Yes, I know it’s a conceit to have an alter ego just to talk about what you’ve been reading but I can’t seem to stop and I have such great pictures of Reading Guy. They make me love him a little bit more every time I look at them. So he is here to stay, or at least until I run out of pictures.
DAZED and CONFUSED does not refer to the books themselves. It refers to my reading choices, which, as you are going to discover, are a bit all over the shop.
The Swiss Family Robinson
Bet you didn’t see that coming. I read this because I have an insatiable appetite for Survivor Lit, and Survivor Viewing – including Survivor the TV show, The Walking Dead, and Bear Gryll’s islands. I stayed with this story up until the halfway point, when I felt it had become completely absurd. I think it was when they were using their pet monkeys to harvest pineapples out of trees. That made me question everything I knew about life, because where I’m from, pineapples are harvested out of the GROUND by pet monkeys. So this book … unintentionally really, really funny. And lest I’m giving you the wrong impression – I did love things about it. I just got a bit tired.
Quick side note: if you are of the writing persuasion and you have been seeking good examples of information drops, this book is full of them. Dad knows EVERYTHING:
‘Indiarubber,’ I replied, ‘or, more properly, caoutchouc, is a milky resinous juice which flows from certain trees in considerable quantities when the stem is purposely tapped. Caoutchouc can be put to many usees, and I am delighted to have it here, as we shall, I hope, be able to make it into different forms; first and foremost, I shall try to manufacture boots and shoes.’
The Princessa: Machiavelli for Women
Yeah, Holy-Shit-Whoa is right. Things are getting serious around here! I read this because I want to take over the world, AND because I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. Not sure I can actually say anything sensible so I won’t try. Parts seemed to resonate with me, but I have no recall on them now, so they obviously didn’t stick. Also, this book made me want to write a Business/Self-Help book that is chock full of parables that make NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. Or maybe that’s just my problem. I don’t speak Parable.
Quick side note: as far as self help goes, if you be needing some, listen to these fantastic podcasts featuring Cheryl Strayed, which I only know about because I have a fantastic editor called Jen Dougherty who tells me such things.
This is the fourth book in the Rephaim series, and the last, so if you haven’t already, GET ON THE TRAIN. Woo woo! What Paula Weston has achieved with this series, in terms of scope and rigour of world building and story, is mind blowing. But the characters are the beating heart of it all. They are so real, and I love, bow down and say thank you to Paula for what she does with female sexuality. I ate this book up so fast it didn’t stand a chance.
Another book with tremendous scope and world building. This time, a mix of the historical and the supernatural. I was drawn to this story because it revisits a place and time that haunts the the Australian literary mind thanks to Ruth Park and a kind of urban mythology existing around the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But what I loved were the women in this story, their desperation and determination. And their power. Complex, layered, impeccably rendered – stretches YA in all the GOOD ways.
Another side note: I lived for a time in Surry Hills, so Justine has enriched that place for me. I did a video once with Melina Marchetta for Chachic’s Book Nook where we visited and checked out old haunts:
Again supernatural, but this time in a contemporary setting. I love Rebecca Lim‘s writing: what she does is utterly unique, with a very Australian sensibility. (For some reason pubs loom large in the national fabric, or maybe that’s just in my mind, because regional Queensland is full of them, operating or otherwise. I was thrilled that part of this story is set within a pub.) The main character, Sophie, is smart and resourceful and real – and has to deal with some truly gritty situations. I’m hoping a series or sequel is planned, but I can’t say more than that without blundering and giving something away. So surprising, so different, so compelling.
Yes, we’re back to left field. I read this as a kid, and I was recently back at Mum’s so I pulled it out again. AND THEN REVERTED TO CHILDHOOD COMPLETELY by largely skimming it for the dirty bits. One thing struck me though – I love the ground Alther covers here: a person’s ability to shed skins. Either prompted by their life choices, or via their lovers.
The Girls from Corona Del Mar
I bought this novel on the strength of this beautiful, funny essay by Rufi Thorpe that made me want to pass it on to every writer I know, published or yet to be, first time around or otherwise. She is such a GOOD WRITER. The first few chapters of her novel crackle with the same electricity. I love the fact she is exploring female friendship, but in a real way, allowing us to see the teeth and schadenfreude. (If you ever read it, then check back in and tell me what you thought.) This mightn’t make sense without the context, but:
‘Lorrie Ann’s a rock star,’ I said, once Franklin had gotten himself a beer and settled down to watch football.
‘Oh dear,’ he said.
Pretty much sums it up. I also applaud Thorpe for writing about birth. I often think that it’s surprising we don’t have more birth stories in our literature, given it’s a pretty major event for those who go through it, whether a good or bad experience.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
I’m not going to compare this one to We Were Liars because I think they’re completely different animals. This is a terrific book. Solid and satisfying and truthful. Brilliant narrative voice. I learned things. My heart ached in recognition. I used to be that girl who wanted to compete with and stick it to the boys.
Okay. I’ve been reading more than that, but my fingers are sore. More later!