The Reading List

Review of Books: October

I’m starting to realise how much of my choice of my reading matter is related to films lately. It might be time to mix it up a little again! That said, I’ve been lucky to have some really good books to read this month. 

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Marvel Zombies by Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips (artist)

Genre: Graphic Novel/Comic

Logline: On an alternative Earth, a zombie virus has been unleashed, and only the Marvel Superheros remain. They’re starting to get really hungry…

I have to admit to not knowing much about comics, other than just liking to read them. So my review is more from that perspective rather than being grounded in loads of knowledge about the Marvel Universe, etc. That said, I really enjoy these kinds of graphic novels, with alternative worlds and things. I find comics as a genre to be so beautifully crafted and so creative, they’re a really good form of escapism. And this one goes down as kind of a favourite because it’s so bloody and dark, as well as having a really interesting story line. I think the saturation point for Zombie version of everything has pretty much been reached, but don’t  let that stop you from cracking into this series of comics, it’s dark, twisted and original. Really good.

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Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Logline: Meggie and her father Mo are book lovers who move around a lot, but her father’s past starts to catch up with them, as Meggie discovers that her father brings characters to life when he reads out loud.

It’s a really great premise, and I think one of the things that works about it is that they aren’t bringing loads of characters to life from creations that we’ve heard of, (though there are a few) but focusing more on a particular fictitious book. The other really good aspect is that Meggie’s father can’t control his gift, so when he brings someone into this book, someone in his story is sucked into another. It’s a good read. It’s always nice for a book lover to read about other book lovers, and who hasn’t thought about encountering characters that you love or fear from the worlds you visit in books? It did feel a little long to me, but I liked it enough to hand it to a friend, recommending he read it to his kids. It’s good fun, and the characters are all well drawn and believable.

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All You Need Is Kill, by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Genre: Science Fiction

Logline: I really wanted to read this after seeing the movie and I have to highly recommend it to anyone who likes this kind of graphic novel, science fiction stuff. It’s a brilliant read. I keep marveling over the ways in which the author makes a repetitive day not drag and become a repetitive story! This version of the novel is the translation from Japanese, annoyingly it didn’t have the original illustrations that it was first published with. There’s also a graphic novel. So I guess you can approach this in different ways, though it’s hard to figure if there’s an “original” version and where to get it. This book is also different to the films, so you’re not going to see some things coming. But even if you do, it’s got  a really good narrative flow, I really enjoyed it. It’s vision of war and the future are bleak, the aliens are not a generic creature, but very much an alien form of life, and there’s a little humor there amongst the poignancy. Plus, the Full Metal Bitch is epic.

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

Genre: Family Drama

Logline: Rosemary used to be a very loud child. She used to have a sister, and a brother. But now she doesn’t talk about them. She doesn’t talk much at all.

This one was a gift from my gorgeous sister in law, who is a genius about what books to get people. I don’t know if I would have picked this one up otherwise, I think because the cover doesn’t get me all excited, but I was drawn in by the sort of family secrets set up, which is always good and then drawn in deeper and deeper by the humor and sadness of the main character, the narrator, and by the unusual story that is being told. (and it’s not at all what you think! Wait til the reveal a third of the way in) It’s a lovely book, and it makes you think about a lot of things and question things. I’m really glad that I read it, and I think you all should get a copy, you’ll like it.

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The Valley of the Dolls, by Jaqueline Susann

Genre: Cult/Drama

Logline: Three women start out on careers in Hollywood in the 40’s and slowly climb there way to the top, though they find that the top might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

I don’t even though where to start writing about this book. I loved it. Adored it. I read it in one day, and ignored everyone that attempted to talk to me, only emerging for fresh cups of coffee. I’m not sure what it was about it that hooked me so much. I liked the way it revealed things about the eras, the 40s, 50 and 60s. The lack of choices for women, and the kinds of opportunities. I liked the kind of Hollywood aspect of it all. But I think that something about it just rang so true to me. The drive to be better and to have more is lacking in a lot of books about women, but also, as this was a time when expectations and opportunities for women were limited, the stresses placed on them and the best they could hope for were different, and yet this novel still feels really modern. Really modern! Right down to their reliance on selling themselves based on appearance and the reliance on substances, the dolls of the title, to get some sleep or get through the high pressure of their daily lives. I loved the way some characters wanted more than growing old in one town, and how most people around them couldn’t understand how that could be slow death or how marriage could feel like a trap. I liked how dark the book was, and in the end, how sad. It was just a wonderful read.

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Standing Under the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg

Genre: Family Drama

Logline: Through three decades, we follow the lives and loves of the Smith family, and their closest friends in small town Missouri, punctuated by the radio show that Neighbour Dorothy hosts each morning.

The title refers to a story that someone sends into the radio show, about life’s little miracles, and in another chapter, the radio host and mother, Dorothy, talks about reading happy books, because life is dark enough. I suppose this is what Fannie Flag is all about in some ways, and yet her books are also about womens rights, death, loss, birth, grieving, war, family, betrayal… I suppose her books are about life, the kind of life people actually live, rather than an entertaining or dramatic version of events. She uses humour a  lot and has a lot of small, everyday victories or heroism in her books. I suppose they offer a means to looking at real life and being positive about that. This book is no exception. I was floored by some of the sadder moments, and was smiling to myself a lot over the characters foibles. The setting, middle America and small towns, reminds me so much of what it was like for me growing up, that kind of community and the kinds of things that happen, or the kinds of things people don’t talk about. I think it does you good to read some Flagg, and this particular volume is one of her best.

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