Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Review: That Eye, the Sky by Tim Winton

Tim Winton is, without a doubt, one of Australia's best-loved authors. With this in mind, it is surprising just how difficult it is to find copies of his early novels--or, more to the point, anything that was published prior to Cloudstreet. Over the years, I've managed to acquire all of his early novels from various secondhand bookshops and even from the odd visit to the Salvos or Vinnies (I even have a first edition of An Open Swimmer, which is close to falling apart,) and I got a bit excited when In the Winter Dark was finally published as a pocket Penguin but one book remained consistently evasive. That Eye, The Sky was originally published by McPhee (a now defunct Australian publisher,) in 1986 and about ten years ago was republished by Penguin. And a few weeks ago, I managed to get a hold of the Penguin edition. (Fair enough, I probably could have bought the eBook. But eBooks by Australian authors are always horribly expensive. And I wanted a paperback to keep on the shelf with the rest of my collection.)

That Eye, The Sky tells the story of Ort, a twelve-year-old boy living in a remote part of Western Australia in the mid-1980s. It is almost summer and things are not looking so good for Ort (whose name is short for Morton.) His dad has just been seriously injured in an accident, his Grandmother is suffering from dementia, his friendship with Fat, the boy from across the street is falling apart, and his sister, Tegwyn is consistently angry and self-harms. In the midst of this, Ort must help his mother be strong. And then a strange man arrives at the house, offering the family help just when they need it the most ...

This was an interesting take on a troubled family, seen through the eyes of a child who doesn't always understand everything that is going on around him. Most of the family politics are lost on Ort who is struggling to come to terms with the fact that his father is now a paraplegic and that things are never going to return to the way they once were. In the background is the story of his sister--an angry fifteen-year-old who resents the hand that life has dealt her. There are various pieces of evidence throughout the book that suggest that Tegwyn has been sexually abused, that she is being further taken advantage of by a central character in the book, and the second to last chapter points to a bleak future for this young woman.

Henry, the vagrant that arrives at the house, who lends a hand and who turns out to be a self-ordained minister, is certainly an interesting character--he is certainly both a saint and a sinner. He's keen to atone for something from his past, but he may be just what makes, and breaks, a family that is falling apart.

There is a little bit of magic realism within the narrative, and, as always, Winton perfectly captures parts of the Australian way of life that are rarely discussed in fiction--the long and monotonous summer days, blatant sexism, small town prejudices.  I also enjoyed the spiritual element to the novel--it's certainly a bold move.

Funny and sad. Recommended.

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

Monday, 29 January 2018

Review: Kirsty and the Great Campaign (BSC TV Series Episode 4)

Kristy may have been the President of the BSC and the member of the club who narrated the first book, but when it came to the TV series, she had to wait until episode four to get to the title role. This one is a cute enough story about Kristy helping Courtney, a shy baby-sitting charge to run for student council against a particularly arrogant and annoying kid (who just happens to have an equally arrogant and annoying brother who is the same age as Kristy,) anyway, both Courtney and Kristy learn some valuable lessons about responsibility and listening to others along the way. The only thing I could remember at all about this one was the catchphrase Count on Court and I have a sneaking suspicion that I only saw it once. Or maybe it just wasn't that memorable.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Review: Mummy Fairy and Me by Sophie Kinsella

Mummy Fairy and Me is British author Sophie Kinsella's first foray into writing for children. One might ask what prompted the shift, but keep in mind that although Kinsella is most famous for the Shopaholic series, she's also written a number of best sellers using her legal name, Madeleine Wickham, and it was only a couple of years ago that she released Finding Audrey, a YA novel about one young woman's journey through social anxiety. Anyway, Mummy Fairy and Me is an entertaining collection of stories that reminded me just a little of The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch by Nicki Greenburg, and also of Marge in Charge by Isla Fisher. (I guess the era of funny junior novels is well and truly upon us.)

