M.T. Anderson's futuristic vision - is it a brave new world?

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Thank you to Walker Books Australia for sending me copies of these books in exchange for an honest review

What makes reading M.T. Anderson's work so refreshing in YA is that his books take a sharp-witted, satirical slant when gazing into just what our future may look like. Landscape with Invisible Hand may come in at less than 150 pages, but its darkly funny plot about an alien invasion is thought-provoking and uniquely envisioned. 'True love' as it was 'back in the day' during the 1950's is seen to be the ideal for the vuvv, who transform it into a marketable commodity. However, as Adam and Chloe soon discover, there are some emotions which can't be faked forever. You can't help wondering, is this a subtle dig at what could be seen as the technology-driven, narcissistic dating scene of today?What I like about Anderson's writing is that it can be interpreted in so many ways, from a straight-forward narrative of survival in a new age of civilisation, to a scathing analysis of how we are living right now.

But when I glance at my fantasy paintings, they no longer look like any place I want to be. Or they are what I want, but I am already here in this word, wrapped up in the blighted towns and the peeling paint and the glow of the rendering sails at night and in the looted Stop & Shop at first light. That is where I really am. That is where my family is stuck. And that's what I have to deal with. Without flinching.

The contrast to all these facades the characters wear is the focus on art as a means of expression and escape. It was interesting to see how Adam was torn between painting what was real, the 'classic' still-lifes the vuvv wanted to see, or the utopia he wished for. It just went to show that art, like literature, transcends time. It was a clever point for the author to include, and even for a short book, Landscape with Invisible Hand tackles some considerable issues about the impact of colonisation and class divisions, what characterises a true relationship, and how creativity is a human trait that can never be stifled.

Forget trying to look for 'flowery' prose in Anderson's work - both this novel and Feed are dialogue driven, where the creation of his own lexicon takes some getting used to as a reader. In the end, it all adds to the world-building, which in Feed makes for a chilling society where consumerism rules and teens are constantly being bombarded with marketing messages about the latest trends through a brain implant.

Violet lay back down in the dark, her legs starting to sting. She called out loud after her dad. She was sobbing.
   Maybe, Violet, if we check out some of the great bargains available to you through the feednet over the next six months, we might be able to create a consumer portrait of you that would interest out investment team. How 'bout it, Violet Durn? Just us, you and me - girls together! Shop till you stop and drop!

When Violet comes along to challenge Titus and his friends' mindless hedonism with attempts to rebel against the feed, the story really begins to take shape. I can see where Landscape with Invisible Hand has taken on some similar ideas to this previous novel, but here there is some more raw emotion and terrifying insights on what happens to humanity when we no longer have to think for ourselves. School and even the clouds are trademarked, and suddenly getting cosmetic lesions all over your body is the on-trend thing to do. Honestly I went into this book not knowing how much I would like it, but the sheer depth of imagination Anderson has put into it alongside the complex characters made it one of my top reads of this year so far.


Overall, Feed and Landscape with Invisible Hand are must-reads for fans of speculative fiction, blending the lines between satire and tragedy. Nobody can know for certain what the future holds, but one thing's for sure - you wouldn't want it to look like this.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
Released: 12th September 2017
Published by: Walker Books (Candlewick Press)
Genre: YA Dystopian/Speculative Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 149
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth - but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents' jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv's miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem "classic" Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea.

But it's hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he's willing to go - and what he's willing to sacrifice - to give the vuvv what they want.
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Released: 7th July 2012 (First released in 2002)
Published by: Walker Books (Candlewick Press)
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: Publisher
Pages: 300
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck. So says Titus, whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his feed, a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. After all, how else would they know where to party on the moon, how to get bargains at Weatherbee & Crotch, or how to accessorize the mysterious lesions everyone s been getting? But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what's happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends hold dear. A girl who decides to fight the feed.

Following in the footsteps of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Kurt Vonnegut, M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world and a smart, savage satire about the nature of consumerism and what it means to be a teenager in America."

