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August: Books I read and a thing that made me laugh

August has gone by in a blur. A cold, rainy, winter-in-Melbourne blur. I’ve been neglecting this little blog – for which I have no real excuse, other than LIFE.

I’ve done lots of reading (there’s always time for reading), but not a lot of reviewing. Here’s a snapshot of what books shaped my August, my verdict on each and then a little thing that made me laugh.

Last Rituals

by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Cover of Last Rituals

At the start of the month, I wrote about a spectacular library haul and sought advice on how to attack it. There was no clear front runner, but Madame Bibliophile suggested I go for Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s first novel in the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series. To set up a recurring refrain for August, I didn’t get a chance to review this, but I really enjoyed it. I loved the glimpses of Icelandic life, that the protagonist was a lawyer and a single mother of two and that the victim was not a young, pretty woman.

Verdict? Highly recommend.

Where the Rekohu Bone Sings

by Tina Makareti

This is the only book I actually managed to review this month! You can read my thoughts on it here. If you want to understand New Zealand better, and how its colonial past continues to haunt its present, this is a great book.

Verdict? Highly recommend.

Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee

This has been on my to read list for months, since I read Grace @ Cultural Life‘s review. The book focusses on a Korean family, tracing the vicissitudes of the family’s fortunes from early 1900s in Japanese-occupied Korea to the 1980s in Japan. I thought this book would be intimidating, given its size and its ambitious vision. However, it was hugely engaging with well-developed characters and a compelling storyline which in many parts was completely unpredictable. It was fascinating to read about the racism suffered by Koreans in Japan over the last century, as well as the long arm of the Yakuza.

Verdict? Highly recommend.

Bridget Crack

by Rachel Leary

I was really pleased to be given a review copy of Bridget Crack as it’s premise sounded promising – a female convict on the run in the wilds of Tasmania. However, I found this novel simply underwhelming. It was fine, and it passed the time on my commute, but I don’t imagine I’ll remember much about it in a few months time.  I haven’t seen any other reviews so far and I’m wondering if a few people have had a similar reaction.

Verdict? Not one I’d recommend in a hurry.

Sleeping on Jupiter

by Anuradha Roy

I don’t know what to make of this book. I’d assumed that I’d love it and I really didn’t – yet I can’t put my finger on why. The novel is set in a ‘temple town’ in India and follows a series of seemingly unconnected characters over five days. The book covers some pretty big themes (dementia and child sex abuse, for example) but there isn’t really any narrative climax and the ending is ambiguous. The book must have its fans as it was long-listed for the 2015 Man Booker Prize – alas, I’m not among them.

Verdict? I’d recommend it to hard-core Booker fanatics.

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts

by Toni Jordan

This wasn’t technically a ‘read’; I listened to the audio book. Nevertheless I really enjoyed it and it was the perfect book for ingesting aurally. It’s a romantic comedy that centres on three couples and their broken, or breaking, marriages. There’s infidelities, shattered hearts and many, many funny one-liners – there were several moments that I laughed out loud. It’s a romp and it’s fun, verging on farcical. But it’s perfect to listen to as you wheel your shopping trolley round Coles, for example.

Verdict? A light, fun listen.

Big Little Lies

By Liane Moriarty

I’ve got Girl About Library to thank for this audio book recommendation. Again, not technically a ‘read’ and technically I’m not finished this yet, but I’m loving this audio book. Moriarty captures brilliantly the nuances, quirks and politics amongst parents with primary school kids, but balances this with strong observations about violence against women. After this, it’s the HBO series.

Verdict? Loving it.

Something That Made Me Laugh in August

I love First Dog on the Moon cartoons. It should be mandatory reading for every Australian. He always manages to shoehorn in some random line, this time it was: ‘Even Shakespeare thought Tony Abbott was a Can’t’. (I get this might not translate well for those living outside our land girt by sea). Check out the cartoon: Australians love to swear, especially when it comes to what you can and can’t call Tony Abbott

Coming up for September?

I’ve just started reading Laurie Penny’s newest book Bitch Doctrine. I’m more in love with her than before. Glorious Heresies  and The Wonder are waiting collection from the library. I’m still to read a review copy of She Be Damned (big guilt trip with that one). I’ve bought A Small Place, thanks to African Book Addict’s review and Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, thanks to the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. It’s going to be a great month.

 

This is a site about books and about tea, and how we should read more books and drink more tea. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what books to read and what tea to drink. This is where I can help out.

4 Comments

  1. I have Pachinko in my TBR stack (hesitating because of its size but glad to hear it doesn’t read as a ‘big’ book). Had been hoping to see Lee at MWF but couldn’t squeeze it in 🙁

    I listened to Our Tiny Useless Hearts as well – I didn’t love it but I think that’s partly because I’d recently read Addition by Jordon which I thought was brilliant – I can’t help but compare when I binge on an author.

    Love that First Dog link 😀

  2. Isn’t Pachinko good? I loved it and was fascinated by the history of Koreans in Osaka and the Yakuza.

    I didn’t realise Big Little Lies was a book. I’ve yet to watch the TV series. I’m adding this to my wishlist.

    • I think if you have any interest in Japan, Pachinko is a must. Big little lies wouldn’t be for everyone, but if you take it for what it is, I think it’s great. It’s comforting to know this strange reverting to high school thing that happens among school mums is meaningful in countries beyond Australia.

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