Thursday, 26 April 2018

Review: If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

Get your tissues ready, because If I Tell You is one hell of a story of courage, with a real tear jerker of an ending. Alex Summers lives in a small Australian town. In Two Creeks, the saying 'small towns, small minds,' certainly applies. It is expected of her that she will become a school teacher, marry her best mate (and long time admirer,) Justin and follow in her mother's footsteps by baking award winning Victoria sponges. However, deep inside Alex is a secret, something that she is too afraid to tell anyone, even her closest friends. Alex is attracted to girls, not boys, and fears the consequences if anyone, particularly her homophobic mother, finds out. However, life has other plans and things start to unravel for Alex when the charismatic, and very out, Phoenix, moves to town, along with her twin brother, artist mother, and rock and roll star father move to town. Alex finds herself falling for Phoenix, but can she find the courage to face who she really is.

This was a well crafted and believable story about identity, first loves and the price that one young woman must pay for being true to herself. Alex's coming out is a tumultuous experience, filled with highs and lows--between the rush of her first love is the disgusting way that her mother reacts to the discover that Alex is gay and the judgement that she receives from various people around town.

And then there is that ending. 

This is a well written novel that tells a believable story about one young woman's struggle to be true to herself in a town where she is expected to be someone and something different. It's very much a story of identity and of the things that people keep to themselves (Alex isn't the only one keeping secrets.) All of the love scenes faded to black, which I think was a good call--not because I'm offended, but because too often, people get all kind of voyeuristic over what two women do in private and that isn't what this story is about. This is a story of love, and identity. 

Another great thing about this book is that there is a real sense of timelessness in the narrative. Mobile phones and the internet aren't really mentioned, and most of the pop culture references are to well established bands that can appeal to more than one generation such as Guns N Roses. Consequently, this story feels as though it could have taken place anytime during the early 21st century. 

A well written story on love and identity.

Recommended.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Review: Sweet Thing by Nicola Marsh

Dare is an edgy new imprint from those trailblazers of cheap, throwaway romance novels, Mills & Boon. It's basically the Mills & Boon invented for the post Fifty Shades era, a romance that is heavy on the eroticism but with a guaranteed happy ending. I read this one out of sheer curiosity and well, it does everything that the publisher promises on the back of the blurb.

Abby is enjoying her job at a high class Sydney patisserie. For the first time, she has been able to indulge in her passion--baking--and has put her horrible marriage to a man with no redeeming features whatsoever behind her. This is outraged her wealthy, social climbing parents who--like all good stereotypes of the wealthy and the heartless--believe that Abby should have stayed in an unhappy marriage so that the family could keep their place in society. She's basically been cut off from her family, and apparently their all horrified that she has chosen to be happy instead of surrounding herself with rich but nasty people. Anyway, on the same day Abby's divorce comes through, her boss has a nasty fall and somehow convinces his younger and more successful brother to run his business for a while. Predictably, Tanner is a very attractive man who comes with more baggage than your average airport. He doesn't trust Abby one bit, but desperately wants to have sex with her. And from there, the novel descends into a string of steamy encounters while each tries to convince themselves that their not falling in love with the other, and each slowly sorts their life and their emotional baggage out. Of course, there's a humdinger of a misunderstanding, followed by the sweet taste of true love. And that's really it. 

There is never much depth to a book like this, but the author does a good job of delivering everything that a short, escapist novel like this one is supposed to. The leads are likeable (even when they're being quite irritating,) and there is lots and lots of sexual tension simmering in the background. And because this is a Mills & Boon imprint, the whole thing is done with a certain level of class that aspiring romance writers would do well to take note of--there is a reason why Mills & Boon is so successful.

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

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Review: Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein

Creepy, disturbing and in a class of it's own ... and that's just the blurb. Small Spaces is a novel that promises readers one heck of a ride. And it delivers. Oh, how it delivers ...

