Monday, October 31, 2011

Something to sink your teeth into...

It's been a LONG time between drinks, but with Halloween upon us, I think it's about time I announced the next book on the list.



Have you read it? Do you think that I might actually enjoy it? What are your favourite scary books? Are you taking part in All Hallows Read? Leave stuff in the comments!

x ND

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Of Longing - read by Leonard Cohen

When I was reading the poetry in Book of Longing, I seriously did wonder how I was going to turn it all into a review at the end of the process. One of the ideas I thought about was recording videos of myself reading some of my favourite poems.

But why would I do that, when the man who wrote them can do so himself?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Leonard Cohen, reading his poem, "The Book of Longing", with music by Phillip Glass. Enjoy.



SOCIAL! SIMS! BOOK!

Look who loves Popular Penguins! WHY, it's The Sims Social on Facebook!



You can see the familiar orange and cream cover next to 'Fiction Books' in the game...

Then again, maybe somebody should tell EA and The Sims team that Popular Penguins also include non-fiction, hmm?

It's incredible to see the wide scope that this icon of modern literature can be found in. If you've spotted any Popular Penguin-esque images, let me know!

x ND

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WINNER!



So, it looks like Tom got his prize!


Best winner face EVER.

If you would like a free book of some note, stay tuned! There'll be another giveaway at the next significant milestone, so keep an eye out for when that hit counter hits 5000!

And you too could have an expression as awesome as Tom's!



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Longing For You...

Hey look! I'm back again! READING AND STUFF!



So yes, a slightly different mode of attack for this one. Stay tuned and I'll post some of the poetry with my thoughts on each in the coming weeks.

Now for the questions: Have you read any of Cohen's poetry? If not, who's your favourite poet? Were you crept out by the "Hallelujah" scene in Watchmen?

Also, mega congrats to Tom for being AWESOME. I'll announce the next prize milestone as we get a little closer to it!

And don't forget me looking horrible due to a lack of sleep and no glasses. YAY!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How To Make (LOLz Made Of) Gravy

More awesome from the Penguin Books Australia Twitter feed... Mixing puns with Paul Kelly. Seriously, doesn't get better than this!

The Autograph Man gets an autograph from Paul Kelly!

Oh, how adorable... The music nerd in me and my inner reading nerd just collided in an explosion of rainbows and unicorns!


High Fidelity - The Wrap Up

There’s something very special about affirming a love affair with a book. There aren’t many books that I can read over and over again, so to be able to confirm that relationship with a novel or other piece of writing is very gratifying. Jane Eyre, for me, is one of those books. The Shadow of The Wind is another. And High Fidelity has certainly cemented its place on that list.

Both times I’ve read it, it has been exactly the book I needed in my life. It’s a gentle caring reminder that we’re all complete screw ups, each in our own special way, so there’s no need to get so hung up on your own personal failures. It’s the perfect reflection on how, as human beings, we seem to have a species-wide inability to make do anything but mess up relationships. And while it aches, touching all those raw nerves you’d rather leave alone, there’s a sense of joy about it as well, the idea that the living of life and making a mess of it, mixed in with all the short term pleasures that come with messing it up, is actually what it’s all about. It’s the bad times that make the good times AWESOME.

The fact that Nick Hornby doesn’t at any point pretend that there’s anything even vaguely like a Happily Ever After in the real world is incredibly refreshing, and for this particular lass, pretty important. So many pieces of writing and films and songs would have us believe that someday our prince will come and everything will be hunky dory. But what if the person we’re looking for was there all along, and we didn’t see them because we forgot to take off the beer goggles?

There was a paragraph here about how poignant reading this book is at this time in my life, but that’s not something I feel like going into. So here, have a picture of John Cusack explaining my cure for such a thing.


But apart from telling me that I’m not the only one without a decent love life, High Fidelity, naturally, taps into my (not so) inner music nerd. Wallowing in the references, and kicking myself for not having heard certain tracks is truly blissful, in its own geeky way. It also works beautifully as an introduction into classic tunes you may not have heard yet, but knowing how much Rob loves them, you really want to understand why. It's really spurred me on to get a few more classics into my collection.

For those of you who read my last Penguin review, you’ll quickly see how much of a contrast this is to my last read. I truly loved every moment spent reading this one, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hates it. It’s so personal and beautifully self-deprecating (without being depressing) that it just works ridiculously well. I’m proud to call this a personal favourite.

This is one you really do need in your collection.

Have you read it? Did you enjoy it? Did you like the film? (For the record, I watched it just after finishing the book, and it’s just as superb as the novel. I am so in love with John Cusack right now. SO. IN. LOVE.)

And if you’ve not read High Fidelity, or seen the film, this is what John Cusack thinks of you.

See? Not impressed.

Until next time, may your iTunes Shuffle only give you the songs you want to hear.

x ND

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Penguin Cuteness

This is intensely cute, and comes from Penguin Books Australia's Twitter feed.

PP begins her day in taxi. Where is she going?

*****

An unlikely couple...

YOU GUYS! It's a Popular Penguin Romance! (I think my ovaries just exploded a little bit.)

All together now...

*Awwwww...*


If you want to keep up with what Penguin Books Australia are up to Twitter (they do heaps of giveaways and the like too as well as the cute photos of inanimate objects), you can follow them here.

Seriously. HOW CUTE IS IT?

- ND

FINALLY! A New Read!

It has undoubtedly taken FAR too long, but here's the latest video for the latest book!

And we had a bit of public interaction with this one! Thanks to all who voted!



Have you read this one? Thoughts? If you're a bit of a music nerd, like me, how did you like the references in the book?

If you've seen the movie, how does it stack up to the book?

OH LOOK, A TRAILER!



Let me know your thoughts!

x ND

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reading Adulterously

I have a confession to make.

I've been cheating on you. With another book. From another publisher.


I'VE BEEN READING AROUND!


