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text 2018-09-10 08:37
OT: The current situation

This summer has given me much food for thought. Mainly it was the heatwave, the drought and the forest fires that were beginning to strike too close to home, but also the hunters that have been shooting close to our cabin. 

 
Also, the political situation is reason for concern. It seems to me that in just a few short years we’ve gone from circumstances resembling those shortly before the First World War to what’s more similar to the time just before the Second. (Even though Sweden was spared both wars in the end, by playing ’hedgehog’. ) Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we’re heading for an actual world war or even a more limited conflict in Northern Europe. The enemy is most likely smarter than that. At least for now. But there are other serious crises we’re risking. Maybe even civil war. Again, I doubt this will happen in the next year or two, but there are plenty of other scenarios that could unfold that could have equally serious consequences. Foreign powers subverting our election. Acts of terrorism. Desinformation campaigns. Coordinated acts of sabotage against water supplies, electrical companies - maybe even hospitals. 
 
Worst of all, the impending climate collapse. What can you do when forces far beyond your control are at work? Business as usual? That’s what most people here in Sweden want to play at. Barbecue in the countryside and start fires. Fly to Thailand and back again a couple of times. After all, everything is always someone else’s responsibility. 
 
Xenophobia is rearing its ugly head again. Recently, a homeless Romanian man was brutally murdered by minor boys. And most people don’t even care. 
 
I’m terrified of the future. At the moment mostly of the results of the election. Anything might happen.
 
When trouble comes looking for my family I hope we can find a safe place to hide.
 

 

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review 2018-01-31 15:55
Tense, atmospheric, and reflective Australian crime novel.
The Dry - Jane Harper

This is a bit of a peculiar situation. After reading great things about this novel and requesting the author’s second novel Force of Nature (you can check my review here) from NetGalley, I had to read it quickly to take part on a blog tour. When I looked at other reviews, there were so many comparisons to the first novel (although it can be read as a standalone) that I felt I should read the first novel to make my own mind up. That means I will be comparing the first novel to the second, rather than the other way around. Sorry. Why do things the easy way when one can complicate matters?

There is no doubt that Harper knows how to set a story and how to take full advantage of the landscape, atmosphere, and characteristics of the place and the people. She sets the story during a terrible drought in Australia, specifically in Kiewarra, and has the main protagonist (who is also the main character in Force, Aaron Falk, a police detective specializing on fraud and financial crimes) return to his place of birth, twenty years after having left in unfortunate circumstances. The story is also told in the third person, mostly from Falk’s point of view, although we also have fragments, that are differentiated from the rest of the story by being written in italics, that go back to the events that happened many years back (the events that made Falk and his father leave town when he was an adolescent), and also to the more recent deaths. These fragments, also written in the third person, are told from a variety of points of views, although it is not difficult to know which character’s point of view we are sharing. (Some readers enjoy the style and others don’t, so I’d recommend checking a sample of the book before making a decision).

In this story, Falk is called to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke, who has seemingly killed his wife and young son, and then committed suicide, only leaving his baby daughter (13 months old) alive. Luke’s parents are convinced that their son has not killed his family and himself, and ask for Falk’s help. The current killings bring back memories of the death of a young girl who was Falk and Luke’s friend and with it the suspicions of his possible involvement.

The mystery has some elements of the police procedural (as Falk joins forces with the new police Sergeant, Raco), also of the domestic noir (there are many secrets, mostly family secrets buried deep, and relationships that are not what they seem to be at first sight), and there are plenty of suspects, clues, red herrings, to keep us guessing. But the book does not follow a straight linear narrative, as I mentioned;  it does go into plenty of detail about things that do not seem to be always relevant to the murders, and its pace is not what we are used to in more formulaic thrillers. It is slow and contemplative at times, and the past weighs heavily on the investigation (especially on those who have matters pending). Although most of the violence takes place outside the page, and this is by no means the most explicitly violent novel I’ve read (I’m difficult to shock, though), there is violence and it deals in pretty dark subjects, so be warned. Whilst in some crime novels, even very dark ones, there are light and humorous moments that help release tension; there is hardly any of that here. What we have are insightful and contemplative moments, which go beyond the usual snarky comments by the cynical detective.

As an example, a particularly touching comment by Barb, Luke’s mother, talking about the aftermath of her son’s death:

‘No-one tells you this is how it’s going to be, do they? Oh yes, they’re all so sorry for your loss, all so keen to pop round and get the gossip when it happens, but no-one mentions having to go through your dead son’s drawers and return their library books, do they? No one tells you how to cope with that.’

I thought the small town was  realistically portrayed. The envies, the resentment, the discomfort of knowing that everybody is aware of everybody else’s business, and the prejudices and the tensions in a place where nobody can hide, and where you are never given the benefit of the doubt, felt true to life. Although I’ve never visited Australia, the dynamics of the place and its inhabitants, subject to major tensions due to the uncertainty the draught had brought to the local economy, create an atmosphere that is tense and oppressive, even if the story is not fast-paced.

