Friday, 26 February 2021

Themes and Variations by David Sedaris


“If you think I’m putting my bra back on for this bullshit, you are so sorely mistaken.”

David Sedaris is an uncommonly good writer. He captures the crazy minutiae of the everyday in a way that is hysterically funny and consistently compelling. I was introduced to him by a guy who I used to be friends with. So, even friendships that end leave a positive residue - in this case familiarity with a fantastic writer.
I had the pleasure of meeting David Sedaris at two book signings with said ex-friend. His quips at those meetings and the adorable message he wrote in my book affirmed my undying love for Mr Sedaris. If you ever get the chance to see him live, do it!!
This rather brief essay is the antidote for the misery on your television screen. Turn off the news and hook into this.

5 out of 5 - definitely worth putting your bra on for.

Dead Man Switch(Book #1 A Billie Walker Mystery) by Tara Moss


“It wasn't a fancy space. It didn't need to be. Clients didn't come to her for interior decorating tips.”

I was torn on this one initially. Getting into the novel took a little time because I was distracted by the length of prose dedicated to dresses and earrings. Another aspect that jarred was the overtly film noir stereotypes. I'm a big fan of Tara Moss and think she's an excellent human from what I've seen of her, so my expectations were very high.

The mystery of the novel certainly dragged me in once I got over my initial concerns. I love noir, I love a mystery, this should have totally won me over. Part of its charm was the Australian setting which I found endearing at times, and jarring at others. Whenever any character said or did something that seemed quintessentially noir, but not particularly local to Australia; I was taken out of the tale.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this trip back in time and while my praise seems less than effusive, that perhaps links closely to the expectations I had. Confusingly there are two versions of the title and I stupidly bought the paperback and the kindle, such was my enthusiasm for the premise. This broken reader who has avoided dating since breaking up with Voldermort wanted some romance for the protagonist. At least one of us should be having more excitement in that area.

Perhaps that was what was lacking and maybe that will be developed as the series progresses. Reading about another workaholic is not the escapism I need right now. Putting that aside, the novel certainly held my attention and the tale was interesting.

4 out of 5 Sydney, back in the day, also had some seedy characters

Challenge Accepted! by Celeste Barber

 "Have you noticed that most hot people you see in the street look confused?"

Celebrity books can be a little hit and miss, so I was somewhat sceptical about this one.Clearly I shouldn't have been concerned, Celeste is just as delightful as her instagram posts. Her enthusiastic, self-deprecatory voice shines through and draws you in from the get-go. 

The unexpected gem here is the author's life story, something lacking from the hilarious visuals online.From struggles with schooling to the vagaries of life as a would-be actress and the challenges of childbirth, the book meanders in a distinctly non-linear way and I think that adds to its charm. 

Barber comes across as unfiltered and honest, which merely adds to her tremendous appeal. Even when she name drops it is done in a way that you forgive, because its just like a close friend is explaining an unbelievable encounter to you over a sneaky glass of something fizzy.

5 out of 5 - Who wouldn't want to hang out with Celeste and her hot husband?

Thursday, 4 February 2021

The Accountant: A novel by Barry Smith and some wine


“Hi, my name is Fiona Jones. I work for legal aid ($54,000).”

From the cover page’s attribution to wine, on to the hilarious blurb, lies a rather unusual, often hilarious crime novel penned by one of my workmates – the eponymous accountant, Barry Smith.

Barry is often a source of mirth and marvel in the office thanks to his penchant for puns and magic tricks, both of which inform his writing. The structure is unique with each character introducing themselves in a way that breaks out of the story and becomes almost theatrical. Even the victim has a voice. I enjoyed the way he characterised them by their earnings which really added to the accountancy flavour.

I had my suspicions about ‘whodunnit’ a good way into the novel and yet was always sceptical. The cast are a veritable rogues gallery, and with lots of money involved, things can often get messy.

Murder, schemes, swiss bank accounts, this one has the lot. If you feel like an enjoyable and giggle ridden mystery with a dash of book-keeping, then you too can discover Barry’s oeuvre on Amazon


4/5  - Dodgy accountants have even dodgier associates.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

 “Perhaps that is what it is like being with other people. Perhaps even people you like and admire immensely can make you see the World in ways you would rather not. Perhaps that is what Raphael means.”


