Showing posts from October, 2013

Famous Five Annual 2014

I have to admit, a very childlike part of me became very, very excited (in a clean way, folks, don't get ideas,) when I was inside my local Big W and saw that they had Famous Five Annuals for sale. It's been many, many years since I bought at annual of any kind, and I don't think Famous Five ones were actually around during the course of my childhood, but I was always a bit of a fan of the series (in fact, the first full length novel I ever read alone was Five on a Treasure Island, ) and annuals generally, so I couldn't resist snapping this one up. It looks as though this one has been produced to cash in on, sorry, celebrate, the recent seventieth anniversary of the series. Fortunately, the annual reads less like a kids book and more like a holy grail for nostalgic, childless adults (i.e. me). There are short stories, comics, a history of the Famous Five (and yes they do pay homage to Five Go Mad in Dorset , the Famous Five spoof produced by the Comic Strip, th

Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Heist Society is yet another of those books. You know the kind. It was bought at a secondhand store, taken home and placed on my to-read pile where it stayed and stayed and stayed, until one day, I picked it up and the entire novel was read in a couple of hours. Damn. I really need to stop doing that. Heist Society was a fun page-turning read, detailing a few weeks in the life of a young art thief and her family and friends as they endeavoured to find and steal some artwork in order to clear her father's name. The writing is was upbeat and humorous, though in my opinion, many characters from the large supporting cast seemed quite undeveloped.  The novel comes across as quite young for a YA novel (read: no sex, no swearing, no violence,) and offers little to challenge readers. Still the art references are interesting and the heist itself is quite entertaining. 

Friday Funnies: Hi I'm Daria. Go to hell

Review: Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones is back! She's 51 years old, a widow and well ... Bridget Jones. In other words, we've got a total rehashing of basically the same jokes that were repeated over and over again in the first two novels. Bridget is a good person, though she has ideas a little above her station and can be somewhat hapless in her attempts to navigate through her day-to-day life. What Bridget wants is the perfect British upper middle class existence. What she gets is reminder after reminder that it is more important to find personal happiness and to learn through her mistakes. And you know, the book has some truly awesome moments. (Bridget being stuck up a tree and accidentally flashing her g-string at her son's teacher, for example. Oh, and did I mention farting?) But on the whole, the book is just more of the same material that we saw in the first two novels, just tweaked a little to suit the 21st century. (The first two novels being set in 1996 and 1997, respectively.) I

An Evening With Tim Winton ...

Last Sunday evening, I was lucky enough to attend An Evening With Tim Winton at Elder Hall, a sell-out event that is part of an Australia-wide tour to launch Winton's new novel, Eyrie . Despite being a fan of Winton's novels for more than ten years (closer to twenty, if The Bugalugs Bum Thief and Lochie Leonard  count,) I have never heard the author speak. So when I got the chance to attend this event, I decided to take it. I wasn't disappointed. As Winton read pages from Eyrie  to a captivated audience (always, the most wonderful part of a book launch is hearing an author read from their own book,) I was struck by how down-to-earth he is. Happily, he skipped over parts that he considered boring, gave a language warning after dropping the f-bomb and, perhaps the most important message that he delivered during the course of the evening was that fiction and novelists cannot enable change. (Read more here .) Overall, an enjoyable evening. For those of you who live in

1990s Nostalgia: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

The year was 1995. I was in my second week of high school. And Go Ask Alice was one of those books. You know, the things that had bad stuff in them like drinking and drugs that well-meaning adults thought that thirteen-year-olds shouldn't be reading. And it was all based on a true story, taken straight from a young girl's diaries. So, naturally, I just had to pull it down from the shelves at my high school library and read it. The first half of the novel gave me what my mother often describes as the awes and shits. It's basically where you look at something and go, "Oooh ... shit!" And then common sense kicked in. How could all that stuff really happen to one girl? How could she take drugs, make a full recovery start taking drugs again, run a successful business and get repeatedly raped without suffering any kind of side effects. And how cruel were her classmates and how convenient was her eventual death. And why the hell would her parents want her diary

Morrissey Autobiography: A Penguin Classic?

