Monday, 23 January 2012

Review: "Poppy Comes Home" by Gabrielle Wang

Reviews of previous books in the series:
  Meet Poppy;
  Poppy at Summerhill and Poppy and the Thief

Poppy Comes Home (Our Australian Girl - Poppy, #4)Poppy Comes Home by Gabrielle Wang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And Poppy reaches Beechworth.

And so bits of it threw me out of the story - like the description of what seemed like a long walk between the prison and the Town Hall, when it's actually half a block. (I was in Beechworth on Saturday, I checked. From the post office I could see all the way past the old gaol, the old courthouse, etc, to the walls of the prison.)

But it was a brilliant, awesome ending to the series. As I've said previously, I just love the connection that I have to the places of this series - I would love to be able to get Gabrielle up here to do some library talks. (I know from her blog that she launched "Poppy Comes Home" with a visit to Wahgunyah Primary), but the regional library of which *my* library is a part covers most of the ground for these books. But we had other foci for the Year of Reading, and sadly, the "My Australian Girl" series is too narrowly focused at middle grade girls. But I'd still love to get Gabrielle up here. Along with Alice Pung and a few other people on my wishlist.

I'm so glad I bought all four books in this series. They are a beautiful addition to my personal library as well as to middle grades Australian writing. I don't know that I'll ever buy the other books from My Australian Girl (although to WWI-era ballet student from Perth is tempting), but these have been a jewel of a find.

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Review: "His Lady Mistress" by Elizabeth Rolls

His Lady MistressHis Lady Mistress by Elizabeth Rolls
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started reading this because it was on my Kobo (it was on my Kobo because it was free) and because I didn't feel like reading anything I had on the go at the time.

But when I opened the book and reached the bio, it turned out to have been written by an author who has lived in Australia long enough that I'm counting her for the AWW challenge.

To review the book itself - look, it's a romance. There's a reason I have a "trashy trashy romance" shelf on GR: every so often I read a lot of romance. (See last year's list of books read.) It's a Regency romance, and it's not a Stephanie Laurens. But I enjoyed it. Sure, I wanted to bash the hero and heroine's heads together at times, because geeze, were they being dense! If they'd just *spoken* to each other, the book would have been half the size at most.

When I read books like this, I don't read them critically. I read them for the adventure, for the jaunt. I read them for the fun of it - for the froth and joy of the ball at Netherfield in the 1996 P&P. And while it wasn't at the level of a Laurens for me, it was a lovely, engaging read.

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Sunday, 15 January 2012

Review: "Closets are for Clothes"

Closets are for Clothes: A History of Queer AustraliaClosets are for Clothes: A History of Queer Australia by Rachel Cook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Black Dog Books is a fundamentally fabulous Australian publisher. Like Kudos for television, I can pretty much assume that if Black Dog is publishing a book, it's worth reading.

"Closets are for Clothes" was great. It's non-fiction at the middle-grades to young adult level, and a really well-done overview of queer history in Australia. There wasn't anything in it that particularly surprised me, but then again, I've done History of Sexualities and always been interested in this area. But as a basic intro to Australian Queer History I would *definitely* recommend this one.

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Monday, 9 January 2012

Review: "Poppy at Summerhill" and "Poppy and the Thief"

Poppy at Summerhill (Our Australian Girl - Poppy, #2) Poppy and the Thief (Our Australian Girl - Poppy, #3)
Poppy at Summerhill by Gabrielle Wang
Poppy and the Thief by Gabrielle Wang

When I read Meet Poppy in October 2011, I said that I hoped to read the following books the next weekend. Sadly, I didn't get to them until New Year's Day and shortly thereafter (Okay, once I'd committed to the AWW2012 challenge I held onto them until the New Year). (Sadly, I also spent the entirety of the previous review calling Poppy "Polly". I'm surprised no one pointed that slip out to me!)

I've really enjoyed the next two instalments, particularly as Poppy has grown to know and understand more about each side of her heritage. While I knew that there was a goodly sized Chinese community in Beechworth at the time, I didn't know that the same was true about Wahgunyah, and now I'm inclined to go delving into the Local History collection at work to learn more. That would be a fascinating mostly-forgotten history of that (now quite little) town.

The joy of reading about places so near by, and so close to my heart continues. Now I just need to find book four! My local sources seem to have all the white girls from the My Australian Girl collection, but not my beloved Poppy. (Seriously - if there were dolls to go with this series like there are with the American Girl books, I'd have a Poppy to sit alongside my Minnesotan Kirsten ~grin~).

Kick-ass females: 4 - Poppy, Noni, Aunty, and Lai Lai.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

2012 Reading Goals

In 2011 I completed 77 books.  When given the option today by Goodreads to set a goal for 2012, I opted for 80.  I would note that I started 2011 with a goal of 50 books, and upped it periodically as it became clear that it would be possible.  I suppose my 'goal goal' would be 100, but that's two books a week on average, and even counting picture books (which I do count: nb further post on this topic would be a good idea) that's a challenge.  But I'll keep it in mind.

As I have done for the past few years, I'll be counting how many books I'm reading by authors who are not white: the premise being that these writers bring a distinct and different voice that may be missed if a reader is not conscious of who they are reading.  I hope to reach a goal of 50 this year.  I've come close in previous years, I'm hoping this time to succeed.

I'll also be following a quite similar challenge, the Queerlit50.  This challenge is to read books by authors who identify as being other than 'straight'.

Then there is the Australian Women Writers challenge, previously discussed.  I've given myself a goal of 40 for this challenge.

Lest you be doing the maths and be about to point out that I'm already looking at 140 books, it is important to note that books can count for more than one challenge.  For example, the first book I've read this year, Poppy at Summerhill by Gabrielle Wang, counts for both the Australian Women Writers challenge and 50books_poc.

Finally, having managed in the last few months of 2011 to read down my "Currently Reading" list to something approaching sensible, I'd like to do the same to my "On Hiatus" shelf, currently sitting at 45 books.

So those are my plans.  I've set up a list in the sidebar where you can see what I'm up to in these various challenges at any point in time - so long as I've kept it up to date, of course.

Happy 2012!