book nook

Kitty's Book Nook - Wildwood

One of my goals for 2013 was to read at least 12 books. I thought it would be nice to share at least some of them with you here, and I wanted to revive my "Book Nook" series anyway. My first book though, I read very late last year. I thought I'd include it as I have it's sequel on my to-read list and will most likely include that on in a future post.

Wildwood is set in Portland, Oregon, and the woods which lie on it's border, the Impassable Wilderness. Nobody knows what lies inside the Impassable Wilderness, it's impassable, after all. Our leading lady Prue, is taking care of her baby brother in the park, when he is abducted by a huge flock of crows. Prue takes chase on her bicycle, following the flock of crows high above her in the sky. She follows them until they retreat with her baby brother, into the Impassable Wilderness. What follows is the adventures of Prue and her tagalong friend Curtis, through the Impassable Wilderness, known as Wildwood to it's inhabitants, tracking down her baby brother. Filled with wonderful creatures and exciting adventures, I really enjoyed this story! It's well written and paced, and the darling illustrations just add to the fun. I generally read pretty serious books, so it was nice to enjoy some escapism into this mysterious wooded wonderland.
There's some controversy about this book being classified as "Young Adult", as the vocabulary is seen as a little too challenging and not age-appropriate. All I can say is, thank you. Finally something that is not dumbed-down for an audience, instead expecting them to learn along the way. I wish there were more books, TV shows and movies that took that line of thinking. We'd all be smarter. So yes, it's a young adult book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as a fully grown-adult too ;)

Have you read Wildwood? I just started up a Goodreads account this week (I've been meaning to do that FOR-EVER). So I'll be keeping track of my reads, and hopefully finding some new books I didn't know about. I'd love to know what you thought about Wildwood, or if you have any recommendations  I'll add them to my "to read" shelf!


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Jean-Paul Sartre - Nausea

It has been way too long between Kitty's Book Nook posts, I do apologise, with all this blogging, I've not had much time to read. I'm sincerely hoping that the plan to limit myself to one post a day will free up at least an hour or six a week :) Today we are heading into completely different territory with Nausea. This is one of my favorite books, so I thought I'd share it with you.

The protagonist is Antoine Roquentin, a lonely, well-traveled man who is writing about a French Aristocrat who lived and dabbled in politics during the French Revolution. Antoine is not in contact with his family, and his only real human contact is through the library where he encounters a self-taught man who is reading every book in alphabetical order, and the waitress at the local cafe. Antoine is suffering from "Nausea" which is symptomatic of his depression and general feeling of unease and separation from the world. He observes people but feels removed from them. He has lost his sense of identity;

"My existence was beginning to cause me some concern. Was I a mere figment of the imagination?"

Antoine struggles more and more with his existential angst and slips deeper into self-doubt, disgust and anxiety. He observes the people around him going about their business and is appalled by their meaningless, robotic actions that they do not even consider as they act them out. One of the most striking scenes in the book for me is when he is looking at the root of a chestnut tree and realises that any words he can use to describe the root are not 'it' but only it's color, shape, texture etc. Nothing can reach the essence of it's existence, the essence of it's existence is 'nothingness'. Antoine begins to realise the true purpose of his being and eventually starts to understand his nausea.

I feel under-qualified to write about this book in much more detail than this, I'd really have to have a good think about it for a couple of weeks at least and would love to write a more in depth analysis. But I don't want to get into such fine details here, I'd rather give you a little taste of what the book is about, and perhaps imply it's meaning to you, so that you can hopefully discover it for yourself!

If you have seen "Melancholia" by Lars Von Trier, this book carries a very similar theme to the film. I suppose they are both in the existentialist realm, and both invoked similar feelings in me.

As I said at the beginning, this is one of my favourite books and I highly recommend it if you're looking for something new to read.


Fup - Jim Dodge

It's been awhile between book nooks, I apologise! What's funny is, I felt like I needed to re-read books to give an accurate review, which is kinda time consuming. Anyway. We have a new book for your reading list, may I introduce you to FUP.

Grandaddy Jake Santee is a restless soul. He has married 3 times, has a daughter that he's not seen since she was a baby and a grandson, Tiny (who is 6'5") whom he has never met. He has followed a gold rush and made fortunes and lost them again through gambling. One night in Nevada City, he is given the recipe for Ol' Death Whisper moonshine, a gift from a dying Indian, the gift of immortality.