Two biographies were released in Australia this week . The first is a meticulously researched bio of a deep thinking and creative man who is respected by many. The second is autobiography of an ego-driven rock star. I'm planning to read Brian Jay Jones' biography on Jim Henson for pleasure and Muppets nostalgia. I wouldn't normally give a shit about Morrissey's biography but for the fact that it has been so controversial. So what is the controversy? Morrissey, it seems, believes that his autobiography is so interesting and will have such a great cultural impact that it deserves to be published under the Penguin Classics imprint. And Penguin, it seems, have been willing to play ball. Basically, they've tampered with a much-loved and well respected imprint to satisfy the whims of an ageing, albeit intelligent and well-respected rock star. Why? To be honest, as a consumer I am divided on the issue. I get that rock and roll is all about pushing cultural

Review: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins definitely did not tell the story that I was expecting it to when I found the Penguin Paperback sitting on the shelves at Dymocks. This heavily detailed and enticing novel opens in the early 1960s with a young Italian man who is trying to turn his family-owned business into a thriving hotel. A young actress who is dying of stomach cancer quite literally appears in the ocean one day, setting off a chain of events that will span continents and the course of the next forty years. And then we meet some eccentric characters, the narrative goes back and forth between Italy in the 1960s and modern day America and every character in the book seems to be another character in another persons film, book or life story. It is a complex tale that took the author fifteen years to write (or as he puts it in the interview at the back, it took him two to three years of actual writing with lots of breaks in between). This one is too eccentric to be a favourite and too well written fo

Friday Funnies: The Stupidity of Your Actions


1990s Nostalgia: Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden

I don't even remember how old I was when I read this one. It probably happened sometime during my first two years of high school. In any case, some of the themes were a little too complex for me to truly understand until I got a bit older and reread my copy. The basic plot and what I understood was this: -- Liza and Annie are friends from very different backgrounds who slowly, and without realising or understanding what is going on, fall in love. -- Their relationship is discovered and looked down upon by various members of the community, but Liza's parents, in particular her father, choose to accept the relationship. -- The pressure gets too much, the pair split up and now in her first year of college, Liza begins to realise how important Annie is. Hence why Annie is on her mind. As a young reader, I understood that the pair were in love, but did not quite understand the complexities that lie beneath. I thought it was sad that the pair had split up and failed t

Erotica, Romance and Erotic Literature ...

The difference between romance, erotica and erotic literature is something that has been bugging me for a while now. Most of the time, the lines are blurred and thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey the whole bloody lot--the good, the bad and the downright ugly (many might argue Fifty Shades is the downright ugly,) are lumped together on the same shelves at the bookstore, regardless of the content or quality of such. For the first time in my life, I'm seeing Anne Rice and Anais Nin on the same shelves as Abbi Glines and I'm wondering what the difference is. And so, I've decided to choose one book from each and see if I can work out for myself what the difference is ... Romance - The Marriage Mistake by Jennifer Probst The Marriage Mistake is probably one of the gentler romances to hit the supermarket/department store shelves in the wake of the Fifty-Shades era. The plot plays out much like an extended Mills & Boon romance. The characters are all wealthy--the heroi

1980s Nostalgia: The Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

I still remember the first time I read this short novella for younger readers. I was eight years old, almost nine, and our school librarian, Mrs Peterson (who has subsequently gone on to have quite a successful beading supplies store but that is another story,) chose it as a book to read out loud to my grade three class. This was the second Roald Dahl book I had ever read (the first being a picture book titled The Enormous Crocodile ,) and in the months to come I would feel sad when I heard of the authors death. In the years following, I would read many of his other books for children including my personal favourites, Matilda and T he BFG and his volumes of short stories for adults.  The Fantastic Mr Fox  contains many of the elements that make Roald Dahl's books a hit. The story is darkly comical and has the usual underdogs (or in this case, underfoxes,) versus the gross and selfish farmers. Mr Fox is a clever and witty man who wants only enough food to feed his wife and

Friday Funnies: Wild Turkey Surprise

This week for Friday Funnies I bring to you a classic Looney Tunes clips. It's short, it's funny, there's an awful impersonation of an Italian stereotype and one wild turkey surprise ...

Review: The Hive by Gill Hornby

Overlong, crowded with characters and densely packed with information are the first few thoughts that spring to mind in regard to Gill Hornby's debut novel. It was written for the right reasons--chronicling the lives of the mothers of the children who attend St Ambrose Primary and their complicated social hierarchy and including some very interesting analogies about bee keeping--but the telling is just so bloody boring that I struggled with this one. I get that parts of the novel were supposed to be funny, however I had trouble "getting" some of the jokes. This book isn't terrible, but it really wasn't for me. The Hive is a sincere effort and no doubt was intended as an interesting look at female friendships and might be better suited to those who have primary school aged children and enjoy being part of a clique. (Or perhaps, who had being part of a clique and want a good reason not to go near one ...)

And Now For a Look at the Literary Charts ...

Reasons a man would buy an engagement ring for a you: Source: Greg Behrendt author of He's Just Not That Into You  and 99 Random Men who we approached at various jewellery stores around town.

Review: Love Letters by Anne Cassidy

I purchased this one for fifty cents from the bargain bin at my local secondhand bookstore, took it home and let it sit on my to-read pile for a very long time. Pity. Love Letters may be a easy-to-read teen drama but it also offers some very clever and incredible insight into the fragilities of the human mind. The novel opens with seventeen-year-old Vicky. Vicky is a nice girl, is academically bright though a bit innocent for her age and has never had a boyfriend. Imagine her surprise, not to mention, delight, when she receives a neat blue envelope containing a short love letter from a secret admirer. She and her best friend Jen start to speculate on who the admirer may be. Vicky hopes that it isn't Ricky, a boy from her class, but instead Chris, Jen's older brother who she has admired from afar for some time. And then the notes continue, slowly getting more and more familiar. Vicky receives them addressed to her at home, at her college and at her job at a local superm

Friday Funnies: Tapioca Pudding

This weeks selection for Friday Funnies comes yet again from Schultz brilliant Peanuts Comic Strip. One of the least memorable characters with the most memorable name (and when you consider some of the unusual names that were featured in the last twenty-five years of the strip i.e. Truffles, Peppermint Patty and Molly Volley, that is no easy feat,) is Tapioca Pudding. Tapioca Pudding made her Peanuts debut in 1986 and was a student in the same class as Charlie Brown and Linus Van Pelt. She appeared to be quite taken with her blonde hair and her father's job which was in licensing [ sic ] and hoped to one day have a range of lunch boxes and t-shirts with her picture on it. Just as Schulz often used his comic as a vehicle to discuss everything from unrequited love to wishing his daughter Amy happy birthday , the point of Tapioca Pudding's existence seems to be for Schulz to laugh at, and point out the ridiculousness of licenced merchandise. During the 1980s, it

Off Topic: Good Manners Vs Flirtation

Saw the above meme doing the rounds on facebook this week, I have to agree. There is nothing more embarrassing than having good manners mistaken for flirtation. It's a subject that I've touched upon on this blog a couple of times before, but in my own life it seems that this one is an issue that isn't going to go away any time soon. I try to be a good person. I try to be polite. I try to listen to the other person's point of view, even if I don't agree with it. But  that doesn't mean that I am trying to flirt with you.   And, honestly, most of the people I encounter on a regular or semi-regular basis know this. Mostly, the people I know who mistake friendliness for flirtation do so because it gives them a bit of an ego boost, respond politely and take it in their stride. So is there any cure for this affliction? Hmm, probably not, unless manners suddenly become fashionable, or if people who use manners in order to get something in return stop doing