The Book Club

My friend Nardia is a fantastic person. She makes cheese, loves food and she introduced me to her book club, a group of ladies whom she got to know through being a ballet mum (there’s a lot of waiting around involved in being a ballet mum…).  It had been ages since I had been in a book club, way before kids, and it was nice to have a chance to talk about books and reading. I hate to spoil a stereotype, but being a librarian does not mean I sit all day behind a desk and read books, or talk books. I’d like to, but then I’d be out of a job :).

Anyway, we meet on the last Tuesday of the month at a local pub. where the publican graciously allows us the use of one of his rooms and we stay for around 1-2 hours, quaffing wine, or a tea or coffee and “talk books”. Honestly we do, but we also talk about our kids, what’s happening in our lives and trashy TV. Forgive me if I am not more specific, but what is talked about in book club, stays in book club.

This year, we were assigned a genre and we chose a book within that genre. As a result you get to read something you wouldn’t have even thought of picking up at a library or bookstore. It can be a classic like Catcher in the Rye, a popular title, or something a little bit saucy like 50 Shades of Grey- that evening was a hoot!

Some of the ladies buy the book selection at the start of the year, either from our local bookshops or online, or if you come to the book club a little bit late and are not the least organised (*cough cough*) you borrow from your kids, or from the library. My selection for book club this year was The Hunger Games, which saw a great deal of the ladies raid their children’s bookshelves for the title. (As a side note we all enjoyed it- young adult fiction is great fiction!).

For next year we are doing book bingo. Rather than genre, we are selecting a book like A woman writer, An Australian Writer, Something New, or for myself, A Book based upon a True Story. The book group ruled out true crime, so I will have to go for a hunt.

What I  have loved about being in a book club is that usually at the end of the night we ask around the table what else are you reading? This is a great way to get recommendations for further reading- word of mouth is so often the best way to find a good book to read. One my to-read list is Richard Flanagan’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North which rated a thumb up from one lady, and I put my two cents in for The Rosie Effect, the sequel to Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project.

Thank you to Nardia for helping me get my reading mojo back!


Thanks to Bookworld for supporting this post.

Day Trip to Daylesford

There are a million and one things to do around the house, but we decided to hit the road and go to Daylesford for the day- actually, just for the morning. We’re not that far from Daylesford- around 40 km, so we will usually go up and back for a couple of hours.

The main reason was the Lark garage sale. Combined with the Crafty Squirrel, it was a mix of seconds from the shops, and a clearance of vintage tea towels, aprons, fabric, linen and bric a brac. It was huuuge!

It was also kinda funny to see who was in there- heaps of ladies rummaging around, with the odd man here or there- Mr BG braved the crowds and entered the fray of females in a shopping frenzy. Most of the blokes stood outside, arms crossed, patiently waiting for their girlfriends or wives to emerge triumphant with a bargain.

Miss BG scored a little stamp set, Master BG got some marbles (one thing I find about ‘cute’ shops is their tendency to cater for little girls over little boys) and I got some fabric to add to my stash.

We then went for a wander up and down the main street, with its bumper to bumper traffic of SUVs and farm utes. The footpaths were packed with Easter holiday makers and weekender traffic, and the cafes were doing a roaring trade. So too was a sausage sizzle stall in support of Hepburn Primary! I often wonder how the locals feel with the hordes of tourists which descend upon the town on holidays and the weekends…

A quick coffee break at the Pastry King (some seriously yummy pastries and cakes abound there), and then we found the bookshop. It was fun browsing the kid’s sections (there are a couple of rooms of kid’s books) and Master BG picked up a Horrible Histories book and Miss BG brought home her very first Enid Blyton- it’s a bit old for her to read, but she’ll grow into it. I ended up with a book about Granny Squares with some really pretty designs in there :).

On our way back to the car, we stopped for icecream and then had a quick fossick at the MS Shop, whereupon I came out with 2 dresses (Veronika Maine and Country Road) a ball of red yarn and 2 soft bunnies which were being given away as an Easter gift. A day full of eats, treats and bargains!

Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen

I have the greatest respect for authors, artists, musicians and creative souls who make my world a beautiful place in which to live. To read a book, listen to music, or to look at stunning photography can often turn a bad day into a better one. From an early age, we are taught to share, and it is an ethos which has served us well on the World Wide Web.

Which is why this article just left me wondering if the world has gone completely mad. A Belgian rights group SABAM have been contacting local public libraries to inform them they will be claiming fees for the reading of books to children. Storytime at the library, a way in which to engage and create young readers, is under threat because reading aloud to children in the library is considered a breach of copyright. SABAM, through its hardline approach to protecting the creative output of its members, is effectively limiting their future income stream for a short-term grab for money.

This seems to be the extreme end of what is occurring elsewhere for those who hold the copyright and publishing rights to books, songs, articles, films, and TV programs, but if organisations keep on restricting creative content, this may be a sign of things to come.

Librarians have often played a role in helping protect copyright. Through being aware of what can and cannot be done with the information we have in our library’s collections, we advise our users, and hope that we are not infringing copyright. Librarians are generally very nice people and don’t really like getting in trouble with the law. We also have a role in fostering new readers, to providing quality information for them and guiding them into finding information by themselves. We like to share our knowledge and our own love of information and reading with other people. I want to connect people to the right information and the best books.

So when the sharing of information and the protecting of information are at odds with each other, what do you do?

A recent article in Brain Pickings on the inscriptions found on the margins of illuminated manuscripts by monks helped answer my question. One inscription  stood out:

Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen

Literally, words written are often meant to be spoken, and there can be no greater pleasure than reading aloud to another person. Public libraries’ most popular programs involve big people reading to little people. Half my time at kinder is spent reading books to four year olds, who LOVE IT.

The phrase also had another meaning for me. What is the point of writing something if there are no readers to honor it? Even the private act of writing a journal has an initial readership of one and a potential readership of many. The very act of restriction only serves to dishonour the creator in the first instance.

I will share my information, read my books out aloud and be damned.

Turning Reluctant Readers into Ripper Readers

Master BG got books from Santa and his nana for Christmas and was thoroughly stoked. He has read a few of them already, when he’s not playing with Lego, the computer, or playing games with his sister that involve a lot of giggling and yelling.

He is nothing like my youngest brother Andrew, who at the same age LOATHED reading and would rather be zipping around on his bike terrifying little old ladies (not really, but just a bit of creative licence) and his older sisters (actually that bit is true). So what do you do to get reluctant readers reading, especially in the National Year of Reading?

Ken from NannyPro has written an article on 10 Books to Get Kids Reading Again. The books suggested are classics and aimed at an older readership, like middle to late primary. Ken also has some great words of wisdom  about finding the right stories for reluctant readers

For children who are resistant to reading, the secret is to find books that they are interested in. Stories about young people help them identify with the characters and relate to the plot. Fantasy and humor are also good ways to get kids hooked on books. Giving them a variety to choose from will help determine what genre captures their imagination.

Fo my brother Andrew, he started reading books by Paul Jennings, which were essentially short stories and progressed to fantasy fiction. Along the way, he would borrow books from the library about ancient Egypt, or whatever subject took his fancy. The reading paid off as he went on to do really well in his VCE, went to university and now works in London.

Here are 5 tips on turning a reluctant reader into a ripper reader.

  1. Pick something short to read- funny rhymes which can be read aloud to get the feel and sound of language are really good. Chapter books with short chapters are good as you feel you have accomplished something in a short space of time. As a child’s attention span increases, books with longer chapters can be introduced.
  2. Have books in the house. Make them part of the room and part of your life.
  3. Don’t limit your reading material to fiction- include non-fiction, such as dinosaurs, robots, space and myths and legends are always popular books with children.
  4. Lead by example and read yourself. My earliest memories are of my dad reading the paper. Mr BG’s memories of his father were of him sitting by the fire with a book, or sitting in a car in the pelting rains reading a book. If you are reading for enjoyment, your child will hopefully see it as a means of entertainment.
  5. Read to your child- it’s a great way to spend time with them and if you’re enjoying it, chances are they will too.

Do you have any tips on encouraging kids to read?

Ready, Set, Read!

2012 marks the National Year of Reading and is part of a compaign by libraries and library associations to help children learn to read, help readers find new stories and inspiration and to promote reading across Australia. Many notable Australians have been awarded the title of Reading Ambassadors, including authors, illustrators, politicians and people in the public eye.

Essentially it is set around books, with competitions being held to determine which books personify Australia, events in Adult Learners Week, as well as those targeting children, youths and indigenous literacy. It is exciting and one that promises to be a great way to expose more Australians to the wonders of reading.

It has also made me reflect upon my own reading habits. I have found over the last few years, the number of books I read have dwindled. I’m still reading every day, but so much of it is online, on online newspaper sites, websites and blogs, facebook and twitter.Much of the information I retrieve for my users at work tends to be online content, which is easily transmitted, or able to be viewed on a desktop. Even my professional development information comes in the form of online articles rather than journals, and I have gotten into the habit of skimming across an article to save time.

Like Kate said in a recent blog post it feels like I’m grazing, rather than reading in depth.

I’d like to, in this National Year of Reading to read mindfully, to absorb and reflect more upon what I have read. I could aim to read over 100 books this year, but I would rather focus on quality reading, rather than powering through a heap of books.

How do you read? Do you have any reading challenges for yourself this year?

Questions for a bookworm

Sophie from Her library adventures adapted these for a recent blog post of hers- these questions are the original questions for a bookworm

Imagine you sit in front of a fireplace. You read and beside you there is a cup with something hot in it. What would that be in your case: tea, coffee or hot chocolate?

If it were in front of a fireplace it would have to be hot chocolate. If I were reading at home at the kitchen table, it would be a cup of tea and if I were reading in a cafe it would be coffee. Funny how the situation can sometimes demand a different drink. Mind you, mulled wine would also be a contender to have in front of a fireplace, but I’m not sure I would be reading :).

If an author gave you the chance to rewrite or to change the fate of a book character, who would you chose?

Hard to say as usually the character development is logical and integral to the story- if a character’s fate were to change the character itself would also be fundamentally changed. I would have liked to see Ivanhoe end up with Rebecca over Rowena, but it wouldn’t have really worked with the story.

Did your parents read stories to you when you were little? if yes are there any special ones you remember the most?

My parents did read to me as a child, but I have a clearer recollection of the books I read, rather than those they read to me.  What I do remember is my mum telling me stories of her childhood growing up in Ireland and England while my sister and I lay in bed. There was the occasional story about fairies and leprechauns thrown in for good measure!

What do you like more the smell of old antiquarian books or the smell of new fresh ones you just bought?

I’m a fresh new book smell girl- the smell of musty mold does not do a lot for me. Having said that, my favourite bookstore when I was growing up in Geelong was Barwon Booksellers, a second-hand bookstore.

You get the opportunity to chose between wsecret talents: either to be able to make things come to life through reading them or the gift to read yourself into a book. Which one would you like to have?

Oh, definitely read myself into a book!

Do you have a favorite children’s book or a favorite fairy tale?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- it was a Christmas present when I was eight years old. Still a lovely book.

Someone would talk to your friends and ask them to compare you to a book character. With whom do you think would they compare you?

Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- a girl who always wanted her own way and would kick up a stink if she didn’t. Or perhaps Miss Marple- a nosy lady who had a knack for understanding people’s foibles.

Tell me the name of a writer whom you would like to have as a friend.

Initially I thought Oscar Wilde or Jane Austen, Wilde’s witticisms and Austen’s acerbic nature may have been a bit wearing after a while. Kaz Cooke, Nikki Gemmell and Marieke Hardy would make fantastic friends.

You can hide in a written down world for only one night into which world do you escape?

I initially thought Narnia, but then I’d be spooked by all the talking animals…maybe a night in the Paris demi-monde of Anais Nin, or a wild party at Gatsby’s house?

Something terrible happens: you have to flee to an unknown place and all you can take with you are three books of all the ones you own. Which three ones do you put into your bag?

A desert island discs type of question, and one which had me perusing my bookshelves for quite a while, pondering. Finally the three chosen were

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- melodrama, romance and a brooding hero
  2. The little Prince by Antoine de St-Exupery- to remind me of the magic of childhood
  3. Macbeth- witches, treachery and blood and gore

Bookgrrl’s Christmas Book list

I did say in a recent post about gift ideas that one of the best presents to buy a child was a book. Well, there is absolutely no reason not to buy a book for a big person as well.

Readings have offered a great selection of book suggestions on their website, and at the moment are offering free postage Australia-wide. They have categorised their selections for a wide range of teens, foodies and mums and dads. I would have to say their selections are more to my taste, as is their free postage :).

Anyway, here are a selection of books which I’ve read and loved this year and which I would whole-heartedly recommend. And what’s more, they’re all female, Australian writers, true bookgrrls!

Marieke Hardy – You’ll be sorry when I’m dead. Marieke’s collection of essay cum memoir which is ripsnortingly funny. It should come with a warning not to read this on public transport lest you start making choking noises as you attempt not to laugh out loud.

Peggy Frew- House of Sticks. The story of Bonnie, a woman who has put her musician career on hold while she is a stay at home to 3 young children. While there are no regrets for this decision on her part, her relationship with her partner Pete is tested by her children and the arrival of an old friend of Pete’s. A great depiction of contemporary inner-city Melbourne domesticity.

Kerry Greenwood- Cooking the books. Latest in the Corinna Chapman series which sees Corinna taking on dodgy accountants, soap opera divas and an absconding apprentice. A fun murder mystery which will be a good holiday read.

Kate Grenville- Sarah Thornhill. The sequel to The Secret River, Sarah Thornhill the youngest of William’s children, and her love for Jack . However the actions of the past have a way of impinging on the present. Great Australian literature.

Jessica Rudd- Ruby Blues. The sequel to Campaign Ruby, Ruby Blues takes up the story of the intrepid Prime Ministerial media advisor Ruby Stanhope 2 years later. The PM is under pressure and Ruby’s love-life is also polling badly. Not only that she has to deal with her boss being blackmailed, a super-enthusiastic intern and turning 30. I’d describe it as political chick-lit that is light, fast-paced and utterly plausible.

Nikki Gemmell- With my body.Possibly my favourite book of the year. It is a deeply moving story of a mother’s personal and sexual awakening through revisiting the memories of an old love affair. Yes, it is quite raunchy, and not to everyone’s taste, but it’s written so beautifully and feels so real.

And a stocking filler please add The Harp in the South by Ruth Park. I haven’t read it for years (ok, 1987), but it is a gripping, realistic tale of life in the slums of Surry Hills. You can get it as a Penguin Classic so it’s nice and affordable.

Bookgrrl’s Christmas Ideas

This is not the Bookgrrl Christmas Tree Source:

There are many blogs I read who are very helpful in offering suggestions as to what to get your husband/wife/children for Christmas. They are very inventive, but it is very hard if

  1. you buy things when you need them,
  2. you already have enough t-shirts, bags, aftershave/perfume, candles to last you until the next millennium,
  3. they’re not exactly… you

So this is my suggestions for Christmas gifts according to MY taste, which could be very different to YOUR taste. But hey, my blog, my rules…


