Olive Again and a Giveaway Winner

Business first please:  

Berezina bookI said I would send the Russian travel book, Berezina by Sylvain Tesson to a random person who commented on the last post.  I used Random.org and the winner is Kaggsy of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings.  Karen, if you email a mailing address at psbparks at ymail dot com, I will post to you at the beginning of next week. I hope you enjoy it.

Binging on films:

little womenThis week has really flown by and I admit I have no idea where the time went. I have been reading and also attended a couple of films. Little Women was enjoyable but more for the costumes and scenery.  They flash back and forth a few times which at times confused me momentarily but then all became clear.  I have seen so many interpretations of this film I guess now I have it covered more than enough. The book remains the best way to know this story. Timeless.

I also saw the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. Starring Tom Hanks, it is the story of Fred Rogers who presented the American childhood show, Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood in the USA from 1968 to 2001. It was a very gentle show and although I was too old for it at the time, I remember my younger brother watching it and the impersonations he did of Mr. Rogers kept our family in fits of laughter several times. I enjoyed the nostalgia of it.

Last night I saw the film, Bombshell with a couple of friends. It is based on the sexual harassment that happened to the women broadcasters on Fox News by the CEO and the women’s case against him that resulted in his leaving the organisation in 2016, just before the American election of Donald Trump.  As I won’t have anything to do with Fox News, I was unaware of all of this, though none of what I witnessed surprised me.  Fox News isn’t even registered as a news organisation but instead is listed as entertainment. Why so many Americans think Rupert Murdoch’s Fox TV news program presents unbiased news is beyond me but hey, to each their own.  Of course being a Hollywood film it was full of drama and spit and polish.  I don’t usually run to see a lot of American films unless they are more independent but to see three in two weeks is a record for me.  It was more of a social opportunity to spend time with friends than having any real desire to get to these films.

I did get excited to hear the producers of the Downton Abbey movie that was so popular last year are looking at making yet another full feature sequel.  I think they were surprised at how much money they made from the first one so that is probably the best incentive.  Now, they just have to try to get all of the actors gathered together again to move forward. We’ll see…


Olive AgainThe book I immersed myself in this week was Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout. I really loved Olive Kitteredge as the first Olive book. I also enjoyed e mini-series made of it with Frances McDormand starring as Olive. As I read the book she is who I pictured in my mind.

Olive Again is constructed the same as the first book and picks up from the end of Olive Kitteredge and goes to almost the end of her life when she is in assisted living.  The chapters feature various people in the town of which she lives and she pops up here and there. Sometimes she features quite a bit in the chapter and other chapters she is a passing character.

Elizabeth Strout has such a good way of defining and writing about characters in a community and by the end several characters are intersecting in each others lives with Olive somehow touching all of them. I really enjoy the format.

Olive KitteridgeI know a lot of people probably wouldn’t like her as a person but I love her.  She is acerbic and cranky with a very hidden heart of gold. As I grow older I find myself blurting out things when annoyed and I can hear Olive’s voice in my head-=. Sometimes it worries me how easily I could become her.  She is one of my all time favourite characters in a book and I really do come close to knowing her as a non-fictional character.  I guess this is very complimentary of Strout’s writing.  If you enjoyed the first Olive book then I think you will enjoy the second one. If you didn’t like the first one then it is probably best to skip the second one.  I think they are both books I could happily read again at a later date.

I’m undergoing some treatment for an eye problem at the moment (nothing to worry about as it is treatable but necessary) and the drops I’m using really cause the eye to be sensitive to light.  It also aches quite a bit for a few hours after the drops so I am only reading in fits and starts.

classic american litI downloaded the Classics of American Literature narrated by Arnold Weinstein on Audible.com.  I listen to it for 30 to 45 minutes each night when I first go to bed each night. I set the sleep timer for 30 or 45 minutes and as it finishes I am either asleep or just about to sleep. The entire course is 44 hours long.  I’m finding it very interesting.  Mr. Weinstein is a professor in literature at Brown university and is very knowledgeable.

I have heard lectures on Washington Irving, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Thoreau, Edgar Allan Poe and am currently listening to lectures on Nathaniel Hawthorn.  He discusses their personal lives and then really dissects their most prominent writings. Currently he is really giving a great deal of information about the Scarlet Letter. I read this book in high school and hated it. But now I am much older and learn what Hawthorne was trying to relate through it, I am finding it much more interesting.

