29 June, 2015

The Protected

From Goodreads: I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.
Hannah's world is in pieces and she doesn't need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn't have problems?
Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn't afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?
In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl's struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.
 

Thoughts: This is the sixth and the last of the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) shortlisted Older Readers books. 
Another wow. This book had me sobbing. I felt so much for Hannah, for everything that happened before Katie died and everything that followed. She is a girl in a world of pain with no anchor and nothing to cling to. Completely heartbreaking.
Claire Zorn captures the total isolation of someone who is bullied mercilessly. She shows the nastiness of it and the feeling of helplessness experienced by the victim. She then takes it a step further and shows what happens when a tragic event occurs and no one knows how to react. For Hannah the death of her sister meant the bullying stopped, but it also meant the destruction of the family she knew. Nothing is right any more and Hannah can count on no one any more.
What I loved about this is there was no magical transformation. Change came slowly and was difficult. Neither of Hannah's parents had a sudden epiphany about their daughter and became completely present in her life again. The old friend didn't become the saviour and Hannah didn't transform into a beautiful swan after being the ugly duckling. However, by the end of the book things were a little better, a little easier and you could see the light at the end of the tunnel. You were left with the feeling that the events in the book would forever leave a mark on the characters, that this was a life changing time for them and they would never be the same. And that's ok, in fact that is important.
Zorn is an author to watch. I think she will go far in the YA genre.

The Protected gets 4 stars.

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing 

Review: A Man Called Ove

From GoodreadsIn this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.
Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him "the bitter neighbor from hell." But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time.
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.
A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fryand Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Fredrik Backman's novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.
 


Thoughts: I decided to get this on the advice of a good friend.  She had said it was a great book and by the end had her sobbing. I love a good cry, so when looking for a new audio, I downloaded this.
Ove (pronounced Oover, to rhyme with hoover or mover) really appears to be a sad, bitter old man. As far as he is concerned, the only correct way to do things is his way and truly can't understand why everyone cannot see it like him.
I will admit, to start with, it's hard to like Ove. I've lived in housing complexes with people similar to him and they are very difficult to deal with at times. Lord forbid you park your car in the wrong place, or leave a bike where it shouldn't be left - there are no reasons or excuses to placate them. However, as the author starts to expose us to the back story of Ove, we start to see why he is like the way he is. While I won't say I ever really warmed to him, I did have a certain admiration and a bit of a soft spot for him in the end. And there were times I thought he was quite justified in being annoyed with people. In particular, I found Pavarna quite pushy and at times rude. I mean who tells a new neighbour, who you have only known a week or so that they have to drive you and your children to the hospital. Ask, yes; tell, no.
A Man Called Ove is a book about love, loss, rules and community. It's about the importance of letting go and learning to bend a little. It's a truly beautiful book and well worth your time.

A Man Called Ove gets 4 stars

*        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing 

28 June, 2015

Book Review: The Minnow

From GoodreadsTom survived a devastating flood that claimed the lives of her sister and parents. Now she lives with Bill in his old shed by the lake. But it’s time to move out—Tom is pregnant with Bill’s baby.
Jonah lets her move in with him. Mrs Peck gives her the Fishmaster Super Series tackle box. Nana is full of gentle good advice and useful sayings.
And in her longing for what is lost, Tom talks to fish: Oscar the carp in the pet shop, little Sarah catfish who might be her sister, an unhelpful turtle in a tank at the maternity ward. And the minnow.
The Minnow is a moving and powerful coming of age story with a whimsical element that belies the heartbreaking truth of grief and loss. Tom is a character you will never forget.


