Book Review: An Imaginary Life by David Malouf

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I first read this book in high school because it was one of many on that year’s reading list and it was chosen by the powers that be as one of four all students in my grade would study. I didn’t have great memories of it or any memories really and having read it again, I know why: it’s one of those books that make teenagers think they hate reading when really what they hate is poorly chosen books. Continue reading

Book Review: The Insult by Rupert Thomson

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What a strange, strange book this is! It suffers from many problems but the biggest is that the blurb in no way resembles what it ends up being about.

It opens in a medical clinic where Martin Blom wakes up to people telling him he’s been shot in the head and he is now blind. His neurosurgeon tells him that one of the potential complications is hallucinations as his brain adjusts to its inability to see. Then one evening as he’s wandering through the gardens of the clinic, Martin realises he can see in the dark. He’s completely blind during the day but the darker it gets, the better his eyesight is.

This is where the book’s first problem becomes obvious. The neurosurgeon has told him that he might hallucinate but Martin is convinced that what he’s seeing is real. So the reader is torn between wanting to believe and struggling to. The unreliability of the narrator is a constant concern. And when Martin’s paranoia kicks in and he starts to believe he’s actually part of a high-level experiment, you really don’t know what to think. Continue reading

Book Review: Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

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I’ve racked my brain for a perfect one-word description for this book and the best I can come up with is this: pointless. It’s one of those books that is easy to read because it’s really well written. So clearly Anne Tyler knows how to write but given the complete absence of plot, I don’t think she knows what to write.

Back When We Were Grownups is narrated by Rebecca, a middle-aged woman trapped in her own life. Married at twenty after abandoning her high school/college sweetheart fora much older man who mesmerises her during a two-week courtship, she becomes an instant stepmother to three daughters, gives birth at twenty-one to a biological daughter and then is widowed at twenty-six when her husband dies in a car accident. Continue reading

Book Review: Kat Jumps the Shark by Melinda Houston

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Oh, with a title like that, Melinda Houston was just begging for poor book reviews to come rolling in!

For anyone who doesn’t know it (although surely everyone does by now), the Fonz jumped a shark while water-skiing in a latter season of Happy Days and it is considered to be the point at which pretty much everyone realised the show had its best times long behind it.

This book suffers from a pretty common problem – it’s a novel about the television industry written by someone who has worked in the television industry. Just like those novels written by actresses about an actress trying to make it in Hollywood. There’s a common saying to “write what you know” but often these types of books become inside jokes – only the people on the inside get it. And I suspect that’s the case here. Certainly the quote on the front cover from Kat Stewart, the well-known Australian actress, seems to suggest this. She calls it, “An irresistible cocktail of intrigue, egos and insider information.” Take out the word “irresistible” and I might agree. Continue reading

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

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There are a lot of things that I just don’t understand why other people like them: Justin Beiber, Justin Beiber’s music, Justin Bieber’s hair, Game of Thrones. Unfortunately (I genuinely mean that, I am genuinely disappointed that I didn’t like this book more), I am adding Will Grayson, Will Grayson to the list.

The novel is narrated in alternate chapters by Will Grayson #1 and Will Grayson #2 (thus the title), two teenage boys struggling through their formative high school years. Will Grayson #1 is straight, single and attempting not to care about anything as a means of protecting himself from getting hurt. Will Grayson #2 is gay, desperately in love with his internet boyfriend and managing his depression diagnosis with medication and his mother’s help.

Perhaps a little strangely then, this isn’t actually Will Grayson’s story. It’s not even the other Will Grayson’s story. Both Wills are just supporting characters in a tale about the overweight, gay football player and musical enthusiast, Tiny Cooper. Tiny is Will Grayson #1’s best friend and Will Grayson #2’s potential love interest. Continue reading

Book Review: The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

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When I read the final page and then closed the back cover of this book, I thought to myself, ‘That was terrible.’ It’s generally not the feeling a reader – or an author – wants to have. And unfortunately, it wasn’t that I just suddenly felt that way. I’d felt that way throughout most of the book. But I wanted to read it all the way to the end and give it the chance that all books deserve. But my feelings didn’t change.

The subject matter of The Almost Moon is not easy. Helen Knightly is an only child and, since her father’s death, the only person willing and able to look after her elderly mother, Clair. Clair is eighty-eight and although Helen describes her as suffering from dementia on the very first page of the book, she has struggled all her life with what a neighbour tells a young Helen is ‘mental illness’. That might be how it started but now she’s also cruel and parasitic and has prevented Helen from really living her own life. Within the first chapter, Clair is dead and Helen is the one who has killed her. But almost as soon as her mother is dead, Helen realises she hasn’t thought her actions through and doesn’t know what to do next. Continue reading

Book Review: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson

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Billed as “contemporary noir” with rapturous praise from authors like Dennis Lehane and Mark Billingham, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is Peter Swanson’s first novel, developed and extended from what was originally a novella. You can tell. It’s one of those novels that is short and yet still feels too long. The writing is uninspired, the main characters are dull and the plot, which is supposed to be an homage to old-fashioned, Maltese Falcon-type detective stories, is instead a poor imitation. Continue reading