Monday, 29 August 2016
Friday, 26 August 2016
Tuesday, 23 August 2016
Readers, meet Mya Jenson, the gorgeous, tough-speaking and arse kicking heroine of the romantic suspense novel Inheriting Fear. I was amazed by how quickly I feel in love with this character--and her love interest, the slightly more sensitive Luca. The plot is very clever as well.
Set in the western suburbs of Adelaide, in a street adjacent to the Grange railway line, the novel tells the story of Mya, a feisty young woman who has taken control of her life, and has overcome a difficult upbringing. Mya is one of the good ones--she's smart, she's loyal and she'll do anything for her mother who has a permanent disability. She also doesn't take shit from anyone and her methods are not always entirely legal. Anyway, when someone starts sending her threatening notes (and threatening messengers,) and steals her mother's jewellery, she knows that there is trouble afoot and she sets about getting to the bottom of things--her way. Meanwhile, her new neighbour, Luca, is not only a rather attractive man who seems a little too interested in her, he also just happens to be a plain clothes cop who is investigating a spate of jewellery thefts at the nursing home ...
This is a thoroughly enjoyable romantic suspense novel from an Adelaide writer. The novel has been reviewed well on Amazon and Goodreads and it is not difficult to see why. The author delivers a number of clever twists and turns and exciting characters.
Monday, 22 August 2016
Sunday, 21 August 2016
I was listening to the Thinkergirls on Friday evening and a topic came up that gave me pause. One of the presenters commented on how she now hated a jumper, because someone who she did not like had complimented her on the jumper. For me, it was one of those moments, when it really touched a nerve. Suddenly I was thinking about all those times when I've given someone a compliment and that compliment has not been taken gracefully. It's always felt like a bit of a hit--suddenly, it's out there that someone I hold in high esteem does not like me, or considers me unworthy. Either way, it's a pretty good sign not to talk to that person again.
A part of human nature seems to be to divide people into two categories--people that we consider to be our equals, and people that we consider to be our inferiors. I don't think that we necessarily do this consciously, and I think it is different from divisions that people create between themselves and others through ignorance and upbringing, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. I think we seek approval from people who inspire us, and want to create some distance between ourselves and people who we fear may not be good for us. To some extent this is a good thing--a teenage girl would be right to immediately distance herself from an older, unrelated man for example. Unfortunately, there are times when the human brain over-reacts, and when someone we do not hold in high esteem compliments us on something that we are secretly feeling insecure about, it can dig up a score of unpleasant feelings, and a strange feeling of dislike toward the the person, and the thing that was complimented.
As I said in the first paragraph, I've been on the receiving end of this (ie the person who gave the compliment,) and it is not a nice experience. That feeling, of realising that someone who I (previously) held in high esteem dislikes me is not a nice one. It can rattle around uselessly inside my brain as I wonder what I've possibly done to offend them, or why I'm just not good enough. It's a complete waste of my time, of course, as I'm not responsible for what other people think, and as long as I treat others with respect, I'm not responsible if they decide that they do not like me. That said, if you don't like a compliment from me, fear not. You're unlikely to get another one.
Friday, 19 August 2016
This week, instead of my usual comic share, I thought that I would do something a bit different and share this clip from Elton John. Like much of John's work, Sad Songs is deceptively simple, a catchy hook, and a topic that anyone, regardless of age, gender or religion can relate to. Look a bit deeper and it's a work of pure genius. On one level, it's giving his listeners permission to be unhappy, and to feel and embrace those emotions, whilst he sings a catchy, pick-me-up tune. The clip itself goes from black and white to colour and in his trademark style, John's outfits get brighter and more outlandish the further we get into the song.
But, as always, the magic of Elton John isn't just that he can write a song about anything, the magic is in the fact that he can sing to absolutely anyone. His music is something to be savoured and enjoyed as art.
Wednesday, 17 August 2016
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
We all remember the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that brought the beloved character back to platform nine and three quarters as he saw his two sons, James and Albus off to Hogwarts. It was a great ending to the series, but what lay in store for younger son, Albus Severus Potter? A new stage play, which recently opened in the UK, tells the story of Albus and his difficult relationship with his father, who is now nearing middle age. And luckily for fans across the globe, the script from the play has been published, meaning that we can all enjoy this story without having to wait for it to be performed locally.
The play works on two levels. On one level it is a coming-of-age story set in the wizarding world, where through a dangerous and gripping adventure involving time travel, Albus struggles to come into his own, and to be a wizard in his own right--one who separate from his father and the two important and famous wizards that he was named after, and who has his own strengths. Albus struggles with popularity, being placed in a different house from his siblings and having a best friend who no one else approves of. His lack of self-acceptance affects his growth and education, as well as his relationship with his father--which brings me to the second level to the story. It has a lot to say about father-son relationships, and how children can be very different from their parents. Albus is a different character from Harry, with his own set of strengths (even if he cannot see it until the end.) Likewise, we see the relationships between Draco Malfoy and his son Scorpious, who are also both quite different, and the story touches upon how Draco was quite different from his own father--just as how the later books in the Harry Potter series touched upon the fact that Harry himself was a very different person from his father. (James Potter was shown to be popular, over-confident and something of a bully where Severus Snape was concerned, though he grew out of his less desirable qualities, presumably his time at Hogwarts had a profound positive influence on him.)
Of course, parts of the story belong to Harry and talk of his love for his son, and his struggle to be a father to three children when he grew up without his own father. And his own magical abilities, and part in Albus's adventure, of course.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, and would be keen to see the play on stage if it ever comes to Australia.
Monday, 15 August 2016
Sunday, 14 August 2016
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 ...
This Sunday I am cheating just a little. In Australia, New Zealand and UK The Sleepover Friends series was published by Bantam, a division of Random House that was also responsible for all of the various Sweet Valley series and The Saddle Club. In the United States and Canada however, the series was published by Scholastic under the Apple Paperbacks imprint.
The Sleepover Friends revolved around a basic but fun premise--a group of four fifth grade girls who liked to have sleepovers, and some of their quirky adventures. All up, there were thirty-eight titles in the series, although I can really only remember the first four or five. Anyway, book number two is about a video contest. Or, more specifically, a new band called The Boodles is filming a new film clip in Riverdale (the smallish town where books are set,) and whomever discovers their secret location gets to star in the clip. Initially Stephanie is interested, but forgets about it when she and Patti have a fight over a part in a school play. At the same time, the old house that lies between Lauren and Kate's house seems to be haunted ... It doesn't really take much to put two and two together.
I remember this one quite clearly, mostly because my well-intentioned grandmother bought me a copy when I was about fourteen. (The only books in the series I remember reading are this one, and one title Patti's New Look.) At the time, I remember thinking the final scenes where the video is shot seemed kind of dumb and it's hard not to think so as an adult reader--specifically it seems kind of creepy to have a group of adult male rock stars singing a love song while a group of ten year old girls dance. But, I suppose if I were a ten year old reader, I would love the fantasy element.
A little bit silly, a little bit daggy and a little bit dated.
About the author: Susan Saunders is a prolific author of books for children. As well as the Sleepover Friends series, she penned several Choose Your Own Adventure books and several other series. She was born and raised in Texas.
Saturday, 13 August 2016
This was a surprising find on YouTube, a commercial from the 1970s urging Australians to all pull together and "have a go" to make the country great, despite the economic setbacks that the people of the day were experiencing. I really cannot imagine a similar advertising campaign being successful today.
Friday, 12 August 2016
Thursday, 11 August 2016
Fates and Furies is a novel that is bold, clever, occasionally overdone but never boring. Part One, Fates tells the story of Lancelot Satterwhite, or Lotto, a wealthy man who lives a privileged existence, thanks mainly to his charismatic nature, belief that most people are fundamentally good and his all round ignorance. The way he tells it, he had multiple lovers (men and woman,) until one night when he met Mathilde, the most beautiful girl on campus. Their eyes met, Lotto proposed and of course she said yes. What followed were years of marital bliss, until one night, when a revelation that is as cruel as it is perfectly timed changes everything ...