Thoughts: This is the fifth of the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) shortlisted Older Readers books. Wow. I loved this. I don't think I have ever read a YA book like this before.  I think I've read a few that tried to be like this and totally missed the mark, but this hit it full on.
Tom is a 14 year old girl in very difficult circumstances. She lives in a small community devastated by a flood that killed many, including Tom's parents and sister. Tom has been living with Bill, but moves in with her friend Jonah when she finds herself pregnant by Bill, who is much older and obviously involved in something shady.
The author's use of short sentences was very effective. To me it gave a feeling of Tom being slightly disconnected from everything around her. Finding herself pregnant should have been traumatic, but Tom just accepts it as part of her lot. She seems to move through the world slightly apart from it all. She has wonderful conversations with her dead grandfather, various animals and the minnow - the child growing inside her. Her ease with this makes you feel like the veil between the real world and the netherworld is very thin for Tom. In fact her ease with it may mean it takes you awhile to work out who is living and who isn't since it's all the same to Tom.  This shows you this is nothing extraordinary, that it's just the way Tom is and that's OK.
I was slightly uncomfortable with the fact it appeared to be perfectly OK and acceptable by this small community for Tom to live with Bill and then for Tom and Jonah to live together despite their young age. No social workers turned up to assess a girl who had lost her whole family, was pregnant in suspect circumstances and wasn't attending school. But then it occurred to me there was no date given. Apart from the fact they drive cars and have TV, there is no indication as to when the story is set. It's quite probable in earlier years there would have been little or no intervention.
I can see The Minnow being a very polarising book - you will either love or hate it. For me it's uniqueness alone is enough. It's definitely a book for the older end of older readers with many of the concepts and ideas simply being beyond younger readers. 

The Minnow gets 5 stars.

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing 

25 June, 2015

Book Review: Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain

From GoodreadsA new, laugh-out-loud novel from award-winning author Steven Herrick.
Some things are too big for a boy to solve.
Jesse is an eleven-year-old boy tackling many problems in life, especially fitting in to a new school.
Luckily he meets Kate. She has curly black hair, braces and an infectious smile. She wants to Save the Whales, and needs Jesse’s help.
Both haven’t counted on Hunter, the school bully, who is an endless font of meaningless names. 
With Hunter’s catchphrase 'Ha!' echoing through their peaceful school, someone has to give.
But will it be Jesse? Kate? Or is there more to Hunter than everyone thinks?
An inspiring and funny story about the small gestures that help to make the world a better place.

Most Steven Herrick stuff I have read previously has been books in verse and I've really liked them. This however fell short of the mark for me. Jesse and Hunter are both great characters, although I felt Hunter's story was the stronger of the two and I engaged with him a lot more than Jesse, but quite a few things just did not gel for me in this book.
The alternative school just didn't work for me. For a place that promoted calling teachers by their first name, giving children a say and supporting a meat free diet, I couldn't understand why the teacher stopped Kate's talk about how the Japanese eat whales. There were a few other incidents where things occurred that just didn't seem to fit with the school's philosophy.
The highlight of the book was Hunter. So nice to see a child portrayed as complex and not just the bully or the bullied. Hunter at school is a different kid to Hunter outside of school and while you start out not liking this little bully, it doesn't take long before you see a completely different side of him. He's a lot older than his years and a lot smarter than people think.
Bleakboy and Hunter isn't a bad book, it's just not as good as I thought or wanted it to be.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand  Out in the Rain gets 2 stars

Withering-by-Sea gets 4 stars!

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing 

23 June, 2015

Book Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

From GoodreadsAlba loves her life just as it is. She loves living behind the bakery, and waking up in a cloud of sugar and cinnamon. She loves drawing comics and watching bad TV with her friends.
The only problem is she’s overlooked a few teeny details:
Like, the guy she thought long gone has unexpectedly reappeared.
And the boy who has been her best friend since forever has suddenly gone off the rails. 
And even her latest comic-book creation is misbehaving.
Also, the world might be ending – which is proving to be awkward.
As Doomsday enthusiasts flock to idyllic Eden Valley, Alba’s life is thrown into chaos. Whatever happens next, it’s the end of the world as she knows it. But when it comes to figuring out her heart, Armageddon might turn out to be the least of her problems.

