Friday, 31 August 2018

The Seekers - Georgy Girl



It's Friday and, usually, I would share something funny. This week has been a bit lacking in comic material, so for that reason, I am sharing this clip of The Seekers singing Georgy Girl at a concert instead. 

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Review: Junkyard Jack and the Horse That Talked by Adrian Edmonson

Dear readers, I think we may have another Roald Dahl on our hands. British comic genius Aidran Edmonson released his second novel for children earlier this year and let me assure you, it's a beauty. Jack is a short (comically so,) kid who has been a bit neglected ever since his mum got sent to prison for a crime that he knows she didn't commit and he was sent to live with his spineless aunt, his rotten to the core uncle and his nasty teenage cousin Kelly. His one salvation is the junkyard next door and the kindly man who runs it, but when Mr Mudge has a serious accident that all changes. Soon Jack finds himself on an incredible adventure along with Mr Mudge's shetland pony and some delightful talking animals who might just be able to help him out of this horrible situation.

There are lots of laughs to be had in this delightfully over the top tale that probably would have had me cheering and throwing my hat in the air--had I been wearing a hat. Things all come right for Jack in the most unexpected of ways and I couldn't help but find myself cheering for the kid. (And it was made even better by the discovery of what happened to his uncle.) This one is an enjoyable read, sure to entertain kids of all ages.

Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Review: A Place to Remember by Jenn J McLeod

Much loved Australian author Jenn J McLeod's latest novel is a bittersweet tale of a missed opportunity, memory and redemption. Twenty-seven year old Ava has run away from the city and an abusive relationship to work as the cook at a country B&B. She never expects that the twenty year old son of the owners would be such a fantastic flirt--or so mature for her age. Despite her hesitations, she and John begin a secret romance, one that will attract the ire of both John's parents and Katie, the scheming but perhaps not terribly mature girl next door who wants John for herself.

Years later, Ava's daughter Nina learns the sad story of her mother's lost love--who is now an eccentric artist who after a tragic accident lost all his memories of Ava, and who was cruelly betrayed by two of the women who supposedly loved him--Katie and his own mother. As Nina begins to discover more about Ava and John she also finds the last thing that she expected, a romance of her own.

This was an entertaining read, and one that would appeal to women of a wide variety of ages and backgrounds. As always McLeod's talent lies in offering a real sense of closure--and redemption--for her readers. For example, while many novelists would have portrayed a character like Katie as simply bad or scheming, under McLeod's hand, we see a more complex and rounded character, who had her own tragic reasons for her behaviour, which were coupled with a bit of stubbornness and a whole lot of immaturity. (Still, I certainly had a giggle about what happened to the character in the end. A perfect fit, I think.) The tragedy of John and Ava's romance and what could have been made me sad, but there is also a sense that both had fulfilling lives in other ways, Ava as a chef and John as a painter. 

As I said, I think this one will appeal to women of a wide variety of ages and backgrounds. Recommended. 

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

Monday, 27 August 2018

Friday, 24 August 2018

Friday Funnies: Warren G ft. Nate Dogg | Regulate | Sesame Street Version



This is another example of a great, perfectly timed parody using Ernie and Bert from Sesame Street. In this clip, the pair "perform" the 1994 hit song Regulate by Warren G ft Nate Dogg. 

Monday, 20 August 2018

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)


A post shared by Kathryn White (@kathrynsinbox) on

Friday, 17 August 2018

Friday Funnies: Daria - Trent's dead



Just sharing this classic Daria moment from Season 4. Word is that Daria will be back in a new spin off series soon titled Daria and Jodie. I'm very interested to hear more about this one.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Review: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Note: I did not enjoy this novel. If you are the author, her agent or a diehard fan, or for whatever reason you do not wish to read a book review that is almost wholly negative, then you may prefer to stop reading now.

Without Merit the ten billionth offering from prolific American author Colleen Hoover certainly lives up to its name. It is a novel with very few, if any redeeming features. Set in a small American town, this one is the story of a dysfunctional family told from the perspective of seventeen year old Merit who is suffering from a mental illness that goes undiagnosed until a key event leads her to doing a short self-assessment midway through the novel. And that, my friends, is about as much insight as the author gives to what life is like for someone living with a mental illness.

As for the Voss family, nothing about their life is normal. Dad has moved the family into a church that he purchased and redesigned just to annoy the local Lutheran Pastor who he hates with a passion for fairly petty reasons. Dad and his mistress (now his second wife) live upstairs with the four Voss kids, Mum lives downstairs in the basement and refuses to go outside. Merit's older brother is struggling with his sexuality, to the point where he makes a clumsy pass at his sister, and Merit has an identical twin who is seemingly perfect, except for her fetish for dating boys with terminal illnesses.

In other words, the whole thing is pretty fucked up. 

The biggest problem of all with this novel is that it doesn't know what it is--a black comedy about an awful family, a meditation on being a teenager with depression, or a romantic comedy where two emotionally damaged people find one another. Consequently, it fails on all counts. 

Since the release of Slammed in 2012, Hoover has made a name for herself writing emotionally charged romances about damaged people who find each other and get their happily ever after in spite of some huge hurdles. It's a cliche, but it works, which explains why the author can sometimes release two (or more) books each calendar year. Written in everyday English, perhaps one of the most pleasing elements of her books is that the characters come from ordinary and fairly relatable backgrounds. In 2016 the author veered off course with the release of It Ends With Us a novel featuring slightly older characters and had domestic violence as its main theme. Although it was different to her previous works, it worked because the author offered a sensitive and honest portrayal of why people stay in violent relationships. Without Merit lacks both sensitivity and honesty. Even the ending--where we discover that the Voss family may not be as terrible as Merit thought--has a glossed over feel to it, as though the author did not really understand how to resolve the conflicts and situation that she had created.

The writing itself is quite trashy. While this has worked quite well in some of Hoovers NA romances, here it comes across as tacky and cliched.

Recommended as the perfect gift for someone you cannot stand.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Review: When Courage Came to Call by L.M. Fuge

I did not enjoy this novel as much I had hoped to.

It is difficult, however, to be too critical of this one. After all, it was written when the author was just fourteen years old. Two years later, it was accepted for publication by the Australian arm of Random House. Also, it was written for other teenagers, not adults. Set on the fictional island of Zamascus, teenage Imm and his twin brother Saxon find themselves thrown into the middle of a war zone when a neighbouring nation invades their island. With their parents and every other adult they know dead, Imm and Saxon must learn to survive ... and to fight back when necessary. If the premise sounds familiar, that's because it's quite similar to John Marsden's brilliant Tomorrow When the War Began series, just with a slightly different, but pleasing, spin. 

While there is plenty of action and in Imm, the author has created a conflicted character who just wants his home and his country back, not a war, there are too many elements that let this one down, chiefly, a lack of depth. There are also some lapses in logic--how can an island that does not have electricity, and described as being too small to have cars, have a three floor hospital with brightly lit corridors? Then again, it doesn't really detract too much from the story ...

This is a sincere effort that tries hard and got a lot further than many other teenage authors ever did in an era before wattpad. The author--now well and truly an adult--has gone on to have a successful career as a science writer. 

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

Friday, 10 August 2018

Friday Funnies: Bert and Ernie Censored - You're $%@&



Love, love, love this naughty dubbing of a Bert & Ernie skit from Sesame Street. The people who did this got the beeps right, making it appear as though the characters are swearing, a rare thing in these kinds of videos, where usually you just get random beeps. Their choice of sketch and subject matter was just right too, a great example of perfect comic timing. 

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Review: We'll Show the World by Jackie Ryan

This is another review that I am going to have to start off with a confession. When I was a kid, I was absolutely fascinated by Expo 88. I remember learning about it at school, this huge exhibition that was taking place in Brisbane with all kinds of things--computers, new technology, rides and--gasp--a monorail. (I've always been secretly impressed by monorails.) Actually I was pretty impressed by the idea of Queensland, a place where the sun shone all the time, bananas grew and purportedly, there was a grasshopper on the loose up there who was drinking pineapple juice. I desperately wanted to go to Expo 88.

My parents, on the other hand, felt quite different.

Not only would taking a family of five up from Adelaide to Brisbane be expensive and time consuming, to them, but the Queensland they knew was something different. Queensland wasn't just a bit sunny, it was stinking hot. It was a political backwater. The police there were corrupt. You could get bananas here, from any fruit stall or supermarket. As for the grasshopper, well, he wasn't real. Why would anyone want to travel all the way up there for a bloody expo?

In many respects, my views and my parents views reflected the great changes that were happening in Queensland at that time. Expo 88 had a huge role in turning Brisbane into the modern, vibrant and much loved city that we know today.

We'll Show the World isn't just a book about the expo. It is a book about the events that led up to it, the political climate of the time, including the scandal that shocked the entire nation and led to the Fitzgerald Inquiry, and the massively successful outcomes of Expo 88 and the positive impact that it had on the ordinary people of Brisbane. It was proof that, despite the odds, despite the indifference of the other states, these people, this part of Australia could do something that was different and life changing.

For me, reading this book is as close as I'll ever get to the Expo that I so desperately wanted to visit. It was an enjoyable read, discovering the rich history that led to the event and how it was received by the locals.

Recommended.

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

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I have a confession to make.

I have had this book sitting on my shelf for a long, long time and I haven't dare to open it. Gillian Flynn is one of my favourite authors, and this is the only one of her books that I had not read. I felt certain that I would love it. But I also knew that once I had read it that was it. There would be no more Gillian Flynn books. There are rumours, of course, that she will have a new book out in late 2019, but there is also little evidence to confirm this. So I left Dark Places sitting on my shelf for a long, long time until I felt that I just couldn't stand the thought of only looking at it and not reading it.

And I loved it.

The novel opens with Libby, a troubled woman of thirty who is the only survivor of a terrible mass murder--when she was seven her older brother Ben killed her mother and two older sisters. Libby has lived her life on the handouts of others, the cash donations that various strangers have sent over the years because they feel sorry for her. But now, the money has almost run out. Meanwhile, a group who are convinced of Ben's innocence have contacted her, and are starting to ask questions that Libby has never dared ask herself before. Is it possible that Ben was not guilty after all?

Weaving between the past and present day, this Dark Places tells the story of a fractured family. There's Ben, the teenage misfit in a small town who wants more but finds himself accused of a terrible crime, their mother, Patty who is keeping the family's financial troubles a secret and grown up Libby, who, as she tracks various people down begins to realise that the truth may not be as black and white as it seems. More than one person has a motive for wanting to hurt the Day family, and much of Ben's trial was hindered by small town prejudice, the fears of the times and clumsy police work.

But, ultimately, this is a Gillian Flynn novel. There will be surprises.

I found myself drawn in by this story. The author paints her characters as flawed, yet deserving of our sympathy. There are plenty of twists, red herrings and some good old fashioned horror along the way. I'm just old enough to remember that devil worship was a thing in the mid-1980s and how inspired horror and fear in many people, sent others running back to church and caused a few people who wanted to feel powerful to do stupid and pointless things. The author captures this sense of fear perfectly. The small town setting works well.

A chilling but twisty read. Highly recommended.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Review: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

There is no getting around it. This is a confronting read. This is not a book for the faint of heart, the easily offended and despite the fact that blurb makes the subject matter clear, this book should probably contain more trigger warnings. Much of its content can and deserves to make people angry, to question our legal system and, ultimately, to find a better way.

Eggshell Skull is the memoir of Bri Lee, a young woman with a better knowledge than most of our legal system. She is the daughter of a police officer, studied law at university, worked as a judges assistant in Queensland's district court and who, eventually, faced the man who sexually assaulted her in court and secured his conviction. What happens in between is a meditation on the depressing reality that the victims of sexual assault face when the perpetrators are taken to court. The author discusses case after case that she worked on. Many of the cases were so upsetting that I found myself having to skip over them. However, they illustrate a sad point about how the victims of sex crimes are the ones put on trial, cross examined, their characters and versions of events discussed openly in court. Convictions are rare; the number of people willing to support a perpetrator and believe that they wouldn't do something like that are high.

Frankly, it's disturbing.

But that is also the point.

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

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Review: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

There was always one question left unanswered at the end of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, why was Leah so angry at Abby? Did she really feel as misplaced by the new girl as she claimed? This sequel of sorts, with Leah in the front seat offers readers a surprising answer. 

It's almost the end of senior year. Leah has kept a pretty big secret from her friends. She's bisexual. And she may be a little more interested in one of the members of their group than she wants to be. She does her best to ignore her feelings--after all, Abby has Nick and she's never given Leah any indication that she's interested in girls, though she does flirt with Leah from time to time, which, understandably, Leah finds annoying and confusing. Or is it possible that Abby may like Leah as more than a friend? 

In many way this was a fairly relatable tale of first crushes and the uncertainty that one feels during their final year at high school. Each of Leah's friends has different experiences during this time, one misses out on a place at college, two decided to make their relationship work long distance, and another pair break up. And then two major characters get together, which no one, apart from the reader, saw coming. 

This one doesn't quite pack the same punch as the author's previous two novels. Though amusing and a touch ironic, the ending is a bit too neat and easy for my liking. The author has such a knack for tackling diversity and teenage emotions that if anyone was going to write a story about a crush that doesn't work out with empathy and a whole lot of depth, it would be her. I also have a few questions about how bisexuality was represented in the book. If someone is bi, they're bi. They're not straight, they're not gay, they're bi. In this book, there was very little evidence to show that Leah was attracted to guys as well as girls. 

That said, I don't have a problem with who Leah ended up with at the end and why. It's done well enough. Plus it's nice to see a character who always expects the worst and who sabotages herself regularly to get a happy ending.

I think sometimes I can build an author up so much my expectations can get unrealistic.

Anyway, fans of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda will probably enjoy this sequel.