When she was eight years old, Tash Carmondy witnessed her imaginary, and very, very, nasty friend Sparrow abduct a younger girl at a carnival. Mallory was found a week later, but has been mute ever since and has no memory of her abduction. As for Tash, no one believed her about Sparrow. Branded an attention seeker, and after years of psychiatric treatment at the hands of bossy Dr Ingrid, she has come to accept that what she saw probably wasn't real. The only problem is that now both Mallory and Sparrow have returned to her small town and things are starting to get creepy. What really happened to Mallory? Are there supernatural forces at play, or is there something far more disturbing going on?

Small Spaces takes readers on a hell of a ride as Tash tries to work out what really happened on the day that Mallory was abducted. There are all kinds of clues--a strange aunt and a family feud, the way her parents keep watch and never quite trust her, the mean girl at school who gets a kick out of making fun of Tash and her neurosis who [[[spoiler alert]]] gets attacked after an argument with Tash, and also Mallory's older brother who takes a very keen interest in Tash. The author skilfully weaves the clues into the narrative, while also providing some relevant commentary on adolescent mental health and the need for people to listen to, and to understand kids, instead of branding their behaviour as attention seeking. I was annoyed that one character got off as lightly as she did, though it does (sadly) reflect what would most likely happen in real life. Older readers may clue in parts of the mystery early on, but there are enough red herrings to keep them wondering anyway.

A creepy but enjoyable read.

Recommended.

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

Monday, 23 April 2018

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)



I spotted this on the corner of Hindmarsh Square a while back ... but it took me a long time to get a perfect shot. Love it--it's certainly fair more eye catching that your average traffic signal box!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Off Topic: My Crush Just Mentioned Their Boyfriend/Girlfriend ...

No, this didn't just happen to me. I'm actually not crushing on anyone at the moment, unless you count Alan Rickman's turn in Sense and Sensibility as Colonel Brandon, and even that is just one of those meaningless but pleasant fantasies. No, I'm writing this, because for about the billionth time I've just seen someone put this question online and it's one of those questions that really bothers me. 

And here is how I would like to answer the question:

If someone mentions their boyfriend or girlfriend while their in conversation with you, then the healthiest thing to assume is that they are talking about that person because they love them and because that person is a big part of their life. Maybe they're at a point in their life where they have just met this person who they think is completely amazing and they cannot believe how lucky they are that he or she wants to date them. They're so ecstatic that they just can't help talking about that person. Maybe that person is on their mind a lot.

Finally, it's probably not a reflection on you. Unless you make it obvious, your crush isn't going to know that you have a crush. Stop analysing, and stop asking yourself if you did something wrong. Because you probably didn't do anything. Just accept it for what it is and move on.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Review: The Looney Tunes Treasury by Andrew Farago

I'll confess, I've had this one on my bookshelf for a while now, since 2015 in fact, when it was first published in Australia and sold exclusively through Australia Post as part of their Classic Collectables range. For one reason or another, I never got around to reading it. I picked it out of my bookshelf the other day, intending to flick through a few pages ... and I found myself devouring this clever book in a single setting. Meticulously researched, this treasury presents itself as a collection of autobiographical essays and interviews with some of the most popular Looney Tunes characters of all time. Unsurprisingly, Bugs Bunny leads the charge with a flippant but informative interview, and Daffy Duck, who knows full well that he is the real star of Looney Tunes is rather jealous. Many of my other favourites are well represented and in character--Elmer J Fudd, Tweety and Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn and even that annoying amorous skunk, Pepe Le Pew. There are a few surprises along the way--it's a generational and geographical thing, but I associate the characters with the incarnations of The Bugs Bunny Show that aired in Australia on Channel 9 in the late 1980s and early 1990s and also which cartoons were available on VHS during that era. Obviously, the evolution of these cartoon shorts was quite different--they were originally theatrical releases that spanned over a period of many years and at the time were competing with cartoon shorts from both Disney and MGM. Anyway, it was quite interesting to hear about that evolution from the characters themselves.

This one is a lot of fun and it appropriate for readers of all ages.

Highly recommended. 


Friday, 20 April 2018

Friday Funnies: Grover, The Count and the Hot Dogs



You must watch this one to the end. This classic Sesame Street sketch has had a little extra added.