*** Possible spoiler alert but I have intentionally been quite vague :) ***
Ummm, sorry for what follows, as it's not so much a proper-format review as...more*** Possible spoiler alert but I have intentionally been quite vague :) ***
Ummm, sorry for what follows, as it's not so much a proper-format review as just my rambly thoughts about a great read. So here goes.
The blurb for Jessica Bell's forthcoming novel Bitter Like Orange Peel states that there are 6 women, 1 man, and "7 secrets", and all that is true. However, sometimes I felt like the secrets would never stop being revealed, the lies would never stop being uncovered and the extremely "unconventional" family unit described in this book would never get its poo together.
I'm not sure they really did manage that immense feat by the end of the book, but they were a darn sight closer to it than they had been at the start of the book. The family(ies) in this book seem(s) to have a much-clung-to tradition of keeping all the important truths about the past (and in some cases the future) hidden. Secrets are a must because ... why? You don't want to hurt your daughter's feelings? You don't want to DISAPPOINT your daughter? You don't want to admit that the past still has a serious hold on you? Maybe those are some of the reasons and maybe there are a lot more, like plain old pride? Either way, I just read a book about a pretty unhealthy family, and I feel immensely grateful to belong to a family that doesn't exist in a web of lies like this one did.
Jessica Bell's writing is as beautiful as ever, though this time she writes about characters who, for the most part, are pretty well flawed and often unlikeable as well. There were two characters I could mostly feel sorry for: Kit (though she was a bit mean to Sein sometimes) and Eydie. Especially Eydie. Oh, and I felt sorry for Brian too, particularly at the Christmas scene - but I was very glad to read the hotel scene later. Brian also disappointed me on occasion, but now that I have his whole story I conclude that he's generally a good guy. Note that I am talking about all these characters as if they are real and believable people, because they really are, and that is what makes Jessica Bell such a great writer. Well, there's the beauty of her style, of course, but her characters are always very real. Not always particularly "likeable", as mentioned already.
Sometimes it felt like every chapter of this book ended with another bombshell, though I know that having finished the read, my mind is now simply churning with all the secrets that were so slowly revealed over the course of the book.
The Christmas Day scene in particular is one that makes me smirk to think about, because it was almost comedy how the truth kept inching towards being revealed. Eydie's experience that day was the most tragic part of the book for me. However, I'm not entirely sure if I "get" what Kit's ultimate story was - was Ailish right or did she misunderstand the scene she walked in on 25 years ago? It's probably obvious to others, but I'm just not ENTIRELY sure I can trust my conclusions (which are that Ailish misunderstood). Anyway ... those are just some very rambly thoughts on this book that kept me gasping with each newly revealed sliver of truth. There were many gasp-worthy moments, but the three that stick in my mind most now are: 1) finding out about Brian's upcoming significant life event; 2) finding out how Eydie was conceived; 3) finding out what Ailish had been keeping hidden from everyone.
I have tried to keep this review spoiler-free but I decided to make it 'hidden because of spoilers' anyway in case there's something that gives too much away. Jessica, feel free to tell me if you think it can go public. ;)(less)
**spoiler alert** This is definitely one of those books that will, I'm pretty sure, stick with me for a long time. It deserves 5 stars really, but I t...more**spoiler alert** This is definitely one of those books that will, I'm pretty sure, stick with me for a long time. It deserves 5 stars really, but I think I have to give it 4 because I can't imagine that i'll ever read it again. There was also a part where I was so disgusted I was sure I couldn't read on at all - it involved the death and maltreatment of puppies, albeit on an outstation (you know how kittens are drowned on farms and so on). But I did read on and I'm glad, though I can't say it was any sort of feelgood story, even if it ended on a note of hope.
It's a really sad story though it has plenty of moments that had me bursting into surprised laughter. It's the story of a young guy who gets out of jail in Sydney after 15 years, and makes his slow way home hitchhiking. He's making his way across the vast Australian landscape, heading west at first before diverting in a route straight north from Port Augusta (north of Adelaide). He meets all sorts of kind (and often weird) strangers on his trip, and makes this incredible journey largely on their generosity.
