Sunday, 16 November 2014

Changeless

Image sourced from here
I'm sorry I am about to review (briefly) a book that isn't the first in a series on here. I started this series before I started blogging, and long before I started Goodreads. It happens, and it will happen again.

This book is the second in the Alexia Tarabotti series. Although she is now married to Lord Maccon, so really is Alexia Maccon now. The book picks up in the same whimsical, Victorian, steampunk, supernatural, romance thread as the first. Although, now we are all married, there is less heavy breathing and a lot more bottom descriptions. This is not a complaint, just an observation.

Besides bottoms, the book has us with the Maccons in wedded, sexy bliss, however Lord Maccon buggers off North on werewolf business without telling the newly acquired wife. The Wife, being Alexia, promptly snoops around (or is duly told about in her position on Queen Victoria's Shadow Council) and then follows husband dear to Scotland to solve the mystery and to save Britain.

Now. I was all on board. I was even lording this one as better than the first. And I still think it is, except for the last chapter. It all left a nasty taste in my mouth. I hope it gets sorted sooner rather than later, as I am happy to give it up if it continues along these lines. I love this series as a fantastical diversion, but this screams too much real life for me, even though the problem is reasonably explained in the magical world the book exists in (although no one is listening). I will give Gail Carriger the benefit of the doubt as she has surprised me in every book. But I am both interested and hesitant at what will be in store for Alexia in the future.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Image sourced from here 
When I was a kid, the movie of this book was standard midday movie material for so many years. I had absolutely no interest in this book at all. All I remember about the movie was my parents sometimes switching to it, sometimes me as there was nothing else on besides cricket, and me sticking out about 30 mins and getting thoroughly bored.

Girls in ridiculous dresses prancing around the bush complaining that it was hot and there were flies. Of course there was. It was the end of our ridiculously hot, dry summers and you lot are prancing around in gloves. And dresses. I mean at 8 years old I'm watching them all trying to walk up bush tracks in dresses and I was thinking they were morons. After 30 mins of this, I usually gave up and went and played in the dirt. Or with a kangaroo or something.

So I never even thought of the book. Until the ABC's First Tuesday Book Club did a poll/show on 10 Aussie Books You Must Read Before You Die and it came number 10 as voted by the public. If you can get around geoblocks and can watch it I recommend it. As it made me think, what did I miss? I also realised, that maybe not seeing the movie was a perfect set of circumstances to read the book.

So I have read it. And what I missed, and was probably too young to get, was the ominous sense of place and the atmosphere. From the outset, you have the oppressive Australian heat beating down on you. You have that feeling of dryness, where you can feel the moisture being sucked out of your body on southern Australian days. If they are not described (I cannot remember as they are so vivid either way) you have that insanely loud sound of cicadas, their constant, shrill trilling/shrieking that screams you are in a hot, dry, remote, people-less place known as the Australian bush. That sound makes the feeling of remoteness resonate through your bones. Already you feel isolated. Then you add in the girls going missing and the element of mystery.

It's a short book, but I had no idea what was happening until it finished. And then I breathed. I mean that in the sense that I felt so tense, and oppressed, by the environment and then the mystery and it's surroundings, I finished the book and could breathe. Maybe I was holding my breath a little. But still those big, deep breaths. Then it hit me. I had no idea what had happened.

I think that is a strength to the book, and really maybe I should mark this as a spoiler, but I had no more of idea what had happened than I did when it occurred. Apparently there is an another chapter that explains all, but I don't think we need it. I am happy leaving it to a mystery of the bush. We have thousands of years of mysteries tied to our bush, and I am fine to give it another. It really is an ominous place. Also, it is a novelty to have a mystery in lit that isn't solved. So yay for an actual mystery.


Obernewtyn

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I remember this book from my primary school library. I remember it turning up in year 4 or 5 in the new release section. But I never picked it up. I remember reading some vaguely fantasy/sci fi book around that age that put me off the genres, that took me many many years to break. And my take away from this book is that I wish I had read it earlier and younger. But as I have friends 20 years later still waiting for the conclusion to the series, maybe not

Here is an Aussie fantasy, conceived by a 16 year old, that is Harry Potter esq before Harry Potter existed. We have a girl who has lost her family due to external forces (in this plot the government) and then is shipped off to an institution where children with special abilities go. And hilarity ensues! No, not really at all. But the story does get started with Elspeth and her misfit friends and their plans and scheming. And then them being sucked into a bigger plot that is going on around them.

I really did enjoy this one. It deserves a place in the mainstream, not just the Australian, YA cannon. It is clever and original, but fits the tropes we expect, even though it was written before they existed. Impressive.

Only real criticism is that even though she edited the story for years, she really does need a thesaurus at times. While the story is great, when you see the same adjective a couple of sentences in a row, it does jar you back to reality. But then again, could I have written such a wonderful story at 16, let alone now? Hells no. So I am cutting her slack where it is due. Will I read the rest? Maybe. But it still doesn't look like a conclusion is coming anytime soon. Luckily this first book is almost a stand alone.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Hot Zone

Image sourced from here
Things I have learnt while reading this book:

  • Telling you random things about people you are introducing in the book will "make people like them more" (I reckon he got that out of a creative writing class) and also builds up tension. Tension to the point of nauseating boredom. I think if I didn't hear about what kind of animal the intern likes hunting on the weekend, or what song someone's parrot at home likes to sing, the book would be a good 100pp shorter.
  • Oh, and we need the word "intern" explained to us.
  • I also need to have the concept of an Army "mission" explained. "So when the Army decides it wants to do something, it's called a mission. And the mission has a leader. That leader is called a..." oh god kill me now.
  • Women are supposed to clean up after Thanksgiving.
  • When the author discovers a phrase he likes and thinks it is funny, he will use it over and over again, even in inappropriate places.
  • When the author thinks his terminology is better than the facts, he'll tell you what the fact is, but that he's just going to keep on calling it his word. Coz. Who needs facts?
  • Apparently the author doesn't need facts. As I have now discovered that his account of Ebola is incredibly hyped up, exaggerated and borderline fanciful. Who needs facts when you can have people exploding into puddles of blood! What a waste of my time as that's why I was reading a "non-fiction" book on the subject.
  • Stephen King is an idiot if he thinks this is the "One of the most horrifying things I have ever read."

I'm angry. I'm angry and ranty. I feel mislead, manipulated. I was happy to accept that this guy wrote the book 20 years ago, and science hasn't been overly kind to this book. We've learn heaps and it does date the book somewhat. That's fair enough, and also exciting! Look at how much we have learnt and advanced in 20 years!

