The Song is You – Arthur Phillips // Dust City – Robert Paul Weston

It took me nearly two weeks, but I finally finished The Song is You.

“Each song on Julian’s iPod, “that greatest of all human inventions,” is a touchstone. There are songs for the girls from when he was single, there’s the one for the day he met his wife-to-be, there’s one for the day his son was born. But when Julian’s family falls apart, even music loses its hold on him.

Until one snowy night in Brooklyn, when his life’s soundtrack—and life itself—start to play again. Julian stumbles into a bar and sees Cait O’Dwyer, a flame-haired Irish rock singer, performing with her band, and a strange and unlikely love affair is ignited. Over the next few months, Julian and Cait’s passion plays out, though they never meet. What follows is a heartbreaking dark comedy, the tenderest of love stories, and a perfectly observed tale of the way we live now.”

I don’t know how I felt about it.

There were a lot of emotions and experiences I could relate to: the pure joy of finding a new musician/band; that period of absolute obsession (with said musician/band) that probably lasts longer than what most people call “normal”; the delight at finding a song that seems to be speaking directly to your current state of mind; deciding you love the singer responsible for your favourite song…that’s basically a summary of my life. Those experiences were described in such a way that I occasionally nodded along like “I know exactly what you mean, jelly bean”.

I liked the idea of the connection between Cait and Julian. Using coasters, he sketches a series of pictures of what Cait was and what she could become – and when she gets the coasters, she finds a sort-of invisible mentor. At one point, Julian describes himself as being a phantom or angel of music or something…I don’t remember the exact words, but it was definitely a Phantom of the Opera reference (who doesn’t love Phantom?).

Apart from that, it felt dense. It’s not a long book (under 300 pages), but there were times when it felt closer to 600 pages. It was hard to get into, though, like a lot of books, once you hit your stride, it goes by a little easier. I read a couple of reviews where people raved about the prose and yes, it was good, but, because it was taking so long to really read and understand, I got impatient and just wanted to reach the end.

I can’t decide how I felt about the ending. On the one hand, it was very disappointing considering the amount of set-up (i.e. the entire book up until that point), but it was probably the most realistic outcome. I get the feeling this author isn’t one to give his readers a happy ending because that’s what they want (I respect that).

In other news, I’ve slowly been sinking back into my YA-reading habits…this week’s book was Dust City.

“With his dad doing time for the double murder of Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, Henry Whelp tries to keep a low profile in Dust City—a gritty metropolis known for its black-market, mind-altering fairydust. But when he begins to suspect that his father may have been framed, Henry ventures deep into the City’s underworld. There he comes face to snout with the legendary mobster Skinner and discovers what really happened to his father… as well as the horrifying truth about fairydust.”

First of all, look at that cover. Superb. The back had this tagline: “When your dad is the wolf who killed Little Red Riding Hood, life is no fairy tale” which, as far as taglines go, was a fantastic decision on the designer’s part.

As I have mentioned (and will probably continue to mention), I love mixed-up fairy tales. In addition to Red Riding Hood, this book included references to Cinderella (Cindy, the administrative assistant with the glass stilettos), Snow White (the tough-as-nails detective), Jack and the Beanstalk (Henry’s best friend Jack), and a few others. It was a very interesting take on these characters, completely different from what you might expect.

Obviously, I loved the fairy tale allusions, and the plot itself was great. I liked the concept of fairydust and the whole industry that was built around it. It was also very well written – you could really imagine these wolves and foxes and other animals walking around in an almost-but-not-quite-human way. And the pacing moved quickly, but not so quickly that you lost track of where you were.

I thought it was more middle-grade, but I suppose it’s young adult: there were some plot points that were a little dark for it to be aimed at 8 year olds (the suspected suicide, and the temporary resurrection – hella creepy, but so good!). I highly recommend it.

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about:

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