Heartbake by Charlotte Ree

It was love at first sight when I spotted Heartbake by Charlotte Ree at my bookshop. The yellow cloth cover, the delightful-to-hold unconventional size (a bit smaller than A5), and the subtitle – ‘a bittersweet memoir’. If that wasn’t enough to convince me (it was), I opened the book to find a section containing recipes and lush food photography. All so lovely.

The book focuses on the period after Ree’s divorce – she learns to cook and at the same time, slowly begins putting her life back together.

Unfortunately, while the recipes were enticing, and I enjoyed her deliberate inclusions of what she ate at particular events or moments, Heartbake fell short. Continue reading

Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss

I have written previously about the importance of Sweet Dreams romances and the Sweet Valley High series in my reading history (here, here, here). I make no secret of my devotion to these books, and somewhere along the way, Grab the Lapels recommended Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss to me.

This book is a place of understanding. A place where you can sit down, get comfortable, and talk about…that time Jessica Wakefield accidentally joined a cult while she was at the mall. Here you’re among friends.

I didn’t doubt I was among friends, but Moss confirmed it with this –

I could lose myself in the neon-tinted pop culture of my youth, with all its pointless catfights and ice-blue prom dresses*. I may have learned to read from educator-approved picture books about poky puppies and purple crayons, but I learned to become a reader from Sweet Valley High. In 1989, I begged my parents to buy me #32, The New Jessica, because I thought the girls on the cover had pretty hair. Little did I know that I’d be injecting the adventures of those pretty-haired Wakefield twins directly into my veins for the next four years.

And I was the same (but in 1985). I knew when the next installment was due, and would tear down to Angus & Robertson in Camberwell as soon as school finished to buy it. My obsession lasted at least two years. Continue reading

The Draft by Emma Quayle

The Draft by Emma Quayle is a book about Australian Rules Football. So most of you will stop reading now…

Quayle’s book follows the 2007 draft, and focuses on five boys out of the 1200 who nominated – Trent Cotchin, Cyril Rioli, Ben McEvoy, Brad Ebert, and Patrick Veszpremi. Each of them was vastly different, and Quayle’s descriptions of their style of play, temperament, and attitude is the most gripping part of this book. In describing the individuals, she also exposes the grueling draft process and how mental health, and mental fitness, is as important as the physical. It’s not enough to be a good kick. Continue reading

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

I was fortunate to see Sloane Crosley earlier this year (speaking about her latest novel, Cult Classic, which I’ve read but yet to review… I’m very behind on reviews). Anyway, she was as funny in real life as she is on the page, and her second essay collection, Look Alive Out There,  confirms exactly how funny she is on the page.

Crosley’s humour is self-deprecating, and relies on the very particular situations she has found herself in (as opposed to taking shots at the world in general). Although I found the essays to be of a consistent standard (high), there were standouts. A Dog Named Humphrey recalls Crosley’s guest appearance on Gossip Girl (best show, and I will not be taking questions at this time); Up the Down Volcano, about a poorly planned adventure in Ecuador; and Cinema of the Confined, which focuses on her diagnosis with Ménière’s disease, which she describes as something that ‘…sounds like a pastry but is the opposite of pastry…’. Her doctor says,

“I’m doubtful you’ll go deaf deaf.”
I didn’t want to go any number of deafs.
“It could be worse,” he said. “It could be cancer.”
This was not the first time Dr. Goldfinger suggested I appreciate my place on the mortality spectrum… The expression doesn’t go: “At least you have some portion of your health.” Continue reading

Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener

In some ways, Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener is a memoir in two parts.

The first part is set in New York, when Anna was in her mid-twenties, and working in the publishing industry. There was none of the glamour or perks that she had anticipated and while the ‘meaningfulness’ of her work had initially sustained her, it did not pay the bills.

While my future peers were hiring wealth advisors and going on meditation retreats in Bali to pursue self-actualization, I was vacuuming roaches off the walls of my rental apartment, smoking weed, and bicycling to warehouse concerts along the East River, staving off a thrumming sense of dread.

She describes herself as ‘privileged and downwardly mobile’, her life in the city subsidised by her ‘generous, forgiving parents’.  But with less than a year left on her parents’ health insurance plan, Anna turns to the emerging digital economy and takes a job – with health benefits – with a startup. It had a book-and-publishing angle, so she hadn’t completely sold-out. Continue reading