Got a question?

A lot of you seem to be really excited about the TBYL Book Club starting up soon! This of course has made me a very, very happy blogger.

I think I might be driving everyone around me a bit crazy with my excitement about the fun that 2012 will bring, but I make no apologies, it’s going to be great!

I’ve done some testing of the TBYL online community, it’s working well and we’ve even got some early adopters. Feel free to sign up and check out our friendly, bookish community whenever you like. This will be where the book club ‘meets’, chats and shares.

I’ve had a number of questions about the club itself…is it free? how will it work? what are the rules? and so I’ve put together a TBYL Book Club FAQ. Check it out here to find out a bit more about how we’re all going to meet up and chat about the books we love.

Thanks to you all who’ve gotten involved already, and everyone – keep an eye out, I’ll be announcing the very first book club book in the next couple of weeks.

I’m really hopeful that this club, our little bookish community, will give us all an excuse to read and a chance to discuss books that move us, inspire up, perturb us. No matter how time-poor or isolated you might be, now you’ve got the chance to be part of a very special group of like-minded book lovers, the TBYL Book Club.

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Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

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Urban wildlife: Owl, the urban edge

Frighteningly, everyone’s calendar’s seem to have filled up for December already, so I thought I’d skip straight to January.

The weather will be warm, we’ll have recovered from the festivities, and eased nicely into a calmer, quieter, holiday pace. And what better way to enjoy the wonderful month of January than with an art exhibition. Sounds to me to be a very fitting way to start off a brand new year.

A dear friend of mine and very talented artist, Lisa Sewards has joined forces with the equally exceptional Dave Dando and Kathryn Gribbin to bring us their gorgeous show; Owl the urban edge.

I can’t recommend this collection of work highly enough, it’ll be mixed, edgy and earthy. I’ll be there on day one. I’m going to take the kids’ too, especially since owls are an absolute favourite for Oscar. He’s sure to love Ron Murray’s performance at the opening, particularly when he shares the owl creation story.

The exhibition will include huge metal and copper sculptures, lightboxes, and works on paper including fusions of photographs, drawings and printmaking applications. The exhibition is bound to appeal to all art lovers including devotees of this emblematic bird!

The show opens Saturday, January 21st 3-5pm and runs until February 4th 2012 at Steps Gallery, 62 Lygon Street, Carlton South.

When you can’t look away

This month, my mums’ book club decided to read Chris Tsiolkas’ The Slap. We might have been jumping on the bandwagon somewhat, but given that the TV series was being shown on the ABC, it seemed fitting for those of us who’d not read the book to catch up with the rest of the Australian population.

As I said on Facebook, this novel is a bit like a car crash; decidedly unpleasant, but I just couldn’t seem to look away. It is, to say the very least, compelling.

Now, I’m not going to review The Slap, as such. Lots has already been said about this cleverly constructed book, and I don’t think I need to go over it again. Instead, I’ll share with you a link to The First Tuesday Book Club’s assessment of the novel, which you can watch here. I think the panel say it pretty well. They’ve got some really interesting perspectives on the story and its characters, some of which I agree with, others not so much.

I will say that I enjoyed the structure of this book, framing chapters as characters worked incredibly well in offering multiple perspectives of environment and conflict and the obviously Melbourne-based setting made the story frighteningly (and regrettably?) relatable.

Tsiolkas’ bleak portrayal of relationships hurt my heart. I felt for these characters, as deplorable as they might have been, and wished better for them. At the same time, I was quietly pleased that none of my current relationships seem so hopelessly doomed.

It has been really interesting talking to people about this book, and I’m guessing that this is possibly the greatest appeal of both the novel and the TV series. To be honest, I’m not that interested in whether people think the slap itself was good or bad, deserved or abusive. I did on the other hand find it fascinating to discover which characters my friends were drawn to and equally, those they despised. Every person, including myself seems to identify differently with this book, with its intriguing characters and the issues they grapple with. For that reason, this book is exciting, revealing and confronting.