By the end of the story we're still not really even sure why he was in jail, but there are hints. I was expecting that he might have been blamed for killing his brother and his little sister. To be honest I'm not even convinced that his brother killed his little sister, but I think that's what happened. Anyway, realistically to go to jail in Sydney I figure he'd have had to do some crimes closer to NSW, so maybe he left Halls Creek and went East, and got put in jail over there. But to be in there 15 years it'd have to be some serious crime. Which is why I thought he could've been blamed for his sister. And we're still not sure what happened to Jake, by the end of the story. My guess is that our guy killed him, but I can't know for sure.
Some of my fave quotes from the story (there were more earlier on but I hadn't started keeping track of them back then):
p.144 - "Shit, I don't touch that stuff now. I'm all clean living these days, been sober nine years. Have to be, you turn into a blob otherwise in this job. On your arse all day like a fucken koala." He pats his small stomach.
p.154 - "The train has all the grandness of a marching band..." "The marching train goes out of tune as it rattles past."
p.162 - "The country is definitely desert now, and it's a relief to see the real thing after so much practice. Purple hills hang in the distance, the ground thin and crackled, rust-coloured like the roof of the van. From the air, the highway must look like it's barely a scratch on the country's paintwork. They pass broken windmills, a shot-up Welcome sign to a long-dead tourist attraction, an abandoned car sticking up out of the saltbush like the shell of a giant beetle."
p.171 - "They pass a sea of saltbush frozen still, spotted with fat merinos like grey clouds that have shrivelled tight and come down to earth."
p.191 - "I want to put a museum in. Think about it. The pioneers. Imagine coming to this big empty land and turning it into--" He waves at the world in wonder, though it looks like it's managed to avoid being turned into anything.
p.215 - "Where are you headed?" The truckie is forty-odd, cheerful. An encouraging smile. "Up north," Frank says. "Where, pacifically? Darwin or what?" "Yeah." ... "Where's you come from?" the truckie says. "Sydney," Frank says. He hopes the trucker won't ask where, pacifically.
p.266 - Her stance is wary. She's a teenager, crafter-faced, her eyes ringed with a bruise-blue shadow. He takes the things and puts them on the tray. He waits for her to leave him alone, but she lingers. "Are you like a derro?" she says. The word has a weird sound in her mouth. He might be an exotic animal.
I loved the interaction with Vic and Ralph early on, and the driving stint with Bill, whose drug-running ways got our guy put back in jail if only overnight.
The story was interspersed with present-day moments in Frank's life (btw, we're never sure his name is really Frank) and flashbacks to his nasty childhood. The story of his sister was saddest of all.
All in all I would say that Jennifer Mills is an amazing writer and I loved that this story was set in Australia, with great description of the landscape Frank passes through. Though the Australian desert can be truly gorgeous with its breathtaking colours, etc., I still maintain that I'm bloody glad I don't live out there! It's hot enough here on the coast. ;)
I finished this book with a bit of "oh my God, how sad!" and yet wondering where Frank would take his life now that he's finally free. I did fear a little bit that he might end up dying if he found his home, but that didn't happen (that I know of!).(less)
It really is about time I could say "I've read this book" ... and now I can! I first read an Isobelle Carmody book after my mum bought me book #1 of t...moreIt really is about time I could say "I've read this book" ... and now I can! I first read an Isobelle Carmody book after my mum bought me book #1 of the Legendsong, which I didn't really expect to like (because it was about "now time" people slipping into an alternate universe type thing, and I never liked reading about "now time" people in my fantasy stories ;)). But I did like it, in fact I LOVED it. I know I'm not here to talk about Legendsong, but basically that first book from that series came out in 1998 I believe, and so it was quite a while ago that I read my first Carmody. But in all the time since then, I haven't ever picked up book #1 of Obernewtyn & finally got cracking.
Until now! Dun dun dun!
