Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Review: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

The Glittering Court has a brilliant romantic, other-worldly concept that will no doubt appeal to female readers who are on the younger end of the YA spectrum. Our heroine is a well-brought up young lady who, since the death of her parents, has lived with her grandmother. The family fortunes are beginning to dry up and to help the family retain their respectable position within society, a match is made between our heroine and a young man who she is not in the least bit attracted to. Our heroine finds an escape in the unlikeliest places, trading places with a maid and running away to the Glittering Court, a place where impoverished young women are groomed in the ways of the rich and are shipped off as brides to men living in the new world. There, she changes her name to Adelaide and does her best to conceal her identity. And then, Adelaide does the one thing that she shouldn't, and falls in love, with a man whom she cannot marry ...

This was a great idea, and a perfect blend of romantic story telling and a mild fantasy, set in a world that is similar but not quite like ours. The storytelling wore a little thin after a while for me, though I feel a big part of that may have a lot to do with age--after all, this is a book for teens and I'm just a little (actually a lot,) older than that. Some of the plot twists felt a bit convenient at times. Still, this one was an enjoyable enough distraction, and never gave any less than what was promised on the back cover.

Recommended for teens and hardcore Richelle Mead fans.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

Unfold and ... behold! It's Rundle Mall in an explosion of colour! In recent times Unfold has been the advertising campaign for Rundle Mall, and a sea of bright colours can often be seen in various parts of the mall. This shot was taken at the stage near Gawler Place.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Apple Paperback Review: Bad Break (The Gymnasts #6) by Elizabeth Levy

On select Sundays I will be reviewing some of the old Apple Paperback titles from my childhood. These titles were published, or republished by Scholastic during the 1980s & 1990s and were written and set in the United States. In Australia, these books were typically only available from libraries or could be ordered through catalogues that were distributed through primary schools. Most of these titles are now long out of print or have been updated and republished for later generations ...

Following on from my recent analysis of The Gymnasts series a couple of weeks ago, I found a cheap copy of one of the better books from the series at the Salvation Army Op Shop (this is an actual, local church-run shop, not to be confused with the larger and more commercial Salvos Stores,) for fifty cents and decided to bring it home. The book is a bit old and tatty and once belonged to the Inaburra High School Library, but it proved itself to be a fun nostalgia trip.

Book six focuses on Cindi, and how she breaks her leg after going on a ski trip to Aspen with her parents and three of the other Pinecones, Lauren, Darlene and Jodi, and mean girl Becky, who infiltrates the group, as her family is also holidaying at Aspen that weekend. (Ti An and Ashley were always, of course, minor characters and Heidi has not joined the group yet.) The book gives a surprising amount of technical detail on what happens when someone breaks a leg on a ski slop (Cindi is taken to the bottom of the mountain in a special sled that is a little like a stretcher,) but the focus of the novel is the implication that the injury has on her. It's a pretty accurate analysis of what it is like to have an injury, as Cindi experiences moments of frustration and doubt, anger and the odd bit of selfishness, along with a bit of denial. She stays on at Evergreen Academy doing weights and exercising her good leg on a bike, and learns a whole new level of respect for coach Patrick when he asks her to spot her teammates--who are sometimes resentful of her instructions and do not always co-operate. Later, after the cast comes off, Cindi has to overcome her fears to do gymnastics again and prove to herself that she is not going to be forever 'broken.'

Although medicine and technology has changed a bit (plaster casts and crutches are a bit of a rarity for broken legs nowadays,) this is still an interesting read about the implications of being injured--an injury is never fun and the problems that arise from it are not always physical.

A solid instalment in the series.

About the author: Elizabeth Levy started off her career working for Senator Robert Kennedy before turning her hand to writing. A prolific author of books for children, she has published more than eighty titles and has even continued on the Amber Brown series in tribute to the original author (and her friend) the late Paula Danziger. 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Off Topic: There is No Perfect Time For An Asthma Attack

As I have alluded to on this blog before, I am asthmatic. And not only am I asthmatic, but I am one of those asthmatics, the kind who can go without symptoms for weeks, or even months at at time, and then suddenly be hit with an almighty attack, the kind that may lead to a hospital visit, or even leave me housebound for days on end. (In late September/early October 2014, I was left housebound for a whopping eleven days. During this period, a book review that I wrote for Caroline Kepnes' YOU received a surprising amount of attention and I had to turn down the opportunity to go on television to talk about my reaction to the book. It's the only offer like it that I have ever received ... sigh.)