I was relieved when I came to the end of The Slap, initially anyway. Interestedly though, a few hours after reading the last pages I started to miss these crazy, horrible, fallible characters. To wonder what would happen next for them, and whether they’d find resolution. I think I’ll imagine them a happy ending…

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I know where the yummy is…

I did something new again this weekend, when I braved the torrential Melbourne rain and reported in to Prahran Market for my first ever market tour.

Matt and I used to shop at markets all the time, especially Prahran Market and South Melbourne Market and we loved it. There was nothing quite like the freshness, the discovery and the Saturday afternoon bargains. But I have to admit, since moving suburbs and having children,we’ve become a little out of practice when it comes to finding our way around the produce hall.

I’ve missed it, and I didn’t realise quite how much until Giovanna showed me what I’d been missing.

Led expertly by our tour guide Giovanna, a small band of eager market-goers and myself undertook to get to know Victoria’s oldest market just a little bit better. We were promised information, yummy tastings and an hour and half of enjoyment. We set off.

The Hidden Gems Tour included a wonderful mixture of the old and the new, of history and practical tips for shopping the market; Donnally’s for pinatas, Market Lane for the coffee purist, Oliver and Co for gourmet olive oil and devine flavoured vinegars.

My favourites stops on the tour; MJ Mow Gourmet Potatoes…every variety of potato you can think of, and all the accessories – spices, garlics and fresh wasabi. We had a chat with Michael, who gave me some great ideas for my next dinner party. I’ll admit, as interested as I was in what Michael was saying, I couldn’t help but be distracted by his red-brown dirt-stained hands, they reminded me so much of growing up on Tasmanian farms. In fact, the whole potatoey stall made me quite nostalgic. Next favourite; Damian Pike Wild Mushroom Specialist…I know, an unlikely favourite perhaps, but I love mushrooms and as Giovanna says: “Anything Damian doesn’t know about mushrooms, isn’t worth knowing” I bought the most interesting bag of mixed mushrooms and was absolutely smitten by the baby cauliflowers that Damian showed off proudly.

Lastly, a real highlight of the tour for me, and the source of the delicious smoked trout that I’ve now got in my fridge for later in the week, is Put Victoria on Your Table. Jason shared his passion for all things Victorian, top-shelf produce from around the state. The stall itself is supported by the Victorian Government, and gives regional Victorian food producers a helping hand to bring their goods to the attention of a wider group of fans and businesses. So worth a look, it’s worth a trip to Prahran for it’s own sake.

A new market can some times seem a little bit daunting – typically they’re busy, sometimes noisy and the variety seems at times overwhelming. It takes a while to get to know your way around, and to really discover the goodies that are available at each stall. The Prahran Market’s Hidden Gems Tour is a great way to get to know the market, to talk to the stall owners and to track down those tricky-to-find items like Black Apple Butter, organic coffee or Ostrich Eggs.

I would highly recommend that you take a tour, maybe over the summer break, as both a fun afternoon out and as a way of making your future experience of the market more rewarding.

To find out more about Prahran Market Tours, visit their website. Here you’ll find details, times and vouchers.

And now I’m off to eat some of the yummy, yummy things I found…

***

I’m really excited to be able to offer one of you lucky ducks the chance to win two Hidden Gem vouchers (valued at $50).

To go into the running to win, all you have to do is:

1. Leave a comment on this post, or

2. Visit That Book You Like‘s Facebook page

…and tell us what would be the first thing you would buy on a trip to the market.

The winner of this month’s competition (selected at random) will receive two Hidden Gem vouchers.

Entries close Wednesday, 30 November 2011. The winner will have four days to claim their prize, or a redraw will be held.

This month’s give-away is made possible by Prahran Market. For full details about the market, stalls and tours, visit their website here.

***

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Exciting times for TBYL!

I had a feeling I’d spent a lot of time blogging this year and I’d gotten the distinct impression that I’d written a lot of words. As it happens, that’s because I’ve written 149 blog posts in under 11 months. I’ve had the chance to review the most incredible range of books and events, and needless to say, I’ve had an absolute ball doing it. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too!

Today’s post is the 150th blog post for That Book You Like… and I’m very excited!

So much so, I thought I’d mark the occasion with a very special announcement.