I know, I know you're upset, but please, let me explain. It's written by Marieke Hardy. You know I can't resist her flower-haired charms!

Oh Marieke, you cheeky thing! You've made me slightly sepia!

Yes, a little while ago, I was lucky enough to get my grubby little hands on an unedited smaple chapter of Marieke's forthcoming book, You'll Be Sorry When I'm Dead. The final complete version won't be out until September, so NYAH NYAH NI NYAH NYAH! I GOT TO READ THIS BIT FIRST!

While the full edition is still a few months off, there is still plenty to rave about in the seventy-one pages I was permitted to peruse. Like her blogs and co-written series, Laid, the tales were all fascinatingly quirky, teetering delicately on the balance of "this woman is magnificent and I want her life" and "that is seriously messed up, how could anyone go through such nonsense?"

Whether my varied expressions and reactions leant more towards cheeky giggles or shock-horror jaw drops, I couldn't say. I'm pretty sure they overlapped a fair bit. There may also have been moments where I SIMPLY COULDN'T WATCH, and had to read between the gaps in my fingers as they covered my eyes.

If you've seen Laid on the ABC, or followed Hardy on Twitter, or better still, read her Formspring (WARNING: totally NSFW), you'll understand that this is not a read for prudes or those who suffer heart palpitations. The story of Marieke and her then-boyfriend's dip into the world of swingers, for example, is an exercise in truly painful awkwardness, but somehow you come away laughing, not cringing. You get the impression that writing Roo McVie wasn't a big leap for Ms Hardy. (PROOF)

As the sample goes on, you feel like you're hurtling through some kind of perverse Disneyland ride, where there's so much to take in, but your eyeballs don't have the necessary capacity to do so, and even if they did, your brain might melt a little in its desperate attempt to compute all the glorious oddness of it all.

It would have been really easy for some of these tales to turn into attempts to wring pity out of the reader, but somehow, it always feels like there is some kind of affection for all these bizarre memories. You can almost imagine Marieke smiling cutely, shrugging her shoulders and saying, "But isn't that the way everyone lives?" Except she'd probably say it better than that. Possibly even throw in an expletive for good measure.

The stories certainly aren't conventional memoir fairy tales. There's no anecdotes about meeting presidents, or dinner parties spent with royalty. You certainly won't find this in your mum's handbag*, next to her copy of Eat. Pray. Love. (Barf.)

But somehow, I guess, in the same vein of Laid, and on an unrelated note, the UK series Miranda, it all feels strangely familiar, filled with that horrible notion that maybe, no matter how hard we try, the Fraud Police could knock on our door, tell us that we've stuffed up our lives so spectacularly that our adult status must immediately be revoked.

You find yourself nodding in empathy and agreement with the reflections on life, love and loss. (The chapter on heartbreak and housemates struck a particularly raw personal chord.) You end up in this curious spot where "My life is so boring, I wish I had some of her excitement" and "God, I'm so glad I'm not that out there" are thrown into the Large Hadron Collider and propelled towards each other at the speed of light until they explode into shards of, "That was AWESOME! Can I read it again?"

Because that's totally what I'm going to do. Consider this one pre-ordered, Ms Hardy. Bring on September.

*NB: I would like to make it totally clear that not only does my mum not own, nor has she read that pukeworthy book I have just mentioned, you may actually find You'll Be Sorry When I'm Dead in her handbag once I'm done with it. I notably alarmed Marieke on Twitter by telling her I watched Laid with my parents. It was actually nowhere near as scarring as it probably should have been. Seriously, my folks are THAT COOL.

- ND

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wuthering Heights - The Wrap Up

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. If you've not read Wuthering Heights and intend on doing so, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER.

***

You know, I’ve done really well to keep things relatively professional on this blog, but it’s all about to go down the drain. I hope you’re ready for this. Because this time, things are going to get nasty…

I’m sorry, Aubrey. I really am. I just couldn’t bring myself to like Wuthering Heights.

Y U NO LET ME IN UR WINDO?

Let’s get to crux of why I really want to tear this book in half. And this is probably a review that isn’t going to win me any friends.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

LOLZ - Wuthering Heights edition


Thanks to my good friend Joel for this one. XD

Not getting very far through Bronte's version though - not even at the hundred page mark yet!

- ND

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Another Page... What will it be?

So here we are again... Another book, another video. But I tell you one thing - I'm REALLY proud of this one! Enjoy.


And as promised, with the white dress...


And the red dress...


And the cross-dress...


And AUBREY! YAY! =D (Wuthering Heights starts at 1:26.)


Have you read this one? Did you know Heath Ledger and his sister are named after the characters from the book? Should I be as apprehensive as I am? TELL ME, GOOD PEOPLE.

Catch you soon!

- N

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Our Sunshine - A Reflection

Easily the most famous (and most handsome) photo of Ned Kelly.
Taken 10 November 1880, the day before his execution.


It's kind of funny, really. After turning the last page of Robert Drewe's 'Our Sunshine', I didn't feel like I'd finished a book.

I felt like I had just listened to a man tell his life story; all the regrets, all the random tangents, the jumping from one time and place to another as it suits him...

Robert Drewe's Ned Kelly (and the real one for that matter) is a man who is a mass of contradictions. He is a murderer, but one with arguable justification. (Self-defence in our modern system can be used as a complete defence for murder in some cases.) He is depicted by many as a monster, yet was a man who would do almost anything to stop the suffering of his mother and sisters. (He offered to turn himself in, in return for the release of his mother, who was being held on questionable charges. It was denied by the Victorian government, who argued they didn't negotiate with criminals.*) He is a poor man, not particularly well educated, yet he is a wily wordsmith. (In another situation, he could have been a successful politician like Peter Lalor or even a respectable writer. You only need to read the Jerilderie Letter to understand his passion and command of powerful language.)

But he didn't. Instead, he became an outlaw, a hunted man and a monster in his own time; he would become a legend in another.

