Monday, November 30, 2009

I am feeling a little bit tired - I had a busy weekend.

Firstly, at the moment it's all about the ballet concert. Every year at this time things get a little manic as we are thrown into a whirlwind of extra rehearsals, costumes, ticket-buying and photos. This year Alana's ballet class is doing Swan Lake - hence the photo above. THIS IS NOT HER, but her costume is fairly similar, and they have learnt the actual choreography of the traditional ballet! In addition, Alana has been chosen to be one of the four cygnets (baby swans) who dance their own special bit. Even if you know nothing about ballet, you probably know the dance of the cygnets. It's that one in which the four dancers cross and hold hands in front. The one that everyone tries to imitate. Quite the honour!

This weekend she had rehearsal on Saturday and photo day (in full costumes and makeup) on Sunday. We also had to make a quick trip to our nearest Bloch store to pick up a few bits and pieces, including brand new ballet slippers (the old ones had been painted so many times I think they had more paint than leather on them!).

Secondly, one of my flute students had her 4th grade exam today. Saturday was her last lesson and Sunday afternoon we travelled to Sydney to stay with my parents overnight because the exam was being held 9am in AMEB headquarters and we didn't want to have to leave home before dawn to get there! My Mum and Dad were super hospitable feeding us and putting us up for the night, as well as driving us into the city this morning and dropping us right out the front of the building.

Good news - my student got a solid pass in a technically challenging exam. Smiles all 'round!

So that's me for now...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Awful Library Books

Each time I sign in to my blog, I cast my eye down my blog list to see what all my blogging friends are writing about. There are a few blogs that are my favourites, that are not-to-be-missed. When they have a new post, I check it out straight away, because I'm sure to be entertained and informed.

One of my current faves is Awful Library Books. The title speaks for itself, and I usually see something laugh-out-loud funny. The comments are always great too.

Why don't you visit it today?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jobs, High School and the Twilight Saga.

  1. I have just posted another job application. No luck (so far, and it's been a while so I'm not holding my breath) with the other two that I applied for earlier in the month. This one is local (tick), part time (tick), and as part of the local public library team (just what I want). However, the hours are challenging (5 - 9.30am Tuesday to Friday), and I wouldn't actually be working in the library, but manning a book stall at the local train station as a service to commuters. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a fabulous service to the community (and before this job came up I didn't even know it existed). However, I don't think it's really my dream job! I'd prefer to be in the library, working with a team, and with the opportunity to extend my skills and use my abilities in many different areas of library work including story time for preschoolers, the virtual library (particularly online resources for school students) and reference work. I think that the Book Express job would be limited to checking out adult fiction. But it would be a foot in the door. And simply getting my resume into the hands of the people responsible for hiring at the library is a good start. I really hope I get an interview!
  2. The whole family went to the parent information evening at Alana's high school last night. Alana was fortunate (and talented!) enough to gain a place at an academically selective high school in our area. Last night was a precurser to Thursday week's orientation day, to prepare the 180 students that will be entering Year 7 next year (and will be the class of 2015!). We got lots of information about travel passes, uniforms, book packs, joining the P&C, and how to overcome "homework shock"! I'm starting to realise what a big deal it is to have your oldest child start high school. Any advice from parents that have "been there, done that" will be received gratefully!
  3. I'm re-reading Eclipse. I know, I know, it's not literary gold, but I can't help myself! After seeing New Moon at the movies I just had to continue with the story!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Double Review Day

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Borrowed from my local public library.

**** "Enjoyable"

I have learnt by now that I enjoy the genre known as "popular science", which I presume means science written for the non-academic reader. I like finding out about stuff! This book sees Bryson take the reader on a tour of everything that is currently known about the universe, the Earth, and life on Earth.