Part Two, Furies, tells the same story from the perspective of Mathilde, a woman who, at age twenty-two, was far from the innocent virgin that Lotto assumed her to be. We read about a loveless childhood and a lifetime of struggles that led her to become the passive-aggressive manipulator that marries Lotto and manipulates him in a quest for a life where she is both loved, and most importantly, secure. We uncover the stories that have been kept from Lotto, ones that allowed him to believe in his perfect existence, and watch, slightly horrified as every character seems to conspire against the other to be Lotto's favourite.
Fates and Furies is also (apart from being something of a tragedy,) a story of a marriage. There are two very different people within the marriage, two different perspectives, two different stories. (For even when two people live intimately together, there can be a sense that they hardly know one another.)
I was surprised by how much I reacted to this one--loving and hating it in equal measures. I think there is plenty to offer readers with an enquiring mind, ones who are happy to examine stories from more than one perspective.
Tuesday, 9 August 2016
A mixture of Australian female writers share some amazing true stories of life changing moments of defiance in Rebellious Daughters, a recently released anthology from Ventura Press. Krissy Kneen talks about her grandmother and the influence that she had on her writing--her grandmother had a huge imagination and an even bigger distaste for anything sexual. Jamila Rizvi tells of her desire to be seen as a good girl, and the jealousy that she had for her younger, and badly behaved sister. Meanwhile, Lee Kofman talks about taking her prudish mother to Sexpo--purely for the shock value--but finds herself being the one who is shocked when her mother embraces the exhibition. For me, however, a clear favourite was Rebecca Starford's piece, Who Owns My Story? which talks about the struggles that she faced after releasing her brave and brilliant autobiography, Bad Behaviour last year.
Thought provoking, I read Rebellious Daughters of a number of days, reading one or two stories each evening and I think I enjoyed it better this way, rather than reading it all at once.
A true celebration of those moments that define us. Recommended.
Thank you to Ventura Press for my copy.
Monday, 8 August 2016
Did you know that Gay's Arcade has its very own museum, celebrating the history of both itself and the adjoining Adelaide Arcade? Well worth a look, as the history is well documented, including a special section devoted to the fire that gutted the original Gay's Arcade, and caused extensive damage to Adelaide Arcade. Well worth a look.
Friday, 5 August 2016
Thursday, 4 August 2016
From the moment that I picked up my copy of Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms, I was utterly hooked. Not only is it a love story, it's a story set in Australia during World War Two from the perspective of people that this particular part of history often glosses over.
The novel opens with Hiroshi, a Japanese POW living in Australia. Along with many of his fellow prisoners, he manages to escape ... and finds himself alone--and ashamed--in a strange country that he does not understand but knows that he is the enemy. Through chance, he finds himself on Erambie Station, an Aboriginal mission, and he encounters Banjo Williams--a good, honest family man and member of the community, who knows the difference between right and wrong. With the help of his family, and some other members of the community, Banjo helps to hide Hiroshi, sharing what little they have, in a time of war when their people are not recognised as citizens and have few rights. Soon, Banjo's oldest daughter, Mary, finds herself attracted to Hiroshi and the feelings are mutual ...
As I said at the beginning of this review, I was hooked from the moment that I picked up this book. It was interesting to read about an important part of Australian history from two different perspectives. This isn't a story of how men are on the frontline, or how the wives and girlfriends are surviving back home. This is a story of people who barely had any rights, yet were expected to stand up and be patriotic and loyal to a government that had taken their land, their culture and their rights away. I admired the strength of Banjo, a man with a strong moral compass, and who did what he knew was right, rather than what was expected of him. Meanwhile, I found my heart both beating and breaking for Mary, as I watched her love for Hiroshi grow.
Overall, this is a great Australian novel, one that is deserving of every bit of recognition that it gets.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms.