I only had two classes this semester. One was the strangely structured Media Arts Specialist Modules, which had six classes in total. I would learn how to interact with scripts, draw information from the simple words and direct actors with knowledge and confidence. The second class was Becoming Australia. If deconstructing Australia’s national identity and relationships with spaces interests you, I would highly recommend it. The readings are delicious and thought-provoking.
Then I got a job, and life turned into a gallop. Between learning, working, and reading, a chill swept into Sydney, and I remember that winter is a thing down in south Australia.
Autumn arrived strangely. It’s May and the semester is ending; it’s May and I’m so busy with work I no longer procrastinate; it’s May, and suddenly I’m cowering into my jacket, wind carving the heat from my hands.
I could read, I reason, standing at the bus stop, trying to find a place where the wind couldn’t touch me. My hands shake and my eyes are heavy as I withdraw my phone to check the time. No, no time to read.
Have I read anything recently? I know I have, I have seven books all listed as currently reading on my Storygraph. I know I’ve finished a few. What did I think of them? I had thoughts, didn’t I?
Not enough: not enough to write a full review, not enough to rant about it to my friends and partner, not enough yet enough, because everything breathed into creation deserves to be thought about. I want to give these books a proper service, to give a nod to the authors and to the words. Maybe I won’t think about them again, but at least in this moment, I will acknowledge I read them, and will keep them forever in my heart.
So as winter approaches, I give you: Amy’s Autumn Archive.
The first book of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle series, I picked this book up with the intention to watch the Ghibli movie later and compare.
This novel is 600 pages condensed down to 239 and it does this by exclusively telling, not showing. It’s quite fascinating to read, because on one hand my mind finds this boring, but on the other, it covers an extraordinary amount of time in a rather succinct manner. The book makes it clear that this is merely the prologue to the main character’s later heroic and awesome feats, yet shows how the events left a deep mark on him.
The world and culture are set up, the characters introduced, and the stage is set for the future books. Immediately after reading it, I doubted I was going to continue but upon writing this review, I think I will.
The famous autobiography of Jennette McCurdy. I had heard of this book for months already, all over my social media. It wasn’t until it was featured on LitSoc’s March book club that I decided to give it a shot. And even then, it was because I was walking around in a bookstore and saw it.
This wasn’t my first foray into non-fiction, but it was my first biography, auto or not, that I chose to read. I don’t know much about iCarly or Jennette McCurdy, both of them being out of my areas of interest.
This biography is intense. I will credit McCurdy for writing a compelling and absorbing narrative, because the whole time you’re thinking it can’t get worse and then it does! Then you remember this was her life and you have to take a moment.
Personally, memoirs aren’t for me, so my rating is less than what someone else would give.
If you have been living under a rock and had zero interaction with the internet, you may not know this book. A stand alone novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, is about a rookie reporter being invited to write an interview with the world’s most famous Hollywood actor, renowned for her beauty and her reclusiveness.
This book went ballistic on TikTok, so I’m not even gonna bother with a full introduction. It is a good book; the characters are interesting, the structure is consistent and sturdy, and there are good lessons woven into Evelyn’s life.
When I finished it, my first thought was to compare it to Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Both novels have the theme of glamour, celebrities, and fame.
Seven Husbands is a deeper and more meaningful exploration of fame. It does explore the dark side of Hollywood and celebrity life, but also makes it clear that this was the life Evelyn Hugo chose and worked hard for. She used her beauty as a weapon and her sexuality as a tool. McQuinston's novel had the characters bemoan their celebrity status and the sensationalisation of their private lives, but on the other hand, their problems magically went away when the plot concluded.
RWRB to me felt fantastical. It was someone’s fantasy of what would happen if two famous boys were discovered to be in a relationship. It was a nice read, but it felt fabricated.
Evelyn Hugo’s story is fictional, but her character felt more realistic. She wanted the fame, she wanted everyone’s eyes on her. The mistakes stayed; the ending was sweet but not all forgiving. While the novel wasn’t earth-shattering, it was certainly great.
Rating: 4.5 stars.
This crime fiction by Danya Kukafka first came by me when one of the only Booktubers I watch – withcindy – included it in her monthly roundup. The way she explained it was intriguing and it sat in the back of my mind until I picked it up and gave it a shot.