I'm not sure if Drewe's descriptive style really captured Ned's essence (none of us will ever truly know) but this book really cemented my fascination with the man and his myth. After telling Jeff Buckley that midnight swims are a BAD idea, this would have been my ideal TARDIS trip - an interview with an outlaw. The fact that we know so much, but know so little about Ned Kelly really makes me wish I could talk to him and find out once and for all whether he was a criminal, or just misunderstood.

I must apologise, this has been less of a review, more of a reflection on a life none of us can ever expect to understand. But I do appreciate Drewe's attempt to do so. It was an interesting read, and as I mentioned, further fired my interest in the subject matter.

Ned Kelly was only four years older than I am now when he was hanged by a system he had never been able to come to a truce with. As the book says, he was "barely a boy under these whiskers". To have a life cut off so short, and with myself personally feeling the passion of youth, the longing to change the world, it does strike quite close to the bone.

Whether you think Ned was a hero or a horror, this book really does remind us that the best way to stop people being violent and angry is to listen and try to understand what they're thinking and feeling. It's only then that we can fully comprehend what they're capable of.

*****

If you've read this book, what were your thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

The next book is one I'm sure is going to be quite popular, but WILL take a LONG time for me to get through. Any guesses? Let me know.

Until next time, stay safe and cheerful!

- Noni Doll



*I couldn't find a source to prove this historically, but it happens in the book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Sun-shiney Day...

And after Alice, we have...


Here's the Paul Kelly tune I mentioned, which I'm sure I'll be listening to A LOT over the coming days:


The trailer for the movie I mentioned is below:


I usually ask questions about the book, but this time, I ask about the subject.

Ned Kelly
: hero or criminal?

Catch you real soon,

x Noni

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland - The Wrap Up

Wow, that took a lot longer than it should have.

So, I’ve finally finished Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. Well, to be exact, I’ve finished it twice.

Due to assignments, getting a new job, moving to Canberra, finding somewhere to live etc, I really didn’t have much time for reading, not even a tiny book of only 130 or so pages. So, Alice got took a little longer than she should have to get herself back out of the rabbit hole.

I think she might be stuck.

I finished the book yesterday, on the way to work, so by the time lunch rolled around, I didn’t have anything to occupy my brain. So I read it again. I got through half of it by 2pm yesterday, and finished the rest of it at lunchtime today, along the lines of the original expected time I thought I was going to take to read it. So, I guess I know it doubly well now!

The first thing you have to know when reading this is that there will be giant holes where you think certain character plotlines should be. Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee are nowhere to be seen; the talking flowers don’t get a mention, and while the Cheshire Cat does appear a number of times in the book, it’s not nearly as regular as you might think. There is, however, a baby that turns into a pig, which always wins points in my opinion. (It’s like some kind of bizarre infant Animorph!)

MISSING: one irritating set of twins.

It was a bit of light-hearted fun though, and a good quick read, perfect for that little bit of time between the first and second half of work. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a quick read that doesn’t require too much brain power (trust me, it’s a thousand times better, and more fun, than any women’s magazine. Doctors should keep a copy in their offices for bored patients), and definitely as a bedtime story if you have little chidlins looking for some night-time giggles.

While I think you get away with just borrowing any of the other Popular Penguins I’ve read so far, this is one you really have to own. It’s just perfect for a rainy day: there’s no long term commitment, it’s light-hearted and it’s the perfect opportunity to remember what it’s like to be a child.

And that’s a feeling that too many of us choose to forget.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Five Alive!

Okay, I'm getting sick of the number puns. And let's be honest, this isn't a Janet Evanovich novel. I think we'll leave it at that, shall we?


So yes, the next book to be read is Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. Have you read it? Did you read it as a kid, or an adult? Do you prefer the abridged film versions? Which is your favourite? (Mine is the one with Whoopi Goldberg as the Cheshire Cat!)

Isn't she just marvellous?

Let me know! I'll be back before you know it.

- Noni Doll

Saturday, May 14, 2011

And The Ass Saw The Angel - The Wrap Up

If you know anything about Nick Cave, chances are it's that almost none of his work is made of sparkle, smiles and sunshine. And The Ass Saw The Angel is no exception to that perception.

I mean, look at that moustache. This is a not a man to meddle with!

This is one dark tale, if ever there was one. In the opening pages, you discover that the lead character is dying a slow, suffocating death in a swamp somewhere, watched by a flock of crows. The valley where he lives is an isolated, volatile environment, fuelled by religious extremism (of the Christian, Bible Belt variety). His mother is a drunk, and his father is an inbred hillbilly who takes pleasure from trapping and torturing animals. Euchrid, the protagonist (which is a term I'm reluctant to use, for reasons I'll explain later), is a mute, whose twin brother died not long after birth, an event he remembers vividly.

This was never going to be a 'happily ever after' kind of story. In fact, this book couldn't be less of a fairy tale if it tried.

There are plenty of strange things about the writing style that immediately made me scratch my head/irritated me/intrigued me/made me VERY uncomfortable: the switching back and forth from first person to omniscient narration, the regular misspelled words used to demonstrate Euchrid's strong Southern accent, the regular twisting of religious allusion, and even a little bit of fourth wall breaking, which seemed to come out of nowhere! Initially, I thought, "Wow, this would make a great film! So much description, with so much visual potential!" But as I got deeper into the text, I quickly discovered that with the way this book has been written, such an idea would be an impossibility.

While the techniques Cave uses are a little strange, they do their job perfectly. Each and every one of these tricks and styles left me feeling edgy and irritable, matching the disturbing nature of the story perfectly. Full of violence, intrigue and suspicion, this is not a tale for the faint hearted, mostly because it's so bloody believable.

