Sunday, 27 January 2019

Friday, 25 January 2019

Friday Funnies



Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Review: City of Evil by Sean Fewster

Adelaide has long held the reputation of being the murder capital of Australia. And while this reputation may largely be based on urban myths, what is true of Adelaide is that it is home to some of the most unusual crimes that the nation (and perhaps the world,) has ever seen. It's also home to so many secrets and suppression orders, often to the point of ridiculousness. In fact, there is barely a person living in South Australia who knows of the true and less than savoury reason that the states founder, Edward Gibbon Wakefield was in jail in the first place. 

In City of Evil Adelaide based court reporter Sean Fewster documents some of the strangest crimes that have occurred in contemporary Adelaide and South Australia--from the gruesome slaughter of a transgender truck driver whose partial remains were found in a strawberry patch (and it's strange connection to another ghastly and unrelated crime,) to various crimes with unusual motives. There is an animal welfare case with some very odd motives, a grisly murder in which a hat one of the perpetrators wore to court led to a conviction, to the trial of a young man who foolishly shot a man his friend mistakenly thought was following her--and to the small town mentality that he would fall victim to well after he had paid his debt to society. What links all of these crimes isn't just the place where they occurred. All of them have some kind of truly unusual--or perhaps even bizarre--element to them.   

City of Evil makes for extremely compelling reading, though the subject matter is quite dark. Some of the crimes are so strange, and so twisted, that it had me second guessing everything I knew about my home city. With so many weird crimes was it possible that I was living in the same neighbourhood, or even the same street, as the next person who would be arrested for a strange or gruesome crime?

In any case, this book busts the myth of Adelaide being the murder capital of Australia and exposes the reality of the many strange crimes that have occurred here.

This one is best read slowly--one crime or chapter per day, so that each real life story can have maximum impact, without becoming too overwhelming. And if you're really intrigued, there is a television series of the same name which aired on Channel 9 last year

Highly recommended. 

Thanks to Sean Fewster for my copy of City of Evil.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Review: At the Wolf's Table by Rosella Postorino

At the Wolf's Table is a well written and captivating story of survival under the darkest of circumstances. The year is 1943. Certain that someone wants to poison him, Adolph Hitler conscripts ten women to be his official food tasters. These women will be served whatever food is to be served to Hilter that. Under the watch SS officers, these women will then have to wait an hour to see if they will die. It's a cruel act of torture, particularly when food and other resources are so scarce. One of the women is Rosa Sauer, a twenty-six year old from Berlin. With her parents now deceased and her husband away fighting in the war, she has been forced to move to a small village in East Prussia with her in-laws. The locals don't like her and it is for that reason, perhaps, that she is one of the chosen ones. After all, it's easier to place someone you don't know in a dangerous situation than it is someone that has grown up in the town. As the days go on, the dynamics between the women shift and change in ways that while not always pleasant, are certainly human. As for Rosa, well as she freely admits, she has never been a good German.

As previously stated, this is a story of survival. It's an interesting account of the ways that people treat each other, and how they treat themselves, under difficult circumstances. As Rosa's time as a food-taster continues, the lines between what is moral and what one does to survive blurs in a fairly realistic way. And as is always the case in any good book set during the Second World War, it doesn't shy away from the many terrible things that were done during that time and how greatly the ordinary people of Europe suffered under Nazi rule. 

Perhaps the most shocking thing of all about this story is the fact that this story is based on true events--in December 2012, ninety-five year old Margot Wölk spoke with the press about how as a young women she and others had been conscripted to become Hilter's official food tasters. She was the only one of the fifteen women chosen to survive the Second World War. (You can read the original German article here or this article English translation here.)

Originally published in Italy, At The Wolf's Table quickly became a bestseller. Now translated into English, the novel will be published by Simon and Schuster Australia and will be released in February 2019. (Find out more here.)

Highly recommended.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC.

This book was read as part of the #dymocks52challenge

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Review: Kristy's Big Day by Gale Galligan (BSC Graphix #6)

Who would have thought that back in 2006 when the first novel of the Baby-Sitters Club series was re-imagined as a graphic novel that it would prove so successful that BSC Graphix has become an entire series and the publisher is now up to book number six.

As devotees of the series know, this is the book where things started to change for the members of the club. With the original, it's probably the point where author Ann M Martin and her publisher, Scholastic, realised that they had a hit on their hands, and the potential to create a much longer series, with the stories alternating between the characters. And what better character to return to than Kristy, who had started the club, and unlike the others whose problems had largely been resolved, had a number of life changes ahead of her, with her mother about to remarry Watson Brewer, her millionaire boss. In the original series, it's a great turning point.

As far as the graphic novel goes, it works on one level, and not on another.

Like the original series, I doubt that the publishers dared consider that it would be so resoundingly successful. And while the duel story-lines of baby-sitting and Kristy's feelings about the wedding and the life changes ahead work well in the original, both feel a little rushed in the graphic novel. But then again, it's important to remember that these books are aimed at a pre-teen audience, rather than people like me who read them for nostalgic purposes. And as far as telling that story to a whole new audience, it's great.

(As for me, I'm pissed off that they've managed to write Mallory into the series, but Jessi hasn't also been included. Then again, I suppose that there is always potential for the writers to do that later, quite possibly with a two parter that somehow incorporates themes from Goodbye Stacey, Goodbye and Jessi's Secret Language.)

As was the case with Dawn and the Impossible Three, Gale Galligan does a wonderful job of bringing the beloved characters to life.

One to recommend to young BSC fans.

Postscript: In the days between writing this review and it's publication, a seventh novel for the BSC Graphix series was announced and will be published in September 2019--Boy Crazy Stacey. This leaves the potential for any of these titles to follow: Dawn and the Haunted House, Logan Likes Mary Anne, Claudia and the New Girl or Kristy and the Snobs. 

Friday, 18 January 2019

Friday Funnies


I think we can all relate to this on a Friday morning!

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Willowdean Dickson is perfectly comfortable in her own skin, despite being of the slightly larger persuasion. That said, a few things have happened in her life recently that have shaken her self-confidence. First, her beloved aunt Lucy passed away. She and her best friend Ellen are slowly drifting apart. And there's a very attractive boy at her work who seems to like her, but doesn't want to actually be her boyfriend. Things need to change. And to kick off that change, Willowdean is going to enter the local beauty pageant. Soon she--and a group of very unlikely contenders--are on their way to prove that they are just as worthy of the crown as anyone.

This was an entertaining read, written by the author of the brilliant Ramona Blue. Willowdean is portrayed as a very normal teenager who has her own doubts, fears and misconceptions of others that often influence her behaviour and not always for the better. In other words, she's human and that made her very easy to identify. I found the Dolly Parton influence quite endearing as well. The various subplots, featuring Bo and Ellen were handled quite well. What was really pleasing though is that the book doesn't make fun of beauty pageants or pageant queens--instead the moral is that everyone has the right to enter them and to give it their best shot. 

Feel good YA lit at its best.

Recommended.

This book was read as part of the #Dymocks52 challenge

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Review: Find Your Creative Mojo by Josh Langley

Imagine just what you could create--and how much time you could spend creating--if you let go of your self doubt about your creative works. That's the core message of Find Your Creative Mojo, an entertaining yet no-nonsense guide to mastering the creative process. Using short chapters, bullet points and plenty of his famous The Frog and the Wall comics, author Josh Langley simplifies the creative process and encourages readers and potential creative people to stop worrying about being perfect and to start creating.

This was an enjoyable and useful guide, and one that is worthy of creative people at any stage of their career. 

Recommended.

Thank you to Josh Langley for my reading copy of Find Your Creative Mojo.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Keiko Furukura is a little well ... odd. At school and university she had difficulty fitting in with her peers but eventually she found sanctuary in the most unlikely place, working at a convenience store. In this predictable, normalised environment, she feels safe

Eighteen years later, and she's still working there. Now aged thirty-six, she is single and has no interest in finding a husband or a better job. As far as her family and her friends (who all want to cure her,) are concerned, this just wont do. But when Keiko finally decides to take action, the results are darkly hilarious and reveal more than a few deeper truths about the place of women in contemporary Japanese society.

I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this one. Anyone who has worked in any retail environment, particular in areas with a high turnover of staff, will be able to easily identify with the training and procedures that Keiko embraces, while having a little chuckle along the way. Keiko isn't a character who is begging for sympathy, rather she is one who is asking the reader for acceptance. Some of her accounts of her childhood are darkly hilarious, while her sham relationship with Shiraha broke my heart just a little. 

Often when books are translated into English, they lose a little something. This is not so with Convenience Store Woman, owing in part, I expect, the similarities between convenience stores in Japan with those in Australia. The strong feminist themes come across well--why is it that those in Keiko's circles are willing to accept her supposed engagement to a thoroughly horrible suitor, but they cannot accept that she is happy working in a convenience store? And while it is never suggested in the book that Keiko has autism (she may do, she may not do,) it also discusses something that is a reality for many women who are on the spectrum--that they will often have to lie about themselves and their interests so that they may fit in and be accepted by others.

This one is short, easy to read and entertaining.

Highly recommended.

This book was read as part of the #dymocks52 challenge

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Review: Harley Quinn Hot in the City

Pow! Bam! Welcome to Go Graphic a new semi-regular feature on the blog. In these posts, I'll be talking all things related to some of our favourite comics and graphic novels. Kicking off this week is a review of Hot in the City ...

When DC came up with the New 52 back in 2011, their masterstroke was to re-invent Harley Quinn, the unhinged girlfriend of the joker, taking her out of Gotham City and placing her in Coney Island. After a former patient leaves her his apartment block in his will, Harley gathers up all her worldly goods on the back of her motorcycle and travels to Coney Island where she begins making new friends and establishes a new career on the local Roller Derby scene. But trouble awaits when she discovers that someone has taken a hit out on her ... and it might just take her friend and occasional lover (it's complicated) Poison Ivy to help her sort it all out.

Hot in the City is a graphic novel which contains several early issues of the New 52 Harley Quinn. 

As I said, the re-invention of Harley Quinn was a masterstroke on part of DC. I quite like the new 52 variant of Harley, perhaps even more so than the rebirth version. (Sorry, but we all have our favourites.) As a character, Harley works better as an anti-hero than a villain. Plus no one deserves a date with the Joker, let alone a relationship. Of course, a big part of the magic of the character is that she gets away with saying, and doing, plenty of things that a lot of people would secretly like to do, even though they would never actually do them or contemplate it with any degree of seriousness.

In other words, the insanity works well within the pages of a comic book and its bloody entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, perhaps even more than I expected to. 

I also really enjoyed the opening pages to this, where Harley interacts with the writers and artists of the series.

Recommended.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Review: Captain Doobie Goodtime Slim and the One Thing They Had to Do Today by DC White

It's not every day that I get to review a book written by my own brother on this blog, though, admittedly, it probably won't be the last time I do this, seeing as one, I have more than one brother and two, the one who had this one published probably has another one in the works. So, forgive me if this review is a little biased.

Captain Doobie is a long-term unemployed twenty-something who has big dreams and ambitions, but can never quite be bothered getting off his bum to do anything about them. Along with his best mate, Goodtime Slim, they share a house in the outer southern suburbs of Adelaide. Things are all going well, until one day, Goodtime Slim finds them some cash-in-hand work driving a suped up Lada that belongs to a very well, unusual man, from Adelaide to Melbourne. Along the way, they fall foul of nearly everyone they pass, from the Milk Police (who are not impressed that they've been stealing crates from Chakraborty's Deli,) to the Centrelink employee who goes to extreme lengths to find out why Captain Doobie didn't keep his appointment, and the Russian Mafia. Oh, and there's a woman who thinks she's a pirate thrown into the mix as well. 

This was a very funny novel that will no doubt resonate well with male readers who are looking for a novel that values fun over being offensive. Readers from Adelaide and South Australia will appreciate a number of in-jokes that are inserted throughout the novel. 

Recommended.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Review: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Book three of The Dark Artifices Series starts out on a sombre note, following the death of a beloved character and member of the Blackthorn family. A death must be avenged, but that may prove difficult, given the new and hostile Inquisitor who wants Emma and Julian out of the way. And, of course, the parabati curse and their forbidden love is causing it's own share of drama. Meanwhile, back at the Los Angeles Institute, Ty is dabbling in dark magic in a bid to bring his sister back. And then there is the disease that is slowly destroying every warlock, including Magnus Bane.

Suffice to say, there is going to be a whole lot of drama, darkness, magic, Seelie Court shenanigans and sacrifice before this one ends.

I found Queen of Air and Darkness to be an entertaining read, though the first two hundred pages or so are a little slow going, and the novel as a whole feels overlong. The subplot featuring Ty and Kit probably would have made a solid, single volume novel of its own. That said, I love delving into the world of the Shadowhunters and author Cassandra Clare treats her characters and readers with much love as she keeps us updated with the many unusual characters and situations that make up this series. There are some surprisingly diverse themes, ones that don't feel forced, though they certainly are unusual for a YA novel, such as the relationship between Mark, Cristina and Kieran. (Kudos to the author for handling such a difficult theme respectfully.) Similarly, characters like Diana and Ty are handled quite well.

At a whopping 880 pages, this one isn't a short read, however, Shadowhunter fans are in for a treat. 

Recommended.

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

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Author Interview: Amber Lee Dodd chats about her new release, Lightning Chase Me Home

Hi all, a fabulous treat on the blog for you today, an interview with the brilliant, award winning author Amber Lee Dodd, whose novel Lightning Chase Me Home was released this week. 



Hi Amber, thank you so much for stopping by Kathryn’s Inbox. Congratulations on the publication of Lightning Chase Me Home. In your own words, can you tell us a little about the novel and your journey toward publication?

I started writing Lightning Chase Me Home just before We Are Giants my debut came out. But it grew from a small idea bout a girl searching for her mum who was named after two great explorers, to something much more magical after a trip to Scotland.
I was lucky enough to get to stay in a Scottish castle just outside Edinburgh for a writer in residence post. There I fell in love with the landscape and myth and magic of the place and Lightning became something bigger and much wilder.
Lightning Chase Me Home Is a story about wild Scottish magic, old myths and great lost women explorers. But at its heart it’s a very contemporary book about a girl finding courage, her words and where and who she really belongs with.

Dyslexia is an important theme within the novel. What is something that you wish more readers (and the general public,) understood about children with dyslexia?
I think the interesting thing is one person's dyslexia isn’t another’s. It can present in different ways. Some dyslexics are fantastic mathematicians but struggle terribly with English. Other’s it’s the reverse. Dyslexia isn’t a simple set of symptoms; it’s a way to describe a different way of processing information. But it can be a complicated thing to understand and sometimes even more complicated to diagnose.
But dyslexia isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a different way of thinking. It can make some things tricky but it is also marvellous at allowing you to come up with original ideas, to think on your feet and to be creative.

Amelia is named after two of her mother’s favourite female explorers. Who are some of your favourite female explorers and do you think that they have inspired your writing in any way?
I think all of the explorers in the book are close to my heart. It was one of the reasons I wanted to celebrate them in the book. I think however my favourite is Alexandra David-Neel who travelled to the forbidden city of Lhasa, Tibet. She renewed her passport when she turned 100 planning on going on even more adventures! That sense of fearless, boundless adventure is something I wonder at.

What is one book that every child should read?
 The one that calls to them! I loved Jaqueline Wilson, Roald Dahl and Jill Murphy growing up. But I like to think there are books coming out right now that will be children’s favourites.

Thank you again for stopping by. Before you go, is there anything that you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?
I’m thinking of coming to Australia, so if you have a fabulous recommendation of a place to stay and see let me know! 

I totally recommend stopping by Adelaide and sampling a frog cake. A visit to Imprints Booksellers is great too ~ Kathryn.
If you're interested in learning more about Amber and Lightning Chase Me Home, then be sure to stop by all of the other great blogs on this blog tour.



Thursday, 3 January 2019

Aussie Author Challenge 2019




Once again, I'm proud to be joining the Aussie Author Challenge for another year. I've actually lost count of how many times I've done this challenge, but as it's one of my favourites, I'm thrilled to be back. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the challenge, it's intention is to showcase as many Australian books and authors as possible. And because this is a challenge--and not a competition--there are three different levels and participants are free to choose the one that suits them. Once again, I'll be going for Kangaroo, but I'll be cheering you on no matter which level you choose. And no, you don't have to be Australian to participate, you just have to love (or at least read,) Australian books.

The challenge is hosted by the brilliant Book Lover Book Reviews site and you can sign up here.