Adult Fiction ARC Read-it-if Review: Lost and Found…

7

Morning all! I am so, so pleased to be bringing this book to you today.  I have adopted this state of heightened excitement because in this book I have found an Australian equivalent to one of my all time favourites, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  That book had all the things I love in a novel – old people, an obscure quest and dry humour.  The book I present to you today has all that and more – not just old people, but shouty, rude old people.  Not a simple obscure quest but an obscure quest involving a one-legged shop mannequin.  And not just dry humour, but…well, lots of dry humour.  I give you Lost and Found by Brooke Davis.  Double points for Australian authorage.

I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy of this title from Hachette Australia for review, but I have to go and buy it in hardback anyway now, and put it on the “special” shelf to be watched over by my book-guarding minions.

Lost and Found follows the (slightly tragicomical) story of Millie Bird, a seven-year-old with a preoccupation for dead things, a father who has recently become a dead thing, and a mother who has abandoned her in the underwear section of a department store.  We first meet Millie in said underwear department as she waits for her mother’s return under the watchful eye of Manny the hawaiian-shirt-wearing mannequin across the aisle. Partway into Millie’s eventful waiting, she meets Karl the touch typist, an octogenarian widower who spends his days sitting in the department store cafe, silently grieving his dear departed Evie.  Shortly after Millie escapes from the department store (and, simultaneously, from the social services) with the help of Karl, we are introduced to Agatha Pantha, a widow who has not left her house since her husband died seven years ago, and who fills her time with such productive measures as the keeping of a daily record of her physical signs of ageing, and the shouting of remarkably personal insults at passers-by from her lounge-room window.  As the social services close in, Agatha and Millie make an attempt to follow Millie’s mum, using an itinerary left behind in the house.  Along the way they join forces with Karl and together the three (well, technically four – Manny ends up along for the ride too) evade the law and try to find Millie a home. 

lost and found

Read it if:

* you’ve ever felt a real and personal connection to a shop mannequin (in any sort of attire)

* you hope to grow old disgracefully and take up a life of geriatric delinquency

* you like to ponder the big questions, such as “Where do parking inspectors go when they die?” and “Has my arm flab increased by more than a millimetre since yesterday?”

* you believe (as I do) that if we were all allowed to shout insulting things at other people when we are having a bad day (month/year/life) then navigating a path through everyday social situations would suddenly become a lot more interesting

Aaaaaahhhhhh.  That is the sound of contented sighing when, after reading only 2% of the Kindle version of this book, I knew that it and I were resonating on the same frequency.  This book is by turns delightful, sad, poignant, hilarious and a bit off-putting.  The off-putting bit relates to a reasonably graphic description of old-people sex, in case you’re wondering.  It is the book that I was hoping The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was going to be, but whereas the characters and situations in that book annoyed me and seemed trite and contrived, the characters in Lost and Found just jumped off the page in a comfortable mix of idiosyncracies.

I could imagine that some readers might find Karl and Agatha (and especially Millie, in her precocious innocence) a bit contrived and annoying, but for me they were perfectly constructed and I just fell in love.  I loved Karl’s rebellious spirit and commitment to tagging public (and private!) property in popular 1980’s parlance.  I laughed my guts out at Agatha’s compulsion to shout the awkwardly anti-social obvious (“Assymetrical face!” “Stupid shoes!”) and I cheered inwardly at Millie’s determination to play the Angel of Existentialism by adopting the persona of Captain Funeral for her captive fellow train passengers.

While the characters embark on what feels like an epic journey, I knocked the book over in a couple of decent sittings because it was one of those stories that had me continually thinking, “I’ll just read one more chapter/to the next page break/until Agatha shouts something next”.  Inevitably, I was drawn ever-deeper into the increasingly complex (and somewhat ridiculous) web of deception and evasion of public officials that Karl, Agatha and Millie spin.  Like the book itself, the ending is at once poignant and light, inevitable and satisfying and one designed to keep the three main characters in the reader’s mind, while accepting that this too shall pass.

All in all, Lost and Found is a five star read has earned a place on my list of favourites.  As soon as someone takes the hint and buys me a hardback copy of Harold Fry, I will place these two side by side on my shelf as a tribute to humour in the midst of a finite existence.

Until next time (Reads too slow! Dried out eyeballs! Yawning at inappropriate moments!),

Bruce

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

Existentialism and Monster-Taming: Two Graphic Novels…

10

Afternoon friends and hangers-on! Recently I’ve been meandering a bit in my reading tastes and have delved into some graphic novels as I am wont to do on occasion…On this occasion I took the decision to delve after meandering past a display shelf at the library containing a graphic novel of intricate and/or inviting cover design.  The two I have for you today range in target audience, content and just plain oddness, so in case you’re planning to use this post as a Christmas gift guide (and why wouldn’t you?), you’d probably better pay attention so you don’t end up giving the fun, kiddy one to your broody Emo-teen nephew Reginald, and the super-creepy and sociopathic one to sweet little seven year old niece Emmy-Lou. You’ve been warned.

The Fun, Kiddy One

cats cradle

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux tells the story of Suri, an orphan hanger-on to a travelling caravan who has dreams of being a monster-tamer.  After accidentally taming a terrifying monster held captive at the fair, she finds herself relentlessly pursued by some shape-shifting humanoid monsters for reasons unkown to her.  Luckily though, accidental monster-taming has its benefits and Suri ends the tale with at least one more friend that when she began.

The cover of this book drew me in immediately and I picked it up with absolutely no idea what the story was going to be about.  I often do that with graphic novels – I find I don’t need to know much about the story in order to be prepared to give it a go.  I’m glad I did (give it a go, that is), because the art and the story had me hooked.  Unfortunately, I finished the book in about 15 minutes and was desperate for more!  Luckily, I have just checked on the author’s website and book two is in the works. Hurrah!

Cat’s Cradle would be a perfect choice for reluctant readers of middle grade age, because the art and story are highly involving, easy to follow and draw the reader in.  With a female main character, this could also be a good choice for girls who are looking to expand their reading horizons and try something different from the standard fairy/fantasy chapter book.  Boys will surely enjoy this one too however, due to the themes of monster-hunting and magic powers.

See, this is why I love libraries – you never know what little gems are lurking in the stacks.  Book two in this series is called The Mole King’s Lair….I’ll be keeping my eyeballs out for it.

The Super-Creepy Sociopathic One

billy fog

I happened across Billy Fog and the Gift of Trouble Sight by Guillaume Bianco, as with Jo Rioux’s book, after spotting it on a library display stand.  Apparently, so the blurb (which I never bothered to read) goes, Billy Fog wears glasses, but when he takes them off, he can see all sorts of weird, creepy things that other kids can’t.  It’s probably good that I never read this blurb as that has little if anything to do with the story, such as it is, and I can’t even remember any pictures of him with glasses on in the actual book (although I’m sure they’re there).

No matter!  What really drew me to this one was the fantastic aged look of the cover and creepy, Burton-esque art style.  Check out some of the artwork – isn’t it just fantastically atmospheric and fun and oddly enticing?

Death-comes

SuperstitionWell, I thought it was.

Now. While this book has fantastic art, the content is just flippin’ weird.  So in the first few pages Billy’s cat Tarzan dies. He may have had something to do with it – that’s never made clear.  But basically, the book deals with Billy trying to make sense of that unwelcome, ever-present visitor hanging around in the shadows, death.  He even asks Santa Claus for some advice on the topic.  Other bits of the book feature Billy’s attempt at a bestiary of creatures that haunt dark spaces, and stories about other odd-bods that he has encountered in his young life.

I have to say it – this was a odd, creepy, unsettling book.  Strangely though, many books of this ilk have a weird sort of a pull, making it impossible to look away.  Billy Fog was no exception.  The weirdest part of the book was the really deep theme of existential angst running through the stories.  Essentially, while the main character of this book is a young child, the content is really for late teens and older.  The back of the book says 13+, but I think even that’s a bit optimistic.  You would not want to give this to a little kid, or indeed, a particularly sensitive kid – it would scar them for life and probably bring their nightmares to life – unless you want to instill in them a deep-seated fear of sleeping alone, that is.  You however, as a mature, open-minded and slightly anti-hipster-ish adult, will probably be intrigued by such a tome.

I have actually found a cover design for volume three of the Billy Fog saga, Billy Fog: The Boy Who No Longer Believed in Santa Claus that will give you a far better feel for the content (and is no less appealing, art-wise):

billy fog v3

See? Now you know what you’re getting yourself in for.

So there you have it – my little foray into differenetly-formatted fiction.  Sharp-eyed readers will also note that Cat’s Cradle would be the perfect choice in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge 2014 for category two (a book with a piece of furniture in the title), while Billy Fog would suitably acquit both category four (a book with someone’s name in the title) or category six (a book with something precious in the title).  Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then click on the large and absurdly attractive button below to check out the challenge and join the Safari!

small fryUntil next time,

Bruce

Follow on Bloglovin
my read shelf:
Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)