Reading for Reality: 10 Non-fiction books on my TBR

Sunday, 14 January 2018

It's fair to say that my reading habits have changed over time. Even so, it's true that there are some children's books I'd return to in a heartbeat and experience all over again, and YA novels that I'll recommend to anyone because they're not just for teens. However, over the past couple of years I've been wanting something more - to read wider into genres where to be honest, I've barely scratched the surface. Today I'm sharing ten non-fic reads I hope to get through this year, from memoirs to world history, and quirky advice on the business of '#adulting' in between.

I have to admit, it was the cover of Upstream which first drew me in when it cropped up on my instagram feed. As it turns out, the content sounds even better as Mary Oliver's essays reveal how her creative journey as a poet has been influenced by the natural world. Someone as successful as J.K. Rowling must have some good advice to share, so I'm really interested to see what she has to say about 'the fringe benefits of failure and importance of imagination' in Very Good Lives. The short stories and essays of a young Yale graduate whose life was taken far too soon in The Opposite of Loneliness are said to resonate with young people at this turning point in their lives, as they figure out the type of person they want to be and what their future may look like. For a general overview of the big issues facing the country and world at large, a read into The Best Australian Essays from 2017 is likely to be thought-provoking, and looking back at the previous editions might also be useful to see how the topics of discussion have changed over the years. The Romanovs has been on my list to read for a while, and although a heavy read covering over three centuries of Russian history - it's probably something to work through between other books. 

One of the powers of reading is the ability to travel the world between pages, so I have to check out The Colossus of New York which although published a while back hopefully still captures the bustle and exuberance of the city. That being said, I think for something more recent it's Humans of New York which could be a good visual alternative. Like UpstreamAdult Fantasy is another pure cover-buy, but I actually want to get my hands on a copy to read about how today's millennials really rate life's big milestones (and of course answer the big questions...like whether buying a house is worth giving up avocado on toast). On that note, The Barefoot Investor has been flying off the shelves in bookstores, and since it's been recommended to me by customers and co-workers alike, I figure there must be some truth in its message which I'll have to discover for myself. Jenny Lawson's recount of her experience with mental illness in Furiously Happy promises to be both honest and hilarious, making light of life's totally random moments. Finally, with a title like I Was Told There'd Be Cake, I don't think I can go past Sloane Crosley's collection of quirky personal essays which should make for a good laugh.

So there you have it, my personal picks for taking a break from reading for escapism, and maybe even picking up a few pointers on life along the way. What's a non-fiction book you've read recently which has inspired you?

Celebrating Australian Women's Writing - My #StellaSpark

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Whether it's from a publisher, bookstore or library, finding a truly great read which really resonates with me is always a highlight. These days I've found that the unexpected gems I happen to pick from the shelf can end up being the most memorable and moving. Over the past year, many of these have been by local talents, and in particular Australian women writers. These authors are forging the way in our literary scene, with stories that capture so acutely a sense of place and how we navigate relationships. So to show my support for the work of the Stella Prize, today I'm sharing some of my 'Stella Sparks' from books I've read in 2017.

One of the books which had the biggest impact on me last year is Anna Spargo-Ryan's poignant second novel.

As I said in my review,
The Gulf is impeccably written, but its real triumph is revealing the courage needed to make a better life, and the sacrifices we make to find it. 

This is a coming-of-age novel that is visceral and at times confronting, ultimately offering a tender portrayal of the inexplicable bond between siblings and the depth of loyalty to those we care about. I haven't come across a book which has made me both laugh and cry in equal measure as much as this one in a long time, and I'm looking forward to going back and reading her first release The Paper House.

Miss Lily's Lovely Ladies by Jackie French: This is a book that offers a glimpse into the women behind the politics of WWI on the home front, and the hidden power they possessed during this tumultuous period in history. I really love how French has written a war narrative which incorporates the impact of events both on the battlefield and behind closed doors, plus there was also a twist here which I did not see coming! I can't wait for the sequel The Lily and the Rose, releasing in March 2018.

An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire: A small town and the brutal murder of a young woman sets the frame for this no-nonsense crime thriller that strikes at the heart of the media's reaction to these tragedies, obsessing over 'pretty dead girls'. It was so interesting to read about the journalist's perspective as she seeks answers, along the way sinking deeper into the experiences of a grieving sister and other shady characters who may know more than they let on...
Mysterious? Yes. 'Can't put it down'? You bet.

Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm: Gretchen Shirm's prose is effortlessly beautiful, controlled, and tightly woven in this story of an artist assessing his own life through a new lens. She captures emotions in ways that struck a chord with me, and I cannot wait to see where she grows from here.

These are just a few of the books by Australian women writers I hope to read this year!

Over to you - what's a book by an Australian woman which you have recently read and would recommend? I'd love to hear about your #StellaSpark, and there's also the opportunity to share your favourites with the hashtag on twitter and instagram. You can find more information on this year's Stella Sparks campaign here.

Genie's Weekly News (60) - Blogging milestones, this year's AusYABloggers reading challenge, and what really makes working in a bookstore worthwhile

Sunday, 7 January 2018

So it's one week into 2018 and my reading list is already growing by the day. Even as I fail to stick to my 'book buying ban' (does it ever last?), going through my bookshelves has made me realise just how many I own but am yet to read...

Yes, I really should get onto that.

In other news, coming across the old favourites from my childhood has also brought back some good memories, which brings me to something adorable that happened while I was at work the other day. 

There I was reorganising the kids' section, when a child who must have been around three or four sat down right next to me and passed me a couple of books that had been sitting on the floor, before picking one up and beginning to flip through the pages. I asked my unexpected little helper whether he liked reading, and he replied "Yes, I love books!" before going straight back to the one he was so enchanted with. He was quite happy to do that for a few minutes before his mum came back from another part of the store, and had to drag him away because he didn't want to leave!

It really can be the smallest things in life which make the biggest impact on you, and for me seeing the look of pure wonder and curiosity on that child's face is something which will stay with me for a long time. Yes, working in a bookstore is great when you get to be surrounded by books all day, share your recommendations with others and unbox the latest release you've been waiting for. But what I've found more important than all of those things are the unexpected, heartwarming moments that remind me just why reading is so important. As the saying goes, 'a child who reads will be an adult who thinks'. 

Currently Reading

This won the Stella Prize last year, and the story so far has offered some really interesting insights into what gives art the power to really connect with us. It's not the type of book to finish in a single afternoon, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it all ends.

Previous Posts

Recommendation of the Week

There have been reviews at both extremes for this book, but I have to say that overall even if it is something that I didn't completely understand at first, the style was something completely different from anything I'd read before. 

AusYABloggers 2018 Reading Challenge

The annual Australian YA Bloggers and Readers challenge is back with a new format and prompts to get you started! To join in and find all the details, head to the goodreads group here. As an incentive, there will be three prize packs up for grabs - here's a sneak peek at the first one thanks to Walker Books:

What I've Been Watching

I didn't go into The Greatest Showman with high expectations, and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not usually the biggest fan of musical movies (with the exception of La La Land). I'm so glad to say that this movie was BRILLIANT - if it doesn't win at the Golden Globes, I'll be very surprised. Hugh Jackman suited the main role perfectly, and the storyline with the songs that are still stuck in my head was uplifting and magically executed. I don't usually say this, but this is a movie that I'd go and see again - it's that good.

In another momentous occasion, thank you to everyone who's visited Genie in a Book over the years to hit 100 000 pageviews! In the scheme of the blogosphere, it's not really about the numbers - but I'm grateful to know that hopefully other readers out there can come away from my blog with a new perspective on reading or a recommendation for something they hadn't considered before.

My Bookish Top 20 Releasing in 2018 (Jan - June)

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The new year is fast approaching, and with that comes the time to set some realistic reading goals, explore different genres and find new favourites! The first half of 2018 is already shaping up to be full of exciting releases across the board, so today I'm sharing some of my top picks to look out for.