The characters, in my opinion, are somewhat more clearly divided down morality lines in this novel than in the second, although it is not so evident in the beginning. Whilst in Force none of the characters come out of the book unscathed, and most of them are morally suspect, here there are good characters (although they might not appear to be) and some truly bad ones. Most of the characters (at least the good ones) carry a burden of guilt (in most cases for things they are not truly responsible for), whilst the bad characters seem unable/unwilling to take responsibility for their actions, no matter how cruel. As is the case for many investigators, Falk is also investigating his own past, and that is why he finds it so difficult to resolve the case. This process of rediscovery and personal digging will continue in the next novel. I would not say Falk is an immediately likeable character. I found him more consistent and easy to understand in the second book (of course, by then he had survived to the events of this novel, which would have had an impact on him), although he seems to come alive in some of his interactions with others (particularly Luke’s mother, a great character).

Overall, I felt the mystery part of the story is more intriguing and well-resolved here (even though the past case keeps interfering with the present; there are not as many loose ends and red-herrings here), although I did not mind that aspect of the second novel (that I found more morally complex). For me, this one is more of a novel for mystery lovers, especially for those who prefer to take their time and enjoy a different setting to the usual urban thriller. The second novel in the series pays more attention to how the story is told and to the characters themselves. But there is no doubt that Harper is a great writer and I’m sure we’ll keep reading her and about her in the future.

Ah, don’t miss this post with a recommendation of a book that people who have enjoyed The Dry might like (and I could not agree more. I love The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat).

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review 2016-05-07 00:00
The Drought
The Drought - Steven Scaffardi This was a welcome light-hearted read after having read some pretty sinister ones lately. British down to earth humour when it comes to understanding the opposite sex (this applies to both men and women)!

When I was just checking out the cover again while pasting it in here, I immediately had to think of the following video clip. If you think this is even remotely funny, you're going to love this book. If not, oh well, tough luck, you should still try this book.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbtI8zBxqyc

So we're basically following Dan and his three-friended posse. Dan's just like the synopsis describes him: a nice guy. With an overdeveloped sense for the dramatic, if you will.

“Eight months without sex. People had committed crimes and been given lesser sentences.“

His friends are quite the gems as well:

First of all, we’ve got Rob, Dan’s best friend since primary school, who’s the good looking, smart mannered, stylishly clothed, big-hearted guy who gets all the women. I thought I was going to hate his guts for being such a player, but honestly, I can’t help but truly liking him (see the words 'big-hearted' up here), He’s such a great friend to Dan, helping him whenever he can, and treats all his ‘trophies’ with respect, sort of? Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a first class wanker, but…a likable one? *brain freeze*

Then there’s Jack, who reminds me a bit of a foul-mouthed leprechaun due to his endless stream of NSFW-remarks together with being of a modest height. Even if he’s a cheating, disrespectful, chlamydia-spreading donkey arse, again, I can’t help but like him? Okay, so what the flying fuck’s going on here Scaffardi?! Is there some brainwashing hypnotic element hidden in the Kindle text version? Should I try the paperback to see if it makes any difference?

Erm, yes, and then, last but not least, there’s Ollie. I’ve met quite a few Ollies in real life actually, but can always laugh at the level of stupidity they incorporate. Ollie’s an active member of the local gym but seriously lacks some brain capacity. This makes him a laid back, not too picky kind of guy to be around with and he definitely adds some hilarity to the story with his idiotic comments.

If you want to know more about the characters, there’s a detailed ‘Meet the Characters’ section on Steven’s website here. Love it!

Ah yes, there’s an author involved here, so I guess I have to say something about the writing style as well eh? Since I forgot there was even an author due to the characters coming alive brilliantly, I think this says enough doesn’t it? Okay, okay, maybe I should just drop a few more notes on the matter. It was great, but sometimes it reminded me a bit more of a movie script instead of a book. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if someone ever decides to turn it into a movie; the visual scenes are already there! Do you think Benedict Cumberbatch might be too old to play Rob? Jack O’Connell would probably make a great Jack if he can drop the Derby accent…but I’m digressing here!

I didn’t laugh all throughout the book, but I did giggle out loud a few times which is good enough for me and my [insert resting bitch face]. What I also did was poke my hubby in the shoulder while reading and going “Omg, so this is MAN LOGIC?!“

“I would tell her that anything that happened over six months ago is inadmissible in an argument.“

Something about not calling your mother when you need to tell her something important, and:

“She was smart, funny, and easy going. It was a huge bonus that she had big boobs.“

These things have been done/mentioned literally by said hubby several times. I need to read more Lad Lit in the hope of deciphering some more of this odd behaviour…

The story in itself was quite predictable most of the time, but I didn’t mind all too much. I’m giving it 4 brownies and can highly recommend it whenever you’re in need of a read to lift your spirits. Don’t shy away from the Lad Lit tag as a woman, it’ll be just as funny and even might be insightful to how unbelievably irrational we can get at times. I recognised myself in Dan’s ex-girlfriend Stacey for a bit and immediately made a note to self to never pull off any of that emotional extortion shit ever again. Or at least until my next cycle comes up.

