The Reading Hour.


Tonight at 6pm marks 2015’s edition of The Reading Hour.

In celebration, here are the books I’ve read in the past year and a brief review of them.

What have you been reading since last year’s event?

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.

If you haven’t read Roxane Gay’s book of essays since it was released last year, then what the hell have you been doing?! Gay is one of the best writers out there, and her take on all things pop culture and the conflicted relationship feminists sometimes have with it is a must read.

Death Clutch by Brock Lesnar.

This is one of those terribly ghost-written wrestling autobiographies and the main reason I read it was because it had been sitting in my to-read pile for far too long. Brock Lesnar is one of my least favourite wrestlers mostly because he was the first one I met and he was an asshole. This book gives a glimpse as to why he’s so introverted, which can sometimes come across as rude and ungrateful.

Rebels & Chicks: A History of the Hollywood Teen Movie by Stephen Tropiano.

Having been written a decade ago, this book unfortunately misses many of the teen movies we’ve come to know and love since then, such as Mean Girls and John Tucker Must Die, not to mention the booming genre of fantasy/dystopian teen flicks. But it does provide a pretty thorough and entertaining history of many teen movies you might have missed from as far back as the ’50s and, of course, the golden age of teen flicks, John Hughes’ ’80s.  

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

This was one of those books that, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get into. The main reason I stuck with it was because it was a gift and I wanted to tell its giver that I’d actually read it.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

Carrying on from the funk that Madame Bovary got me into, I spent a few weeks reading this on public transport (which, at over 600 pages, is no mean feat!) but my mind wandered elsewhere.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham.

Of all the celebrity memoirs I read over the past year, I’d probably recommend this one the most, if only for the salacious alleged molestation Dunham detailed and her experiences breaking into sexist Hollywood.

Too Much Money by Dominick Dunne.

Not one of Dunne’s better books but a carefree romp for the reader nonetheless.

The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales.

This was also a gift from the same person who gave me Madame Bovary. I’m pleased to report it held my attention much more than Flaubert.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

Another gift, and one of my first forays into comic books. I enjoyed it more for the story than Bechdel’s illustrations.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

By far the worst instalment in the Hunger Games trilogy. I know it’s set in a dystopia, but Mockingjay was thoroughly depressing.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

I had such high hopes for Yes Please, but it was mediocre, both in writing style and humour.

Maybe the Moon by Armistead Maupin.

One of only two books written by Maupin outside the Tales of the City franchise, I didn’t fall in love with the characters as I have with his previous books, but it was an interesting story based on the life of Tamara De Treaux, the actress who played E.T.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Not as good as the movie and I struggled with the animal cruelty portions.

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy.

One of the most overrated feminist texts I’ve read. This is probably a testament to the fact that it was written ten years ago and feminist theory has come a long way since then, baby. A lot of unnecessary scaremongering not unlike this recent Vanity Fair article on Tinder and online dating in general.

The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin.

Maupin’s second non-Tales book, it was turned into a film in 2006 starring the late Robin Williams which was dubbed as a “psychological thriller”. While I would say the book is far more campy than a psych thriller has a right to be, I did enjoy the suspense of Maupin’s fictionalised real-life encounter with Anthony Godby Johnson, the young author of a book about his abuse as a child, which later turned out to be a hoax.

Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter.

A poor woman’s Female Chauvinist Pigs.  

The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

This book could have stood to be shorter, but it is very suspenseful and lives up to the hype.

Wild Things by Brigid Delaney.

I had high hopes for this modern-day Aussie version of the aforementioned The Secret History set in the residences of an elite Sydney university. The local spin increased the novelty factor, but I was expecting more.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay.

Not for the easily triggered, Gay has a knack for writing about suffering that is second to none.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock.

If you ever need to explain the plight of trans people and how to talk to and about them, I can’t recommend Janet Mock’s memoir highly enough.

Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine by Andi Zeisler (ed).