I guess that pretty much summarises the week so I will finish this off and get the Berezina book wrapped, ready to post.   Enjoy your weekend.

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Happy Reading

A Bit of Fluff on a Rainy Day

Life According to Literature Tag Meme

First off I’d like to thank the weather gods for sending us rain overnight. It’s not all we rainneed but it sure sounded lovely on the roof this morning. I hear it’s raining over the fires as well but that’s a mixed bag. Lightning can start more fires, but cooler conditions and rain can help extinguish the fires that are still going.

It’s been a silly old day today.  I took Ollie for a walk today and of course he got into the burrs. Burrs and a rough coated Jack Russell are not at all compatible. Especially when one has very short legs and the burrs get on the puppy tummy as well. Trying to comb anything out of a five month old puppy is a challenge but we finally got through it.

outbackThen I thought, “Now what can I do to entertain myself when Claire’s meme came through from her blog. Several of my blogger friends have participated in this little exercise so I thought I’d have a go. However, one is supposed to use the names of books read in 2019. I didn’t keep track of what I read in 2019. As I am focusing this year on the books currently unread on my shelves I decided to use those TBR books instead. So here goes. I revised the rules for my page.

THE RULES: Using only books you have not read on your shelves, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Let me know below, if you’ve joined in too

Describe yourself:

How do you feel?    Happy Returns by CS Forester

Describe where you currently live:    In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:    Outback and Beyond by Cynthia Nolan

Your favourite form of transportation:    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by   Rob Pirsig

dogYour best friend is:    The Literary Dog by William E. Maloney

You and your friends are:    Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

What’s the weather like:    Rain-Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison

You fear:    The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

What is the best advice you have to give?    Get an:   Accommodating Spouse by Elizabeth Jolley

Thought for the day:    Browse The World in Bookshops by Henry Hitchings

spouseHow would I like to die?    Central Mischief by Elizabeth Jolley

My soul’s present condition:    Autumnal Tints by Henry David Thoreau


So there we have it… Until next time.

Yellow Casual Penguin
I’m finally getting some wear out of this rain coat.


The Age of Innocence and Kensuke’s Kingdom

age innocenceI’ve read a couple books this week plus a short story. It’s quite hot out so nice to stay inside where it is cool.  Southern Tasmania is probably the only place in the nation without smoke in the air. It’s really been terrible for people.

I read The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton for my upcoming book group meeting in February at Fullers Bookshop. Edith Wharton was the first female author to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1921. It was originally serialised in four parts in a magazine the previous year and then published and sold as a book.  I’ll be interested to see what the book group thinks about it. Last year they hated the period piece of Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield which I loved.  I enjoyed this book once I got into it. It’s one of those books I wouldn’t start unless I had a good block of time to get into it so I’d want to pick it up again.

Newland Archer is engaged to May Welland and looking forward to his wedding very

edith wharton
Edith Wharton

much. Then her cousin the Countess Ellen Olenska arrives from Europe where she has left her brutish Polish husband and does not plan to return.  It is the end of the 19th century, New York, so of course there is a great deal of discussion about her upcoming divorce and will she be accepted into society or not.  She is a bit Bohemian, wears scarves, loves the wilder side of life and is very independent.  Newland falls in love with her and that sets up the plot for the rest of the story.

However the beauty of this book is how it defines social class in the later half of the 1800s in New York.  The requirements of proper society ladies and gentlemen are very clear and heaven help you if you break one of them. The scandals, the gossip, the theatre, the interactions between the extended families of both Newland and May come into the tale very much.  It was an important piece of literature in America in the early 1900s because of the impact World War I had on society.  Values were changing and that impacted on New Society and pretty much the entire way of life. Events such as the war, the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the depression changed the face of America. This book defined how life was previous to all of that and you could see the beginning of those changes as the year rolled over into the new century from the 1800’s.  There is also the theme of balancing what is responsible in one’s life versus what one wants. Does one forego a life, hurting many people in exchange for only thinking of oneself to attain what is wanted.  As predictable as the story was the ramifications of how it addressed an important part of American history stays with the reader.  I enjoyed it.

