Book Fairy for a Day

 

18 September was International Hide a Book Day, giving book lovers around the world the opportunity to unselfishly spread the joy of reading by hiding a book in a public spot. Naturally, I didn’t miss the opportunity to don my fairy wings for 24 hours.

I do believe in book fairies. I DO believe in book fairies, I DO!

Having trouble believing Book Fairies exist? Consider this:

  • A logo is sure proof of existence, right?
  • These Book Fairies are tech-savvy: they have a website. If you don’t believe me, click this link> I Believe in Book Fairies. Think about it: How could something unreal have a website with an About page, FAQs, and merch, for goodness sake?
  • And they have regional Facebook pages, like this one in Australia.
  • And if nothing else convinces you that Book Fairies are real, consider this indisputable fact: The Chief Fairy is a lady named Cordelia, which is the most fairy-like name imaginable. Cordelia.

Book Fairies are real—real people who share their love of reading by hiding books in public places for people to find, enjoy, and re-hide. No wings are necessary—just a willingness to part with a favourite book.

Spreading Reading Rainbows Everywhere

The Book Fairies helped Goodreads celebrate their tenth birthday this year. All around the world, bewinged book worms carefully selected and prepared a book to launch into the wilderness on Hide a Book Day. The Book Fairies HQ provided stickers so that when the unsuspecting citizen finds the book, they understand that they are meant to take it home, read it, and then pass it on.

My First Book Fairy Release

After scouring my shelves, I selected  The Ratcatcher’s Daughter  by Pamela Rushby. I thought it would be fitting to pick an Aussie author and a book with local interest. The Ratcatcher’s Daughter is middle-grade historical fiction set in 1900 when the Black Death first came to Queensland. There were subsequent outbreaks of the bubonic plague for the next nine years and then again in 1921 and 1922.

Rushby relates the history through the story of fictional 13-year-old Issie McKelvie, whose dad is the local ratcatcher. She loathes rats and her dad’s pack of yappy dogs. But when dad gets sick, Issie has to step in and do the dirty work to save Brisbane from the vermin that are spreading disease and death.

The Ratcatcher’s Daughter received several awards, including the CBCA Notable Book 2015,  Highly Commended in the Davitt Awards 2015, and being shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards 2014. Pam has published a slew of educational books and commercial fiction. She lives in Queensland and says she gets her best story ideas while swimming laps.

Although it was hard to part with my copy of the book, I was keen for others to read this fascinating slice of Queensland history. I penned a personal note to the finder, tucked it inside, and left the book among the magazines and lifestyle books in a beautiful tea house on the Sunshine Coast. Giving away my book made me happy!

Fairying All Year Long

You don’t have to wait until the next Hide a Book Day to join the book sharing revolution. Join the ranks of fairies, which includes Emma Watson. Visit The Book Fairies’ website, buy some stickers, and start sharing!

Would you consider being a Book Fairy for a day? I’d love to know which book you think is worth sharing, so leave a comment!

#HideABookDay #GoodreadsTurns10 #ibelieveinbookfairies #AustralianBookFairies

Taking the Challenge: Reading Adventures, January 2014

It’s one month into the Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge, and I’m already lagging behind. According to the website’s widget, I’ve read 6% of my goal of 50 books in 2014, which means I’m one book behind where I should be. Funny–January felt like a super-charged month for reading, but maybe that was December. My life’s a blur of ink and white space.

When I checked the site, I found that the Goodreads widget has miscalculated. I’ve read 5 books this year. Ahem, that’s 10%, if you please, so I’m a little ahead–if my calculations are right (which is, frankly, unlikely).

Here’s a quick run down of my literary adventures to date. Looks like historical fiction is the flavour of the month!

Murphy’s Law – A Molly Brown Mystery, by Rhys Bowen (Audio)

This is a series that I may return to one day, just to find out if Molly gets a man. The trouble is I’m not a great series reader. I tend to take a bite, savour, and move on rather than gorge myself on the whole banquet. Life’s short and there are so many books I want to read.

  • What Made Me Swoon: Molly’s feistiness, the hint of a love prospect, the time period and setting (turn of the century NYC)
  • What Made Me Yawn: Okay, Molly was feisty, but she had no choice. She was so naive she got herself into some big messes and constantly had to fight her way out. I got a bit tired of her late reckoning of the awful pickle she found (put) herself in.
4 STARS ****

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by–never mind, you know who it’s by

What’s not to love? It’s atmospheric from the first scene. The indisputable  horribleness of Harry’s family and his “bedroom” under the stairs is just endearing. How could you not root for this underdog? The only trouble I had with this reading was what I saw in my head was the movie version. I like my version better.

5 STARS *****

The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye: 5 Fairy Stories, by A.S. Byatt

I confess I didn’t read to the last page–but I did finish it in the sense that I read until I’d had enough. The rave reviews I read on this one misled me, and I feel annoyed. They said the eponymous fairy story was the best, and I disagree. It was a yawn–featuring a cast of pompous characters and seriously lacking in fairy tale flavour. The book’s other fairy stories were good, though. My new WIP is a fairy tale, so I thought this would be inspiring. I found it at a second-hand bookstore while we were on holidays.

3 STARS ***

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Audio)

If I read a better book in 2014 then this will truly be a year of wonderful reading. This is a swoon-worthy, rave-worthy book. Well researched, beautifully written, elegantly structured–everything you could want. Both characters, Sarah Grimke is a historical figure, an abolitionist and feminist in Antebellum South. Handful is the slave who was given to Sarah as a birthday gift. The two girls’ relationship over their lifetimes is compelling and heartbreaking. Both women were bound by culture, one in her mind, the other in her body. It is moving stuff.

