Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Moonstone Readalong - I KNOW WHO STOLE IT

We're supposed to write up a review for the Moonstone readalong and while I might still write a regular review I think I want to write up something a bit more spoilery so that I can discuss all of my favourite bits and pieces about the mystery instead. So I probably don't really need to say it, but there will be spoilers below. Tread carefully, you've been warned.

And double warned in GIF form
So The Moonstone. I absolutely loved it. I'm pretty hopeless at mysteries at the best of times, I'm almost guaranteed to fall for the red herrings littered along the way, so I really didn't guess it at all. I thought that maybe Godfrey was guilty when he broke of the marriage with Rachel (or didn't put up a fight anyway)  and the lawyer was like "oh hell no, that rascally cur" but I decided that'd be too obvious, surely that was a red herring. But even if I had trusted my gut I don't think I could have forseen the road that Wilkie was going to take. Opium sleepwalking and crimes of opportunity? Recreating the scene of the crime? Godfrey dressing up as a scruffy sailor and keeping a woman in a villa? No, even if I had been sure it was Godfrey I don't think I would have guessed all of those threads.

So did everyone immediately assume Ezra Jennings was involved and then feel absolutely awful when it turned out he was actually a gorgeous and wonderful person? It all seemed so suspicious the way he was popping up and having such outrageous hair and maggots in his head (have I mentioned how glad I am Betteredge came back yet?).

But instead of being in cahoots with the Indians he was actually just a man haunted by his past who was dying (of cancer?) and using opium to hold out for just a little longer. Thanks to this lovely, quiet man Franklin's name was cleared and he was able to finally prove to Rachel that he wasn't the guy who stole her moonstone. Or he was, but he did it for the right reasons and accidentally put it straight into the hands of the man who did want to make some money.

Speaking of Rachel. I might have kept suspecting her long after it was clear she wasn't involved. I just had no idea what was a real hint and what was a red herring, so I just suspected EVERYONE. I even suspected Murthwaite, purely because of his connection to India. Shhhhh I told you I was bad at mysteries.

While I loved the mystery and Jennings re-staging of the house to prove Franklin's innocence, Betteredge's sass during the whole thing was absolutely my favourite part. He was so mean to Jennings (and mostly because of his looks - shame on you Betteredge!) but he was so hilarious I could forgive him.
"I want to know who is responsible for keeping it in a perpetual state of litter, no mater how often it may be set right - his trousers here, his towels there, and his French novels everywhere. I say, who is responsible for untidying the tidiness of Mr Franklin's room, him or me?"
Can we just add Betteredge into every book ever now?
Speaking of happy jigs, I totally did one when Cuff wrote down who he suspected on a piece of paper and got Franklin to hold on to it until the bad guy was revealed. That kind of theatrics is so completely my jam, and so perfect for a cop who retired to grow roses on roses on roses. Bravo Cuff, you've got style.

What else? I loved the epilogue when the Indian was taken back to India. I love the idea that this jewel is so important to their religion that three men would sacrifice everything to bring it back to the people who needed it. It's such a selfless act amongst all of the greed and obsession with wealth that happened back in England. And it's bittersweet, because even though the stone is back where it belongs, these three men are now forced to walk alone until the end of their days, while everyone in England (Godfrey excepted) got their happy ending. I guess it could be argued that for the three Indians this was their happy ending, but it was still sad to me.

Alright, so time to wrap it up. I absolutely adored this book. It was clever, funny, brilliantly written and a ripping good mystery. I can't wait to read more Wilkie, and I'm so glad I finally get to nod along sagely when everyone else brings up their Wilkie adoration. So where do I head next? I guess The Woman in White is the logical choice, but I'm open to suggestions!

*if you want to see what I thought in the first half, head over here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Graphic Novel Mini-Review #15

Kill Shakespeare: The Tide of Blood (Volume 3)

Written by: Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col; Illustrated by: Andy Belanger

Published: 2013

My Thoughts: If you've read and liked Fables, you will probably love Kill Shakespeare because it's a very similar concept but with Shakespearian characters. This volume takes place on Prospero's island and I looooooved all of the magic and double-crossing and twisty-twist-twists. The art style and colouring is gorgeous, and the writing is consistent, although I'm kind of hoping this is the last volume. As much as I enjoy it, it is a little gimmicky and I think it'll be a very quick switch from enjoyment to eye-roll inducing. Make sure you read the volumes in the correct sequence for continuity.

Fables: Storybook Love (Volume 3)

Written by: Bill Willingham; illustrated by: Mark Buckingham

Published: 2004

My Thoughts: I really, really dig this series and it just gets better with each volume. Generally I'm pretty bleh towards remakes/reboots/reimaginings but when they're done well, as Fables is, they're fantastic. Yes you know the characters, but it's because you know them that it works. It's brilliant to see these darker or disappointing versions of our Disney heroes and heroines, because we're always complaining about how dreary and unrealistic the Disney effect actually is. But it's not just gritty for grit's sake, there's a complex story unfolding within these smaller narratives and I am so excited to see where it goes. This volume is all about our exile's falling in love and struggling to make connections and I can't tell you how gratifying it is to read about Prince Charming actually being a manipulating asshole, or to learn that the Big Bad Wolf's father is the North Wind. I mean COME ON, that's awesome!

Ten Grand (Issues #2-4)

Written by: J Michael Straczynski; illustrated by: Ben Templesmith

Published: 2013

My Thoughts:  This series pulled me in from the start, but I found it stagnated a little in the centre before finally expanding the story to a place where I really connected with it and the characters. But even when I wasn't actively engaged (and how disengaged can you really be about a former mob enforcer who is returned to life by an angel every time he dies so he can carry out demon slayings on Earth?) Ben Templesmith's art provided the emotional resonance the writing was lacking. God damn he's good at what he does. I've heard that Templesmith isn't going to be involved in the rest of the series, which makes me a little conflicted. I love this series, it's really pretty solid, but without his distinctive art style I'm not sure if it'll be the same. Wait and see I guess.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Links

This is going to be my final Monday Links post until I get back from my holiday (SQUEEE!) because scheduling reviews I can do, scheduling links posts is just bonkers. BUT I am planning to upload a few holiday posts here and there and maybe some holiday mini-reviews. I don't know exactly but the blog definitely won't be empty for the next 5 weeks.

