A funny, crude, truthful, and touching memoir of Benjamin Law’s Chinese Australian family. I too arrived at this book via a love of Frankie magazine....moreA funny, crude, truthful, and touching memoir of Benjamin Law’s Chinese Australian family. I too arrived at this book via a love of Frankie magazine. A fun read with a lot of heart.(less)
I really wanted to like this, and in places it was really, really good. I have the utmost respect for this man who has the most wonderful way with wor...moreI really wanted to like this, and in places it was really, really good. I have the utmost respect for this man who has the most wonderful way with words and philosophies. The major problem I had with this book was that most of the way I felt as though I was reading through a brain fog – I often found myself reading sentences and passages over again and again and feeling unable to decipher its meaning; part of this problem lay in the translation from French, which often yielded unwieldy, clumsy sentences in English. I think another reason for the fogginess was the long unravelling of his philosophies where they deviated from the action of his memoir, as though he had taken a very long stroll away from the house – his mind had wandered very far, and though I’m sure he knew where he was going I often felt myself lost along the way. But still, I like the idea of his memoirs entwined with the philosophies his experiences upheaved. Unfortunately the overwhelming feeling I am left with having finished these books is relief at having finished them, and frustration at how difficult and often unrewarding they were to read. But that is certainly not to say that they were without merit – some pages contained passages that were gorgeous, philosophies which rang so true, descriptions which sang, and stories delighted. (less)
A sprawling narrative set in post-war Barcelona, following the lives of many meaty characters, through generations and their families, friends, loves,...moreA sprawling narrative set in post-war Barcelona, following the lives of many meaty characters, through generations and their families, friends, loves, heartbreak, corruption and struggles, like a Spanish Dickens. At the heart of the story is Daniel Sempere, a young boy when we first meet him who stumbles across a book, The Shadow of the Wind, at the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and Julián Carax, mysteriously missing author of the book who Daniel comes to idolise and becomes determined to learn more about. It took a bit of time for me to warm to this book, but when the mystery and intrigue was set in motion I began to find my pace and the last half of the book flew by. I love how each character is drawn with such care, given such depth and background. I liked how, try as I might to keep guessing where the story was headed, I never guessed at the real answer until it was staring me in the face. This was a beautifully intelligent and engaging novel, with a gloomy, melancholic tone throughout; although it also did not lack humorous lines, and many brilliantly quotable truths.(less)
Not as good as the first – it seemed even more lacking in some ways – less well-rounded and meaningful, somehow. Lost some charm. Still not getting th...moreNot as good as the first – it seemed even more lacking in some ways – less well-rounded and meaningful, somehow. Lost some charm. Still not getting the supposedly “laugh-out-loud” funniness of the series. Still it was a compelling read and enjoyable enough – a nice light quick read, perfect for reading in bed whilst sick with a cold.(less)
What was this book about? (My first thought upon closing the book). I’m not too sure (and don’t particularly care, either). Dry, convoluted, felt like...moreWhat was this book about? (My first thought upon closing the book). I’m not too sure (and don’t particularly care, either). Dry, convoluted, felt like it never particularly went anywhere. It was confusing. I couldn’t keep track of the characters. It was slow-going, not a very compelling read at all – especially for a suspense novel. I didn’t particularly connect to any of the characters, although I did like the way parts of Smilla and the mechanic were characterized, and especially Isaiah and his relationship with them both. I’m still having trouble piecing the plot together in my mind – I feel like I still haven’t got all the dots connected. Others have loved it and some say they get more out of it upon re-reading – I’m sure that may be true but I just don’t think it would be worth my time. Maybe some of the problems with this book lie in the translation – I don’t know, but I think the book has troubles anyway. Many points seemed stretched to the point of cliché or so it felt false. We also never got Smilla’s leads – what was driving her from one mystery to the next – how was she figuring anything out? I liked the settings, exploring different countries, cultures, and mindsets, and the Danish/Greenlandic relations – though I don’t particularly feel like it necessarily examined that so thoroughly. It did have some good little moments, beauty in the writing or philosophy, and unlike others I actually quite enjoyed the little delve into science fiction at the very end. It showed promise in the beginning, but never really paid off – but not due to the unresolved ending, which I don’t have a problem with – it was just a chore to read, a disappointment. Overall, I’m glad I read it for the experience, and little shards here and there that I enjoyed, but it was a bit like taking a tedious, bewildering journey, and I wouldn’t bother re-reading it.(less)
A dark little set of short stories, but not dark and heavy; rather dark with a mischievously sly grin. The set included recurring themes of gambling,...moreA dark little set of short stories, but not dark and heavy; rather dark with a mischievously sly grin. The set included recurring themes of gambling, people cheating and getting what they deserve (or rather more than they bargained for), and spouses getting even with each other in rather heavy-handed ways. My favourite, I think was Royal Jelly, in which a young baby daughter, listless and losing weight, manages to turn a corner and thrives thanks to the ingenuity of her apiculturist father who mixes royal jelly into her formula. I liked that it was a bit more joyful than the others, not to mention completely bonkers! Creepy, enjoyable, twist-in-the-tale short stories, but they are quick, fun reads rather than anything truly spectacular. My first adult Roald Dahl (bar Going Solo) but I think I prefer his children’s books, and his more whimsical writing.(less)
An interesting, quirky concept - a family living a rather unconventional life at their alligator-wrestling theme park struggle to cope with the loss o...moreAn interesting, quirky concept - a family living a rather unconventional life at their alligator-wrestling theme park struggle to cope with the loss of their mother. It was the promise of a different read that had me seeking out this book, but it fell sadly short of my expectations. The characters were flat and cartoonish, and I found the book as a whole unsatisfying – it felt hollow. I struggled through a long boring middle section where very little happened, followed by an ending that was far too rushed and incomplete.