But then, I found out that he is known to have exaggerated not only the effects of the disease, but the specific "outbreak" of Ebola he is recounting in the book. Why is this book marketed as non-fiction? It is almost negligent in it's aim to induce panic around Ebola.

Do not get me wrong. Ebola is terrifying. It should be contained and treated quickly where it starts, and if we in the Western sphere didn't have our heads so far up our own arses we could have stopped it from getting so big at this point in time. I do not want it, I do not want any one I have ever met to catch it, and I am horrified it's spreading to other continents this week.

HOWEVER, the bastard virus is terrifying enough, it doesn't need some dickhead wanting to sell books to make it sound like if you catch it you turn into the Wicked Witch of the West. I do not want "true" accounts of "real" events packaged to me like a bad American tv drama. Give me the facts, write them in an engaging and interesting way. You'll still sell books. Just maybe not as many to 14 year olds.

Look, to be fair, I knew nothing about filoviruses. I had never heard of Marburg. I now have and it has made a lot more sense now when I've reading articles about Ebola in the news. But I am now questioning everything I have learnt through reading this book as I cannot trust this "knowledge". I've got the shits as even though it was an easy and accessible read, I cannot stand people lying to me about fucking science. There is one area we do not need any more misinformation and ignorance at the moment and that is in all our sciences. Our science literacy at the moment is dropping at an alarming rate, and books like this are not going to help.

Bah. Angry and Ranty.





Monday, 6 October 2014

Hexed

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I don't tend to read series all in one go. Or even the same author in a row. So to read this one so close to the first book, I was expecting trouble. Mainly I was expecting to be proven earth shatteringly wrong about the first book. In truth, I was worried reading number two so close to the first would make me realise I was completely wrong and the whole series was complete crap.

I was so relieved to find this book was everything I loved about the first one. Atticus is sarcastic and snippy. Oberon is hilarious in his dog like way. The crazy old Irish lady is still crazy as. Bacchus worshipping hot ladies from Vegas. Polish witches. Insane German witches cavorting with demons.

There is honestly not much more that I can say. It's not a one hit wonder as I feared. I can't wait to read the next one, but making myself slow down so I don't burn myself out. But I really, really, really want to read the next one!


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Wuthering Heights

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Well. That's done. I've been meaning to read Wuthering Heights for years. It's a "Classic" (so along with that goes all the cultural references I have never really got). The Brontes are hailed in some circles as better than Austen. It's the most romantic story ever written.

Let me address those assertions. Bullshit.

Wuthering Heights is a book about the most stubborn, sullen, sulky, self-centred, selfish (I've unintentionally gone to alliteration and I have now run out of s words), prideful, petulant, bad tempered, greedy, hypocritical individuals I have ever had the displeasure of reading all shoved into one book.

I'm at a loss of why the book has been taught in high schools around the world for years. The story isn't particularly interesting or complex. The writing and language is easy to read and understand, which possibly makes it a more accessible option. Some people may have problems with the dialect parts, but to me that was just a Yorkshire accent. I actually stopped reading it as although I could understand it, it did take a bit of brain power to switch in and out of it and most of what Joseph said was rubbish anyway. Is it taught with the lesson "all these characters are who you should not grow up into"? Because that would make sense, a warning not to be like them.

This is a book of abuse. Really, that's what it comes down to. Severe manipulation of people, with liberal sprinklings of physical, emotional, psychological, and no doubt in my mind in the background, sexual abuse. Now I am far from being a prude or easily offended. I have read many a book that deal with these issues and themes. But in most other books there is a story that turns those situations into plot devices. Wuthering Heights doesn't have this. It is a chronicle of how people wish to control and/or destroy other people, mainly for the sake of it. It left me feeling a bit off in places.

And for the romance. There was hardly anything. There was fighting, sulking, screaming, name calling, shunning but not romance. I knew beforehand that Heathcliff and Cathy were supposed to love each other, but I would have found it hard to see if I didn't have that context. Life is too short to have a relationship like theirs, and it definitely is too short to read about it.

Positives? Well, as I said it was easy to read for a classic. That's good. I will now understand cultural references made about Wuthering Heights, so I can appear more intelligent in very certain conversations. And the moors. Can't go wrong with the moors. I can frolic over the moors myself and leave Cathy and Heathcliff behind.



Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Secret History

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What self-respecting book starts with the main character confessing a murder on the first page? I mean, that's not how books work. You may have a body in the first chapter or so, but you don't have a confession. That's crazy talk. How do you then draw the book out for 600pp?

This is where Donna Tartt turns into the amazing author I have heard about. She then works from what would usually be the climax of the book, and gradually builds the tension throughout the book. I felt like a tightly wound spring by the end. She piles on anxiety after anxiety with the characters and you don't really realise you have absorbed every single one until it releases. It's exceptionally clever writing.

That's one of my criticisms though. It knows it's clever. It oozes clever. It didn't bother me too much as I personally felt it backed most of it up (although crash courses in ancient Greek history kinda gets me going). But even I felt like it was self indulgent every now and then. I can see this would piss some people off.

Also. I found it incredibly unbelievable how incredibly "likeable" some of the characters were. I am sorry, but they weren't. They were dicks. And the fact you have to tell me over and over again how much people actually liked so and so, backs up my point more than yours. Don't tell me for a page how ridiculously sexist, racist, homophobic, leeching and parasitic someone is and then say "but everyone liked him" repeatedly. No. I bet a lot of people didn't like him. And I bet a lot of them were wondering like me why everyone was so worried and invested in him. Bah. Just wasn't overly believeable. Small part of the story, but enough to irk.

These things aside, I really enjoyed the read. I like books I can't predict. I like reasonably clever books (even when they slightly think they are cleverer than they are). If you haven't read Donna Tartt before, I would recommend her. I am keen to read her other books.


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Hounded

Image sourced from here
I have found my catnip.

My nearest and dearest will remember when I dreamt of running off to Cambridge and doing the incredibly useless but oh so interesting Bachelor of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies. Imagine that, with a sprinkling of my Greek and Roman classics classes, a dash of my Religion and Ritual in India anthropology course, a liberal dose of my many years of bible studies, Christian and Catholic upbringings and education, and the first year Religion course in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Add on top of that a hot, Irish druid, a "talking" Irish wolfhound, a slightly sarcastic tone, and an inability to take itself seriously.