322My second book of the week was randomly selected from 1001 Children’s Books You Should Read Before You Die.  The first couple of selections were not available in our local library but this book was. Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom is a book I’d never heard of. Mr. Morpugo was born in 1943 in Hertfordshire, England. He has written many books and our library seems to have most of them. I would think the reading age for this book would be about 9 or 10 upwards. It is the story of an 8 year old boy who moves onto a yacht with his parents after they lose their job when the local factory closes down. They sail to various places in the world and one day while the boy is on watch with his dog, they fall overboard. His parents are asleep below deck and have no idea this has happened. He and the dog manage to stay above water but when all is lost and he becomes unconscious and the dog has floated away, he awakes and finds himself on an island. Only one other person lives on the island, a 90 year old Japanese man who has been there since Nagasaki was destroyed in World War II and he cannot go home again.

The man eventually works out the boy is not an enemy and he takes him under his wing.

Michael Morpurgo

They care for the gibbon monkeys and the orangatangs. They live in a cave fitted out with items from a sunken ship nearby. While there, evil men arrive in a sloop with rifles and their aim is to kill the adult gibbon monkeys so they can steal the babies for the tourist trade.  There are a lot of environmental messages in this book. They talk about the animals and the extensive clearing of land. At the end of the book there is a page about all the illegal and governmental land clearance around the world and the impact that has on the wildlife.  The message it portrays is very pointed.  I didn’t think I’d like reading a book for such a young audience but the main characters were enjoyable and developed enough that I cared about them. I worried about the monkeys and orangatangs too. I finished it in a couple of hours as I was interested in how they would all end up.  If I had children in my life I would recommend these adventure stories to them. There is enough adventure that the educational value of it does not become overwhelming.

I’ve got another couple books on the go but I’m not far enough into them yet to say anything.  I have a very funny short story from the book Funny Ha Ha to share too but will do so later.

Until next time…

Yellow Casual Penguin
It’s raining today. We need more!!







This book counts for the Century of Books Challenge:  1920.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

For people who read a lot they will probably know this was an important short story in

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From Wikipedia

American Literature.  It’s first inception was not a film though two films have been made of this story, neither kept to the plot.

It was written by the wonderful author James Thurber.  I love his tales. I have read him off and on for years and he had such a creative, humorous imagination. He was born in 1894, the same year my maternal grandparents were born though they were a few months older than him. He was a cartoonist, humorist, journalist, playwright, children’s book author and wit. He was best known for short stories and cartoons published in the New Yorker. (Wikipedia).

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was first published in The New Yorker magazine March 18, 1939. It is a story about a man who day dreamed his life away.  How often do we do that? I was a great day dreamer especially as I sat in school classes and it never really disappeared much into adulthood.

The story begins in Connecticut with Walter driving his wife into the city to do the shopping and have her hair done. Walter doesn’t pay much attention to the real world, but instead lives in a dreamlike state of heroic antics.

As they drive into town his wife tells him to quit driving so quickly. He goes into his imagination and sees himself as a pilot of a US Navy flying boat in a storm. There is a brief description of this episode of heroism. As they drive past a hospital he suddenly turns into a wonderful surgeon performing the trickiest of operations to save the life of his patient.

Screenshot 2Once past the hospital something else catches his imagination and he becomes a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom. Soon afterwards he is a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dumb.

Once the trip into town is complete he sees him self standing against a wall facing a firing squad. Each imaginative event is inspired by some detail of his hum drum life.

James Thurber’s stories and cartoons often displayed meek mannered men dominated by overweight, domineering wives. It seems to be a joke repeated often over time, especially in cartoons.

I remember the discussions of the story as far back as high school as his short stories, this one as well as The Catbird Seat were often taught in high school English classes. I wonder if they still are. I loved him and his stories. Screenshot 4

This story begins the exploration of the book, Funny Ha Ha, I talked about in a previous post.



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Looking Forward to 2020- Part 2

ScreenshotIt’s to be 40 degrees C (104 F) in Hobart today. The firefighters are on high alert as a large storm is expected to come through tonight and they are worried about lightning strikes starting fires. The last time Hobart hit 40 degrees C on this date was 1897. Needless to say we are sequestered in the house for the day.

It gives me a chance to finalise my challenges for next year. I am adding two other types of reading in order to diversify the books a bit. I got a book voucher for my November birthday and with it I purchased a very thick book of comical short stories by well known authors. It is called Funny Ha Ha. Authors include the likes of James Thurber, Saki, Spike Milligan, Mark Twain, Joyce Carol Oates and Dorothy Parker to name a few. There are 80 stories in all, of a few pages each.  I decided I will randomly pick one story each Monday morning and have programmed that into my phone calendar so I will get a reminder each week.

