Books et al's Blog

All about books, reviews, thoughts and more

Book update – Mistborn Series December 1, 2012

Hi there.

I felt compelled to write a quick review on a book I am reading.

I read voraciously and rate books I have read on my twitter post @australis14 but have decided to only post reviews to my blog when I think the book is great or needs some kind of further mention.

The Final Empire: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is just such a book. This is book one of the Mistborn series.

Sanderson has created a unique fantasy world that is bleak and dark in its scenery- the world had been under a cloud of continuous ash for 1000 years, and hopeless in its dark age feudal system, religions and classes but full of intrigue, magic and hope – the latter brought about by two of the main players Kelsier and Vin, who happen to be very good thieves and magic practitioners.

The development of a plan by their group of low born but intelligent thieves to win freedom against oppressive slavery and to bring down the evil ‘omnipotent’ god-king is at the core of the story. The key characters ( and some of their enemies) have the ability to create magic and power with the help of metals, either by ingesting them (something only the Mistborn or the Mistings can do to varying levels) or by using metals as storage for internal power. These types of magic are known as Allomancy and Ferromancy respectively. It’s a brilliant concept, particularly as each metal has distinctive properties which affect what the practitioner can do. I love the fact that each metal and alloy has a paired one which creates an equal and opposite reaction. The world of the Allomancers drew me in very quickly. I would love to be able to fly through the air using a pocketful of coins!

I have got to be honest I haven’t even finished the book, though I am almost at the end and desperately don’t want to leave the world of the Mistborn.

Imagine my excitement when I realised there were at least three more after this! I have already lined up the second book so there are no delays in continuing my Mistborn experience.

I am so glad I stumbled upon this book.
If you would like a meaty high fantasy book to get stuck into, that carries you along with excitement , intrigue, treachery, magic, hatred and love then this is the book for you! It certainly is for me.



What’s your desert island book? March 8, 2011

During World Book Day I was asked what would be my desert island book. If I was to be whisked away to a tropical, exotic island without any external contact or communication, for an indefinite amount of time, what book would I take with me?

Books trigger memories for me, each one has a specific place, emotion or atmosphere associated with it that is evoked when I recall the story, or hold a copy in my hand… they have the same effect as music or scents. Each one is precious. (Well, most. I have read some duds with no value whatsoever!). Therefore leaving any behind is almost the same as leaving behind important parts of my life. I moved from Australia to the UK and I brought as many of my books with me as I could. I still mourn the ones I left behind.

I am a huge bibliophile and will devour most things put in front of me. When asked what my all-time favourite book is, I usually list about ten and my Top 10 book list usually has about one hundred books in it. With this in mind, I am sure you can understand how hard I found it to answer this question. I responded based on the idea that I had plenty of time to pack books. Being as my house is groaning from the weight of overloaded bookshelves it took me a little while to come up with books I couldn’t live without.

The list? It goes like this, in no particular order:

1. The Map of Love by Adhaf Soueif
2. Jane Eyre: the Complete Novels – Jane Austen
3. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (I would try to include all his books)
4. Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
5. Baghdad Without a Map – Tony Robinson
6. Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes (added bonus of also referencing 3 of my favourite poets: Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth)
7. Birth of Venus -Sarah Dunant
8. The Dragonrider series – Anne McCaffrey
9. The End of Mr Y – Scarlett Thomas
10. Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Nifenegger
11. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
12. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
13. Out of Africa- Karen Blixen/ Isak Dinesen
14. Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafon
15. Lost in a Good Book and all the Thursday Next series- Jasper FForde
16. Blackberry Wine- Joanne Harris
17. The Summer Tree (and the rest of the Fionavar Tapestry series) – Guy Gavriel Kay
18. 1984 – George Orwell
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
20. The Shardlake series – C.J. Sansom
21. I would take my Amazon Kindle – its cheating, and it would only work for a few months with the wi-fi switched off, as that’s how long the battery lasts, (unless I can find a solar powered charger!)… but it means I could have 1000s more books at my disposal…and there are so many, many more!