All the characters are so incredibly flawed, you don't know whether or not to empathise with them. Even Euchrid, beaten and bruised in so many ways, turns out to be quite repulsive and insane, leaving you questioning whether this story was meant to have a hero or not. It's like Cave wants you to feel the ostracisation Euchrid felt by not allowing the reader to make any solid connection with anyone in the book. Even Beth is treated as a distant figure, never really making anything of herself apart from the pure, dainty child the town wants her to be.

To say I enjoyed this book wouldn't be entirely correct. It unsettled me immensely, all the way through, but the quality of the story (no matter how horrifying) was easy to see. I can't help drawing a comparison to how I felt about Black Swan - it's a great piece of art, but I don't think I would want to go through it again. This book, like the aforementioned film, is a piece that I admire, but I did not like. It's an interesting line to draw, but one that I stand by.

Natalie Portman. Great movie. Creepy as hell.
(I would have liked to have used another word there, but I'm trying to keep this professional!)


I highly recommend this one. I was initially curious as to why it was listed on the Popular Penguins list. Now I can see why. And The Ass Saw The Angel is a fantastic reflection on the danger of extreme religion, both within the establishment and outside of it, on people and places, innocent or not. It is certainly a book for our times.

Have you read Nick Cave's And The Ass Saw The Angel? Did it disturb you as much as it did with me? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

x Noni

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BIG NEWS - 26 New Popular Penguins!


Today, Penguin Books has announced on their Popular Penguins Facebook page, that there will be 26 new titles added to the Popular Penguin list.

On one hand, I'm so excited! There's lots of great new classic titles, and I've not read a single one before!

On the other hand, I already have 170 to get through, I don't really need to add to my reading list! (Yes, that number has gotten smaller. I finished 'And The Ass Saw The Angel' last night. Review coming soon!)

The new titles will be released in September, so I'd better get cracking and knock a few more over before then!

For those of you curious, the 26 new titles will be:

Barry Hines, A Kestrel for a Knave
E.M. Forster, A Passage to India
Anais Nin, A Spy In The House Of Love
James Baldwin, Another Country
Bryce Courtenay, April Fool’s Day
Roald Dahl, Boy
John Cheever, Falconer
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Robert Graves, I, Claudius
Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four
Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
Ali Smith, The Accidental
Zadie Smith, The Autograph Man
John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids
Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
Norman Mailer, The Fight
Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar
Raymond Chandler, The High Window
John Steinbeck, The Pearl
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies

It looks like a lot, because it is!

My, my, my. What HAVE I gotten myself into?

If you've read any of the new titles, which should I be getting most excited about? Which do you think I'm going to loathe? Are there any books you think should have been added which are still missing out on the Popular Penguin treatment?

Yours in reading,

Noni Doll

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

SPOTTO!

I was looking at the details for Clare Bowditch's Winter Secrets gig at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville, and LOOK WHAT I FOUND!








There's still a few coming up - if you're in Sydney, it might be worth a look!



Okay, I think this blog has officially turned into a game of Popular Penguin Spotto. *sigh*


x ND

Four Your Viewing Pleasure...

And the next book on the list shall be...


Those on Twitter and Facebook - this probably isn't a surprise. Sorry about that. I hope the train shenanigans gave you lolz though!

Have you read any of Nick Cave's work? How do you feel musicians go as novelists? Are you reading along?

ALSO: **EXCITEMENT**

I've got myself a new job... in Canberra! Moving on up in the world! I'm so excited! You may have noted part of the reason for this blog being that I was in a very unhappy space... Well, as you can imagine, this has been a huge boost to my mood and overall feeling about life!

There may be some further details on my other blog soon!

Thanks for being awesome folks!

- Noni

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - The Wrap Up

Okay, so I was right. It really was too soon for me to be reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes again.

As I mentioned in the video, the last time I read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's collection of stories about the world's most famous detective was less than six months ago. I had a funny feeling that reading it again so soon would result in a significant loss of mystery from the tales, with my previous knowledge being fresh enough that I could second guess the answers sooner than I otherwise might have. In the case of almost every story, I had the answer almost as readily as Holmes himself, and I must confess, that killed the enjoyment for me a little bit. So much of the joy is in trying (and inevitably failing) to match wits with the Brain from 221B Baker Street.

Don't get me wrong - I still love Doyle's flair for the written word, with description that makes Victorian London both entrancingly beautiful and incredibly sinister all at once. I picked up clues I had missed on my first reading. Overall, it was not a bad reading experience.

But the loss of the mystery, the decline in the thrill of the chase, really impacted on my feelings about the book this time around. Rather than rollicking along with my own theories, hoping I was right, being intensely puzzled by the way Holmes was drawing his conclusions, I was feeling cocky, recalling the basic gist of each case's resolution, even if my memory hadn't stored all the finer details. It became frustrating, leaving me wishing I was already onto the next story, in the hope that it might be one I didn't remember. It really was all too fresh.

And that's really what I've taken away from this reading - Sherlock Holmes IS brilliant, but he's that much more brilliant after an particularly extended break.

After all, being around somebody that amazingly brainy all the time is horribly tiring.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Third is the Word!

Well, hello again! Good to see you! Are you ready for a new video? This one features my good friend, Lauren, who does not have Twitter, or Facebook or any other significant internet presence save THIS VIDEO.

So I guess it's kind of an exclusive! Awesome!



Have you read this one before? Have you seen the new BBC series, Sherlock? What are some of your favourite Sherlock Holmes adaptations? (I *love* Sherlock, and also the one with Richard Roxburgh as Holmes from a few years back. I think it was The Hound In The Baskervilles... Marvellous stuff!)

Also, I noticed that over the Easter/ANZAC Day break, The Penguin Doll cracked 500 hits! OH MY GOD. THANK YOU.

Sure, to some folks, these numbers might be small fry, but I am so grateful for everyone of those 533 clicks. It really makes me feel like this is all worthwhile.

Thanks for sharing the journey so far. I hope you'll continue to join me for the remaining 172 left on the list!