As New Year’s Day is this Wednesday, I decided to randomly pick a story today and was pleased when my random generator app chose The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. I have read this story before, once assigned in high school and once later on. I also saw the film but didn’t get as much out of that as I did the story. I look Screenshot 5forward to reading it again.

The description of Funny Ha Ha states:

“Funny Ha Ha is the definitive collection of comic short stories. From Anton Chekhov to Ali Smith from P.G. Woodhouse to Nora Ephron, the greatest writers are those who know how to laugh. Here, award winning comedian and broadcaster Paul Merton brings together his favourite funny stories of all time. Whether it’s the silly, surreal, slapstick or satirical that makes you smile there’s a story here to tickle every funny bone. From prize-winners and literary giants, to stand up comedians and the rising stars of funny literature, this brilliant anthology is guaranteed to cheer your day. “

My second challenge is to continue with more of the books from 1001 Children’s Books You Should Read Before You Die. I started it before but it got waylaid. I’m hoping to rejuvenate that project. The only conditions I am assigning this project are I will use the Random Generator app to pick from the 900+ pages of the book and the books must come from the library.  I had a quick library search and they do have many of them. However some books are not available. There are quite a few copies that are eBooks I can download and others I need to put a hold on them.  I am choosing three books at a time and locating them in the library. I will read them once they become available or I get into town to pick them up.  Most won’t take very long to read.  I’ve not read children’s books much since I stopped working in the Education department. I like to keep up on children’s books and some young adult books.  It keeps me in the loop of what goes on with the younger generations though many of these books were classics when I was young.

Screenshot 3I also have some diaries I will try to keep up. They begin on 1 January and I will try to start my day off with the passage of the day. They are books I’ve wanted to read for awhile and if I take a year to read them I might be able to keep up. No promises on this one.

They are:

  1. The Diary of Samuel Pepys (those entries are a bit longer) Everyman’s Library, introduced by Kate Loveman
  2. A Traveller’s Year: 365 Days of Travel Writing in Diaries, Journals and Letters, compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison
  3. New York Diaries:  1609 to 2009, Edited by TeresaScreenshot 4 Carpenter.
  4. Dear Los Angeles: The City in diaries and Letters 1542 – 2018, Edited by David Kipen

Books three and four are really interesting. The editors have compiled all the diaries and letters they could find over time, in these locations, and organised the entries from centuries ago;  to current day by day of the year beginning with 1 January. So an entry might read: 1 January 1723 and the next paragraph could be 1 January 1802, and so forth. It sounds disjointed but I’ve had a read of these books here and there and they are really quite fun. Of course big events in these two cities are covered but there are also very minor characters who kept diaries and one gets a sense of what daily life’s like at the particular date.

Now I know, come 1 January, I love to take a big bite out of the book world and I am quite enthused now. But I have decided that 2020 is the year I drop way back on social media, except for my photography work and instead of wasting time looking at FB, Instagram and You Tube, I’m going to immerse myself in the books I have been collecting for decades and then moving them on.  Wish me luck.  (I know, I have an inflated sense of self and a very good sense of humour.) Screenshot 8

Another Aboriginal Biography

wandering girlWandering Girl by Glenyse Ward 1987

Magabala Books

Glenyse Ward was born in 1949.  She was removed by the Australian government from her parents as an infant and put into the St Joseph Orphanage in Perth, Western Australia. Once she turned two years of age she was transported to the Wandering Mission (St Xavier Native Mission), a Catholic missionary and raised by very strict, controlling German nuns.

She lived there until age 14 when she went to the Bigelow family to work as a domestic slave. Mrs. Bigelow was the wife of the Lord Mayor of the town and always referred to Glenyse as her slave and worked her as a slave.  She was made to eat and drink out of the tin dishes reserved for the cat and she slept in a tiny attic room above the garage. She showered in the same area Mrs. Bigelow washed the dogs.

Growing up in the orphanage she had her friends who she continued to miss the rest of her life. Two of the friends turned out to be her biological sisters. That surprised her greatly.  She was told her father had died in an accident and remain surprised as she already believed he was dead. She had knowledge of where her mother lived but wasn’t allowed to see her. Her mother visited her once at the missionary but the nuns turned her away because she was apparently very drunk.

