Thursday, 31 December 2020

Review: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

There is a lot of charm in this beautifully illustrated fable about a Little Prince who travels through the galaxy in order to escape from a haughty flower who appeared on his tiny home planet. Our narrator is a stranded pilot who finds him in the dessert, and who listens to his story of how he had travelled across the galaxy to find a new home, but nowhere is quite right and everywhere, it seems has its own rules and agenda.

The Little Prince is a short and entertaining read, the kind where what the reader gets out of it depends very much on what they put in, and by how much they are willing to trust the narrator with the story instead of guessing what will happen next. Questions of childhood, innocence and imagination and how they become lost in adulthood are abundant, and none is quite so clear as at the end--where an innocent, childlike reading would leave the reader believing in one outcome, while a cynical, adult reading would leave one contemplating quite the opposite.

I enjoyed this one, though it is difficult to say precisely why. Something about the mix of innocence with the absurd, I suspect.


Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Review: Fangirl the Manga Adaption Volume 1 by Rainbow Rowell, Sam Maggs & Gabi Nam

Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl gets the Manga treatment in this perfectly adapted and beautifully illustrated volume. The first in a series, this concentrates on the early part of the original--Cath's arrival at college, and her well, obsession with Simon Snow that has developed into a very successful fan fiction. Life at college is tough--first Cather is more or less abandoned by her livelier and more outgoing twin sister Wren, who seems determined to spend her time at college acting like a silly, self absorbed twit. Cath's roommate Reagan is a little bit older and just a little bit scary ... plus Cath is developing a crush on Reagan's friend Levi. And then she has her Dad to worry about--Arthur is bipolar. At least she can find solace in two things--an upper level writing class, and her Simon Snow fan fiction. However, when the two collide, the result isn't pleasant and Cath is left with some serious doubts ...

This was surprisingly expensive for a manga published entirely in black and white on regular paper, however, the beautifully illustrations and the superb storytelling more than make up for the cost. I loved the short chapters featuring Cath's Simon Snow fan fiction, and I just loved seeing each of the characters illustrated on the page--Cath, Reagan and Nick looked very close to how I had pictured them, while other characters like Wren and Arthur looked different, but in a good way.

Short enough to be read in one sitting, this one ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I'm not certain how many volumes of this one there is going to be, possibly four, but I am certainly looking forward to the next instalment.

Highly recommended. 

Friday, 25 December 2020

Linus' Christmas Speech


Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Why Daria Spin-off Jodie Could Just be the TV Series We Need

It was a while ago now that the news came through that much-loved MTV series Daria was going to get a spin-off more than fifteen years after the original series ended. The title, Daria and Jodie instantly had me wondering ... what on earth was this? A new Daria TV series, but with Jodie Landon as Daria's bestie and sidekick, instead of Jane Lane, the artist and outcast that we all love? Then, a few months ago, a new and arguably bigger announcement came through. This new series was going to be titled Jodie, with Jodie Landon front and centre. And, suddenly, it seemed that this series had a lot more potential.

For those of you who don't remember much about the original series--Daria was a teenage outcast at Lawndale High. With Jane by her side, her goal was to get through high school with as little human contact as possible. Possessing a high degree of intelligence, what Daria lacked in charisma and popularity, she well and truly made up for it with sarcasm. 

Jodie Landon was one of Daria's classmates at Lawndale High and perhaps the only person other than Jane to earn Daria's respect. Jodie was Daria's intellectual equal, but had a different personality. She was outgoing, is forced by her parents to take up a number of extra curricular actives such as being Vice President of the Student Council and dating Mack, who was on the school football team. Other characters, such as Brittney often turn to her for advice. She was shown in various episodes to be pragmatic, such as in Partner's Complaint, where she is able to take a negative (only being given attention by a loan officer after that person discovers that her father is a successful businessman,) and tailor it to suit her approach when she speaks with a loan officer at a different bank. Initially, this angers Daria, until she discovers the huge lesson that Jodie has shown her about the adult world works. Consequently, Jodie becomes one of the few characters who Daria is able to learn from. In another episode, Jodie confesses to Daria that she often feels a huge pressure to be a good role model and a leader for other African American girls.

