Friday, 28 June 2019

Friday Funnies


Thursday, 27 June 2019

Review: Those People by Louise Candlish

If you think that your neighbours are bad, then spare a thought for the residents of Lowland Way. A peaceful, upper middle class street, these residents have made their area a neighbourhood that they can take pride in, thanks to a number of local initiatives. Things begins to change, however, when Darren Booth inherits 1 Lowland Way from his aunt. Darren is the kind of guy who, at best, is inconsiderate, a bit rough and plays by his own rules. At worst, he's a sociopath. Within days, he has all of the neighbours offside. And when a death shatters the peaceful street, all of the other residents are certain of one thing. Darren did it. Except that the police don't agree with him. And then Darren is found dead, under suspicious circumstances. 

From there the neighbourhood steadily goes downhill ...

I was intrigued--and I admit amused--by the sound of this one. Over the years, I've had my fair share of problematic neighbours from both ends of the spectrum, those who take a little too much pride in the area and expect others to follow a narrow set of rules (like most of the residents on Lowland Way,) and those like Darren who simply do not care how their behaviour affects others. Unfortunately, much of this story dragged. What could have made for an absorbing Agatha Christie style mystery, was instead stretched out into a story that didn't seem to quite know whether it was a social satire or something akin to the novels of Jodi Picoult. Still, while Darren is far from likeable, he is certainly interesting to read about.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Review: While You Were Reading by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus

The Book Ninja was just so brilliant (or fucking hilarious as I put it in my review last year,) that I was thrilled when I learned that the book's co-authors Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus had penned another novel. This one tells the story of Bea Babbage, a woman whose life is falling apart after she accidentally ruins her best friends wedding. Moving across the country to Melbourne, she attempts to pick up the pieces in her life, discovering a great cafe and a secondhand book that has all kinds of messages scribbled inside along the way. Intrigued by the book and its notes, she begins to search for the person who wrote the notes ... with some surprising results along the way.

This one was an easy read that never takes itself too seriously. Bea was an easy character to like and spend time with, and the premise was a lot of fun. It was interesting too, to see her grow and develop, despite the well, massive, obstacle that Cassandra threw in along the way. (Speaking of, I really wouldn't have minded if the authors had allowed Cassandra to be hit by a tram.) The love triangle between Bea, Zach and Dino plays out in an amusing way. And whilst the whole thing is a little bit of fun, it never really reaches the same level of hilarity as The Book Ninja. 

Overall, this one is perfect for those days when you just want to kick back and have a little fun.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for my ARC.

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

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Review: It's Not About Me by Sally Hetherington

Like a lot of young people, Sally Hetherington wanted to make a difference. And so, at age 25, she bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia, a country that she had previously visited and loved, where she hoped that she could help the locals. What she soon learned, however, was that travelling overseas with good intentions, wasn't enough. Many of the local programmes suffered through disempowered staff and an extremely unhealthy white savour syndrome. And so, Sally found a way to make a real difference--by developing a community centre, The Human and Hope Association, with the locals that could be run by the local people. The goal was to make herself redundant to the programme. And after a few years, during which she got to know many of the local people and to understand the local politics and culture, she did exactly that. It's Not About Me tells the story of her time there. 

Reading this book was one heck of an education. I'd always been wary of programmes where Australians volunteer overseas for a brief time, though I had no idea why. Surely helping others is less fortunate is a good thing. This book explains exactly why volunteerism isn't a solution, and why those in third world countries need to be empowered to help themselves. I was also interested to read more about the politics and culture of Cambodia.

Overall, this is an excellent read. 

Postscript: Sally Heatherington was awarded an OAM on June 11 for her work with the Human and Hope Association.

If you would like to make a donation to the Human and Hope Association, you can do so here:

Thank you to the author for my copy of It's Not About Me.

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

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Happy Birthday Garfield

It's an annual tradition on this blog to wish a certain orange badass cat a very happy birthday, so here we go for 2019, Happy Birthday Garfield. Hope there's lots of lasagne coming your way!

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Review: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Doreen Green, aka the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is back. Sort of. In her third graphic novel she has just been sent back in time ... to the 1960s. And while she is slowly trying to acclimatise to a world that has none of the technology that she is used to, her flatmate Nancy is desperately trying to search for her friend. Which isn't exactly easy, considering that Nancy is the only one from her era who can remember Doreen at all. In true Unbeatable Squirrel Girl style this all leads to a confrontation with an old foe ... but will Doreen be beaten this time? Or can she keep her title, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl?

This one was a lot of fun. As well as comprising of the comics that make up the time travel story arc, the volume also includes a crossover issue between Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck. And, quite honestly, I was blown away by how well the two comics and characters worked together. I was quite skeptical that the styles and characters would be too different, but I was, thankfully, proven wrong.

Highly recommended.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Review: Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman

Noughts & Crosses was such a winner that I just had to jump into the sequel at the earliest possible opportunity. And I was not disappointed. I devoured this one in the space of a single day, picking it up whenever I had a spare moment.

Following the death of Callum, Sephy is pregnant and alone. Meanwhile, Callum's rogue brother Jude is also alone and living his life the only way he knows how--by hating everyone, hurting those who try to get close to him, and staying on the run. We see alternate chapters from each of their perspectives--Sephy as she struggles with motherhood, post natal depression and the realisation that the divisions between Noughts and Crosses are so deep that they cannot be changed by one person, and Jude as he struggles under the weight of being loved by someone that he is meant to despise until he does something terrible.

As was the case with Noughts & Crosses, the author handles her characters and situations with a hefty dose of realism. She also writes in a way that makes it near impossible not to be caught up in the story, whether she is describing a murder, or something far more mundane.

Oh, and I warn you, the novel ends on a hell of a cliffhanger ...

Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Review: The Lost Girls by Ava Benny-Morrison

It was a horrible crime and one that I recall reading about from my sick bed after a serious injury. Like many, many people in 2015, I was shocked to see on the news and read in the media about a suitcase that was found, dumped near a highway in a remote part of South Australia that contained the remains of a toddler. As the next few weeks and months played out, like others, I learned that it was part of a double murder, of that of a mother and child, one that had played out in two states and was as senseless as it was horrific. In The Lost Girls Ava Benny-Morrison gives the victims Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter Khandalyce dignity as she tells the horrific story of their murder, the monster behind it and the police investigation that saw justice served.

There is no getting around it. This is a horrible crime and it was a terrible thing that happened. I rarely read real life crime books like this one because I find the subject matter too horrible. This time around, however, I was a bit too intrigued. Fortunately, the author handles the subject with a genuine sensitivity and respect--both for the mother and daughter--and for their family and friends who are left behind. The book is compelling reading and certainly gives an insight into a police force who never gave up on trying to solve this horrible crime, as well as the effect it had on the people who were left behind.


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

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Review: The Daughter's Tale by Armando Lucas Correa

The German Girl was such a moving tale that I was absolutely thrilled when I learned that the author, Armando Lucas Correa had penned another novel. The Daughter's Tale opens in New York in 2015. Elise Duval is almost eighty years old. One day, she unexpectedly receives a phone call from Ida Rosen and her daughter Anna who have recently been to Cuba. They have some letters for her. Initially, Elise is confused. She doesn't know anyone in Cuba ... does she?

Ida insists on a visit, and she and Anna bring the letters. As Elise reads them--letters written by a woman named Amanda for her daughter Vera--memories of a very different life in Germany and then France come flooding back. From there the reader is whisked away on a tale of survival--and the strength of a mother's love--against the backdrop of one of the most shocking and shameful events of the twentieth century. The author shines as he creates a real emotional bond between the reader and the characters, though it feels bittersweet on occasions, as the reader knows that not everyone can possibly survive the horrors of living in occupied France. We watch as Elise grows from child to woman, navigating this situation the best way she knows how and kept safe by some truly wonderful people.

More haunting is the fact that The Daughter's Tale is inspired by a true story, that of Judith a Jewish child who survived the war thanks to the cleverness of her father and the kindness of others. (Read more here.)

Highly recommended.

Author Armando Lucas Correa is touring Australia this week to promote his work. Readers can see him at the following events:

  • 12th June: Kambri Cultural Centre, Australian National University, Canberra
  • 13th June: Wollahra Library, Wollahra
  • 14th June: Sofitel Sydney, Wentworth (hosted by Dymocks)
  • 17th June: Infuse Camberwell (hosted by Dymocks)
  • 18th June: Geelong Library

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of The German Girl

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Review: Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

British author Malorie Blackman paints a bleak but oh-so-educational picture in this YA dystopian. Set in a world that is not unlike the early 21st century, it tells the story of a world divided into two classes based purely upon skin colour. The dark skinned elite, or ruling class, are known as Crosses. The light skinned underclass are known as Noughts. And in there world, mixing is unthinkable. So what happens when Stephy, a Cross teenager from a privileged background falls in love with Callum, a Nought who is fighting hard for his right to an education? 

What a revelation this book proved to be! What could have easily veered into the territory of a fluffy YA romance is instead handled cleverly and believably by an author who uses the predicament of her characters to steer the reader toward something far more compelling. The world depicted in this book is cruel and unfair, and no, it doesn't change just because the main characters want it too. Instead, the author depicts them as human beings struggling to make their way through an unjust world, where one well-intentioned word or gesture won't start a revolution, but it might just have repercussions, some of them good, many of them bad. The reader sees Sephy punished for her saviour complex, and often, and not always by the characters you would expect.

The backstories of both of the characters are handled well--Sephy's father is an important politician, her mother is an alcoholic who is struggling to come to terms with her life and past decisions. Meanwhile, Callum comes from a poor family. His mother is a hardworking woman, his sister has suffered a nervous breakdown, and his brother and father are members of a rebel group, who have resorted to violence in an effort to get their point across to the government. At times there are interesting parallels between the two families, just as there are often parallels between the society portrayed in this book and South Africa under apartheid. (There are other parallels between this society and many other places and points in history, sadly, however, these would be too numerous to list.) However, what really shines about this book is the way that the author nails precisely what it means to be the victim of racial prejudice, whether it means to be begrudgingly offered an opportunity for an education at an institution that does not welcome you, or various micro-aggressions that many people, across the world, even in supposedly fair and democratic countries have to put up with on a daily basis.

Overall, this is an intelligent read, intended for those on the older end of the YA audience, with plenty to offer adult readers as well. Since its publication in 2001 this novel has spawned three sequels and has been reprinted several times. A fifth book in the series will be published later this year.

Highly recommended.