Anyway, what most people do not realise about asthma is that attacks can happen any time, anywhere. In theory, this means that I could have an attack while doing something terribly important, or exciting, but the reality is, the vast majority of asthma attacks happen when I'm doing something completely mundane. There is the time I had an asthma attack while drying some dishes, the time I had an asthma attack while putting a jug in the microwave, and how could I possibly forget, the time that I was sitting at my desk, writing out this blog ...

Some occasions are, of course, a bit more amusing than others. Scrabbling around for an inhaler while one is only in their underwear is never a good look, but it also beats the heck out of dying. Then there was the time I had a nightmare, leaped out of bed and a few seconds later ... sudden asthma attack. Or there are occasions like this evening, when I had a glass of water in my hands, was preparing to take a sip and ... Now that little red indicator on my inhaler is a little closer to the finish line, and my kitchen floor just got an impromptu clean.

That's asthma. Who knows where my next attack might take me?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Thank you Lily and the Octopus for tugging at my heartstrings. You tugged, tugged hard and refused to let them go until the final page. In other words: This book made me cry, but I loved it very, very much.

Lily is an ageing dachshund and a faithful companion to Ted, a single gay man who is in his early 40s. Ted and Lily have a great relationship and it is obvious that Lily means the world to Ted. (And vice versa.) But then an unwelcome visitor appears--an octopus, who attaches itself to Lily's head. And Ted finds himself doing everything in his power to defeat the octopus while it slowly and nastily tries to take Lily away.

Anyone who has experienced the slow and excruciating loss of a loved one (whether that loved one has four legs or two,) will find Lily and the Octopus very easy to identify with. The use of metaphors is absolutely brilliant, as is the way that the author incorporates this clever literary technique with deceptively simple prose. The way that Ted deals with the situation at hand is believable and it is a perfect tribute that the love that humans feel for their pets, and also a study of grief. In the background there is some musings about Ted's past relationships, something that anyone who is past the age of thirty and is single, will be able to identify with--past mistakes and putting up with bad relationships well after their natural expiry date, couple with the conflicting desires of wanting to find a life partner but wanting to remain single. 

Well written and easy to identify with. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel on several occasions.

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me a copy of Lily and the Octopus.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Review: The Teacher's Secret by Suzanne Leal

Terry Prichard is the much loved assistant principal at a country primary school. Well-respected by the staff and parents and loved by his students, he has carved out a successful career which comes to a very sudden halt after the temporary appointment of a new school principal. Suddenly, Terry has retired, no one knows why and his replacement Nina is not having the easiest time settling in at the school, or into her new life as a single mother. And these are not the only characters who have their own story to tell in this new release by Australian author Suzanne Leal. There is also Rebecca, who arrives in Australia halfway through the year, Mel, a young mother and Laurie herself, a woman driven by rules ... and an agenda.

I enjoyed reading this novel. In many ways, I found it reminiscent of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas where every character has their own story and where blame is often a matter of perspective. The characters are flawed and make mistakes. Sometimes, though, Terry's innocence and willingness to do what he thinks is right with little thought to the possible consequences to his reputation, particularly when he knew that Laurie had a suspicious nature, was excruciating to read and at times had me wondering, is he or isn't he? On the other hand, it was overwhelmingly obvious how much the community, especially the kids, needed Terry and how lost many of them would have been without him. The secret (revealed at the end of the novel,) is completely befitting of the man and his personality--and if you look through the book and see the back story to one of the other characters, you'll see some very clever foreshadowing in there. Meanwhile, Nina's own life story tugged at my heartstrings--it's hard not to feel for a strong woman who finds her life ruined by a weak man (... and who bounces back.) It was also interesting the way that Nina's previous job was complicated by a certain outside factor (... of all the terrible coincidences!) I felt that the author could have given the reader more of an insight into Laurie, but perhaps that would have ruined the character and stopped her from being the antagonist of the piece.

Author Suzanne Leal offers a convincing glimpse into a small coastal town, where not all of her characters are perfect (or predictable) and where bad things can happen to good people. 


Thank you to Allen & Unwin for picking me a as winner on facebook and sending me a copy of The Teachers Secret. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

I know that I have shared this image before, but really is there anything that sums up Adelaide and its art better than this icon at Sempahore? Along with the Malls Balls, this is one of the few works of art in Adelaide that everyone and anyone can name accurately.