Thoughts: This is the fourth of the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) shortlisted Older Readers books. I will admit this is the title and cover and I was most dubious about - truthfully it's not something I would have naturally gravitated to. I would have missed out. This is a true gem. What's more, a quick scan of it's reviews on Goodreads and it seems to be connecting with it's audience as well. Keil has avoided so many of the young adult cliches - no love triangle, a female protagonist who has curves and an positive body image and a supporting cast that are believable and great characters in their own right. Alba and her friends are having their last summer before they scatter or stay. Everyone seems to be fairly certain what they want to do, where they want to go. Alba thought she knew, but now she's not so sure.  I'm sure it's a feeling many young people have when they finish school - what now? Is what I want to do really what I want to do or just what everyone thinks I should do?
Alba is an incredible character. She is sassy, smart, talented and sure of herself. She is a fantastic teenage female character and there should be more of them. Cinnamon Girl does sneak up on you. The book just grows in strength with each chapter until by the end you are blown away with how natural it all feels. The characters have become your friends and you want to find them and ask how they are doing. Fabulous book and my front runner to take out the top prize.

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl gets 4 stars!

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing 

22 June, 2015

Book Review: Soon

From Goodreads: After the Nazis took my parents I was scared. After they killed my best friend I was angry. After I joined the partisans and helped defeat the Nazis I was hopeful. Soon, I said, we'll be safe. I was wrong.
Soon continues the incredibly moving story of Felix, a Jewish boy still struggling to survive in the wake of the liberation of Poland after the end of World War Two.

Thoughts:  There was Once, followed by Then and Now. A little bit after that, there was After and now there is Soon. Gleitzman doesn't call this a series of books, he calls it a family of books. The order I have listed them in is the order they were published in. Chronological order puts Now at the end. Read them in published or chronological, you're in for an experience either way.
The war is over, so everyone should be safe, you should be able to go back to building a normal life. The story is over, right? Everything will be a-ok. Nice theory, reality however, is very different.
Felix, who has survived so much still has a ways to go. Gleitzman has continued where so many have stopped. He has shone a light on them continuing persecution of  those already so badly damaged by the Nazi's. Soon see's Felix and Gabriek surviving by repairing things people need.  They trade their skills for food, supplies and money. Felix still dreams of being a doctor and does what he can to help. They try to keep things simple, but sometimes things just get complicated.
There are several things I love about this family of books. Despite the subject matter they are full of hope. Felix never seems to lose that drive to do good, to see people in the best light possible, to try and understand their motivations. What's even better is he continues to find others who share this hope, who are willing to help, although often with a little more caution than Felix. At the same time Gleitzman doesn't hide the brutality of the time. People die, people do mean and nasty things and life is really, really hard. 
My 13 year old has read this whole series - devoured them. It's been a great jumping off point for some fantastic discussions, good history and social justice lessons. This is a series well worth reading.

Soon gets 3 stars

*        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing G

21 June, 2015

Book Review:Preludes and Nocturnes - Sandman Volume 1

From GoodreadsNew York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman's transcendent series SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.
In PRELUDES & NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman.
This book also includes the story "The Sound of Her Wings," which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.

Thoughts: I have a love/hate relationship with graphic novels - I either love them or hate them. Maus was brilliant, The Exile terrible. Whenever you look at lists of graphic novels to read, Neil Gaiman's Sandman rates within the top 3, often as number1. Gaiman has been a relatively new discovery for me, no more than 12 months. I'm still reading him thinking "Dude, where have you been all my life!"
My first indication that Sandman was good - it took me more than a day to read. There was a real, intriguing story to follow. There were characters I cared about, characters I really didn't like and being able to raise that kind of feeling in only a few words - your words have to be good. The second indication it was good is the fact I put volumes 2 & 3 on hold at the library before I finished one. Third indication, I put other things aside to read it.
For me, the pictures in a graphic novel are secondary. If the storyline isn't good, it doesn't matter how good the pictures are. The words still tell the story and without them everything is lost. Gaiman tells a good story. He leads you through the story, literally leading you to hell and back. And his version of Death - not a s funny as Pratchett's but every bit as inspired. If you want to explore graphic novels, enjoy the fantasy/ horror genre there would be worse places to start. Gaiman is a true story telling genius regardless of format.

