Friday, 29 June 2018

Friday Funnies


Something to think about ...

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Review: Don't Cosplay With My Heart by Cecil Castellucci

I have to admit, I picked this book up purely because of the title. I liked the idea of a YA romance that used geek culture as a backdrop. Edan Kupferman is in for a terrible summer. Her father may have to go to jail, her best friend is away in Japan and nothing feels quite right. That is, unless she is dressed as her favourite superhero, Gargantua. Edan attends a local comic con and there she discovers Cosplay. She learns to create her own costumes, and meets two boys in the process, the seemingly friendly Yuri (whose two best friends are the living definition of the sexism that exists within geek culture,) and Kirk, who is kind but strangely distant. Edan knows which boy she likes, but only one of them likes her back. What follows is a year in which she learns some harsh life lessons about friendship, sexism and honesty amid the backdrop of various cons.

This is an enjoyable read, one that has a lot to say about the amount of sexism that goes on in geek culture. Aimed at the very young end of the YA spectrum, the chapters are short and the prose is accessible. I especially liked the bits in between chapters about Team Tomorrow and Gargantua, the fictional superhero franchise of which Edan is a fan. More seasoned readers may find some of the plot twists a bit predictable, along with some of the characters. I also found it a bit bothersome that the way she breaks up with Yuri is never addressed. Yes, he was a jerk. But it was also a jerk move of Edan's to break up with him while they were on an outing that he had paid for, especially as she had made up her mind days before that she was going to break up with him. The whole thing reeks of selfishness and the author does not address this well.

The author could have easily dropped the age of the characters to about fourteen, especially as the romance itself is fairly clean. That said, it's nice to get something that's set firmly within the world of geek culture, rather than it being reduced to a side plot.

Recommended.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Review: Second Sight by Aoife Clifford

Second Sight is a chilling, page-turning read set against the backdrop of a small town. Eliza Carmondy, a lawyer with a top city firm has returned to her former hometown to gather evidence for what could be the most important case of her career. She has barely made it into town when she witnesses a horrific--and brutal--crime. The crime brings back memories of the New Years Eve when her best friend Grace ran away from home. Older and wiser, Eliza begins putting the pieces together about what might have really happened to her best friend, and why her father and older sister suddenly sent her away and have barely welcomed her home since. But as Eliza gathers more and more evidence, it becomes clear that there may be something even more sinister afoot, and that more than one person may want her out of the way ...

This one had me utterly gripped from start to finish. In many ways, Second Sight reminded me of two of my favourite books of the genre set in rural Australia, The Dry by Jane Harper and Mallawindy by Joy Dettman. The author weaves seamlessly between the present and the past, using each chapter from the past to tell the story from the perspective of a different character. I really appreciated the backstory of just how hard it is to be a female lawyer in a corporate world that still reeks of sexism.  

Second Sight is the second novel by Australian author Aoife Clifford and I enjoyed it every bit as much as I enjoyed her first, All These Perfect Strangers. 

Highly recommended.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC of Second Sight.

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

Monday, 25 June 2018

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

Friday, 22 June 2018

Friday Funnies: Don't Take Life Too Seriously


That's some nice troll work. 

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Review: Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff

Eve is an orphan living with her Grandpa Silas and best friend Lemon Fresh in a apocalyptic version of California (now separated from mainland USA and known as the dregs.) Grandpa doesn't have much money, he's dying of cancer but he has a knack for building robots and Eva has a knack for making them fight for money. One day, she encounters a lifelike, a robot that looks human. He recognises her, but the girl he recognises is named Ana and her and Eve's lives may be more entwined than what Eve realises ...

Lifel1k3 is an action packed adventure that is likely to appeal equally to male and female readers. Like all good novels of this type, there is a lot of blood, explosions and mutant children amid a vivid landscape of a world that is just like ours, only a zillion times worse. As the cover suggests, the whole thing is a little bit Mad Max, and a little bit X-Men. And a little bit of a whole lot of other things. In any case, the author knows his genre and his intent quite well and the whole thing is well done. I felt a bit lost in all the detail in places--the nasty nicknames the characters had for each other were amusing, but it was very easy to lose track of who was who. 

Recommended.

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

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Review: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

The sixth and final novel in the Mortal Instruments series lives up to the momentum that was set early on in the series. This time around Shadowhunters (human's with angel blood,) Clary, Jace and their friends take on Sebastian in a deadly final showdown that happens inside a demon realm ... and the results are spectacular. 

This one was a fitting--and winning--conclusion to a series that had started to drag on a bit. Many of the problems with the previous two books are absent in this one and I felt that there was an improvement to the writing overall. (In all honesty, I think the events in books four and five could have been condensed down to one book.) Plotwise there are some interesting twists, and of course, Simon, a character who is as brave as he is under-appreciated by his so-called friends, sacrifices the most for the greater good. Without giving too much away, I do wonder if perhaps what Simon really gained toward the end was freedom. The novel also introduces a number of key characters from The Dark Artifices, another series featuring Shadowhunters penned by Cassandra Clare. (At present Clare has written three interconnected series, The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices and The Dark Artifaces series. All feature Shadowhunters and are set in different eras and cities.)

It was also delightful to see Jocelyn get some closure after all that she had suffered.

A fitting conclusion. Recommended.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Happy Birthday Garfield!



Well, today is June 19 and as is traditional on this blog, I'm posting to wish Garfield the cat a very happy birthday. Of course, only a few people know why I do this every year, but for those who do know, it makes perfect sense. Anyway, this year, the Garfield comic strip, which debuted on June 19 1978 turns forty, making the tubby tabby forty years old. His owner, John, is probably in his seventies by now, but that's the magic of comics ... Garfield and Jon don't have to age in real time.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Review: If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

If Kisses Cured Cancer is a breath of fresh air in a market over-saturated with stories of young love that tell the same story over and over again. Matt is twenty-five, working a job he hates and feeling a bit uninspired about life in general. Then one day at the supermarket he encounters Joy ... who is busy stealing other people's shopping trolleys. The pair make a connection and go on a series of unpredictable dates, all of which change each others lives for the better. Then Joy's past catches up with her, and it may just tear this pair of young lovers apart forever ...

Told from the perspective of Matt, this is a hilarious story of a young man whose unhappy life is slowly changed for the better by a combination of choice and circumstance. There are some truly laugh out loud moments--such as their trip to the fish and chip shop, or what they get up to at the airport (not what some readers may think.) There are some sound morals about changing the patterns in your life. Joy's story is, of course, quite heartbreaking, though she remains true to herself until the very end ...

An enjoyable read, sure to be loved by a variety of readers. Recommended.

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

Thank you to author T.S. Hawken for my copy of If Kisses Cured Cancer.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Review: Marge and the Secret Tunnel by Isla Fisher

Marge, that zany babysitter with rainbow hair and a penchant for not following the rules is back in three fun filled stories. As always, the most ordinary situations become something much better as babysitter Marge turns every day into an adventure for her two young charges, siblings Jake and Jemima Button. The first story is a love letter to Australia of sorts, with the trio making their way through a tunnel that Marge promises will lead to Australia. It doesn't, but Marge informs the children of many things about Australia as they make their way through the tunnel and out the other side, where Jemima makes a new friend her own age. Unlike some children's books that are published overseas that talk about Australia, this one has more of an authentic feel, thanks no doubt to the fact that the author grew up in Australia and started both her acting and writing careers here. In the next story, the trio have the kind of shopping trip that all kids secretly want, racing shopping trolleys and discovering what actually happens if you stay in the shopping centre after the dreaded closing time. Finally, we close off with a search for a missing kitten that has fun and unpredictable results.

As always with the Marge books, there is a lot of fun to be had. There is just enough to keep parents entertained, though emerging readers will be quite safe reading this on their own. The author provides some true laugh out loud moments (like Marge getting stuck in a fence whilst wearing a tutu,) and Eglantine Ceulemans illustrations provide an extra layer of fun. And speaking of, I don't think I've mentioned in one of my reviews of the books in this series, but I just love the little adventures that the mice seems to get up to in the corners of the illustrations. The writing itself is light, fluffy and most of all, fun.

Recommended. 

Friday, 15 June 2018

Friday Funnies: Walt Disney Animation Studios' Steamboat Willie



Following on from last Friday ...

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Review: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

After City of Fallen Angels ended with a surprise twist, we find Clary and her friends keen to defy the Clave so that they may save Jace from the clutches of Sebastian. This task isn't going to be easy, especially as the dark magic that bonds Jace to Sebastian is strong, and because Clary knows that if she wants to save him, she must defy the wishes of the others (including her own mother,) and play a game that could very easily turn deadly.

Like the other novels in the series, this one is full of twists, action, quirky characters and a touch of romance. Some subplots were bittersweet--such as that of the troubled romance between Alec and Magnus. Although I felt that Clary's actions were foolish, it was difficult not to get caught up in her attempts to save Jace, and the sheer love that she felt for him--I guess she must be driven by that additional angel blood. (That said, I could have done with less descriptions of her clothing and more of her mental state.) We meet some characters who I strongly suspect will become important down the track. The ending is a bit scary, but fitting seeing as this is the second to last novel in the Mortal Instruments series and the author is, no doubt, working toward an explosive finale. 

Recommended.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Author Lavie Tidhar talks about Candy

Hi Everyone! Today I'm lucky enough to be chatting with author Lavie Tidhar, whose debut children's novel Candy has just been released in the UK. (Australian readers can buy a copy here.) 

Can you tell us a little about Candy?

Candy is a book about Nelle Faulker, a 12-year old private detective in a city where all chocolate and other candy has been declared illegal. And so now kids are running these candy bootlegging gangs, smuggling chocolate into the city! And Nelle doesn’t really belong in that world, but one day a notorious gangster, Eddie de Menthe (who is also 12), walks into her office (which is her mum’s garden shed) and asks her to find a missing teddy bear. And so this seemingly very innocuous search for a lost teddy kind of leads Nelle deep into the world of candy Prohibition, and ultimately into the mystery of what happened to Mr Farnsworth, the owner of the abandoned chocolate factory up on the hill, who went missing three years earlier… And all the while she runs into bullies and corrupt police detectives and a candy gang war and, of course, a pie fight!

So it’s like Underbelly: Candy! I think that about sums it up...

You’ve written a number of books for adults, but Candy is your first book for children. Was the writing process for Candy different to writing books for adults?

Not really! I pretty much write these very weird books anyway, so I tend to write them first and foremost for myself, and this was a prime example of that. What I really wanted was to have fun writing it – some of my adult books are, you know, well I think they’re great (but then I would, wouldn’t I!) but they’re not necessarily... fun. And I came off a really tough book to write and I wanted to do something completely different, and so I did! I’m really, really glad it worked out, in that I get to share it with readers and that they might hopefully enjoy it too, but no, it wasn’t any different in terms of the writing. I still worked in a ridiculous amount of sort of hidden jokes and references – anything from The Godfather and The Big Sleep and stuff – to be honest I usually forget what half of them are! – and I had a lot of fun writing this very tongue-in-cheek hardboiled dialogue – I just thought it was funny! But, you know, hopefully underneath that the book also deals with some universal themes, about growing up and coping with loss and bullying, and about the difficulty of doing the right thing, whatever the cost.

I have to ask, what is your favourite type of candy and what would you do if it were banned?

Well, I’m a responsible grownup these days... unless it comes to around 9pm and then the chocolate temptation just takes over, you know? I love chocolate! And candyfloss and meringues and, well, ice-cream... Right, yes, sorry, where was I! I did actually have a job one time selling candyfloss at this big festival when I was a teenager, and I ate enough of it to be put off for a year... But then I liked candyfloss again.

So you know, I think it might not be the worst thing for me if they banned chocolate! But then I’d probably end up turning to the candy gangs for a little taste, just a little taste! And I think it’s interesting the grownups in Candy are split on the issue of Prohibition – you have the health champions, sure, but on the other hand you have the grownups who, even though it’s banned, kind of sneak in a bit of chocolate when no one’s looking. So it’s been kind of an interesting way of taking something that’s pretty silly on the face of it – you know, candy is banned! – and then kind of look at how society reacts to that. It’s kind of a microcosm.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?


Well, that I hope you enjoy the book! I love having my books out in Australia. I’m a bit of a sucker for Australian TV – I love Underbelly and Jack Irish and, err, even Bikey Wars! And Pizza… remember Fat Pizza? And I have a soft spot for the writer Peter Corris, who did these very hardboiled Australian crime books. I lived on your side of the world for a while – I spent a year on a remote island in Vanuatu, even! – and, you know, I’m not really built for the English cold... I need an excuse to come back! But anyway yes, I hope you enjoy Candy!

Thank you Lavie for taking the time to talk to us. (And I loved Fat Pizza by the way!) I wish you every success with Candy. For readers wanting to know more (and I hope you do,) there is a plot summery and author bio below.

Candy


CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY meets BUGSY MALONE for 9+ readers.

In a city where candy is a crime and biscuits have been banned, Nelle Faulkner is a 12-year-old private detective looking for her next client. So when a notorious candy gangster asks for her help, Nelle is on the case.

Swept into a secret world of sweet smugglers and chocolate crooks, can Nelle and her friends find a way to take the cake? Or will they come to a sticky end...

About Lavie Tidhar

Lavie Tidhar is the author of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize winning and Premio Roma nominee A Man Lies Dreaming (2014), the World Fantasy Award winning Osama (2011) and of the Campbell Award winning and Locus and Clarke Award nominated Central Station (2016). His latest novels are the forthcomingUnholy Land (2018) and first children’s novel Candy (2018). He is the author of many other novels, novellas and short stories.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Friday Funnies



This week, I'm not sharing a joke. Instead, I'm sharing this classic image. Without looking it up, I'm pretty sure that most of you will know who it is, and which groundbreaking animated short that it comes from.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Review: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot is an irreverent take on life and the passing of time and consequently is neither funny nor entertaining. Or maybe it's just a play about bitter old men, written for bitter old men and released in book form so that the rest of the population can read it, scratch their heads and risk looking stupid if they say they do not like it.

The basic premises is this. Two old blokes are waiting for some other bloke called Godot to show up. They cannot remember the finer details, but Godot is supposed to be there, never arrives and in the meantime they meet this other odd paring of men. In the second act, the two blokes wait for Godot again, once again he never shows up and they see the other odd pair again who are somewhat changed. It is unknown how much time has passed since the events in the first act, or even indeed there have been other days where the pair have waited for Godot. All the while, they have various conversations that prove the basic futility of their existence.

Some may call it satire, others may like to say that the only reason this is so popular was because it was written by an ageing white intellectual and consequently, everyone has to claim to like it for fear of otherwise being thought of as stupid.

Boring as bat shit, really. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Review: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

After their deadly adventures in Idris, Clary, Jace and their many friends have returned to New York. Clary has started training so that she may work as a Shadowhunter, Jace is scarred from his experiences and has become somewhat broody, Luke and Joycelyn are planning their wedding, Alec is on holiday with Magnus and Simon ... Well, Simon Lewis is living it up as a rock star vampire who has two girlfriends and neither knows about the other. Except that readers should probably keep in mind that this is still Simon we are talking about, and his band is as shitty as ever and the girls are Isabelle and Maia. An ancient vampire is taking a keen interest in Simon, people keep trying to kill him and a dead demon baby turns up somewhere along the way. All of which makes this novel amusing, but it really does feel like a slightly farcical made-for-television sequel.

This one was entertaining enough, though the twist at the end was predictable enough--I guess something had to lead in to the final two books of the series. There were a number of references to characters from The Infernal Devices, another Shadowhunters series, which is unsurprising given that the author worked on the final three books in The Mortal Instruments series concurrently with the three books in The Infernal Devices series over the space of about four years. The best thing about this book, though, was how much it made me appreciate Simon as a character in his own right, rather than simply being fodder for Clary.

Recommended to anyone who can't get enough of the Shadowhunter universe. 

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Everybody Hates Abigail

Exciting news! This weekend, I'm relaunching my novel Everybody Hates Abigail, which I quietly took down just after Christmas.

The new edition a bright and shiny new cover and I've listened to feedback and cut out all of the boring bits (well, most of them, anyway.)  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the book, it's about the teenage daughter of a famous rock star who has been sent to live with her auntie and uncle in rural South Australia. She doesn't really fit in there, and things take a turn for the worse when her whole family get implicated in the murder of one of her classmates. Who can she trust? More importantly, can she follow her instincts (which so often lead her astray,) and find the real murderer?

At the moment, Everybody Hates Abigail is available in eBook only. Copies are available from Amazon and Smashwords, with other retailers to follow. If sales are good, a paperback version will follow.

PS If Abigail's name looks familiar to any of you, it's because an older version of the character appears in my novel Being Abigail and my short story Shopping and Lies. 

Friday, 1 June 2018

Friday Funnies: The Best Revenge


Basically