All my ever-loving gratitude, and best wishes,

Noni Doll x

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In Cold Blood - The Wrap Up

SPOILER ALERT

There. Now that's out of the way, we can get into the real stuff.

*****

Wow. Just, wow.

I have just finished reading 'In Cold Blood', and boy, what a read.

I started it 8 days ago, on a train trip from Dubbo to Sydney. It was just what I needed - a good solid read, that should keep me going for a while, and one that was COMPLETELY different to what I'd just read.

I must admit, I wasn't sure what to expect from Capote's non-fiction novel when I started it. I think I expected it to be quite clinical, but I found it read as well as any Sherlock Holmes tale, and even better than Agatha Christie's novels.

But did I love it? Well, yes, but kind of reluctantly. It was certainly moving and beautifully written. The descriptive style was incredibly magnificent, setting up the scene beautifully. The problem I had with it was that it tied me to the Clutter family's characters so tightly, that knowing that they were all going to die was absolute agony. It felt horrid enjoying such a powerful true story.

I got upset, angry, but what Capote did that really surprised me was the level of empathy he built up between the reader and the killers. Okay, Dick was true to his name, but almost everybody involved in the story seemed to feel something for Perry. The guy had a pretty horrible life, but what he did was even worse. I couldn't help wanting to take him aside and ask, "Why? What could I have done to help you? What could anyone have done? Why didn't you ask for help when it could have been offered?"

'In Cold Blood' tells a story of pain and evil and anguish, but it is all so remarkably human. Capote seems to be trying to get the point across that any of these people could easily be replaced with any of us. Victim, killer, witness, investigator: any one of them could have been you or me, or someone just like us.

This book will easily be one of the books that stays with me for a long time, not only because it challenges the way the reader thinks about all the characters, but because it raises a lot of questions about the inevitable final chapter of the book - capital punishment. I have always been 100% opposed to the concept, but what do you do with those that have committed such heinous crimes? I like to think that enforced solitary confinement for the rest of one's natural life is the best option, but even that has huge ethical issues attached. So what do we do with them?

That's a question I don't think either I or Capote have an answer to.

******

Did you read along with me, or have you read the book before? What were your thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Leave them in the comments.

And as for the next book, I haven't decided yet. The Easter weekend means that I probably won't get a new one until Monday, so it may be a re-reader. Although I'd really like a new one. Hmm... We'll see.

Catch you soon,

x Noni Doll


That's two down... 172 to go!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Chilly Read...

So, did you guess what book is next on my list? Well, here's a video rundown!


Have you read this one? What did you think? Is it a good indicator of what one can expect from Capote's writings? And should I watch Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film Capote as an extra bit of text? Leave a comment and let me know! (If you can keep spoilers to a level of NONE, that would be awesome!)

If you're reading along with me, you'll have to be pretty quick - I'm up to the last chapter already! (Which isn't that surprising, given I recorded this exactly a week ago... Sorry about the delay!)

Can't wait to hear from you, fellow readers!

- Noni Doll

Best. Wedding. Invite. EVER.

The glories of the internet...

This one was linked to me by the AMAZING Bridget Case. That link is for her Twitter. Trust me, following her will be the best thing you do all day.*


If I ever get married (highly unlikely), I think this may be pitched as a potential part of proceedings.**

Have you seen any magnificent Popular Penguin related items lately? Let me know! I'd love to add them to the blog. (With full credit to your good self for finding it, of course!)

I really love that this simple design has become such an icon that people are keen to appropriate it in such inventive ways! Love, love, love it.

There is a 'In Cold Blood' video uploading as we speak. I recorded it a week ago, but have only just got around to getting it online. Stupid crappy connection and questionable software (ahem*iMovie*ahem) has made this far more difficult that it needed to be.

Until the next post (give me an hour or two, okay?): stay sharp, stay safe, stay human!

All my lovin',

Noni Doll


PS's
*Unless you're a brain surgeon who saved somebody's life. Even I will admit that's pretty hard to top.

**Due to my work in radio, and the hatred of the 'p' sound in said industry due to its high potential for popping, I don't get to use 'p' alliteration very often. That appears to be reflecting in the amount of time I spend accidentally using it on this blog. Oops.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jane Eyre - The Wrap Up

If you haven't read 'Jane Eyre', stop reading this NOW. There are so many spoilers in this, it WILL make your eyes bleed.

Also, this is not scholarly commentary. It's just some random, written down feelings about the book. It's not a review, it's a summary of whether or not I liked it, and what bits impacted on me. Basically, please don't come into this blog expecting any more than a casual response from a book lover!

*****

To paraphrase Amanda Palmer:

"Oh. My. God. FINISHED!"

I knew when I started this book, it would be a long slog. Five hundred plus pages of literary joy isn't exactly a task one can knock over in an afternoon!

As I went, I did take some notes, but not many! I figured it would just take away from the enjoyment of the novel. That said, there were definite themes that certainly made an impact on me throughout the reading process, a few of which were quite poignant to my current place in time and space.

The first thing, and the most interesting for me personally, was the relationship between Jane & Rochester. I guess I find it kind of odd, the way they interact. It's not exactly stereotypical romantic fare, but they get on with each other through friendly jibing is repeated through literature: Beatrice & Benedict are the pair that immediately springs to mind. They understand each others flaws and embrace them.

But that's nothing new. I see that in my parents every day. (They've been married 23 years, and in a world where divorce occurs about as often as finding the one you'll grow old with, I'm immensely proud of them for that fact.)

What really makes me curious was the way each of them was so taken with the other's mystery. All the way through the book, Bronte takes great pains in describing Rochester as dark and brooding, and giving the impression that even after Jane has been married to him for ten years, she still doesn't know everything about him, nor does she want to. Rochester, from the first time they meet, refers to Jane as a member of the fae. I get the sense that had they been more open with each other from the outset, they'd have tired of each other, and perhaps never have fallen into their relationship.

