Thursday, 23 November 2017

Review: The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch by Nicki Greenberg

The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch has something for everyone--witches, a class full of crazy kids and one very sulky and badly behaved cat. Zelda Stitch is not exactly what you would call a terribly good witch. Actually, she's rather bad at it, and has decided to try her hand at something else--being a primary school teacher. Through her diary entries, we laugh and cry with her as she navigates her first term as a primary school teacher. Not only does she have naughty children to contend with, but there is MM the uptight Vice Principal and she must keep her witchcraft under control, or else her career as a teacher is finished. And then there are all the problems that are caused by her cat/companion Banarby. A rather discontented and disagreeable puss, Barnarby would much rather be the companion of someone who was a proud and capable witch--basically the opposite of Zelda. But through her first term at the school, Zelda learns some valuable lessons about working with others, and some valuable lessons about herself.

Although this one is pitched at middle grade readers, I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions, and rather enjoying all of the illustrations, especially the ones that featured Barnarby. (And what a grumpy thing he was too!) Zelda herself is a lovely character, one who readers of all ages will be able to identify with and cheer for. This one is a lot of fun, with plenty of madness and mayhem. 

Recommended. 

This book was read for the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Review: Firelight by Kristen Callihan

Firelight would have made an absolutely ripping short story or novella. There's a lot of romantic and erotic potential in this paranormal story about a poor young woman with a strange gift who is more or less forced into marrying a rich man who always wears a mask. And while there is a good lot of chemistry between the characters, and a lot of mystery, the story itself feels too long. The mystery lacks depth, as do most of the characters. 

Miranda Ellis is a young woman living in London in 1881. She is forced to marry the disfigured Lord Archer, a man who never shows his face and who has secretly been admiring Miranda from afar for the past three years. Archer makes Miranda's father an offer he can't refuse for her. The pair marry, realise that they're hot for each other, don't do anything about it for far too long, and then, one by one, a number of Archer's old friends start getting popped off. Most of the story focuses on whether or not Archer might be the killer, and it all becomes rather dull after a while. It felt very tiresome and overlong to me, and I feel that more could have been done with the paranormal element, especially Miranda's gift. 

This novel is the first in a seven book series that has garnered mostly favourable reviews, so I imagine that it has its fans, but the book and writing style really weren't for me. I also find myself wanting to weep just a little for a world that would rather read this than Jane Eyre. Then again, I also weep for a world that finds it acceptable for an author to use the word "cocksucker" in a book set in Queen Victoria's England. 

Not really recommended.  

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Literary Quotes


Above the rumbling in the chimney, and the fast pattering on the glass, was heard a wailing, rushing sound, which shook the walls as though a giant's hand were on them; then a hoarse roar as if the sea had risen; then such a whirl and tumult that the air seemed mad; and then, with a lengthened howl, the waves of wind swept on, and left a moment's interval of rest.



Friday, 17 November 2017

Friday Funnies: Cute Tips


Love this Peanuts comic

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Review: Came Back to Show You I Could Fly by Robin Klein

Arguably Klein's best work, there's a strange sense of hope in this novel about friendship and addiction. Seymour is a bored and lonely kid who has been sent to stay with a family friend in suburban Melbourne while his mother tries to sort out a bitter custody dispute with his father. Forbidden to leave the house, eleven year old Seymour sneaks out one day and soon finds himself being chased by a local gang. He stumbles through a back gate where he meets Angie, a friendly and imaginative young woman. The pair soon develop an unlikely friendship and help one another out. It's difficult to believe that someone as lovely as Angie might have a dark side, but that is exactly what Seymour discovers as he learns more about Angie and slowly puts the pieces together.

This is the first time that I have read Came Back to Show You I Could Fly in over twenty years--I can't quite remember how or when I read it the first time, only that our local KMart had a copy that I could not afford (and, consequently, never bought,) but I imagine that I must have borrowed it from either a school or public library. In any case, I was thrilled when Text decided to publish this one as a classic and bought a copy from Dymocks. I'm pleased to say that it still packed quite a punch, despite being written and set in the late 1980s, and despite the fact that I was well aware early on that Angie had a problem with addiction (instead of having to slowly put the evidence together, like I did when I was a kid.) Angie's an interesting character--it's clear from the start that she's keen to act like a big sister to Seymour and that she wants someone to look up to her. However, the life that she has led means there is a huge trail of destruction behind her, and she's done a lot that her upper middle class family find very difficult to forgive. I guess what, ultimately, Klein shows with this novel is the human side of drug addiction. Meanwhile, Seymour learns a few harsh lessons about growing up, though he gets through it okay.

Highly recommended. 

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

PS In 1993 the novel was made into a film titled Say A Little Prayer. To the best of my knowledge, the film has not been released on DVD

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Review: The Secret Pony by Elspeth Reid

If Colin Thiele had written an episode of Home and Away, the result would have been something akin to The Secret Pony, a  children's novel from the mid-1990s that I found secondhand recently. Scartlett is a good kid who is, essentially, just trying to roll with the punches. The past year hasn't been great--her parents have split up and now she and her two younger sisters are trying to get used to life in a small, beachside town in New South Wales. The local kids don't really accept Scarlett, and she feels quite lonely. She misses her Dad, and her old friends. Most of all, she misses being able to go horse riding, something that she did often back when she lived in Sydney. (There are no stables near her new home, and in any case, her family can no longer afford to pay for riding lessons.) One night, a kind of miracle happens, when a white stallion just happens to stumble into her yard. Scarlett knows that the horse, who she names Silver, has been mistreated--and instantly suspects Wendee--a spoiled girl who has just arrived in town. With the help of Adrian, the school nerd, Scarlett finds a way to hide Silver and keep him safe.

This novel was enjoyable enough, and would certainly appeal to any pre-teen girl who has ever wanted to keep her own horse. Scarlett's adventure was a little far-fetched in places, though it made for interesting reading. (Because hey, who wants to read about kids who follow the rules. Plus her and Adrian's solutions to various problems were quite innovative.) More troubling was Wendee, the spoiled rich girl who continually wanted to do "bad" stuff such as smoking, and taking her father's Mercedes without asking and using it to do burnouts. Or, at least Wendee claims that she wants to do these things! (I suspect she just wanted to look cool in front of Scarlett.). Ultimately, the novel is an inoffensive product of a bygone era, one where children's books were filled with ordinary kids having adventures and learning some valuable life lessons along the way. 

Recommended.

PS Some trivia: Author Elspeth Reid is the mother of actor/author Isla Fisher. She wrote two novels with her daughter in the mid-1990s, and according to the bio in the back had some other novels and short stories accepted for publication. (I am unable to find details of any of these, so I don't know if they were published using a pseudonym, or if they were published somewhere other than Australia. If anyone has any information, feel free to let me know in the comments section below.)

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Review: Autumn by Ali Smith

Autumn left me marvelling at its brilliance and wondering how on earth this shit got published. It's the story of a little girl and her friendship with an elderly neighbour, it's a story of a grown up woman visiting a dying man in a nursing home, it's the story of how one man escaped the holocaust and lived a long life in England, it's the story a nation in political turmoil, and it's something of a modern tribute to Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. In other words, this book is everything and nothing, it's brilliant and it's stupid, it's good enough to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize but, evidently, it was not good enough to win. 

And that's really it. Everything and nothing. Yet strangely addictive.

This may well be a book that needs to be read two or even three times to be appreciated.

Recommended.