‘Weeksy Reviews’, reviewed…

A change of look*, a change of thinking – and COVID-19.

As COVID-19 has shut many things down, people have been seeking ways to maintain contact and connection. With local and school libraries closed to public access, the need for reading options increases (we have more time in shut-down, don’t we?).

If you haven’t already checked out piles of books from your school and library shelves for your period of shutdown, now is the time to search for places to access the many books you now have time to read – uninterrupted.

How to buy the physical

Many local and online bookstores are offering free delivery services – too many to list here. Just give them a call, or access online stores if you don’t have a local.

How to gain free access

Local libraries, of course, offer free access to ebooks and audiobooks to members. (Hopefully, you have heeded previous advice to join a local library.)

How to buy ebooks, audiobooks

If you didn’t meet the closedown deadline to join local libraries (for which need you to physically verify your ID and address), then other options for you are:

  • Purchase ebooks online (e.g. via Amazon.com.au, Booktopia and other online bookstores)
  • Trial/join Audible.com.au (or similar) for audiobooks

Some of these may require apps to be downloaded, but in the case of public and school libraries, all the details are usually given.

Kindle, BorrowBox and RBDigital are among the common apps required and easily set up on your computer, iPad or other digital devices.

Don’t let COVID-19 prevent your access to great books! 

Reading suggestions from here…

By the way, if you search ‘ebook‘ or ‘audiobook‘ on this blog or click on these as tags, you will find lots of reading suggestions – which you will be able to access – free or at a small cost from the abovementioned locations, if you don’t have access to the physical book.

Happy reading!

* Changing the look of this blog – perhaps still a work in progress. I welcome any comments!! Do you like it? The change was made to be more mobile-friendly. Click on the post to make a comment.

Reading – from a social distance

Better than toilet paper…

As COVID-19 now demands a greater degree of social distancing in Australia, it is likely that public libraries will be closed in most locations this week.

Already practising the required hygiene demands of sanitiser and distancing, our local library faced a steady flow of residents getting book piles ready for home isolation recently, before closure.

Then, it is likely that with closures, we will have to rely on what we have at home and virtual spaces to fulfil our reading needs (though some bookshops are offering free local deliveries). Here are a few ideas – some free others at individual cost):

With library membership – examples:

Borrowbox – Borrow eBooks and eAudiobooks free from your library using our BorrowBox app.

RBDigital – offers eMagazines and eAudiobooks for download. To borrow, you will need a valid local library membership card and password. Register with RBDigital.

Storybox Library – created for children to view stories by Australian authors and illustrators

Free access:

Loyal Books – free public domain audio and ebooks.

Audiobooks on Spotify – search at spotify.com for audiobooks/playlist. This post explains the finer details of doing this search to get what you want.

Paid subscriptions:

Audible / Amazon – Your first Audible book is free, then a choice of subscription applies. Some ebooks available free on Amazon – time to try the classic selection? (maybe start with a trial / limited period?)

# Another alternative may simply be to tackle your own TBR pile?

## Can you suggest any other sources?

### Don’t forget to check out your public or school library’s eResources too.

Are you prepared?

How tall is your TBR pile?

What do you have ready in case you have to stay at home for a period of time? Aside from the pile of TBRs beside your bed, have you thought about access to:

1. Local/state/national libraries

2. Ebooks

3. Audiobooks

4. Bookshop deliveries

These are some of the options I am pondering. Unfortunately, some local libraries (or their branches) are closing or limiting their services. It’s a good idea to get in and borrow physical books NOW.

Be sure you have some membership of a local library – you will need to present physically for this, so do it NOW. This will enable access to ONLINE RESOURCES (ebooks and audiobooks) when libraries shutdown.

(Just don’t stay too long and be socially aware of your distance.)

Membership to State and National libraries enable access to databases and resources you may need for school/research purposes. And local library membership enables this too. [All HS students should access these options.]

Then, as things tighten down and you have to stay close to home, many bookshops are offering free local deliveries. Just ask your local bookshop what they are offering.

Laureate – “Read For Your Life”

Ursula Dubosarsky was welcomed as the new Australian Children’s Laureate for 2020/21 at the National Library of Australia today.

In keeping with previous laureates, Ursula is renowned and well-revered as an author of children’s books, across many age groups; as well as being one driven to promote reading among the youth of Australian for many years.

If children learn to love to read—not just to be able to read—then they will be readers their whole life long. It’s about human motivation. A child has to want to read for themselves, not be told to read,’ said Dubosarsky.

‘Joining the library gives them access to an unbounded wealth of reading material, where slowly they can start to find what they really want to read. A child becomes a lifelong reader not by chance, but by opportunity. That’s how you make a reader for life.’ (Quote from Ursula via Books+Publishing website)

From all (Twitter) accounts, her selection was greatly applauded today – by those present at the National Library of Australia today, and in online spaces too.

Certainly deserving for an author of more than 60 books (which are listed here). In addition to this are the many hours she has dedicated to workshops and presentations for students, teacher librarians, teachers and other professional associations over many many years.

Australian Children’s Laureate theme 2020/21

And so begins her new mission to encourage:

… a generation of readers that would continue to read their whole life long and to do that, children need access to all kinds of books, and “more books than any one family or even school can every provide”. (From SMH article: New children’s laureate worries for teen readers)

Congratulations, Ursula. We are right behind you!

Discovery: dyslexicbooks.com

In an earlier post, my discovery of dyslexic-friendly books was introduced (search post on Letter to my Teenage Self). These books have been published to help overcome some of the difficulties experienced by people with dyslexia This was a discovery in my local BMCC library.

Visiting the Dyslexicbooks.com website reveals a great array of choices, ranging from:

  • wonderful stories like Butterflies by Suzanne Gervay (2001), Simple Gift by Steven Herrick (2000)
  • classic fairy tales (like the Ugly Duckling and Three Little Pigs),
  • series fiction (think John Flanagan, Jack Heath, Andy Griffith) and,
  • latest releases (including CBCA 2019 titles and new adult fiction, e.g. Allegra in Three Parts and Boy Swallows the Universe).

Dyslexic Books are specially formatted books for people with dyslexia. Our books use a dyslexic font that is designed to alleviate some of the difficulties typically reported by readers with dyslexia, such as swapping or flipping letters and skipping lines without noticing.

Additional advice is given about dyslexia – identifying the symptoms, early signs in children and signs in adults. Other support services are also collated on the site.

It is also worth taking note of this encouraging quote from the site:

Nevertheless, there are many dyslexics who have overcome their difficulties and lead successful and happy lives. Examples of famous and successful people with dyslexia include Orlando Bloom, Richard Branson, Tom Cruise, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Whoopi Goldberg, John F Kennedy, George Washington, George W Bush, John Lennon, Jamie Oliver, Pablo Picasso and Steven Spielberg.

While these books do not claim to have all the answers to dyslexia, some problems may be alleviated. It would certainly be worth looking for such titles at your own public library, as many are trialling their popularity.

# Have you found any yet?

## An interesting side-note. In a discussion with an adult friend with dyslexia, she said that reading was easier for her on a Kindle. I assume a dyslexic-friendly font may well be part of the reason for the difference??

### I also acknowledge that there are other publishers like Barrington Stoke who provide a range of dyslexic friendly titles. However, Dyslexicbooks has a great range of Australian titles.

I’ve finished; now what?

So you’ve just finished reading a fantastic book. Once you have let go of the characters which are probably still spinning around in your head, how do you decide what to read next?

Well, apart from browsing the pile of books you may have on hand, you may like to get a bit of help, so here’s a few ideas:

Inside a Dog is a fabulous site for Australian YA readers, not only for recommendations but also to be involved. Find out about new books, enter competitions, submit your own reviews and even publish your own work. Totally relatable, as much of it is written for teens by teens.

So if you want personal accessible recommendations, definitely start here. You can also follow Inside a Dog on Twitter or Instagram for regular updates!