But the stark contrast we see is in St John Rivers, who I must admit, annoyed the bejeebus out of me the first time I read Jane Eyre, and has not become any less irritating with the passage of time. He's calculating, cold and exact in his meticulous planning. You can work out the kind of person he is from the first time you meet him. The only time he feels vaguely interesting is when he softens enough to confess his feelings for Miss Rosamond Oliver, although even that is followed by an almost immediate rejection of such sentiments. I think it would be this exact moment, where St John's only personal mystery is solved, that he loses all affection from me, and he was at the same time struck from the list of potential matches for Jane. She now knows almost all there is to know about him. Where's the fun in that?

Rochester's air of mystery is not his only charm, however. His unkempt manner and and physical appearance allows Jane to lose any feeling of obligation to be 'ladylike'. He is comfortable in his own lack of social graces, so she feels permitted to be more relaxed in her own actions and words. He is a riddle, a challenge, and it is in that way that I can see why Jane is so attracted to him. I am also quite uncomfortable around those to whom the act of giving compliments comes easily. Rochester is obviously not one of those people. He is anything but eager to please, with the stark contrast resulting in his kindnesses becoming so much more sincere and powerful.

And how could we forget Jane's phenomenal level of awesome! From the Red Room to her departure from Moor House to return to Rochester, she knows that when something is not going her way, chances are there is something she can do about it to make it better. Over the last few months, that has been such an important notion for me, even if my health has made that harder to achieve than I'd like. I can happily report, however, that I'm now broadening my skills at work (adding 'web content development' to my tasks), and as I write this, I am on a long train trip to Sydney to attend an AFTRS course in Announcing & Presenting. I'm making moves in the right directions, it's just up to the fates to see how they turn out.

Reading Jane Eyre again for this blog has been hard, lovely, timely and an absolute pleasure. If I end up enjoying all the books on my list this much, I'll be a very happy lass.

But while this chapter of the blog has come to a close (save the few more French translations I've got to add to the last entry) a new one is beginning. As soon as I finish writing this, I commence reading Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

Ready. Set. Go.

x ND

Thursday, March 17, 2011

So Frenchy, So Chic!

Ahoy again folks!

I'm afraid I've not got any pretty pictures for you this time, just a whole lotta EDUTAINMENT.

(Or something.)

I have a confession. Despite my extreme curiosity in other cultures, I've never become any good at any of them. And there's a fair whack of Jane Eyre that features dialogue in French, and when I was reading it the first time, I was very frustrated by the fact that Charlotte Bronte didn't have the foresight to provide some translations... Humph.

So, thanks to my recently acquired AMAZEBALLS FRENCH SQUILLS (ie. I used Google Translate) I have translated all the French phrases and dialogue I've come across so far, so you too can enjoy Jane Eyre AND feel worldly, all at the same time.

DISCLAIMER: Scene above not actually in 'Jane Eyre'

There's still a fair chunk of book waiting to be read, but I'll update this post as I go, adding phrases as I find them!

You can thank me later...


Page 134-5 (Chapter 11)

'C'est la ma gouvernante?' - 'That's my nanny?'
'Mais oui, certainement.' - 'But yes, certainly.'


Page 137 (Chapter 11)


'La Ligue des Rats; fable de La Fontaine' - The League of the Rats; fable
'Qu'avez vous donc? lui dit un de ces rats; parlez!' - 'What have you been? said one of these rats, speak!'

Page 143 (Chapter 11)

'Mesdames, vous etes servies!' ... 'J'ai bien faim, moi!' - 'Ladies, you are served!' ... 'I am very hungry, me!'

Page 144 (Chapter 12)

par parenthese - parenthetically


Page 158 (Chapter 12)

'Et cela doit signifier,' ... 'qu'il y aura, la dedans un cadeau pour moi, et peut-etre pour vous aussi, mademoiselle. Monsieur a parle de vous: il m'a demande le nom de ma gouvernante et si elle n'etait pas une petite personne, assez mince et un peu pale. J'ai dit qu'oui: car c'est vrai, n'est-ce pas mademoiselle?' - 'And that must mean, that there will be a gift in there for me and maybe for you too, miss. Sir spoke of you: he asked me the name of my governess, and if it was not a small person, rather thin and somewhat pale. I said that yes, for it is true, is not it miss?'


Page 160 (Chapter 12)

'N'est-ce pas, monsieur, qu'il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre dans votre petit coffre?' - Is it not, sir, there is a gift for Miss Eyre in your little box?


Page 171 (Chapter 14)


'Ma boite!' - My box!

'...tien-toi tranquille, enfant; comprends-tu?' - Be quiet, child, do you understand?

'Oh ciel! Que c'est beau!' - Oh heaven! How beautiful!


Page 176 (Chapter 14)

et j'y tiens - and I want...


Page 183 (Chapter 14)

'Il faut que je l'essaie!' ... 'et a l'instant meme!' - I must try it! and has the same time! (Okay, so Google Translate may not be doing the best job on this one...)


Page 184 (Chapter 14)

'Est-ce que ma robe va bien?' ... 'et mes souliers? et mes bas? Tenez, je crois que je vais danser!' - Is my dress OK? ... and my shoes? and my socks? Look, I think I'll dance!

'Monsieur, je vous remercie mille fois de votre bonte;' ... 'C'est comme cela que maman faisait, n'est-ce pas, monsieur?' - Sir, thank you a thousand times for your kindness... That's how mom did, is not it, sir?

'comme cela' - like that


Page 186 (Chapter 15)

'Mon ange' - My angel...

porte cochere - gate


Page 208 (Volume II, Chapter 1)

'Qu'avez-vous, mademoiselle?' ... 'vos doigts tremblent comme la feuille, et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des cerises!' - 'What did you, miss?' ... 'Your fingers tremble like a leaf, and your cheeks are red, but red like cherries!'

ignis-fatuus - a fool of fire (Whoa! That one was Latin!)
Edit: This one is also on page 321 (Vol II, Chapter 3).


