Check Out My Other Blog

I have two new reviews up on the (new) version of this blog! The first is for Sufficient Grace by Amy Espeseth, the second is Dan Rhode’s This Is Life. Find them here.

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I’ve moved!

Hey everyone, sorry for the trouble, but I’ve recently moved my blog to blogger instead, due to constraints on WordPress involving HTML. If you head over to http://www.bookwyrmle.blogspot.com.au/ , you can subscribe again there via email. I know this is inconvenient, and you have my most sincere apologies.

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Brooke Davis’s “Lost & Found”

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“Lost & Found” is the story of Millie, a strange seven-year-old girl who harbours a fascination of death. She keeps a book of dead things, which is a running record of all the people and creatures that she has seen die, or whom she knew that died. Her father, a victim of cancer a short time before the novel begins, is a major one in the list.

At the start of her story, she is asked to wait in the lingerie department of a shopping center by her mother, who does not return. Millie sleeps there for a few nights before heading home, finding a piece of paper on the counter. It is an itinerary, and states that her mother will be taking a flight from Melbourne in the next few days.

Millie enlists the help of an elderly widow and widower to get her to Melbourne. The former is Karl the Touch Typist, who has escaped from a retirement village, and the latter is Agatha Pantha, her hermit-like neighbour from across the street.

The unlikely trio set out on their odd journey, which balances the tragic realism of Millie’s abandonment perfectly with surreal, sometimes comical situations. We are rooting for them the whole way through, and want nothing more than for Millie’s mother to realise her harsh mistake.

Everywhere she goes, Millie writes and displays, “In here, Mum”, ever hopeful that her mother is searching just as hard to find her, too. This, along with her obsession with death, make her so endearing. Despite not fully grasping the circumstances, it is hard to call Millie naïve. She is almost wise in her vision of death as she tells everyone that they are all going to die, but that this is okay. It will be okay.

“Lost & Found” is a very fun and enjoyable book, but it does, at times, leave you feeling a bit hollow and funny inside. The ending perhaps isn’t the one that you wanted, but it is still surprisingly satisfying nonetheless. It is definitely worth reading, even buying. I have the feeling I’ll want to relive this whimsical, bittersweet adventure again soon.

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Filed under All Things Bookish, Books: All, Books: Fiction - (Age) Adult, Books: Fiction - (Age) Young Adult, Books: Fiction - All, Books: Fiction - Family, Books: Fiction - Literature of Australia

Slow Content

I am really sorry about the slow content! As you might know, I have just switched from Typepad to WordPress, so all the kinks are still being sorted. I’ll throw a bunch of new reviews up tomorrow (sorry for the wait!) If there are any inconsistencies or glitches, please let me know. It’s hard to test everything myself, but I am doing my best.

Thanks 🙂

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Kay Langdale’s “Her Giant Octopus Moment”

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‘Her Giant Octopus Moment’ is the story of a mother and daughter on the run, practically living week to week until they are discovered again, and are forced to take flight once more.

The mother is Joanie, and she is the reason they can’t stay in one place too long. She works whatever jobs are available in order to provide for her daughter, but doesn’t always make the right decisions. Joanie has the tendency to put her foo tin her mouth, especially with employers, and a strong inclination towards one night stands.

Scout is the daughter; a bright young girl of eleven who likes order and school, and is fed up with moving from place to place, especially since she doesn’t know the reasons why. She keeps her dissatisfaction with their life bottled up for the most part, trying to make the best of things as her Joanie does. Scout is loyal to her mother to a fault, often protecting her at times when she really shouldn’t.

Their secret for being constantly on the go is revealed at the start of the novel (and is mentioned in the blurb in alternate editions) is enough to make you question Joanie’s intentions and integrity. Having signed on to be the surrogate mother on behalf of Ned and Elisabetta Beecham, she changed her mind several months into the pregnancy. In order to keep “her” child, Joanie faked a miscarriage, went overseas, pretended to lose her passport, and applied for a new one as “Joanie”, previously having been just Joan. Things become harder for the pair on the run as the couple try to track her down, in order to discover what is really best for Scout.

“Her Giant Octopus Moment” is told from multiple perspectives. While it generally relies upon the main protagonists (Scout, Joanie, Ned, and Elisabetta), it also relies upon support characters, some who only make only a single appearance. For example, we get to experience the case from the additional viewpoints of a hospital worker, judge, and social worker.

Knowing the truth about Scout’s conception adds tension to the story, as you’ll be heavily invested in the family that was supposed to be. Ned and Elisabetta Beecham are both teachers, which is easy to pair up with their clever, long-lost daughter.

From the moment Joanie recalls an anecdote about a giant octopus, hinting about the significance of the title, it is hard not to be imbued with such a definite sense of hope. You can only hope that the octopus moment will be Joanie’s, and that the right thing will be done by Scout.

I was incredibly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, which I borrowed as a whim to read on the way home. You’ll feel for all the characters, even the ones you don’t necessarily want to. Her writing style, and the tendency to jump between characters, is somewhat reminiscent of Marina Lewycka’s. Needless to say, it is extremely enjoyable and a hard book to put down.

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David Sedaris

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 My experience with humorous books is limited, but after reading a sampling of David Sedaris's work, I am left wondering why. I hadn't realised books could draw consistent and repetitive out-loud laughs from myself, being such a different medium to television, movies, or even games. There isn't really such a thing as "timing" when you're reading the lines yourself, but somehow, it still works.

I get the feeling that David Sedaris isn't as much a funny guy as an observer, with an impeccable sense of story-telling. His attention to detail and delivery is flawless, the last line of the chapter or essay most frequently being the best, with giggles and chortles inbetween.

The stories are mostly autobiographical with perhaps with a slight hint of exaggeration, but contain occasional references to those of his family and friends. His humour is based on the depreciation of either himself or others with more emphasis on the former. They regularly regard his childhood, a middle-class upbringing, various jobs, and living abroad.

Anecdote after anecdote blew me away, and while they typically aren’t linear and mostly bear little resemblance to the chapter before, they are still extremely hard books to put down. I’ll often sandwich my bookmark into the pages when I reach a new chapter, only to read the introductory line, bite my lip, glance at the clock, and keep reading.

These are the perfect sick or waiting-in-line kind of read. I ended up starting and polishing off “Me Talk Pretty One Day” during an extremely long wait at the doctor’s office, and barely noticed the time ticking by. Every book has easy re-read value given a little bit of time, so it really wouldn’t hurt to add them to your permanent collection.

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Apologies For Slow Content Lately

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I would really love to keep up with the reading schedule I've kept in the past, but being one third of the way through a literature degree really isn't aiding my own personal reading. However, fortunately for me, everything we have to read, reread, and analyse for class is incredibly fascinating and rewarding.

As a result of trying to juggle so much (part-time work, a full-time double degree, and insomnia as a result of bipolar disorder), I've really fallen behind with this blog. I've still been reading like crazy, but sitting down to write a review takes up more time than I have.

Lately I've been trying to think of how to manage things, as I really don't want to see this blog settle down in any means, but I realise I haven't been playing to my strengths. From now on, there will be a few changes, but only during term. Breaks and holidays will see a return to the regular 4-books-a-week reading challenge.

So, without any further delay, here are the new features of my blog:

+ Minor Reading Challenges: These will take place during term, and will feature two books a week. They will alternate between all non-fiction, or half and half.

+ Audiobooks: I will attempt to do at least one a week, but at the very least, there will be one a fortnight. I tend to knock out audiobooks very quickly, as I listen to them while running, doing chores, and having a steamy bath (hence no glasses).

+ Short Stories, Poetry, Magazines, & Articles: The first two will probably be the outcome of my literature degree, therefore texts I am studying for class, while the last pair will be the product of trying to keep up in the literary as well as the library and information science industry.

I'll soon create a link to my instagram account, where you will get sneak-peeks of what will be coming up on the blog. Past reviews of reading challenge books that aren't up yet will be up soon. Thanks for stopping by!

 

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Jenni Fagan’s “The Panopticon”

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‘The Panopticon’ is one of the most fantastic additions to the young adult fiction world that currently exists. While some people contest its suitability for the young adult library due to the vulgar nature of its sexual references and cussing, they would be unpleasantly surprised to find out that the average teenager knows a few four letter words, as well as their own developing body.

There is also the misconception that the panopticon represents the building that the protagonist is sent to, while realistically it is not-quite-figurative; a mental state. While some elements of fantasy are implied in the beginning, the story will quickly establish that these, too, are imaginary.

The main character is Anais, a young girl who has bounded from foster home to correctional facility and back again for most of her young life (she is only 16 at the opening of the story). While her offenses have always been relatively minor, she is the main suspect in a potential murder. A police woman who had already had several bad run-ins with Anais is in a coma, and as a result, both of their outcomes are looking bleaker by the day.

Anais cannot remember committing the crime (a result of being constantly on drugs), but knows she will, if she knows anything, given enough time, the way it always does. The book goes through her daily life at the correctional facility, slowly remembering her events on that day, with occasional glimpses to her childhood.

The friendships in “The Panopticon” are also an integral theme, since many of the characters are lacking a family of their own. They are beautifully depicted, and often heart-breaking considering the tragic setting of the book.

It deals with real issues, even if the average adolescent will never have a life that completely contends with that of Anais (but, unfortunately, there are many that will). It is not only the mystery that will keep you reading, but a genuine love for the protagonist. While she doesn’t always do all the right things, and can be downright antagonistic at times, you will root for her. She is a good girl at heart, let down by family and the general system.

While I would definitely say this belongs on the young adult shelf, every adult would benefit from reading this book. There are experiences we forget as an adult, especially if we have lived an essentially trouble-free adolescence. It is all too easy to forget or ignore the perspective of another in the circumstances depicted in this novel, and while the problems in this book are not something we enjoy being reminded of, they are crucial in the current day, while these social problems are still all too real.

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Janna Levin’s “A Madman Dreams Of Turing Machines”

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“A Madman Dream Of Turing Machines” is a fictional novel of two real mathematicians from history: Alan Turing and Kurtele Gödel. It delicately intertwines their parallel lives, blending their work with personal anecdotes, mathematical theorems, and philosophies with imagination.

The result is strangely compelling, and tragic in its retelling. The back blurb links them through their lives; that of being a genius and the isolation that comes with being misunderstood, but also in their deaths, as both ended their own lives with intent.

It showcases their genius, dedication to their work, personal moments, and relationships, but doesn't shy away from portraying them as the outcasts they were (however, unlike the fellow man of their time, we sympathise completely).

This is a book for all black sheep, and not just those of the mathematical kind. The persecution of these characters will resound with many for varying reasons, and Turing especially will have a place in your heart (if he didn’t already!)

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Benjamin Law’s “The Family Law”

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“The Family Law” is a fun and quirky not-quite-biography of the Frankie editor, Benjamin Law. It details the life of a Chinese family living in Australia, putting their most humorous and fun moments to pen and paper.

This book is certainly not without its charm, particularly in the individual characters and most often their peculiar traits. The Law family is one which is closely knit, but not without strain or troubles.

While the characters and stories aren’t personally familiar to me (I come from a typical white, domestically-troubled family), they were reminiscent of my Chinese-Australian high school friend’s childhood and adolescence (the close bonds of the siblings and cousins, their joking-teasing nature, and the huge family gatherings).

The only thing I dislike about this book is the anecdote about cockroaches and his pet mouse. I am realising that animal neglect in childhood is a common theme for humour writers, but I find this somewhat disappointing, but my guess is that most readers won’t really have a problem with the dismissive air, “They were just a child!” (I wish parents would realise that it is a sentient life, and a far greater responsibility than watering a pot plant or putting your shoes on the rack, and should be supervised closely.)

It is an interesting but sometimes heart-breaking view of Australia (relatives who are illegal immigrants are sent back to China, despite being in Australia to escape the violence there). I recommend “The Family Law” to those with an interest in humorous writing like that of David Sedaris, family anecdotes (especially those a little dysfunctional), Australian literature, or Chinese-Australian perspectives.

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