*Guillermo Del Toro's vampire novel The Strain is being made into a TV show for FX. Now I'm even more excited to listen to the audiobook version I downloaded for my holiday! (Via The AV Club)

*Because Christmas is nigh, here is a list of bookish gifts to get the bookworms in your life (Via Buzzfeed)

*In honour of the recently aired Doctor Who anniversay episode, here are a bunch of functional TARDISes (Via Mentalfloss)

*I'm not going to make it to New Orleans on my holiday, but I am bookmarking this "literary tourism" post for future travels. (Via Bookriot)

*One of the reasons I love indie bookstores is the creativity they can use in their displays, take this Perth bookstore Kaleido Books, for example. I LOVES THEM. (Via Buzzfeed)

*Rolling Stone did a huge profile on Charles Manson this last week and it is pretty epic. (Via Rolling Stone)

*Catching Fire is out! I haven't seen it yet (maybe tomorrow night?) but a bunch of bloggers have. Here's Preeti's (Bookriot) take, Belle's (Belle's Bookshelf) gif-filled review, and a non-book-reader opinion (Uproxx).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Film Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World

Released: 2013

Directed by: Alan Taylor

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman

Synopsis: Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.


I was really lucky to be invited to an extra-early preview screening of Thor a week before it premiered here in Australia (which was a week or two before America). When Tom and I arrived at the cinema there was a group of cosplay girls dressed up as Loki - and a lone guy wearing an Iron Man glove - a hammer/strength game and a crowd of bubbling, excited fans.

Unlike the excited crowd, I was mostly motivated by the exclusivity of the screening and the promise of free chocolate and popcorn. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the first Thor. In fact, given my preference for theatrics I think I was one of few people who really appreciated the campy humour Kenneth Brannagh brought to the film. And even more than that I really, really loved Loki and Tom Hiddleston's brilliant portrayal of that character. Plus, do I need to remind you of how handsome this dude is?

I'm gonna do it anyway because, *drool*
So I don't really know why I wasn't excited for the sequel. Maybe it's superhero fatigue. There are just so many of them and there are no signs of them waning what with Netflix's recent announcement for 4 new Marvel series. Maybe it's because it's Marvel and I tend to find Marvel a little...sterile? Maybe it was Natalie Portman. I mean she's fine, but she was the weakest link in the original film and *yawn* I find her really boring. Maybe it was all three of these things and a bunch of other smaller issues. I don't know, all I knew was that I didn't have high hopes for this film.

But I ended up really, really loving it. It's a well-balanced film that manages to weigh the LOLs with the KAPOWs to great success. Since Batman well and truly won the dark and gritty superhero awards, Marvel - in particular with the Avengers - has really pushed for the comical superheros. While I don't always enjoy this approach (I find it works infinitely better in the actual comics) in Thor it works so well, perhaps because they fully embrace how ridiculous the concept actually is. Thor gets to be the alien-god out of water again, winning laughs when he hangs Mjolnir up on the coat rack in Jane's apartment and then proving himself to be Avengers-worthy when he takes on a monster 4 times his size with a wink and a smile. It's campy and silly but it reigns it in just enough to make it work. The humour also manages to mask some of the larger plot holes or inconsistencies, while also balancing out the family drama occurring between Thor, Loki and their parents.

I guess I should tell you what it's all about right kids? Basically there are a bunch of dark elves helmed by an unrecognisable Chris Eccleston (Doctor Who) as Malekith. For reasons I didn't fully understand, he wanted to eliminate all reality and plunge the universe back into darkness. Would that mean the end of the dark elves too? I don't know, and hopefully one of you can help me make sense of that in the comments. In order to achieve this dastardly plan Malekith needs the Aether - a  shiny red goo looking sentient (maybe) substance - but before he can use it his plans are dashed by Odin's father and the warriors from Asgard. The elves got away leaving the Aether, however since the Aether can't be destroyed the Asgardians decide to hide it away and it's basically forgotten about for centuries. Cue current day. Jane Foster (Portman) is now in London doing her physics stuff and trips across a wormhole and ends up coming face to face with the Aether which melds with her. She returns to Earth, Thor finds her, realises something is wrong and takes her to his home to meet the folks and have some Asgardian medics take a look-see. But when Jane joined with the Aether Malekith and his dark elves were revived from their hibernation, and they come looking for the Aether so they can finally succeed in their plans to return everything to darkness.

The majority of the film takes place in Asgard and the 9 realms, which was a great choice. To see something as beautiful and as unique as Asgard being attacked by dark elves is a completely different experience to the prototypical New York/NY stand-in invasion and fight. Not only is it something you haven't seen 15 times in the past 5 years, but it manages to eliminate the "Superman killed everyone in Metropolis" issue everyone had with the recent Superman film. And while the final climactic fight takes place in London, it also doesn't, which sounds confusing but I can't explain it further without spoiling something. Let's just say that the new and often-changing setting made up for the less-than-phenomenal fight sequences.

Have I talked about enough that I can get to Loki now? While everyone acted well in this film (Rene Russo doing an exceptionally good job) Tom Hiddleston, once again, took the crown. His scenes in the prison cell were so wrought with emotion that they elevated the film to an entirely different level. His portrayal of Loki is so nuanced, so complicated that it will forever change the way Loki appears in the comics and is viewed by audiences. In this film Loki is finally having to deal with the ramification of his actions in the previous Thor and Avengers films and it takes its toll. There are a few brief glimpses behind his mask, but he's so fortified that it's hard to know if we ever actually get to see some genuine remorse or anger from him, or if everything is part of some grand scheme. I've loved Hiddleston in plenty of things, but damn if Loki isn't one of his greatest achievements.

All superhero films look best on the big screen and should be enjoyed in this way, preferably with a bucket of popcorn, and Thor: The Dark World is no exception. There are absolutely problems in this film in terms of plotting and dialogue, but the overall production is one that I can't imagine not enjoying. And of course be sure to stay during and after the credits for the stings. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the Guardians of the Galaxy film, which is probably the next Marvel film I'm actually excited for.

Also, if someone doesn't re-cut the trailer and/or film to fit this Chinese Thor promotion then I will riot.

Read the whole delightful story here

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Moonstone Readalong - Hittin' the Halfway Point

So I'm a teeny bit late with this mid-way readalong post but I wanted to get to the end of Clack's narration so I could read what everyone has said without worrying about spoilers. Which, I guess shouldn't really need mentioning, but there'll be spoilers for the first 50% of The Moonstone in this post.

