The Thirty Books That Spark My Joy

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Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock will have heard of Marie Kondo, the tidying expert. She helps people to declutter their homes and their lives and when it comes to books, she lives by the following motto: “I now keep my collection of books to about thirty volumes at any one time.”

As happens frequently on the internet, this statement went through a huge round of Chinese (or perhaps that should be Japanese, in light of her nationality) whispers and suddenly everyone was saying that Marie Kondo was telling people to throw away most, if not all, of their books.

She wasn’t saying that. Her general advice is that the items you do keep should spark your joy. And if books spark your joy, then feel free to have as many of them as you want.

Books spark my joy. I have thousands. I have an entire room just for my books. I could have bought a cheaper house if books didn’t spark my joy so much. Still, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to find the thirty books that really spark my joy. Continue reading

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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: The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

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I’d never heard of this book until it was made into a movie but it’s so often the case these days. I haven’t seen the movie, which is the way I like it, so I can do a review rather than a comparison. It’s surprising that I hadn’t heard of it, though, because it was written by my father’s best friend’s daughter’s husband’s aunt. Less than seven degrees of separation and yet…

Perhaps the reason I hadn’t heard of it was because, despite the hype, as a story it’s really nothing exceptional. Pleasant, yes. Unregretted, yes. Exceptional, no. Continue reading

Book Review: I Came to Say Goodbye by Caroline Overington

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This doesn’t happen to me often but there is a moment in this book when my jaw dropped open, like a scene from a cheesy, poorly-acted TV movie, and stayed open and I couldn’t close it. I had to cover my mouth with my hand until the ability to move my face returned to within my control. There aren’t too many books I can say that about. There aren’t too many things in life in general I can say that about.

I Came to Say Goodbye is the second Caroline Overington book I’ve read. I was extremely impressed with the first one, Sisters of Mercy, and you can read my review of that book, too. I keep doing this thing lately, which is being in the middle of a long and difficult book and thinking I’ll just read something else for some light relief and then choosing, unknowingly, to read a book that might be less dense but offers no relief at all. Continue reading

Book Review: allmenarebastards.com by Allison Rushby

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There are some books that are destined not to be remembered and allmenarebastards.com falls into that category. Not because it’s bad. It’s okay. But because it isn’t timeless. It’s about a very specific period in time. It’s a little like the Sue Grafton books with Kinsey Milhone dropping off reels of film for photographs to be developed. It was published in 2000 and its foray into the online world is dated now – the sounds of the dial up modem, having to disconnect from the internet to make a phone call, people having “homepages”. The world has come a long way since then.

Gemma, our main character, and Sarah are typical late twenty-somethings, unlucky in love, drowning their sorrows in Friday night margaritas and keeping a list of every bastard who has ever done them wrong. It’s twenty pages long, stained and falling apart, so to ensure its continued existence, Gemma decides to put it on her homepage. Overnight, it becomes an internet sensation. Before long, it’s a website of its own (with the same name as the book) and Gemma gives up her freelance graphic design job to become its full-time administrator as the advertising revenue begins rolling in. Continue reading

Book Review: Kill the Possum by James Moloney

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I was in the middle of reading another book – a long, dense, important but mentally draining book – and decided to take a break and read Kill the Possum, knowing it would be a shorter read, something I could get through quickly. But if I was hoping for an easy read, I was sorely disappointed. This was a hard book to read. Not because of the writing but because of the story. This is every blended family teenager’s worst nightmare. Continue reading

Book Review: Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

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“Contemporary writers annoyed him, he found their worlds insular, their style self-conscious and ironic.”
Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas, page 331

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Except I would add the words “of literature” after “contemporary writers”. Contemporary writers of literature are a peculiar breed of writer who seem to think certain topics make their writing realistic and gritty. The reality is, however, that readers wonder why it is necessary to include them. Those topics include pooing, peeing and masturbation. Normal, everyday occurrences but also often distasteful, boring and unnecessary to the story being told.

Barracuda contains so many instances of pooing, peeing and masturbation that if they were taken out, the 513-page novel could probably have been reduced to a 213-page novel. Continue reading