Giovanni Battista Piranesi, a Venetian artist and architect,  lived in 1700s Italy and is famous for his Caceri or Prisons series of prints that depict strange, impossible, labyrinthine structures.

I've done a little bit of internet research and discovered this great video that epitomises his work.

Piranesi Carceri d'Invenzione from Grégoire Dupond on Vimeo.

Much like the eponymous artist, Piranesi is a fantastically puzzling tale that twists and turns through a strange world before its secrets are revealed. I have to admit it took a long time to acclimatise with the world building of the novel and my confusion and sense of displacement was mirrored by the protagonist in a novel and impressively rendered manner.

Patience they say is a virtue... so hold on tight, keep your mind open and keep reading.This one is definitely a slow build, but worth it. Unlike the absolutely weighty tome that was Jonathan Strange and Mr Norris by the same author, Piranesi is a relatively quick read at under three hundred pages. The rather large gap between novels attributed to the author's ill health according to this interview I tracked down online. I sincerely hope her health improves and we can enjoy more wonderful works in the future.

5 out of 5, disappear into another world.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

“These teenagers around her, all of them from New York City, were like royalty and French movie stars, with a touch of something papal. Everyone at this camp was supposedly artistic, but here, as far as she could tell, was the hot little nucleus of the place.”

Every now and then you pick up a novel and feel understood. Its as if the author has dug into your deepest fears and insecurities and spilled the beans for all to see. Wolitzer is that kind of author for me. The blow is softened by how clever, funny and entertaining she is. The embarrassing or downright mortifying is served up in a neat package that points out the ridiculousness of it all.
Growing up as a complete nerd who always felt like a fish out of water, I could relate to the way Jules is magnetised by her new friends from camp who come from a different world.

The friendships established during that first summer of 1974 have ramifications that reverberate throughout her and her friends lives, There's the uncomfortable comparisons with people living a seemingly 'charmed' life of monied success along with the emotional ties that bind and divide.
I absolutely love the way Meg Wolitzer writes and my hero worship of her began when I attended a panel she spoke at for the Sydney Writer's Festival some years ago. What a woman, what an author, what a mind!!

So far I've enjoyed everything of hers that I've read and this was definitively no exception. I literally devoured its content over 2 days ( admittedly I didn't go to bed on time because I had to finish).
Youth is a time of endless possibilities that narrow with age and I think this is beautifully captured here. Unrequited love, the secrets we keep for our friends, the moral fog that our relationships can draw us into, are all engaging themes that emerge throughout the text.

Can you remain best friends with someone when wealth disparity pushes you apart? The exploration of this tension is particularly enthralling, especially in the impact it can have on partners and family.
The question of what love is- familial obligation, aspirational longing for a true mind/ body connection, or settling for comfort and stillness? Her characters grapple with the gamut of these emotions and are so well wrought that you feel like you've grown up with them from camp teepee discussions through to shared overseas holidays. Personally this novel seems to exemplify that feeling of middle aged ennui and the realisation that the excitement and possibilities that existed in youth have morphed into an existence that you can only try to make sense of.

In case it isn't very obvious by my effusive praise, I absolutely adored this book and was so glad I turned off the television for some dedicated reading time.

5 out of 5 - wild about Wolitzer.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey with Michaela Angela Davis


"He was fun, fine, and just the thing to lick my wounds."

To be completely honest, this was kind of exactly what I expected. As overblown as a Spanish telenovela with a massive selection of hyperbole. In summary her life was difficult, her first marriage felt like prison ( she calls their house 'Sing Sing') and the last chapter is where the name dropping occurs.
I'm not sure I learnt anything I really wanted to. No dirt on James Packer, only sledging of Tommy Mottola. Everything seemed like a Hallmark Movie of the week and the italicised 'dahling' drove me batty. 
I enjoy more backstage gossip, but Mariah paints herself as more of a bird in a gilded cage who is now breaking free, minus a lot of exciting detail.

1 out of 5 - one for the fans I suspect.

1 out of 5