Spoiler break dance party!
I took awhile to really get going with this book. I'm not sure if it was simply getting used to the language and style, the content, reading it on my new kindle or even the extremely heightened expectations I have thanks to Wilkie's online appreciation club (i.e.. Laura, Alley, Tika etc), but yeah there was definitely an adjustment period. Which is not to say there wasn't things I loved straight away, because there absolutely was!

Dear old Betteredge! He was so sweet and grumpy and I took to him immediately. It's funny, in the hands of a different writer I might have hated him - his views on women are the kind of thing that usually makes my blood boil even taking into account the "it was the way of their times" excuses. But the only time I didn't love Betteredge was when he was professing his dislike of Detective Cuff, and that's only because Cuff is perfect and can do no wrong (TEAM CUFF 4EVA). But thanks to Wilkie's wit, Betteredge's anti-female posturing usually came off as very funny or unintentionally self-deprecating. Funny and self-deprecating I can work with, funny and self-deprecating I get.

Betteredge was a great way to start the narrative because although he'd get swept up with the detecting fever he was also fiercely loyal to his lady. You know what else he was? Hopelessly in love with Lady Verinder, and it's sad that she died without him serving at her side. I wish we'd had a brief glimpse at the funeral so we could have checked he was alright.

I found it so strange that when the moonstone was stolen everyone was all GET THE POLICE and as soon as it became clear one of them was probably responsible they were like HOW DARE YOU DO THE JOB WE ASKED YOU TO DO. I know Cuff was their as a private detective but guys, that's not how policing works - otherwise how would anyone ever get arrested for murder/thievery/assault? "No sorry, I don't accept your theory and I refuse to allow you to do any policing to prove it. Good day to you sir. I SAID GOOD DAY"

They were the best of times, they were the worst of times - clearly.
Clack was equally delightful as a narrator. As a person she was abhorrent, but I laughed and laughed when she'd hide her books around the house and employ her minions to send letters on her behalf. And when she tried to give the tract to Godfrey's father because he used the word damn? I thought I was going to die.There have been a few films adapted from this book and I might have to hunt them down in the hope that they do that scene! I felt a little bad for her though because 1) it's pretty clear that she's in love with Godfrey, and 2) I'm thinking that Wilkie wasn't a big fan of religious evangelism so she was far more exaggerated than any of the other characters in the book. But I will forever love her for her dedication, her inability of knowing when to keep quiet and the fact that she was in groups with names like "British Ladies Servants Sunday Sweetheart Supervision". And one that had something to do with pants. I never quite got my head around that one!

So onto the mystery? I am so glad I'm reading this on my kindle because if it was a physical book I know I would have skipped to the final few pages and ruined it by now. I am the most impatient at these sorts of books, and while spoilers don't bug me it really is best to get to the twists and reveals when you're supposed to. I was a little confused when it all seemed wrapped up by Cuff 20% of the way into the book. Where was it headed? I have to commend Wilkie for turning this into a much more complicated and character driven story than I was expecting. I also suspect that the moonstone, while central to the plot, is going to end up not so important compared to all of the other secrets everyone seems to have. What did Bruff tell Rachel about Godfrey? What did Franklin do to piss Rachel off so much? What's Rachel been up to, and the servant who committed suicide (and I've forgotten her name already - I'm the worst)? Where is the moonstone? Will we ever find out anything ever?


*To see what I thought about the second half, head here.

Monday Links

*A Big thanks to Belle for sharing the new trailer for the Flowers in the Attic film. It looks brilliantly over the top and ridiculous. So everything is as it should be. (Via Youtube)

*A month or so ago Tom and I fell head over in heels in love with a new Anime, Attack on Titan. I had planned to write up a "10 reasons why you should watch..." post for it, but then I found this one which was way better than what I would have done. (Via Bees and Geometry)

*The new cast members of season 4 of Game of Thrones have been announced, although who some of them are playing is still unknown (Via Uproxx)

*This is a brilliant DIY for making a projector out of your smartphone. I am definitely going to give this a try! (Via The Thousands)

*Here's a little run down of 5 geeky lovers in modern literature. You better believe Eleanor and Park are on this list *fist pumps* (Via Buzzfeed)

*Everyone saw the gorgeous little roll-y kitten who barks like a dog right? No, well fix that already! SO CUTE (Youtube)

*Nick Reboot is a website that streams nothing but 90s/00s Nick cartoons. Doug, Rocko's Modern Life, all that cartoonish gold. (Via Nick Reboot)

*You can get Jane Austen temporary tattoos. Do with that information what you want (as long as what you do is buy them) (Via Jezebel)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"I Am Compelled Into This Country," Australian Fiction Post 2

Bet you thought I'd forgotten about this series. But how could I possibly deny you lovely folk the literature of my people? I couldn't, not in good conscious, so here you go an entire post about Australian contemporary literary fiction.

Everyone loves a good Carlton dance.
But in truth, this series is more difficult that I'd thought it'd be. Do I just list a bunch of awesome books with mini-synopses? Do I write full reviews for a collection of the ones I've read? Do I write a historical/biographical approach? So that's why this post has been so long in the pipes, it's been written and rewritten about a dozen times and I'm still not sure if it's going to be interesting and/or helpful for any of you. But oh wells, it is what it is. After this I'll be posting a genre fiction post and then a really huge list of books to read and awesome authors. I'll do my best to post the others so there aren't 10,000 years between this and the next post. Scouts honour.

First things first, I need to introduce you to Patrick White.

