Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Review: My Best Friend's Exocism by Grady Hendrix

American horror writer Grady Hendrix takes every 80s stereotype and a whole lot of 80s pop music, puts it into a blender and comes out with one very brilliant novel that executes every cliche in a way that is both well written, slightly hilarious and very nostalgic.

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade, when Gretchen was the only kid to show up at Abby's ET themed roller skating birthday party. Since then, despite their differing economic circumstances (Gretchen's family keeps getting wealthier and Abby's family keeps getting poorer,) the pair have shared many things together. Including the first time that they try LSD at a sleepover. From that moment on, Gretchen begins acting strangely, but Abby is the only one who is able to see and understand what is going on. Gretchen has a demon inside of her and needs an exorcism, pronto. Meanwhile, as the town residents ignore Abby and her pleas (remember, she's from a poor family, so she's considered the bad one,) Gretchen doles out punishments to many of the townspeople that are as hilarious as they are sick and twisted. (It really is difficult to feel sorry for Margaret who drank all the tapeworms. As for Glee ... well it's hard not to giggle.) Can Abby save Gretchen before it's too late? 

And will anyone believe Abby.

This was a great read, packed with lots of nostalgia. Each chapter references a different 80s pop song and anyone who grew up in the latter part of the 20th century will recognise any number of pop culture references, from ET to the thrill of reading a Judy Blume novel. The VHS themed cover is an utterly brilliant and atmospheric touch. 

Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Review: Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

Sabrina was a revelation. I was aware that it had been long-listed for the Man Book Prize 2018, and it was the first graphic novel to do so. I knew what it was about. I knew that I wanted to read it.

What I didn't know what just how much this story would speak to me.

Sabrina is a woman in her 20s who disappears. She is last seen on her way home, outside an apartment just one block away. It's everyone's worst nightmare, the horrific stories that we see in the news, become fascinated by, but we are never quite truly able to comprehend. From there, author and illustrator Drnaso takes us into the lives of three people who have been affected by this--Sandra, Sabrina's sister, Teddy, Sabrina's boyfriend, and Calvin, an old friend of Teddy's who opens his home to his old mate. What follows is a story of the characters and how they struggle to cope with the situation. The many frames with no captions are eerily illustrative of the great emotional loneliness that each of the characters feel. They have no one to talk to and no way of expressing their emotions. Meanwhile, the discovery of what happened to Sabrina soon hits the news and more alarmingly, goes viral. From there, Sabrina's murder is discussed endlessly, the public interest becomes intense and soon derails into conspiracy theories, which in turn lead to all of the characters being the recipient of unwanted messages from people who are so unable to comprehend why such horror exists that they instead come up with some of the most outrageous theories. And all of this while they are trying to grieve.

This is a depressing and often grisly look at the worst parts of human nature and contemporary life. It's also a very important reminder that behind sensational news stories there are victims, ones who may be left voiceless and who will no doubt be struggling to comprehend how such a terrible event could happen to them. Drnaso also has much to say about technology and the ways in which, perhaps, it has not enhanced our lives. 

It left me sad, but it also left me thinking that next time I hear a horrible news story, I'll spare a thought for those who are most affected by it.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Friday, 26 October 2018

Friday Funnies: The Realities of Approaching Someone Who's Not Interested


Poor Jon. He's always such an optimist when it comes to dating.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Review: Ridgeview Station by Michael Trant

Ridgeview Station is a rollicking yarn about rural Australia. Peter and Kelsie Dalton bought Ridgeview Station a five years back and now live there, along with Kelsie's parents. Life at a station is tough, and full of plenty of unexpected ups and downs, but the Dalton's are the kind of family who have what it takes to make it work ...

This was a fairly slow read for me, though I still found it quite enjoyable. In all honesty, it was nice to read a book about rural Australia where neither romance nor crime was the main focal point.

Recommended.

I won my copy of Ridgeview Station in a competition run by Dymocks Adelaide some time back. 

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

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Review: Matryoshka by Katherine Johnson

Matryoshka is a story about family. It is also a story about violence. It's a story about refuge.

It's a story about Russian Dolls and how they fit together.

Sara Rose is a woman who is grieving for her recently deceased grandmother, who also just happens to be the woman who raised her. Her marriage is at an end, and while she is not yet able to admit that, her soon to be ex-husband is all too eager to move on--with another woman that he has not told Sara about, but who he has already introduced to their daughter. On a whim, Sara decides to relocate both herself and her daughter to her grandmother's cottage in Tasmania. It proves to be the right decision and a time of personal growth, during which time she learns about the importance of family, while discovering a big family secret along the way ...

This was an enjoyable read. I like the slow, relaxed narrative that allowed readers to drift along and watch as Sara grew and changed during her time in Tasmania. The subplot about the refugees in the area is fitting, given Sara's own family history. There are some huge morals about acceptance, while the family secrets offer an extra layer of drama. 

Recommended.

Thank you to Ventura Press for my ARC of Matryoshka.

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

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo (DC Icons Series #1)

Wonder Woman: Warbringer is the first volume in the DC Icons series. Released in 2017, the series puts an interesting spin on some of the most popular characters from the DC universe, making them the stars of YA novels penned by popular YA authors. Even more interesting is the fact that these are not yet another rehashing of the same (great but already told,) origin stories. Instead, this series imagines the characters as teens, ones who don't quite yet know the full extent of their capabilities or who they will become. And who better to open the novel with that Wonder Woman, aka Diana, an adolescent desperate to prove herself to her Amazon sisters.

Only this time around, her adventures have nothing to do with a pilot named Steve.

Diana, as she is known in the book, finds herself in trouble after she saves a young woman from drowning and brings her back to the island of Themycira. Alia, it soon turns out, is a Warbringer, a descendent of Helen of Troy, who has the potential to bring bloodshed to the world. Diana is desperate to save the world, Alia and also her Amazon sisters, but can only do so if she is able to complete a difficult and dangerous quest. The real enemy may be closer than she thinks ...

This one was an enjoyable, page-turning read. It was nice to be able to dip into something that was at once both familiar, and yet still new and different enough to keep me wondering. I quite liked the writing style and I'm now keen to discover some of the authors other works.

I think this is one that has the potential to appeal to new fans, as well as keeping older ones entertained. 

Recommended. 

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Friday, 19 October 2018

Friday Funnies


Well ...

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Review: Shell by Kristina Olsson

Shell was the subject of a publisher bidding war recently and it is not difficult to see why. Shell is a beautifully written, Literary novel set in Sydney during a tumultuous time in our history. The year is 1965. Journalist Pearl Keogh has been sent in disgrace to the women's pages after being seen and--more importantly--photographed at an anti-war protest. Meanwhile, glass artist Axel Lindquist is in Australia creating a work that he hopes will do justice to the great masterpiece that is being constructed on Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Opera House. The pair meet and what readers get is a story of two people who are caught in a time of unrest and great change. After all, this was an Australia that was undergoing radical social change, whilst clinging desperately to a more conservative era. 

Like the Opera House that inspired it, there is no denying that Shell is something special. Something bold. Something unique.  

Ultimately, though, this is a book about courage. The courage to do what is right. The courage to think for yourself.

The courage to change.

Overall, well done. Recommended.

Adelaide readers: Kristina Olsson will be appearing in conversation with Laura Kroesch at Imprints Booksellers on Monday the 29th of October at 6:30pm

Thank you to Scibner Australia/ Simon and Schuster Australia for my beautiful hardcover review copy of Shell.

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

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Friday, 12 October 2018

Friday Funnies


Ha-ha, yes. 

Monday, 8 October 2018

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Review: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki

There is a quiet beauty to this graphic novel of a girl on the cusp of adolescence. Rose and her parents travel to Awago Beach every summer. Rose's friend Windy is always there with her family too, and the pair have become fast friends. This year things are different. Rose and Windy are no longer little kids, but they're not quite yet adolescents and they're starting to notice a lot of things in the world around them. Suddenly, things aren't quite as cozy or as happy as they used to be.

Essentially, this is a story about a girl who is learning that the world isn't the safe place that she thought it would be. Rose is crushing on an older boy (one who really isn't much of a catch,) and struggles to come to terms with some of the harsh realities of life when she discovers that his girlfriend is pregnant. She reacts in a way that, while it isn't nice, is realistic. Luckily, Windy is slightly better adjusted and is able to set her straight. There is a concurrent story about Rose's mother, who is battling with her own demons, ones that Rose doesn't quite understand. 

In many ways, this novel reminded me of a time when I was about the same age as Rose, and I began to understand that the world wasn't always safe, or comfortable, and that not everyone was kind. There are a lot of nuances within the narrative and much is communicated quite well through the illustrations. 

Highly recommended.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Friday Funnies: This is a Job For ...


Well this certainly made me giggle. (Sorry, Wonder Woman!)

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Review: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

There is a lot going on in this contemporary YA release--OCD, sexuality, the death of a first love. The novel opens with Griffin, a young man who is about to attend the funeral of his first love, Theo. Griffin may have broken up with Theo, but he still loves him. Through flashbacks we learn of Griffin and Theo's relationship, while the present day narrative tells the story of how Griffin works through his grief, embarks on a surprising friendship with Theo's boyfriend Jackson and, finally, confronts his mental health.

This one is deep and complex reading, one of those novels that proves, conclusively, that YA does tackle deep issues in a way that is accessible to many readers, including those older than the target audience. It's a no holds barred look at grief, sexuality and mental illness, which can get a bit heavy going at times, but makes for a valuable resource for anyone who is dealing with any of those issues, or anyone who knows someone who is. Or for anyone who just wants to understand.

Recommended. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Review: The Survivors by Kate Furnivall

Fans and faithful readers of Kate Furnivall will no doubt rejoice at the release of The Survivors. With a bright and shiny sticker of approval from The Australian Women's Weekly there is no doubt that this author is now considered to be among the top authors of historical women's fiction today.

After losing everything in the Second World War, Polish national Klara Janowska and her daughter Alicja find themselves in a displaced person's camp in a part of Germany that is now controlled by the Allies. Life has been tough, but Klara is determined to put the past behind her. But, while in the camp, Klara sees a man who knows exactly what she did to survive the war and to keep her daughter safe. A deadly game is about to begin and the stakes are so very, very high ...

A displaced persons camp isn't the most comfortable or romantic of settings, but the author does a good job of bringing out the humanity in her characters. The situation between Klara and Oscar makes for a page turning read. I cannot honestly say that I was a fan of the authors writing style, however, which felt a bit simple and a bit stilted in places. Overall though, its an interesting story about a time in history that we often forget Europe directly after the Second World War.

Fans of The Beasts Garden by Kate Forsyth will probably enjoy this one.  

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

Monday, 1 October 2018