See. Catnip.

The book introduces us to Atticus O'Sullivan. He is a 2100 year old druid who is living in Phoenix, Arizona. He runs an occult bookshop and cafe, and likes fish and chips at the Irish pub down the road. He's hanging out there because after running around the world for many centuries, he's settled in the furthest place he can find from the Irish god he annoyed several centuries ago. But as all these things go, that doesn't last for long.

The book cannot be taken seriously. I've read complaints from people saying it was silly and they were disappointed at that fact. Why on earth would you get grumpy at that?  I can understand picking up a book about a druid who's lived for millennia and is hiding out in America, interacting with gods and goddesses and faey and witches and anything else that comes through his door, and thinking it was a serious piece of literature (actually, I can't in case you missed the sarcasm). But if you did, I am pretty sure you would notice early and could adjust your expectations to enjoy it.

It's fluff. It is incredibly enjoyable, laugh out loud funny, fluff. The mythology I know is pretty well researched though. Even the Slavic stuff (Zoryas this time, unfortunately no Rusalka). So you know, you could learn something in it as well. But if people want to waste their time getting grumpy, then far be it from me to stop them. However. I think you should read it and I think you should enjoy it for being silly. I know I am, I've already bought the next 4 in the series.


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Image sourced from here
I just spent 20 mins trying to explain what happens in this book. I can't. It sounds wooden, repetitive. This happens, then this, then this. In fact, a lot happens in this book. So many things. Finding cats, soldier's stories of war in China, Mongolia and Siberia, marriage break ups, psychics and spiritual healers, wells, 16 year olds in bikinis, wind-up birds, wigs. This book is 600 pages of the inexplicable.

In fact, I found myself halfway through the book and having no clue of what was going on, and where we were going. But I didn't care. Murakami is such a beautiful and lyrical storyteller I was happy for him to keep on taking me. I wasn't worried if I found myself at the end of the book and had no understanding of what had occurred, as the journey you were taken on was enough.

Luckily for me, I felt things got wrapped up at the end. I felt, unlike a few other reviews I have read, that I understood what had happened and that all the loose threads had been gathered together in an ending. Which is great, because I didn't have high hopes for the ending. I had heard that Murakami is not known for great endings. So I was pleasantly surprised. The other thing I have heard again and again about him, is his not particularly great sex scenes. I am not sure if that is a problem of translation, or if they are known in the Japanese as being oddly written as well. I think I had read one of his in the past that had been nominated for the Bad Sex award which was particularly appalling. So again, I was prepared for the worst and it was just normal bad, not terribly bad. Sex scenes are just hard to write well I have decided.

But these small hesitations aside, and then after dealing with my realisation of been lost, albeit pleasantly lost, in the book, it was another wonderful Murakami experience. I am glad I enjoyed one of his more fantastical books as much as his more realistic Norwegian Wood (seeing I have another four of his books on my shelf). I can see him cementing himself on to my favourites list.


Monday, 25 August 2014

Home again.


And that's my last book on the original list I made for my Around the World trip. I read 54 books, well 51 read cover to cover and abandoned 3. I visited 53 countries around every continent, besides Antarctica. According to my little map on my list page, I have visited 26% of the countries in the world. Kind of throws it into perspective really when you realise that you have only visited a quarter of the countries, let alone scratched the surface of all the different cultures in the world.

Some of these books I have loved with every part of me, and suffered huge book hangovers after finishing. Others have been thrown across the room in disgust. One has even been turned into Christmas decorations as I decided it didn't deserve to be a book anymore. I have worked in a hospital in Ethiopia, visited another planet where the dominant culture is Caribbean, gone whale hunting in 1920s in the Faroe Islands, lived with an exile in Iceland in 1635, got involved in the most insane hockey game I have ever heard of with a family of Maoris, and solved murders in medieval Italy, 1970s Solomon Islands and modern day Denmark and Greenland, just to name a few of my adventures. I have also learnt I am not very tolerant of self-indulgent, old men who think they are incredibly smart or attractive or both, no matter what culture they come from. Particularly when they are neither.

Was it all worthwhile? Overwhelmingly yes. I do believe this is something that everyone should do. Maybe not 52 books at one go (who am I kidding, I got side tracked all over the place, including with other around the world books not on this list. That's why it's taken me 2.5years). Maybe in chunks of 5 or as you feel like it or one every few months. But we need to challenge ourselves to expose ourselves to different ways of telling stories and different styles and genres. But also it's a wonderful way of learning about different cultures, religions, political systems, even languages. And as literature helps you empathise and understand, I think this would do wonders for helping us to understand and empathise with other cultures in the real world.

Australia particularly, as much as we say we are a multicultural society, we are very sheltered in our exposure to other cultures that aren't within our own society and our own constructs.We should be encouraging everyone to read books from outside our own Anglo way of viewing things (including wanting nice, tight, wrapped up endings. Apparently that doesn't happen much in other cultures' writings), and to blow our minds a little. The world is so huge, and the least we can do is explore it from our armchair. I'll definitely be continuing my travels, so come join me.

From the Land of Green Ghosts - #53

Image sourced from here
Growing up, I knew of the country Burma. I knew of Aung San Suu Kyi and that it was terrible she was locked up in her house. I knew Burma was a dictatorship, and depending who you talked to, the word "communist" was thrown around now and then. And... that's about it.

So after my fail of a read for Burma earlier in the tour, I really wanted to make sure I read a book that taught me something about the country. So when someone in our Around the World group suggested a book written by a member of the Padaung tribe, widely known as the tribe where some women have brass rings lengthening their necks, I had to read it.

What we get is a beautiful, slightly poetical, incredibly South East Asian account of Pascal's life. We start with his life in the tribal hills with the Padaung, looking at the beautiful mix of missionary Catholicism with animist, Buddhist and tribal beliefs. Then his transition to seminary school in the city, to University student in Mandalay. You get a wonderful insight of the incredibly remote village boy changing to a city dweller.

This is where the story starts to change a bit from the usual coming of age story we are used to. While in university in the 1980s, Pascal is involved in the student uprising and demonstrations against the dictatorship. In the first third of the book, we had been given insights what it was like living under the regime, their propaganda and their whims and how this affected the Burmese. In the 80s, some students and monks protested against the regime and some people were shot. Then more protested, and more were shot, and so on and so forth. Then we have Aung San Suu Kyi enter on this wave of unrest and talk about democracy, and provided a united front to the people.