Guys - Patrick White, Patrick White - guys
So this sunny faced guy right here is the only Australian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. It was his book The Eye of the Storm which was credited by the Nobel committee as introducing "a new continent into literature". He was also a hell of a grump. At some point early in his career he decided he wanted nothing to do with awards, turning down a bunch of the more prolific Australian titles and didn't even attend when he won the Nobel prize. He was also an openly gay man at a time when it wasn't so great to be an openly gay man in Australia. All in all he was the kind of dude who had no time for your shit, and I love him. David Rice wrote a fantastic piece last year which goes into great detail about White and his books (I recommend Voss as a starting point).
White might seem elitist, fascist even, in his hatred of ordinariness and celebration of a chosen few, but you can feel the compassion and sadness underneath: it wasn't ordinary people he hated, but the cowardice with which people turn their backs on the extraordinary potential of our shared world in order to become ordinary.
Patrick White is sort of the patient zero for Australian literary fiction. Without him you can't have writers like Peter Carey or David Malouf and Australian fiction would be a hell of a lot poorer without these three dudes. Peter Carey is now based in America and a few of his more recent novels have been set in America, but his earlier and most celebrated books are all set in Australia. His 2000 novel The True History of the Kelly Gang is a semi-factual novel told from the perspective of bushranger Ned Kelly. It's HUGE and can be a little tricky to get a hang of the writing style but it's worth the effort. Another of his books, Oscar and Lucinda, was made into a film starring Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fiennes in the 1990s, so if you want to skip reading you can always go down that route (BOOOO). David Malouf is a Brisbane author (REPRESENT!) and best known for his short story fiction. His book Remembering Babylon is a striking full-length novel about identity and isolation and is just beautifully written. It's all about a white boy who was abandoned and then raised amongs Indigenous Australians before finding himself back among white settlers and struggling to identify and fit it. It's basically mandatory reading in any Australian fiction class and for good reason.

Bryce Courtenay and Thomas Keneally are probably more commercial and less literary than White, Malouf and Carey but since when is that a marker of greatness? Courtenay is actually South African by birth but emigrated to Australia after studying in England and meeting his to-be wife. You may have heard of his book The Power of One which takes place in South Africa during WW2 but as far as I'm aware none of his other novels, and there are plenty, are readily available overseas. Which is a crying shame because he's an epic storyteller who favours multi-generational bildungsroman narratives. As far as I'm concerned his greatest achievement is Four Fires, a book which meticulously represents 1950s Australia and is just SO GOOD. Thomas Keneally's writing is definitely available overseas, likely due to the fact that he wrote the book that the Spielberg classic film Schindler's List is based on. It was originally published as Schindler's Ark, and the story about how Keneally came to tell Schindler's story is fascinating in its own right and worth a read. Keneally writes a combination of non-fiction and fiction, though regardless of format they typically explore the human condition. His writing isn't limited to Australia (as Schindler's Ark attests) though he's written plenty on our people and culture as well.

Most of Australian literary fiction centres around two things. Either they're studies of family, or they're focused on the Australian landscape-either the bush, coast or suburban environments - or a combination of the two. Two prime examples come to mind. First is Christos Tsiolkas. Tsiolkas tends to focus on the family side of Australian life. His book The Slap (which I still need to read) is about the repercussions of a family friend slapping a child for misbehaving at a barbecue. It's also been made into a television series, which again I still need to watch, but I've heard pretty great things about it.  Tim Winton's books typically take place on the West Australian coast and the environment becomes a critical character in his work.
"The place comes first. If the place isn't interesting to me then I can't feel it. I can't feel any people in it. I can't feel what the people are on about or likely to get up to" (Tim Winton on writing)
Cloudstreet is probably Winton's most well-known and well-regarded novel, and it combines the place and the people to great success. Taking place on (you guessed it) Cloud Street between 1940 and 1960, the book focuses on two specific families and how they contrast and conflict with each other when they move into a house together.

In a sense all Australian fiction is about outsiders. We arrived in a country completely incompatible with our previous way of life. The environment was seen as harsh and aggressive, the weather was fierce and intense, and - save an Indigenous population - we were all alone and far from everyone else. Since then we've alienated and turned against just about every culture/sexuality/religion/race at some point in time, and while we've learnt from our somewhat turbulent history we've still got some ways to go. There has been an increase in migrant fiction here over the past 10 years or so, and it often presents a confronting picture of life in Australia as a migrant. The Eastern Slope Chronicle by Yu Ouyang touches on China's Cultural Revolution, life in Australia, multiculturalism and post-colonialism. Benjamin Law touches on some similar themes in his autobiography The Family Law, but writes it from a much more humourous and intimate perspective. Law has a bit of David Sedaris to his style of storytelling, and his recollections of his wild and crazy family provides a neat glimpse into the lives of an Chinese-Australian family.

There was a brief period of grunge youth writing in the 1980s/1990s that seemed to flourish here in Brisbane. It's hardly unique to Australia - it's the style of writing which you find in books like Trainspotting - but as they're often semi-autobiographical it's a fascinating window into the lives of people my age 20+ years ago. Andrew McGahan'Praise and 1988 (debut book and prequel) and John Birmingham's He Died With A Falafel In his Hand are perfect examples of this trend. They're about distinctly unlikable characters, sharehouse dramas, budding and waning relationships, drugs, alcohol and apathy. They're definitely not for everyone, but I unabashedly love this style of writing and the Gen-X whining so I'll always recommend them.

He Died With A Falafel was made into a movie in the late 1990s, and joined the ranks of the many, many Australian books that make that transition. One of the most famous is the Peter Weir helmed Picnic at Hanging Rock. The 1967 novel by Joan Lindsey is the perfect mix of haunting landscape and girls in white dresses. The book is a light mystery about a series of disappearances during a girl school's day trip to Hanging Rock. The events are left very up in the air, is it dreamtime magic, a rip in the space time continuum, murder? Another fantastic Australian novel that was adapted to screen is Luke DavisCandy: A Novel of Love and Addiction. The film starred the gorgeous Heath Ledger and Geoffrey Rush and was a very condensed interpretation of the book. Both the book and the film are emotionally charged, but the book will tear your heart out and stomp all over it. It covers 10 years in the life and juxtaposes the narrator's (he's never named) turbulent relationships with heroin addiction and his girlfriend Candy, and explores addiction, obsession and loss.

So I realise I look pretty bad right now, what with not mentioning any female authors (Joan Lindsey aside). But hold your horses, because that was intentional.

Australian ladies are wicked good, and deserve some proper space of their own. Sonya Hartnett is the first that comes to mind. She's one of those crazy people who has a book written at 13 and been published at 15 (you know, the type that makes you feel like you're wasting your life) and writes some of the most unsettlingly good stuff I've ever read. She's pretty controversial, you'll find a lot of sex and abuse and incest in her books, which is doubly controversial when you consider many people think of her as a YA author. Personally I think there's a difference about having young protagonists and writing YA, but regardless of that distinction you check out Sleeping Dogs (super bleak and incesty but gorgeous) and Of A Boy (about mysterious neighbours and loneliness).

Thea Astley is another fancy Aussie lady you should read. I've only read It's Raining in Mango, but she's well regarded as a compassionate and delightfully funny writer here in Australia and I've been meaning to read more of her for years. It's Raining in Mango takes place in 19th Century Australia and it's about so much. It's about people (Australian-born and immigrant), sexuality, racism, Australian culture...and it's done well. It's not an easy read, but I think it's a brilliant one if you're looking for some insight into Australia.

Representing the ladies in fiction and non-fiction, is Geraldine Brooks. I haven't read any of her books (for shame Kayleigh!) but from what I gather she's basically an Australian Hilary Mantel, fictionalising real life people and events to tell or add depth to a story that wouldn't be told otherwise. Actually, a few of you who like Little Women probably do know her. She's the author who wrote March, the book about Mr March's absence from the family during the war. Basically, she writes historical fiction with a literary bent and I'm not sure if Brooks has actually written about Australia or Australian history, but she's Australian so that still counts right? And as a final little nod to Australian lady authors I have to mention Hannah Kent. Her debut novel Burial Rites is blowing up internationally so this is an Australian author you can get in with on the ground level. Like Brooks, this isn't actually set in Australia - it's set in Iceland - but who even cares. READ IT.

So this is probably long enough for the time being. Obviously I haven't even gotten close to mentioning all the amazing Australian authors out there but these were the ones who came to my mind first and I'm pretty sure if you give any of them a shot you'll end up finding similar authors recommended to you on Goodreads or wherever, which is what this is all about right? RIGHT?

Want to see what you've missed so far?

Learning To Love A Sunburnt Country - Australian literature history
Fill Your Ears With Australians - Australian music

*Title quote from Voss by Patrick White

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Review: Murder in Missippissi by John Safran

Murder in Mississippi 

Written by: John Safran

Published: 2013

Synopsis: When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi's most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime? Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.

Over six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder – white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.

"Harold says the explanation given by true-crime books for why the killer killed reflects the era in which the book was written. An author tells the story of how the world works, and that's why we read true crime books."

John Safran is one of my favourite Australians. I feel like I say that a lot about creative Australians, but in this case it's absolutely the truth. I was first introduced to him through his show John Safran's Music Jamboree, which was part documentary series, part comedy sketch show, part celebration of all things musical. Considering the only music shows I'd really known before that were basically just an hour or two of music clips, it was fascinating to see a man in a mole costume provide insider tidbits about the music industry or pranks like Safran getting 9 ordinary men into a nightclub by dressing them up like Slipknot.

After that I became a devout fan of Safran, who is something like an Australian Louis Theroux (who I also love a whole bunch). Safran has a fascination with race and religion, so a lot of his shows centre around both the mainstream and the fringe aspects of these subjects. And like Theroux, Safran inserts himself into his documentaries so they become as much an investigation of himself and his identity as they are about fringe churches, alien languages or racist organisations. And perhaps it's because there's so much of himself in the shows, but they never come off as judgemental of the (often) absurd, bizarre or hateful people he meets. Which is not to say he isn't critical, but as he points out the flaws, contradictions or alternative points of view he also remains (mostly) impartial. He also has a wicked sense of humour, so if you've been looking for a new show, you should absolutely try and hunt down John Safran Vs God because it's fascinating stuff.

Not surprisingly, John Safran has made a few enemies. As his debut non-fiction novel begins, he's hiding out in his home in Melbourne, avoiding the critics of his latest TV show and surfing conspiracy and white supremacist websites for new material. It's one on of these sites that he finds out about the murder of Richard Barrett, a white supremacist from Mississippi that Safran had met during the filming of one of his shows*.

Murder in Mississippi is not your standard true crime book. It isn't an investigation into a heinous crime or the multiple crimes of a charismatic yet evil murderer, and there is neither a large trial to follow or a neat resolution. The case had received a small amount of national press, but Safran headed down this path because he knew the murder victim, and while Barrett, in the world of white supremacists, is pretty small time he'd had a lasting effect on Safran and his crew.
I've spent a decade with Craig and Germain. We've hung with evangelical hucksters, Holocaust deniers and terrorists. I have never seen these two scrunch up their faces like Richard has made them scrunch up their faces.  
When Safran found out that Barrett was murdered by a young black neighbour his interest was piqued. When rumours surfaced that Barrett was killed because he made unwanted sexual advances on his murderer, Safran packed his bags. But when he arrived in Mississippi his expectations of how the book would come about, and the secrets he expected to turn up are dashed. Rather than simply investigating a crime, Safran finds himself struggling against the conflicts and confusions of the southern state.
Mississippi doesn't waste any time. The Jackson in the airport name is President Andrew Jackson, pro-slavery campaigner and master to three hundred slaves. The Medgar-Evers is Medgar Wiley Evers, a black activist who collapsed and died outside his house in 1963 after a Klansman had shot him in the back. You land straight into a race war.
From the minute Safran touched down nothing went to plan. His reputation preceded him and people who knew Barrett closed ranks, and the family and friends of Barrett's murderer, Vincent McGee, had no desire to help Safran get to the bottom of the story. The people who did talk to him give him little more than conjecture, coloured by their political, racial or cultural allegiances. He's stuck driving between tiny Mississippi towns, clinging to the tiniest of details and offering the world for the slightest bit of information to help him uncover the truth.

The result of all of this is a fascinating mess of a book. It's a memoir of John Safran, it's a how-to (and how-not-to) write a true crime novel, and it's a complex investigation of race, sexuality and cultural politics in Mississippi. And that's why I loved this book. You hear the mini-synopsis, "white supremacist murdered by black man" and you think it'd be an open-shut story. But it's not, there are so many contradictions, so many muddled up misunderstandings. You think this is going to be a story about black versus white, but it's less about a passionate hate on either side and more of an indoctrinated expectation of hatred.  For instance, take the fact that Barrett lived in an almost all black neighbourhood, and no one knew he was a white supremacist. How does someone who champions one race over all others live surrounded by the people he hates and then be remembered as a friendly old man?

Similarly, the friendship that Safran ends up forging with Vincent McGee is equally interesting. While making contact proved impossible at first, the promise of Walmart Green Dot cards encouraged Vincent to come out of his shell and Safran finds himself perplexed by the young man accused of Barrett's murder. Vincent is charming and funny, but it's impossible to work out if he's ever telling the truth. His story differs from the one he told his family, which differs from the one he told the cops. Is he terrified of being labelled gay? Is being gay in Mississippi worse than being black? Would he rather spend 75 years in jail labelled a murderer  than go to trial and being found innocent, guilty of only killing a man in self defense after a sexual relationship turned sour? This book doesn't make sense of any of this, it remains perplexing to the very end. But it is a fascinating glimpse into a very difficult and unique state.

