The Trauma Cleaner:One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster
The story of Sandra Pankhurst, a woman with a trans history who is a trauma cleaner (i.e. cleans up houses after suicides and deaths where the body has been undiscovered a while, also hoarders’ houses etc). A lot of reviewers seem to have an issue with the unreliability of Sandra’s memories. I’m all good with unreliable narrators, and I think the author did a good job of tracking down what evidence she could to either corroborate or contradict Sandra’s recollections. I found some of Sandra’s history incredibly painful to read—Sandra isn’t beyond criticism but at the same time I can understand why she made the choices she made out of self-protection. The stuff about the trauma cleaning is also really interesting and sad. Definitely worth reading.
Genre: YA graphic novel, ghost story
Anya is a US teenager whose family is from Russia. Like a lot of YA graphic novels, the book examines themes of fitting in and exclusion. Anya falls down a well and discovers a skeleton. The ghost attached to that skeleton helps save Anya and hitches a ride out of the well with her. Over time Anya begins to realise the ghost isn’t as benevolent as she first appeared. I really enjoyed this, the illustrations are great and the story better than the last few YA graphic novels I’ve read.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Genre: Classic, Australian
I’d never read this so I decided to educate myself. It’s a quick read, I finished it in a day. I can see why it would have been a huge thing in its time. I wanted to get to know the girls more before they went missing because I didn’t really care about them. The ending was pretty shocking; WTF!? An odd little book, really.
The Girl Who Owned a City
Genre: Post-apocalypse, graphic novel version (YA)
Oh geez. I was expecting something totally different. I kind of hated this. All the adults are dead, and the kids have to band together to survive. Sounds great yeah? No. The main character, Lisa, is so unlikeable. It’s always a bit weird when the cultural differences between the US and Australia become really visible; there’s a thick thread of white survivalism (someone on Goodreads said neoliberalism) in this. Lisa is going on about how she deserves everything because she’s smart and hardworking and makes everyone else work for her. It’s HER city. And while there are about two panels devoted to her asking if she’s wrong and the others are right, ultimately she dismisses that train of thought and goes back to being the ruler of the city. It’s pretty fucking awful.
Genre: Modern fiction
I have very mixed feels about this book. Written by a father of an autistic child, told from the POV of the alcoholic father of an autistic child. I had such a visceral response to the depiction of the autistic boy that I had to put it down for a few days while I recovered. It made me feel awful. Everything is filtered through the lens of the father, and he’s not a very likeable person, particularly in the beginning. As the novel progresses you start to understand his own childhood trauma and see the way intergenerational trauma is the fucked up gift that keeps on fucking everyone up. I’ve read that the portrayal of the mother becomes more sympathetic toward the latter part of the book but in telling the story only from his perspective I completely disagree. She is always distanced and it’s hard to really empathise with her, even as we find out more of her story. The most interesting part of the book for me was the slow reveal of the grandfather’s story and the family history. It was a pretty upsetting read, all in all.
The Fish Girl
Genre: Historical fiction with a post-colonial lens?
Beautifully written and tragic. Written as a response to the short story The Four Dutchmen. I loved it (though it is heartbreaking).
The White Road
I admire the lengths Sarah Lotz goes to in order to research for her books. She went caving in Wales and to Everest base camp. If only I could afford to do that! But anyway, The White Road is a creeping horror with sensed presence, with a main character who has a self-destructive streak. I actually really enjoyed it up until the end. I appreciated the immersed-ness of the cave scenes and the Everest stuff; her research paid off as those settings were impeccable. Apart from the end, very fun read.
Emily St John Mandel
Genre: Post-apocalyptic science fiction
I’ve heard mixed reviews about this but I actually appreciated it. A killer flu wipes out 99% of humankind and this story jumps around in the timeline to develop characters, mostly centred around Arthur Leander. The way Mandel writes about mundane, little things that have been lost and may never be experienced again made me strangely emotional. I never felt too close to any of the characters, but I still enjoyed getting to know them. It’s really well written and quite an optimistic post-apoc, really.
Genre: Weird science fiction (post-apoc/dystopia)
There is a giant flying bear.
And Borne kinda reminds me of B.O.B from Monsters vs Aliens. Except Borne is way cooler and more intriguing.
So this is weird, some shit has gone down, climate change has wreaked havoc and there is biotech everywhere and the Company engineered Mord the flying bear and Rachel the scavenger finds Borne and everything happens. (Honestly the most surreal thing is that her name is Rachel). The pacing was a bit draggy in bits and I did give myself a bit of a shove to the end but I did really like the ending and I thought it was very good. Definitely recommend if you like weird sci fi.
Genre: Fantasy graphic novel YA
I loved this so much! Nimona is a young shapeshifter who informs our supervillain, Blackheart, that she will be his new sidekick. I adored the relationship between Blackheart and Nimona and the relationship between Goldenloin and Blackheart. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is great, honestly just fabulous!