This book is her story working for the Bigelow family. They lived in wealth in a beautiful farmhouse. Mrs Bigelow would not acknowledge Glenyse’s name or speak to her.

Life at the mission was hard as all the children were expected to work hard at their

The author Glenyse Ward now.

chores and study their lessons. When she approached her teen years a new teacher arrived, a man who separated the girls by colour. He would teach the lighter skinned girls as he believed they had the ability to learn but the darker skinned girls weren’t believed to be capable of learning.

This is a very slim book of her domestic years, 157 pages long. I picked it up in a second hand bookshop and will pass it on. If anyone in Australia would like this book I’m happy to post it to you. Let me know in an email at psbparks at ymail. dot com.

The story is very appropriate for young adults also and I think the reality of her life was crueler than what she wrote about in this book. That’s why I wondered if it was written for a younger audience.

There is a lot more information about the author here and here if you’re interested.

You can hear her testifying about her experience related to the Stolen Generation here.

I would be interested in reading more about this woman’s life as an adult. The book described here takes her through her teenage years. bluejumper




Simply Sunday 10 November

Ollie- 12 weeks old. Male.

It’s been a very hectic week but more pleasant than the previous week.  Readers will know we lost our lovely Odie last week. We were going to adopt another puppy as our older dog Molly is missing him. We wanted to get one from the Dog’s Home but they seldom have puppies that are small breeds. As we’re getting older we need a dog we can lift if needed. Odie needed to be carried a lot and we struggled with his weight. We saw a lovely litter of Jack Russells that needed a home. I checked it wasn’t a puppy mill turning them out and it wasn’t. A lovely family with six children had a pair of pedigree Jack Russell puppies. The mother is from Queensland and the father is a Tasmanian.  A good gene selection.

Ollie came home on Thursday this past week. Molly has taken over keeping an eye on him. As she’s 15 years old in March she is an old hand at raising a couple of puppies and a few kittens. She seems livelier since he has joined our family and has cheered all of us up immensely though he will never be a replacement for Odie. We named him Ollie as it is a combination of the names of our past two dogs, Wally and Odie. He seems to be getting used to it. So he will continue to feature on this blog in future posts here and there.

Snip20191110_1As we’ve been so incredibly heartbroken over the past couple of weeks I needed to find a book to read that offered comfort. I downloaded the audible book of All Creatures Great and Small read by actor Christopher Timothy from Audible.com. I have been listening to the wonderful stories of the Yorkshire practice before World War II in England. The family of characters, the country folk, everything about the series is lovely. Christopher Timothy played Mr. Herriott in the series that aired on television in the 1980’s. The series was wonderful and I have seen it a couple of times.  It is my go to comfort watching/reading.

Alf Wight


Mr Penguin and I went to Yorkshire in the 1980’s and were lucky enough to be in the town of Thurso while James Herriott was still practising. Known as James Alfred (Alf) Wight, not Herriott we were told in the local bookshop we visited that he would be in his practice the following day talking to visitors. With a newly purchased book in hand, we trotted over to his practice and waited with a handful of others as he turned up from a day’s work and invited us into his parlour. He chatted with us and autographed our books.  It was a lovely day and we enjoyed meeting him very much.

The other book I’ve started as a hard copy is one Simon of Stuck in a Book (see his review here which I agree with) discussed awhile ago about a family who moved to Hay on Wye in Wales and decided to raise their family there. It was when Hay on Wye was in its heyday of bookshops in the early 2000s. The title of the book is Sixpence House: Lost In A Town of Books by Paul Collins.Snip20191110_3

I’m only about a quarter of the way into it but am enjoying it very much.

I also realise several bloggers are doing the Non-Fiction November readings this month. I haven’t joined in this month but it turns out I have only been reading non-fiction lately so I guess I’m participating despite my plans not to actively join in.

I’m looking forward to the new year of 2020 and am making some bookish, photography and dog training plans.  I’m hoping it will be a more uplifting year than the past couple of months have been.  I know life is cyclical so we can only continue to go up now.

As I have previously lost one book per puppy. (You cannot leave them unattended- books that is); I am hoping Ollie does not continue the tradition.  I will let you know how we go.

Who can believe we’re in the middle of November already?  Until next time….Snip20190825_5