Preludes and Nocturnes gets 4 stars

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing 

18 June, 2015

Book Review: Salvation Creek

From GoodreadsAt 44 Susan Duncan appeared to have it all. Editor of two top-selling women's magazines, a happy marriage, a jetsetting lifestyle covering stories from New York to Greenland, the world was her oyster. But when her beloved husband and brother die within three days of each other, her glittering life shatters. In shock, she zips on her work face, climbs back into her high heels and soldiers on - until one morning eighteen months later, when she simply can't get out of bed. Heartbreaking, funny and searingly honest, Salvation Creek is the story of a woman who found the courage not only to begin again but to beat the odds in her own battle for survival and find a new life - and love - in a tiny waterside idyll cut off from the outside world.

Thoughts: This is the second time I've read Salvation Creek and it was so worth the re read. It's my book group book this month. Where I live is a small community and ferry access only. Salvation Creek I think will be a great book for book group as so much of it reflects our lives. 
For a book that has it's fair share of tragedy, it's incredibly uplifting. I found Duncan to be brutally honest about herself, but not apologetic. Very much a this is me, take me as I am or bugger off approach. At no point does she ask for your pity, or even your understanding. She just presented it the way she saw it, felt it, lived it and left it to you to make your judgement. 
Duncan seemed to understand the ways of an offshore community very quickly. There's a special feeling to boat access communities. We're almost a little bit smug that we have this amazing way of life and don't get that not everyone wants to live this way. Duncan's love of entertaining would have helped. Her willingness to offer a tea, a beer, a wine, a feed.
Mostly this book illustrates how having what society views as successful life - which Duncan did - can leave you feeling empty and confused. Duncan tried several times to return to part of that life, but found that not possible. The challenge for all of us is to find that balance that allows us to earn money to live, but live a life that nurtures your soul and your relationships. It also shows that it is never too late to find that place where you feel that balance, but the road (or ferry crossing!) may be bumpy, you may take many wrong turns, but if you keep going, it's there.

Salvation Creek gets 4 stars

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing 

Book Review: The Cuckoo's Calling

From GoodreadsA brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide. After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his long time girlfriend and is living in his office. 
Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.
 

Thoughts: So this review will be in two parts. Part one will be the actual review. Part two will be some commentary on authors using pseudonyms.
This is easily the best detective novel I've read in a long time. Good quality writing, great storyline and a detective who, while having a few issues, is not your stereotypical wreck of a man, battling his demons, recovering or existing alcoholic. Cormoran Strike has faults, he knows what they are and he is dealing with them. Check your pity (self or otherwise) at the door and just get on with what you're paid to do.
Strike made this book for me. He felt like someone I could respect and who I would hire to do a job for me. He approaches the investigation logically, no gun ho, let's take a chance and see if it works out manoeuvres. Each step is carefully thought out and followed through. As a result, you can believe the tale that is told. You get a good, clear picture of each character and what they are like. As a reader you trust Strike and his analysis or portrayal of the other players in the story. At the same time Galbraith (or Rowling if you prefer) keeps the story moving at a respectable pace. It doesn't drag, but every discovery is believable and doesn't ask you to stretch your suspension of disbelief to breaking point. Excellent book and if you are a fan of this genre, highly recommend you check it out.

As for the pseudonym thing...I hate them. I know there are various reasons for authors wanting to use pseudonyms, but for the most part I feel they are bullshit, especially when a well known author releases a new book under a different name and when it doesn't do as well as they want, lets it slip who really wrote it. If what you are after is book sales, then just use your name. If you want to see if your books will still be critically acclaimed regardless of the name on  the cover, then I would suggest you don't actually know how the book world works as well as you should. According to Wikipedia, over 300,000 books were released in the USA in 2013. Now I don't know if that was US titles only, or includes titles from other countries, but it's a hell of a lot. Very few of those would have made best sellers lists. The NY 2013 Best Sellers list on Goodreads list 150. That's less than 1% of all titles - easy to miss yours, even if it is a brilliant book.
Part of my dislike comes from my job. When many of these books are rereleased with the well known authors name on it, they end up looking like this:

At first glance, you assume it's been released by Jayne Ann Krentz, but it's actually Amanda Quick who is the official author. Book should be shelved as Quick, frequently found in with Krentz. It's in the catalogue as Quick, so if it's mis-shelved as Krentz, it's kind of hard to locate, unless you know it's a pseudonym. But what about the spine label hear you say, surely you just refer to the spine label. Except many of the bigger library services no longer use spine labels on their fiction books. No need, everyone knows fiction books are organised alphabetically by author. Whether you agree with this is not, it's a reality, so no spine label. So it's easy to mix up who the author is, especially when the pseudonym is printed smaller than the better known author. 
I'm slightly more forgiving of people like Rowling's who at this point anyway, has felt no need to splash her actual name across the Galbraith covers, but I still don't get the motivation for a pseudonym. I I love Rowling's writing - Harry Potter, Casual Vacancy and now this. One of the things I love the most is her versatility, the fact that each of these books are different from each other but still so good. If the concern is people won't read it because of the name, more fool them. You're still more likely to reach more people with the Rowling name than the unknown Galbraith. In the end I think a pseudonym proves nothing but your own insecurity as a writer.
It's not a big thing,  but it is something that irks me. I don't get the pseudonym thing, just don't.

In the end, I loved the The Cuckoo's Calling. I will be reading the second book, I just hope Rowling isn't struck by a sudden need to have her real name take centre stage on the cover. What's your thoughts on the pseudonym?

The Cuckoo's Calling gets 4 stars

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing 

17 June, 2015

Book Review: Full Throttle

From GoodreadsEasing into the turns…
As one of only two girls on the tween racing circuit, Shawn Hamby has always run with a fast crowd. But now at thirty-two, she doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. And she definitely doesn’t need a man bossing her around off of the track…
Putting the pedal to the metal…
But after a silly girls’ night at a fetish club, Shawn can’t get Rhett Ford out of her mind. He’s younger than her, and he’s her best friend’s brother-in-law, which should be red flags. Rhett is looking for someone to lead in bed, but he can’t imagine that Shawn would ever submit to him. Boldly surrendering is more her style. And with Rhett behind the wheel, it’s going to be one wild ride…


Thoughts: Came across this at work one day, flipped it open, had a quick read and decided to give it go. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much. I've done this a couple of times with this romance genre and often struggle to get past the first few pages. But every now and then I want something a little, ahem, sexy, so try again. This wasn't too bad. It's no literary masterpiece, but it gave me what I was after without making me want to throw the book across the room. A word of warning though, if you don't like full on, fairly graphic sex scenes - this is not for you. The plot is thin, but forgiveable (as I said, I wasn't expecting to even get past the first few pages.) It's big tick of approval for me though was the way the relationship developed out of the bedroom. Unlike the 50 Shades series where I view the relationship as abusive and dangerous, largely because of Grey's control in all areas of Ana's life, Rhett's control of Shawn in this was purely inside the bedroom, with her full consent and understanding. Rhett makes is abundantly clear what he is after, gives her ample opportunity to back out and treats her completely differently outside of the bedroom. Shawn herself is a strong woman and not willing to relinquish control of her life no matter how much she likes the man. All in all a much healthier portrayal of a relationship than Grey or Twilight for that matter could ever hope to imagine.
In the end it's nice to know that when I am in the mood for this type of book there is a series I am now willing to check out.

Full Throttle gets 3 stars!

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing 

16 June, 2015

Book Review: The Weight of Water

From GoodreadsArmed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother's heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat."The Weight of Water" is a startlingly original piece of fiction; most simply a brilliant coming of age story, it also tackles the alienation experienced by many young immigrants. Moving, unsentimental and utterly page-turning, we meet and share the experiences of a remarkable girl who shows us how quiet courage prevails. 

Thoughts: Working in a library is dangerous, I tell you! The amount of books I almost pick up every day at work is ridiculous. Then occasionally you give in and check the book out. Sometimes you are disappointed, but sometimes you discover something quite lovely - like this.
The Weight of Water is a novel told in verse. I love a good verse novel, to be able to tell a story with minimum words, to give it the emotional punch of a full novel is a skill I'd love to have. Kasienka's poems portray all the hurt and confusion she is feeling. The uncertainty on how to fit it, the uncertainty over whether she wants to fit in or even if anything she did would make a difference. I felt her loneliness leach off the page. Struggling with her differences at school and a mother who doesn't understand and is caught up in her own dramas.
There is great value in books like this. I feel it something that should be read and explored more widely, that children who have never had to move schools, let alone countries need to read books like this and hopefully view those new to their patch differently - not a threat or strange, but as another kid who really just wants to find their place in the world. The Weight of Water is a true gem.