Page 221 (Vol II, Chapter 2)

'Elles changent de toilettes.' - They change a toilet. (Are you SURE, Google?) (Edit: As pointed out in this comment, it's more likely to refer to a change of clothes.)

'Chez maman... quand il y avait du monde, je les suivais partout, au salon et a leurs chambres; souvent je regardais les femmes de chambre coiffer et habiller les dames, et c'etait si amusant: comme cela on apprend' - Home mom ... when there were people, I followed them everywhere, and their living rooms, I often watched the maids hair and dressed the ladies, and it was so fun: as you learn.

'Mais oui, mademoiselle: voila cinq ou six heures que nous n'avons pas mange.' - But yes, miss: that's five or six hours that we do not eat.


Page 222 (Vol II, Chapter 2)

'et alors quel dommage!' - and then what a shame!


Page 225 (Vol II, Chapter 2)

'Est-ce que je ne puis pas prendre une seule de ces fleurs magnifiques, mademoiselle? Seulement pour completer ma toilette.' - Is what I can not take one of these beautiful flowers, miss? Just to complete my toilet. (Hmm, come on Google, you can do better than this!)


Page 226 (Vol II, Chapter 2)

minois chiffone - little face cloth


Page 229 (Vol II, Chapter 2)

'pere noble de theatre' - Nope, seems Google's got nothing on that one. Anyone able to help?


Page 233 (Vol II, Chapter 2)

'Tant pis!' - Too bad!


Page 237 (Vol II, Chapter 2)

'Gardez-vous en bien!' - Beware of it!


Page 249 (Vol II, Chapter 3)

'Voila Monsieur Rochester, qui revient!' - That is Mr. Rochester, who is coming back!


Page 323 (Vol II, Chapter 7)

'prete a croquer sa petite maman Anglaise' -
'ready to eat his mommy English' (Whoa Google! That be an interesting one...)


Page 354 (Vol II, Chapter 9)

pour me donner une contenance - give me a capacity


Page 436 (Vol III, Chapter 2)

'Da trat hervor Einer, anzusehen wie die Sternen Nacht... Ich wage die Gedanken in der Schale meines Zornes und die Werke mit dem Gewichte meines Grimms.' - Then there came forth one, looking like the starry night ... I venture the thought in the shell of my anger and works with the weight of my wrath.

(Yup, that one was in GERMAN.)


Page 492 (Vol III, Chapter 6)

Cui bone? - Which bone?

(Sorry Google, but I think you might be off with this one. My common sense tells me in the context it's more a 'Who, me?'
It is, however, not French but Italian, judging by Google's language detection.)


Page 576 (Vol III, Chapter 11)

"Jeune encore" - still young


EDIT: Post finished Friday 22nd April, 2011.

And that's all the ones I could find! If you have found any other quotes with which you have taken the liberty of using a slightly questionable translator software to convert to English, please send me a
tweet so we can add them to the list here! I've already had a few hits on this post from Google, from folks trying to get translations, so hopefully I've helped you out!

Also, this blog reaches one month of age on the 18th of this month. Yes, that is tomorrow. And I cannot tell you how humbled/awestruck/grateful/appreciative for having you join me on this journey. When I started this project, I would never in the WORLD have expected the number of hits this blog has had in such a short time, from all over the world. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. You are all magnificent people, and I love each and every one of you. Thank you for joining me on my journey, especially so early in the piece. My gratitude cannot be expressed in words. THANK YOU.

Love, love, love, love, love.

x ND



The photo above is a total internet cliche, as well as having been destroyed by the phenomenon of Beiberism. However, it is the best way to demonstrate my undying affection for you all.

Also, yes, I have less hair. Thanks for noticing. x

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Perfectly Pretty Penguins!

So, I'm not sure if we've discussed this, but it's not just the contents of Popular Penguins I have a certain amount of affection for (okay, for MOST of them). I also have a real soft spot for the design of the jackets.

The orange and white are so crisp and recognisable, they truly are a fantastic example of branding. A simple design that gets the point across: this is a book at a value price, from a trusted publishing brand.

And it seems I'm not the only one who appreciates this simple, yet remarkably effective design.

I was directed by the lovely ProfessorFunk to a post on Maria Popova's Brainpickings blog. (Which is regularly updated with some magnificent reads, and you should definitely check it out!) It was about this time that I was debating whether or not to embark on this project, and the fact that someone had dedicated an entire book to the design of Penguin's range from 1935 to 2005 really cemented the importance of the brand, and therefore the project, for me.

Here's a few photos from the book, and be sure to check out the original article from Brainpickings too.










Absolutely marvellous, don't you think?

x ND

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Lovely Little Surprise...


My mum got this for me today. Hence, she is awesome.*

It will be the book I read after I complete Jane Eyre. Any guesses as to which one it is? (HINT: think of an actor with the initials PSH...)

If you look REALLY close, you might be able to see the title!

Happy guessing! (And THANKS MUM!)

x ND


Post-Script:

*However, after watching Laid this evening, she changed it over to RPA. I do not like looking at people's internal organs. Hence, her awesome level has temporarily decreased slightly.

However, it has increased slightly due to the fact that she is awesome enough that I can watch Laid in her presence.

In other words, she's still awesome, and I don't like blood and guts, a fact she likes to exploit with television shows that make me squeamish.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day 2011 & Jane Eyre

I am writing this post because a few very important things have coincided today.

Today was the 100th International Women's Day. (Yes, I realise this has been posted remarkably late in the proceedings. I've been busy. Also, it's still March 8th in Canada, so it totally counts.)

Today, I finished the tenth chapter of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, the first on my Popular Penguins list. This means I'm more than a quarter of the way through.

The cover of my edition, which I bought for $5 at a stall at a uni fundraiser in 2010.
No, it's not the Popular Penguin edition.
Yes, you're just going to have to deal with that.

