Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: The Solitaire Mystery - Jostein Gaarder

I have several reviews to catch up with courtesy of my holiday reading but I've chosen to do this one first because this is a book that just might have changed my life.

I first discovered The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder in my high school library when I was about 14. It is a deeply philosophical novel that I realised I didn't fully understand. I enjoyed it, but I knew there was more that I couldn't see. I firmly resolved to read it again when I was older.

This was a resolution I promptly forgot until I was in a second hand bookshop in Darwin last September. I came across this and decided it was definitely time to see if I could comprehend the book better - my first reading was now half a lifetime ago.

A couple days later I was in Alice Springs walking around in a daze as I compared the messages of The Solitaire Mystery to the place my life had got to - it pointed out to me that in many ways I'd settled for something that was comfortable and easy and had just accepted the place I'd landed in rather than striving onward as I'd promised myself years ago when I chose to change careers. Where I found myself in work and home life wasn't what I'd wanted, exactly, but in my mind I was conscious I'd decided that it was good enough. That reading of The Solitaire Mystery might just have been the wake up call I needed.

Ten months later my life is in a very different place. A lot has changed and I realised earlier in the year that I'd achieved enough of my long-term goals that I needed to go looking for more - I can't give The Solitaire Mystery credit for all of it but I think it helped get me moving again. I though I should read it a third time while I was away in Brisbane and see what revelations it might have for me this time. I enjoyed it again but it didn't have the impact it did last time. Maybe the twists in the plot were too fresh in my mind, maybe I was happier with the image in the mirror this book presented me with. It was still time well spent.

I would absolutely recommend this book, it's somewhat quirky and different with a strong surreal element but the philosophy is wonderful and the themes are really intriguing. Maybe the ideas and concepts might give you one of those fantastic revelatory moments that a good book can bring. It's well worth finding out.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Found Alphabet - P

I just spent four wonderful and very relaxing days in Brisbane. I thought it would be a good chance to get this alphabet back on track. I've not found much to inspire a P post - at first I was just too busy, then I just couldn't find anything I liked. I think the holiday was very much needed... I feel refreshed and renewed, if somewhat tired from the late flights that I took in order to maximise holiday length.

The final choice is part of a sculpture near the Queensland State Library - found on my last day in Brisbane, the only one that wasn't blue-skied and sunny. It was nice not to be cold for a few days! The internet tells me the sculpture this is from is Approaching Equilibrium by Anthony Pryor.

The second below is also from a sculpture, this one in the Queensland Art Gallery - Elvira Madigan by Ron Robertson-Swann. This was the first of the images I found and after some weeks of feeling a bit disconnected from this project I suddenly had to scoot back to the cloak room to grab my camera. Hopefully this new rush of energy for the alpha-hunt continues.

I also did a lot of reading. I told you about Spellwright by Blake Charlton but read another four books too. That's a story for another post.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Spellwright - Blake Charlton

The author bio in Spellwright explains that Blake Charlton was severely dyslexic as a child. That perspective is evident in the magic system in this novel - wizards, druids, gods and other wielders of magic use a variety of languages to write their magic. Magic users are authors, to subdue their ability is censoring and those who cannot use magic are illiterate. Nicodemus, the main character, is an apprentice wizard held back by a disability that affects his interactions with magic - cacography, which is essentially a magical form of dyslexia. He cannot spell his spells correctly, has difficulty distinguishing similar words from each other and spells and magic objects that he touches develop misspellings that cause anything from eccentric behaviour to catastrophic failure.

The original magic system is at the heart of what I loved about this book though it was generally enjoyable. A number of other elements of the story are very well-worn cliches, but they're executed decently enough so it's not a problem. I'm looking forward to reading book two soon, I just hope it can maintain the development of the magic system which I enjoyed so much.

I'd love to tell you more however today I have very limited internet access - so you'll just have to read it for yourself. It comes recommended for anyone who enjoys a good fantasy read.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: Relish - Lucy Knisley

The last graphic novel I reviewed was Brian Vaughan's Saga which was brilliant - but I mentioned that due to its confronting nature it's not one I'd feel comfortable recommending to people who are not already into comics.

I do want to present a graphic novel that is more approachable as I often encounter people who love reading but vehemently insist that they'd never read a graphic novel as they are in some way a lesser literary form. I want to challenge this view as I've encountered many brilliant works that deserve equal status with quality works of prose.

So here's one that is a lot easier to approach for someone not yet comfortable with graphic formats. Relisis an autobiographical work with a  number of recipes that tie in with the stories presented as comics. I was already aware of some of Lucy Knisley's other work, particularly the webcomic Stop Paying Attention which is another autobiographical work and well worth the time to read.

The stories are fun and honest and now I want to cook every single one of the recipes.

So far I've tried two - the first is a recipe for chai which was remarkably simple and seriously delicious. I'll be making that one quite a lot in the cold weather we're having now! The other I tried was Carbonara - the hardest part was not eating the fried garlic and white wine infused pancetta before it was time to add it to the rest of the ingredients. If you do make it it's definitely worth the search to find pancetta instead of bacon.

The recipe presentation is clear with illustrations making the steps easy to follow and every one of them looks delicious.

Even if you are not normally a reader of graphic novels, if you enjoy interesting memoirs and are looking for a recipe to try why not give this a go?