Hate is Such a Strong Word – Sarah Ayoub (2013)
A compelling read about the struggles of high school, family, growing up, belonging and cultural identity (and working at Big W!). The novel centres around the musings of young Sophie Kazzi who attends a Catholic, Lebanese high school in Sydney’s South-West. Sophie finds it difficult to fit in, in every way imaginable, and constantly feels burdened by the pressures of her overly protective Lebanese father, unsupportive school friends, and the nasties of social media. Entering into year 12, Sophie is determined to make this the year she sheds her uncoolness and unpopularity.
The arrival of Shehadie Goldsmith to her school, however, doesn’t make thinks much easier on her. With an Australian father and a Lebanese mother, Shehadie himself feels a bit conflicted and a target within the school. Things are brought back home too when Sophie’s family becomes the centre of a police investigation.
Besides touching on these important themes, the novel also draws on some contemporary Australian race relations issues and brings to the fore the role of women in a society debating questions about women’s role at work and in the home. I was lucky enough to meet the author at a book signing at Dymocks (George Street, Sydney) and she stayed afterwards to talk more about her book and our theme of Friendship at one of our Read3r’z Re-Vu sessions earlier this year. She mentioned that one of her favourite books growing up was Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi, and you can definitely see the inspiration she has drawn from that book. This is a great quick book to read over a couple of days.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
I genuinely enjoyed this book. I walked into Baz Luhrmann’s adapted production of The Great Gatsby last year with very little idea of what it was all about (I think I just saw a movie poster in the lead up to it) and then picked up the book afterwards from my local library. The movie is a good representation of the book, and incorporated some of its great lines, so it was nice to follow the book with the visuals from the movie in mind. I personally liked the movie as well, despite some mixed reviews, but it definitely does show off the ‘Baz’ flair so be prepared for that!
The story centres around the narrative of protagonist Nick Carraway, a young graduate who works as a bond salesman in New York. Despite the story revolving around his travels and insights after he rents a cottage in the village of West Egg on Long Island, we are mainly intrigued by the mysterious and covert millionaire who lives right next door to him and who each weekend throws extravagant parties for the town. Set in 1922, the themes in the book are lavish – excess, grandeur, alcohol, the 20s! Think flapper style – glitter, diamantes and gloves.
Nick gets caught up in the drama of finding out who this mystery man is – his past life, his women, his future plans, and ends up doubting everything he has come to know in his short life. The book deals with a vast range of subjects – relationships, betrayal, death, revenge – a great read!
Dracula – Bram Stoker (1897)
A real vintage one for you now! This novel basically spawned every subsequent vampire book, movie, comic, you name it. So love it or hate it, this is when the character of the vampire was really thrusted onto modern audiences and again is experiencing another resurgence ala Twilight, The Vampire Academy etc.
My main association with this story is from the film Nosferatu, a 1922 German Expressionist film closely following the 1897 story of Dracula. There are large parallels between both, with some differences between plot and characters. Much of the beginning of the novel is a virtual mirror of the film. The film really brings to life the ethos of the novel – the creepy campness of the Count, the horrific confusion and despair of the characters (all in captions) – and if I was reading Dracula back in the day I would’ve thought it was seriously cool and imaginative.
As a swift summary, the Count currently residing in Transylvania, is seeking to move to England with the help of young solictor Jonathan Harker. Jonathan visits him to go through all the paperwork and is encouraged to stay in the Count’s castle for much longer than hoped and anticipated. He knows something is up and this starts spreading everywhere the Count goes affecting everything. This book is achieveable. I found the beginning most interesting, with the middle beginning to taper.
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe (1719)
Another seriously old novel. This time about a castaway whose thirst for voyaging the seas (and rejecting the world of studying law) leads the protagonist, Robinson Crusoe, to spend the next several decades washed up and confined to an island. The novel explores his triumphs and tragedies of hunting for food and building shelter with the experience of isolation with (almost) no human contact.
Let’s be honest, it’s a fairly dry read and took me a few weeks of struggle to get through. It also wouldn’t hurt if the book included some chapters or even paragraphs to break up the text. But for a 1719 novel we can assume audiences had more patience then. Ok so it’s not all that bad. The description is pretty good and documents a lot of the tasks and activities Crusoe undertook to survive but I would have also liked more inner dialogue from the protagonist: how did he truly feel? Is social contact imperative? Was it all too unbearable sometimes?
I remember studying this novel in high school and using it as a comparative text with the film Cast Away starring Tom Hanks, which translated across well. Again, a fairly enduring 2 hour+ long movie. As a classic novel, it’s pretty much a must read if you want to be methodically going through the old classics. But other than that, read if you’re into desert islands, tales of survival, slavery and don’t mind texty novels.
Sydney CBD ‘mini’ Bookstore Crawl
My first bookstore crawl! A super cool idea invented by my friend and colleague Annie who founded Read3r’z Re-Vu, a Sydney-based network of seriously passionate bookworms who meet up monthly to review books based on a chosen theme, host movie nights, hit up the latest book fairs and events, and hang out with local authors. Everyone is welcome no matter what literature you’re into – comics, manga, romance, young adult, biographies or sci-fi.
The club has held a few crawls over the years, some being full-day events whilst others are more intimate, low-key and less intensive days. For May we hit up the following stores, keeping it fairly close together in the city.
- Basement Books
- NTS Books Outlet
- Elizabeth’s Bookshop
- Kings Comics
- Galaxy Bookshop
- Abbey’s Bookshop
- Dymocks Bookstore
First stop on the crawl, Basement Books located just outside Central Station. A treasure trove of serious book bargains (no joke, you can pick up books for 50 cents!). In addition to this, it has an impressive arts and crafts section, stationary, and gift bags and boxes. Because it is a ‘bargain’ store you’re bound to find some weird and whacky titles in there. I picked up a caffeine-happy recipe book Coffee: 100 everyday recipes for $4, which I’ll need to bake a recipe from very soon.
Next up, the NTS Books outlet in Market City. Not a ‘store’ as such but more of a pop-up yet permanent fixture located on Level 1. The collection is far smaller but important within a big shopping centre.
Whilst we initially planned to hit up the bookstores in Surry Hills, we thought we’d leave it for the next crawl, and instead headed up to Pitt Street. Elizabeth’s Bookshop – a lovely store with second hand goodies and a $2 bargain cave!
Gorgeous lamp at Elizabeth’s bookshop
Kings Comics – a land where geeks and nerds have died and gone to heaven. Comic books, costumes, figurines, instruments, books, films, collectors’ items, vintage arcade games…the list goes on and on.
Kinokuniya – if Kino doesn’t have it, no one does. A seriously comprehensive collection of books if I’ve ever seen any and as their motto says ‘Real Bookstores Still Exist.’
Galaxy Bookshop and Abbey’s Bookshop – second last stop on the crawl. This place offers you two bookshops at the one location – ooh la la!
Dymocks – a well-loved Aussie favourite. Again if Dymocks doesn’t have it, who does??