascinating. Extremely varied topics
I’m reading 10 to 15 pages of this every morning. It is all abou
t a scientist who travels the world discovering and writing about fungi. I know, sounds dry, but is incredibly interesting and he is a very good writer. Currently in Italy looking for truffles with a couple of experienced truffle hunters and their dog. Really enjoying it.

Well the bookish photos and as it is the time of year people begin looking forward, I look forward to hearing what plans others have for 2022!!

Stay well and all the best, until next time.

“Some words are more important than others- I learned this, growing up in the Scriptorium.” from the Dictionary of Lost Words. P Williams