Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr – Book Review

I feel like this plot has so many strands over several time periods that attempting to do a brief summary could never do it justice, so I won’t. Doerr has created a series of characters who I loved and wanted to succeed in a variety of times and places. I was super confused at times, but was never upset by it because his writing is beautiful and I was happy to keep on reading it.   I’m on a readers group on Facebook and this book often comes up, and really polarises the audience – many, like me love it and rave about it. Many hate it and felt it wasted their time – it is a massive read, so it’s a lot of effort to put in and not enjoy it. Having done that myself with other books, I get it. Often, people say they have started and don’t get it, and aren’t sure if they want to persist. My advice is for this is that if you’re not enjoying it, stop. I found it worthwhile and loved how it all came together, but plenty of people don’t. I hope more people loved it than hated it.

End of Days Trilogy  by John Birmingham – Audio Book Review

Zero Day Code, Fail State, American Kill Switch

America is in disaster. A series of calculated cyber-attacks have meant that the food chain has collapsed, banking has collapsed, people’s reputations have been ruined and, very quickly, society falls to pieces. Communication has gone, so the fates of the rest of the world is largely unknown. Birmingham follows the lives of several people and groups of people as they try to find safety, to find power, to defeat evil and to find out how they can create new societies and survive.

I listened to this over several months on my drive home from work, and while there were parts and characters that I found somewhat absurd, I was mostly very drawn in. Fast paced, violent, often unpredictable – I loved it. It was both the best and worst of human nature, and the best and worst of the US (particularly as seen by an outsider). I’m not sure I’d recommend it for a wide audience, but if you’re into fast action books, go for it.

Everyone in this Room Will Someday be Dead by Emily R. Austin – Book Review

Gilda is struggling, unable to hold down a regular job in part due to her untreated anxiety and death fixation, she decides to try to get some free therapy from a flyer she finds randomly, only accidentally gets a job as a receptionist in a Catholic church, scared to admit that she wasn’t after a job, or that being a lesbian, they might not want her there. However, when she becomes embroiled in the life of the previous, now deceased, receptionist, things get tricky.

I struggled to fully connect with this book, and part of the reason was that it had a very similar tone to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and so in my brain it was set in the UK, but then every now and then something clearly American was happening and so I just couldn’t reconcile these two things. I think it is a good book, and certainly looking at Good Reads, it’s highly rated and seems to loved by many. It just wasn’t the book for me.

Forever… by Judy Blume – Book Review

The danger of revisiting a loved book from your youth and re-reading it through adult eyes. Forever was the book that, as a teenager, we were titillated by because the main character has sex (OMG) and that didn’t happen in the books we read. My memory was that it was romantic, that Katherine and Michael had found love, her family didn’t get it and her friends were jealous. My take now is very different. Michael is controlling and manipulative, Katherine’s friends and family were trying to help her but were also fearful of pushing her away. Blume is a master author, and I’m certain that she intended much of this. Plus, it very much reflects the views of the time (it was written in 1975). Reading it in 2022, with laws for coercive behaviour being introduced in Australia, it reads very differently.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel – Book Review

The musical of Fun Home was recently on in Melbourne and I saw and loved it, and immediately sought out the original graphic novel. It’s a touching and tragic story of Bechdel’s life growing up in a home with a family funeral business, of going to university and coming out, of her relationship in particular with her father and of his revelations and early death. It’s a fascinating way for her to have explored her past, both the musical and the graphic novel. I loved both so much.

Heart Sick by Jessie Stephens – Book Review

Claire returns from London to Australia to deal with heartbreak. Patrick is a lonely and shy student who meets someone through a group assignment, only she’s in a relationship. Ana is in an average marriage with three kids when an old friend returns to her life and brings passion with him.

This book is a narrative based on interviews with three people about their heartbreaks which is somewhat fascinating as a concept. What is also interesting is that, as the book went on, each of the three main characters were, to me, increasingly unlikable. If they were character she’d made up, that’s one thing. I wonder how they felt about reading it. I didn’t mind the book overall, but I didn’t love it.

I Want to Die But I Want to East Tteokpokki by Baek Se-hee – Book Review

I got this book solely for the title. It’s a non-fiction of a woman’s accounts of her sessions with her psychiatrist as she is treated for depression. I thought it was interesting, however I found the interactions with her doctor didn’t feel real. I realised as I was going that this may be because it’s written as a straight transcript, and so there is no pacing. As a fast reader, the conversations went fast for me and felt unnatural. There may also have been something lost in translation. This is the type of book I think some people will love and relate to, for me it was just interesting.

In Moonland by Miles Allinson – Book Review

Jim, to the detriment of his wife and daughter, becomes obsessed with his father who died when he was a teenager. He knew little of his father and decides he needs to track down those who knew him to find out how he lived and why he died.

The book starts slow, a man wanting information, and as it picks up, it gets strange. It’s told in four sections, each revealing different perspectives and events. It’s a very odd book which I enjoyed reading and read very quickly, but when I finished, I struggled to understand what it all even was. Yet… I quite loved it. Sometimes, a novel doesn’t need resolution or even story to be enjoyable. Clearly, I’m not the only one to feel this way, as In Moonland was awarded The Age Book of the Year 2022.

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli – Book Review

We’re back in the Simonverse – the world of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda but this time our focus is on Leah, Simon’s best mate and very cool chick. Leah’s trying to work out how and when to tell her friends that she’s bi, which feels like it should be less hard given that Simon is gay, but sometimes having queer friends doesn’t mean it’s easy to reveal your own queerness.

This is a strong YA read, I’m a big fan of Albertalli and the worlds she creates, and spending time with these characters is a lot of fun. I can’t believe that somehow I missed the second book in this world, The Upside of Unrequited, and I will be seeking that one out.

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis – Book Review

This was another op shop find, and I remember thinking I’d like to see this film again, though it doesn’t seem to be anywhere online. The book follows Clay who has returned from college on the East Coast to his home in LA and to the world of extreme privilege, money and partying. Clay doesn’t feel he fits in, but is feeling a type of existential dread and despair about their lives.

I appreciate the book. I think a book with this much arseholery is hard to actually like, and I feel probably deliberately so. I don’t feel that the author wants us to empathise with the characters, but just to look at how empty these suer-wealthy lives can be.