LibraryThing allows you to add the books you read, and then recommendations and other information come to you. Have a look at our LibraryThing (seen on the sidebar below) – click on a book and check the information available to you about it and other similar titles.

Similarly, you could Join GoodReads. This is a community of readers, which works a bit like NetFlix once you have added some titles to your own profile. Recommendations come up based on what you have read, liked or commented on. You can choose to be as private or public as you want – either using it as your own personal catalogue, or commenting and reviewing the books you read and joining in with the conversations of others, including friends and groups. Easily accessible as an app too.

Sites like WhichBook? are good for making you think about what you like in a book, and for generating some title suggestions also (though maybe short on Australian authors). Work your way through the options which matter the most to you, and recommendations are made.

Happy reading – I hope this gives you some great suggestions – but don’t forget that the Library staff at both school and local libraries are always ready with recommendations for you also, so don’t be afraid to ask!!

Reading: shared in a digital space

How do you share what you love (or hate) about a book you have read? What if your family and friends don’t have the same love for the particular genre or author you like to read? How do you get your recommendations?

Of course, you may be lucky to rely on your school librarian, local public librarian or your local bookshop owner, since these people are usually avid readers with lots to share! However, the digital age also presents book-sharing communities that are readily available when these people are not.

These communities include GoodReads and LibraryThing. Both offer the ability to not only track what you read and enjoy, but also the opportunity to connect with other readers who may have the same interests or reading tastes.

You can simply browse for titles (based on authors, titles, genres and more*) or participate by logging what you read, rating books and writing simple (or extended reviews). You can link up with people you know, or follow those who seem to like the same books or have a similar purpose to your own. Once you have logged a few titles, GoodReads and LibraryThing will provide recommendations for your next book.

Checking these recommendations, or reading the varied reviews of others, can also help you decide whether you want to pick up the latest book by Jack Heath or Margaret Atwood, or help you discover someone new. Remember, not everyone likes the same book, so there are sometimes interesting and contrasting discussions to dissect.

Why not give it a try, and maybe encourage a few friends also, to be able to share what you are reading in a safe known group? Then look for other friends or acquaintances with similar tastes to your own. You may even get the chance to ‘Ask the Author’ questions, or participate in a special discussion event – all related to your own specific likes and dislikes. Do it on your laptop, tablet or phone as apps easily available. What have you got to lose?

What other avenues do you use to share and find reading recommendations?

* Other things include reading lists, giveaways, new releases, interviews and GoodReads choice awards.

** You can always browse this LibraryThing, JustNew, which shows how you can list your own bookshelves/reading, and the app offers. (You can change it to look at cover images to browse over 900 titles…) Then, why not setup up your own!

Keeping fit

beachreadThe New Year has come and gone and by now many of your New Year’s resolutions may already be broken. Or you may be like me, and have only just decided to ‘get fit’.

It’s hard isn’t it – taking those first few steps after making a decision to do something? But with perseverance, you begin to see improvements. Have you ever thought about your ‘Reading fitness’?

An article in the Age (on December 15, 2014) ties in a little bit here. Summer holidays: down time or down to it? suggests that students (and parents) should keep up the reading habit in the holidays:

Catherine Scott, senior lecturer in education and cognitive psychology at the University of Melbourne, adds that, “… There is a well-known phenomenon of memory decay. Particularly when you first learn something, you have to practise it fairly regularly or the ability to retrieve it gets worse. If you are not using it every day, your brain makes a decision for those connections to weaken.” She says the six weeks of the summer holidays are certainly enough time to see a phenomenon such as summer slide. after a study in the States discovered a drop in students’ reading skills after a long holiday break.

Reading is a bit like that, isn’t it? Leave your text books alone during a holiday break, and some of the technical terms may be a little foreign when school goes back. For learner readers, it may be individual words or sounds that are temporarily forgotten.

Thus, researchers are suggesting that students need to keep up their reading practice, whether at infants level or within the senior school and beyond. We all need to keep up regular exercise to keep fit – and it seems reading is no different!!

What do you think? Are you a holiday reader or do outdoor activities get in the way? How could you squeeze a little more reading in your holiday time?

Is this multimodal reading?

Life of Pi/ Water for Elephants/  Unpolished Gem/ The Night Circus/ Eyrie/ Burial Rites/

headphones-and-bookAll great books I have enjoyed recently; and all books I started using an Audible.com copy but finished with a physical book. Does this sound like you?

To be honest, I love the audible versions – especially those which involve obvious accents or strong voices. For example, in Water for Elephants, the elderly voice of Jacob Jankowski is an inspiring addition as the story is introduced. Listening to the Indian accent in Life of Pi, and the Chinese accents in Unpolished Gem is similarly authentic, and, as my car travels along my normal school-to-work routes, I also travel to places much further away.

In another way, the voicing of Burial Rites has been immensely helpful. Since it is set in Iceland, to be able to read the people- and place-names (without an authentic voice or knowledge of native pronunciations) is difficult. Cleverly, the reading also manages to distinguish between different voices and points of view by varying tone and volume to suit. And so I easily became well entrenched in the atmosphere of the grim story, as set by the tone and tempo of the story while it was read to me.

However, as I stated earlier, for each of these titles I have dipped in and out of both audio and print editions.

In one case, it was because my ereader ran out of power while I was on holidays – without the charger! I feverishly raided the stores till I found a print copy, and quickly finished the story. (And then had to beg/borrow/buy more, since I had relied on the store on my ereader!)

In the Night Circus, the movement of the book’s actions from one date to another made it difficult to keep track – and unlike Burial Rites the change of voice was not as clearcut or obvious. So once again, I found a print (library) copy.

It always surprises me how little I seem to have read when I do get my hands on a print copy, even after quite a few hours of listening in the car. It always seems as though I should be further into the story. Similarly, I am surprised how quickly I finish a print copy. Thus, I sometimes get impatient and want to read faster than the audio version – and move to the print edition. Then, the journey to work allows me to catch up with voices, tone and tempo – if the timing is right.

As I try to limit the piles of books which collect around my home, I am drawn more and more to ebooks and audio versions, though I find I still feel the need for both. I have, so far, avoided a print copy of Eyrie as I don’t want the expense and space taken by a hard cover book (though I might take a peek at a library copy one day, if I decide to revisit the oft poetic writing of Tim Winton).

What about you? Perhaps I just need to use my library more? (in conjunction with the audible versions?) But you do know how impatient you can be waiting to get your hands on the latest or hard-to-get editions!!

Any solutions? Advice?

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

“I went to Support Group for the same reason that I’d allowed nurses with a mere eighteen months of graduation to poison me with exotically named chemicals: I wanted to make my parents happy. There is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you’re sixteen, and that’s having a kid who bites it from cancer.”

Obviously, Hazel doesn’t think much of her Support Group. But as an only child and the concentrated focus of her parents’ life since her cancer diagnosis, she succumbs to their wishes. What else can she do? Her illness has meant that she no longer attends school regularly, she has to sleep a lot, while her mother tries to encourage her to have a normal life. How normal can it really be when you know you have a terminal illness?

This is not a ‘happy-ending’ story. Very often in real life children and families fighting cancer do not have a happy ending. This is not a book to make you feel good, or to tell you how to be when someone you know experiences the illnesses associated with cancer. But it will make you think.

This fan-made book trailer gives some insight into the thoughts within ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ – a story of what happens when teen cancer patients fall in love.

In an interview, author John Green makes the statement:

“It’s important to note or remember that people who are sick and people who are dying aren’t dead. They’re still alive. And sometimes we forget that, and we treat the sick and the dying so gingerly and so carefully, when often what they most want is to be alive while they are alive.” ‘Star’-Crossed: When Teens With Cancer Fall In Love

That is why he wanted his book to be realistic, and not a sugar-coated tale ready for Hollywood to take to film. The kids in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ want to live and make their mark on the world.

What sort of impression have they made on you, the reader?