The Weight of Water gets 4 stars!

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing 

15 June, 2015

Book Review: George's Marvellous Medicine

From GoodreadsA taste of her own medicine.
George is alone in the house with Grandma. The most horrid, grizzly old grunion of a grandma ever. She needs something stronger than her usual medicine to cure her grouchiness. A special grandma medicine, a remedy for everything. And George knows just what to put into it. Grandma's in for the surprise of her life—and so is George, when he sees the results of his mixture!

Thoughts: My house is busy. Really busy. In amongst all the time I've been spending with my 13 year old and his transition to high school and his sporting commitments, I found myself feeling guilty over the lack of time my 9 year old was getting. So I made a commitment - we would read together. It's something we both love and guarantees her a minimum of 15 minutes of my time devoted solely to each day. We've decided to work our way through Roald Dahl and this is what we started with.
I've never read George's Marvellous Medicine, but it's Roald Dahl, how wrong can you go? Not very I'm pleased to say. A typically deliciously wicked Dahl story. George works hard to concoct a nasty medicine to give grouchy, nasty granny a taste of her own medicine! The side effects are extraordinary and George has to try and recreate it with varying degrees of success.
Here's why I think kids (and let's face it, a fair few adults!)love Roald Dahl - he is completely and utterly inappropriate! Who else gets away with writing a story about what is really an attempt to poison your grandmother? Who else could get away with their characters calling each other nasty names or celebrating the demise of their mother-in-law without them being portrayed as horrible people. Kids love it because it is stuff they never could, never would do in their own lives. It's almost a guilty pleasure to read them.
I knew when I went looking on Goodreads I would find someone whose review was less than flattering, who does not see Mr Dahl and his wickedness in quite the same light as I do, and I did. For them and their children I feel sorry - everyone deserves a bit of naughty in their lives and Mr Dahl does it brilliantly!

Georges Marvellous Medicine gets 4 stars!

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing 

Podcast review: Serial

So this is obviously not a book review. Instead it's a review of a podcast called Serial. Serial comes from the creators of This American Life, an American weekly broadcast which has won numerous awards and is frequently the most downloaded podcast in the country.

What is Serial? It's "a podcast...hosted by Sarah Koenig. [It] tells one story - a true story - over the course of an entire season. Each season, we'll follow a plot and characters wherever they take take us. And we won't know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us."

The first season of Serial, which was broadcast in 2014, followed a murder case from 1999. Hae Min Lee disappears after school one day. Six weeks later her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed is arrested for the murder. He says he's innocent, but is eventually convicted. He maintains his innocence to this day.

When I first got into Serial on the recommendation of a couple of friends, I missed one really important piece of information - the fact that it's true. Not just based on a true story, but actually true. Sarah Koenig spent a year investigating this story, tracking down leads, talking to people, trying to work out what really happened. How I missed that piece of information, I don't know, but it's added a whole new dimension to show. I'm even more blown away now than I was before.

Each episode of Serial concentrated on a particular aspect of the case, whether it be alibis that were offered, motive, the case against Adnan, the short fallings of his defense and the star witness for the prosecution. And it's riveting stuff, even when I didn't know it was for real I was on the edge of my seat, listening intently for that one bit of vital information which would tell me one way or another who was telling the truth here. Koenig narrates her journey, pointing out problems with the case, offering theories and then backing it up with audio of interviews she did with people related to the case, police interviews, court room audio and phone conversations with Adnan.  The website also offers links to documents such as letters, maps and timelines. As you can imagine with anything like this, other bits and pieces have sprung up online with people discussing the case and even trying their hand at a bit of detective work. Reddit has a whole Serial subreddit where you can get lost for hours!