As Safran is a film and TV veteran and this is his debut book, there are a few understandable issues. At times it reads like a script, piecing together the necessary visual components with piece-to-camera narration. But I actually really enjoyed Safran's writing style, it's very visual and very personable, much like his onscreen persona. If you've seen his shows and like his style, you will undoubtedly enjoy this book. If you're a huge true crime fan this might be too much of a departure from the traditional format for you to enjoy, but conversely, if you don't usually like true crime, this might be encompassing enough to draw you in.

*Safran got a secret DNA test of Richard Barrett and told him he had African ancestors during Barrett's white-only Spririt of American awards. Barrett, unsurprisingly, was not happy.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Links

*Brisbane has begun to offer free screenings of films in the shady beauty of our parks. It's an initiative designed to protect our skin while also getting us out and enjoying the outdoors. I'm sure this isn't an entirely original concept, but I love it nonetheless. (Via Shade Cinema)

*If you're thinking Twilight couldn't get any creepier, WRONG. Footage has surfaced of the creepy animatronic baby they made to play Renesme. It's horrifying. (Via Uproxx)

*Since I know a few of you are NaNoWriMo-ing and possibly need a bit of motivation, here are 14 published novels that were written during this insane month (Via Mentalfloss)

*Hey Sweden, you're pretty cool, what with creating a new ratings system based on the Bechdel test. (Via Jezebel)

*This is a really cool photo series, even if the actual concept and book deal and purpose behind it is a little icky. But the pictures! Super interesting. (Via Bored Panda)

*Gilliane over at Writer of Wrongs wrote a brilliant post about converting doubters to YA. I've been making an effort to read more YA this year - and be less judgemental of the stuff I read - and this post is really detailed and full of brilliant titles.  (Via Writer of Wrongs)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Halloween Treats! (And Not a Trick in Sight)

One of the worst things about living in Australia is how looooong everything takes to get here. I am not the most patient person, so watching everyone else's ninja gifts arrive was almost painful. But on the flip side it means that I am so damn excited by the time it arrives that I basically bounce of the walls. And that's pretty fun.

So when I went under the house to get the bin out for rubbish collection, I squealed out aloud when I saw a parcel balancing on top of the recycling bin. And to be honest, I'm not even sure how long it had been there. I'm 90% sure I was under the house yesterday and would have seen it if it was there, but I was home all day today and I never heard the postman. It's a mystery, it is.

So, my wonderful ninja gifter was Ellie and she is AMAZING.

Sorry about the pic, my camera at dusk is not so great.

Look at all the presenty goodness, and check out the wrapping paper. Appropriate or what! My natural instinct with gifts are to tear them open (I'm still 5 years old, I swear to god) but I was extra careful to unwrap these ones because I wanted to keep that paper. I don't know what I'll do with it - maybe use it for my next ninja swap - but it was too pretty and bookish to tear up.

And this was what was inside the wrapping. A gorgeous card (that actually features Ellie's shop!), Lamb by Christopher Moore, Joyland by Stephen King, two Halloween (and everyday) appropriate bracelets from Ellie's holiday in Fuerteventura and an "in my humble opinion" journal, which allows me to write at length about all of the annoyances I see every day, punctuated with wonderfully grumpy quotes from authors and famous folk!

This marks two Chistopher Moore books in as many Ninja swaps and I still haven't read one BUT I'm definitely moving them up to the top of my TBR. The question now, however, is whether to read Lamb or A Dirty Job first. And Joyland is a welcome addition to my ever-growing King collection, I've heard some really great things about this one, and I do love that cover so.

A huge, big, ENORMOUS thank you to Ellie for being so wonderful and gifting such great gifts. And for writing a hilarious card! I did read the card first and Ellie's cryptic descriptions of each gift were hilarious. And the "Present the First" DID sound pervy, ahaha!

Also, I received another gift the day before from a blogger. Kayleigh (other Kayleigh, I'm not in the habit of sending myself gifts and then bragging about them) sent me a box of Candy Corn.

I can't remember what post it came up in, but Kayleigh promised to send me some and she certainly delivered. I don't know how I lived without this in my life before, I'll definitely have to find an Australian supplier for next year because it's AMAZING! It's probably lucky I can get it too easily, because I would definitely eat way too much if all I had to do was stroll to the shops to get some. I guess this is why you Americans/Canadadians limit it to Halloween - too much yum can be a dangerous thing.

So this post is basically proof that bloggers are amazing people, and you all keep me so well read and on top of international candy options. THANK YOU x10000 Ellie and Kayleigh!

Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened.

Written by: Allie Brosh

Published in: 2013

Synopsis: In a four-color, illustrated collection of stories and essays, Allie Brosh’s debut Hyperbole and a Half chronicles the many “learning experiences” Brosh has endured as a result of her own character flaws, and the horrible experiences that other people have had to endure because she was such a terrible child. Possibly the worst child. For example, one time she ate an entire cake just to spite her mother.

Challenges: Memoir for Book'd Out's Eclectic Reader Challenge


"For me motivation is this horrible, scary game where I try to make myself do something while I actively avoid doing it."

Books made from blogs are not something I usually go in for. I mean, it typically means paying for content you've already read online for free so why bother? But when I saw Hyperbole and a Half on Netgalley I figured why not, it's free and I only read the blog sporadically, so it'll hopefully be stuff I've never read. And you guys, I loved it.

On the off chance you've never read Hyperbole and a Half, it's the blog of Allie Brosch. She combines humourous and hyperbolic personal anecdotes with illustrations she makes in paint. Oh and she's responsible for this meme.

 Like I said, I only read her blog sporadically, so I came to all of the content in this book with new eyes. I did recognise a chapter on depression from her blog, but without searching for it I don't know if it's reproduced in its entirety or if it was altered and added to for the book. But everything else was new (to me) and awesome. So much of it is so silly and ridiculous and Allie has such a knack for comedic writing and timing, I laughed out loud a lot, and i'm not to kind of person that laughs out loud that often when I read.

