Books, Top Ten

Luke’s Top Ten Classic Novels To Read

There are openings to some classic novels that I have heard:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

Despite this, I haven’t actually read any of them. And this is the reason I’ve written this list.

Below are the top ten classic novels I want to read:
Anna-Karenina-Movie-Tie-In-Edition-Tolstoy-Leo-97803458039241. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy – Who hasn’t heard of the doomed love affair between the “sensuous and rebellious” Anna and the “dashing officer,” Count Vronsky? Everyone should, even those who haven’t read the book. I’d definitely like to read it. Back in early February, my desire to read it intensified when Melissa and I watched the newest adaptation starring Keira Knightley.

2. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë – I’d like to read it because it’s about a woman’s journey for independence and love on her own terms. In her childhood, Jane was abused both physically and emotionally by her aunt and cousins, and despite this she managed to stay strong.

3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen – Melissa adores all of the Jane Austen novels. She was the one who influenced me to want to read them. I’ve seen the 2005 movie adaptation starring Keira Knightley, and definitely plan on reading the novel.

4. Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos – I’ve seen Cruel Intentions, which is a modernized movie adaptation of this book, and the thing that makes me want to read it is because I want to compare and contrast it with that movie.Jane Eyre cover

5. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald – I would like to read this because I’m interested in this period. Melissa read it and liked it, and recommended it to me. Plus, there is a new movie adaptation by Baz Luhrmann coming out soon.

6. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen – I started to want to read this after I saw a little bit of the 2007 mini-series.

7. Emma, Jane Austen – One day, I picked my sister’s little pink copy of this book and the opening line reeled me in:

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

I like how Jane Austen knows her character so well.

Evelina cover

8. Evelina, Frances Burney – I discovered Frances Burney while reading one of the author bios of Jane Austen, her early works were read and enjoyed by her. And I’d really like to read this because of the time period its set in.

9. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë – What most interests me about Wuthering Heights is that the narrator is what you’d called an “unreliable narrator.” The main characters are Catherine Earnshaw and Healthcliff, but it’s Lockwood (in the beginning) and Nelly Dean (the main narrator) who tell the story.

10. Camilla or a Picture of Youth, Frances Burney – Much like Evelina, I’d like to read Camilla because I’m interested in the time period its set in.

By Luke Parkes

Adventures, Fancy

A Visual Post of Appreciation for Peace and Quiet Before the Long Weekend

Luke and I took my dog, Coop, to our favourite walkway the other day. In the quiet moments while walking or just sitting and looking, I was overwhelmed by a sense of peace. It was a lovely reminder of how much a quiet walk in my favourite spot can refresh me, and a gentle rebuke that I hadn’t been there more recently.

This little oasis is just ten minutes from our house, in one of many residential suburbs in a big city, in a small country (New Zealand).

 scrap book style for post

Movies/TV series

In Time Review

In TimeWe saw In Time recently and it really resonated with me: the lesson in human nature. There will always be selfish, greedy people to extort the system. But there will always be those who give, despite how much it costs.

This movie had such an amazing cast. I’d love to see Justin Timberlake in another role; he’s shed that boy band image in my mind. Amanda Seyfried was astounding; this is my favourite of her roles. Vincent Kartheiser (who I’d previously seen in Angel) was remarkably good at conveying an older man in a young man’s body.

Alex Pettifer as a bad guy doesn’t do it for me, but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t good at it. (Sorry, you’ll always be Four.) The last honorable mention goes to Olivia Wilde; it shocked me when it was revealed she was Will’s (Timberlake) mum, but she is stunning! I was heartbroken when she wasn’t allowed on the bus and attempted to run to her son.

The premise, living on time rather than money, made me question some priorities. Imagine giving four minutes of your life for every coffee! I’d lose half an hour a week, two hours a month, 24 hours a year—a day a year to coffee!

But when you think about it, you do, just not directly. The time you had to spend working translates your time to dollars. Spending 1.25 hours a week on coffee seems insane! If I had only had one year left, that’d feel extreme.

Will’s kindness also resonated with me, giving such a high proportion of his time away when no one else does. The downtrodden in area 12 don’t have any to spare and the wealthy don’t see the “ghetto” where people die over limited bus fare while they have a (spare) million years secured in a vault. This is particularly pertinent to me at the moment, because I have read an article about research demonstrating that poor people give more than the rich, “the wealthiest Americans donate 1.3 percent of their income; the poorest, 3.2 percent”.  (I could write a whole post about how we should be celebrating these people, rather than giving magazine and newspaper coverage to those who give an amount that is hardly noticeable to them.)


About an hour into the movie I realised it was a stand-alone movie and they couldn’t save the world in the remaining time, so I adored it ending positively but not resolved. This film was equal proportions thought provoking, action-packed and hot.