Now that we've got that meandering 'intro' out of the way, I will say that the writing in this book did strike me as quite 'young', and that is probably because Carmody was in high school when she wrote this book. I'm intrigued to find out how the books change as I go through the series (I already know they get hugely fatter, because this book is very slender while the later books in the series are literal tomes). But despite the 'young'ness of this first episode, I really did enjoy it. It's an intriguing world I've entered into, and I look forward to learning more about it as I read on with this series.
And I do quite enjoy reading about this Rushton fellow. ;)(less)
**spoiler alert** I've read a few reviews here in which people expressed their "meh" feelings about this book. Some things people have said are: it wa...more**spoiler alert** I've read a few reviews here in which people expressed their "meh" feelings about this book. Some things people have said are: it was boring; it featured slut shaming; and we never found out how Beth died. I didn't agree with any of these comments, so I guess I read a different book to the one those people read. I thought this was an achingly sad read, but it also made me giggle and even laugh outright at times. I really enjoyed Jenny's obsession with birds, and how she'd now and then mention what her "fourth favourite bird was", and so on. I also loved Jenny's interactions with her Nanna, and there was just quite a bit of absurdity present in the book. The nosy neighbours were amusing as well. But the underlying story was super depressing and tragic. And part of me thinks anyone who lives in a town like the one the Days live in is destined for trouble, and even tragedy.
I guess I took one star off because I probably won't read this book again. But if you don't mind a pretty sad read that nonetheless has humour and a bit of quirkiness to offer, I'd recommend this read.
Now, some more spoilery thoughts re: aspects of the book.
"Slut-shaming" - I don't agree that the book did this. Let's face it, Beth was only thirteen when she first had sex. And it wasn't really all that consensual, so it's not like she was born "loose", without giving a crap about herself/the boys or men she was with. She very much grave a crap. And one of the most heartbreaking scenes was the "intervention" when she cried on her Nanna's shoulder. The way I saw it, she was a broken girl. It kind of started at the lake with her aneurysm or whatever it was, and then things really went downhill after she lost her virginity.
"Beth's death" - We did find out how she died. She fell off the water tower and died. Then again, there was a slight bit of mystery with that guy Jennifer visited near the end, trying to find out what happened to her sister. He was a bit dodgy, and he obviously knew something he wasn't saying. I'm also curious about all those things Jennifer apparently got told later in life by the girl who was watching out for her, trying to get her to stop looking for answers. And I'm also curious about what Miranda was apologising for the night Beth left the party never to be seen alive again. Was it the ugly encounter with those two older guys who paired off with Miranda and Beth?
Regarding my choice to put this book on the YA shelf, it was a hard choice, because while Jenny starts out 10, she's getting older and more into YA territory by the end. But it's not really your typical YA you'd find today on a bookshelf, either.(less)
I was a little confused by this book as I really wasn't sure if it was fiction or non-fiction. I was also confused because I thought at one stage that...moreI was a little confused by this book as I really wasn't sure if it was fiction or non-fiction. I was also confused because I thought at one stage that all the stories were about the same person/family. In spite of all this confusion, I thought that Anna Maria Dell'oso's collection of writings was, in a word, stunning.
At one stage I was worried that the book would get a little ordinary and would be hard to get through, as I was reading one particular story. It wasn't so much that the story was tedious as that it wasn't the sort of drama and/or entertainment I had envisioned. Still, I moved onto the following story and found myself hit by a mac truck - this is the first book in a while that has had me absolutely in tears. It was the story titled "Unravelling" that did this to me - a story about a woman who is in hospital birthing her third child when she learns that her brother and his son have been killed in a traffic accident. The story is about her struggle to deal with this grief conflicting with the utter joy of having had another child, and not being able to name her new baby because when people get names it means they can be lost.
The last story which was the longest (the touted "novella") was also dreadfully sad, though not quite in the same way - it was a tragedy in which potential is not realised. You just wanna slap Gianni around a bit to knock some sense into him, but then again his father slapped him around and that did nothing for him.
All in all I loved this collection even if it was a little heartrending at times.(less)
So I finished book 1 of The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass. Of course, I'm confused by what the proper title of the series should be, because wh...moreSo I finished book 1 of The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass. Of course, I'm confused by what the proper title of the series should be, because when I look on the internet for this series, it's books from earlier on in the world's timeline that first come up. Oh well...
