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review 2017-03-08 22:28
1970s Australia from the point of view of a child with an edge of creepiness and intrigue
The Silent Kookaburra - Liza Perrat

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided with an ARC copy that I voluntarily chose to review.

The story —set in an Australia richly brought to life by the writing that describes landscape, animals, trees, food, furniture, cars, lifestyle and social mores— is told in the first person by Tanya Randall. Adult Tanya is back in her childhood cottage and a newspaper cutting from 1973, which her grandmother kept, makes her remember that time when she was only eleven. The story of adult Tanya frames that of her childhood memories, which take up most of the book (I had almost forgotten that fact until the very end of the story).

Young Tanya is quite innocent (of course, she doesn’t think so), overweight (she eats compulsively, seemingly to comfort herself when the situation gets difficult at home, when they call her names, when she has any upsets or… most of the time. There are long lists of biscuits and other foods she consumes at an alarming pace, well-researched for the period, although I’m not familiar with them), and loves her mother, father, cat (that she insists on walking as if it were a dog, even if that brings her even more unwanted attention), dog, true crime magazines, and her friend Angelina, although not so much her grandmother, Nanna Purvis.

Seeing (or reading) things from a child’s point of view is a good way to reflect on how adult behaviour might appear to children and how difficult certain things might be to process and understand. Her mother’s miscarriages and depression (that keeps getting missed until very late in the novel), her secret uncle’s devious behaviour (it’s hard to read the scenes of Tanya with her uncle, as she’s clearly craving for attention and we know from early on where things are headed, but Tanya doesn’t and she finds it more and more difficult to extricate herself from the situation). The author is excellent at making us share her point of view and her thought processes that create an atmosphere of dread and impending disaster. The dualistic life view of young children, for whom everything is black or white is reflected perfectly in Tanya’s reactions to her grandmother (whom at first she doesn’t like at all but later, as she realises she’s the only one to stick by her, goes on to become complicit with) and to her uncle, who goes from being perfect to being a monster (although the novel suggests that he had also been a victim).

The novel is not easy to classify, although it comes under the thriller label, but it is a psychological exploration of childhood, memory, tragedy, the lies we tell ourselves, and also a work of historical (albeit recent history) fiction, as it beautifully recreates the time and place (down details such as hit songs, records of the era, bicycles, toys, cars, magazines, foodstuffs, clothing and hairdos) and even historical events, like the opening of the Sidney Opera House. There is something of a twist at the end, and plenty of secrets, like in most domestic noir novels, but for me, the strong points are the way the story is told, and some of the characters. Nanna Purvis (who is a fantastic character and proves that grandmothers are almost always right) has old-fashioned ideas about relationships, sexuality, religion and race, but manages to surprise us and has good insight into her own family. Tanya reminded me of myself at her age (although I read other types of books, I was also overweight and wasn’t the most popular girl at school, and we also lived with my mother’s mother, although thankfully my home circumstances were not as tragic) and she tries hard to keep her family together. Her point of view and her understanding are limited, and her actions and frame of mind repetitive at times (she munches through countless packets of biscuits, pulls at her cowlick often, bemoans the unattractive shape of her ears, wonders if she’s adopted) as it befits a character of her age and historical period (so close but yet so far. No internet, no social media, no easy way to access information). Real life is not a succession of exciting events; even at times of crisis, most of our lives are taken up by routine actions and everyday tasks. Her mother’s sinking into depression and her bizarre behaviour, which is sadly misunderstood and left untreated for far too long, rang a chord with me as a psychiatrist. It is an accurate portrayal of such conditions, of the effect the illness can have not only on the sufferers but also on the family, and of the reactions of the society to such illnesses (especially at the time). Uncle Blackie is also a fascinating character but I won’t say anything else as I want to avoid spoilers. Although the setting and the atmosphere are very different, it brought to my mind some of Henry James’s stories, in particular, What Maisie Knew and The Turn of the Screw.

This is a great novel that I recommend to those who are interested in accurate psychological portrayals, reflections on the nature of memory, and books with a strong sense of setting and historical period, rather than fast action and an ever changing plot. A word of warning: it will be difficult to read for those with a low tolerance for stories about child abuse and bullying. If you’re a fan of good writing that submerges you into a time and place and plunges you inside of a character’s head, with an edge of creepiness and intrigue, this is your book.

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review 2017-02-03 18:42
Caresaway Review
Caresaway - DJ Cockburn

  Wouldn’t it be great if we could cure depression? The automatic answer to that is yes for basically anyone that’s suffered from it. Depression is a soul-blackening, mind-numbing, emotion-pummeling destroyer of happiness. No one ever wants to be depressed. There are no positives that can be found in it. So the idea of being able to cure depression is fantastic, right? Well, in Caresaway, D.J. Cockburn takes a slightly different view on it.

 

What if one of the side effects from the pill that could cure depression was that it turned you into a psychopath? Well, first off, let’s be clear about what a psychopath is. Psychopaths aren’t necessarily mass murderers.  Key traits of psychopathy are a lack of empathy, not feeling guilt, selfishness, and the ability to charm the pants off other people to get what you want. (Did that make anyone in particular pop to mind? People with psychopathic tendencies aren’t as rare as you think they are.)  Look at who currently holds the highest electable office in the United States, and think about it for a second.

 

People with psychopathic tendencies make great businessmen, don’t they?  When you’re willing to do whatever you need to get ahead, no matter what the fallout is, you can go far in business. There are definitely people with psychopathic tendencies running companies around the world today. But, as in Caresaway, what if the secret got out? What if everyone who wanted to get ahead was willing to turn into a psychopath if it meant getting ahead in business?

 

Caresaway is an intriguing speculative fiction novel because it examines what this would mean on both a personal and worldwide level. It is told from the viewpoint of the man who created the drug. The creator suffered from depression himself. It’s interesting to watch his arc in this novelette and consider what decisions you might make if you were him.

 

Overall, Caresaway is a good read if you enjoy speculative fiction. It definitely made me sit back in my seat and think about the situation for a bit afterward.

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review consideration.

Source: www.scifiandscary.com/caresaway-review
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review 2017-01-31 18:18
How to train as the #2 hero
Sidekicked - John David Anderson

I haven't read a large amount of middle grade fiction but I must say that I've really enjoyed John David Anderson's writing thus far. Sidekicked was a lot of fun and right after finishing it I added two more of Anderson's books to my TRL. The story revolves around Andrew "Drew" Macon Bean (admittedly a fantastic name) who is not your typical sidekick. His powers aren't the usual 'faster than light speed' or 'stronger than steel'. Nope. (I'm not going to reveal his powers because they are truly unusual and it'll be more fun for you to read it and found out for yourselves.) However, he is a typical nerdy kid just trying to make it through middle school unscathed. There's the usual pre-teen drama about who likes who and fitting in but on top of that is uncertainty about the safety of themselves, their families, and the town. Like Miss Bixby's Last Day, Anderson doesn't shy away from tough subjects. The drawbacks to having superpowers such as having to lie to one's parents, worrying about the mental health of one's mentor (the Super assigned to each Sidekick), and navigating adolescence are dealt with in a very loving, realistic way. Drew is a likable character and I think boys as well as girls will identify with him and become invested in his story. If you have kids in your life who are obsessed with superheroes but are not overly enthusiastic about reading maybe you could suggest that you read this one together. I have a feeling it will be a hit. :-) 9/10

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-12-27 17:37
I wasn't even that surprised
The Princess Diarist - Carrie Fisher

I have to be honest...Carrie Fisher's The Princess Diarist was a bit of a letdown. When I saw that she'd come out with a book with excerpts from her diaries written during the making of Star Wars I was SO excited. The punny title, the front cover with that iconic hair, and the premise had me immediately adding it to my library hold list. It turns out that this is not a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat or makes you feel as if you've learned something monumental about the person who is writing the book. The book focuses on one subject and sticks to that ad nauseum throughout. And the worst thing was that it wasn't even that earth-shattering. For me, the best part was when Fisher talked about her relationship with the Star Wars franchise after so many years and how she's had to navigate the world of fandom. I always find that so interesting because for celebs it has to be like moving through an alien landscape. (Now that is a book I'd like to read.) Strangely enough, this experience hasn't deterred me from adding her other book, Wishful Drinking, to my TRL. Hopefully, that one will be on the blog in 2017. XD This one gets a 4/10.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-12-14 01:51
Lightning struck twice
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things - Jenny Lawson

I actually finished this book last week but as the site was down I'm taking the opportunity to post it now. :-)

 

I'm not entirely sure why it's taken my so long to read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. As I mentioned in the post where I reviewed Let's Pretend This Never Happened, I freaking LOVE Jenny Lawson and her writing. I actually picked this book up last year shortly after it came out but as with many things I was distracted and I only now got around to it. I adored it. Her debut novel is much like her blog where it's snippets of stories from her life (which is nothing short of eccentric and bizarre like her which is why I love her so much) mixed in with colorful anecdotes. Furiously Happy is a completely different kettle of fish. There are still tales of her life which are off-the-wall but the main focus of this book is Jenny's struggles with mental and physical illness and how she's decided to view it. Instead of seeing it as a dark cloud that obliterates all the joy from her life she has instead chosen to embrace all of the happy moments in between and LIVE THEM UP. Her joyousness and love of life is felt on every page. It's a fantastic pick me up. She takes the stigma of mental illness and throws it completely out of the window (making sure that it's wearing a funny sombrero on its way out). There's more taxidermy and of course arguments with Victor but the overarching theme is shining rays of light into the darkness of mental illness. I've already gotten one of my co-workers reading it and she said that from the first page she was hooked. That's two ringing endorsements, ya'll! This one is a 10/10 for sure and if you don't read it you'll surely regret it.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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