The new series about Jodie will focus on the character's life after college, as she navigates the adult world and a new job at a tech company. Given Jodie's personality as someone who is young and ambitious, it will be interesting to see how this translates when she finds herself in the adult world--and just how the series will portray the world and people around Jodie. And, of course, there is the added dimension of race. Are there really equal opportunities for girls like Jodie, or is it just an illusion?

Just as Daria was a successful spin off series from Beevis and Butthead, one which placed Daria in a new and relevant setting, Jodie has the potential to be equally successful. I wish the show and everyone who works on it well. 

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Review: Honour and Other People's Children by Helen Garner

Following on from the success of Helen Garner's novel Monkey Grip was Honour and Other People's Children, two novellas published together in a single volume. Both stories talk about the breakdowns of significant relationships. In Honour, we meet Kathleen and Frank, who are married and love one another in a way, but have been happily separated for some years. Frank's new girlfriend Jenny is insisting that he get a divorce, but that is easier said than done, and all three adults find themselves having to negotiate their way around their changing relationships. In the middle of this is a child, Flo, who just wants everyone to get alone. In Other People's Children we meet Scotty and Ruth, two women who are part of a collective household, but whose differences are driving their friendship apart.

Garner writes with empathy and insight into the lives of the characters, who are all experiencing changes--welcome and unwelcome--into their personal relationships. Both are set in Melbourne sometime during the 1970s and feature working class characters, all of them living in ways that were right for them, but that challenged the social norms of previous eras.

There is no denying one simple fact about this volume, however, and that is Honour is the superior of the two stories. I found it far easier to identify with the characters and to feel empathy for their situation, and I appreciated the hopeful ending. Other People's Children is harder to enjoy. While I felt a lot of empathy for Scotty, who only wants what is best for her friends, but whose failure to give them the freedom to make their own mistakes, leads to her being despised by the others, there is no denying one thing. The story is depressing. And similar to Monkey Grip, Garner writes about collective households and relationships from the perspective of someone who has solid lived experience of those things, which means that though she writes about it well, there were some nuances that went straight over my head. 

The volume was a relatively quick read for me, with one story that I loved and one that ... well, I'll have to think about it some more.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2020

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Review: Logan Likes Mary Anne by Gale Galligan & Ann M Martin (BSC Graphix 8)

The eighth novel in the brilliant BSC Graphix series is bittersweet to say the least. On the one hand, we've got Mary Anne in the lead, we meet Logan Bruno for the first time, the girls start eighth grade and Jessi joins the BSC. On the other hand, this is Gale Galligan's last BSC Graphix novel, as she is moving on to other projects.

Opening at the end of summer, we find Mary Anne preparing to return to school and feeling well, a little emotional, because her oldest and best friend Kristy has moved across town and this year, the two will not be able to walk to school together. She's also developed a crush on teen heart throb Cam Geary, and the other members of the BSC tease her about it, as girls that age tend to do to one another. Unfortunately, Mary Anne isn't the kind of kid who takes the teasing very well. And these feelings of a crush are confusing ... and they're set to become a whole lot more confusing when a new boy starts at school who looks just like Cam Geary ... and he's got a crush on Mary Anne, only she can't see it. All she knows is how awkward it can feel to be around Logan Bruno sometimes. And all the more because he's interested in joining the BSC who are looking for new members after a new advertising campaign works a little too well.

Parts of this one follow the original closely, with the occasional tweak here and there to update the story for contemporary audiences. We still get the best parts of the original though--the party with the surprise cake, that gorgeous skirt (fans will know the one I mean,) the famous shoe incident and, of course, Tigger. Meanwhile, the B storyline reimagines how Jessi comes to join the BSC, but it is done in a way that is realistic, and that fits in perfectly with the Graphix series. It also raises the question of whether the series will be skipping the story where Stacey moves back to New York with her parents, something which Ann M Martin later admitted was a mistake for the original series. (I'd be cool with it if they did.)

