Thursday, 25 May 2017

Review: The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

I'll be brave and admit, what first drew me to this book was the idea that it was about three astronauts who were to be sent to Mars. Mars. Imagine, three ordinary human beings spending months and months together in a tiny craft, travelling to a whole other planet. There is something intriguing about that. Except that this isn't quite what The Wanderers is about. It tells the story of three experienced and highly skilled astronauts who take part in a seventeen month simulation test, designed to mimic a trip to Mars and back. The Wanderers is, at its heart, a story about human resilience even in the most highly unusual circumstances. The storytelling is detailed and a little slow, and the chapters about Helen, Yoshi and Sergei are interspaced with chapters about the loved ones that they have left behind, and how their relationships are altered. There is a rather ambiguous twist along the way--one that I never did work out, but perhaps that is crucial part of the storytelling.

The difficulty of this one is even a day after I closed the cover for the last time, I am still not sure what I thought about it, or whether I enjoyed reading this one or not. There are certainly some interesting parallels with Mars One and asks some big questions about the human cost of such an ambitious project. 

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

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong

Darren Keefe is a former international cricketer who has just found himself in a lot of trouble. More specifically, he's found himself bundled in the boot of a car that is travelling down a Melbourne highway and it seems that years of risks and hard living have finally caught up with him. Knowing that he's probably not going to survive, Darren goes about trying to leave some forensic evidence in the vehicle, before going back in time to tell his story--he is the younger of two brothers, born to a plucky, courageous mother who only wants the best for her boys. While Darren grows up to be a larrikin with seemingly few morals who is loved by the press, his older brother Wally is serious about all things, particularly his career as a cricketer. Most of the novel details the difference between the brothers and the careers that may appear quite similar on the surface, and the events and decisions that eventually lead to Darren's fate ... 

This was an enjoyable read, and provided a great observation of what can happen when young sportspeople are transformed into celebrities. (And it says much, perhaps, about our national obsession with sports.) While Darren lives a carefree life, getting away with many things that others his own age never could, Wally is cool and calculating, cleverly manipulating those around him--though he is unable to handle it when things do not go his way. I don't know if it because of my gender, but the character I liked best was their mother, a truly loving and courageous women who did everything she could to further her son's careers. I was fairly confident that I knew who was responsible for Darren's abduction, but that did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel at all. The whole thing is a bit ambiguous about the precise years that the Keefe brothers played for Australia, (though only Wally goes on to play test cricket,) one can deduce that they played sometime in the 1990s, which was, of course, a very successful era for Australian cricket. 

Recommended. 

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Friday, 19 May 2017

Friday Funnies: Meme Colouring Book


When I saw this one, I thought that it must be a joke. Turns out that this is an actual product, which you can purchase from Amazon.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Review: Bastard by J.L. Perry

Bastard is one of those self-published success stories, where it was initially self-published as an eBook and then became so popular that it was eventually picked up by a major publishing house, and then went on to have even more success. Even better, the author is Australian, and the book is set in New South Wales. Bastard is a trashy romance, the kind that is unashamed of and perhaps even revels in its own trashiness, with plenty of swearing, explicit sex, sexism disguised as romance. In fact, there is probably something in there to offend practically everybody. The writing itself sets a fairly low benchmark, though it has an easy to read and, dare I say it, a slightly addictive quality about it. And, let's face it, people don't pick up a book like this because they are expecting an eloquently written, chaste read with a realistic storyline. It seems almost ridiculous that I am making a judgement about it at all. (I actually picked up my copy after I spied a couple of uni students reading sections out loud at my local bookstore and having a good chuckle. I guess that I am a bit of a well, bastard, because I wanted to know what the joke was. Plus I always think it's good to get out of my reading comfort zone every now and again and try something new, and this one didn't seem particularly difficult or intimidating.)

The novel tells the story of Carter, who was born to a nineteen year old single mother, whose wealthy parents had kicked her out of home. His mother, Elizabeth, is a kind and loving woman who only wants the best for her son, but Carter's life is scarred forever when he encounters his grandfather for the first (and only) time and the old man rejects him on the basis that he was born out of wedlock. Fast forward to 2010 and Carter is seventeen and a half years old. He's a teen who enjoys acting mean, and he's having plenty of run-ins with his mother's new husband, a man who appears to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever and what Elizabeth saw in him remains one of the novel's greatest mysteries. Anyway, a new husband for Elizabeth means a new house for Carter, and he finds himself unwelcome in his new home in the Sydney suburbs. Fortunately, just next door is Indi, a lovely sixteen year old girl and her father, Ross, who is the local policeman and is also quick to see the good in Carter, and to treat him like his own son. (And he certainly calls Cater "son" often enough within the narrative.) Unfortunately Indi doesn't like Carter much at first and the two spend much time trying to stir one another up until, inevitably, romance blooms. But it might just take a few years, a tragedy and some steamy hot sex for this pair to get together ...

Bastard is an addictive and slightly over the top romantic read that delivers everything that it promises on the cover. My grumbles about this one are that parts of the story did not much depth to them, and some of the plot devices were a little too obvious. Despite the novel being set in Sydney and Newcastle, much of this story seemed to have an American quality about it--for example, Indi is said to have gone to College instead of uni, and early on there is a scene at the high school, where they all seem to be eating lunch at in cafeteria like arrangement. And, as is often the case with books in this genre, Carter proves how much he cares by controlling as much of Indi's life as he can. However, I did enjoy the ending (it was nice to see two other deserving characters get married,) and parts of this story read like a lovely, escapist fantasy.

If you like books with bad boys and hot sex then you'll like this one.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Review: How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is a sad, funny and touching memoir about a young Jewish American woman who undertakes a birthright tour of Israel. Told in the form of a graphic novel, Sarah perfectly expresses her internal conflicts as she tours a place that she is both in awe of and despises. The author is sensitive, politically aware and nobody's fool, which makes a tour of a place that she disapproves of to be a difficult and, at times, lonely experience. She can see through most of the propaganda that she is presented with on the the tour. Also she is not afraid to ask big questions about the Israel-Palestine conflict, even if sometimes the answers are not things that she wants to hear, and she ends up learning that sometimes solutions to the conflict may not be as easy as they appear on the surface.

This was an interesting read and one that was certainly thoughtfully read and illustrated. What came through over and over again, is that the author is a good person, who genuinely feels a lot of compassion for others. She is also honest about her feelings, her own prejudices and what she has learned through the tour, which makes for interesting--and enlightening--reading. 

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, done in watercolour.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)




I recently found some old issues of Vogue and InStyle Magazine and shared them on my Instagram feed. I love this one from 2006 which features Australian actor Melissa George on the cover. At the time, Melissa George was the living example of a local girl made good. A teenage girl from Perth, she first hit our screens in Home and Away, becoming one half of the most popular character to ever grace the series. From there, she moved to Hollywood and by 2006 she had become famous the whole world over thanks to her part in the massively successful television series Alias. More success was to follow, including film roles, a Golden Globe nomination, and a Logie award for Most Outstanding Actress for her role as Rosie in The Slap (George later reprised her role in the American remake of the series.) She also played the lead in US television series Heartbeat and, sadly, has suffered some pretty bad press of late, for things that really aren't relevant to this blog, however, I hope that circumstance will allow this talented actor to return to her career soon.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Literary Quotes



So, throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.