If you enjoy true crime with a real personal element, if you find trying to unravel mysteries fascinating and appreciate a story told really well, download Serial from here. Rejoice in the fact the season has finished and you can binge listen to the whole thing. I'm fairly sure I would have gone crazy waiting for each weekly episode to be released.

It has been confirmed there will be another two seasons of Serial - one to be release in the American Fall of 2015 and another for the American Spring of 2016. There is no word on what they will be about, but given the description of Serial simply states they follow a true story, I would be surprised if they followed another murder investigation. Either way, it will be interesting to see what they come up with and if they can make is as compulsive listening as the first season was.

If I had to give Serial a star rating, like I do for the books I read and listen to, it would get a definite 5 stars.

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing 

11 June, 2015

May In Review

May has been a good month. I managed to lay my hands on and read 8 of the Children's Book Council short listed older and younger reader books. Better still, as I sit here, I have another two I've just picked up from the library which means there are only 2 outstanding. Hopefully by the end of June I will have read them all.

I was lucky enough to spend a week in Melbourne late in the month which allowed me to chew through a book a day. I was down there for my son to compete in the Australian National Gymnastics Championship as a trampolinist and I'm very proud to say he walked away with a 7th in double mini tramp and a 2nd in trampoline in his age group. I've uploaded the video below if you are interested. Routine actually starts at about 42 secs.

video

So I suppose I should get onto the book part of my month! Stats:

Kindle - 1                                     Library - 9
Book - 9                                       Own -3
Audio - 2                                      Borrowed (non library) - 0
Fiction - 12                               
Non-fiction - 0

Female Author - 7                        New to Me Authors - 8
Male Author - 5
Australian Author - 10

Definitely made up for the lack of Australian authors this month, funny that, given I've been reading short listed books!



My pick for this month definitely Girl on A Train - fantastic, suspenseful stuff. My biggest disappointment would have been Amnesia. Just realised they are both audios. The narrators were great on both these books and in fact Colin Friels may be the sole reason I finished Amnesia.

There's no book group book in this lot. I have two weeks to read Susan Duncan's Salvation Creek. It will be a reread for me and I'm looking forward to it.
No audio book on the go at the moment either as I am listening to a dramatised podcast called Serial that a couple of friends put me onto. It is good! If you like audio books, I suggest you give it a go. Download the first episode and I guarantee you'll be hooked. I've only got one episode to go and I will be reviewing it when I've finished.

How was your May?

Book Review: Amnesia

From GoodreadsIt was a spring evening in Washington DC; a chilly autumn morning in Melbourne; it was exactly 22.00 Greenwich Mean Time when a worm entered the computerised control systems of hundreds of Australian prisons and released the locks in many places of incarceration, some of which the hacker could not have known existed. 
Because Australian prison security was, in the year 2010, mostly designed and sold by American corporations the worm immediately infected 117 US federal correctional facilities, 1,700 prisons, and over 3,000 county jails. Wherever it went, it traveled underground, in darkness, like a bushfire burning in the roots of trees. Reaching its destinations it announced itself: The corporation is under our control. The angel declares you free.
Has a young Australian woman declared cyber war on the United States? Or was her Angel Worm intended only to open the prison doors of those unfortunates detained by Australia's harsh immigration policies? Did America suffer collateral damage? Is she innocent? Can she be saved?

Thoughts: Peter Carey is one of those authors I've been meaning to read for years. He is lauded as one of Australia's greats and at the start of this book I could see why. However, by the end I just wanted it to be over. I listened to this as a audio book, read by Colin Friels and Friels voice may have been the only thing that stopped me ripping my headphones off in pure frustration.
As I said, it started well. The story was intriguing, the narrator someone you were willing to go along with.  Then part two of the book started. I started to wish the narrator would stop whinging, I kept waiting for the story to go somewhere, for the clear storyline from the first part to reappear. It didn't. Or maybe it did but I was so dispirited and confused I couldn't recognise it. Amnesia strikes me as the kind of book that was trying to be too clever for it's own good and in doing so it stuffed up what could have been a really interesting story. I haven't given up on Carey just yet, everyone deserves a second chance, but it may take me awhile before I'm willing to have another go.

Amnesia gets 2 stars

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing