Thursday, 14 January 2021

Review: Women Don't Owe You Pretty by Florence Given

The author and the publisher had me at the title with this one. We've all found ourselves battling outdated and unhelpful beauty standards at one time or another, subjected to the male gaze and had our worth as human beings determined by our level of sex appeal. And like everyone else, I'm fed up with it too. Consequently, I snapped a copy of this one up when I found it at Dymocks.

Women Don't Owe You Pretty is a guide about being your best self. Written and illustrated by Florence Given, it encourages readers to be true to themselves. The author has a lot of valuable advice about self-esteem, and about being kinder to oneself and to others. It also challenges a lot of what many woman have come to accept as normal. 

It is also a book about social activism. I have no doubt that Given's views on feminism and how women from marginalised backgrounds suffer more than upper and middle class white women come from the most sincere of places, however there is not a lot of research included in this manifesto to back up the author's claims, which I would have found useful. That said, the author is young, and she's doing what any person her age who wants to change the world for the better does best--telling her truth and not holding anything back. She also becomes a little too woke and a little too virtuous at times, which I found annoying. Ultimately, though, its a book written and intended to empower young woman, and it has a lot of valid things to say about self-acceptance and self love. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Review: The Carbon-Neutral Adventures of the Indefatigable Enviroteens by First Dog on the Moon

Political Cartoonist First Dog on the Moon has turned his hand to writing graphic novels ... and its a cracker. Meet the Enviroteens, Binky aka the Monotreme, Worried Norman who was once bitten by a radioactive croissant and now turns into superhero Pastry Person when needed and Letitia a wombat and genius inventor. Together, the group are determined to thwart their enemy--Single Use Plastic Brendan who has an evil plot to destroy the world's turtles. But when they go to battle, the Enviroteens soon discover that there is something else, something far more sinister going on ...

This graphic novel was a lot of fun. Full of plenty of First Dog on the Moon humour (I love how Senator Ian the Climate Denialist Potato was incorporated into the plot,) this one has the characters go on a far fetched adventure, while incorporating some scientific truths into various parts of the story. I found myself laughing out loud and smiling at various moments--in particular an image of a shark riding a scooter across a more or less impossible path left me with a big smile on my face. Along with a certain unfortunate typo on the moon.

This one is a fresh, and funny, look at climate change that will no doubt be enjoy by First Dog on the Moon fans irrespective of age. Better yet, a portion of publisher Allen & Unwin's profits will be donated to School Strike For Climate Action, an important cause that helps school children think more deeply about Climate Change.

Recommended. 

This book was read for the Aussie Author Challenge 2020

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Greg Gains is a misfit just trying to survive high school by having as little contact with the other students as possible. He is more or less happy being miserable and cynical and anyway, he has all of the friends he needs in Earl, a tough talking kid from the wrong side of the tracks whom he makes amateur films with. Then Greg's life takes a twist when he learns that Rachel, his childhood friend from Hebrew class has leukaemia and his mother is insisting that he go visit her. And while Greg remains, well, Greg, and he's bitter and miserable and thoroughly enjoying being bitter and miserable throughout the book, it is Rachel who can see his potential ...

Greg reminded me a lot of someone I used to know when I was roughly the same age as the characters, which helped make the novel that extra bit entertaining. (Yes real life Greg. I was laughing at you.) I found the novel to be fairly realistic, and surprisingly cynical for something that was intended for roughly the same audience as The Fault in Our Stars, but strangely enough, that was also a huge part of the appeal. I felt that Earl's character could have been better written, I neither liked him, or loved to hate him like I did Greg. On the whole though, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was an entertaining read that never gets too bogged down in sentiment or with likeable characters.

Recommended. 

Monday, 11 January 2021

Friday, 8 January 2021

Friday Funnies: Agro

 


This clip is from 1994 and I can actually remember when it happened. Agro's Cartoon Connection was staple viewing in my household, usually because it showed most of the old Hanna Barbera cartoons like Yogi Bear, The Smurfs and The Huckleberry Hound Show. Made in Brisbane, the show was hosted by good natured Ann-Marie and Agro, an agsty puppet with a penchant for pushing the boundaries of one, good taste and two, what was permissible to air on a children's show. Unsurprisingly, it was a ratings hit.

There are a lot of outtakes--real and things that never made it to air, available on YouTube that showcase just how far Argo could push the boundaries. As a child, I thought it was all hilarious, though as an adult I can see just how much of it probably went straight over my head. As an adult, I find the humour kind of funny, kind of not. There's nothing sophisticated about it. 

Agro was voiced and operated by comedian Jamie Dunn. According to wikipedia, much of his antics were vetted before they went to air, though he would appear uncensored on adult programmes. His most recent appearances have been in commercials for Uber Eats alongside Bondi Vet Dr Chris Brown. 



Thursday, 7 January 2021

Review: Lana's War by Anita Abriel

Anita Abriel's second novel takes readers into the heart of Occupied France in 1943. Russian born Countess Lana was raised in Paris, where she now lives with her beloved husband, music teacher Fredrick. She is on her way to inform Fredrick that she is expecting their first child, but arrives just in time to witness a terrible event--Fredrick is shot by none other than Alois Brunner. Lana then suffers a miscarriage. Thisty for revenge, she joins the French resistance, utilising her position as a Russian Countess to pose as the lover of a Swiss businessman. But life in the resistance is tough, and dangerous, especially when Lana's instinct is to follow her heart, rather than her head ...

This is an entertaining page turner. The backdrop of the French Riviera makes an interesting contrast to the horrors of war, and the many, many grave atrocities that were committed there, and across other parts of Europe. Abriel's prose is easy to read and I often found myself reading a page or even a chapter more than I had intended. Without giving too much away, I do have a bit of a problem with the ending. Most of the novel pointed toward Lana ending up with Charles, with Guy's whereabouts to remain a mystery (perhaps with the odd hint or two that he was still chasing after Alois Brenner.) However, the ending was something quite different and it felt clumsy and tacked on, as though the author had changed her mind at the last minute. 

Lana's War is a light and entertaining historical fiction novel, and while I have some grumbles about the ending, I did find it to be an enjoyable read. Lana is a likeable protagonist, while other characters like Odette made the story all the more compelling. 

Recommended.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of Lana's War

This book was read for the Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2021

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Review: Highballs for Breakfast by PG Wodehouse

Highballs For Breakfast, the very best of PG Wodehouse on the joys of a good stiff drink is a fun and frivolous collection of some of the beloved comic novelist's descriptions of characters who find themselves in all kinds of hilarious scrapes after enjoying a strong drink or two. All of Wodehouse's most beloved characters are here--Jeeves and Wooster, Uncle Fred, Mr Mulliner, Lord Emsworth. 

This was an enjoyable collection, featuring snippets of various short stories and novels by PG Wodehouse, each linked together by a theme. Richard T Kelly provides the introduction and linking text, and his strong working knowledge of Wodehouse shows throughout. The text also adds some useful social and historical context, though as we know, Wodehouse's work was very much based on a notion of who the idle rich could be and how they lived, rather than who they actually were. 

Anyway, this is a fun collection, ending somewhat appropriately with a selection from Right Ho Jeeves where teetotaller Gussie Fink-Nottle finds himself drunk and amusing--then offending--nearly everyone at a presentation. I found myself discovering a few Wodehouse stories and characters I had never heard of and, better yet, I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions.

A must for Wodehouse fans.