A selection of some of Bitch magazine’s best pop culture writing from its inception in 1996 to this book’s publication in 2006. Another decade has passed since then, so it’ll be interesting to see if Bitch comes out with another collection. I hope so. In the meantime, subscribe to them.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.

There’s a lot to be said for feminist theory that is accessible to its readers and I don’t think The Beauty Myth is. I found it hard to stay focussed on some of its more wordy theories and criticisms.

Periods in Pop Culture by Lauren Rosewarne.

Who would’ve thought there were enough examples of menstruation in pop culture to warrant a whole book?! I enjoyed this exploration of periods in pop culture and its demystification of something that is normal but rarely discussed.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie.

I was obsessed with this movie as a kid so I thought I’d finally read the book. The movie trumps it TBH.

Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith.

I had different expectations for this relationship thriller but I was pleasantly surprised by what Deep Water turned out to be.

Laurinda by Alice Pung.

One of the best YA’s I’ve read… well… ever. Pung has a knack for putting to paper the way inner city teens talk and the dynamics of private school girls. If you’re looking for something easy to read but gritty, Laurinda is the one for you.

Nightlight by Harvard Lampoon.

This book made me understand the nuances between satire and parody: satire is smart and crafty, parody is the equivalent of Chief Wiggum—annoying and stupid.

Bossypants by Tina Fey.

In the vein of Amy Poehler’s Yes PleaseBossypants wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. In fact, it was barely funny.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty.

This was one of the best books I’ve read all year. It looks at the funeral industrial complex and argues that people have options for their loved ones in death that don’t include embalming, a sterile mortuary and an impersonal traditional funeral.

The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb.

A lot of statistics and studies brought down what is otherwise a funny, engaging argument for more equality between men and women in the home and at work.

Big Girls Don’t Cry by Rebecca Traister.

With the announcement of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run, I thought I’d finally get around to reading Rebecca Traister’s take on the 2008 election, which has been on my to-read list for years. It was interesting, however its distant tone means I barely remember its contents only a few months after reading it.

Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave.

This is a beauty of an Australian fictional work and I can’t wait to see the film it was recently adapted into. Very tender and sad but also brilliant.

Playland by John Gregory Dunne.

This book began the series of four books I attempted to into over the course of a few weeks but just couldn’t. I think this one was about Hollywood (as Joan Didion’s husband and Dominick Dunne’s brother, it seems only fitting) but I gave up after less than 100 pages.

Falling Man by Don DeLillo.

I got almost to the end of this novel about September 11 after realising I’d taken in nothing.

Oswald’s Tale by Norman Mailer.

Coming in at over 800 pages, I couldn’t justify giving any more than about 90 pages of my time to this biography of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The Feminisation of American Culture by Ann Douglas.

I’d bought this book six years ago when its contents may have interested me, but upon cracking its spine, I realised I was no longer.

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron.

The Most of Nora by Nora Ephron.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron.

I decided to get into Nora Ephron after the previous spate of books that kind of made me hate reading. Whilst I’d never read any Ephron before, I did devour most of her movies over the summer, so I thought her book writing might be similar. I was right, although I did end up encountering most of her essays more than once as these collections tended to double or triple up on some of them.

Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas by Jane Mayer & Jill Abramson. 

Another book that had been on my list for years that I decided to read upon HBO’s announcement that they’d be turning the sexual harassment of Anita Hill by current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas into a biopic starring Kerry Washington as Hill. While Strange Justice isn’t light reading by any means, it did enlighten me to the politics of the case ahead of the biopic.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

I was late to the party on this one. I did have a little cry as was expected, but I found its protagonist annoying, the dialogue unrealistic, and the writing misogynist at times.

The Sex Myth by Rachel Hills.

Naomi Wolf and Ariel Levy, take note: this is how you write feminist theory. With an informal, accessible tone and a non-judgemental discussion of sex, this is the seminal text about sex and feminism for the millennial generation.

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.

I had no idea some of the Netflix series’ characters would be so heavily based on real people Piper Kerman encountered during her incarceration that inspired the show. While her story and her subsequent work with the Women’s Prison Association are important, I found some of the language she used alienating and transphobic, in particular.

Paper Towns by John Green.

Despite The Fault in Our Stars‘ overhype, I still had high expectations for Paper Towns, which I had written on my to-read list next to the words “debunking of Manic Pixie Dream Girl”. While the book tries hard to do that, particularly towards the end, it ultimately fails. Also, too much use of the word “ret*ard” and Quentin’s friend Ben is a complete creep who refers to women as “honeybunnies”. Gag me.

Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen.

I love Anne Helen Petersen but I didn’t necessarily love her take on classic Hollywood which is arguably what made her famous. I’m looking forward to her dissection of more modern stars and the gossip surrounding them for her second book.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

No wonder Harper Lee kept this original manuscript of what would eventually become To Kill a Mockingbird hidden for so long. It’s pretty average on all counts and focusses far too much on the racism we’ve all heard about. Mockingbird is by far the superior text so if you aren’t able to separate the two in your mind, steer clear of this one.

The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum.

This, along with Laurinda and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, was perhaps the best book I’ve read all year. Featuring only a few longform essays, The Unspeakable is bookended by the two standouts: “Matricide”, in which Daum explores her ambivalence and sometimes rage towards her dying mother, who passes away less than a year after her own mother with whom she had a tumultuous relationship; and “Diary of a Coma”, which details the viral infection that almost killed Daum, again, less than a year after her mother’s death. Challenging, laugh out loud funny and gasp-inducing.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.

Based on the real life events in Judy Blume’s hometown in the ’50s, where three planes crashed in the period of a few months, I expect to finish this one tomorrow. I’m enjoying the story however there are far too many characters and giving them equal time in their own little mini-chapters distracts from the central story of Miri and her family.

Related: The Reading Hour 2014.

The Reading Hour 2013.

The Reading Hour 2012.

Blood Bonds—The Sisterhood of Menstruation.

Interview with The Sex Myth Author Rachel Hills.

Elsewhere: [Bitch Flicks] Lena Dunham, Slenderman & the Terror of Little Girls.

[Vanity Fair] Tinder & the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”.

[The Hairpin] Scandals of Classic Hollywood.

[The Independent] Go Set a Watchman: Atticus is Now a Racist in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird Sequel.

Image via HuffPo.

Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

I’ve been wanting to write a post on Overthinking It’s “Female Character Flowchart” since I saw it on both Jezebel and Musings of an Inappropriate Woman about two weeks ago, and the time has finally come I’ve finally gotten around to compiling a list of my favourite fictional female characters and whether they qualify as “strong” ones.

Without compromising the quality of the image, I wasn’t able to enlarge the chart, nor add my own annotations as per the below characters of my choosing. Instead, I’ve reproduced their equations below, as well as Mean Girls’ Regina George, who appears on the chart, and Blair Waldorf, whom Rachel Hills believes is a “girl Hitler”, but who I find to be much more of a genuine strong female character.

Regina George (Mean Girls): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? NO. Villain? YES. Sexualised? NO. (I would argue yes. Hello? Have you seen her Halloween getup?) Over 35? NO. Is the protagonist male or female? FEMALE. Is this a rom/com? NO=Mean Girl.

Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? YES. Does she represent an idea? NO. Does she have any flaws? YES. Is she killed before the third act? NO=Strong female character.

Belle (Beauty & the Beast): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? NO. Villain? NO. Is she mainly a love interest? YES. Do they get together? YES. Is she only interested in her man? NO. Is she in a committed relationship with a protagonist? NO. Changes her man or is changed? CHANGES. Are they from different cultures? YES=Nobel Squan, whatever the hell that is! (Looks like something out of Avatar, though.)

Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? YES. Does she represent an idea? YES. Villain? NO. Is she mainly a love interest? NO. Is she part of a team/family? YES. What is her main role? LEADER. How does she feel about babies? NOT RIGHT NOW. Does she get pregnant? NO. Is she in a horror story? NO. Is she violent? NO. Is she nearly perfect? NO. What is her flaw?=sassmouth, which I guess is true, but Scout is so much more.

Elphaba (Wicked): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? YES. Does she represent an idea? YES, many. Villain? NO. Is she mainly a love interest? NO. Is she part of a team/family? YES. What is her main role? ROGUE=wildcard.

Elle Woods (Legally Blonde): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? YES. Does she represent an idea? YES. Villain? NO. Is she mainly a love interest? NO. Is she part of a team/family? YES. What is her main role? LEADER. How does she feel about babies? NOT RIGHT NOW. Does she get pregnant? NO. Is she in a horror story? NO. Is she violent? NO. Is she nearly perfect? YES. Is she older? NO. Should the audience like her? YES. Who likes her more? WOMEN=Mary Sue.

Related:  Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

Elsewhere: [Overthinking It] The Female Character Flowchart.

[Overthinking It] Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women.

[Jezebel] Flowchart: Know Your Female Character Stereotypes.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Flowchart: Know Your Female Character Stereotypes.

Men in Fiction: My Most Loved Made-Up Males.

Last week I featured my favourite fictional females, and this week I thought I’d give the guys a go.

In the vein of Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, her father Atticus is way up there. He represents “the father figure I never had”, guiding Scout, her brother Jem, and their friend Dil through the last summer of their naïve childhood and how judging a book by it’s cover (or skin colour) is not the way to go. Plus, he has a kick ass name!

Similar to my obsession with To Kill a Mockingbird is my love of Dominick Dunne and any of his books, specifically Another City, Not My Own, in which Dunne’s alter-ego Gus Bailey acts as the fictional narrator of Dunne’s real-life O.J. Simpson trial experiences. It is hard to separate the two men, which is what I love about Dunne’s stories; a reader familiar with Dunne’s experiences doesn’t know where real-life ends and fiction begins.

Every fan of Friends has a favourite character, and mine has always been Chandler Bing. He gets the funniest storylines, and Matthew Perry has great comedic timing. There are many episodes I could ramble on about, but my two favourite Chandler moments are when Phoebe attempts to seduce him into admitting his relationship with Monica, and when Chandler kicks up a stink about Joey stealing his chair before Ross’s benefit, and in a check-mate move, Joey puts on every item of clothing in Chandler’s possession, quipping in true Chandler fashion, “Could I be wearing any more clothes?”

It’s been a Disney-centric year, what with Beauty & the Beast about to be re-released in 3D, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performing Disney songs in December (which I’m so going to, FYI), the first African American Disney Princess in the lacklustre The Princess & the Frog, and the much anticipated release of Toy Story 3, with one of my all-time favourite characters, Woody. The pull-string sheriff is inspirational in that he’ll never “leave a man behind”, he exists primarily for the pleasure of his owner, Andy, but discovers that there’s more to life, like making friends and other people happy, than what he thought his true purpose was; to be with Andy. I loved the third instalment of the saga, but it can never top the first one. So quotable, so timeless, so child-at-heart. ♥

Other inspirational men of fiction include Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon; Shia LaBeouf’s character in Disturbia, and the character who inspired him, L.B. Jeffries from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window; Fiver, Bigwig and Hazel from Watership Down; Woody’s space ranger counterpart, Buzz Lightyear; the Beast in Beauty & the Beast; and Holden Caulfield in A Catcher in the Rye.

Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

A recent post on Girl with a Satchel (which was reblogged here) inspired me to assess my favourite fictional female characters.

One of my favourite books is To Kill a Mockingbird, and protagonist Scout Finch is one of my favourite characters of the written word. Her innocence and naivety are super-endearing, and her past-tense narrating allows the reader to put themselves in her shoes easily.