P.S. I prefer my Johnny Galecki more Leonard-y!


The Quest for Writing Mentors

I have recently completed a Magazine Journalism course, and because of this, I have become very analytical in my magazine reading.

I have been visiting the library for old magazines, for examples, Vanity Fair, Good Reading and some of the fashion magazines. Buried behind pages of fashion are often polished examples of well-written articles in magazines like Harpers Bazaar.

Harper's Bazaar March 2012Harper’s Bazaar:

“It’s the penultimate night of London fashion week and the city is near hysterical with the accumulated buzz of non-stop shows and parties.” (p.143)

“Thirty seconds into a trip from a downtown Manhattan hotel to JFK Airport and my driver starts firing off questions.” (p180)

“Madonna lives behind high, spike-topped, black metal walls in three townhouses joined into one on New York’s Upper East Side. I had to manage my covetous feelings as I was ushered…” (p230)

Set the scene and hook them in, in one sentence that is hard work! But I was hooked and they were good articles. I didn’t even really care about the topics of the articles, but I enjoyed them!

I’ve become lately acquainted with the Australian Women’s Weekly New Zealand Edition. My age group (being pre-30s) is not their main concern, but the content is right up my alley. Thought-provoking articles on a wide array of topics from actors, to monarchs, to travel, architecture, books, movies, health—the list goes on. To summarise their celebrity interviews and articles in one word, “humane.”

Mindfood April 2013A long time favourite, that has just celebrated its fifth year in production, is MiNDFOOD magazine. A lot of the description for the AWW New Zealand Edition, above, applies to MiNDFOOD. And the April 2013 edition has taken them a step further ahead of the field, more content (to compliment their online offerings), sustainably produced paper, in-depth, excellent articles and a genuine passion for people, the world and environment.

Take the Story “A Life Well Lived” (April Edition, pp136-147) written by Editor-in-chief Michael McHugh. After nine full pages of delicious photos of designer Carol Sills’ home, we come to the opening words of the article: “Fashion designer, Caroline Sills, tells a good story. As we sit on her front verandah looking out over a reserve in Devonport, Auckland, with the Waitemata Harbour sparkling across road, she has me in fits of laughter as she recounts her travels through the Amazon and being chased by the local Romeo while catching piranhas.” This is just an example of what you’d find in MiNDFOOD, good pictures and good articles.

The course has finished, but the apprenticeship is in full swing.


Luke’s Unravelling Review

UK cover
US cover

Unravelling has all the components to make it one of my favourites. It is well written—I’ve always loved first person, present tense, and it allowed me to experience Janelle’s emotional turmoil—especially at the end. It has well-developed characters—Janelle, the protagonist, is one funny, strong, and smart girl. It has a strong plot—beginning with the protagonist dying and being revived, and then is concerned with saving the world, and discovering Ben Michaels, her saviour’s, secret.

Plus, there’s a sequel, Unbreakable, to look forward to, which is released in April 23rd 2013 in the US and June 6th 2013 in the UK. Also, I’m excited that Unravelling has been optioned to be made into a movie by MTV. Pittacus Lore (author of I Am Number Four) was so right to say it was gripping. I owe all my gratitude to Elizabeth Norris, for telling us Janelle’s story. Thank you!


On Frances Burney and Evelina

I was shocked when I read that Frances Burney had burnt all of her writing at the age of 15 for two reasons: That she had written a novel at that age and that, the reason she burnt the writing was, as a woman, she had been Evelina_vol_II_1779taught that writing fiction was immoral. The lost prequel to Evelina is a true loss to literature.

In the introduction to the edition that I read, Margaret Anne Doody says that; “the story of Evelina is (for Burney makes it so) an allegory of women’s writing, and a story about female persistence.” She talks about how Burney’s earlier work had to be written in secret and that this book was published, initially, anonymously. However, she did achieve recognition in her lifetime and even became the breadwinner of her family for a time (with her writing).

To say I adored this book would be an understatement. I devoured the final part of it in one afternoon and then sulked when I had to give it back to the library.

The novel, written in letters that form a journal, is about a young woman of sheltered upbringing, and her harried debut into London’s society. She flounders with the social etiquettes required and is preyed upon by many characters, both male and female.

It was darker in plot than Jane Austen’s work and indeed, I found this because Austen had read Burney.

Evelina (or Burney) astounds me with her perceptive eye with insights such as; “in all ranks and all stations of life, how strangely do characters and manners differ.” (p126)

Evelina reminds me of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Molly (Wives & Daughters) and the passionate reverence of Lord Orville reminds me of Austen’s Mr Darcy. Such characters as Evelina (and Molly) fascinate me with their complete reliance upon others for making decisions and protecting them, when their ability to stand up for themselves (if they must) and their understanding to make their own decisions is obvious. It is a conditioned response that appals me.

This book whole-heartedly deserves a 5/5 and I can’t wait to read more of Burney’s work and to re-read this one.


On The Evolution Of Storytelling

The act of storytelling has evolved with the proliferation of new ways to share stories. Storytelling was once a personal tale, shared with intimate friends/family, now it is shared on the internet to unknown audiences worldwide. From verbal stories passed from generation to generation, to published books and magazines, to online open books and magazines, to blogging—we have charted a course from unstructured to rigidly structured and back again.


For my work, I have been learning about the use of storytelling in research and evaluation. More specifically, utilising Digital Storytelling to share the stories that aren’t being heard or are being covered in a less than empowering manner, in the mainstream media.

Wikipedia defines Digital Storytelling as, “a relatively new term which describes the new practice of ordinary people who use digital tools to tell their ‘story.’” It is being used in a multitude of ways, including being a mouthpiece for those who are usually ignored.

We have YouTube, blogs, vlogs, online magazines, Twitter, Facebook and many other avenues for sharing stories available to us and if one wants to make a career of writing, they must utilise most of these.

Sharing stories has become easier. Becoming a writer, for a career, has become much harder. A writer must not only write an excellent book, but they must also develop a platform of followers utilising social media, they must tour and actively promote their book. They must also produce a book a year and somehow squeeze in a few short stories.

It appears to be much more than a full time job. When one applies for a position, either they tend to apply for a full time position (40 hours) or, like me, they apply for a 30-hour position because they cannot physically bear any more than that if they are to go home and scribble some musings.

Is the only way to be a successful writer to load ourselves with the equivalent of 1.5-2 full time jobs? If so, are we then missing the stories that those who cannot stretch this far could contribute? With chronic illness on the rise, around 1 in 25 with Fibromyalgia (chronic pain & fatigue), are we contributing to this epidemic?

Is the paradox of modern storytelling that it is easier to share but harder to create?

I am immensely grateful that I have a platform on which I can write about my passions. It is certainly exciting to watch the unfolding of this evolution, but I want to be wary also. If we are spending hours on our computer for work and then for our reading (and more for writing, if we do), then when are we creating relationships? When are we moving and doing things that are natural for our bodies?

I suppose it is all about balance and this is what I am watching most keenly, the alternative streams opening up in which entrepreneurial people are utilising these changes and making a living as a writer, while keeping it balanced.

Four bloggers/writers that inspire me:

  1. I adore Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens who blogs (about “tiny homes, simple living, entrepreneurship, and more”), has written books, photographs, and offers online courses.
  2. One can hardly mention alternative living and online writing without mentioning Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, who has published a number of books, runs a few blogs, has simplified his life, and chronicled it online. On his site he says, “You can make money as a writer or website creator without ads, without being a slimy marketer. Just build an audience by being useful and trustworthy, then help them with books, courses, software, a service, or whatever you can create that helps them even more deeply. Making money by helping people? Now that feels good.” I personally really identify with his messages.
  3. Courtney Carver of Be More With Less is also an inspiration to me. She has built a business out of her writing (about minimalism and a simple life) and also offers courses and has written a few books.
  4. I have just started Nina Amir’s How to Blog a Book, which she wrote through blogging a post at a time. This evolution of storytelling is something I can aspire to (one post at a time!).

We are in exciting times and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Who else is inspiring you in their journey as a writer/blogger?


Luke’s Reading Round-Up January-February 2013

At the beginning of January, I set myself a goal to read 50 books this year. So far, I have read 13 books.

Below are my top reads of January and February:

The Host, by Stephenie Meyer The Host – Movie Tie-in

Stephenie Meyer has written one of the best novels ever.

The Host is set in a future time where our world has been invaded by aliens, known as “Souls,” who take over the mind of human hosts.

I just loved this novel! Although she writes plot driven novels, the characters are well developed—especially Wanderer, who is gentle and kind, and Melanie, who is one tough young woman! I like that during the progress of the novel, Wanderer and Melanie’s relationship turns to sisterly love.

Lone WolfLone Wolf, by Jodi Picoult

After a car accident, Luke Warren falls into a coma, and brother and sister, Edward and Cara, fight over their father’s fate in court.

This is the second Jodi Picoult novel I’ve read. The first was House Rules. What I liked most about Lone Wolf is that it centres on decision and the reunion of a broken up family. I like that more than one character narrates in first person so we get to experience the emotions of more than just one character. It has since become one of my favourites.

Spark, by Brigid KemmererSpark

When an arsonist starts setting houses on fire, Gabriel Merrick is the top suspect. But he isn’t doing it, and no one believes him, except for a smart and shy sophomore named Layne.

I have to say, I enjoyed Spark better than its preceding novel, Storm. It could’ve been because it had double the action, because the dialogue was even more amusing, because the protagonists were different but with similar issues, or maybe it’s all of the above. It’s definitely a good read.

Nineteen Minutes,  by Jodi Picoult

Set in Sterling, New Hampshire, Nineteen Minutes centres on the school shooting at Sterling High School, depicting the events leading up to and following the incident.

I thought Nineteen Minutes was a great read because of the quality of the writing, the well-developed characters, and the excellent plot twists. What I also enjoyed was how bullying was a main topic. Everyone around the world must’ve experienced it in some way.

I am looking forward to reading more Jodi Picoult novels!

The Secret Circle vol. 1 – TV tie-in coverThe Secret Circle: The Initiation and The Captive pt. 1, by L.J. Smith

When Cassie Blake moves to New Salem, Massachusetts, she finds herself drawn to the group of teens who seem to rule the school, and who happen to be witches.

I thought the plot was spellbinding, the characters were three-dimensional, and the writing style was enchanting with a smooth pace.

Vampire Beach, vol. 1 +2, by Alex Duval

When Jason and his family relocate to Malibu, he falls for the gorgeous Sienna, who also has an interest in him, but it turns out Sienna and her friends are vampires, and Jason is “risking his life by falling for her.” I liked the Vampire Beach novels because the characters acted like real teenagers, and the writing style was gripping with humorous dialogue.

By Luke Parkes,

for more information, go to the About page

Fancy, Uncategorized

On Parties

I went to an engagement party this weekend. I straightened my hair and everything, which is why I now have a photo in my About page.

Image from
Image from

It was a beautiful, outdoor, afternoon tea for a gathering of 100. I went because I quite like the bride-to-be. For a couple of hours, I enjoyed small talk, a few fancy snacks and a big catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. It was fabulous, for me.

I have organised many big events in my work-life and I can tell you that they are stressful, there is plenty to do and the work doesn’t end when you get the people to the event.

But it got me to thinking. If I were to get off my behind and re-enter the (scary) world of dating in search of a Mr Fancy Nerd—how many people would I want to feed in order to celebrate our engagement?

I would certainly only want to feed those I’d be able to spend a good hour or so chatting and laughing with, so that’d be about 15.

Maybe I’m quirky that way, but, for me, the whole wedding process is about the marriage—the joining of two lives. A pretty (probably of the light pink persuasion)  dress, a glass of champagne, a Devonshire scone and my closest family and friends are all I desire to celebrate a fancy new husband. Isn’t the prize the bit after the day? Shouldn’t you save your money for that?

There are too many good books to be reading to be planning and attending several events that seem to be more for the pleasure of the guests!


Reading Round-Up February 2013

I didn’t read as many books in February, but I feel I have succeeded in my quest to read more diversely, so I am happy with that.

Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper, Alexandra HarrisRomantic Moderns

A well-written account of the English Modernists who tended toward the Romantic aesthetic. I enjoyed reading about the authors featured; including Virginia Woolf and T S Elliot, and am keen to read their non-fiction works as well. It was an interesting period sandwiched between wars and influenced by the Romantic period some one hundred years prior.

wives and daughtersWives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell

After being impressed by North & South and falling in love with Cranford, I purchased the complete works of Elizabeth Gaskell for my e-reader. This story highlighted the confines of women in the 1800s, which I struggle to accept, but find fascinating nonetheless. It is about the relationships between wives, daughters, husbands and suitors. The central character, Molly, may be the cutest, simplest of all heroines and I enjoyed following her journey and experiencing her love for Roger.

Q’s Legacy, Helene Hanff

I enjoy her writing style, witty and to the point. This is a memoir of her writing life and how Q (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch) an English lecturer “taught” her to read and q's legacytherefore to write. As she was referred away from his lectures to read books he mentioned, so I was referred away to read Donne.

The Complete Poems and Selected Prose of John Donne

Helene Hanff writes very highly of Donne in her books, so I thought I ought to get on to it, feeling bad for not having done so earlier. I love the religious poems, including the sonnets. I also enjoyed his sermons, though the long sentences left me breathless!

everything changes but youEverything Changes But You, Maggie Alderson

Alderson is another one of those authors in whose books you feel comfort, the curling up with a nice cup of tea feel. The story revolves around three couples, their secrets and their concepts of home. Hannah (the lead of the ensemble) finds, by the end, that her home is where her husband and children are. This is a gorgeous denouement for a charming story. I enjoy Alderson’s storytelling and her characters. I also like how she creates scenes and that each chapter is like a little story in itself.

I am almost bursting with impatience, The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult) is “in transit” at my library, so I shall be reading that just as soon as I finish the three books in the pile ahead of it! There are, as always, too many to read.