Overall this one was a lot of fun, with plenty of things in there that will please old fans, while having enough to make the series interesting and relevant for a younger generation. And though I'm sad that this is Gale Galligan's last entry in the series, I'm pleased to report that in 2021, there will be not one but two entries in the series, with two authors taking on penmanship of the novels, Gabriela Epstein and Chan Chau. Claudia and the New Girl is expected to be released in February 2021 and then Kristy and the Snobs will be released in September 2021. (I don't have a firm Australian release date, however, the books are traditionally available here two to three months after their release in the United States and Canada.) The new artists will alternate between releases and will be in charge of book 9 through to book 12. After that, Scholastic has given approval for two more book in the series, with the artists and titles yet to be announced.

Monday, 21 December 2020

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)


Friday, 18 December 2020

2021 Reading Challenges

 I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a year like no other, and many people will be glad to put it behind them. Reading wise, it was a strange year for me and I did not progress as well with some of the reading challenges that I signed up for as I would have liked. Even so, I have decided to sign up for two reading challenges in 2021, The Nonfiction Reader Challenge and one that I have been doing for so long that it feels like an old friend, The Aussie Author Reading Challenge.

The Nonfiction Reader Challenge

Hosted by Book'd Out the Nonfiction Reader Challenge is to encourage readers to make nonfiction a part of their reading experience. I have to admit, I don't read a lot of nonfiction. In fact, I can probably list all of the nonfiction books I have read in the past five years on both hands. Consequently, I am signing up in the Nonfiction Nipper category, which asks participants to read three nonfiction books from any of the twelve listed categories. I'll decide which categories as I go. 

The Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2021

Hosted by Booklover Book Reviews, The Aussie Author Reading Challenge is now in its 12th year! The objective of the challenge is to showcase the quality and diversity of Australian authors. There are four levels of participation, and readers can choose the level that best suits them. Although I didn't read as many books for this challenge as I would have liked in 2020 and I fell just short of meeting the requirements I am going to try for Emu level once again.

I look forward to joining others in both challenges and sharing my reading journey with you all. Good luck, everyone!

Happy Christmas (War is Over)


Still my favourite Christmas song ... and very relevant for 2020. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Review: Loveless by Alice Oseman

British author Alice Oseman's latest novel is a story of a young woman trying to find her identity in a world obsessed with sex and relationships. Georgia is eighteen years old. She has never been in love, and never kissed anyone. And when the opportunity for her first kiss comes along, she finds herself reacting in a totally unexpected way. Is there something wrong with her? When she moves away to start university with her two closest friends she starts questioning herself more and more. How come sex and relationships are so easy for other people, when it is so difficult for her?

Loveless is a frank look at the life of a young woman who experiences neither sexual nor romantic attraction. Written by the author of the Heartstopper series of graphic novels, there are strong themes of self-acceptance and coming out when your sexuality is one that many have never heard of. 

On the whole this was an entertaining read with some very humorous moments. My only real complaint is that with the message that friendships can be just as lasting and as important as relationships, it's a bit limiting that Georgia only makes two friends over the course of an entire year at university and both of those are with people who are more or less thrown her way--her roommate Rooney, who has problems of her own, and her slightly older and wiser 'college parent' Sunil. While these friendships are clearly an important part of the story, surely the lack of other characters, even as 'outer circle' friends undermines the message a bit? However, it's pleasing to see that, finally, someone took the time to write a book about something that is a very real and valid experience for many people. And the best part? It doesn't end with Georgia being 'cured' or finding her first love. 

Written for the right reasons, this will almost certainly please fans of the author and may be an excellent resource for teens who are asexual or think that they may be asexual.


Friday, 11 December 2020

Silver Bells


I spotted this lovely clip on YouTube recently, featuring John Denver's version of Silver Bells.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Review: Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Saleem

Told totally in verse and inspired by true events, Punching the Air is the story of a young man charged and convicted for a crime that he did not commit. Amal is a talented artist and a poet. He also had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, with skin that is the wrong colour. Circumstantial evidence, a testimony from an uptight school teacher and a lawyer who does not work as hard as he should to ensure that Amal gets a fair trial leads to him being sent to a juvenile detention facility where the odds are stacked against him again and again. It's not easy to be an artist in prison, just as it is not easy to be an independent thinker. Most of the kids in juvie are nowhere near as smart as Amal and many are far more aggressive. Racism is rife, throughout the whole prison. The programmes are mostly aimed at crushing kids into submission, rather than focusing on rehabilitation. Only a few people at the prison care, and even then, things often end badly.

This was a tough read, though an important one. The novel showcases perfectly just how prison can take an ordinary, intelligent young man and strip him of all of his dignity. It is not difficult at all to see how someone like Amal would lose hope--particularly when they are innocent of all that they were accused of. The fact that while this story is fiction, that it is inspired by true events that were personally experienced by author Yusef Saleem gives this novel an additional, chilling edge.

Highly recommended. 

Friday, 4 December 2020

Curiosity Show: How Rare Are Hen's Teeth?


An interesting fact--I did not know this one! I did, however, correctly guess the perception puzzle at the end. Can you?

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

There are some books I read because they are sent to me. Other books are recommendations. Some books I find in bookshops. And then there are books like Kitchen. A few weeks ago, I started seeing this book everywhere. First I saw someone reading a copy while I was on the bus. Then I saw someone else reading it in Victoria Square. Then I saw a third person reading it in as many days (this time at a café,) and my interest was and truly piqued. 

Kitchen, it turns out, is a collection featuring two novellas with themes of grief and the healing power of food. The first and longer novella, titled Kitchen is about Mikage, a young college student, who, following on from the death of the grandmother who had raised her, is invited to stay with one of her classmates and his mother, an eccentric transgender woman who is intent on living her life to the fullest. Midway through the story, Eriko is murdered. Both Mikage and Yuichi must learn to live without her. Fortunately, Mikage has learned about the healing power of food and sets about using her talents as a chef to help Yuichi, and in this way, returns the debt that she owes Eriko for her kindness after her grandmother passed away.

The second, shorter and arguably better story in the volume is Moonlight Shadow, a haunting tale about a young woman who is grieving for her boyfriend who died in an accident. A mysterious young woman comes to her aid in the most unexpected and haunting of ways. 

This was a short and compelling read. Although some of the nuances about life in Japan in the 1980s were lost on me, I found the human side of the story to be extremely rich and compelling. However, one mystery remains. I still have no idea how or why this book (first published in 1988 in Japan, and first translated into English in 1993,) has sparked such sudden interest in my hometown. 

Maybe Kitchen is just a good book?

Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Debut novelist Tracy Deonn takes on Arthurian legend and gives it a thoroughly contemporary twist in Legendborn. Bree Matthews is sixteen years old and has just qualified to take part in an early entry programme at college. The same day she learns this news, her mother passes away in a traffic accident ... or was it? As Bree moves through the stages of grief and starts at her new school, mysterious and magical things start to happen--both on or near campus, but more importantly, inside Bree. To get to the bottom of what is going on, she infiltrates a secret society, the Legendborn, who soon reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur's knights. And if that wasn't scary enough, it seems that Bree herself may be their biggest enemy ...

For me, Legendborn was a novel that started out big, with a wonderful, emotional hook, a strong heroine and an interesting plot. Unfortunately, my interest began to waver after about a hundred pages in, and the novel felt overlong and packed in with a bit too much information. I felt that the plot could have improved had Bree learned her mother's secret earlier in the novel and therefore she could have infiltrated the Legendborn armed with a bit more information. But maybe that's just me and that's not the story that the author intended to write--after all, there is a lot in this novel about ancestral pain. There's a bit of teen melodrama packed into the pages as well, which was fun to read about.

Legendborn reminded me a lot of The Mortal Instruments, though this novel has two pleasing--and realistic twists. The first is unlike the Shadowhunters, the characters in Legendborn are still expected to attend school, get good grades etc. The second and more important element is diversity. Bree has certainly suffered her share of discrimination, she feels rage at the many injustices that people of colour have experienced in the United States, past and present, and she experiences both conscious and unconscious prejudice from the Legendborn. And then ... well, even if I saw the big reveal at the end coming, I didn't think it was any less brilliant. 

Legendborn is a compelling read, though overlong in places.


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of Legendborn

Monday, 30 November 2020

Friday, 27 November 2020

Curiosity Show: The Odd Symmetry of a Choice Tomato


Another great clip from the Curiosity Show. As well as being an excellent resource for children, there's a bit of a brain teaser in there for adults.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Review: How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry Jones

Stella has always known that she was adopted, and she's cool with that. What she's not cool with, however, is her Dad's gambling addiction, which has forced the family to move out of their home and into Fairyland, a dilapidated old caravan park. A few days before the move, she receives a letter from her birth mother and suddenly, she finds herself wanting to know more about her biological family ...

How to Grow a Family Tree packs a huge range of topics and issues into its 327 pages. There's adoption, addiction, mental illness, rape, good old fashioned communication issues and, of course, one of Stella's oldest male friends is completely in love with her, only she can't see that. The difficulty with all of these story lines is that not one of them are fleshed out as much as they had the potential to be. I felt as though this one was trying so hard to tick all of the right boxes that it missed its potential. On the other hand, the book has some lovely themes about acceptance and not taking people at face value.

While this one may not have been the perfect read for me, I would still be keen to read some of Eliza Henry Jones' other novels in the future.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2020

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Review: Untwisted by Paul Jennings

From the moment I learned that beloved Australian author Paul Jennings had released a memoir I was in two minds. On the one hand, this, this was the author who had created Round the Twist, one of the most memorable Australian Television series of all time--and it comes complete with one very catchy theme song. (Discover the theme song here.) On the other, I had two equally solid reasons to pass. The first was that much of the publicity focused on the fact that Jennings had abusive father, and those kinds of discussions--though important--can be very difficult for me to read about. The second was that my initial introduction to Paul Jennings' books wasn't that great. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jennings was best known for releasing volumes of short stories with titles like Unreal!--books that belonged squarely in the domain of 'lets make reading cool for kids.' Which, you know, is fine except when I discovered Paul Jennings at age ten, I was already an avid reader. And I thought that his books and their covers were annoying, as though they were trying a bit too hard to make reading seem cool. That same year, I was absolutely mortified when our teacher brought in a brand new copy of Unmentionable to read to the class. Fortunately, the first story she read to us was Ice Maiden and it left me thinking that, maybe, Paul Jennings wasn't so bad after all. It was just a pity that his books had to have such stupid titles, or so I thought.

Then, about a year later, I caught a few episodes of Round the Twist. Older and wiser, something clicked. Jennings was actually a comic genius. And maybe I was the idiot for judging his books by the covers. (Gosh, maybe there is even a good story in there too.) Anyway, I read all of his books until I got too old for them, and I still joke about wunderpants to this day, but I could never quite forgive Jennings for the titles and the covers. And maybe, just maybe, that meant that I wasn't going to be the best person to read, let alone review this latest work. (And maybe I'm not. I have just spent a disproportionate amount of time describing my own experiences with his children's books and television show.)

What I got with Untwisted was a frank and amusing account of the many, many different experiences that have shaped the author and, inevitably, his work. I was absolutely fascinated to learn how the lighthouse setting for Round the Twist came about--at one time, Jennings was a single dad, living in a transportable house on a clifftop that overlooked the sea and his family life during that era influenced the script, which, quite possibly, explains why a television series were so many wonderful and unbelievable things happen, has such a realistic feel to it, and most certainly contributes to the series' success.  Initially, Round the Twist was to have a similar house, but this proved too expensive and lighthouse was chosen instead. And what makes this series all the more remarkable is that Jennings had never worked on a television script before.

But that is just one portion of his memoir.

Equally interesting are his experiences of coming from England to Australia as a boy with his parents and younger sister Ruth. His father was a thoroughly selfish man, and many of the sections that featured Arthur Jennings made my blood boil. 

Again, those are just one portion of his memoir. And had those two things make up this book alone, I would have considered it to be a thoroughly interesting and well written behind the scenes look at a beloved Australian author. That it also details his rise to success as an author, and experiences as an author and an account of a thoroughly interesting teaching career--in which Jennings' worked stints teaching students with additional needs and then did two years of teaching at a juvenile detention facility--makes it a must read. Untwisted is an open, honest and utterly readable book about an author and the many different things that influenced him. 

Highly recommended. 

This book was read for the Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2020

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Review: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

A short fable for older readers and adults, Jonathan Livingston Seagull tells the story of the titular character whose goal is to fly. To really fly, not just to do well, but to soar. The only problem is that the rest of his flock disagree. For them, flying is just a means to find food, and what Jonathan is considered strange and, eventually, suspicious. However, Jonathan believes that any seagull can do more than just fly, and even his expulsion from the flock does not deter his quest to soar. And once he has perfected that, all that is left is to teach those willing to learn, just how to soar ...

This was a short, beautifully written fable about the importance of following your dreams, the need to be true to oneself and the personal satisfaction that can be gained from doing so, and to keep doing so, despite setbacks, despite the expectations of others and despite a lack of understanding from others. Many of the pages are beautifully illustrated with photographs of seagulls, many of them mid-flight. (Or soaring, perhaps?) And while the book will, without a doubt, have a special relevance to those who are Buddhist or a strong knowledge of Buddhism, there is a lesson in the fable that can be understood and appreciated by readers from many different walks of life.

My copy includes an extra chapter that was discovered several years ago that fits in perfectly with the rest of the narrative.

Overall, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a short but inspiring read about the personal satisfaction that can be gained by doing something well and the importance of always being your true self.

Highly recommended.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Friday Funnies: No Dogs Allowed


This week, I am sharing another classic Disney clip for Friday Funnies. In this one, Mickey Mouse tries to board a train, which has a no dog's rule. I guess they've never heard of assistance dogs, and the whole thing seems kind of strange given that Mickey is a mouse and the conductor is clearly a cat. (Then again, Mickey and the conductor are anthropomorphic, and Pluto is not. Still, I wonder how Goofy would get on ...) Anyway, Mickey participates in a bout of cruelty to animals by stuffing Pluto inside a suitcase and the conductor gets rather angry about it ...

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Review: The Greatest Hit by Will Kostakis

Forming part of the recent Australia Reads promotion, The Greatest Hit is a ripping little short story about a young, first year uni student who encounters her first love, the girl that she hurt back in high school.

When Tessa was fourteen, she recorded a song on YouTube that went viral. Even now, four years later, she's still known as the girl from that video. Which would be fine except that one, it's completely embarrassing and two, what people don't know is that the song, I Love Him was originally I Love Her and was written for Charlie, a girl from her new school who she had slowly fallen in love with. Going back and forth between the past and the present, the reader experiences Tessa's heartbreak at seeing her first love again, and just how her age, and a lack of confidence led to her making a decision that broke Charlie's heart. But, maybe, now that she's older and wiser, she might just have the opportunity to make things right.

This was an enjoyable read with a couple of fun twist. It is a story of choices, mistakes made and lessons learned, and just how vital it is to be true to oneself. It didn't take me long to read--fifteen minutes or thereabouts, but I felt it was just long enough to tell the story.

