Category Archives: Regular Reviews

Usually owned by myself. On my bookshelf. Soon to disappear. I have a klepto-ghost in my home…

‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I’m glad I didn’t give up on Rainbow Rowell. But I still think it’s a stupid name. Some of you may remember my absolute horror at reading ‘Landline’ earlier this year. This was Rowell’s first attempt (and I use that word with heavy sarcasm) at writing adult fiction. It won Goodreads book of 2014. I read only good reviews. I read it. Hated it. Boring, adulty, nonsense. GOD ADULTS ARE BORING. And I am one myself. Mostly.

Then I read ‘Fangirl’, and the Rainbow Rowell fanclub made a lot more sense. Rowell has captured the epic reader’s life in 460 pages. In my version of the book anyway. In a nutshell: life is just something that happens around books. Sometimes it can appear to be dull and grey and frankly messy. But life in your perfect little book is just that. Perfect. I have never related to a character so perfectly as I did with Cather and Wren. The utter obsession with a book, the desire to live in it’s pages, the disdain for people who like the Great Outside.

Our protagonist Cather, is an antisocial fanfic writer. She’s a nobody in the real world, but online? Bitch is famous. I can’t imagine the pressure of having thousands of people read your posts every day. When I make a spelling mistake, chances are no one mean enough to point out my spelling mistake is going to tell me before I get the chance to fix it myself. And even I sweat it out seeing the little “beep beep boop” that says your post is live. Still isn’t enough to make me read over what I’ve written before I post it though. Such effort am I right?

I stopped reading for about a month and sunk into the depressive state of: real job – five days a week, eat, sleep, bang head against a wall, repeat. It happens often. It happens when I stop reading. Then, on an accidental burst of internet through my crappy phone, I discovered I was two whole weeks behind schedule of my 50 books a year goal. And I had read in advance just in case! Enter the panicked Amy reading five books in two weeks. I read and I read and I didn’t blog because INTERNET, also because CBF M8.

I wandered aimlessly around Dymocks trying to catch a title that would pique my interest. It’s sort of hard when you have no internet and no subsequent internet friends to rely on for reviews. Current-boyfriend-Peychaud was no help with advice – handing me ‘One Direction’ colouring books and Japanese phrase books. Then I thought: I’m just going to have to read Fangirl and be fucking done with it aren’t I. If it doesn’t work out, at least I have Japanese for Dummies to fall back on.

Thank god. Because Fangirl did what the other books (even some seriously great ones) couldn’t. It spurred me to write again. Mostly out of the necessity to reassure Rainbow that she wasn’t a total waste of space. I know it’s been keeping her up at night.

Despite your stupid name…Rainbow, I think you’re alright. Now go and get some rest. Four months of thinking some nameless internet-hoe (that’s me) doesn’t like you, has got to be exhausting. And I’ll post this as soon as I get even a fraction of internet. I promise.

So thanks to all the internet-humans out there for making me read Fangirl. I guess I’ll give Eleanor and Park a go now.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

‘The Sky so Heavy’ by Claire Zorn

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

There is something about a book that hits too close to home that makes reading uncomfortable. And

Photo by Peychaud

Photo by Peychaud

I’m not talking about emotionally, or intellectually or situation-wise – I mean an Australian book that name drops shopping centres. It makes me feel ill.  I’m not sure if Americans or the English feel the same way. I feel like they don’t. They have had centuries to get over their home towns being named dropped, their shopping centres globalised, and their plant life used for literary scenery. In Australia we basically only just came out of the water and evolved into hotties last year. We don’t have many books written about us – and the ones we do and shoved down our throats by every proud Australian, trying to convince their youth that: ‘Hey, we matter too, see!!! It’s in this actual-published-book!’

Get out of my face.

Some Australian books do it right. Tomorrow when the War Began, Seven Little Australians, Deadly Unna? And some do it extremely wrong. At a first glance I thought this would be one of those books. An awful – hey lets go to Westfield after school – instead of hey let’s go to the shops after school. It started off that way and I thought to myself – this will not be a fun night for me. Then it got good.

The Sky so Heavy got real pretty fast. It’s a dystopian fiction, set in Australia. We don’t have anything but dystopian here because we are a depressive people… Or violent. Pretty much sad or mad describes most Australians. Anyway – some bombs go off somewhere and suddenly everything shuts down. No power. No internets. No water. Then it starts snowing… radioactive snow. I thought I would settle down to read a chapter before I crashed – then I realised I had finished the book and my alarm to get up for work was set to go off in 4 hours. Worst feeling ever.

It was an extremely fat paced, easy to read novel. It was obviously preachy, and a little predictable, and everyone’s parents seemed to be pretty sweet letting their children roam around by themselves in a rapey, murdery, violent landscape where they will starve, dehydrate, freeze, or die of radioactive snow… I think to make it more YA, Claire needed to get rid of their parents so that the characters could go and find themselves. Which is fine. But maybe just kill them off. Parents aren’t usually so chill about that.

Most dystopian novels have an enemy. They are usually fairly easy to hate, and are foreign invading country, or of a different species, or an oppressive government. In ‘The Sky so Heavy’ the neighbours are the bad guys. And it feel so very real and hopeless. Human nature is a truly awful thing – and I don’t think I fully grasped that until I read this book. We will kill people, steal the food from the mouths of babies, and whatever the hell else – just so it means we can live. Eugh it’s disgusting. I hope if I am ever in an apocalyptic situation, I get the first wave of sickness, or death so I don’t have to see how low the rest of the world will sink.

So the book was good for that. However I couldn’t help but pick up some similarities to ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’. It was like I had to. The characters where just the same characters rolled into one person, or different genders. I guess in Australia we have about six different personalities. Quiet Asian, Religious, Muck-around-idiot, Artsy-protective-narrator, Hot-girl-who-comes-off-as-shallow-but-is-actually-deep-and-insightful.

All-in-all, worth the read.

‘Paper Towns’ by John Green

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

paper towns

Photo by Peychaud

I had roughly 300 words of a review written on The Bane Chronicles when I gave up. It was excellent. I don’t have much else to say about it, so you should all be impressed that I could bullshit those 3 words into 300. Point is, I read it because I was leftover sad from reading ‘Winter Girls’. Then I accidentally read a book and a half before I did a review. So we are skipping The Bane Chronicles obvious excellent review, and moving straight on to Paper Towns.

Paper Towns was pretty cool. It wasn’t incredibly insightful or subtle like a lot of young adult novels. However this meant that there wasn’t all those literature techniques getting in the way of a good old fashioned plot. Honestly a plot can be so overshadowed when really it’s the only thing you need to get published. A perfect example is Home and Away. For all of those non-Australians or people that have better things to do at 7pm, or 7:30 (I don’t know, I’m a part of the latter group) Home and Away is a terrible Australian soap. It has no foreshadowing, no metaphors, no symbolism, nothing really relatable or logical. However – they have a plot – and they have been on air longer than I have been alive. Probably. I’m not going to do a lot of research here. Let’s not start expecting too much scholarly work here.

100 words later, I was just trying to say. Awesome plot.

So just to make my ramblings seem worth it here is the actual plot. Q has a slight obsession (mistaken as love) for the girl next door, Margo. Margo is not your girl-next-door girl. She’s rather self-obsessed, her parents are kind of mean, and she likes to play along with paper people in a paper town. That’s what she calls her friends and family. She likens them to 2 dimensional objects. Then one day she runs away, hinting to Q that she is going to commit suicide, and leaving all the obscure clues to rekindle his obsession. Bitch. Of course this is all written as a love story instead. (I’m just reading it like I read everything – with hatred and skeptisism and a desire to find something to obsess over). It’s nothing as heart wrenching as The Fault in Our Stars. I still haven’t drunk enough water to replace all the tears I shed through that bad boy.

This is only the second John Green book I have read and I feel like they are both fairly excellent in depicting teens. I wouldn’t go recommending them into the reading curriculum of high schools – but maybe just for the few that will do personal reading. Still better than ‘Looking for Alibrandi’.

paper townsAlso fun fact – Paper Towns is currently being made into a movie. With Cara Delevingne as Margo. Margo isn’t actually the star, as many articles seem to imply or state outright.  She is sort of the villain. Sorry.

Not sorry. She’s totally the villain.

On another note, as cool as Cara is, I don’t think she is a Margo. I like Cara, I’m not fussed about Margo. That really isn’t another note. This is the same note in a different paragraph. Also so weird that her name is Margo. If her name is actually Margaret why would you go for Margo, as opposed to say Maggie, or Meg, or Peggy, or anything but Margo. Let’s just go ahead and finish the rest of her name. Margo. Roth. Spiegelman. Roth. Roth. Spiegelman. John Green the man with – lets face it – the dullest name since John Smith, has a fondness for gross sounding names. Gus. Margo. Hazel. The other one. Also the same 4 people are playing the same 4 teenagers that are being played in all YA-book-to-YA-movies. WHY IS THIS! HAS THE UNIVERSE STOPPED MAKING YOUNG SOULFUL LOOKING PEOPLE!

‘Wintergirls’ by Laurie Halse Anderson

★ ★ ★ ☆☆

wintergirls

Photo by Peychaud

Technically there is a lot to love about this book. Original writing style, strong and scary themes, magical realism, relatable characters. It’s great really. Only now I am so hungry. And rather sad. I hate it when books make me feel like this – though I guess that’s when you know it is a good book. I found this book very hard to rate. It was amazing truly. But I wouldn’t read it again. It’s too sad. A little too dark and real for my tastes. It deserves 4 stars – and if I were an impartial robot, I would give it just that – but this is my personal blog space and I can do whatever the hell I like. So that’s why I gave it 3.

Far be it from me to actually give a scholarly review or even give a summary of the book – I’m just not that kind of girl – but I suppose I could give you my version of it.

Lia is a wintergirl. For anyone wondering what the title of the book has to do with anorexia – it doesn’t really. It’s just Laurie’s made up word to describe the girls like Cassie and Lia, girls who are essentially dying of starvation. Lia she sees food in numbers (calories), she loves most of her family, though doesn’t appreciate much they do for her. She doesn’t have a job, or go to school too much, plays no sports, has no friends, and only ever pretends to read books. I can only assume because she doesn’t actually possess the strength to do any of this. It makes me shudder to think of how weak and crumbly she probably is. Laurie does an excellent job of Lia. She is completely real to me. I feel like I went to school with her. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it really does. Anyway, plot goes: Cassie dies, Lia is already suffering some serious mental problems and can’t seem to cope with the grief on top of that. She fights her family and pretends she is trying to get better, when really she is doing the opposite. There isn’t really a big climax, just rises and falls throughout the story. I read it in a night.

One problem I foresee for ‘Wintergirls’ is the unbelievable accuracy of the inside look at the mind of a girl suffering from anorexia. I’ll be the last person to blame an author for the way people read into their books – but I was sort of disgusted in the way Lia thinks. I just know some teenage idiot is going to use this book for thinspiration. It makes me annoyed when people use my precious literature to further their own delusions. I feel like the struggle of the family and the helplessness they feel is shadowed by Lia’s own mental state, that unless you recognise that Lia is actually cray, you wont be able to see the effect she is having on everyone around her.

Id cry if I could, I really would.

‘Landline’ by Rainbow Rowell

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Might I start by saying – I cannot believe this is the book who won Good Reads Book of 2014.

landline

Photo by Peychaud

I guess my age is showing when I say I did not particularly enjoy this book. It’s a tale of a middle aged woman who is having some boring marital troubles. I should have listened to my gut instinct when it told be ‘anyone with a name like Rainbow Rowell will not be capable of writing anything that isn’t cutesy.’  What a waste of my third book of the year.

There is wishy washy love triangle between Seth, Georgie, and Neal (ugliest name ever) and it was just awful. I didn’t ship Seth, the long term best friend who loved her for yours, I didn’t ship her husband whom she had two children with. I was rooting for her to go back to her job and accelerate her career. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate love, or think of it as a second class citizen, I just really don’t care for Georgie’s love life. She’s been married to this fellow for what 15 years? 20 years? Congratulations on making up with your husband after a fight – but it’s nothing to write home about. Or in my case, write online about. Except it is because I am. But only for your sake. You need the truth. The internet is lying to you about Landline.

Georgie spent the book telling us how obsessed she was with work, then proceeded to turn up late every day, not work at all when she went, and leave early. Then at the end SPOILER, ignore her work and dream job entirely to do an 80’s rom-com dash to the airport. Will someone hold my hair back while I throw up the averageness of this book? She is the funniest woman in the world everybody lies(apparently) yet I didn’t laugh once. She doesn’t get enough sleep, yet sleeps till 12 every day. Her last name is McCool yet she is so VERY FAR FROOM COOL. Everything I was lead to believe was the opposite.

I rarely write a review of a book I didn’t enjoy, but after all the hype and all the drama of landline online, and the clearly falsified Goodreads stance, I felt I should probably let you, dear reader, know the truth. It’s fairly shit. Maybe if you have two children, and a mopey husband you will find this relatable and heartening, but it made me feel murderous and consider actually murdering someone just so I know my life will never turn into this.

I need to be consolidated. I need angry chocolate. And I need angry TV.

