French Exit by Patrick deWitt – a literary mix tape

I mentioned how slow I’d been to write a review of French Exit by Patrick deWitt. I read it in February – can’t remember much except that I laughed out loud and loved every moment. So, a mix tape instead…

4/5 Dark and hilarious. Continue reading

Second Place by Rachel Cusk

Second Place was my introduction to Rachel Cusk. I quickly became engrossed in the story and wondered why I had expected her writing to be impenetrable. Where had this impression come from? Other readers? Reviews? Her regular appearance on literature award lists? Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised – no, relieved – to find Second Place highly ‘readable’. No persistence required. Continue reading

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

If I had the energy to rewind to all of the blog posts from December 2020 titled ‘Most anticipated books of 2021’, I suspect that Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid would feature heavily. Because even if Daisy Jones & The Six wasn’t your usual genre, there was something appealing about it – the nostalgia, the music alive on the page, the glamour and grunge of the industry.

Reid has used the same ingredients for her latest novel, Malibu Rising, but unfortunately the result lacks the magic of Daisy. I’m not sure why because the ‘ingredients’ are solid – professional surfers, Malibu beach, set in the eighties – but these scene-setters were diluted with too many superfluous characters, and a house party that is described in laborious detail (a stark contrast to the first half of the book which covers decades of the family’s history). Continue reading

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Ordinarily, if a book I’ve read has thousands of reviews on Goodreads, I’ll do a literary mixtape instead of a review. Because really, what more can I say about a text if 20,000 others have shared their thoughts? Conversely, there’s always an audience for eighties music videos paired with some choice quotes (I think).

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee has 266,391 ratings and 26,202 reviews on Goodreads. But there will be no mixtape, for the simple reason that although I found this family saga engrossing in terms of plot, there was nothing particularly compelling about the style of Lee’s writing. It’s a really good story. It’s a memorable story. The writing is straightforward. Continue reading

Stray by Stephanie Danler

There are no earth-shattering revelations in Stephanie Danler’s memoir, Stray, but what it does highlight is how the patterns of our formative relationships reverberate into adult years.

The memoir is ostensibly about Danler’s parents – her mother, who is disabled by years of alcoholism and further handicapped by a brain aneurysm; and her father, who abandoned the family when Danler was three-years-old, and battled drug addiction since.

I was either hiding from her rage or trying to get her attention – there was no safe middle ground while she was drinking. Continue reading

Twenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

You’ll either love the format of Matthew Dicks’s novel, Twenty-one Truths About Love, or it will drive you crazy. Personally, after labouring over two essays for uni last week while reading, a story written entirely in list format was light relief.

The story focuses on Dan – list-maker, bookstore owner, soon-to-be father. Dan needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat to save his failing business. Plus, there are things that are nagging him – his estranged relationship with his father, and the spectre of Peter, who was the first husband of Dan’s wife, Jill.

There will always be a part of Jill’s life that will remain a secret to me because you can only tell your second husband so much about your previous life with your dead husband. Continue reading

The New Me by Halle Butler

It’s boring to begin a review of The New Me by Halle Butler with comparisons to Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation or Eileen but the books are all very similar in style and vibe (so it stands to reason if you loathe Moshfegh, Butler might not be your cup of tea).

Personally, I very much enjoyed The New Me, a novel that is tightly focused on a young woman, Millie, her temp job in an office, and her lonely hours after work.

I think I’m drawn to temp work for the slight atmospheric changes. The new offices and coworkers provide a nice illusion of variety. Like how people switch out their cats’ wet food from Chicken and Liver to Sea Bass, but in the end, it’s all just flavored anus. Continue reading

Brat by Andrew McCarthy

I recommended to a friend on Twitter that she listen to the audiobook, Brat by Andrew McCarthy – it’s his memoir about the eighties (read by him).

And then this happened:

I squealed.

My kids came running. I told them that Andrew McCarthy had tweeted me. Before they could say anything (‘Who?’), I said Pretty-in-Pink-St-Elmo’s-Fire-Andrew-McCarthy.

It is possibly the highlight of my 11 years on Twitter. Continue reading