It read like an ordinary young adult fantasy with a few bits spliced in from a completely different book for shock value – it didn’t mesh. Rather than seeming quirky, it just sat a bit wrong. I felt it straddled the line between fantasy and reality, between childish simplicity and adult concepts rather uncomfortably, in a way that didn’t do justice to either one. In fact I found it rather unsettling the way that some very dark subjects were skimmed over like they hardly mattered – some points of the novel were not at all given the gravitas they deserved.
There is some beautiful writing, there are some great sentences in there, and some really great unique concepts – I liked the swamp setting, the Bigtree museum, the slightly otherworldly feel of the book’s universe. And I liked that it tried something different, but for me it didn’t work.
This graphic novel was a very quick read, and I enjoyed it. An interesting sci-fi read, though its unfolding was far too simplistic – the plot stepped...moreThis graphic novel was a very quick read, and I enjoyed it. An interesting sci-fi read, though its unfolding was far too simplistic – the plot stepped forward with no obstacles – that is, everything seemed far too easy for William, who seemed to know what everything alien was on sight, and he and Danforth didn’t even manage to get lost exploring the massive city. But I liked the sense of pervading horror, and also its slight ridiculousness with giant sightless penguins. (less)
A beautiful, optimistic and very well contained memoir. Bits and pieces repeatedly echoed and wove themselves very neatly throughout the story, but th...moreA beautiful, optimistic and very well contained memoir. Bits and pieces repeatedly echoed and wove themselves very neatly throughout the story, but the repetitions always felt very purposeful and well placed. It was funny, touching and inspiring. This was a very fast read, a real page-turner. Only thing is I wish I hadn’t been spoiled so much by Anh’s promotions of the book – too often whilst reading I’d already heard what was going to happen, and that slightly spoiled my enjoyment in places. However there were still a good smattering of never-before-heard funny moments and one-liners throughout. His parents were a great presence – he never bad-mouthed his dad despite his obvious flaws - you could tell he loved him, accepted his faults and instead focussed on his good qualities – his incredible dynamism and fortitude, and how he had been a loving father. The animal tales felt like passages from My Family and Other Animals, and his dad like an amazing character from Roald Dahl – he definitely had the sparkiness of Danny The Champion of the World’s dad. His mum was so lovely, just incredibly selfless and giving – working herself to the bone to give her children the best life she could. And then on top of that she was so big-hearted she couldn’t not help a stranger in need, despite having so little herself. She always had something to give, to help out, and she fostered that quality in her children, too. I felt like we got a great look into Anh’s life – he didn’t have things come easily much of the time, and has worked incredibly hard to get where he has. The book has a real lightness and optimism – it never gets bogged down in the hardships, but nor does it overly sugar-coat things. His family came to Australia with nothing, made the most of the opportunities they had to build their lives here, and it was so wonderful to read their journey to success. Very inspiring to make the most out of what you have, and to give back and help others, too.(less)
Reminded me very much of Sophia Coppola film – very sparse and lonely, but quite beautiful because (or in spite) of that. This book captured more of a...moreReminded me very much of Sophia Coppola film – very sparse and lonely, but quite beautiful because (or in spite) of that. This book captured more of a feeling of a particular time between two people than Lost in Translation did for me, though. It was sort of on a par with An Education, but cruder. Not really my cup of tea, it was squirmingly disturbing at times, but at the same time it was quite beautiful in the delicacy of its storytelling. In a way it felt quite devoid of feeling and in my head I read it mostly in a monotone, but it spite of that it did have feeling. In some ways it felt very rooted in reality, with relationships between family characters that felt very real; but mostly it had a dreamlike quality – the sense of looking back on a memory of a time that has become slightly hazed over. The character of the dad was written so well, very complex and again felt very rooted in reality. He was incredibly irritating and frustrating, and at times we are compelled to laugh at him as a fool – but you also can’t help but feel quite sorry for him. Martha herself and Mr Booker are quite blank slates; we never really learn much about them as people. The book takes place in a time of Martha’s life where her life is still a haze of possibilities, and has not taken on proper shape or form or meaning as yet. Mr Booker yearns for that in her. This theme is also echoed nicely with Martha’s parents, whose past decisions have left tracks throughout their lives and from which they are never truly rid. It surprised me how much I actually liked this book, it very subtly creeps up on you. I spent a lot of time see-sawing between three stars or four for this one, but in the end I really admire the way it’s built as a story.(less)