Book Bingo 2019 Update #2

BingoBefore we have a small crisis that it’s almost the end of the year, let’s celebrate I made a Bingo! It’s a great line to cross off too, many great reads in there. I’ve added six this time on top of my original nine. I read a lot of things that didn’t fit into the categories recently but I am glad some still managed to fit in. I am keen to try and fill some of these other boxes because they are ones I don’t usually read. The poor Play box has been neglected from the beginning except one year so I’m hoping to fill that one at some stage.

As for the books I read they were wonderful. I got to read some wonderfully diverse stories and brilliant new authors and some books and series I have been wanting to read for what seems like an age! I will link my reviews when they go up but I’ve included a brief review as per usual. If you are ever looking for recommendations feel free to check out my current and former bingo cards. There’s still time to participate if you want a quick 3 month challenge before the year is out!

 

 

Read A Series

How to Train Your Dragon (How to Train Your Dragon, #1)How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

This series has been on my list since I was in high school and I can’t believe it has taken me so long because once I started I could not stop. I flew through all 12 of these books within a few weeks and it was the best thing I ever did. It is the perfect series if you liked Harry Potter because there are a lot of similarities in theme and grandness and it is beautiful and heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Graphic Novel

The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited!The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited by Clint McElroy

After a fantastic and successful first story, this second adaptation of the McElroy podcast is of equal standard. Funny, clever, beautifully illustrated it is the perfect way to re-experience the podcast or see what all of the fuss is about with a near perfect representation of the original audio format.

Self Published

13411999And All the Stars by Andrea K Host

This is an amazing story about friendship, aliens, and Australians. I loved it from start to finish; I read it in one sitting and I couldn’t put it down. There is more about the people than anything too science fictiony if that isn’t quite your thing. But the science fiction aspect is rewarding in itself. It was so captivating and there is a great mystery and drama that hooks you from the start.

Gay MC

Play It AgainPlay It Again by Aidan Wayne

This was a fun read, it shows how online relationships form and you get a peak at how YouTube stars do their thing. It is adorable and while some characters can be overbearing you get used to them. It’s a sweet story though and Sam is a lovely soft, sweet boy.

 

Transgender MC

GeorgeGeorge by Alex Gino

This is such an significant book and Gino has done a fantastic job at showing the innocence and the maturity of young transgender kids and there is so much to learn from this story. It is an uplifting story and seeing George’s personal development through the story makes your heart soar.

 

Free Choice

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious, #2)The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

This is not a series you can start in the middle of so I suggest you start with Truly Devious but Johnson brings her full game with this second book. Our favourite characters are all there, the mystery still looms high above everyone and when one is solved, there are more waiting to take their place. Boarding schools and cold cases are a perfect combo, plus realistic mental health expression and relatable characters is an added bonus.

 

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (#1) by Jonas Jonasson

Published: 12th July 2012Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hesperus Press
Pages: 396
Format: Paperback
Translator: Rachel Wilson-Broyles
Genre: Fiction
★ – 2 Stars

It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. 

Having this on my TBR list for years finally ended as I read this and…it’s ok. I guess. Maybe. It’s a Swedish Forrest Gump style book where Allan unintentionally interacts with some of the major points of human history and the roles he played in them. However, despite this premise, the only parts even remotely interesting were the present day events. I didn’t mind the flashbacks in the first half, Allan’s life was funny, strange, tragic and bizarre, but about the half way point my interest was waning and I could not stay focused on the events. I found myself skimming and skipping until the present day picked up again. By the end of it I was skipping those chapters entirely and to be honest I noticed no difference in the story even at the end I was so uninvested I accepted the events and just went with it.

The flashbacks to Allan’s life have very little to do with anything that happens aside from giving us an insight to his previous adventurous life. Even the brief revisit to them in the present day is essentially pointless. They are not even depicted as Allan telling his story so the question of a reliable narrator never comes up, it’s just there as a comparison to his current adventures.

The present day plot is the most interesting part of this semi-interesting story. Allan’s adventures do not go unnoticed, there is a dedicated policeman trying to follow behind and work out what has happened and trying to solve the trail of crimes and mysteries that follow Allan. This gave off strong Monty Python and the Holy Grail vibes which increased my enjoyment.

The writing is filled with dark humour and while you may have to be prone to enjoy such humour it does throw it in your face probably more than necessary. I did not feel much connection to this story and while Allan is a mildly apathetic character, as are most of them in some way, Jonasson relies on the reader finding his manner charming and quirky and as these unfortunate and absurd events play out that should be enough to engage us.

Credit to Jonasson, it is a clever concept and I’m glad it has been enjoyed by so many people. I couldn’t quite engage with the story and I’m wondering now that Allan’s entire life has been explained, the sequels will focus more on his further adventures and less recap of his life.