As you see, I find it difficult to choose just one. I had to stop myself at twenty because it was in danger of becoming a list of every story that ever touched my life, which could end up being a very, very long list. I hadn’t even mentioned my childhood books.

So if I had to try and narrow it down to one? Well, it would have to be something that could keep my interest for a long time, so probably something that would teach me about the world around me, and which I would enjoy re-reading. Maybe something like Brian Cox’s “Why does e=mc2?” or Stephen Hawking’s “Grand Design”; Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” could be a contender…Can I narrow it down to one?

I just couldn’t, it’s a horrifying notion.


Writing and Blogs – My Shame July 19, 2010

OK, I know I haven’t posted anything in a while. The truth of the matter is, my blog has been a victim of the London commute. It seems the only time I get a chance to write my blog these days is the few times I have been on a train on the way to, or returning from meetings, courses, exhibitions. It’s a great way to use up time which I would otherwise spend reading (not that there is anything wrong with that, I love reading on trains, in fact anywhere). The problem has been when I go to save or update my work on my iPhone, it always happens to be just as I encounter an Orange signal black spot, and somehow, rather than keeping everything I have written as a local draft, it just disappears into the ether somewhere never to be found or recovered again. It doesn’t even make it to my blog so I really am at a loss as to what happens to it. Nothing on my iPhone either. This is particularly frustrating because they happen to have been my best writing and reviews yet. I promise you, you would have loved it, or at least found it mildly relevant, perhaps even witty. Why? Because for some reason I find it easy to zone out on the train and concentrate on just this. No other distractions. Perhaps I should make a habit of travelling around the countryside on trains, never getting off, never looking out the window, just writing and making social commentary on my fellow passengers as appropriate – without being derogatory of course. That’s not my bag. I could even ramp it up and include writing my novel on the train, maybe finally get it finished in record time, and the other passengers could be my muses, my character and event inspiration.

Then it occurred to me. I am making excuses. If I can zone out on the train then I can zone out at home. All I have to do is be disciplined. I can do it when I work from home, why can’t I do it when I am creative writing? I need to lock myself away instead of trying to write in the front room with the television on, no more sitting in communal spaces where my husband can always find a reason to distract me from my writing – do my share of chores, friends to call or visit, dinner to help with, family duties to take care of and gardens which need tender loving care. The truth is, locking myself away when my house is not empty feels like I am being socially ostracised, like I may be missing out on something. The fact that it is through my own choice makes it easier for me to keep putting off the writing. I am the victim of my own nosiness and curiosity, my need to be a part of a social group, and unfortunately my need to create something wonderful, something I can leave behind for the enjoyment of others, just doesn’t have as stong a motivational pull at the moment.

It will come though, I know it will. I just need an impetus, a reason to knuckle down and then all the ideas floating around my head will come pouring out again into something that will be my magnum opus…though I will settle for a finished novella at this point!

If you have any exercises you use or any tips on how I can regain my lost momentum and motivation, I would love to hear it. How do you push yourself to write, what do you do to make yourself sit and concentrate?


Book review – The Infinities by John Banville May 9, 2010

I had high hopes for this book when I saw it in Foyle’s Bookshop in St Pancras Station. I have never read any John Banville books but the premise is brilliant – the ancient Greek gods are real and begin meddling in human lives once again, with one family in particular, resulting in a darkly comedic story. That sounded like something I would really enjoy.

However I didn’t feel that the book lived up to its promise. I found it slow going, and perhaps it’s a reflection of my personality that I didn’t come across any parts that I would call darkly humorous or even slightly amusing. There are sections that are described beautifully, in particular when following the past life of the comatose father, Adam Godley, who is such a large presence – positive or negative – within each character’s life. The depictions of Adam’s past and the narration by the messenger god, Hermes , putting up with his father’s whims and moods, are well done and the most enjoyable part of the story.

All in all a little disappointing, but nonetheless a well written book.