‘Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Night Circus

Photo by Peychaud (still a code name)

If there is one recommendation I always ignore, it is those of the Guardian, or The Times; the ones that make it to the book covers. A load of one word wonders that never actually seem to capture the true nature of the book. Even on the front cover on Night Circus, the words ‘dazzling’ and ‘enchanting’ really don’t do it justice. I’ve seen your empty praise on countless books, how is this one to dazzle me over any other book? But Night Circus is just that – dazzling and enchanting. It has a dark dream-like quality that appears to follow around the subject of illusionists. It is almost jarring to read.  The first chapter is written entirely in second person, which can really grate on you. But it completely sets the scene for the rest of the book. From the first paragraph on, you think that this book will be something else. You would be correct.

Maybe it’s not even the first paragraph. I’m a firm believer in strong beginning sentences. It is the easiest thing in the whole book to get right – so if the first one is shit you can pretty much put the book down right then and there, because this author is terrible.

‘The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.’

Isn’t that something you can just picture Morgan Freeman saying? Minus the ‘picture’.

I found so many interesting relationships in this book. Strangely enough I wasn’t at all interested in the main relationship between what’s-his-face and what’s-her-name.  Eugh I really can’t think of their names right now… Anyway the most interesting one to me was that of the Burgess sisters. Lainie and Tara – the sort of siblings who, if they were one person, would make the perfect human. Tara actually had the perfect explanation but I’ve been searching for the passage for ten minutes now and short of re-reading the whole book, I’ll never find it. Anyway it went something along the lines of catching each other’s short comings. And Tara being the one who saw in details while Lainie saw in scope – which was SPOILER the crux of their terrible little tragedy. Moving along.

Be warned, despite my ravings, this book is not for everyone. The plot isn’t a strong factor. A lot rides on imagery and dialogue, and a slightly warped time frame. Actually I’m still not sure I understand the time frame. There is probably a reason for that – a metaphor for the Narnia-like aspect of the circus. A place in its own world, with it’s own laws of physics. Mostly I just felt a bit sad abut everything. Everything ends, every storyline, ever relationship, in a bittersweet conclusion. Yeah they are happy – but you feel like the really shouldn’t be. I guess if you aren’t aging and get to drink mulled cider every working night of your life, you really wouldn’t have to feign happiness.

‘The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets’ by Eva Rice

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I am so very jealous of everyone who hasn’t read this book – because it means they get to read it. the-lost-art-of-keeping-secretsI’m not a giant fan of romance books – nor of 50’s fan girls, but this book was so excellently written that I forgave that. Long after I finished the book I kept feeing like I wanted to watch another episode. Occasionally I’ll forget whether it was a book or a show I was watching.

The lost art of keeping secrets is full of sage advice and “RIGHT!” moments. The things that tip a four star book to a five. I tried to keep a list of all the excellent moments in this book, but it would have taken me twice as long to read, and then I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my 50-books-this-year-resolution. And my, oh my, what excellent cover art – nothing I despise more than seeing some strangers face on the character I have in my mind. On the other hand, I do like seeing what they are wearing. Decent publishers will recognise decent books and can obviously hire decent photographers/graphic designers etc. There is logic behind judging a book by its cover.

Speaking of appearances, it was the major theme in this book. Unlike secrets, as the title would lead you to believe. It seems that upper class young adults in the 50’s were as obsessed about it as are the selfie-gens that dominate now. I think if the narcissists of the world were readers (which they clearly are not) this book would speak to them, and maybe help them cope with the reality of the world as it is – and as it was.

I worried for half a minute that I should have worn better shoes, then realized everyone else was too concerned with his or her own appearance to bother about mine.

Penelope Wallace, p. 100

AND

Charlotte read my mind. “Beware of good lighting,” she warned, as full of wise advice as I expected her to be. “It’s almost as dangerous as alcohol.”

Penelope Wallace, p. 100.

It’s strange of romantics never seem to romanticise. They never really fit their own genre. Yet all of the characters have serious flaws and annoyances that make you hate them at the same time. Harry and Penelope with their obsessions, Marina and Talitha with their narcissism, Charlotte and Inigo with their naivety. It infuriating and endearing at the same time.

For a whole month we met every night – but I never once saw her during the day. Well, it never seemed strange to me at the time, but it was, of course. You have to see your lover during the day at some point, don’t you? Otherwise the whole thing remains a dream. Perhaps that’s what she wanted.

Harry Delancy, p. 71

Oh Harry. You’re a sausage. Like most romances this book was heavily character – and dialogue driven, which made for a fast read. Also handy considering how little time I seem to have on my hands. I think I will be reading this again, maybe I missed something the first time.