Pascal takes a while to come around to the movement and cause, but ends up being pursued by the regime. He ends up as a fugitive in the jungle, with other rebels who have been fighting the government for years with different causes, living on the Thai border. Eventually, after all of this, he gets rescued by a Don of English from a Cambridge college whom he met briefly in Mandalay before the trouble, and granted permission to travel to the UK and study English at Cambridge.

It's a book of contrasts in a way. Tribal verses city. Fugitive verses complying citizen. Seminary student verses other ways of life. Burmese verses UK. I must say it's the last contrast that does make me feel a bit ill. He talks about the way of living after he is rescued and it makes me sick with the extravagance compared to the poverty not only in the next country, but within Thailand. Having been there in the last year or so, it's apparent how much we have compared to every day Thais, let alone people who's entire country and economic status has be completely destroyed and devalued in the nation next door.

But this astonishment and even understandable bitterness is not displayed at all, if it is there, even when he talks about times of despair and depression. The book has this air of gratitude about it. Gratitude for being alive at all. For surviving childhood. For getting a chance at education. For being rescued. For having a chance a handful of his fellow countrymen have ever been offered in a foreign country. And I think that is the takeaway from this book. You should read it and understand the story of this country we all know little about, and the diverse cultures and traditions within it. Read it and be grateful that you are in a place where you can read these stories, that you are healthy, have means and education, and overall are safe. We are so very lucky for that.


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Seven Houses - #52

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You know when you find a book with a really interesting premise. One that makes you think, if this works it could be great, but if not... Yeah... This book is the example of it not working.

This book is a family saga over roughly 100 years in Turkey. It follows the grandmother, through to the granddaughter, but looking at everyone in between and beyond. What it tries to do is to tell the story through the eyes of the houses. Which would be interesting, if it did it. Or was consistent. It was neither. It would be thrown in sometimes at the beginning of the chapter if it was remembered. Otherwise it carried on as an omnipotent narrator, but threw the building card in now and then. And then ignored it completely and discussed things there was no fricking way a building a couple of kilometres back could observe. It was haphazard, sloppy and badly executed.

Also, as I am pedant and such. There were 5 houses. Not seven. We went back to two.

Maybe, if the characters were interesting it would be forgivable that you forgot the premise you named your book after. Beauty Queens are not interesting to me though. Sorry. I maybe a failure to my gender, but primping and preening to be beautiful is fucking boring and a waste of my time in real life, let alone reading it for a while. Even if it is one small part of the story, boring, snoring, doring...

Also, maybe I had a really sheltered childhood. I mean, I had brothers, and boys on the street I played with every day, but we never had the need to show each other our bits every five seconds. I am sure we did and went, well that's odd, and moved on. What is with the overt sexualisation of children in every second book I read? I understand that teenagehood is a western construct. I understand there is a thin line between kids and adults in many cultures. I understand that a lot of kids in many cultures around the world live in the same room as their parents sex life.

But what is the need for any book not written in a western or Anglo background for sexualising children in the first few pages? Is it to shock me into another culture? Coz cheers, got that, not completely fucking stupid. Is it something I was incredibly sheltered from? Was everyone else as children humping anything that walked along? If so, I stand corrected. Or was she trying to make a point about a repressed sexual society? I don't know, but it grated me (obviously) whatever she was planning. And this is not about the obvious child sexual abuse case. This annoyed me before that story, at least that was explainable and understandable.

As a family saga, it wasn't horrible. It interested me a little in what was going on, and the family at large. I assume it gave me some insight into Turkish society, or probably more accurately, a Turkish diaspora's or immigrant to another country's opinion of Turkey. Overall a big Meh from me. It wasn't terrible, but if it wasn't for the challenge I read it for, I wouldn't have finished it.





Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Name of the Wind

Image sourced from here.
I feel like I am doing myself a disservice if I don't talk about this book, Lexx has been raving about this book for years. We tend to appreciate the same books, but it is rare we love the same books. So I listened to his ravings and carried on. I learnt to love Pat Rothfuss in my own way through Geek and Sundry and for being a genuinely good guy on the internet, particularly standing up for women in general society, but also in sci fi, fantasy and general geekery sub culture.

So for all these reasons, I read him. And I recommend others do the same. The first thing that hits you about this book is the storytelling. From the second page, I was hooked. There is something about how this man writes that is mesmerising. You may not be entirely sure what's going on or if you are interested, but his turns of phrase and way of putting things sucks you in.

It not just the storytelling, which again is brilliant. But the characters (just say the word Bast, seriously) are incredibly complex, believable, very likeable, or all of the above.

To be honest, I enjoyed the first part of the story, then I felt it dragged for a while Kvothe was in the city. But I was waiting for the hints of interesting that I had been promised. And to be honest, it honestly nearly lost me in this point, but I hung around for the promise of something bigger. Once we hit the Univeristy though, I was entranced. I loved the story. That was what I was interested in. That institutional way of teaching, particularly magic, in big castles and libraries. I mean, really, where do I sign?

It was very much a first part of a series. People have been annoyed by that, and I can understand that if you read the first book years ago, but now days I don't think you can start reading it without knowing it's part one. The bitching is invalid. What it does make me want to do is to run off and read the second one now, but I shall wait until the third is out. But I will say that if you haven't read it, and want a wonderful novel to whisk you along with it's storytelling, this is something you should read.


Monday, 30 June 2014

All This Belongs to Me

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This has taken me several nights to write this. Mainly as I get started googling Mongolia and can't stop.

I got gifted this book by two very special friends. Interestingly it was from my Czech friends by a Czech writer, but I got no Czech while I read this book. I was expecting a glimmer or two of Prague or somewhere similar and then a dive into the deepest and darkest Mongolia. But on that front I was disappointed

What I was I was thrown into, and then stayed, was into the lives of a family living in the shadow of the Red Mountain as they called it. I'm not sure exactly the population, but thanks to wiki, I can tell you how many livestock animals live in the area. Kind of shows what is the most important thing in these peoples lives. Who cares about how many people there are, they all are stuffed without livestock.

We are introduced to a family living in a ger (yurt) under these mountains, which includes 4 daughters, no sons. This is an element of tension already in the family, but add in that the two middle daughters seem to be products of infidelity (given away really by different racial characteristics), and this makes for a happy family of 7 (grandma's there too) in a small tent. The book is then told in 6 parts, 4 by 3 of the sisters, 1 by the mother, and 1 by a daughter of one of the sisters.

