Saturday, 25 November 2017

Review: My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg

Candice Phee is twelve years old, beautifully honest and just a tiny bit different from the other kids in her class. When she is asked to write an autobiography for a school project, she takes the task very seriously, documenting her life from A to Z. And what a life it has been. Candice might be a bit unusual, but she certainly cares about her family--her mum, her dad and her rich uncle Brian, and her friend/boyfriend Douglas from another dimension--and she does her best to make them happy, with some hilarious results.

This was a wonderful and fun read about a young woman who doesn't always fit in, but who manages to come up trumps despite the odds. Candice doesn't really get along with the rest of the kids in her grade, who have dubbed her S.N. or Essen (short for special needs,) but she rejects that, and other labels that adults try to give her (such as being autistic, or on the spectrum.) She tells people, "I'm me," and I think that is all readers really need to know about Candice. She's accepting of other kids, to the point where she believes wholeheartedly in Douglas's story that he's actually from another dimension and came to this world after he fell out of a tree, and where she wants to help Jen Mashall, a bully who struggles with her schoolwork. But she also tries the patience of her parents, both of whom are still grieving for the loss of Candice's baby sister. Candice grieves for her sister in a very different way, which her mother who is not only a cancer survivor, but who also has depression, finds very difficult to deal with. But the family unit is at its best when the Phee's allow Candice to be herself, though the parents do find themselves on the receiving end of a number of Candice's strange, but well meaning, plans.

Entertaining and endearing, I think this is a YA novel that will be enjoyed by adults as much as teens.

Highly recommended. 

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

PS My Life as an Alphabet is published as The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee outside of Australia. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Friday Funnies: Bert and Ernie Come Out as Asexual Puppets



Found this online recently and nearly died laughing. Diversity and role models are a great thing. But we should never one, take ourselves too seriously and two, speculate about other people's lives just to prove a point.

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