Jake receives news that his daughter has drowned, and after a battle with the authorities, he secures custody of his grandson Tiny. They live on the ranch together, Grandaddy Jake drinking his immortality inducing moonshine whiskey, Tiny building fences.
Tiny, fortunately, was as amiable as his Granddaddy was ornery, as placid and benign as the old man was fierce and belligerent. Tiny enjoyed the open, linear purity of checkers. Granddaddy favored games with hole cards, where your strength was in your secrets and you flew into the eye of chaos riding your ghost.
One day Tiny discovers a baby duck in one of his post holes. He brings the duck home, and it is named Fup. (Fup Duck! get it?) Fup is nursed back to health by Jake and Tiny (with a little drop of Ol' Death Whisper to help him along).

The adventures of Fup are hilarious and sweet. At 60 pages long, you really have no excuse not to read it. It's full of humor, sarcasm and wise words. I wish there were more books by Jim Dodge, but alas, there are only 3 (plus a collection of poetry) This is his first book and I highly recommend it, I loved it!

Have you read Fup? What did you think? If not, get thee to a book store!

The Singing Creek Where The Willow Grows: The Rediscovered Diary of Opal Whiteley

Welcome to Kitty's Book Nook! Grab a cup of tea, a nanna rug for your knees and sit in your favorite easy chair, because we're talking books. For my first Book Nook post, I decided to go with one of my favorite books that hopefully most of you have never heard of. It's a real treat. But first let me tell you how I found it.

C and I went on a day trip up into the mountains, to a town called Katoomba. It's really beautiful up there, with lots of artists living amongst the gorgeous trees and mountains. I always take tourists up there when they come to Sydney. There are a lot of antique and curiosity shops and on this particular day, we visited Mr Pickwick's which is always top of the list. It's a huge 3 level store, with probably half dedicated to books, but also lots of knick-knacks, beautiful homewares and clothing as well. My collection of ceramic critters started in Mr Pickwick's, but that's a story for another time.

While I was browsing, C came across this book, all about Opal Whiteley, including her journal that she had written as a child living in an Oregon logging settlement around the turn of the 20th century. I didn't need convincing, and became the new owner of "The Singing Creek Where The Willow Grows"

Once I started reading, I was hooked. The first paragraph reads:
"Today the folks are gone away from the house we do live in. They are gone a little way away, to the ranch house where the grandpa does live. I sit on our steps, and I do print. I like it, this house we do live in, being at the edge of the near woods. So many little people do live in the near woods. I do have conversations with them. I found the near woods the first day I did go explores. That was the next day after we did come here.

At first the writing style might be a little jarring, but it is really easy to get around once you start reading. Opal wrote these diaries at the age of 6 or 7. It was first published in 1920 as "Opal Whiteley: Journal of an Understanding Heart", to critical acclaim. Almost immediately though, people started to discredit her authenticity, not believing a child could have written the journal. Opal believed that she was French royalty who had been adopted in Oregon after her 'real' father, Prince Henri D'Orléans died in 1901.

Opal claims she was adopted by a poor logging family, who changed her name from Françoise Marie de Bourbon-Orléans to Opal Whiteley. "The Mamma" was physically abusive toward Opal and did not understand her fascination with the creatures and nature around her. Despite the controversy, Opal maintained her journal was authentic, unfortunately she never gained the success that would be expected of a 'child prodigy' and 'genius' and died alone in an asylum in London at the age of 94.

The particular edition of this book is the best one in my opinion, as it contains a foreword by Benjamin Hoff (and if you get the reprint, and afterward) detailing Opal's life after the diary was written, and explores the claims of fraud in some detail. There are several adaptations of the original work, as it had lapsed in copyright, some people thought it might be a good idea to re-write it with their own spin. I'd stay away from those, they lose the original charm and innocence of Opal's writing. If you are so inclined, you can read it online at the University of Oregon's website here. I prefer a real book myself. When I was in Portland, Oregon, there were several copies in Powell's books in the local history section. Otherwise it's probably best found online.

Things I love about this book: Opal is a real character, and her childlike insights into nature and the way the world around her functions are both touching and insightful. The way she goes on 'explores' through the woods and has a name for every little critter and special tree is incredible (I think my favorite names might be "'Thomas Chatterton Jupiter Zeus' - A most dear velvety wood-rat" whom Opal carries about in her apron and "'Michael Angelo Sanzio Raphael' - A grand fir tree with an understanding soul") This book let me into the world of a child who was fascinated by nature and had a gentle and caring heart for all the little critters on the farms and in the woods. It is a truly special book and I hope you will read it one day and enjoy it as much as I have.

If you have any questions or comments, please write below and I'll respond as soon as I can. I hope you all enjoyed the first edition of Kittys Book Nook. Next time I'll graduate to an adult writer :)