Wicked is a niche book and musical that theatre buffs can’t get enough of, but the general public are a bit oblivious to because it hasn’t derived from/been made into a movie, like Melbourne’s current season of musicals, West Side Story, Mary Poppins and Hairspray, all of which are on my theatre-going agenda in the coming months.

I’ve seen the production three times in Melbourne, and many a friend has seen it in its various international incarnations on Broadway and the West End… oh, and Sydney! I was so touched by the story and its messages of friendship, good versus evil and judging a book by its cover, and even more so by Elphaba, better known as The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Unlike in the original story, Wicked’s Elphaba is fiercely loyal to her disabled sister Nessarose, and those who become close to her like Glinda, Doctor Dillamond and Fiyero, misunderstood because of the colour of her skin and the slander spread about her when she discovers the Wizard of Oz is a fraud and seeks revenge.

In the vein of fairytale musicals, Beauty & the Beast (which is being re-released in selected theatres in 3D from 2 September) is by far my favourite, and I love its heroine Belle so much, I have been known to fight with my friends and children alike over the fact that I AM BELLE! Hello, I have brown hair, like burly men, read a lot and have a penchant for yellow gowns! While there have been arguments circulating that the Disney princesses are beacons of anti-feminism, I maintain my stance that Belle doesn’t need a man to rescue her (in fact, she does the rescuing, helping the Beast when he is attacked by wolves, attempting to make the townspeople see the error of their ways in going after him, and ultimately, setting his heart free) and sees the Beast for who he truly is, not for what he looks like or what he can do for her. She’s a kick-ass beauty in the vein of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

I’ve blogged (or reblogged) a little bit lately about Elle Woods. She’s an everywoman. Rachel Hills identifies with her, as does Satchel Girl Erica Bartle. A law-studying friend of mine recently compared herself to Miss Woods, also. And I won’t lie; I’ve fantasised about wearing a Playboy bunny suit whilst purchasing an Apple Mac! Elle Woods proves that you can take pride in your appearance and have fun whilst pursuing your dreams and making a name for yourself separate from the name of the man in your life.

There are plenty of other made-up women who I have an affinity for, including the aforementioned Buffy Summers, and Daria Morgendorffer for their kick-ass feminist mentalities; ditto for the Charmed sisters; Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf, who can be a psycho bitch at times, but she’s THE psycho bitch; for similar reasons as Elle Woods, Cher Horowitz; and Barbie.

Related: Guest Post—Pop Culture Power Women.

In Defence of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Event: The Way We Wear Vintage Market.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] Women of Pop Culture & the Unashamed Use of Cutesy Clichés.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Have You Ever Seen Yourself Through Someone Else’s Eyes?

In Defence of To Kill A Mockingbird.


By now loyal Scarlett Woman readers will know my affection for To Kill A Mockingbird, so I couldn’t resist, after seeing a recap on Jezebel, responding to Allen Barra’s assertion in The Wall Street Journal that Harper Lee “doesn’t really measure up to the others in literary talent, but we like to pretend she does” and her Pulitzer-winning work is “virtuously dull”.

Well, I never!

Out of everyone I’ve ever spoken to about To Kill A Mockingbird, only one person said they didn’t like it, but she also didn’t finish the book, so she missed the part of the book I think is most poignant: the final paragraphs where Scout recounts the events of the summer from Boo Radley’s front porch, citing her father Atticus’ wise words that “you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes.” For Scout, “Just standing on the Radley porch was enough,” and I think that is one of the most beautiful pieces of imagery that brings the story full circle.

Atticus is the quintessential beloved father figure, and beacon of “all the best lines”, who, funnily enough, Lee crafted to oppose the attitudes of her own father, who allegedly “once remonstrated a preacher in the family’s hometown… for sermonising on racial justice”. Barra mocks Atticus’ juvenile explanation of the Ku Klux Klan (he is speaking to a CHILD, where a certain amount of sensitivity is required) and his dialogue, as seeming to have been written “to be quoted in high-school English papers”. God knows I had a field day with quotes from the book in my Year 11 English Literature essays, and perhaps the reason I feel so affectionately towards Atticus is that he reminds me of my grandfather, who passed away several days before I started Year 11. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Atticus could be representative of the father figure I never had.

