Monday, 18 December 2017

Aussie Author Challenge 2017: Challenge Completed!

Wow. Just wow. What a big year it's been--this time around, I didn't just complete the Aussie Author Challenge, but I absolutely smashed it! In 2017 I read a whopping 41 titles for the challenge--more than three times the requirement for the challenge. Big shout out and thank you to Jo for organising the challege--love your work. Really enjoyed the newsletters too :)

I wonder how many books I will read in 2018 ... 

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Review: Claudia and Mean Janine (BSC Graphix 4) by Raina Telgemeier

Longtime readers and fans of this blog may recall that during 2012 I committed to reviewing what was then four books in the BSC Graphix series. For one reason or another, I never published a review of the fourth novel in the series, Claudia and Mean Janine. As a fifth book has just been released in the series (and as of December 2017 is sitting on my to-review pile,) I decided to re-read this one and publish a review. Ps I ramble on a bit in the first paragraph of this review so if you would rather just read a review of the book, it's probably best to skip to the second paragraph. 

The BSC Graphix series was always going to be a little different from the books that inspired them. For one thing, technology has changed considerably since the early novels in the Baby-sitters Club series were published in 1986. And there is also no arguing that Claudia's second novel in the original series, Claudia and Mean Janine, which contains themes of sibling rivalry and illness, packs a far greater punch than Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, which was Claudia's first book in the series. To be honest, Claudia and Mean Janine has always been a firm favourite of mine. This is for two reasons. The first is that for one reason or another, copies of this one were very difficult to find in my part of the world when I was reading the series. My school library didn't have a copy, my local library didn't have a copy and neither did the local bookshop. Anyway, one day, my grandma decided to buy me a Baby-sitters Club book during a trip to Adelaide. She randomly picked one from the shelf and it was ... you guessed it, Claudia and Mean Janine! I still have my copy and it's the only one with the original green cover that I've ever seen, though I've both updated versions around the place from time to time.

The fourth BSC Graphix novel changes the timeline a little and opens with the final week of school. Claudia is not interested in studying, she's more interested in her art classes and the Baby-Sitters Club. This frustrates her parents and is looked down upon by her older sister, the studious and ultra intelligent Janine. The differences between the pair aren't helped by the fact that Janine's social skills aren't great. And while it seems that their parents might like Janine best, at least Claudia has Mimi, her kind and loving grandmother. But when Mimi has a stroke, Claudia feels as though her whole world is crashing down around her ...

This adaption is very well down. Telegemeier does a great job (perhaps even better than Ann M Martin in the original series,) of highlighting the differences between both sisters, but also showing them both as human. (I think the facial expressions in each frame do that quite well.) Each sister is jealous of the other and neither has a clue of how to communicate with the other. 

There is also a b-storyline which shows the Baby-sitters forming a summer playgroup and introduces another beloved character to the series, Mallory Pike. In a surprising twist [spoiler alert] Mallory is asked to join the club at the end of this novel. There is no sign of Jesse yet, so I'm wondering if or when she is going to be incorporated into the series. (On that, if anyone at Scholastic is taking requests, I'd love a graphic version of Jessi's Secret Language. I think it would be a great educational tool.)

This is an enjoyable re-imagining of a classic series. Recommended. 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Literary Quotes

To say the truth, every physician almost hath his favourite disease, to which he ascribes all the victories obtained over human nature.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

I spotted this brilliant Christmas tree on Flinders Street in the Adelaide CBD recently. Love the beautiful and environmentally friendly way this "tree" was created.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Review: Darker by EL James

And then there were five. Darker is the newest book in the Fifty Shades series, and the second to be told from the perspective of Christian Grey, the perverse and psychologically damaged billionaire whose love for the innocent and wholly good Ana Steele may just be the one thing that saves him. This novel is essentially the same story as was told in Fifty Shades Darker, but told from the male's perspective. And while Christian Grey may not have any inner goddesses or surprising conscious subconscious's to deal with, he does have his problems, chiefly that he wants to be with Ana, and a couple of women are jealous of that and go to somewhat surprising and obsessive lengths to let him know that. The whole sexual violence and control element is there, though Christian is apparently happy enough to at least pretend to himself and others that he is having a normal relationship with Ana. 

Although the author's writing has improved somewhat, the book itself was not up to much--I didn't feel that I gained anything terribly new or insightful from Christian's perspective. There are no new scenes, or adventures to be had, which seems to defeat the purpose of telling the story from another character. (For example, what if there had been more with his interactions with Leila, Elena and some of the other characters?) The whole thing came across as the author and publisher scraping the bottom of the barrel of what has been a terrible, though wholly successful, franchise. 

For fans who cannot get enough of the series. Or people who buy books because they have a very buff man on the front cover.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Literary Quotes

"Can a husband ever carry about a secret all his life and a woman who loves him have no suspicion of it? I knew it by his refusal to talk about some episodes in his American life. I knew it by certain precautions he took. I knew it by certain words he let fall. I knew it by the way he looked at unexpected strangers."

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Review: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo is one of those Literary titles. The kind that when read at the right time can be worth more than their weight in gold. The flip side to this is, of course, when read at the wrong time, reading such a book can be a painful, thankless chore. Unfortunately, I read this book at the wrong time, and for the wrong reason. I bought it because it had been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. As we now all know, Lincoln in the Bardo was chosen as the winner. I think that the buzz about the book has settled enough for me to publish my review--something that I didn't want to do when there was a lot of high excitement about the title, and when it was most likely to reach those readers who would cherish it. 

From a shred of historical fact about the death of Abraham Lincoln's ten year old son, author George Saunders creates a rich and colourful world, where the recently deceased Willie Lincoln finds himself living in a cemetery among ghosts, each one quite lively and quite different from the other. In paragraphs that often alternate between the ghostly characters, each tells their life story. Parts of the book a terribly funny, parts are very clever and there is, of course, a great insight into human nature and what life was like for people living in that era. And, obviously, there is quite a lot of magical realism cleverly done. It's not difficult to see why the book won such a prestigious prize, and why so many readers--including those whose opinions I hold in high esteem--were very taken with this book. Unfortunately, something about it didn't work quite as well for me, and I am inclined to think that I may have read it at the wrong time, and almost certainly for the wrong reason. There is little I can fault the book itself on, apart from the fact that it annoyed me occasionally, and I found myself not really wanting to go back to it.

Maybe I'll return to this one another time, and I'll enjoy it then ...