The book shifts from insane anecdotes about Allie's childhood to thoughtful essays about depression and suicide. I'm sure that hardly sounds giggle-inducing, and some of it isn't, but even the darkest most heartbreaking moments are broken by glimpses of levity. For instance, after discussing a consuming depression that overtook Allie for several months she mentions how after months of feeling nothing, she ended up impervious to her normal fears and anxieties of social interactions and began to feel like a superhero, a superhero who can buy 10 packets of skittles and rent out 6 horror movies and no longer worry what the guy at the counter thinks.
"But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there's a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck."
"And that's the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn't always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn't even something - it's nothing. And you combat nothing. You can't fill it up. You can't cover it. It's just there, pulling the meaning out of everything." 
And when you accompany this story with one of her comics, I don't know, it just works so well. It's thoughtful and honest and personal and darkly funny and it's why people love Hyperbole and a Half so much.

As good as these more serious essays were, my favourites were definitely the humourous ones about Allie as a kid and her two dogs, Simple Dog and Helper Dog. They're probably the kinds of stories I expect when I think about Hyperbole and a Half, they're outrageous, funny and the illustrations add so much to an already great story. Stories about kids always crack me up, they're just the weirdest bundles of creative insanity. I'm the person who will ask your parents for stories about you, because I love hearing about teeny tiny X and the batshit crazy things they used to do.
"You can't take your clothes of and hide in the corner hoping no one notices. You can't trick the teachers into letting you be naked by burying yourself in the sandbox - your clothes are in a pile next to you. They know."
The best of the lot was about little Allie's obsession with cake and sugar and the extreme lengths she went to to get hold of the birthday cake her mum made for her grandpa's birthday. It's utterly charming and hilarious, although I feel for her parents, little Allie must have been exhausting!

This is a short book, I read it over a lazy afternoon with Seinfeld breaks, and it still didn't take longer than 2 hours or so to read. I don't know if it's because I had an ARC or if it'll be the case with all digital editions, but the illustrations were teeny tiny, and since they're such an integral part of the Hyperbole and a Half personality that was a bit of a bummer. So perhaps hunt out a physical copy* if you can, or sample it first and make sure the pictures are of a decent size. It's funny, thoughtful, honest and there is a scene where Allie and her boyfriend are terrorised by a goose in their house so you know it's worth checking out.

*Sarah read a physical copy of this book and seemed pretty impressed by the images/layout, so maybe that's the way to go.

*All images are screenshots from the book and remain the property of Allie Brosch.*

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Links

*You guys, I NEED these Harry Potter prints in my house asap. Especially the Deathly Hallows one. (Via Seriegalleriet)

*I would very much like to share a glass of wine with Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood. I'm already heading to Canada, so it shouldn't be too hard to make this happen right? (Via Buzzfeed)

*Fancy some writing advice from fantasy and sci-fi writers? Of course you do, and it's only a click away. (Via Flavorwire)

*Halloween might have been last week, but it's always appropriate to read some scary literature, or scary adaptations of well known lit. (Via Mentalfloss)

*Plus-size** Australian model Robyn Lawley wrote about the danger of striving to meet supposed ideals like the thigh gap, and the benefit of being strong and healthy. (Via The Daily Beast)

*Tina Fey has a new sitcom. TINA FEY HAS A NEW SITCOM. (Via Uproxx)

**I really hate the term-plus size, especially considering most so called plus-size models are still smaller than the average lady, but in this case it's kinda a necessary descriptor. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Wrapping up RIP VIII

I hadn't planned to do a wrapping up post for RIP VIII but when I saw them popping up all over the place I figured I might as well document how I went. I had a lot of fun with this challenge, it was nice and low key thanks to it being over two months instead of one. I was a little worried I'd get sick of reading horror/dark fiction constantly but I managed to include some non-RIP reading which I think was probably a good idea. I wasn't so great at the blog-hopping aspect. If I already follow you then I saw and read your posts, but I probably only visited a couple new-to-me blogs which is a little shameful, but oh well!

I ended up reading 6 books for RIP VIII and I liked them all, so woooo success! Of the books, Coraline was probably my favourite but I was also pleasantly surprised with how much I liked Warm Bodies. I don't think I'll bother with mini-reviews for these ones since I wrote full reviews for each, but if you want to see what I read and what I thought then follow the links.

The Pilo Family Circus - Will Elliott
Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo
Warm Bodies - Isaac Marion
Coraline - Neil Gaiman
Skeleton Crew - Stephen King
Rape: A Love Story - Joyce Carol Oates

I guess maybe Skeleton Crew should be in this section since it's a book of short stories *shrugs* Anyway, I read way more short stories than I expected to, and it seems a little silly to pat myself on the back for reading short stories since their defining feature is that they're SHORT, but I really don't read too many of these guys so I'm going to pat myself on the back anyway. Anywho, my favourite was probably In the Tall Grass, but I liked all three. Sleepy Hollow wasn't really what I was expecting at all, way less horror than I anticipated but it's a really well written narrative. And UR was a lot of fun, although the Kindle stuff was a little blechh. Links and such below.

UR - Stephen King (short story)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (short story)
In the Tall Grass - Stephen King and Joe Hill (short story)

I didn't get around to writing any reviews for this part of the challenge, but I did watch 3 films that were mostly really good. It's a little too late for them to be Halloween watches now, but who says you can only watch horror on Halloween? I watched Sleepaway Camp, Poltergeist and Chernobyl Diaries and I'm going to write a little mini-review of each because that way I don't feel like I'm cheating by including them in the challenge.

Sleepaway Camp (1983). This film is ridic. It is the horror equivalent of The Room, it's poorly acted, poorly shot, poorly written and not at all scary. But it is HILARIOUS in how bad it is. From the clown-like mother figure, the Brechtian memory scenes, to the cropped shirts and tiny shorts (on hairy dudes) and absurd murders - this film will have you agape at how terribly awesome it is. It might sound terrible, but it's worth it for the ending. The ending is the most phenomenally insane thing I have ever seen and you need to watch the whole film to truly appreciate it. Definitely save this for a group movie night if you can, it's so much better with a lot of people. And it's on Youtube in its entirety, so you don't even have to worry about paying for this dreck!

Poltergeist (1982). Some movies are classics for a reason. This film is SO good. I am horrified that I had never seen it before, I've wasted so many good rewatch years! Some of the effects towards the end are a little hackey by modern standards, but the creative measures they used to try and depict and poltergeist-ridden house are really pretty fantastic and don't detract from the story at all. It's not a scary-scary film, but there's that perfect '80s mix of supernatural horror and comedy which makes up for the lack of pulse-raising spookery. Also, there's a clown doll. A CLOWN DOLL. That's 2 awful creepy things mixed together!