A big thank you to Steven Scaffardi for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest opinion! Be sure to check out the #LadLitBlogTour as well, in which I will take part myself with a review of the sequel to The Drought: The Flood, and a Character Q&A on the 16th of May!
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review 2016-03-14 15:41
The Drought: Sex, Love and Dating Disasters - Steven Scaffardi

Dan Hilles is just a normal guy with a job, a small group of friends and a long-term girlfriend, but not for long. Things start to change for Dan when he breaks-up with his girlfriend Stacey and he finds himself single again for the first time in three years. Unfortunately for him things don't change in his favour and he enters a period of drought.
With some near death experiences, more than a couple of awkward dates and some really embarrassing situations, things are getting real complicated. But Dan has a goal and he will not stop until he ends the drought.

I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

"We sang it loud. We sang it proud. We sang it with passion. We sang it completely tone deaf. But it didn't matter. It was the perfect end to the evening."

Dan has been with Stacey for three years now but she has changed a lot since he met her at university. It all goes wrong at new years even when they get into another fight and Dan decides to spend the night with his friends instead of with her. After the nearly fifty messages she left him that night alone, he decides to put an end to it. But things don't really go as planned and instead of breaking up kind of 'peacefully' he gets kicked out of the house by Stacey best friend Sophie who wants to kill him with a baseball bat. 
From that point on things change, but not for the better. Time and again Dan gets himself into the must stupid and surreal situations, even his friends are unable to help him break the drought and as it goes on Dan is getting more desperate.
Rob, Ollie and Jack try to help him as best as they can but even their knowledge combined can't save Dan from making a complete fool of himself. He even manages to get on the television twice! (not under the best circumstances but heej there is no such thing as bad publicity right?)

So yes I did read the sequel first but that doesn't matter because this book is just as awesome, funny and amusing ^_^ Why you ask? Well here is why:

This book is everything I hoped it would be. There are the familiar yet unimaginable situations he is able to get into. He does it all on his own and I have to say that is very impressive. I've got more than one favourite scene is this book but I think that this one is the one I loved the most:

"'I bumped into Simon Peterson yesterday.' Rob said. 'He lives on Mantilla Road.'
'So what?' I sneered.
'He happened to mention that he saw you on his road on Wednesday night,' Rob announced. 'He was working on his car. He would have said hello, but you sprinted past him at a ferocious pace with a dog chasing you.'
'Was it a poodle?' Ollie questioned.
'No it wasn't a poodle,' I said. 'It was a big horrible, snarling beast.'
'Simon said it was a sausage dog.' Rob said and they all started laughing again.

This is a scene where Dan is having a drink with his friends and yes they're making fun of him again. Now what happened before this is quite hilarious because it has to do with a date that would have stopped Dan's drought. Dan got a second chance with Grace and just as they were going to take it one step further, he discovers that he doesn't have any condoms with him. Getting dressed to get some at a store nearby, he runs out of Grace's house but by the time he has to get back he finds out that he has no idea how to get back at all. That is when, after walking some time, he encounters a big horrible snarling beast... that turned out to be a sausage dog.

This book was so much fun to read and even though I read the second book first it didn't affect me at all because everything that happened was just as unexpected. The amazing characters combined with the easy use of language, the everyday scenes and hilarious situations made for a great book.
Again this book brings the whole dating-scenario from a totally different perspective. Not from the female point of view but from a man's and that makes it all the more fun to read. It is that I am a woman myself but by reading this I understand that most man don't understand women at all, sometimes even I don't understand women (or myself for that matter) at all.
Some of the language and scenes might be a little too harsh or descriptive for some people but that just made it better in my opinion.

Overall I think the book was great and it was so much fun to read. I would recommend this book to everyone who loves romance/comedy/chicklit kind of novels. I give this book four stars because me really likey.

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video 2016-03-05 21:19

Sex, Love & Dating Disasters: The Drought by Steven Scaffardi | Official Book Trailer

 

Steven Scaffardi's The Drought is the laugh-out-loud tale of one man's quest to overcome the throes of a sexual drought. After the stormy break-up with his girlfriend of three years, Dan Hilles is faced with the daunting task of throwing himself back into the life of a single man. With the help of his three best pals, Dan is desperate and determined to get his leg-over with hilarious consequences!

Source: stevenscaffardi.blogspot.co.uk
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