For 'palace intrigue and deception', I'm all for Holly Black's latest exploration into the Fae with The Cruel Prince which is the first book in a new series. In a change of pace, Happiness for Humans sounds like a heartwarming and endearing read with a twist of science fiction to keep things interesting - kind of like the movie Her where an AI begins to infiltrate its owners love life (but hopefully with a better ending). There have been a few YA novels about school shootings released over the past few years, particularly like This is How it Ends, which similar to Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down is told through the eyes of four teens affected by the incident. But this novel seems to take a broader view into the small town and the other grievances it must face, making it a book I really can't wait to delve into. Set in Rio de Janeiro, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black has the potential to be a thriller full of twists. After all, it does start with the protagonist's parents whisking her away to another country without any reason..and suddenly everything she thought she knew about her life is a lie. Sounds like something you've read before? Maybe, but I'm willing to give it a chance. Finally, The Woman in the Window is being pitched as the next Girl on the Train-esque psychological thriller, and whether you loved or hated it, I'm hoping A.J. Finn is a hit with his debut. 


In a world where beauty itself is a commodity, The Belles promises to be more than the sum of the superficial values its society presents. It's the first in a new series by Dhonielle Clayton, who co-wrote the Tiny Pretty Things duology. Another book with a darker twist that is also focused on beauty in the eye of the beholder is Sinless by Sarah Tarkoff. A dystopian novel which questions the meaning behind morality, I'm definitely curious to see how the worldbuilding comes across in this one. Gunslinger Girl is a Western YA dystopian which I first heard about at Date a Book's blogger night earlier in the year. It's reminding me of the Vengeance Road series just at face value, but fingers crossed it brings something new to the table.


Anyone who knows me will be able to tell that Jackie French is one of my auto-buy authors, and after the huge revelations towards the end of Miss Lily's Lovely Ladies, I can't wait to see how Sophie's life changes following her role in WWI. The Precious Dreadful is already hinting at a love triangle, but with the premise of a library writing group, paranormal elements and well-written characters overall, I think I may just have to give it a go. I Still Dream sounds like the backdrop to a Black Mirror episode, and that isn't a bad thing. From what I can tell, it's a story of artificial intelligence and what happens if it goes too far, with a firmly human focus. While In Search of Us sounds like a heartfelt YA contemporary read about the bond between mothers and daughters, for scifi fans who have been hooked on the Illuminae Files, the wait to conclude the series will finally be over when Obsidio is released. In short - the hype is real my friends. A country town and a commune converge in Ellie Marney's latest #LoveOzYA novel White Night. However, my little description there has fallen way too short of how electrifying I can already tell this book is going to be, so keep an eye out for it!


The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is definitely up there with some of my most anticipated Australian novels of 2018. The content seems to be equally violent and enchanting; a balance difficult to convey but if done well will make for an emotionally poignant read. Caroline Overington (author of The One Who Got Away) is back with a new thriller with The Ones You Trust, about a woman who seems to have it all until her daughter disappears and the search for answers begins. Another major #LoveOzYA release on my radar is Sarah Epstein's debut Small Spaces that looks set to ramp up the suspense and deliver a story you'll want to stay up reading. 


I'm seeing some parallels between this and We Were Liars, as it sheds light on the lives of privileged teens and the gritty secrets behind that glittering facade. The Lies They Tell will be an addictive read if it really manages to deliver complex characters and surprise me with a big reveal or two that I don't see coming.


Word has already gotten out across the blogosphere, but for those who haven't heard, book blogger and writer extraordinaire Cait @ Paper Fury is releasing her first novel! June can't come around fast enough, because A Thousand Perfect Notes needs to be on my shelf ASAP. I LOVED Night Film as one of my favourite thrillers of all time, so to see that Marisha Pessl is releasing her first YA novel is exciting news. Neverworld Wake already promises to be atmospheric and shrouded in mystery, so count me in!

Over to you - what books are you most looking forward to in 2018?