As you know, I love books. Not just that, I love talking about books and by the looks of it so do lots of other people. I’ve really enjoyed being part of a book club this year, especially as it’s not something I’ve had the time or the opportunity to do in the past.

Interestingly, over the year I’ve realised that being able to get along to a real life, face-to-face book club is just not possible for many people, and it got me to thinking…

We’re all here online, aren’t we? And we’re comfortable here, yes? So lets chat…

Beginning in January 2012, That Book You Like will be launching a brand new online book club!! The TBYL Book Club will, each month bring you a new, exciting book to read, discuss and share. We’ll be suggesting a variety of titles over the year, encouraging you to read widely, differently and adventurously.

You’ll be able to opt-in and opt-out as you like, depending on whether you’re interested in the book of the month.

The TBYL Book Club will allow you to connect with fellow book-lovers in our online community (to be launched in Jan 2012), and to get involved in an amazing range of online forums about the book of the month. The Club will give you the chance to win prizes, access to special offers and invites to exciting bookish events. And best of all, it’s free to join!

To mark this special 150th Post Day, I’d like to invite you all to visit my new website at www.thatbookyoulike.com.au and if you’re interested in being contacted when the TBYL Book Club launches in the new year, please fill out the I’m Interested form so that I can drop you a line when we’ve picked our very first book.

Again, I hope you’ve enjoyed That Book You Like’s first 150 posts, and I hope you’ll join us on this next exciting adventure!

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Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

She’s one funny mummy

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered over the last twelve months, it’s that mums are funny. Mummy bloggers and column writers are incredibly good at making us laugh at the grottier side of life, tickling us until we giggle (like a maniac) at poo and wee and vomit, at nappies and snotty noses. They’re so willing to share their misadventures at the supermarket, in the school yard, on the parents’ online forum, that they can’t help but make us feel just a little bit better about our funny old day-to-day lives.

Allison Rushby’s e-book, Die Yummy Mummy Die does exactly that. The writer invites us to consider the lighter side of parenthood – how we make memories with our kids, the miracle that is double-length toilet paper and the mysterious ‘need to feed’ phenomenon.

The book itself is (mostly) a compilation of Allison’s weekly column ‘Desperate Housewife,’ originally published in Queensland’s Courier-Mail. It reads very much like a series of blog posts, which makes it a great pick-up/put-down kind of book. Being an e-book living on my Ipad it was available whenever I needed it. As such, I enjoyed reading it while I was waiting… for doctor’s appointments, for kinder pick-ups, for buses and trains. I could pick it up, read a column and leave off with a chuckle and a sigh, eager for the next five minute block so that I could read the next column.

As you might expect, Die Yummy Mummy Die is largely about the ‘joys’ of motherhood. Allison’s writing is irreverant and entertaining, and despite its firmly tongue-in-cheek title, it is very generous towards mothers of all persuasions, be they ‘yummy’ or otherwise. Personally, I particularly enjoyed ‘Ode to Double-Length’, ‘My Life in Numbers’ and ‘Pet Peeves’. I could most definitely relate to ‘Evil Appliances,’ and I applauded her honest bravery when it came to dogs and dolphins.

If you enjoy mummy-bloggers, you’ll love this book. You can pick up a copy on Amazon, or you can check it out on Allison’s website. While you’re visiting her site, you might want to have  a little look-see at her numerous young adult titles.

And of course, don’t forget that you can win a copy of Die Yummy Mummy Die in this month’s give-away (entries close 15.11.11). You’ll find full details here…enter today, it’s super-easy and I’d love to hear your funny stories!

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Pink lady number five

A couple of weeks ago, I had the most incredible day out with the Pink Lady Art Exhibition crew. It was such a special day that I just had to share it with you. Here’s a run down of the amazing meal that I had, and an introduction to the wonderful company that I kept.

Counting our blessing for the wonderful weather, six chatty ladies loaded up into Lisa’s 4wd and headed out to Red Hill. We had a booking for a table at Port Phillip Estate, had heard amazing things, and were all eager to have a taste of a devine wine or two.

On arrival, I was taken aback by the incredibly earthy but modern, sculptural structure that is Port Phillip Estate. The view was breathtaking.

“Surrounded by mounds of native grasses and indigenous spotted gums, the new Port Phillip Estate winery, designed by Wood Marsh Architecture, emerges from the landscape as a dramatic curved sculpture made of rammed-earth.”

On being shown to our seats in the calm, coolness of the dining room, we were tempted in all direction by a succulent three course meal and an incredible wine list. The biggest decision of the day…tasting plate or dessert? Needless to say, I went for dessert.

It was the most amazing meal I’ve had all year…luxurious, but not extravagant, and of the highest quality. The first course, Three Little Pigs was pig done three ways, including blood pudding. Ordinarily I would have passed on such a ‘treat’ but this thin, garnished disc was actually delicious, I’m so glad I was a little bold. My main was a fresh ricotta and spinach-filled ravioli which was truly melt-in-the-mouth. For me, dessert was the highlight – vanilla marshmallow, lemon curd, pistachio crumble; essentially a deconstructed lemon meringue pie. I don’t want to undersell it with this description, it would have been the most devine lemon meringue pie ever, but the difference was made by being able to enjoy it in parts. This meant that I was able to really fully experience all the individual flavours, each one perfect.

The catch-up lunch itself was special, as the weekend marked 12 months before the next Pink Lady Art Exhibition, booked in for the 27th and 28th October 2012. For the past four years, this art show has allowed an opportunity to enjoy a spectacular range of art whilst raising funds to contribute to the work of BCNA and NBCF in their support of breast cancer survivors. The exhibition is now biannual, and the organisers are at this point starting to prepare for next year’s show. It promises to be the best yet, and we all look forward to celebrating the 5th Pink Lady Art Exhibition.

Over lunch we all started hatching plans as to how to make next year’s show bigger and better than ever. I don’t want to give too much away at this early stage, but I will say, it’s not to be missed!

This is an event, and an issue close to my heart, and I’d love it if you would put the date in your diary…we’d love to see you at the show. I’d love it if you would like to join the Pink Lady crew on Facebook or Twitter – it’s a great way to hear about art news and breast cancer awareness activities. Finally, I’d also be wrapt if you would visit the exhibition’s brand-new blog (my new baby) at Pink Lady Art Exhibition: Blog. The blog will be a perfect way to get to know more about the show, the artists and our amazing sponsors. Please pop on by, and stay tuned as activities and news ramps up in the new year.

Last drinks at the Last Chance Cafe

Most of the time I’m too busy chasing my tail (and my kids) to worry too much about ageing. Nonetheless, in the quieter moments, I have caught myself worrying just a little about the state of the lines around my eyes, the colour of my hair (is that grey, or mousey-brown?), the quickness of my step. In these moments, I give myself a little kick and remind myself of the only sure-fire solution to ageing.

Surely though, few of us can claim to have no worries at all about beauty, health, and ageing, and it is these commonly held concerns that are the anchors of Liz Byrski’s latest novel Last Chance Cafe.

“Margot detests shopping malls. Any distraction is welcome, and the woman who has chained herself to the escalator, shouting about the perils of consumerism, is certainly that. She recognises Dot immediately – from their campaigning days, and further back still, to when Margot married Laurence.

Dot is in despair at the abondonment of the sisterhood, at the idea of pole dancing as empowerment, and the sight of five-year-olds with false eyelashes and padded bras. She’s still a fierce campaigner, but she isn’t sure where to direct her rage.

Meanwhile Margot holds a haunting resentment that her youthful ambitions have always been shelved to attend to the needs of others. And as the two women turn to the past for solutions for the future, Margot’s family is in crisis. Laurence travels in a bid to repress his grief, daughter Lexie loses her job after twenty years, and her younger sister Emma hides her pain with shopping binges.”

This is a really clever, very enjoyable book. It’s very nearly soap-opera-like, but much more skilfully put together than a simple melodrama. It deals with real issues, and asks (and answers) many questions regarding relationships, families and really interestingly, gender. It explores what it is to be family, and the part that trust plays in our relationships. Truths are revealed gradually, and Byrski builds the anticipation and tension expertly.

Liz’s characters are fallible but inherently likeable. I honestly felt that I travelled a little way with them as they lurched up and down through trauma, grief, break-throughs and discovery. The author has painted a refreshingly optimistic picture of this close-knit group of family and friends going through an intense period of change and upheaval together.

I’ll add that, as well as the main narrative of this novel, I found the secondary theme of this book really interesting. Liz happily puts her characters on their soapboxes, allowing for an interesting dialogue regarding women’s issues, in particular questions around the portrayal of women and girls, and their subsequent self-persception. These are really important issues, and are very topical in our current highly media-influenced, and often hyper-sexualised environment.

Now, you might think that Last Chance Cafe sounds like a very serious book, but it’s not. It pays crediance to its ernest themes, but it does so with good humour, and a day-to-day humanity.

“Margot sees it as a scene. A table groaning with food on a warm December afternoon; the characters seated around it, paper hats at odd angles, faces flushed from one too many glasses of champagne…

A family group; snap goes the camera and captures the image, and somewhere, sometime in the future, some one looks at it, reads into it their own story, speculates on what they were to each other, and what happened next. But the truth is subtle, complex and constantly shifting. This simple scene is a map of intersecting stories, of old loves and old deceptions, of new loves and new beginnings, of broken hearts and broken promises, of new discoveries and passionate inner journeys.”

I closed this book warmly, feeling a bit like I’d made a new group of friends. I certainly wished them well.

***

If you’re interested in reading this novel, pop into Kidna Books: 422 Hampton Street, Hampton or give Linda a call on 9521 8272, she’ll be able to fix you up with a copy.

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November give-away: Funny Mummy

I’ve been reading a great little e-book this week, called Die, Yummy Mummy, Die, by by Allison Rushby. This compilation of columns, largely about the ‘joys’ of motherhood were originally published in the Courier-Mail, and have been an interesting little discovery, humorous and insightful. If you enjoy mummy-bloggers, this book will be right up your ally.

I’ll post my review of this funny book in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, you’ve got a chance to win a copy of the e-book (for Kindle).

To go into the running to win, all you have to do is:

1. Leave a comment on this post, or

2. Visit That Book You Like‘s Facebook page

…and tell us about the most embarrassing/adorable/annoying thing the kids have done recently.

The winner of this month’s competition (selected at random) will receive a free e-copy of Die, Yummy Mummy, Die.

Entries close Tuesday, 15 November 2011. The winner will have four days to claim their prize, or a redraw will be held.

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My Monday: Like Water for Chocolate

O0, ah…

My choice this Monday, Like Water for Chocolate is my guiltiest pleasure. I’m no romantic, but this love story moved me and has stayed with me since first read.

I’m not sure if it was the magic, the mythology or the menu that drew me to this novel, but I found Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate completely irresistible.

“A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and in desperation he marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her. For the next 22 years Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all odds.”

Constructed around a culinary calendar, this novel is as much recipe book as it is love story and for me, with a weakness for cookbooks, this was always going to be a favourite. Couple this with the fact that it is a fine piece of magic realism, with more than a dash of absurdity, and it is securely in place in my top ten.

Esquivel’s use of imagery is very unique, at once symbolic and also surprisingly literal:

“The way Nacha tells it, Tita was literally washed into this world on a great tide of tears that spilled over the edge of the table and flooded across the kitchen floor. 

That afternoon, when the uproar had subsided and the water had been dried up by the sun, Nacha swept up the residue the tears had left of the red stone floor. There was enough salt to fill a ten-pound sack – it was used for cooking and lasted a long time.”

Similar to my last My Monday pick, Lessing’s The Memiors of a Survivor, the fantastic and starkly realistic are inseparable from each other. This makes Esquival’s novel a curiousity, a delightful mixture of myth and matter-of-fact.

The passion of the relationships in this book is intense. Readers are given a true sense of the hatred, the torment of desire. Tita’s love for Pedro is insurmountable, and the complexity of mother-daughter relationships is fascinating.

In short, this book gripped me. Even now, on re-reading the last three pages of the book for this review, it gave me chills, goose-bumps and a tickle of a tear.

What’s the most moving love story you’ve ever read?

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