I watched the movie afterwards and it was a whole lot better than sitting through the book. It is quite true to the events in the book and seeing the events play out on screen made them more enjoyable. I’d definitely recommend that over the book if you are looking to see what all the fuss is about without reading the book.

You can purchase The Hundred-year-Old Man… via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Book Bingo 2019 Update #1

BingoThe first four months of the year have passed, way too quickly for my liking but here we are. Now that May has arrived it’s time for the first update in my Book Bingo Challenge. This is inadvertently and definitely the year for reading the things I’ve been meaning to read for a super embarrassingly long time.

I am still not trying to make a line at the moment even though I am very close, I am more curious to find later that I’ve read something that will fit into a box. A small part of me though is keeping an eye out for suitable books that I can read that fall into my categories. It’s a complicated mash up of all the things which is working totally fine for me right now. In all honestly I’m just a little happy I am remembering to actively participate in my own bingo challenge this year.

 

Debut Author

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I was so excited to read this story and Green did not disappoint. I love his complex ideas and the insight of the media and the internet community is something he is more than qualified to explore. With gripping writing and a wonderful science fiction aspect it is a wonderful story and I am so excited (and impatient) for the sequel.

Non-Fiction

Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer

A few years behind the fuss I’m glad I finally got to read this story. I listened to Tracey tell the story herself and from her voice it was interesting hearing her go through her life and career with all the challenges she’s faced. It is an eye opening story and one that it great to hear from someone inside the industry. It isn’t the most powerful book, but it does its best.

Set in Australia

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

This may be Harper’s best work yet. I loved her subtle connection to her other characters and this family oriented, complicated, isolated story was one I could not put down. I read from cover to cover in one sitting and loved every minute of it. There’s suspense, drama, emotions, and moral dilemmas. What more could you want?

#ownvoices

Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina

I loved how Kwaymullina tells this story. It is profound, mystical, enlightening and a captivating story. The Aboriginal culture is celebrated and I loved how spirituality and practice of two different cultures come together. It’s a beautiful, harrowing story and draws you in.

 

On TBR For More Than Two Years

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

Benedictus has captured Milne’s voice beautifully. There is a difference I will admit, but the heart is there, and it is clearly the best voice to carry on the story of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin. The stories ring true to those from decades ago and you can picture Pooh vividly as well as all the friends we’ve come to know and love.

 

Movie Adaptation

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

This is a strange book that definitely appeals to some more than others. The movie is a decent adaptation and I would suggest if you didn’t like the book or haven’t gotten around to reading it, go for the film instead. It’s much more enjoyable with the good quirkiness kept in and the better parts of the story being included.

Non Human MC

Watership Down by Richard Adams

I have finally gotten around to reading this classic despite catching a few references over the years. A decent read and one that wasn’t as grand as I first thought, but dramatic all the same. There is a realism in the animals but there is also a logic and worldly knowledge.

 

Fantasy

The Wicked King

Holly Black has shown her master skills once more as we continue in this series. It is the perfect fantasy with magic, foreign lands, war, humans and a mess of all them combined. The magical world Black constructs is fascinating and filled with complicated drama to keep you always guessing and certainly eager for the story to never end.

A Classic

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Having known the general idea of the novel before starting I was surprised at the actual exploration of this dystopian world. I enjoyed the strangeness of the story and the fact we are never quite given any answers. I’m glad I can tick this book of my list at last.

 

The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer

Published: 24th April 2017 (print)/24th May 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 ABC Books AU/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 352/10 hrs and 20 mins
Narrator: Tracey Spicer
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Memoir
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

From bogan to boned and beyond – a full-frontal ‘femoir’ by one of Australia’s best-loved journalists

Tracey Spicer was always the good girl. Inspired by Jana Wendt, this bogan from the Brisbane backwaters waded through the ‘cruel and shallow money trench’ of television to land a dream role: national news anchor for a commercial network. But the journalist found that, for women, TV was less about news and more about helmet hair, masses of makeup and fatuous fashion, in an era when bosses told you to ‘stick your tits out’, ‘lose two inches off your arse’, and ‘quit before you’re too long in the tooth’. Still, Tracey plastered on a smile and did what she was told. But when she was sacked by email after having a baby, this good girl turned ‘bad’, taking legal action against the network for pregnancy discrimination. In this frank and funny ‘femoir’ – part memoir, part manifesto – Tracey ‘sheconstructs’ the structural barriers facing women in the workplace and encourages us all to shake off the shackles of the good girl. 

I am a couple years behind the hype with this book but I am glad I finally got to read it. I picked this up because I was intrigued by the controversy Spicer apparently caused and I wanted to see what happens when the good girl said no more. It wasn’t quite the burn down the establishment that I had hoped, but it was an interesting read all the same.

The beginning has a lot of clunky jokes which probably flow better when read to yourself instead of read aloud, but you get through them and it settles into more of a story. Having Spicer read it herself means she gets to include her own inflections and express her humour as she intended which is good because as slightly jarring as it was to hear, I fear it would have been worse having someone else try and do it.