Ella Brook is a fairy in waiting. Her mummy is a fairy. Or, well, her mummy is a rather, dare I say, frazzled fairy who has trouble operating her wand, which has some remarkable similarities to a smart phone. (No doubt any kid who has watched their parent struggle with their phone will get a lot of amusement out of this.) Mummy's difficulty with her wand causes much of the drama--or should I say hilarity--in each of these stories as everything goes wrong, sometimes with spectacular results. Fortunately, Ella is always on hand, along with her aunt and grandmother to help restore everything back to normal. 

This one was an enjoyable enough read, with lots of morals about how family life doesn't need to be perfect to be fun. It's probably best enjoyed by junior primary school aged girls, though I imagine fans of Kinsella will be able to get a laugh or two out of Ella's adventures. (On that, Zoe reminded me so much of Alicia-Bitch-Long-Legs.)

Recommended. 

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)


I spotted an entire fluff of Furbies recently when I walked through the Central Market. Positioned in and around the existing mural, they gave the area a fun and cheeky look that I loved.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Friday Funnies: Sit


Lol!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Review: Akarnae by Lynette Noni

A little bit Harry Potter, a little bit Narnia, Akarnae is an intriguing YA fantasy debut from Australian author Lynette Noni. Alex is dreading her first day at a dreary boarding school full of mean girls, but life takes a very unexpected, and perhaps welcome, twist, when she opens a door and finds herself within another realm. Medora is a world that is just like earth, but also completely different. Here, people have different skills and some have special gifts. And Alex, it seems is one of the gifted. Fortunately, Akarnae Academy, a school for the gifted is willing to take her on full scholarship. And the adventures--new friendships, and a very scary enemy are just the beginning.

I picked this one up for one reason--I'd never heard of it or it's author. The fact that it was published by a smaller publisher was also another plus. I like giving review space on my blog to up and coming authors, particularly up and coming Australian authors. Anyway, a short search on google very quickly informed me that there was nothing up and coming about this book or its author. It turns out that in many circles, The Medoran Chronicles are already a huge, big deal and Akarnae is already on its third print run. (That will bloody well teach me to keep up with what is going on with Australian speculative fiction authors!)

Anyway, I read Akarnae and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Without giving too much away, I think that anyone who loves books and libraries will probably love Akarnae. Alex herself is a great heroine--smart, resourceful and able to survive against the odds. Parts of the book felt a little bit too similar to things that I'd read before, but I suppose that when you're a women in her thirties who persists in reading YA, you cop that. Anyway, there was more than enough in this one to hold my interest. I liked most of the supporting characters, though, surprisingly, my favourite was probably the sullen DC--I thoroughly enjoyed some of her and Alex's bickering. (Alex's comebacks are quite amusing.)

Overall, an enjoyable read. Recommended. 

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

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Review: The Dangers of Truffle Hunting by Sunni Overend

Easily the best debut I've read in a long time by an Australian author, The Dangers of Truffle Hunting celebrates what it truly means for a woman to be true to herself. 

Kit Gossard is a photographer with an eye for the fun and messy parts of life. Employed as a food photographer for an upmarket magazine, she finds herself wanting to take pictures of food that is well, being enjoyed, rather than the staid and highly stylised photographs that we so often see in magazines and cookbooks. This finds her at odds with the staff at the magazine, and also with her fiancé, metrosexual Scott who is making a name for himself designing furniture. Scott is, quite frankly, a bit of an arse, but Kit cannot see that. Life starts to get a bit more messy and interesting, however, when Kit meets Raph, an attractive foreigner who shares her approach to life. But there may be more than one thing that is keeping this pair of star crossed lovers apart ...

This book was a real treat for the senses. I utterly hated Scott and found joy in the scenes where Kit trusted her own instincts, despite his uptight approach to life and to their relationship. I loved some of the scenes set in the cooking school and a certain female character who lives there who I won't talk much about for fear of giving away too much of the plot. Marc and Piper proved an interesting story that works quite nicely in the background.

I love this for the fact that much like Kit Gossard, the author stayed true to herself and wrote a story that was fitting and unique, rather than trying to tick all of the boxes that would satisfy the requirements of a contemporary romance novel. Much of the sensuality comes from the element of surprise that is to be found in the novel, and the writing itself is always steamy, rather than graphic.

Highly recommended.

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

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)



I spotted this gorgeous little pooch down at Glenelg recently, on a fence not so far away from the Haighs shop. I think he looks great, don't you?

Friday, 19 January 2018

Friday Funnies: Peppermint Patty


Lol!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Review: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Prince Caspian opens a year after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ended. Or, at least, it opens one earth year after Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund all found themselves transported back to earth via the wardrobe. In Narnia, much time has passed. Lucy and her siblings have been reduced to the stuff of legends and an impostor sits on the throne of a different--and much more miserable--Narnia, while the rightful heir, Prince Caspian has only just discovered who he truly is. When he finds Queen Susan's horn and blows it, the four Pensive children find themselves transported back to Narnia--which is quite a pleasant surprise, really, considering that they were all at the railway station on their way to boarding school. Lucy and the others must all work together to ensure that the rightful King of Narnia finds his way to the throne ...

I enjoyed reading this one, and perhaps more so because I skipped The Horse and His Boy and was able to be reacquainted with the Lucy (my favourite of all the characters,) and discover what life had in store for her and the others after they left Narnia. I'm really becoming convinced that it is better to read the books in the order they were published, rather than the reading order suggested by the publisher. Once again, it was interesting to look at the religious symbolism and to see how the author used Narnia as a metaphor for children. 

Next up, I'm hoping to read and review The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Review: Stacey's Big Break (BSC TV Series Episode 3)

Okay, I'm going to come right out and say it. How come Stacey's diabetes was never mentioned in the scene where the Baby-sitters all go out for pizza? This was a massive plot point in the books--two books depicted the implications of Stacey's illness, and it was usually mentioned at any time when the sitters had a party that they brought in special food to accommodate Stacey's dietary requirements. I'm almost having a much trouble understanding that as I am understanding why Stacey would give up an entire modelling career in order to attend a play that is being put on by the Baby-sitters club that no one else, apart from a handful of neighbourhood kids showed up to? And why were they pushing Charlotte so hard to participate, when she clearly wasn't interested.

Anyway ... 

In the third instalment of the Baby-sitters Club TV series, Stacey gets "discovered" and starts working as a model. First posing for catalogues, and then by winning a fresh face competition, which gives her a lucrative modelling contract along with a whole stack of other prizes. The only trouble is, Stacey no longer has time for the Baby-Sitters Club, or to help her regular sitting charge, Charlotte, with her lines for a play that the club is putting on. She's not so happy with the situation, so she pulls the pin on the whole thing, and arrives just in time to see Charlotte perform. (Cue schmultz.)

I can't say that I enjoyed this one as much as the previous two episodes. Stacey's decision to quit modelling fell a bit flat, particularly as it didn't really portray anything of the dark side of modelling, apart from Stacey feeling a bit cold in a pair of shorts--I think it might have been a bit more believable (and still kid friendly,) if it had caused her to catch a cold, or if she had forgotten, or almost forgotten to take her insulin. The whole thing starts and resolves easily enough, and fair enough, it is a kids show. Maybe I've just watched too many in a row or something ...

PS Thanks to this episode, I learned why Kristy is wearing a crown in the promotional photo, above. No it isn't because she thinks she's a queen: it seems this picture was taken sometime during the filming of this episode, where Kristy has to wear a crown as she is playing the part of a Prince in the BSC play.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Review: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Being in desperate need of some cheering up, I purchased this graphic novel the other week and I found myself completely drawn in by this autobiographical account of Telgemier's years in Middle School, and her first year of high school. This happened, despite the fact that after I read and reviewed Drama (another Telgemeier graphic novel,) I decided that these books really were just for kids and I should bloody well read something a bit more age appropriate. Anyway, I bought a copy of Smile just at the right time and it turned out to be the right book to turn my shitty day around.

Smile tells the story of an accident that led to the loss of the author's two front teeth when she was in sixth grade. What follows is years of painful dental visits, braces and, at one point she has to wear a retainer with two false teeth attached. While all of this is going on, she has to navigate her first crush, the discovery of her real love (drawing) and some pretty awful bullying from the girls who are supposed to be her friends. Other events, such as the San Francisco earthquake of 1989 are detailed.

I really enjoyed this one, despite the fact that I'm a few years younger than the author and grew up in different part of the world. Schooling in Australia, particularly South Australia, is quite different to the experience of kids in America. Middle schools are slowly being introduced here, and my own high school had separate junior and senior campuses, but things like school cafeterias, dances and taking specialised classes with kids from other grades are totally alien to my experiences. Consequently, it was fun see what life is like for kids who do those things. And while I never had any problems with my teeth, one thing I could certainly relate to was some of the bullying that Raina had to put up with from her so-called friends. She was a bit artsy, and most importantly, a bit kinder, and this made her a target for the others, who liked to prop themselves up by making her feel bad. I also liked the moral toward the end--that life got better when she started focusing on the people and things that she liked. 

I think this would be a great book to pass on to anyone who is feeling a bit insecure and unsure of themselves, particular teens and pre-teens, though anyone who has ever been a teenager should be able relate to this one. 

Highly recommended. 

Friday, 12 January 2018

Friday Funnies: Still a Dog


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Review: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Set across fifty-four minutes This is Where it Ends tells the story of a school shooting, and it's impact on four students, all of whom are connected in some way with the lone gunman. Clare, Thomas, Sylvia and Autumn all have a reason to fear Tyson. Clare is his ex-girlfriend, Thomas wants to protect his twin sister Sylv from Tyson (there is a history of sexual assault,) and Autumn is the girlfriend of Sylv and the younger sister of Tyson.

And today, Tyson has walked inside Opportunity High with a gun. He wants to punish the kids who ostracised him, and he wants to punish our four main characters by forcing them to watch.

This story is made all the more horrific by the reality of just how common school shootings have become. It gives a very human side to the story--different to the headlines that we might see or hear about. The most tragic part of the story of all is that Tyson does it because he wants notoriety. He wants those who were close to him to suffer, and he wants to be remembered. 

The characters themselves are pleasingly diverse. This book isn't the domain of straight, middle class white kids who desire traditional careers. Clare, for example, is resentful that her older sister is regarded as braver than her because she has joined the military; while one of the heros of the day is Fareed, a refugee who keeps a cool head in all of the chaos, allowing him to come up with solutions that keep some of the other kids safe. Autumn and Sylv are dating one another and come from different cultural backgrounds. Given that the book is set over the course of fifty-four minutes and the subject matter, the author didn't have an easy job of establishing the characters or their personalities, so it would be easy to complain that the characters aren't really as fleshed out as they could be. However, it's also fair to say that we really only get a very tiny glimpse into their lives and into a gruelling fifty-four minutes during which they were focusing on survival. There are surprising examples of bravery and innovation, demonstrating just how clever teens have the potential to be.

Enjoyable, though morbid. Recommended. 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Review: The Wanted by Robert Crais

When a single mother finds a very expensive Rolex amongst her awkward and nerdy seventeen year old son's belongings, she has cause for concern. Tyson certainly has been behaving oddly recently. Desperate to get to the bottom of it all, she calls Private Investigator Elvis Cole. Cole soon finds evidence linking Tyson and his friends to a string of high profile burglaries ... but that is only the tip of the ice burg. Tyson may be in trouble with more people than just the law. It seems as though he may have burgled the wrong house and people ...

This was a fast paced crime novel set in Los Angeles. The author wastes no time, or words with his short prose, which made for a quick read. Cole is an interesting protagonist--he certainly gets involved in his cases. That said, this one didn't have a great impact on me--as a reviewer, I can find little to complain about, or, conversely, to compliment. If you want an escapist but still gritty crime novel set in one of the glitziest parts of the United States, this probably fits the bill.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my review copy. 

Monday, 8 January 2018

Review: Dawn and the Haunted House (BSC TV Series Episode 2)

The second episode of the BSC TV series may have Dawn's name in the title, but it focuses almost as much on Claudia. As the episode opens, a few members of the BSC are out and about on their bicycles, putting up flyers to advertise their business. After one flyer is nailed to a post, Dawn points out Mrs Slade's house to the others. Dawn believes that she is a witch, but the other girls aren't convinced ... or are they. Later they return to BSC headquarters where they meet up with Claudia, whose behaviour is a little well, odd. What the other girls don't know (or what Claudia won't tell them,) is that she's having trouble with her schoolwork and her parents are going to make her quit the BSC unless her grades pick up.

Meanwhile, the BSC gains some new clients who, as it turns out just happen to live next door to Mrs Slade. The new sitting charges are quick to tell Dawn and Stacey some scary stories about Mrs Slade. That, and a strange encounter at a hardware store is enough to convince all of the BSC (well, everyone except Claudia, who is more interested in her schoolwork,) that Mrs Slade truly is a witch. From there things get out of hand, especially when Stacey and Mary Anne are babysitting for the new clients and they see Claudia at Mrs Slade's house. Has Claudia been kidnapped? Is Mrs Slade really a witch? Look forward to an ending that is as funny, cringeworthy and a little bit schmultzy.

This was the only episode of the BSC TV Series that I owned on VHS and, consequently, I viewed this one multiple times during the early 90s. Watching it again was a bigger nostalgia trip than some of the other episodes. Parts of it really made me cringe though, and not just because of the 90s fashions. Mrs Slade's appearance at the hardware store is quite over-the-top. Frankly, I'm not surprised that the girls thought she might have been a witch.

An entertaining nostalgia trip, though not always for the right reasons.  

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

This is the edition I had when I was a kid. I still
own it, along with a commemorative edition
I don't think that anyone ever really forgets their first visit to Narnia ... for me, my first visit came about when I was playing at a friend's house and, suddenly, she turned the TV on and said that there was a really good show about to start on Channel 2. (Back the late 80s, that's what we all used to call the ABC.) The show was the first instalment of the animated series of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I was utterly intrigued and ended up watching the next three episodes at home as they were broadcast.* A few years later, when I became interested in books (I never took much interest in books until I was eight, nearly nine,) this was one of the first children's classics that I took interest in reading. Lucky for me, The Afternoon Show the BBC live action version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and I found an absolutely beautiful TV tie-in edition at Myer, which I bought and paid for out of my own pocket money, even though it was $8.95. (I should probably explain, this one was much nicer than the edition published by Lion that was around during the early 90s. You can see a picture of the 90s edition here) And that was the first time that I read the book. Eagerly, I read it's prequel, The Magician's Nephew, and then The Horse and His Boy. My cousin loaned me her set so that I could keep reading.

And then I stopped reading them.

I'm ashamed of that. The books got too hard and I stopped reading them. My cousin's boxed set was returned to her. Certainly, I read the books when I was a bit older, and got more out of it, but it has always bugged me that I gave up just as soon as it got to hard. I was, am, a reader. Anyway, later when the film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came out, HarperCollins re-released special full colour commemorative editions of the books and I went and bought them all and re-read the books then, discovering for the first time that the order of publication was quite different from the suggested reading order. Consequently, I found that the books were A LOT more enjoyable if you read them in order of publication.

Anyway, this week I re-read, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe again and, once again, found myself quite enchanted by the story of Lucy Pensive and her siblings, the wardrobe that led to another land, and their journey to save Narnia from the White Queen, with the help of a great sacrifice from the loving and wise Aslan. This time around, the Christian elements were quite obvious to me, but so was Lewis' skill as a writer so I'm not going to grumble too much about being preached at. In fact, it's actually quite an interesting way of looking at the Gospels, when you know where to look. (The whole thing went completely over my head until I was about twelve and make some remark to my brother about Aslan's death being a bit like that of Jesus, and then the whole thing clicked into place. I guess I wasn't always the brightest of kids.)

Whether you take anything from the religious parallels or if you'd rather ignore them, this still makes for entertaining reading. Highly recommended.  


*Note: I can find no evidence on the internet of there being an animated TV series of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, however there is an animated film that looks very similar to the television series I remember. It's possible that the TV Network cut the film down into four instalments and broadcast them as a kind of mini-series on The Afternoon Show, or my memory may be playing tricks on me. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatrist (HQ)



Just wanted to share this one as it is one of my all time favourite video clips--it's madness at it absolute, perfectly timed best.

PS My favourite part is the ghosts swaying in the background.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Review: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Well before Fifty Shades of Grey, and even the novels of Jackie Collins, was this steamy, controversial and ultimately, trashy, novel that topped the bestseller lists back in the 1960s. Written by an entertainment industry insider, this page turner tells the story of three very different women and their rise and fall, just as the American entertainment industry is experiencing is greatest change, the advent of television.

Anne is the nice girl next door, a moderately wealthy young woman from Boston who aspires to be something better than a wife and mother, the role that everyone assumes will be hers from the time she is born. She shocks everyone by leaving for New York and working first as a secretary and then as a model. She experiences a string of high profile relationships, however, her ultimate downfall is her infatuation with the charismatic and caddish Lyon. Neely is an impulsive young woman with nerves of steel (at least some of the time,) who is determined to do whatever it takes to rise to the top, and finds herself rising and falling numerous times, and betraying everyone that she cares about along the way. Finally, there is Jennifer, a woman whose desire for security and fame often leave her desperate.

There is no denying one truth. This book is trash. Pure trash. Certainly it's entertaining trash--imagine, hee-hee, if the beautiful and wealthy people of this world really did live like the characters in this book--but after a while the melodrama, lack of nuance and characters (particularly men,) who can change their personalities at the drop of a hat becomes quite wearing. Then again, only the most humourless of readers wouldn't be amused by Neely's antics, the sheer number of bad relationship choices that Jennifer makes and the fact that Anne, a supposedly independent woman, continues to lust over a man whose love is, at best, a fleeting and self serving thing. From a historical perspective, the position of the women being subservient to men whether they be their lovers or their employers rings surprisingly true--there was no such thing as feminism in the 1940s and its little wonder that as they age, the characters know that they are losing what little power they have in this man's world, hence their eventual descent into the valley of the dolls. (Dolls being, of course, the slang term for various drugs taken by people in the entertainment industry during that era.) 

In some ways, Valley of the Dolls reads like a pop culture and romanticised version of The Great Gatsby, written from a female perspective. In another way, to say that means that I'm looking for a level of depth that just doesn't exist within its pages. As I said, it's trash. Pure, escapist trash.   

Recommended? You decide.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Review: Mary Anne and the Brunettes (BSC TV Series Episode 1)

Here's a confession. I always felt that on the front covers of the Baby-sitters Club books, they never really got Mary-Anne right. Initially, she looked like a clean cut version of Wednesday Adams, later she looked well, what teenager in the 1980s or early 1990s wore their hair in two ponytails? (Especially after they'd just spent years resenting the fact that their father made them wear their hair in braids?) And then came the haircut that made her look like she was about thirty. Fortunately, when they cast the BSC TV series, they got it right. Meghan Lahey who plays Mary Anne looks like an ordinary teenager. An ordinary teenager with medium length hair (that she wears down,) and who comes across as a bit shy, but perhaps a little bit more mature than some of the other girls in the club. 

Anyway, because in some senses Mary Anne is a bit more mature than the others, it seems fitting that the first episode of the TV series (and the only one to have Mary Anne take centre stage,) focuses on Mary Anne's relationship with Logan Bruno. The pair have a cute puppy love vibe happening, one that may or may not develop into something more once they get older. Logan attractive and extremely nice. He's a good catch, which may explain why Marci, the most popular girl at Stoneybrook Middle School wants Logan for herself. Misunderstandings abound as Marci and her friends scheme to make it all happen, and Mary Anne finds herself having to pluck up the courage to throw a pie in Marci's face ... I mean to stand up for herself and talk to Logan.

The plot of this one is pretty simple, perhaps more so than the others, because some time is spent introducing viewers to the characters and the concept of the club. I'm guessing they were trying to bring viewers who had not read the books up to speed. 

This is enjoyable enough viewing, for a tween TV series. The only other thing worth commenting on was the actor who played Jackie Rodowski reminded me a lot of Sam from Diff'rent Strokes, to the point where I looked it up to see if they were played by the same actor. Turns out they're not.