The ending works perfectly, allowing the reader to decide for themselves what should happen next.


This book was read for the Aussie Author Challenge 2020

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Review: All This Time by Mikki Daughty and Rachael Lippincott

Kyle and Kimberley are the perfect teenage couple. Or so it seems. Or, at least, that it what Kyle would like to think, but at the evening of their high school graduation things start to unravel. Upset, confused and just wanting to get away from everything, Kyle jumps into his car. Kyle loses control of the vehicle ... and eight weeks later, he wakes with a brain injury and the devastating news that Kimberley is dead. As he starts the long duel processes of grieving for Kimberley and his own recovery, Kyle meets Marley, a girl who knows exactly what Kyle is going through. But nothing is quite as it seems in this twisty story of love, loss and accepting the things that cannot be change ...

This story starts off with one hell of an emotional ride. During the chapters that focus on Kyle's recovery, I felt a little confused--something about the pacing felt a little off, and so did a few other key details. However, these were soon explained by a twist halfway through the novel, that, while it fits perfectly within the narrative, I never saw coming. Suddenly, a book that had been an average read for me became something a lot more novel and interesting.

All This Time is a real rollercoaster of a read, and one that left me feeling a range of emotions. While I had my doubts about this one partway through, the twist certainly answered all of my questions and plays out surprisingly realistically. 

A story of love, loss, grief and acceptance.


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of All This Time. 

Friday, 13 November 2020

Curiosity Show: Word Puzzle


This week, another fun clip from the Curiosity Show. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

I have probably mentioned Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on this blog a time or two before, and if so, I would have relayed an anecdote from my high school years about a teacher who often had a copy of this book with him. (That said, however, memory is often unreliable. I may have only seen him once or twice with the book but it was enough to make an impression on me.) Anyway, the teacher's name was Mr Carlsson. He was a very well liked and well-respected teacher at our school, and on a more personal note, he helped me get my first article published when I was just seventeen years old and in my final year of high school. I was sad to hear that Mr Carlsson had passed away recently, and I found myself, once again, driven to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. (I had first read this book in 2013, when I was going through a slightly belated quarter life crisis. By then, the book had taken on a strange, almost symbolic and deeply personal quality, a reminder that there had been some good things, and some good teachers, in a school where I had been so desperately unhappy.)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not an easy book to review. That is because it is about exactly what it states in the title. It is also about a lot more than that. Then again, maybe it isn't.

The book can be divided into three different things. First, is a fictionalised account of the author and the month-long motorcycle trip that he takes across the United States with his eleven year old son Chris sometime in the mid to late 1960s. Second, it is a story of a man who is relentlessly pursued by the ghost of his former self, this former self the author refers to as Phaedrus, and the narration may or may not be reliable. Third, it is a philosophical meditation on Quality. And the whole thing is linked in with Zen Buddhist Practice and motorcycles, though the author notes at the front that it is not terribly factual on either.

In any case, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is one of those books where what the reader gets out of reading it depends on how much they put in, and how open they are to the concepts and discussions raised by Pirsig. For me, it was a book that I loved in places and found myself nodding my head in agreement in certain sections (such as where Pirsig notes that when people devote themselves fanatically to religion or politics, it usually means that they have doubts,) keen to learn more about Greek philosophers in others, worrying about the level of overthinking that was going on in Phaedrus' head, angry about the treatment of mental health in the 1960s, interested in the journey across the United States, and occasionally confused and having to put the book down to think about something, or to look something else up, and then doubting myself as to whether I truly understood what had been written or if I could communicate it in my review. (Probably not.)

Overall, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a book that challenged me, and one that I had very different feelings about as I read it the second time around, though I'm still not sure that I truly got parts of, or even all of, this one. It is a book that can only be read, and appreciated, at the right time for the reader. And on that note, it is not at all difficult to why it was so loved when it was released in 1974, an era when the world was going through such huge social change.