From Spicer’s early life growing up you see the sexism and the abuse that many girls experienced at that age and how overt it was at the time. Spicer’s “bogan” beginnings was a surprise to me and it certainly explains a few things and how she’s written this memoir.

One thing I noticed early on is that Spicer doesn’t seem to know who her audience is. She makes jokes about using encyclopaedias before the internet and explains obvious references in a slightly condescending manner like she is addressing children or teenagers, ignorant teenagers at that, whom I doubt are her main readership. I don’t doubt most of her readership are people over 30 who have enough sense to know that people used encyclopaedias before the internet without needing the patronising explanation. This happens a fair bit as she explains things that while even at my age I might not have been alive to experience, I still understand.

There are themes much like Fight Like A Girl as Spicer takes us on a journey through the decades as a women, a teenager and a girl, exposed to sexism, abuse, and disrespect in her life and workplace. Her own sarcasm and opinions adding some nice flare as she mocks the industry and those in it with humour and disdain.

I waited through the first half of the book, which was not uninteresting, but not entirely engaging either waiting for The Moment. There is a chance this was overhyped in my own head, but I thought that suing for discrimination was going to be a more defining moment, the “good girl turns bad” moment. In the end it comes and goes a little lacklustre and after I was expecting it to be the climax that shifted this story into a fight for equality and the moment Tracey said “no more!”, it kind of wasn’t.

Seeing women take down the patriarchy is my thing and I enjoyed Spicer’s stories, amazed but not shocked at her early life experiences. I waited the whole book though while she kept her temper, held her tongue, but the Event I wanted for is glossed over, wrapped up into barely nothing. I think we got more about her moving house then we did about her confrontation with her network. I understand non-disclosure agreements and terms of settlements, but I still think this could have been explored a little more, considering it was such a huge event, something I had been expecting to be a climax of this book based on the blurb.

After that it becomes a list of events about what happens after the settlement and what Spicer is doing now. This is after all an autobiography of Tracey Spicer, not a call to arms. But Spicer herself seems to build up your expectations as you read, constantly referencing the Good Girl and when she finally changes sides, it falls flat on the page, no matter how monumental it was in reality.

However, if you set aside that my expectations were skewed or I read too much into it, the book is still interesting and not unimportant. There is feminism and anger at the patriarchy but no real solutions. Unlike Clementine Ford who tells us how to burn down the establishment, Spicer keeps pointing out the inequality but doesn’t help us find a solution.

As a look at her life and her career it is interesting and shows you the behind the scenes and bones of her career. She strips away the flare and the lights of the television industry and she shows off her amazing achievements. I think this should be what is taken from the book, a great career from a great woman.

You can purchase The Good Girl Stripped Bare via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Published: 23rd October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Macmillan Australia
Pages: 362
Format: Paperback
Genre: Crime
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

This is definitely my new favourite Jane Harper book. From the start I was immediately pulled in, the voice and tone drew me in and I wanted to stay in this story and keep reading.

Nathan doesn’t set out the solve the mystery of his brother’s death, but a few things don’t sit right with him and little by little he tries to fill in the gaps. This is not a police procedural story however, the focus is on trying to come to terms with his brother’s death and while the family wonder about what happened to him, it is also about getting through the grief together.

Harper hints at secrets and events, baits us into keep reading and honestly it works. Not quite so much to get answers, the anomalies are not followed up like a detective would, but the tone feels so comfortable that you want to keep following this narrative. She lays down clues and hints that you don’t even realise long before but at the same time once she has planted a seed the tone shifts and a whole other component is explored. It never felt out of place, or unconnected, and I couldn’t help but marvel at how she mixed everything together so seamlessly, never breaking from the flow of the story. She doesn’t focus constantly on speaking in riddles, she gets on with the story while making well placed and relevant hints about characters throughout which could easily mean nothing as they could everything.

Harper captures the outback environment brilliantly without resorting to long details and descriptions. She uses the characters and the story itself to reflect the harshness of the land and the dangers it holds. One great surprise was the blink and you miss it reference to some familiar faces from Harper’s debut novel, The Dry. I enjoyed the connection to the two stories but Harper also uses it to add an entire new layer to the characters as well.

I loved being in this story and I loved everything about this story. I loved these characters and their honesty and their secrets. I loved Nathan and his fractured, broken self but still with a strong family commitment buried deep inside. His character is one of honesty but also one of damaged resilience. Harper could have gone so many different ways with his personality but she dances on the edge of the line skilfully instead of making him cross it which I adored.

People are right when they say this is Harper’s best book to date because there is a comfortableness about this book, but it is one that still contains mystery and heartache, and complications that don’t overwhelm one another but coexist side by side remarkably, balanced back and forth as the story progresses.

You can purchase The Lost Man via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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