I have read reviews that say the earlier (and possibly later) books are a lot better in that you care more about the characters in them...but as someone who has never read Sara Douglass before, i must say I really did enjoy this story. Maybe there are no characters that I totally love and relate to, but I do feel very eager to see Drago redeemed, and feel that I would be on his side too if I was in that world...if he will ever be. I guess time will tell! I also fear what will happen to Zared's wife in book 2, as something I read on the blurb of that book makes me fear for her! Not that her name was mentioned, but still...
Anyway, I won't say much about the book, and I don't think there are many spoilers I will bother giving away :D But for now my reading of this series is on hold, for I've moved onto another book, this time non-fiction ;) Which I shall mention elsewhere!(less)
Well, yeah. I loved the book. I guess it's been a long time coming, me reading it. The only Tim Winton I'd read previously was the kids' stuff years a...moreWell, yeah. I loved the book. I guess it's been a long time coming, me reading it. The only Tim Winton I'd read previously was the kids' stuff years ago ;)
Anyway, I found Dirt Music to be a very beautifully written story and wow, did it ever put me in awe of the amazing Western Australian landscape. Sure, I hate summer and I would really be better off going south (colder weather) than north (disgustingly hot weather), but it did make me wistful at the thought of exploring some of the amazing places up there. If only for the photographic opportunity.
Plus, I love Luther Fox and Georgie Jutland - they seem like they're made for each other. I recall Georgie's thoughts about how most men are trying to keep things in order, "bring them to reign" and so on, and Luther Fox is trying to live that way but he's going against his nature.
Finally, damn I am so glad they found him in the end. I'm so glad the plane crashed!(less)
**spoiler alert** Took me a good while to finish this one, as it's quite long and I do find you have to pay close attention at the times when you're d...more**spoiler alert** Took me a good while to finish this one, as it's quite long and I do find you have to pay close attention at the times when you're distracted from reading. ;) I am currently on holidays in a bit of a tropical paradise so I guess you could call that a distraction! Anyway, I totally loved this book. It got off to a bit of a slow start but soon enough I found myself intrigued by the quirky characters, sympathetic to their experiences and frustrated/exhilarated on their behalf. The book had me laughing out loud even at not so happy moments, just because of the wording, the silly little similes, metaphors and alliterations (which were still clever of course), and all that.
It was interesting how one single character was seen by other people - and other people saw them quite differently - but also how they saw themselves. It was almost like you were reading about many different people due to the viewpoints of the other characters interacting with them. The way the story unfolded was definitely like a family memoir but also quite an historical work. And I can't believe how it ended! I wasn't expecting that, nor hoping for it I suppose. ;) It just went to show though, how in the blink of an eye (well, okay, a bit more slowly than that) a man can make one decision that ruins his life and, in fact, ends it!(less)
I am going to re-read this entire series at some point and I may well put a proper review in then, but I can say now that this is one of the most bril...moreI am going to re-read this entire series at some point and I may well put a proper review in then, but I can say now that this is one of the most brilliant books/series I've ever read. I already knew before reading this that John Marsden was great, but for some reason I had to be told by both my mum and my aunty that it was brilliant and that I should read it. It stil took me a while to get around to it, but it's definitely one of my favourites even today when it's been so long since my first read. Pretty sure I've only ever read this series once through, but I'll get around to re-reading someday. And when I do I will put up proper reviews for each book!
I can't find any info on when I would have first read it, and my memory is failing me, so I'm just guessing on the dates.(less)
This is one of my all-time favourite books. I guess I just love the subtle, sad beauty in it. I love the main characters, two strong and intriguing gi...moreThis is one of my all-time favourite books. I guess I just love the subtle, sad beauty in it. I love the main characters, two strong and intriguing girls who struggle with self doubt inside themselves, but shine brightly to those who look upon them.
It's also kinda cool that the girls are Australians. But that wasn't really an important part of the story, not to me anyway.
It's the first fantasy I've ever liked which interwove my own world with a very different, alien one.
There are also yummy boys in the book to keep my interest.(less)