It's a fascinating story really. You have the life on the land in the family ger, the girls being sent off to socialist state boarding school for nomadic kids (compulsory I have just learnt. Due to this policy they pretty much got rid of illiteracy!), some of the girls moving to the capital city and dealing with an incredibly different world, and the challenges they and their family have with this cultural change.

There is so much change occurring in the this book. Socialism to capitalism. Traditional culture to modernity. Rural to urban. And then other underlying problems tied to the above such as poverty and alcoholism. It's a thin book (under 200pp) but it is full of issues.

I loved learning about the culture (hence the constant googling). I have had a fascination with Mongolia since I was a little kid. People living in tents in high mountains and freezing conditions or deserts, moving around whenever they wish. For an urban aussie kid, this was a magical place. You really feel the remote landscape while in the family home, which is impressive to convey the feeling of remoteness while focusing on a tent with 7ish people crammed inside. Again, as with a few books I've read lately, none of the family were instantly likeable. And I feel this is what let the book down. I just needed someone to engage with, and that was lacking. And for me, that's what I need to take a good book, to an amazing one.


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Children of Men

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First up, I can't get my head around the science of this book. I don't think that was the point at all. The author had an idea, and then built the story up around that idea. What happens to our world if we just stop reproducing. Not by choice, we just stop. How would that fundamentally change our society? How would we act? What would we care about? Really interesting premise, mass sterility. However, I can't get my head around that basic biological fact.

But one scientific problem is dealable. Unlike previous reads where all science seems to be completely and utterly thrown out the window. Here is this problem, can we deal with it and move on? Especially seeing it's not dealt with in detail, just as a thing we know about? Answer is yes. I could move on.

And I am glad I did. PD James' storytelling is great. I really do like her writing. She just has that style of writing that draws you in, envelops you and makes you feel safe. Which is a weird feeling when she is telling you about the dictatorship that has taken over the United Kingdom, or the state enforced "suicides" of the old and demented (interestingly enough, in the idyllic, seaside village where I visited my friend doing her gap year. The school is mentioned by name), or you know, the mass extinction of your species. But don't worry too much dear, have a cup of tea and a biscuit. It completely suits the book though, with an ever ageing population with no children to replace it.

While there are flashes of brilliance in this book, like the storytelling, or moments within the story, I wasn't overly won over. I liked the dictator, even though he had a weird authoritarian system in place. But there were elements of that regime that I understood and even vaguely agreed with (although implementing them would be a completely different thing all together). I didn't overly like our protagonist. I didn't buy the "love" story at all. And I must admit there was a whole element of "saviour" that I found a little odd.

The book took an interesting idea and explored it slightly. Then whacked it together with a lot of other thoughts. Some of them worked for me, some didn't. Glad I have read it, but I won't be bashing down anyone's doors forcing them to do the same.


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Knots and Crosses

Image by me.
I've been meaning to read a Rebus novel for a very long time. Ian Rankin has almost grown to mythic proportions in my world over the last 9 years. At uni, a friend of mine (who went on to be a housemate and so much more) wrote her Honours thesis on these books. For most of that year, I couldn't for the life of me actually work out what her thesis was about. I thought I was missing something. But it has ended up sinking in. For one whole year of her life, she wrote about and studied Scottish murder mysteries and crime fiction. I also have realised I chose the wrong degrees.

So I eventually thought I needed to work out what all the fuss what about and got myself the first Rebus novel. This book did read like a first novel in many ways. Every now and then there was a clunky turn of phrase or a little logic jump in the plot. But if I had written this as my first novel, I would have been incredibly happy.

Mainly because it does exactly what I as a reader want my crime fiction to do. Give me an interesting protagonist with a good background story to fill in the down times of the book, who tracks down clever nasty people and stops them from being nasty again. Rebus seems to have buckets and buckets of back story as well (yay for troubled, broody, European policemen. Where would us crime readers be without them?).

The bonus to this book is that this is all happening in Edinburgh so the book is full of Scots, and also has that absolutely beautiful city as a backdrop. I am so fortunate to have gone there before reading this book. Rankin turns the city into an inseparable part of the novel, like a character really, that just adds this other dimension to the story.

It's a short novel (I read it in a day), and a pretty good read as an introduction to a series ... 18?... books long. I will be revisiting Edinburgh and paying another visit to Inspector Rebus, without a doubt.


Thursday, 5 June 2014

Oryx and Crake

Imaged sourced from here
I don't really like horror books. I find them unrealistic, usually funny and not very scary. But what does scare me are believable dystopias. Ones I can see us hurtling or even just crawling towards. Political decisions leading us towards a dictatorship we don't recognise. Reliance on technology or medicine that leads to dependence and thus control. Censoring to the point of lack of free thought, or lack of an educated population to challenge authority. Completely and utterly ignoring the looming ecological disaster that is coming towards you from a stubborn state of denial. Each and everyone one of these statements could in someway be applied to Australia at this point in time, and it's terrifying to think what could just be around the corner from us. But I love reading them, because if you don't think about what could be coming, how do you possibly avoid it? (Besides building a bunker in your backyard of course).

Oryx and Crake is one of these kind of books. It's completely perturbing as you can see it all happening. Everything is rather plausible. Of course as with most scifi, there are a few scientific jumps, but not to the realms of unlikely. And most terrifyingly, even if you sit and think on it for hours and hours, you're not quite sure how to, of if we could, stop it.

This was a very welcome surprise. I have had mixed experiences with Margaret Atwood. I enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale for the same reasons as this book. Lexx has read it too, and wasn't as taken with it as me. I do wonder whether there is something particularly chilling about that book that you can only fully get as a woman. The lurking misogyny lingering at the fringes (and in the spotlight more often than we'd like) of our culture. All it needs is a catalyst...  I have also read The Blind Assassin, which I did not enjoy much at all and honestly wish I could get the time back I spent reading that novel.

As you will have guessed though, this book fell squarely on the good side of Atwood's books. I did feel though that there was an awful lot of backstory while I was reading it. I wasn't sure how much of Jimmy's childhood was really relevant, or was it just Atwood trying to build up a society. At the end of the book I definitely felt more of it was relevant than I had thought while reading the first three quarters of the book. Not meaning to spoil at all, just saying, if you are struggling with this too, stick with it.

The book is a pretty substantial rollercoaster through the emotions. Anger, disgust, sympathy, empathy, outrage, heartbreak. What it isn't, is a hardcore scifi, and that's what I love. I am more about the sociological, psychological scifis. That gets me going. However, if you are all about the SCIENCE! in your science fiction and want to move into the softer elements of scifi, this isn't a bad option as there is a heap of biology and logic discussions to "ease" you in. And terrify you.


Sunday, 1 June 2014

Fingersmith

Image sourced from here
Sarah Waters is a genius. A twisty, little genius. She has this ability to lead you along a story, where you are all comfortable with how it's going, and how it got there. But then she completely spins you around without warning. Everything you relied on is wrong, and yet makes complete sense just like the story you believed in the first place. And you feel so goddamn stupid that you never, ever saw it coming. But it's okay, you'll pay attention now, you've worked out her ruse. Then BAM! She does it again! And again and again... genius.

Fingersmith, from the three books I have read of hers so far, is the most adept at this. Possibly because the subject matter lends itself more easily to this. The book focuses on two characters playing a con on a rich, young woman in order to access her fortune. The list of characters feature con artists, forgers and petty thieves. It's a clever concept and one Waters executes fantastically.

What I will remark on though, is that compared to Affinity and Tipping the Velvet, the sense of place is not as developed in this book. In her other books I almost felt that London was a character in her books, but not so much this time. Mind you, with so much else going on, this may not have been such a bad thing.

I'm sorry for the vague review. I just feel like if I discuss the book in more depth I will accidentally spoil something for you. I also do feel like I have hit a bit of Sarah Waters fatigue. I tend not to read the same author in a row very often, or even the same genre back to back. And I have read 3 of her books in 6 months, 2 within one month, due to group reads and buddy reads that came up and I didn't want to turn the opportunity down. I wonder if I had read it later if it would have been a 5 star for me? All speculation, but still a brilliant read any way.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Neverwhere

Image sourced from here
Neverwhere is one of those books I never really want to review. Just because I really do not think I could possibly do the book justice.

Disclaimers out of the way, you probably already know I am a big Neil Gaiman fangirl. Also, I own the TV series that Gaiman had originally written, so I knew vaguely what was going to happen. Gaiman was asked to write a TV series, to which he wrote Neverwhere. However, he apparently found the experience incredibly frustrating as the producers and directors kept on cutting out parts of the dialogue and the story. He then wrote a book, that got played with by publishers to sell better. So this version of Neverwhere, is the story he wanted to tell.

The story tell us of Richard who lives in London, and an encounter he has with a girl who appears out in front of him from nowhere on a busy London street, bleeding and begging for help. Much to his high achieving, social climbing girlfriend's protests, he helps the girl and hides her in his flat. This action embarks Richard on a weird and wonderful adventure that timid Richard never would have ever dreamed about, through a world that exists underneath London, London Below.

The whole concept of London Below is fantastic. The thought that there is a parallel city to London Above (or what we would just call London) is actually not so hard to imagine. The city has been reshaped and rebuilt on itself for 2000 years. Each time that happens, more tunnels, corridors and structures get forgotten. The forgotten Tube stations are a great example. Spaces that are intricately built but not needed any more. Not only that bits of the city itself gets forgotten, but the inhabitants of London can get forgotten as well. In fact it's a way we refer to homeless and destitute people already.

The other beautiful thing about this book is it turns the city into a character. Whether that is the turning of places and landmarks into actual characters like Old Bailey or the Angel Islington, or turning them into the literal meanings of their names eg. Knightsbridge or Shepherds Bush, but also the city itself is an overwhelming presence in the book. It's an entity that follows you the entire time.

I must say I probably loved it more as I spent time in London last year so it was all nice and fresh in my mind again. But I am still slightly torn whether American Gods is still my favourite Gaiman. I think it is, but only by a rat's whisker.


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Ice Princess

Image sourced from here
Blind alleys. That is the takeaway of this book for me. If I hear about one more fucking blind alley I am going to punch a kitten. Or a sloth. Or whatever it is the internet finds cute today. Now I have that off my chest, let's continue.

The Ice Princess is my kind of junk food read. It involves murder and crime solving. It's not incredibly taxing. You know (although it's Nordic so god knows really) the good guys will (might) win by the end of the book. You can just tune out and get taken for the ride.

The benefit to this book is again the setting. It's set in a Swedish seaside village in winter, so it's pretty empty, almost deserted, except for the locals. And cold (I believe -15 was mentioned in the middle of the day!?! My Aussie body can not begin to comprehend that) and dark and ominous. People were fishing in that. Maddness! I just wanted to wrap myself up in a blanket while reading, and that included the time while I was sitting in the 22 degree sun in the garden, and really what else do you want for a murder mystery? The sense of setting and place were fantastic.

But that's kinda where the fantastic ended. The rest was okay. The writing was okay, with some bits mentioned above that just annoyed the hell out of you. I was wondering if that was the translation, but guessing from my convo with my favourite Swede the other day, the writing sounds like it was worse in the original.

Then, oh my god, the weight issues and body image in this book. The main character, who by the way, is not at all the main character you expect when you pick up the first book in the Patrik Hedström books. Patrik is introduced but our main character is Erica. Erica tells you how many weight watchers points are in every meal for the first half of the book. Erica freaks out that on the morning of a date with Patrik, a bit after her parents have died suddenly so she's had a few other things on her mind, that she as a tall, curvy Swedish woman has hit 150 pounds (68kgs) and debates calling the whole thing off. Now, I do not know her body shape or whatever of course, but to me, that sounds completely normal for what I have in my head from the descriptions. She sounds like a brainwashed moron. After the particularly bad scene she never mentions it again, which while welcome, seems in some ways like the author forgot about a part of her personality.

It was vaguely predictable. I was thinking, what it needs now, is one more murder, and blah would be a good choice. I turned the page, and blah was murdered. But I didn't pick the killer. And I don't know why. Was it because I was ill when I read the last 40pp or was it just a good twist? Unsure at this point of time.

Look, if you like murders and crime, and you want a pretty straight forward book with a great setting and a cheesy romance, pick it up. I'm umming and ahhing between 3-3.5 stars and I'm heading for the latter as it's exactly what I needed at this point in time. Apparently the series gets a lot better. It's her first book, so not entirely surprised. The promise of that has me heading towards the carrot I must say, because if she gets her shit together she could be fantastic.


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Affinity

Image sourced from here 
Sticking with the gothic theme for a bit. Affinity is a book I actually hadn't heard that much about. But after loving Tipping the Velvet so much last year, the last time I was at the secondhand bookshop I picked it up. Which was fortuitous as there were a few other Sarah Waters options, but this was the one chosen as a group read for April.

The book is another Victorian London historical fiction. We meet Margaret, the eldest, single sister in her family, as she starts her first day as a Lady Visitor to the infamous Millbank prison. Millbank is not a particularly nice place. At least by this stage, the worst prisoners in England were sent to another prison in London, but this was still not a nice place to end up at all.

Inside Millbank, Margaret meets a prisoner called Selina, who is a spiritualist. We all know how fascinated the Victorians were with the occult, spirits, magic and the like, so it isn't a surprise that Margaret is fascinated with Selina and her abilities, and ends up being drawn in deeper and deeper.

Right, so, we can all guess by now that I am a skeptic. In my experience these kind of people prey on people desperate for a message from someone they throw tells and information into the medium's lap. HOWEVER, the disclaimer for this book is that I wanted it to be all true for the story. I  am never one to let facts get in the way of a good story. Unless you swear to me something is a scientific fact and it is blatantly wrong. That pisses me off. Otherwise, I'm all for a bit of fun.

And while I wouldn't describe this book as fun, and while I couldn't completely disengage my disbelief this book drew me along quicker than I would have thought. And talk about a twisty ending!! I was hanging around 3 stars until I started hitting the twists. I didn't like it as much as Tipping the Velvet. I thought it may have been her first book, but looks like it was the second. And then it struck me, that was the problem with this book. It had a lot of second album syndrome to it. It wasn't bad, just felt a bit rushed and not quite as thought through as that debut.

A short review I know, but still a fun and surprising Victorian, gothic read.



Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Shadow of the Wind - #51

Image sourced from here
I've been in a little bit of a reading rut lately. I'm not sure why, I just haven't really had the energy. I feel rather sad that I fell into it while reading this particular book. Luckily, this book threw me a rope or some other sort of laboured metaphor and helped me out of it. But I think unfortunately my opinion of this book suffered for it.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this book immensely. Dark, gothic, mystery with hints of sordid pasts tied to civil war, mixed in with books, libraries and bookstores. All with a pinch of Spanish passion and melodrama behind it all.

We meet Daniel at 10 years old living in Barcelona. His Mum is dead and it's just him and his Dad. His Dad owns a bookshop that they live above. One night, Daniel's Dad takes him to an amazing library/depository called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel can choose one book to take with him, as long as he does everything he can to protect the book while it's in his possession. He chooses the book The Shadow of the Wind and this choice embarks Daniel on a lifetime of obsession and discovery about the author and the book.

What I found confusing, that may be too strong a word, disorientating about the book was I kept on reading the dates, but the book itself kept on convincing me we were in a story set about 100 years earlier. 1850 say, instead of 1950. This was probably the gothic aspect to the storytelling honestly. But I was always a little surprised when they mentioned telephones or cars again. This was particularly so when at some stage in the book we visit a convalescent home. I felt I was back in Bedlam during it's not so pleasant heyday, not 1950s Spain. However, the book did make me brush up on my Spanish modern history, trying to work out who was who and who hated who and what not.

It was a great read. I think I missed some things with the 3 weeks it took for me to get through the first third of the book (yes, I took longer to read it and probably didn't pay attention. It's been that kind of month), but once I hit that point, the book took on a momentum of it's own. And I had to wake up and pay attention as I would get left behind, and also because I wanted to be swept along with it. The last third of the book was just constantly punctuated with "Oh my god!" or sharp intakes of breaths. Just when I thought it couldn't top itself, it would surprise me again.

This rating is an honest "it's not you, it's me" one. Maybe one day I will pick it up again and give it all the time, love and attention it so greatly deserves. I will definitely check out it's sequels though.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Rook

This is an exceedingly clever book. In an nutshell, this book is like Neil Gaiman and Jasper Fforde had a beautiful, beautiful Aussie love child.

Daniel O'Malley is a Canberran author. I somehow, and am still not sure how, managed to score a copy off his Mum (who I actually don't know). But now that disclosure is out of the way, in case I wasn't clear before, this is an absolutely fantastic book.

The Rook is an urban fantasy set in London. We start the book meeting Myfanwy (pronounced Miffany by the way, not Mif-fan-way) Thomas, the protagonist, in a park, in the rain, surrounded by a whole heap of dead guys, wearing gloves. Oh, and she can't remember who she is. In terms of beginnings, not a bad one. We go on to find that Myfanwy knew this was going to happen and has left new Myfanwy lots of info in the form of letters and folders to help her along, and make a choice about her new, inherited life.

This sounds like it could be a terrible way of disclosing information to the reader. But it's not. It's bloody well executed. We find out the lore and background to this urban fantasy and the characters as we need it, in an unjarring way. It bombards you with the info you need in an accessible and believable way. *THIS* is something incredibly hard to do, and honestly a lot of fantasy and sci fi fails at. The amount of times I have tuned out the 3 chapters of mind numbingly boring history of a world in fantasy or sci fi.

That's one element of the cleverness. Another is the world. It is well thought out, plausible, and just fun. I mean, supernatural powers, secret service, tied up in history. What's not to love? But on top of this, the world building is fantastic, and actually rather unique. And that is possibly the highest compliment that one could give an urban fantasy these days.

The most important for me, is this book is fricking hilarious. It is rare that a book in this genre is able to poke so much fun at itself, and everything around it. The humour is just leaking out of it. Whether it is his Australian command of a metaphor or a simile (there is a metaphor or a simile for everything if you try), or his poking fun of Americans (love you all, but some of his lines made me snort beverages out my nose) or any other nationality, or just sarcastic observations in general, the guy is funny.

And it all just made the book a pleasure to read. Action, intrigue and funny. This is my point about the Neil Gaiman and Jasper Fforde Aussie love child. He takes the elements that I love of both authors; world building, story, action, intrigue, and wit. And puts an Aussie spin on it that you would only notice if you are paying attention.

So I know I may be a bit behind the times, but read the book. I applaud and take my hat off to him. I know he is writing a sequel at the moment, and I hope it lives up to the first book. I'll just be watching jealously in the meantime as you all read this one for the first time.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Name of the Rose - #50

Image sourced from here
What complete and utter self-indulgent wankery.

That is my opinion in one sentence. Feel free to stop reading now, as that is pretty much the long and the short of it. Eco seems so desperate to prove to everyone how incredibly clever he is, even though he is a leading academic in his field of semiotics as far as I can tell. So with this incredible insecurity shining through, he takes a wonderful premise for a story, but is incapable of keeping his hand off it for two pages at a time, so we get 500pp of "look at me! look at me!!!!".

I am really, REALLY annoyed. I saved this book for close to the end of my Around the World trip, as it was supposed to be wonderful. I kept reading even though I didn't enjoy it at all, as people were all "I didn't like it except for the end WHICH WAS AMAZING!" It's not. I promise it is not at all. I picked who the mastermind was 100 pages from the end as I was so bored and skipping half the pages of blatant symbolism that us-normal-peons-are-too-stupid-to-understand-but-look-how-wonderfully-smart-Eco-is, and thought I would have some fun picking the most preposterous person. Hmmmm.

Also, if you can't speak Latin, you're kinda stuffed. Because even though the book is translated from Italian to English, they decided not to translate the Latin. Because everyone speaks Latin these days. Uh huh. I thought this would be okay. I thought it would be fun and I might learn something, so I translated the first couple of phrases on post it notes, in case I needed to translate a couple of things later. This got old after about 30 pages. Especially as the monks talk more, as apparently, half their speech has to be in Latin. I know they did speak Latin, but translate it in a translation ffs. As you keep reading you can't help feeling that everyone knows more than you. Later we throw German into the mix too, because, you know, we can.

This would be a forgivable, although annoying, problem except intersperse the Latin with:

  • Complicated, unnecessary most of the time, obscure Catholic politics of the 12th, 13th and 14th Centuries. Long, long, long sections that discuss which weird cults (which are only cults when people declare them cults, and that can change Pope to Pope) hate who and did what; 
  • Weird Catholic/medieval symbolism of Bible stories (thank god I've read that cover to cover a few times) and then odd, mutated, mythological creatures on steroids that are described in EXCRUCIATING detail and never mentioned again;
  • Constant ranting about how women are disgusting, evil, not good for anything, and we can't work out why God created them. I get that was normal Catholic dogma in the 14th Century. However, we are talking about how if a woman is attractive and you notice her and are attracted to her, she is obviously a witch as why would you look at her otherwise and it's all her pact with the Devil. It was all too close to my own experiences and the teaching I was subjected to within the church around 2000. That just makes me feel ill, that in 6-7 centuries, in some groups/sections of Christianity, that hadn't changed that much; and
  • Ridiculously long and complicated (half in Latin) philosophical debates about life, the universe, everything, logic and rhetoric. When they started debating the philosophical merits of unicorns (which they believe existed) for several pages, there were audible screams.
I can't for the life of me work out why 38% of ratings are 5 stars. And another 36% are 4 stars. The only possible explanation I can come up with is that reading this book lures you into a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Or it's the psychological phenomena they have observed, that occurs when you do something for tenuous reasons and little reward, you convince yourself you liked it, enjoyed it and chose to do it, so your brain can cope with why you did it in the first place. Eg. you eat a bug for a monetary reward. But after you do, you only get given 20 cents as your reward. There is a disconnect between the reward and your action, it's not equal compensation. You then convince yourself so strongly that you did it because you wanted to, not because of the money. It stops a psychological meltdown. It seems like a plausible explanation for this book's ratings.

I just felt the entire time Eco was having a pissing competition with someone, and I didn't know who. Other academics? Look how good I am, I can write academic papers and best selling novels? Or just the world? All I know is that I got dragged into one insecure man's willy jostling and I feel incredibly deceived and a little dirty about the whole thing.



Monday, 24 February 2014

The Hunger Games

Image sourced from here
I'm not sure about reviewing this book. I mean, why bother really when all that could be said, has been said. To the point of nauseum. But I guess it is worth jotting my few thoughts down.

I have managed to avoid The Hunger Games hype. I only found out about the books a few weeks before the movie came out. With Harry Potter and Twilight it was impossible to ignore. But while just as popular in many ways, it was possible for me to read this book knowing only really three things about it:

1. The main character was a girl with a ridiculous name.
2. There are boys and girls sent ever year to an arena style set up to fight to their deaths.
3. SPOILER The main character and SPOILER the boy has to survive as I saw them in trailers for the other movies

It was a good book. Fast paced. Believable dystopia. Competent female protagonist reasonably in charge of her emotions (well, until it turned into a YA romance).

And that is where it lost the plot. Figuratively but also a little literally. Now don't get me wrong, I do enjoy a love interest and you could understand it most of the time. But when you turn a pretty impressive, hunter, hard arse girl into a simpering girl in love (or "love") I get annoyed. Why do we still think that women (although granted some men too) turn into gushing, snuggling, "Schmoopy" calling, air kiss blowing imbeciles when love comes along? Or more accurately, encourage them to be like that. Hell I know enough of my friends who have done that themselves. Love does not mean you have to give up your sense of agency, people!

To be fair, this book wasn't that terrible about this, just the last couple of chapters. And then the last chapter was just harsh. So the last 3 chapters or so cost it a star. But otherwise, I can see why it's so popular.


Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

Image sourced from here
I've been a fan of Allie Brosh for a while. A friend a few years ago put me on to her website Hyperbole and a Half. I've read it religiously since then. I read all the back catalogue. I spent a friends wedding as an Alot (it made a lot more sense after several bottles of wine and no food available). Completely reasonable in my mind.

Allie is hands down, brilliant. She is a wonderful storyteller, an amazing illustrator (how on earth do you make Paint drawings so emotive?), and has a killer wit. I wish honestly, I was just half as funny as her.

Half of the book is from her website. It's been re-drawn or touched up. But it's the same. But like a familiar friend, who has told you all of their stories before, they are amusing and still make you laugh in places, sometimes before the joke has happened. If you haven't read her website, don't and save it for the book. Then read the other posts that aren't in the book later.

Most of the other parts of the book are funny too. A few are a little filler-y. But I can understand that. Print is less forgiving that web based media in that regard. But a lot of them made me laugh as well.

If you haven't read her before, her depression posts/chapters are heartbreakingly honest and so incredibly real. They have helped so many of us who may not of had depression to finally "get it". For those who have, it has helped them realise that what they feel is not weird, it's normal. If nothing else, she has accidently revolutionised experiencing, understanding and connecting with people with depression. Am I over blowing her horn? Possibly. But I am yet to meet someone who disagrees.

Read it. You'll laugh, you'll possibly cry. You'll definitely be yelling PARP!