Reading Round-Up: June
Perth has had its warmest winter since the 1980s but you could have fooled me. I started June by going to Margaret River for the Readers and Writers festival and I think I just about lost a finger or too. Thank goodness for electric blankets! I wrote a few short stories, procrastinated about working on the novel, and managed to crank out the first draft of an essay.
And I read some books, so without further ado I shall tell you about those.
1. The First Bad Man by Miranda July
I'd never read any Miranda July before, but I was drawn to the concept of this story after reading a review of it on one of the major newspaper's websites. The narrator of the story is a very strange narrator, who is a person I would probably really dislike if I met her in real life (and other characters seem to dislike her too-- she is an office manager but works from home at the request of other staff) but because the book is from her point of view, as the reader you start to inhabit her head and the things she does start to make sense. When her bosses' 20 something year old daughter needs a place to stay, what at first starts off as a story about bullying and violence turns into a novel about love, unconventional families and the fluidity of sexuality, all told in July's quirky, original voice. At times it made me profoundly uncomfortable but I was aware of the power the book held over me in doing so.
2. The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz
This book was a gift. For my birthday... two years ago. And I finally finished it! It takes you through some mathematical concepts by applying them to real world situations and was really interesting but I could only handle it in small doses.
3. The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell
A literary mystery in the vein of The Da Vinci Code, this novel is the beginning of a trilogy in which a young woman with a talent for finding old manuscripts must track down a book belonging to an alchemist, all the while being tracked by a murderer connected to the mystery of the book. The scenery of Barcelona was beautiful and the only reason I kept reading, because the rest of the book was dry and jumped from POV to POV far too much.
4. Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
This was a book club book. It wasn't really my kind of thing but I did enjoy switching off and reading something that I didn't have to work too hard at. Predictably for Harris (who also wrote the original True Blood books), the character seems to be a total Mary Sue, but she's also a librarian so she gets bonus points for that. A dark book that deals with its subjects a tad too lightly, I don't think I'll be reading any more Aurora Teagarden mysteries.
5. How to Become a Writer by Lorrie Moore
An individual short story by Lorrie Moore which takes a satirical look at the the traditional path taken by modern young writers, navigating the absurdity that is life, writing, and trying to work out who you are. I'm now an instant fan of Lorrie Moore and I've bought the full collection that this came in, which is called Self/Help. I also own Bark and Birds of America.
6. Lost Boy and Other Stores by Margaret River Press
I've reviewed this collection earlier this month and you can read my review here.
7. Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier
This is the first book in a new fantasy series by Juliet Marillier, a Perth writer who is also a member f a druid order. It follows Blackthorn, a healer committed to help anyone who asks her for seven years, and her accidental companion, Grim, as they take up their posts in Dalreida as healers and become sort of problem solvers as well. This was a really interesting book, and I liked the spiky character of Blackthorn, though at times I found the voice of Prince Oran a little hard to believe. Looking forward to the next book in October. I'm always impressed with a mystery to which I do not fully guess the ending.
8. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
I loved this book and reviewed it here.
9. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The book that won this year's Pulitzer Prize is a large one, not unlike last year's The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, but that is where the similarities end. This is a gentle novel set in France during the second world war, and it tells the story of Marie-Laure, who is blind and learns her way about the streets with the aid of a model built by her father. The pair flee the Nazis in possession of a cursed gem, which just happens to be at the top of Hitler's wish list for his Fuhrermuseum. Meanwhile, Werner is sent to an elite Nazi school where he shows an aptitude for trigonometry and building radios, a talent that will cause their paths to meet.
10. The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop
Excited to read this one as I will be meeting the author in a few weeks time. This novel was a contender for the Vogel award two years ago, and has just been published by Hachette Australia. It is the story of Charlotte and Henry, who emigrate to Australia in the early 1960s. Henry is optimistic about the move and Charlotte is not, but they have two small girls, and if they leave they'll have to pay the government back for their fare, which they cannot afford. The longer they stay, the more fissures begin to appear in their marriage, which once seemed sound. I found this novel thematically very similar to Ibsen's A Doll's House, and I will do a longer review very soon. I loved this novel and devoured it in a single day.