Also, all the references in this article will likely have originated here. Oh, come on. Don't look at me like that. This is a blog, not a PhD thesis!

** THIS PART OF THE BLOG MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. **

Consider yourself alerted. (I'll try to keep them as vague as humanly possible.)

Told you so.

So, it is undeniable that Jane Eyre was an early, albeit fictional, feminist. From the start of the book she's passionate, refusing to take the crap people throw at her, even when they have the irrefutable right to abuse the heck out her with no consequence whatsoever (as least as far as the law and society are concerned). As noted on that most dubious of sources, it is only when she is recognised as an equal that everyone (well, almost everyone) gets their Happily Ever After.

I cannot begin to fathom how people could have thought this story to have been written by a man, but Bronte (aka Currer Bell) pulled it off. This book really conjures the image of Charlotte Bronte finishing it, pulling off her dainty little glove and raising a middle finger to the patriarchal establishment, even if it was metaphorically.

In my previous reading of the book, and in this time around as well, I really admire that Jane acknowledges her need for love and affection from those around her, but at the same time letting them know that she will not endure undue punishment in order to receive that love. She is willing to overcome hardship to get what she wants, but she draws the line at being exploited.

I think that is a good lesson to take away from this book, and this day.

It's not about women being on top, or putting men down. It's about saying, "This is what I deserve. If you're not going to give it to me, you're not going to get what you want from me, because I have plenty of other places I can be where I will be appreciated."

Your gender doesn't matter in this lesson; it can be applied to cases based on race, religion, sexuality, body shape, social status, whatever. You have the right to be you, and if someone doesn't like that or treats you badly for it, then you've got to remind them of all the good stuff they'll be missing out on, because you don't have to stick around.

And I can tell you, that is a lesson that hit home professionally this week. I'm not happy where I am, so I'm going to change it.

Just you wait and see.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Book Connection

I must admit; I was getting a little worried for a moment there.

Before I returned to Dubbo, Popular Penguins were really easy to find. Bathurst had heaps of places that stocked them: a fantastic little independent bookshop called Books Plus, the local Post Office and I’d even seen them in Coles.

But once I got to Dubbo, my beloved wallet-friendly, orange and white classics proved to be pretty bloody scarce. In the month and a half I’ve been back in town, I’d not seen them once. Sure, I had a few in my collection at home which I could get through to bide the time until I had to buy a new one, but it was only a matter of time until I had to add another title to my personal library. And what was I to do when that time came around?

Well, my worrying was for naught, it seems, all because I had forgotten about our old friend, the independent bookstore.

I remembered The Book Connection while I was on the bus back to Bathurst. Not having been in Dubbo for any extended period of time, I had completely forgotten about the little store on Macquarie Street, where used and new books sit side by side. Surely, if anywhere in Dubbo was going to have Popular Penguins, it was Dave Pankhurst’s Book Connection.

And boy, did they have plenty of Popular Penguins!

Did you like my alliteration? I did it all by myself!

As you can see, they’ve got almost every title on my 35-page list! (And a few I was pretty sure WEREN’T on it!)

They even had a few other Penguin classics around the back for the same $9.95 price! (But they’re not orange and white, and they’re not on my list, so they’ll have to wait for another time, another blog.)

Dave was in, so I told him about my little project, and he was really encouraging, which was great! (As well as not thinking me ridiculously weird for taking a photo of his display, which makes me think it’s not the strangest request they’ve had by a mile.)

So, it looks like my challenge just got a whole lot easier!

- Noni

PS. For those keeping track, I’m up to Chapter 3 of Jane Eyre. It’s as tricky a read as I remember… Oh well, we soldier on!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The First Book; The First Step.

Drum roll please...


Have you read this one before? What were your thoughts? What are your favourite bits? (NO SPOILERS!)

Comments are more than welcome.

Happy reading!

- Noni

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another New Beginning


I love reading, but I never get to read as much as I’d like to. Over the last few years, since finishing school, I’ve just not had the time, energy or willpower to churn through books like I did back in my school days. (Oh god, am I really old enough to use that phrase?)

The other thing I love is Popular Penguins. They have such a magnificent array of titles, and not of them all ‘classics’, and plenty of them I’ve yet to devour. And they’re AFFORDABLE.

At the moment, my job sucks. Sure, I’m in a radio station, but there’s something about doing the accounts that just KILLS MY SOUL. Oh, and did I mention I’m still in Dubbo?

So at the moment, my only escapes are my weekend trips to Bathurst (which will cease soon anyway) and reading. I’m currently in the middle of The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (about 120 pages to go, and I can't wait to get to the mystery's resolution!), having finished my re-reading of The Shadow of the Wind last week, but once that’s finished, I’m lost as to what my next read will be.

For this reason, and also because I’m not writing as much as I should, I thought I would go through ALL the titles on the Popular Penguins list, reading and reviewing each one, posting the results on this new blog.

I have no idea how long this will take, or if I will stick with it long enough for it to be worthwhile. I don’t even know how much money I’ll spend in the process. (Due to my wanting to save money, I will be borrowing from my local library when I can, unless Penguin Publishing wants to sponsor me!) There will be no time restraints and there will be no holding back on what I think. And there will be NO leaving a book unfinished.

I have already printed off the list of Popular Penguins in print at this point in time. There are 174 titles to work through, some authors I’m really looking forward to (Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Charles Dickens, Nick Hornby, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and some I’m really dreading (Jane Austen, Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, Mary Shelley, Donald Horne) but all will be read as reflections of their era and tales worth telling. In return, I will give my honest opinion of the book, and whether I would read it again, or if you’ll find it on eBay next Thursday.

It will be a celebration of reading, writing and personal opinion, all at a decent price.

Now bugger off! I’ve got a book to read.

- Noni Doll


The 35-page document that I’ll be working off, complete with all the titles and synopsises. Wish me luck!