Friday, 25 May 2018

Friday Funnies: Bugs Bunny Opera

This is true. It's actually surprising how much culture was introduced to kids via the Looney Tunes cartoons. Along with a couple of operas, Looney Tunes also did a surprising, but clever, take on Of Mice and Men. Which way did he go George, which way did he go ...

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

Clary Fray is back. In the second instalment of The Mortal Instruments, Clary knows who she is. With her mother in a coma and her father intent on world domination, Clary is embroiled deeper and deeper in the world of the Shadowhunters. Which is kind of unfortunate, given the fact that she and Jace had to break up after discovering that they were brother and sister. Clary is doing her best to make her new relationship with her best friend and longtime admirer with Simon work, but there are plenty of obstacles in their way--like the fact that Simon is turning into a vampire and that Clary is still secretly in love with her brother. Meanwhile, the young Shadowhunters must bound together to one, stop Clary's evil dad Valentine and two stop Imogen Herondale from using every legal means possible to destroy Jace to get revenge on Valentine. Even with the help of Clary's almost-stepdad, Warewolf Luke and powerful warlock, Magnus Bane, the group have the odds stacked against them, but maybe, just maybe, Clary has skills deeper than anyone knows ...

This was an enjoyable return to the world of the Shadowhunters, and another ripping, page-turning read. It was interesting watching some of the characters form new relationships--I was more or less expecting Alec and Magnus to get together; young werewolf Maia developing a crush on Simon was probably more of a surprise than Simon becoming a vampire. In this volume, we learn more about the world of the Shadowhunters and the Clave, and not all of it is nice. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all, though, was a note at the end of my copy of City of Ashes advising readers that the Shadowhunters would face their final challenge in the next book, City of Glass. Does this mean that the series was originally intended as a trilogy? 

In any case, the whole thing is a lot of fun. Recommended. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Review: Whisper by Lynette Noni

Some novels open with a great hook and never quite live up to their promise and, sadly, Whisper, is one of them. A young woman 'Jane Doe' as she has become known has been imprisoned and experimented on in a secret government facility for two years. Her captors want her to speak, to tell them her name, but Jane holds a terrible secret and she knows that if she speaks, the consequences could be deadly ...

This one started with a great idea, but failed to live up to its potential. With every twist, the story lost the very thing that made it unique and interesting and it soon began to follow a path that experienced readers of speculative fiction may find a tad predictable. Some parts of the novel were quite similar to The Girl With All the Gifts, though this one was a bit more light hearted and humorous in places. And one thing that I do think is worth mentioning--I was a bit surprised that a novel written by an Australian author, published in Australia and set in Australia would use American spellings throughout. (Though "mum" was one notable, and pleasing, exception.) All that said, I did feel some empathy for Jane and her predicament, and wondered what would become of some of the other major characters.

This one will probably be of interest to readers in the 12-14 year old age bracket who are looking for a twisty read written by the author of The Medoran Chronicles

Whisper is the first instalment in a new series.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2018

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Disappearing Dawn Schaefer (A BSC Nostalgia Post)

Kirsty, Claudia, Stacey and Mary Anne will always be remembered (and loved) by readers as the original members of the Babysitters Club series. Stacey would leave the club twice--once when her parents moved to New York, and again when she decided that she had outgrown the club. On both occasions, she found her way back to the club. But did you know that another key character also made more than one exit from the club?
That character was Dawn.

Dawn was the first new character to join the club. She entered the series in Mary Anne Saves the Day, as the new student at Stoneybrook Middle School. She and Mary Anne share a table at the school Cafeteria and soon become fast friends--and soon the girls discover that their parents were childhood sweethearts.

Seemingly, Dawn adjusts to life in Stoneybrook quite well, though she does struggle a bit with her new domestic arrangements when her mother marries Mary Anne's dad. Relatively late in the series she leaves for a six month visit to California. Initially, the books tell of her adventures with the We Love Kids Club, (a laid back version of the babysitters club,) and then she returns to Stoneybrook. A few books later, she leaves again, this time for good. Dawn then got to appear in the California Diaries a darker spin-off series, undoubtably aimed at kids who had, or who were about to, outgrow the Babysitters Club.

