At the start of this year I decided to make a concerted effort to read more. Last year I read a total of about five or six books, I think – barely one book every two months. I used to read voraciously, but as I’ve become busier, juggling work and motherhood and house stuff, reading has slipped very far down my list of priorities. So this year I’m going to make a conscious effort to read at least one book a month. It doesn’t sound like a lot to some people, but when the only chance I have to read is in the evenings after my daughter has gone to bed, it’s a lot, trust me. I’ve done well lately, reading three books in the last two months, and they were all different genres, so I thought I’d share them here!
Side Effects May Vary – Julie Murphy
This is a YA book I borrowed from my podcasting buddy Kimberley from Pop Couture aaaaaages ago and only just got around to reading about two months ago. I felt a bit YA fatigued last year and that’s continued into this year, so I’ve been avoiding it a little bit. This book is a “teen with cancer” story, but it’s different to the seminal The Fault in our Stars. The story focuses on sxiteen year old Alice, who is battling leukaemia. Her treatment is just about finished when her doctor realises that her body has gone into remission. This is a shock to everyone, especially Alice. With the help of her best friend Harvey, she had been living the last year of her life on the edge – ticking off items on a bucket list that she thinks she’ll never get the chance to experience. Harvey is often a reluctant accomplice, as he watches his childhood friend do things that are mean spirited and risky, but his burgeoning romantic feelings for Alice keep him coming back again and again to help her. Once her cancer goes into remission, both Alice and Harvey have to confront their feelings for each other, something Alice is incredibly determined to avoid; baring her soul after such a long illness and being alive to live through the consequences of her actions, good or bad, is almost too much for her to bear.
This book is a fast read, and I enjoyed the alternating chapters told from Alice and Harvey’s points of view, both during Alice’s illness and at the beginnings of her remission. I appreciated the flawed nature of all of the characters, including Alice’s parents, but I did tire quickly of Alice’s remission behaviour – at what point does a character become so tiresome you don’t want to root for them anymore? In some respects, I felt as though the author focused too heavily on Alice’s rebellious nature and less on allowing her to move forward, meaning that the ending felt a little rushed. But at the same time, I can see the value in writing about teenagers who are angry and confused by their feelings and want to bury themselves in reactionary behaviour. Overall, it’s a decent read, but I didn’t connect with Alice the way I thought I would, and I often wanted Harvey just to walk away from her and move on with his life.
Three Wishes – Liane Moriarty
I only just heard of Liane Moriarty last year, which is crazy because she’s written six novels AND she’s Australian AND her sister is Jaclyn Moriarty, another Australian novelist. About a month ago my daughter was sick all weekend thanks to some almost sour milk she consumed from a popular coffee shop chain, and refused to lie anywhere but on top of me. So I spent the weekend mostly horizontal feeling awful that she was sick, and also secretly enjoying the sweaty baby cuddles as she burrowed into my neck and curled up in a ball on my stomach. I had bought the Three Wishes ebook about a week prior and had only read one chapter or so, but that weekend I burned through it and was finished by Sunday night. I became excellent at balancing my iPad at just the right angle on the couch arm so I didn’t have to hold on to it. This book was a really perfect, light read. It’s about triplets Lyn, Cat and Gemma Kettle, who live in Sydney and whose lives are all slightly coming apart at the seams. Lyn is a successul business owner with a toddler, Cat’s marriage in seriously on the rocks, and Gemma floats through life without any particular goals at all. The book opens on their thirty third birthday, and the chapters alternate between the past and present for each of the women and their mother, covering the last year leading up to their birthday.
It was easy to plough through this book. The characters are all assertive, loud, confident women who are bound by famililal love to each other, but also drive each other slightly bonkers because they know each other all too well. Each triplet is so different but so very similar, and with a mother they clash with constantly, the Kettle girls’ lives are impossible not to watch with intrigue and obsession. They are funny, loving women who also secretly wish things were different in their lives, and when you add their parents and husbands/partners/boyfriends into the mix you get a story that’s poignant and entertaining from start to finish. Maybe the fact that I’m one of three daughters made this book more appealing to me? I’ve heard that of Moriarty’s work things only get better and better since she wrote this first novel, so I’m just trying to restrain myself from buying her entire catalogue of work! This is a wonderful read – fast paced, with greatcharacters, and it’s perfect for a quiet weekend at home or a beachside read.
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
I jumped on board the Amy Poehler train a little late. I’ve never really watched SNL, but I knew who she was because of amazing things like this, and we only started watching Parks and Recreation last year. I also love Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, which you all need to start following on Facebook RIGHT NOW. So of course when her book was released I knew I would eventually need to read it. Totally unprompted, my husband gave it to me for Valentine’s Day which was the perfect gift – roses last a few days, but entertaining books by funny, smart women last a lifetime, right? I finished reading it this week and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s written in a similar vein to Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, but is probably my favourite of the three. It seemed more coherent and went in a clearer direction than the other two. Poehler focuses equally on her personal life and her career in comedy which I appreciated. There was just enough about both, with some great antecdotes about each part of her life. She doesn’t shy away from personal topics like being a working mother with babies/toddlers, or her separation and divorce from Will Arnett. But she also doesn’t lay her heart bare – there’s a respectable distance between the words she’s written and the emotion she surely would have been feeling for those life events. I particularly enjoyed reading about her early years working as a comedienne in New York, and how she was able to work her way up to SNL and Parks and Rec, but then I always have enjoyed reading books about behind the scenes in showbusiness. As a memoir, it’s a compelling and easy read, and a good peek into the life of a funny, driven, confident woman. If you’re looking for some non-fiction to read this is a perfect place to start.