One way to describe this novel is that it’s a bittersweet crime fiction. From the get go we already know the crime has occurred and that the murderer is being sentenced to death. The ending has been given by the blurb, and all we are left with is reflection of the narrators’ thoughts.
The novel’s tone sat right with me. It was depressing and mournful, the grief over the lost lives flooding the stage until nothing else can breathe. Danya unravels serial killer obsessions to show that murderers are plain and boring, and instead focuses on the victim’s family and friends. There is no cleverness in murder.
Crime novels aren’t for me, but I can appreciate this one.
Rating: 4 stars.
To be truthful, I have sat on Dragonflight – the first book of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey –since the first of January. I devoured the first 75% of the book in the first two weeks of the year and then didn’t pick it up until I forced myself to this April.
Published in 1963, it is now a classic fantasy series, with the bonus of being written by a woman. Going into it, I was curious as to how writing has changed over the decades, from prose to structure to characterisation. I was interested to see how McCaffrey wrote a female character from before politics and culture studies shaped how we think in contemporary society.
(Another note is that I first heard of Dragonflight in a fanfiction – it was the character’s favourite series, and their favourite dragon was the ‘white one’.)
This novel was very interesting. It was a unique take on a fantasy world – it is a futuristic sci-fi world cut off from Earth and all home world memory and history forgotten – with the danger being the Red Star that passed by Pern every two centuries. The main character is chosen to become the Wyrmwoman, the partner of the dragon’s queen. Lessa wants to be more, and has been raised on stories of the mighty dragonmen, and follows F’lar to the Weyr, home of dragons.
I was relieved to find that Lessa was no less than twenty when she went to the Weyr, and there was another handful of years of training and growing. So, when the air between Lessa and F’lar got steamy, I was all for it, because the two of them were adults! Gosh, isn’t it insane that when the characters are older, we don’t feel so yucky when they get together?
Lessa was a rather challenging character. She wanted to become a dragonwoman, she wanted F’lar. She wanted to save Pern and she wanted glory. Lessa pushed for what she wanted, which didn’t make her a perfect person: often putting herself in extreme danger on the slim chance of getting what she wants.
Overall, I know what the white dragon is so I definitely want to read further ahead, but if I didn’t have that information, I don’t think there was incentive to read more. The book is a great standalone, so if you want a compact fantasy book, give Dragonflight a try.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
I am still reading this book.
This non-fiction book, written by Alison Page and Paul Memmott, is the second book in a series called First Knowledges. Each book touches on a cornerstone of Indigenous Australian culture, history and law. If you only ever read one non-fiction in your life, please make it Songlines: the Power and the Promise by Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly, the book published before Design.
I read Songlines a few months ago and finally had the motivation to continue with the series. While not as good, Design has still taught me several things about Indigenous Australian culture and history. This series was my first foray into non-fiction and it is an excellent place to begin. It’s helped me realise I do like reading non-fiction and the benefits it can bring. Now instead of having endless PDFs on my computer, I have a book to point to and talk about when arguing with my family!
I am still reading this book, and by god it’s a struggle. Poetry is not something I dabble in and it has given me immense struggle to try and feel like I got something from the poems. A collection of Ocean Vuong’s poems from past publications, Time is a Mother touches on grief, gender, sexuality and relationships.
I don’t know. I really don’t know how to read poetry. Oh, but there is no right way – okay but I want to! I want to ‘get it.’ I took notes. I wrote my thoughts down. I take the poetry slowly, reading each word and writing down my thoughts. The emotions Vuong paints with his words – it’s like they’re beyond a glass wall. I can see the shifting colours, the fading light, but I don’t SEE it.
The book that I will leave you with is a collection of essays from Ghassan Hage. This non-fiction writing is an analysis of Australian multiculturalism from the 1998 that is still heavily relevant today. Originally written about Pauline Hanson's politics in the 90s, Hage's writing reveals more about today's politics and society than expected. White Nation is a deeply retrospective piece that is important for anyone in Australia, heck, anywhere in the world. Hage's writing is highly respected for a reason. Like I tell my friends, he is constantly spitting straight facts and utterly dismantles Australian multiculturalism and White Australia piece by piece.
Reading one chapter is enough to blow your brains. Even if you don't like non-fiction, please give Hage's writing a shot.