For Mockingbird’s haters, there is the defence that it is a novel for children (Barra quotes “fellow Southerner” and author Flannery O’Connor on her observation of To Kill A Mockingbird: “It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they are reading a children’s book.”) something that I was not aware of until reading the Jezebel article, which should say something about Lee’s writing skills (or my reading skills?).

Nonetheless, I stand by my belief that Mockingbird is one of the best books ever written. Barra might say that, “In all good novels there is some quality of moral ambiguity… There is no ambiguity… at the end of the book , we know exactly what we knew at the beginning: that Atticus Finch is a good man, that Tom Robinson was an innocent victim of racism, and that lynching is bad.” But I think there is some moral ambiguity: was it right of Atticus to “collaborate with the local sheriff to ‘obstruct justice in the name of saving their beloved neighbour…’”? And, as Jezebel asks, “Is Atticus’ evisceration of Mayella Ewell permissible because she is making a false rape claim in the knowledge that it will likely cost an innocent man his life? Is Mrs. Dubose a cranky old racist or ‘the bravest woman I have ever known,’ as Atticus says? Did Boo Radley truly kill Bob Ewell in self-defense? Are Atticus and the sheriff, in their willingness to protect the social status quo, contributing to the system of white male privilege that subjugates women and blacks—and the secrecy on which it depends?

And what did happen to Boo Radley, whom Scout “never saw again”?

Related: Taking a Leaf Out of Amazon’s Book: Bad Customer Reviews.

[Jezebel] Re-Evaluating To Kill a Mockingbird.

[Wall Street Journal] What To Kill a Mockingbird Isn’t.

Taking a Leaf Out of Amazon’s Book: Bad Customer Reviews

Jeanette Demain recently wrote for an article on “amateur critics” bemoaning the plotlines of her favourite books, most of them canonical.

At the end of her Amazon search-related compilation of readers’ negative comments on classics from “The Grapes of Wrath to 1984”, she urges readers to peruse Amazon’s customer reviews of their favourite books.

So, I thought I might take a stab at this, and compiled my very own list of attacks on the books that “changed my life forever”.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

One of the finest pieces of modern American literature, I was hard pressed to find bad reviews on this one. The harshest was from three-star-rater Jane A. Marshall, who said To Kill a Mockingbird was “a good book but not as good as the movie. The exact ending as to how the attacker was killed left too much doubt as to who actually was the killer—I don’t think this was a good way to end the book.” Mmm, good, good, good. And more good.

Seriously, though, for my money Harper Lee crafted one of the best endings of all time. So much so that I defaced my copy by highlighting the passage for easy retrieval when I want to marvel at the beauty and power a good writer can wield.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

One Amazon discussion thread was titled “Catcher in the Rye should be banned”, and continued with “not because it’s obscene or perverse”—ever read Bret Easton Ellis, my friend?—“but…because it’s a lousy book.” Eloquently put.

The general consensus in response to that thread was a) who are you to judge whether a book should be banned based on it’s lousy-ness, and b) we are not in favour of censorship. My sentiments exactly.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann.

While I will agree that this book is somewhat fluffy compared to the others on this list, I wouldn’t say that it was “a huge disappointment,” according to A Customer. They go on to say that, “I have loved the movie version of Valley of the Dolls for a long time. Admittedly, it is a BAD movie, but its camp sensibility and generally over-the-top style make it a classic of the ‘bad movie’ genre.”

Put a different way, Wayne M. Malin calls it a “silly soap opera that follows three women… [through] death, suicide, lesbianism, cancer, marriages, tons of drug abuse, institutionalisation, etc…” Yes, but isn’t that the appeal of the thing?!