Starting with an explanation about what scientists currently believe about how the universe began, Bryson introduces us to the unimaginable scale of everything science related. The enormous size of the universe is balanced by the truly teeny tiny size of its constituent parts. For instance, if we were to draw a picture of the solar system to scale, with the Earth reduced to the size of a pea, Pluto would be two and a half Kilometres distant! And a typical atom has a diameter of 0.00000008 centimetres, or eight one hundred millionths of a centimetre! But even more amazing, most of this diameter is actually empty space, with the nucleus of the atom occupying only one millionth of a billionth of the  total volume. Unbelievable!

Bryson also discusses evolution, ice ages, extinctions, and the rise of homo sapiens. I found it genuinely fascinating, and recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.

Since finishing uni for the year, I've had plenty of time for reading, so I can treat you to another review.

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris.

Borrowed from my local public library.

*** "Readable"

Real Murders is the first in the Aurora Teagarden mystery series by Charlaine Harris. Since I really enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse series, and also recently read, and loved, one of the Harper Connelly books, I thought I'd give this one a go.

Aurora Teagarden is a single 28-year-old librarian who lives alone in a townhouse in Lawrenceton, just out of Atlanta. She meets once a month with a group of like-minded individuals, who share an interest in true crime. Each month they dissect a famous case in detail, trying to decide whether the police arrested the right person, or attempt to solve unsolved mysteries. Unfortunately the Real Murders club find themselves right in the middle of a real murder when Aurora finds the body of Mrs Wright bludgeoned to death in the kitchen of the club's meeting place just as a meeting was due to begin. Before long the dead bodies and murder weapons are piling up, all of them with some connection to Real Murders club members, and all bearing striking resemblences to famous true crime cases.

Sounds promising, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it just didn't grab me. It's readable enough, but I don't think I'll be revisiting Aurora Teagarden in a hurry.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Moon Rocks!

New Moon

Seen 6 am today with my gorgeous daughter Alana.

***** "Must see"

How good is this movie? So very, very good. Much anticipated, it did not disappoint. At all. Quite a feat! I cannot remember ever seeing a movie adaptation of a book that I loved like this. Very faithful to the book, and yet...somehow even better!

I know, heresy! In the long term, a movie will never be quite as satisfying as a book. It will never hold up to repeated watching the way a much loved book holds up to re-reading. But in the short term, this movie is very, very satisfying. There is nothing that leaves me feeling "I wish they had done such and such" or "I can't believe they left that out!" or "Why the hell did they add that bit?" or "So and so wasn't convincing". Nothing!

I believe that even non-fans will enjoy this, because it has lots of humour. Also action and romance and hot guys with no shirts on - what's not to love? And the story is told satisfyingly thoroughly. Sometimes movies-made-from-books skip over parts of the plot that leave me wondering how people who have not read the book will understand what is going on. Not New Moon. It cleverly makes sure that the plot is made explicit without making you feel that one of the characters has turned into the narrator.

So what are you waiting for? Get to the cinema pronto!

Monday, November 16, 2009

So...what have I been up to?

Saturday's music recital went remarkably well! Alana's ballet teacher kindly allowed me to hold it in the ballet studio so that we would have plenty of space with an easily accessible piano. (At my place, the piano is in our "study", the fourth bedroom that is also home to our two computers and my desk. Fine for private music lessons, but no good for holding a recital!) My flute students played beautifully, and the choral item went well. All the additional performers, including Alana playing "Bella's Lullaby" on the piano, did a great job. My wonderful sister played piano to accompany the flautists and singers, and her three daughters entertained us with a super cute hula dance to "My Island Samoa".

And so now we steadily head on the downhill run to Christmas. Still ahead include school presentation nights, and Alana's Year 6 farewell as she heads to highschool next year. Also the end of year ballet concert and the Christmas shopping. But what I'm currently anticipating...only 3 sleeps to go until New Moon. Yes, that's right, Mum-of-the-year strikes again! Alana and I have tickets to the 6 am showing on Thursday. Mmmmm, shirtless Jacob....