In return a new character was introduced to the BSC--Abby.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Friday Funnies: Fifth Cup of Coffee

As always, the Awkward Yeti is brilliant.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Review: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus

The Book Ninja is a slyly crafted dark comedy that is almost certain to bring a smile to even the most humourless of book lovers. As for the rest of us, some of the jokes had me laughing out loud, which was kind of awkward, seeing as I was on public transport at the time. But, I digress. This is a great debut and I hope that it zooms straight to the top of the bestseller lists, because honestly, it deserves to. I'd start banging on about how I think it is the best new release for June as well, but I think everyone reading this review has the idea by now that I enjoyed it very much and that you should all read it.

Frankston "Frankie" Rose is an author and bookseller living in Melbourne who is looking for love. She comes up with a novel (bad pun, sorry,) approach for finding love. She places her favourite books on public transport with her contact details inside. It's a fun and clever plan, maybe this way she will meet the literary lover of her dreams. Fate has other plans in store, however, and soon Frankie finds herself falling for Sunny, a thirty-something who only reads--gasp--young adult. Can a lover of fine literature really find happiness with someone who is into YA novels?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, with its many literary references and its often darkly comic depiction of Frankie's escapades. Frankie is supported by a number of eccentric characters, each one more dysfunctional that the last. Every one in this story is slightly selfish, everyone is dysfunctional and the results are fucking hilarious. There's also a great moral in there about what happens if you decide to get revenge on someone by filling their car up with bananas. (Sorry. I just had to put that in.)

Fucking hilarious. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC of The Book Ninja

PS: Random trivia, the authors are also the pair behind the successful Books on the Rail project, which encourages readers to leave copies of their favourite books on trains and trams for others to discover and enjoy. 

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2018

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Eleven years after I started reading The Mortal Instruments, I've gone back to re-read the series from the beginning. Finding the first book wasn't exactly hard--my first Australian edition of City of Bones (the one that comes complete with a note in the back to say that the sequel will be released in 2008,) has been sitting proudly on my bookshelf for years, beside novels by other authors who first became popular during the era, which was post-Harry Potter, but just prior to the advent of the Kindle. Vampire Academy and Twilight were two notable series to come out of this time. Incredibly, as some may have seen from my review last week, The Mortal Instruments universe is still going strong, though it has been rebranded Shadowhunters, to fit the fact that it now incorporates three different series set in different eras that are linked by common themes. There has also been a Mortal Instruments feature film, and a Shadowhunters television series which is now in its third season on Netflix. Of course, I knew nothing of what the series would become back when I read the first book. What's probably more surprising is that I never really took that much notice of the many sequels and spin-offs as they were released, given how popular the series has become. Too much else going on, I guess.

Anyway, I've gone back to the start, with the intention of reading all of the books. And this time around, I'm slightly gobsmacked by just how addictive this series is. Clare certainly knows how to write a page-turner. In the first novel, we are introduced to Clary, a seemingly ordinary teenage girl living in New York who, though a series of unfortunate events discovers that everything she has known for the past fifteen years is a lie. She is actually a Shadowhunter--a human with angel's blood. A chance encounter with a Shadowhunter named Jace followed by the mysterious disappearance of her mother (a Shadowhunter who has been in hiding for many years,) forces Clary to play an active part in an ancient war between the Shadowhunters and various demons ... and against her father who is the most dangerous Shadowhunter of all ...

Some tropes exist for a reason (ie an ordinary kid finding out that they have extraordinary talents,) and most of that has to do with the fact that when they are executed well, they're bloody entertaining. Clare's talent comes from taking established tropes and myths and shaping them into a page turner featuring young characters that you can cheer for. There is a VC Andrews style twist toward the end, but the author handles it in a tasteful fashion--in fact, this is something that the ghostwriter for VC Andrews may want to take note of. Probably the best thing about this series is that although it features teenage characters, it's not strictly for teenagers, which is probably why my local bookstore places the books in the fantasy section, rather than the YA section. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series in the near future. Recommended.