Friday, July 29, 2016

"La Transatlantique de Monique" by Virginie Nolen-Laissy & Guirec Soudee

If you haven't heard of the young French guy, Guirec, and his pet chicken Monique, who are currently sailing together through the North West Passage on their little yacht, do yourself a favour and look up his page on Facebook or Youtube. You wont believe how cool this is until you watch this short 1min video. Apart from how obviously amazing this adventure is, Guirec is also writing kids books about their travels. So far it's only in French, but I think they are planning to make an English translation too. I thought it would be a good way to practice my French and support the young adventurer by buying a copy of his first book, and it arrived last week. It is wonderful - full of cute drawings and humourous moments. I definitely recommend it, for kids and adults hehe.

Started reading: 24th July 2016

"Child of the Sea" by Doina Cornell

Started reading: 29 July 2016
Finished: 6 August 2016
My score: 8/10

I will write a review soon.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

"Everyman's rules for scientific living" by Carrie Tiffany

The cover artwork of this book caught my attention at Adelaide's PopUp Bookshop at the Central Markets. I'm always keeping my eye open for interesting new books to read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2016, and it's always a struggle to go into a secondhand bookshop and not come out with at least one new treasure. I haven't read any books by this author before, but it was the winner of the Western Australian Premier's Award for Fiction in 2005, and also was short-listed for a number of other prizes e.g. Miles Franklin Literary Award so I didn't need any more convincing to buy it.

The book falls into the 'Literary fiction' genre but it also has some aspects of a historical novel too (one of my favourite categories of books). The story is set in the 1930s-40s in rural Australia. The first part of the book takes place on board the government "Better Farming Train" which seems to be a traveling small version of the Sydney Royal Easter Show - basically a train traveling through the countryside, stopping at townships where the various agricultural and domestic 'experts' give mini lectures to the locals on best farming practices and display prize examples of different breeds of livestock, along with cooking and sewing demonstrations etc. The main character, Jean, is a seamstress on the train, who falls in love with the soil scientist on board, Robert Pettergree, and in a matter of a few days they disembark the train, marry and set up life together on a wheat farm in Wycheproof, Victoria. It is an unlikely romance/relationship, Jean seems to be a lovely, curious young girl who forms friendships with all the characters on the train, and seems to approach life in a positive open way, while Robert is a bit of a mysterious strange character, yet very rigid in many ways. He treats life as a series of formal experiments, and when it comes to wheat farming seems convinced his scientific approach will result in abundant crops compared to all the locals who have been farming the land for generations without generating the yields Robert predicts are possible if farmed correctly. I never warmed to Robert, and as the book progressed I found him less and less likeable. The story unfolds as a tale of tragedy for the whole region, when the external factors such as the Depression, Drought and War combine with Robert's ill-advised recommendations to spend all their money on crop additives and modern farming approaches that they can't afford and which don't have the promised effects.

I enjoyed the writing style, and the little glimpses into life in rural Victoria in the 30s and 40s, as well as the way the rural countryside was brought to life. The book even has little black and white photos throughout which appear to be genuine photos from the era, and I really loved that. The way that attitudes of the time to women, 'foreigners' and the war were captured in the story was fascinating to compare and contrast to attitudes today in Australia. I did feel a bit flat after finishing the book though, it felt a bit like Jean had put her trust into her husband and then wasted a large chunk of her life in a slow spiral of unnecessary sadness and that she could have had a much better life if she had not left the Better Farming Train with Robert.

Started reading: 24th July 2016
Finished: 28th July 2016
My score: for the writing and insight into the time period: 8/10 for how much I enjoyed the story: 6.5/10
Genre: Literary fiction

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Shut Up and Run" by Robin Arzon

I first became aware of Robin Arzon when I listened to her being interviewed on the Rich Roll podcast - and I instantly felt inspired by her positivity and attitude to life and running. Originally a corporate lawyer, Robin has now created a completely new life for herself as an Ultra marathon runner (even with Type I Diabetes), Peleton cycle instructor and a fitness ambassador - among other things. As soon as I heard she was releasing this book I got Dymocks to order it in for me. It's an interesting book, part inspirational messages and stories, part autobiography, and full of colourful pictures of running through NYC. It celebrates Robin's mottoes of "Shut Up & Run" and "Sweat with Swagger" perfectly. It also includes training schedules, tips and advice (for beginner runners up to people contemplating ultra marathons). I might not have appreciated the book so much if I hadn't heard Robin's interviews first, but because I had heard her conversations with Rich Roll I could just hear her infectious laughter and attitude coming off the page as I devoured the book. Enjoyed it thoroughly. 

I really do recommend you listen to some of the conversations with Robin, she's a really unique woman, full of character!

Rich Roll Podcast #230 - Robin Arzon - Shut Up & Run 

Rich Roll Podcast #137 - Robin Arzon - Do Epic Sh*t!

Rich Roll Podcast #99 - Robin Arzon - How to Undo Ordinary

Started reading: 29/06/2016
Finished: 09/07/2016
My score: 9/10 if you like running :-)

"Finding Ultra" by Rich Roll

I've been loving listening to a lot of the Rich Roll podcasts lately, so I decided to read his book. It's a story about an unfit middle-aged lawyer who turns his life around by eating a plant-based diet and running ultra marathons and insane Ironman races. He now hosts podcasts where he interviews really fascinating people on all different topics from science, nutrition, athleticism, meditation, sleep, motivation etc.
I'm no where near as hardcore as this guy, but stories like his inspire me! It strengthens my belief that someone like me (who couldn't run even a few 100m without stopping a year or so ago) might be able to manage to run marathons or ultramarathons if I really want to do it and work towards it. On a personal note, I am currently training to run my first half marathon (21km) in August 2016!!

Started reading on my kindle 28th April 2016.
Finished: 14th May 2016

My score: 7.5/10

"The Good Gut" by Justin & Erica Sonnenburg

I'm really fascinated by a lot of the new research on the gut microbiome and how the bacteria in our gut can actually have an impact on our immune system, our brains, our body weight and lots of other aspects of our health. This book was recommended to me by a friend who is involved in microbiome research in the Knight Lab in the USA. The book is written by gut microbiome researchers from the Sonnenburg Lab (also in the USA) for the general public, and is really eye-opening. I will update this post with a review soon as I am reading this on and off around some other books.

Started Reading: April 2016
My Score: