Reading journal 5: it’s totes about the cover

Here’s another lump of books I’ve read this year that I’ve slowly been getting around to reviewing.
And what ties them together, you might ask. Well…
I know that pretty much everyone, at some time or other, has selected a book to read based entirely on the cover.
Oh, just admit it and we’ll move on.
Something I’m less sure of is whether you’ll understand when I say that sometimes I get a little bit obsessed about a subject (often a craft) and have to borrow a whole stack of books and immerse myself in it, and then I kind of get over it after a while. So, anyway, I did this about making tote bags at the start of the year and the review fruits of that are reaped below.
And then… I put the two things together into a bad pun for the post title.
Moving on to the reviews, then-

#29laurinda Laurinda by Alice Pung (Read 11/01/2015) I had to read this book because the skirt on the cover looks scarily like the skirt I had to wear at high school – uh, yeah, I know, and it was teamed with a lemon-coloured blouse. Craptacular. Anyway, this book is absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend it. I met Alice Pung when she came to one of our library events and she was witty, and lovely and, clearly, she can write brilliantly. So, what’s it about? I guess if I was being flippant I’d say it was an Australian Mean Girls. But it’s so much more than that. Lucy wins a scholarship to a prestigious girls’ college Laurinda, where she is soon in danger of losing her sense of self. This is a very well written, intelligent piece of fiction that tells a great story and also addresses issues of racism, bullying, class prejudices, peer pressure, exploitative labour conditions, self-image, morality and more.

#30atlas The Atlas of Love by Laurie Frankel (Read 20/01/2015)  I picked this one up because it has a chubby bubby on the cover. Hate me if you must. And then I emotionally over-invested in this story. It’s kind of  a set-piece that poses the question of what makes a family. When one of the characters behaved badly towards another, I was indignant on her behalf. What a terrible friend! After everything else!! Oh, how was that even … hang on a second, this is fiction. And I’m not sure why I did that, because a lot of the book is made up of the literary musings of the main character, who references everything back to books in trying to understand the dramas in her life. There’s a lot of telling and analysis of what’s going on. The baby felt like a plot device, rather than a person, and sometimes the other characters drifted into caricature. But I enjoyed it anyway.

#31 silverThe Silver Moon by Bryce Courtenay (Read 24/01/2015)  Look at that cover! Moon. Giraffe. Love it. This is a small book at only 144 pages and a bit of a grab-bag of stuff that Bryce wrote. Despite that, it is worth reading if only for the animal stories  (about his dogs and cats, including Timmy the Dog of Dogs). And, if you want to write commercial fiction, it has Bryce’s words of wisdom on taking the reader into account and a lot more.

That was the covers – now for the bags.

If you want to sew your own tote bags, or other kinds of bags too, each of these books has great patterns. But the bottom line is that to get two or three patterns that you really like and feel you can manage to make, you have to borrow at least six books. It’s a rule, okay?

#32 Carry Me by Yuka Koshizen (Read 16/01/2015) – oh, this one has the loveliest pattern for a courier satchel style bag that I MUST make. As soon as I have some spare time…

#33 Best of Stitch: Bags to Sew by Tricia Waddell (Read 16/01/2015)

#34 Totes Amaze: 25 Bags to Make for Every Occassion by Amanda McKittrick (Read 18/01/2015)

#33 The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam (Read 22/02/2015)

#34 Seams to Me: 24 New Reasons to Love Sewing by Anna Maria Horner (Read 23/01/2015)

Did you see the thing they did there – all those puns? I completely was not to blame for the title of this post.

These last two books are both YA novels, and quick reads. I didn’t pick them for the covers, so much as the titles. Intriguing, I thought about both before I read them. Not so much, I thought after reading:
#35 Fat Boy Saves World by Ian Bone (Read 11/04/2015) Neat is fat. He’s also bloated, a whale, blubbery, huge, a blimp, yada. yada, yada, according to his sister Susan who totally loves him, okay? He stopped talking and started bloating years ago. So, obviously his Dad wrote a book about how his son stopped talking, which he became really famous for. He disingenuously failed to mention that a) he knew Neat hadn’t really stopped talking and b) he knew perfectly well why he’d stopped. I got tired of the whole “what is the dark secret at the heart of this wealthy family’s dysfunction – could it be something as horrible as (dare we even say the word? no, we daren’t) sexy things?’ There were moments I enjoyed in this book, and great pieces of characterisation, but the abuse that Todd, the romantic interest, was willing to cop from Susan (because he fancied her, or wanted to save her, or something) kind of creeped me out.

#36 Freak Camp by Jessica V. Barnett (Read 12/04/2015) I felt that this YA novel never quite lived up to its potential. The basic premise is that when they are thirteen (if not before) everyone identifies their ‘source’ – one of the four traditional elements of fire, air, water and earth – and goes off to their public source school. Except for the kids who don’t.  If they can afford the fees they go to a special school for unaligned people, or as the kids would say – freaks. It’s not a bad premise, I just ended up feeling it tried to do too much with addressing big issues of social inequity, tension in blended families, racism, bullying, coming out as gay, friendship, being a special snowflake in your own unique way, jealousy, lying, peer pressure – there was so much stuff going on here, and it was all tied up so neat and cute at the end, I ceased to care. I know, I know – it might have just been me.  Still, if you were only going to read one book about schoolgirls, I’d pick Laurinda ahead of Freak Camp.