  • You could go all Christmassy and get your beloved A Very She & Him Christmas . Zooey Deschanel does her chanteuse thang, while the guitar accompaniment has a slight delay to give it a 50’s feel to the classic Christmas Tracks (according to Mr BG, who got it for Christmas from a person with amazing taste me)
  • Tickets to a show for an upcoming band from the 80’s that you have never seen before. It could be the Specials or New Order or even Duran Duran.
  • let them search on eBay for that hard to find guitar, or pedal, then offer to buy it for them for Christmas.
  • As a last resort you could get them something you like, then give it to them, and by attrition it will become yours- like a certain New Order DVD which was given to me a few years ago…


  • If your beloved is into all things oppy- the Op Shop Guide to Victoria is hard to go past. Just think of all the road trips which could be planned to out of the way places, or Ballarat for example :).
  • If you live in Melbourne and shudder at the thought of travelling out of the major metropolitan area, try a Melbourne Op Shop Tour– they are reasonably priced, use public transport and they do vouchers. Just contact them for the voucher option. Even if you don’t live in Melbourne, it’s a good way to make a day of exploring a part of Melbourne you have never ventured.
  • If your fashion sense does not extend to things oppy, a voucher to a specific store is an excellent idea. A Westfield voucher is not applicable to major stores in the centre as I found out last Christmas- grrr…


  • One word- BOOK. The authors of the moment in our house are Pamela Allen and Lauren Child, who write Charlie and Lola and so so much more. I’ve ended up giving her books to a couple of excited 6 year old girls for their birthdays this year.
  • Another word- LEGO. I hate having to pick it up, but it’s fantastic and a great bonding experience between father and son.
  • A couple of words- NO BARBIES. I had no idea that they breed…


  • make something- gingerbread cookies and rumballs
  • offer something- TIME. Give someone a day off for them to go shopping or grab a coffee and catch up with a friend. Offer to have kids over for a sleepover for a sleepin.
  • breakfast in bed for a couple of weekends in a row.

The above is not my Christmas list, which extends to a replacement iPod, a pasta machine, a bigger sewing box and a Lotto ticket which is guaranteed to win 1st Division- though the breakfast in bed option is nice too…

Frocking, socking and not buying in October

The month of October has so many things happening in it, it is hard to keep up!

There is Frocktober, designed to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Research. Some lovely ladies such as Naomi and Fiona are donning a frock every day for the month of October.  The beauty of Frocktober is that you can participate with an event or a commitment to frock up at least once (I can feel a frocktastic morning tea coming up :))There is also a Frocktbober group on Facebook

Socktober which seems to be the month for knitting socks (in Ballarat, any month is a good month for knitting socks), with Tony and Kate participating. I’m simply admiring from afar, as I struggle to finish a cardigan which should have been finished months ago…

And then there is Buy Nothing New Month, in which people pledge not to buy anything new, save groceries, for a month. I did not pledge, but it has been in the back of my head when I’ve thought about getting some gym leggings, or walked past the yarn section of Spotlight, and kept on walking…

What this month has done so far is it has made me stop and think about not only what I buy, but why I buy. The aim of the month was to attain conscientious consumption, to think about where our stuff comes from and our alternatives, and in this aspect I’m getting there.

For a lot of people, this is a not a lifestyle choice but a necessity, in order to make ends meet. When you are a family on a single income with four children you do a lot of opshopping, bargain hunting or clothes making, and you don’t go crazy clothes shopping. At least that was my experience when I was growing up.

I mean, I love going to op shops and having a rummage around now and again, but there is not point in buying things new or otherwise if you don’t need them in the first place. A bargain is only a bargain if you need it.

Is a person who is always buying secondhand goods  because he/she simply wants them (or because it’s trendy) more noble than someone who prefers to buy new items as they are truly needed?

I was going pretty well, then crashed and burned yesterday with a visit to Kmart to get some thongs for the little BGs. And I did buy a couple of books on Book Depository and Readings… In my defence, your Honour, the books were mostly Christmas and birthday presents- well, mostly :).