Chernobyl Diaries (2012). A friend bought this for Tom and I last Christmas, and we only just got around to watching it. It was fine, I mean it's nothing special, don't go and run out looking for it, but if it's on TV...maybe don't switch over right away. There are some really effective jump scares, but they don't happen until way too late in the film. Who wants to spend 40 minutes watching a bunch of 20 year old backpackers drink in the Ukraine and then sneak into Pripyat to check out the irradiated abandoned town? Not this lady, or at least, not this lady UNLESS they die gruesome deaths instantly. Oh oh oh, does everyone remember Jesse McCartney, the blonde singer from a decade ago who had like 3 songs? Yeah he's in this.

"His Body Was What She'd Wanted. It Was the Rest of Him That Was The Problem" The Correctioning Readalong Week 5



It's over. It's finished. We never have to read about Caroline or Chip (hmmm both C names, I call Conspiracy) or Lithuanian scams or cheating partners or the miserable Lamberts ever again!

I've had a lot of fun paying this book out, but I didn't hate it. I didn't love it, and I'm not sure if I even liked it, but I definitely didn't hate it. And this section (save for that bullshit final couple of everything-is-perfect pages) was definitely decent.

So here we go. Can we talk about how much I hate Caroline? Like I really, really detest her. More than Chip. Which, I know guys, I know that's a big thing to say. But everyone knows how much of flake Chip is and no one (save Denise giving him $20,000) really trusts him with anything. Caroline on the other hand is the mother of 3 kids, her husband is so browbeaten (although not completely innocent in all of this) that he seems to just accept her bullshit as fact and she is just HORRIBLE. The fact that she was going to stay home with two of the kids and avoid Gary's family was bad enough, but when she  buys tickets to The Lion King to tempt Jonah into staying? THE KID IS 8 YEARS OLD. STOP USING HIM AS A PAWN IN YOUR POWER TRIPS.

Caroline made me so angry that I was just seething through the first part of this section. But then her lovely husband took that role because duuuuude, stop being such a dick. I mean, I can get where Gary's coming from. It must be frustrating to see your parents so ambivalent about their future and finances when you know the burden will fall on you in the future to keep them afloat. I can completely understand those feelings. Ok, brief detour. A few years ago my mum went home to Adelaide to care for my uncle and grandparents. My uncle had MS and my grandparents were his carers, but over the course of the week my nana had to have a stent placed in her heart and my papa needed a hip replacement. My mum went down to help them all out, because she's their kid and she loves them, but also because she's an occupational therapist so she knows how do this better than her other two brothers. Anyway, the reason I'm telling you this is because my mum would call me, frustrated, because my papa was putting on his shoes and bending down to lace them up, and after a hip replacement you aren't supposed to put that sort of pressure on it. But both my grandparents are super stubborn (sort of like Al, without the distance and assholery) and my mum was at her wits end, because she loved them and she didn't want them to cause themselves further pain down the road. So I can understand Gary's desperation at making his family sit down and discuss their future, because they're your parents and you want the best for them. BUT I don't think Gary actually gives a shit about them, I think the only thing he can think about is how much they're going to disservice him in the future. He takes a reasonable concern and blows it out of perspective. Like demanding his mum pay him the $5 for the screws. I mean FFS dude, it's $5. Family means occasionally letting $5 slide. And his blow up on Christmas breakfast was fucked up. I know everyone in this book is horrible, BUT DO NOT TREAT YOUR FAMILY LIKE THIS.

Another frustration was the reaction everyone had to whether or not Chip would make it to Christmas. I completely understand that he's a terrible person, and he never comes through on his promises, but you've just heard about massive civil unrest in Lithuania. Maybe show some concern for you brother. Oh the airports closed, see he won't be here after all! Never mind that that could mean that he's trapped or in an internment camp, or has been robbed and murdered for his stuff. Now I feel pretty weird standing up for Chip here, but it's not like he dashed to France. There is serious shit going down (sort of, Chip's section does sort of suggest that it's more talk than action) and your brother is in the thick of it. Pull your heads out of your asses!

The other thing I really wanted to talk about was the Al stuff. I really liked that we got to see this back story to Al, like him quitting his job to save Denise the spectacle of people finding out about her affair and calling out to Chip in the middle of the night. But I also had an issue with Franzen making it seem like "see he did love them, he just didn't like to show it, so all that abuse doesn't count!" Chip can rest easy now that he knows his dad loved him best, it doesn't matter that he was TERRIFIED of the man. It's like everything is erased because a sick old man occasionally thought about how much he loved his kids. Granted it seems he always treated Denise pretty well, and I did really love the sacrifice he made for her and how, in turn, that impacts current Denise. But while certain concessions can be made, at this point in time the damage is done.

I loved how the book suddenly "corrected" everyone, "we learnt some stuff about Al and Gary acted like petulant child and Chip lost his leather pants and didn't really talk about ANYTHING we'd been upset about, but suddenly we're all adjusted enough to start families with doctors and get new jobs as teachers and move to New York or to care for our dad". PUH-LEASE.

This is both me at this final section, and Al trying to escape the hospital.
They didn't sort out shit at Christmas, and all of their character flaws were based on their ridiculous childhood and that shit doesn't just heal overnight. Does Franzen think it does? Does he think psychological problems or ingrained character traits can just be fixed with a turkey dinner and a brief moment on a Lithuanian road? This family is fucked. They're all horrible people and they don't deserve a magical happy ever after. I would have been okay with Chip's magical transformation IF it stopped at his sacking up and taking responsibility and looking after his dad. And why do we get so much about Chip anyway? Why is it that all we get about Denise is that she moves to Brooklyn? And Gary comes back to visit his mother with Jonah? Ugh.

But that's it. That's all I want to discuss. I am done with the Lamberts. I am happy to leave them and I sure as hell am not going to say goodbye. But I am sad that the readalong is over, because even though this book had some poopy moments, everyone else's posts were golden and made me appreciate and enjoy the book way more than I would have otherwise. So thanks everyone for such hilarious posts and inspired gif choices and an extra big thank you to Alley because you're awesome and you hosted this SOB like a boss.


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