John Sutherland’s “How to Read a Novel: A user’s guide” – Book review

Speaking of misleading titles (okay, I’m not yet, but I’m about to), I just want to point out to anyone who’s reading this and grew up with me that the book I’m about to review was not written by our childhood friend John Sutherland, but by some old British guy.

How to Read a NovelHow to Read a Novel by John Sutherland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The only reason this book gets two stars (instead of one) is that I didn’t actively dislike it. It was easy to read and mildly interesting. I wanted to keep reading. I kept hoping to actually learn “How to Read a Novel.”

The book, or rather the title, is a brilliant example of marketing. As an avid reader, a lover of novels and an English teacher of 21st century teenagers, how could I NOT pick up a book that promises to teach us “how novels work, what they’re about, what makes them good or bad, and how to talk about them with kindred spirits.” Unfortunately, the blurb is pure fabrication. It has nothing at all to do with the book it’s printed on. Continue reading

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How do you do that?

I had a question from a student.
“How did you learn to like reading?”
I thought for a moment.
“I don’t remember not liking it.”
His face fell.

Here is a student who wants to learn. This is the thing all teachers dream of. We think our jobs, nay, our lives would be so much better (unicorns and rainbows!) if only all students would feel this way. It’s a lot to ask. Teenagers are not well known for thinking logically, taking responsibility or making good decisions. Wanting to learn, and figuring out how to learn, are not easy things to do. Continue reading

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Patricia Grace’s “Potiki” – Book Review

Potiki (Talanoa : Contemporary Pacific Literature)Potiki by Patricia Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I’ve been meaning to read since it was an assigned reading for some of my friends in other English classes in high school. Once I started reading, I realised I had read the beginning before, though I don’t remember when.

It is written beautifully, with poetry woven intricately throughout. It makes great use of New Zealand as a character, and the symbols, traditions and natural surroundings that can be found in our small country. Many people feel, and sometimes I am among them, that Maori culture is too readily used as a cheap substitute for real symbolism and emotion, and for authentic cultural and spiritual settings. Potiki does not give me this feeling. It reads as authentic, real. It is not trying to be spiritual, it just is.

I have given this book 5 stars, even though I don’t think it necessarily deserves them all. I love the way it is written, but I do find the Christian references somewhat disturbing (mystic, prophetic son of Mary and Joseph conceived without Mary’s loss of innocence performs miracles, feeds the people and dies but is reborn). However, I enjoyed reading magic realism in a New Zealand novel and as I continue to explore New Zealand literature, I hope to find more like this.

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I finally read this Kiwi classic: Gee’s “The Halfmen of O”

The Halfmen of OThe Halfmen of O by Maurice Gee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember everyone raving about this book when I was in form 1 and 2, and thinking, “I should read that.” Well, I finally made it, 16 years later. Aged 27, I can now say I have read another of New Zealand’s classic children’s novels, and I can see why everyone liked it so much.

It was published in 1982, so it was old even when my peers were reading in the mid 90s, but despite a few details that date it, it is a timeless story (as most fantasy should be).

The balance of good and evil is at stake when Susan is tricked and forced into entering the world of O Continue reading

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Maurice Gee’s ‘Plumb’

PlumbPlumb by Maurice Gee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book offers a fascinating insight into the mind of a thinking man. Continue reading

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Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood

Norwegian WoodNorwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been struggling to read anything new for a while now, trying a bunch of different books. This is the first one that I picked up and couldn’t put back down again.

It’s a simple yet complex tale of a young man and his experiences of falling in love with two unusual women, while at the same time dealing with the suicides and mental illnesses of those close to him. The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood is the perfect soundtrack for the reading of it, along with any of the other songs mentioned in the text.

I’ve heard that it’s quite different from Murakami’s other books, which makes me not sure if I really want to read his others. I love his writing in this one, and although I enjoy many styles of writing, I think I’ll put off reading anything else by him for a couple of years, just so I can savour Norwegian Wood for a while.

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Reading and life

There is so much going on, and the last thing I should be doing is sitting amongst the piles of disorder in my room and writing this, but my mind is spinning and and I’ve been doing so much thinking lately!

The major source of my most recent thinkOD is the book Half the Sky: How to Change the World Continue reading

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Uncharming snakes: 3 more days in Morocco

Waking from the dead sick.

Agadir was getting me down – no helpful tourist information and a decidedly un-backpacker-friendly atmosphere – it was time to move on. A bit of haggling, a bit of transferring more money to my bank card, and a bit more sleep (I still felt less than 100%), and I found myself in a small van with a tour guide named Youness from Casablanca and an older couple from Sweden, Jan and Susann.

We drove out of Agadir by the northbound coast road, past the fishing and industrial ports. The sky was blue, the landscape dusty brown Continue reading

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Getting out

I feel good.

Getting my thoughts out of my head and onto the ‘page’ helps so much. And so does getting out of my room. Continue reading

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Putting it out there

I’ve decided it’s time for an honest blog. Not that my others aren’t honest, but of course I hold things back. I want to make it clear though, that I’m not looking for sympathy here. It’s just that depression is a part of my life – often a bigger part than I’d wish – and to know me, you need to know about it. Continue reading

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