5 GOLDEN STARS *****

Boxers and Saints, a boxed set of 2 graphic novels by Gene Luen Yang

I read Boxers, the first of two. I don’t think I’ve read a graphic novel before, but I totally enjoyed this one. The drawings are simple but more than enough to tell a rich story. The time period is pre-communist China, a time of incredible social upheaval. The “supernatural” elements in this telling made it very compelling. I’m looking forward to reading the next one, Saints, which looks at the story from “the other side.”

0 STARS until I finish Saints

Other reading endeavours…

I started a very sweet cosy mystery by Georgette Heyer, but I had to lay it aside for a while. I’d started working on a new writing project and the voice in this Heyer’s book was so strong that it was seeping into my work. I’ll go back to it because it’s witty and cute.

I dare say February’s tally will be dismal for a whole pile of reasons. I’ve gone back to work; I’m reading an old-fashioned slogger (a goody, but a slogger nonetheless); and I’ve got a new WIP, which really slows my reading down.

Watch this space for more monthly literary adventures!

In Falling Snow: Memorable

in-falling-snow

In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl

Allen & Unwin, 2012

ISBN: 9781743317440

In Falling Snow tells the story of Iris Crane, a young Australian woman who goes to France early in WWI. Her mission is to rescue her run-away brother, only 15, who lied about his age to fight for the Brits. Upon arrival, she meets the charismatic (historical) figure, Dr Frances Ivens, who was leading a team of women doctors and nurses in setting up a field hospital. The Scottish Women’s Hospital was established in the abbey of Royaumont, north of Paris, and the transformation from filthy, crumbling ruins to operational hospital was nothing short of miraculous.

The team of women, under the leadership of Dr Ivens, flourishes, despite the devastation around them. Iris comes of age, with her wonderful gifts in language, administration, compassion and nursing coming to the fore. While the stream of wounded flow in, Iris must comfort the dying, assist the doctors, and somehow keep her brother safe. She forms a deep bond with a headstrong woman ambulance driver, and she meets a man and falls in love.

Braided into the Royaumont tale is the parallel story of an older Iris, now in her eighties in Australia, and her granddaughter Grace. In the late 70s of Brisbane, Iris’s life is ebbing, and the full story of what happened at Royaumont begins to seep out. Ghosts from the past arrive with an invitation to Royaumont for a reunion, and long-lost friends reappear. No one realises just how much those war years have shaped their lives.

Mary-Rose MacColl has written a memorable story of secrets, of loss and regret, sacrifice and fulfilment. The structure, moving between the stories of the young Iris and the old, worked well, although I occasionally found Grace’s storyline hard to read. Her work as an obstetrician stirred up visceral memories that made me squirm. That, however, is testament to the power of MacColl’s writing. The field hospital history is a marvel in itself, but the imagination of MacColl brings the incredible women of Royaumont beautifully to life. The gobsmacker of a twist at the end is the icing on this marvellous gateau.

 

The Vital Art of Book Selection

It’s funny how often I talk to people–young and old–who say they’re not reading because they don’t know what to read next. Sure there are so many choices that it can be overwhelming.

With a little effort and time, you can make informed choices and keep yourself reading to your heart’s content. There’s nothing quite as comforting as a well-stocked nightstand.

Here are a few ways to stay abreast of the myriad of reading choices.

Newfangled Options:

1) Goodreads – Join this website and get the app for your smart phone, and with a tiny bit of effort, you can be in the know. You can find out what people like, follow authors, and track your own reading. I love Goodreads for all these reasons, and especially for my fellow members’ reviews. When I see something that looks good, I add it to my To Read shelf. Next time I’m at the bookstore, I just open up the Goodreads app on my phone, access my To Read list, and find a book.

2) Publisher Apps – Some publishers, Random House for example, now have apps which feature recent releases. You can peruse the titles by genre and see what looks good. There are even sample chapters.

3) eReaders – If you don’t own an eReader, don’t worry. You can still add apps such as Kindle and Kobo to your iPad or smart phone. Many book retailers offer sample chapters so you can have a free try before you buy.

4) Twitter – Follow publishers, book reviewers, and your favourite authors to see what’s being released. Sometimes they run competitions to win advance copies!

5) Buy Online – Online booksellers use cookies and other mysterious means to track your purchases and interests. If you visit frequently, you’ll find they offer suggestions that match your interests.

Old Fashioned Methods:

1) Magazines and Newspapers – Good Reading Magazine is fabulous, and their website is especially good. The weekend papers have long printed great book reviews, so check them out to see what’s new in the publishing world.

2) Your Local Librarian – Check out the stacks at your library. Most have displays of new releases.

3) You local independent bookstore – This is probably the best means of all. The folks that run bookstores have their fingers on the pulse of both the publishing world and the reading public. Ask for a recommendation. These guys are qualified to make good suggestions.

4) Join a book club and try something new, perhaps a genre you haven’t sampled before.

If All Else Fails…

1) Buying Blind – This is when you make a selection based solely on a book’s cover–no prior Goodreads research, no reviews, no recommendations from trusted friends. You just pick a cover that grabs you, cross your fingers, and go for a literary adventure. You may luck out and find a new favourite. If not, you’ve still had some fun.

Tsundoku

I use all of the methods above, researching, recording, and keeping tabs on publishers. I even resort to the last option–the spontaneous purchase. Sometimes I end up with a total shocker of a book, but that’s okay because it makes those times when I pick a winner all the more wonderful.