Sunday, 20 May 2018

Disappearing Dawn Schaefer (A BSC Nostalgia Post)

Kirsty, Claudia, Stacey and Mary Anne will always be remembered (and loved) by readers as the original members of the Babysitters Club series. Stacey would leave the club twice--once when her parents moved to New York, and again when she decided that she had outgrown the club. On both occasions, she found her way back to the club. But did you know that another key character also made more than one exit from the club?
That character was Dawn.

Dawn was the first new character to join the club. She entered the series in Mary Anne Saves the Day, as the new student at Stoneybrook Middle School. She and Mary Anne share a table at the school Cafeteria and soon become fast friends--and soon the girls discover that their parents were childhood sweethearts.

Seemingly, Dawn adjusts to life in Stoneybrook quite well, though she does struggle a bit with her new domestic arrangements when her mother marries Mary Anne's dad. Relatively late in the series she leaves for a six month visit to California. Initially, the books tell of her adventures with the We Love Kids Club, (a laid back version of the babysitters club,) and then she returns to Stoneybrook. A few books later, she leaves again, this time for good. Dawn then got to appear in the California Diaries a darker spin-off series, undoubtably aimed at kids who had, or who were about to, outgrow the Babysitters Club.

In return a new character was introduced to the BSC--Abby.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Friday Funnies: Fifth Cup of Coffee

As always, the Awkward Yeti is brilliant.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Review: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus

The Book Ninja is a slyly crafted dark comedy that is almost certain to bring a smile to even the most humourless of book lovers. As for the rest of us, some of the jokes had me laughing out loud, which was kind of awkward, seeing as I was on public transport at the time. But, I digress. This is a great debut and I hope that it zooms straight to the top of the bestseller lists, because honestly, it deserves to. I'd start banging on about how I think it is the best new release for June as well, but I think everyone reading this review has the idea by now that I enjoyed it very much and that you should all read it.

Frankston "Frankie" Rose is an author and bookseller living in Melbourne who is looking for love. She comes up with a novel (bad pun, sorry,) approach for finding love. She places her favourite books on public transport with her contact details inside. It's a fun and clever plan, maybe this way she will meet the literary lover of her dreams. Fate has other plans in store, however, and soon Frankie finds herself falling for Sunny, a thirty-something who only reads--gasp--young adult. Can a lover of fine literature really find happiness with someone who is into YA novels?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, with its many literary references and its often darkly comic depiction of Frankie's escapades. Frankie is supported by a number of eccentric characters, each one more dysfunctional that the last. Every one in this story is slightly selfish, everyone is dysfunctional and the results are fucking hilarious. There's also a great moral in there about what happens if you decide to get revenge on someone by filling their car up with bananas. (Sorry. I just had to put that in.)

Fucking hilarious. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC of The Book Ninja

PS: Random trivia, the authors are also the pair behind the successful Books on the Rail project, which encourages readers to leave copies of their favourite books on trains and trams for others to discover and enjoy. 

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2018

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Eleven years after I started reading The Mortal Instruments, I've gone back to re-read the series from the beginning. Finding the first book wasn't exactly hard--my first Australian edition of City of Bones (the one that comes complete with a note in the back to say that the sequel will be released in 2008,) has been sitting proudly on my bookshelf for years, beside novels by other authors who first became popular during the era, which was post-Harry Potter, but just prior to the advent of the Kindle. Vampire Academy and Twilight were two notable series to come out of this time. Incredibly, as some may have seen from my review last week, The Mortal Instruments universe is still going strong, though it has been rebranded Shadowhunters, to fit the fact that it now incorporates three different series set in different eras that are linked by common themes. There has also been a Mortal Instruments feature film, and a Shadowhunters television series which is now in its third season on Netflix. Of course, I knew nothing of what the series would become back when I read the first book. What's probably more surprising is that I never really took that much notice of the many sequels and spin-offs as they were released, given how popular the series has become. Too much else going on, I guess.

Anyway, I've gone back to the start, with the intention of reading all of the books. And this time around, I'm slightly gobsmacked by just how addictive this series is. Clare certainly knows how to write a page-turner. In the first novel, we are introduced to Clary, a seemingly ordinary teenage girl living in New York who, though a series of unfortunate events discovers that everything she has known for the past fifteen years is a lie. She is actually a Shadowhunter--a human with angel's blood. A chance encounter with a Shadowhunter named Jace followed by the mysterious disappearance of her mother (a Shadowhunter who has been in hiding for many years,) forces Clary to play an active part in an ancient war between the Shadowhunters and various demons ... and against her father who is the most dangerous Shadowhunter of all ...

Some tropes exist for a reason (ie an ordinary kid finding out that they have extraordinary talents,) and most of that has to do with the fact that when they are executed well, they're bloody entertaining. Clare's talent comes from taking established tropes and myths and shaping them into a page turner featuring young characters that you can cheer for. There is a VC Andrews style twist toward the end, but the author handles it in a tasteful fashion--in fact, this is something that the ghostwriter for VC Andrews may want to take note of. Probably the best thing about this series is that although it features teenage characters, it's not strictly for teenagers, which is probably why my local bookstore places the books in the fantasy section, rather than the YA section. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series in the near future. Recommended.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Review: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Sometimes life just sucks and History of Wolves, the debut novel by Emily Fridlund does its best to drive that point home with a novel that is beautifully written but lacking in resolution.

Linda is a fourteen-year-old girl living with people who may or may not be her parents in a former hippy commune in the backwoods. Isolated and somewhat neglected, she lacks social skills and does not fit in with the people in her small town. From there, two separate plots develop about two very different, but equally broken people who try to reach out to her. In each instance, Linda knows that something is very wrong, though she cannot identify what it is, exactly. The book raises the question how can someone with such little understanding of the world possibly recognise signs that a child is being abused and speak up? Did Linda truly understand what was happening around her, and its implications?

And the answer is well ... you'll have to make your own mind up about that.

I found this novel uncomfortable, not so much for its subject matter, but for its lack of resolution. To me, it felt like a book with a lot of potential that never quite got there.

Not really recommended. 

Friday, 11 May 2018

Friday Funnies: This Means War

Admit it. You just read that meme in a Bugs Bunny voice, didn't you?

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Review: The Last Garden by Eva Hornung

Intriguing, awful, well written, brutal ... The Last Garden is a novel that is as readable as it is irritating and left me with some very mixed and unresolved feelings.

The main characters live in a world that is very much like ours, yet something is a bit different. Something is a bit off. They live in a German settlement in a part of Australia sometime during the early 20th century, but when exactly is difficult to tell. And it's certainly not much like the German settlements that we learned of in our Australian Studies classes at school. Or the ones in Colin Thiele books. Even the language is slightly different. There is something darker about this place--the author does a commendable job of creating a world that is as rich as it is dark. I'd say gothic and maybe I'd nail it, but the word also brings to mind a lot of pop novels from the 1970s and this book is nothing like any of them.

Fifteen-year-old Benedict returns home from boarding school to discover that his father has shot his mother and then killed himself. And then comes the first annoying thing about this book--we see Benedict as he walks the long trek home from the railway station. Then the story flips straight to the funeral. And then the author flips on us again, creating a realistic depiction of a child who is on the verge of becoming a man experiencing a grief so profound that he cannot leave the family farm, yet he cannot stay inside the house where it all happened. And so, he goes to live in a barn with the horses and while he grieves he builds a strong, and perhaps even spiritual relationship with those horses. Meanwhile, the the local Pastor must convince him to rejoin the outside world, but this is something that Benedict can only do if and when he is ready.

This one is quite profound for its complex and in depth depiction of grief. However, that world is so well, and so cleverly depicted that it comes at the expense of taking the reader properly on the journey with the characters. What is not said and depicted is equally as important as what is said and depicted, or maybe that was the point. And then of course there are the references to the last garden. If the Garden of Eden was the first, then perhaps this is the last and therefore, Eden's opposite. 

Or maybe I'm a dumbhead who completely missed the point of this novel.  

In any case, someone published it, it's won a shitload of awards and there are critics with far more credentials than me who are raving about it. 

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2018