Still no word on the jobs I have applied for, and still waiting for one more uni assignment return before I can say that I'm officially half-way through my Masters.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Praise the Lord - I have passed my ETL501 assignment!!!

It was worth 70% of my final grade, and earlier in the semester I failed the assignment that was worth 30%, so I really, really, really needed to pass it!

Hooray! Lecturer says it was a big improvement on my first assignment, but that I still have the tendency to stray off task...

Now I can get onto final preparations for the music recital I am holding this afternoon. There are twelve items, including both vocal and instrumental performances; solos, duets, and even a mini choir! The youngest performer is my niece Darcy, the oldest are two guitar-playing Dads that are getting in on the act. I am encouraging a family-friendly, fun and relaxed celebration of music. (And we are all going out for dinner - table for 27! - afterwards.)

Will post tomorrow to let you know how it all went.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My new book review format.

I seem to have been posting quite a lot of book reviews lately, so I have decided to try a new format.

The spare room by Helen Garner.

Borrowed from my local public library.

* * * * "Enjoyable"

From the cover notes: "Helen lovingly prepares her spare room for her friend Nicola. She is coming to visit for three weeks, to receive treatment she believes will cure her cancer. From the moment Nicola staggers off the plane, gaunt and hoarse but still somehow grand, Helen becomes her nurse, her guardian angel and her stony judge. The spare room tells a story of compassion, humour and rage. The two women - one sceptical, one stubbornly serene - negotiate an unmapped path through Nicola's bizarre therapy, stumbling toward's the novel's terrible and transcendent finale."

This book is a work of fiction. But because Garner has named her narrator Helen, and because the writing is so extraordinarily honest, I would swear that this book is the the recounting of actual events in the author's life. The dialogue is pitch perfect - exactly as people really speak. Garner doesn't fluff around with language either, but uses it deliberately and sparingly. Consider this short passage:

"A dry breeze puffed up the slope. It lifted her hair and showed the pitiful thinness of her neck. I put down my sandwich and grabbed her hands."

My favourite character is Bessie, Helen's grand-daughter that lives next door:

"Something rustled at the back door. Bessie slid into the kitchen, beaming, in a floor-length flounced skirt and fringed shawl.
'No, sweetheart - sorry. Not now.'
Her smile faded. 'But I've got a new dance to show you.'
'Nicola's asleep. She needs a very quiet house because she's terribly sick.'
She stared at me, sharply interested.'Is Nicola going to die?'
She began to twist the doorknob, writhing and grizzling. 'I need you to play with me. I'm bored.'
'Don't push it, Bess. You heard what I said.'
'If you don't let me come in, I won't be able to stop whining.'"

Highly recommended.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Almost Perfect by Kelly Denley

So, imagine that you are 31 years old and have eight children. You have been a wife and mother since you were 17, and you struggle with the fear that everyone sees you as nothing more than an overweight woman who "doesn't know what causes it". Your eldest two children have Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. You are suffering from post-natal depression. Your husband has been retrenched from his job. Your father is dying from liver failure due to diabetes. Several of your children are being bullied at school, and two of them are being medicated for depression. What do you do?

Kelly Denley obviously isn't your typical woman. Because what she did was go back to school to finish the education that was cut short by teen pregnancy, then take her whole family on a 14 month camping adventure around Australia, home schooling the children and studying at uni (via distance) all the way.

Mind-blowing, isn't it!

This book is Kelly's recounting of the catalysts in her life that led her to embark on this amazing adventure, along with the stories of the trip itself. Sure to have you cheering for her, and feeling ready to embrace a positive attitude to life.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday arvo Quote of the Day

Seek what makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive,
along with the inner voice that says,
this is the real me


Saturday, November 7, 2009

grave surprise by Charlaine Harris

From the cover notes:

"When I was fifteen, I was struck by a bolt of lightning throuh an open window of the trailer where we lived...I recovered, mostly. I have a strange spiderwed pattern of red on my torso and right leg, which has episodes of weakness. sometimes my right hand shakes. I have headaches. I have many fears. And I can find dead people. That was the part that interested the professor...

"At the request of anthropology professor Dr. Clyde Nunley, Harper Connelly and her stepbrother Tolliver come to Memphis to give a demonstration of Harper's unique talent. And what better place to have that demonstration than in a very old cemetery?

"Dr. Nunley doesn't bother to hide his skepticism, especially when Harper stands atop a grave and senses two bodies beneath her - one of a centuries-dead man and the other of a young girl, recently deceased. When the grave is opened, Harper's claim is proven true. The dead girl is Tabitha Morgenstern, an eleven-year-old abducted from Nashville two years previously..."

From the author of the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampires) series, comes a series featuring Harper Connelly; a young woman with a gift for finding corpses, and accurately determining the cause of death simply by touching, or being close to, the body. This is actually the second book in the series, which includes grave sight, grave surprise and an ice cold grave. I stumbled upon it while browsing through my local library's online catalogue and thought I'd give it a try.

Harper Connelly is an engaging character, and I'm glad to say is nothing at all like Sookie. (Well, there is the fact that she wound up without parents at a young age, and the fact that she has a supernatural gift. Not that I don't like Sookie - I love her - but I can't stand it when an author is a one trick pony and creates characters that are all alarmingly alike.) Harris has created a likable character with a distinctive voice. Harper doesn't have the same likes and dislikes as Sookie, or the same attitudes. And she doesn't inhabit the same world as Sookie.

This book is a classic who-done-it with a satisfying conclusion. Recommended to all who enjoy a murder mystery every now and then. I'll definitely be reading the other books in the series.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm a Gleek!

My daughter and I have been enjoying watching Glee together. (In fact hubby and son watch too!) We have really been bonding over our discussions of our favourite characters (and those we HATE!), and which songs are our favourites.

It's on again tonight!

For now, enjoy this...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mr Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange

After much neglect, I'm finally getting back on track with the Everything Austen challenge. Hosted by Stephanie, at Stephanie's Written Word, it requires participants to read, view or "experience" six Austen-related books, films etc by January 1, 2010. So I'd better get my skates on!

My progress so far:
Check out my review post for Lost in Austen  by Emma Campbell Webster here.

And now, a review post for Mr Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange.

This book was pretty much what I expected - a quick enjoyable read, but nothing spectacular. The book consists of a series of diary entries, and faithfully follows the narrative of Pride and Prejudice while also giving us a tantalising glimpse into Darcy and Elizabeth's life after P & P.

I'm not sure that Darcy's voice is true to his character as presented in P & P, but romantics will forgive Grange any licence she has taken in presenting Darcy as a doting brother and a man who is in love with Elizabeth almost from the moment he meets her!

I found the fact that some phrases or passages were quoted verbatim from P & P frustrating. I would have dearly loved Grange to find Darcy's voice to describe the unfolding events rather than using Austen's narrator's ironic voice.

This book is fun for fans.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I have applied for a job!

Now that all my uni work is over for the year, my mind has turned to the actual goal of my study, which is a career change.

After working from home teaching private maths and music students for some time, I am eager to go out to work and see some people!

After much deep thought, I decided that librarianship was the direction that I wanted to move. I love to read and learn, I can work alone or in a team, I'm good with people, and I don't mind routine tasks. To that end, I am studying to become a fully fledged professional librarian.

The job that I have applied for is a library technician role; a perfect stepping stone for me. It is with a company that supplies books and other products to libraries all over Australia. Looking over their website, I feel quite excited at the prospect of working for them!

In the meantime, I am exploring some other options too, including teacher librarian positions in schools.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday arvo Quote of the Day

If you want love and abundance in your life,
give it away.

Fashion your life as a garland of beautiful deeds.