I will agree on one of the most common allegations, that protagonist Anne Welles “ is perhaps the dullest character ever created,” said QueensGirl.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

The author of this book, whose “plot unfolds through three points of view—a 16-year-old girl in search of her father who disappeared into vampire land in 1972 and reveals himself through letters to her, the father who was searching sixteen years earlier for his abducted thesis advisor who secondarily reveals himself through a trail of letters, and the thesis advisor who was searching for Dracula through historical research,” has apparently “committed an act of such brutality that it rivals any atrocity that Vlad Tepes [aka Dracula] ever committed,” reviewer Carlos asserts. (Thanks for the plot summation, William J. Meggs!)

Meggs goes on to say that “if you would enjoy the tedium of being an historian digging through old libraries, you might enjoy the tedium of reading this book.” I would, and I did, thankyou very much!

Tietam Brown by Mick Foley.

It was difficult to find a bad review for this novel, “because only wrestling fans read it.” Which is probably 90% true, but even non-wrestling fan reviewers found it a struggle to comment negatively on it.

But lo and behold, I found the diamond in the rough in A Customer’s (again—take credit for your opinions, people!) response: “The dialogue is painfully bad, I’d rather be stuck in the ring with Mick for ten minutes than be subjected to reading another ten minutes of this book.” With Foley’s trademark barbed wire-encased baseball bat and thumbtacks? That is a fate worse than death.


Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Mostly light-hearted fun-poking to be found in the Customer Reviews section for this book. Caraculiambro says, “I suppose my threshold for silliness for books with talking animals (particularly bunnies) is The Wind in the Willows. Anything more sophisticated than that is preposterous, I think… on the whole, it’s hard to take it seriously unless you’re a pre-teen girl. But if you are, good luck with the language.” Touché.

Much in the same vein, Lucy the Bargain Hunter says, “this book is really boring, but since there was no bad language or sex, I didn’t have any excuse for not trying to get through it.” She then goes on to ask, as I have many a time after ploughing through a Jane Austen or Stephenie Meyer, “everyone else loves this book. Maybe there is something wrong with me[?].” To borrow a phrase from the late Brittany Murphey’s Tai in Clueless, “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, a’ight?”

A Lion’s Tale by Chris Jericho.

Again, another WWE alumnus’ tome, so it is geared towards a very niche audience with mostly glowing reviews. The most damning assessment comes from Sean M. Hurley, who says the autobiography doesn’t live up to that of Mick Foley’s debut, Have a Nice Day, or even “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels’ ghost-written memoir. “My main gripe with the book is that Chris doesn’t get as personal with the reader as one would have enjoyed. Mick really exposes himself and allows himself to be vulnerable, while Chris still seemed to be holding back…” he says. Funny, as I found A Lion’s Tale to be on par, if not better, than Have a Nice Day

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne.

Dredging through page after page after page of one star reviews hurt, as this is my absolute favourite of all the books on this list.

To dig the knife in even further, A Customer says “I had to rate the book at least one star for the review to be kept. Actually, it’s worth zero.” Show your face, nameless hater!

Next week, the positive reviews! Yay!

Elsewhere: [Salon] Amazon Reviewers Think This Masterpiece Sucks.


Hi, my name is Scarlett Harris and I am the creator and administrator of this blog.

I have been wanting to start a blog for over 12 months, so what better time to start it now that I don’t have to commute to and from work every day?

I live in Melbourne, Victoria, and in 2008 I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Professional & Creative Writing from Deakin University, with a double major in Media & Communications. I have also done work experience with Cosmopolitan magazine and the RSPCA.

My passions are reading, writing, pop culture and social commentary, which this here blog will primarily focus on.

My favourite authors are the late Dominick Dunne and Mick Foley (yes, the professional wrestler! Check out any number of his memoirs, children’s books and novels; he’s actually a brilliant writer.). Book wise, my favourites are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (come on, who doesn’t?) and A Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (likewise).

Keep in mind this is a small blog, starting out with basically no readership and not many media contacts, so any suggestions or constructive criticism is welcome. Please, if you like what you see, recommend the blog to friends!