May 2023

Blog Archive - May 2023

1 May 2023

A longish post on a few things

This weekend was somewhat rainy and I spent some time with Toriaz checking out a couple of new street libraries and visiting a bookshop. But before I get to that, I thought I’d cover another topic first.

The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell

There should be no new posts to the Reading Project after today for a little while. I am heading to Singapore with Jenny, otherwise known as WaywardWoman on this site. She insists I will like Singapore, and has tried to sweeten the deal with the promise of some decent bookshops to peruse. No doubt, this will be something to report upon in this blog later on.

I’ve never been to Singapore before so I’ve been watching a few YouTube videos that cover the fall of Singapore in World War II. Of course, this is relevant to our destination, but it is also relevant to a novel I’ve started, The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell, which is set in that period. I bought the novel years ago when I read Farrell’s first two books in The Empire Trilogy, Troubles (which won the Lost Booker Prize for 1970) and The Siege of Krishnapur (which won the Booker Prize in 1973). The Singapore Grip is the longest of the three novels (676 pages in my edition) and it’s been on my to-read list since I read the first two. Now seemed liked the perfect opportunity to finally read it. I’m just over a quarter of the way through. I’ll be taking it with me, of course, but I’m not a good reader on planes, so I may not get that far through.

Weekend Street Library Action

Toriaz wanted to go to a new street library over the weekend, placed by a work colleague of Jenny’s. He’d told us that he was still trying to get books together for the library, so we all decided to contribute to his stock. We checked out his new library, and then checked out a couple more that we hadn’t been to before in Blaxland and Woodford. During the course of our wanderings, Toriaz and I each found two books that piqued our interest:

Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates Greenmantle by John Buchan Akhenaten by Dorothy Porter Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Toriaz chose Akhenaten, a book of poetry by Dorothy Porter, an Australian writer, as well as Stardust because she likes Neil Gaiman’s writing.

I chose two very different books. The first, Zombie, is an account of a psychopathic killer. I was interested in Zombie for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve read a couple of novels by Joyce Carol Oates now and have liked her work. I hadn’t heard of Zombie before, which is not surprising, since Oates is so amazingly prolific (check here to see a list of her novels (over sixty), novellas, short story collections, essays, plays, poetry and critical writing). Also, Zombie is very short. Sometimes it’s nice to have a short novel to read, since many of the books on my to-read list are longish.

I chose Greenmantle by John Buchan because I’ve previously read The Thirty-Nine Steps (not a self-help guide but a novel about espionage in the First World War), and Greenmantle reprises the role of Richard Hannay from that book. Buchan was to write five Richard Hannay novels.

Discworld bookmarks
A new(ish) bookshop in the Mountains

Finally, we also visited Wyrd Books in Wentworth Falls on Sunday. Wyrd Books has replaced Lambda Books, which was closed by its proprietor. Wyrd Books is a Science Fiction and Fantasy bookshop. Like Lambda Books, it specialises in quality editions – first editions, signed editions, leather bound and hardcovers – but it also has a range of quality titles in paperback. As a test, I decided to look for a title I’ve had trouble locating in other larger shops in the city and I found it. However, I wasn’t looking to buy anything yesterday, nor do I think Toriaz was, either. She had in mind a certain title, but when she discovered that the price tag was in the hundreds of dollars, she changed her mind. I might have been persuaded by a hardcover illustrated edition of Eric by Terry Pratchett, too, (I only have a paperback of that) but again, it was very pricey.

Not all was lost. We enjoyed looking at the books and Toriaz left the shop having bought two bookmarks.


Thankyou to everyone who has paid any attention to our site over the last few years, especially to those who have even contributed reviews, and those who have made comments on the site, too, including Bekah who commented on our rarely visited Guestbook page this morning!

- bikerbuddy

12 May 2023

We returned from Singapore this week and from a Reading Project hiatus that I’m guessing must be the longest since we started the site in 2017.

Singapore Kinokuniya

Apart from the sightseeing we did, I managed to get to the Singapore Kinokuniya on Orchard Road (twice) and purchased six books, despite my recent resolution to stop buying them (hey, I was on holiday!)

While browsing in the store I came across this shelf – the photo on the left below – and I was reminded of conversations I have had with Toriaz about the rise in popularity of feminist retellings of Greek legend. It felt like kismet. So, naturally, the result is the photo on the right, of me standing below the escalators leading into the bookstore with my haul.

Incidentally, if I look terrible in this photo (and I do) it’s because my eyes were suffering from the constant sweat running into them, from a lack of sleep due to the poured slab of concrete masquerading as a bed in the hotel, and the constant fans and air conditioners blowing into them (other than that, I just might look terrible). I wasn’t able to read most of the trip. As a result, I’m still less than halfway through The Singapore Grip which I started prior to our leaving.

If I need excuses for my purchases, then here they are: we’ve started a reading of The Iliad recently (currently a third of the way through), which can be found by clicking here, and most of the books I purchased are recent novelised retellings of Greek legend related to the Trojan War. Here are all the books I purchased while in Singapore:

I also asked Toriaz to pick me up a copy of Costanza Casati's Clytemnestra in Penrith so I would have it when I returned. I knew it was on sale for less than half the cost of what I would spend in Singapore, and being a large trade paperback, it would save me fitting it into luggage.

So, apart from the books related to Greek legend, I also bought a nice edition of Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead in Singapore (which I heard had won the Pulitzer Prize a couple of days after I bought it) and a paperback edition of Moby-Dick. I have a beautiful leather bound edition by Easton Press, but I want to read it again and make notes as I read, as is now my habit.

And that’s everything about Singapore relevant to this website, except for one more thing . . .


We use panoramas on this website at the bottom of our main page which show people (usually one of us) reading in various locations. We took about twenty panoramas while in Singapore. Most featured Jenny in shot, apart from me in one panorama and someone we met while in the Singapore Botanical Gardens in another. I found a young man reading The House of Rothschild: Money’s Prophets 1798 – 1848 by Niall Ferguson at Swan Lake. I explained about our website and asked could I take his photo. It might say something about me that I can tell you the name of the book he was reading, but not his name. Again, in my defence, we were interrupted by a group of people after I shot the photo – Australians – who had been listening to us and wanted to talk about the Blue Mountains where we live. We never quite got back to speaking to him again, and when we spotted him later at the train station it seemed too late to ask him his name. If he is reading this (I told him the photo would go up today) I apologise for not finding out. Here is the photo we took which is now currently the first on the carousel on our main page:

I plan to update our main page each week with a new panorama from Singapore added to the carousel.

New Reviewer

Finally, we have a new reviewer who I will be publishing later this morning as I return to the various aspects of site maintenance. We know him as ‘umbritzer’. Umbritzer surprised us, first by offering to review Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh, and then by sending a second review, Chess Story (also known as The Royal Game) by Stefan Zweig. Thankyou to umbritzer for the effort you put into your reviews. Sorry you had to wait so long for me to get to them. Hopefully, by the time anyone reads this, I’ll have them posted.

- bikerbuddy

16 May 2023

Site Maintenance

I intended to spend my day reading The Singapore Grip. I’ve been trying to get time to read it for weeks and I’m only just halfway through. But I started to play with the menus on this site this morning and my entire morning has now gone. However, I did have some progress with them. I’ve made them more consistent across the site, I’ve added umbritzer’s name to the list of contributors, and I’ve fixed (I hope) a little ambiguity umbritzer pointed out. I think I’ve fixed everything where it needs fixing. I’d appreciate a heads up if anyone notices anything wrong. In the meantime, I might go read my book!

- bikerbuddy

19 May 2023

Local author, Michael Duffy, interviewed

Last month I wrote that Michael Duffy, a local Blue Mountains writer, had released a new non-fiction book, Tall Stories, that covers the history and culture of the Blue Mountains where we live. You can read more about that book here. I plan to read Michael’s new book sometime next month.

We had previously reviewed Michael’s first novel in the Bella Greaves series, The Problem with Murder and interviewed Michael for this website. I also reviewed the second novel, The Strange Death of Paul Ruel.

The Bella Greaves novels are only available in Blue Mountains bookstores or from the website,

Michael has now done a podcast interview with Professor Brad Dietrich as he writes the third novel in the Bella Greaves series. If you want to take a listen click here or on the image! You may want to skip three and a half minutes in to where the interview actually begins.

- bikerbuddy

20 May 2023

RSS comes to the Reading Project

Recently Hasty, a former reviewer for this website, published an article about RSS feeds on his website, No Happy Nonsense. You can click here to read that article.

I’ve never used an RSS feed, myself, but Hasty’s article proved to be a gateway for me to find out more about it and learn how to subscribe. RSS feeds help you manage content from various sources that you are interested in in one convenient place. If, like me, you are new to this topic and need more information, I suggest you start with Hasty’s article.

I’ve also learned to create a basic RSS feed for this site which I will easily be able to update. For now, it only contains our most recent reviews, as represented by the carousel on the main page of this site. I will think about whether it is practical to include these blog post updates in the Feed as I learn more about the subject. The Feed works, but it still needs a lot of improvement, especially in presentation.

I’ve included an orange RSS button on the right hand side of all menu bars on this website, as well as at the bottom of our main page. If the orange RSS button doesn’t appear for you, hold down Ctrl and press F5 to force your computer to reload the page. This will make the button appear.

- bikerbuddy

22 May 2023

A new bookstore comes to our area!

A new bookstore opened in Penrith last week! Penrith is a suburb on the outer edge of Sydney before the Blue Mountains where we live. I wrote in this blog in 2021 that the largest bookstore in the area, Dymocks, had closed its doors. Since then, there has been little other than a small bookshop in the shopping mall to service Penrith, itself.

Harry Hartog, a franchise I had never visited until my trip to Canberra last year with Toriaz, opened a new store on High Street in Penrith last week. Yesterday, I visited the store with Jenny (known as WaywardWoman on this site). It was really a pleasant surprise to see the size of the store, its presentation, as well as the variety of books on offer. The store even has an eatery near the front and toilets at the back for customers. This is Jenny outside the store (its store front extends beyond our photo) and a shot inside the store:

I saw a variety of books that interested me, which cannot be said for the small store that has been servicing the area since Dymocks closed. There was a mix of new and quality second hand books, with titles that I would not have expected to see in some instances.

There was also an antiquarian section, with many genuine old books, as well as Folios and other prestige publishers. It was really nice just being able to spend time there in a shop that is roomy and well-stocked. This is a panorama I took which I may use on our main page in the future:

Given that I’ve bought so many books lately against my self-imposed edict not to, I was intending to resist the many temptations on offer at Harry Hartog. But Jenny pointed out that I could hardly come to a new store and not buy something. And besides, I thought, my mind now raising the justifications for her own encouragements, it would be wrong to lament the lack of decent bookstores in the area, and then fail to support the venture. It would even be like – my mind a little fanciful here –listening to Pavarotti’s last notes of Nessun Dorma (when he was alive, of course) and not standing to applaud.

So I bought three books: The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy. I’ve previously read McCarthy’s, Blood Meridian, No Country for Old Men, The Road, The Passenger and Stella Maris, but never The Border Trilogy. That is despite having owned a copy of All the Pretty Horses for a number of years. I think when I bought it originally I couldn’t get the second and third books, which is probably why I didn’t read it and then never went back to it.

So, I bought All the Pretty Horses again so it would match the covers of The Crossing and Cities of the Plain. This may seem an extravagance but take a look! Below is my three new books together with the original cover of All the Pretty Horses on the left:

See! Who could bear such inconsistency in their bookshelf!!! So a three-book purchase it had to be!

I sent my pictures to Toriaz yesterday. I have a feeling she wants me to accompany her to the bookstore next weekend. This could be a real challenge to my self-imposed interdiction!

- bikerbuddy

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov

24 May 2023

International Booker Prize 2023 announced

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov and translated by Angela Rodel has been announced as this year’s winner of the International Booker Prize. It is the first novel published in Bulgarian to win. I haven’t read any of this year’s shortlist, but last month in this blog I wrote that it sounded “intriguing”. Of the six novels shortlisted, the subject of Time Shelter sounded most interesting to me. In my summary of it last month I wrote, “It tells the story of a clinic that promises a treatment for Alzheimer sufferers. Rooms are recreated with furniture from past decades to help make suffers more comfortable, but increasingly, it is healthy people who seek out the rooms to escape the horrors of their present time.” The judges write that it, “manages to capture, in a Proustian vein, the extreme fragility of the past.”

I considered ordering the book this morning, but it isn’t available in Australia until the 29th of August (why so long!). I decided I’d wait and buy it in Sydney when it’s finally available. As a Booker winner, Time Shelter now becomes a part of our ongoing commitment to eventually read and review all Booker and International Booker Prize Winners. You can check out that project on this website by clicking here.

- bikerbuddy

June 2023