Review: I Can’t Remember the Title but the Cover is Blue

Title: I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue

Author: Elias Greig

Published: Allen & Unwin, November 2018

Status: Read December 18th 2019

My Thoughts:

Monday, 2.50pm

Lady in sun visor: Yes, I’m after a book … I can’t remember the title, but it’s quite unique …

Me: Do you remember what it’s about?

Sun Visor: It’s about a French woman, and she finally tells her story. Do you have that one?

——————————

LOL? Any guesses on the title?

Written as a series of vignettes, in the tradition of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell and The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue, Elias Greig shares the best, worst and downright weirdest customer encounters from his years working as a Sydney bookseller.

I Can’t Remember the Title but the Cover is Blue is a quick and easy read that will make you laugh, cringe, and perhaps even shed a tear (because either you will be grateful you don’t work in retail, or because you do).

Review: The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

Title: The Land Before Avocado

Author: Richard Glover

Published: ABC Books, October 2018

Status: Read December 30, 2018

My Thoughts:

Technically I grew up in the 80’s, having been born in the early 1970’s, but so much of what Glover writes evokes memories of my childhood, from the pineapple ‘hedgehog’ cheese and onion appetisers, to the unbelted, smoke filled, weaving, courtesy of the ubiquitous cask wine in the bar fridge, car trips. I laughed aloud often at the nostalgic absurdity of it all.

However, The Land Before Avacado is also a sobering reminder of how far we have come as a culture. The status quo for baby boomers and most of Gen X would be inconceivable to today’s generations who can drink gourmet coffee (with smashed avacado toast) in the comfort of their own home, or by the roadside, any day of the week.

Tongue in cheek aside, many advances are sobering, from the drastic reduction of the road death toll, thanks to the introduction of drink driving and seatbelt laws, to laws protecting the employment status of pregnant women.

Glover also shares facts that will likely shock most readers who are convinced by their Facebook feeds that crime is at an all time high, when, in fact, the commission of serious crimes has more than halved across the board in the last fifty years.

While the nostalgic remembrances in The Land Before Avacado, appeal directly to those over the age of 40, I feel compelled to recommend to this to anyone over the age of twenty, many of whom could benefit from a little perspective.

Oh, and I am so going to cook the Spicy Meat Ring!

Available to Purchase at your preferred retailer

Review: The Nutters by Kate Starmer

 

Title: The Nutters

Author: Kate Starmer

Published: Austin-Macauley Jan 2015

Status: Read from April 07 to 08, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Nutters introduces Albert, a former policeman medically retired from the force after being stabbed by a clown, and his wife, Rose, private investigators in the small English village of Little Wobble. Albert, missing the excitement of his days on the force, hoped to catch criminals but instead spends his days looking for missing garden gnomes, cats, and neighbours who aren’t really missing at all.
So the Nutters are eager when they are asked to investigate a case in Upper Wobble where the vicar’s wife is receiving hate mail, threatening to expose her secret, sordid past, and suddenly they have almost more excitement than they can handle.

This cozy mystery offers a cast of lively characters, featuring the Nutter family which includes Albert, Rose, also an agony aunt for the village newspaper, their three almost adult children and a lazy oversize mutt.

There is more than one mystery playing out in The Nutters. The vicar’s wife is being blackmailed, the publican seems to be cheating on his wife, a young woman is assaulted and another is being stalked. The mysteries are solidly plotted, and though the culprits are fairly easily guessed, I was surprised by at least one of the revelations.

Unfortunately my experience of reading The Nutters was marred by several issues with the writing. The sentence structure is often clumsy, tenses are muddled and the grammar is inconsistent. There is far too much ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ and there are instances of repetition in the narrative.

It’s a shame, because I enjoyed the humour of The Nutters and think the story is genuinely entertaining, but the editing lets it down.

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About: The Penguin Leunig: 40th Anniverserary Edition by Michael Leunig

9780143572480

 

Title: The Penguin Leunig: 40th Anniversary Edition

Author: Michael Leunig

Published: Penguin Au November 2014

leunig1

“The 40th anniversary edition of the first collection of cartoons by Michael Leunig. Originally published in 1974, The Penguin Leunig was the very first collection of cartoons from the inimitable Leunig. Since then he has published 25 books and been declared a Living Treasure by the National Trust of Australia. The pieces in this classic compilation are as relevant now as when they first appeared, with Leunig turning his unique eye on life in all its complexities, ironies, absurdities and pathos. This hardback anniversary edition is a beautiful offering of the hilarious and the sublime.”

 leunig2

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*****

See also:

Review: Family Matters by Pat McDermott

 

 

Title: Family Matters: Laughter and wisdom from the home front

Author: Pat McDermott

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2014

Status: Read from October 28 to 29, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

There would be few women who have never picked up a copy of The Australian Womens Weekly magazine during their lifetime, I grew up reading its mix of celebrity features, hard luck stories, recipes, and regular columns, my favourite of which was always Pat McDermott’s ‘Family Matters’.

For thirty years McDermott chronicled the chaos of her family life as the wife of the MOTH (Man Of The House aka Dennis) and as the mother of five children, Reagan, Flynn, Patrick, Courtenay and Rowen (aka Ruff Red), and more recently also as a mother in-law and grandmother.

Family Matters is a collection of some of her columns spanning the time from which her children were rambunctious toddlers to grunting teenagers, to adults who left to make their own way in the world, and then came back. Her anecdotes, and confessions, are warm, funny, honest and so easy for me, as a mother of four, to relate to. As it happens, I have a ‘Ruff Red’ of my own!

Family Matters is a wonderful, laugh out loud read for any parent in the trenches or those with fond memories of raising their family. Personally I was left wanting more of Pat’s charm and humour and I hope there will be more collections from her column published in the future.

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Review: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules by Catharina Ingleman-Sundberg

Title: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules

Author: Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

Published: Pan Macmillan AU January 2014

Listen to an Excerpt

Status: Read from January 09 to 11, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Lily of the Valley retirement home was once a haven for Martha Anderson and her friends, but now under new management, and renamed Diamond House, the group had become victims of rate rises and repeated service cuts. Management’s decision to not provide decorations for the Christmas tree is the last straw for Martha who, after watching a television documentary, decides they would all be better off in a prison cell than as clients of Diamond House. Escaping the home is just the first step of a masterful scheme that includes the ‘League of Pensioners’ living the high life in Stockholm’s most exclusive hotel, a trip to the national art museum and a relaxing stay in a minimum security institution…but not everything goes to plan.

I can’t help but draw some comparisons between The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules and The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by author, Jonas Jonasson, the two books share a similar cover design, title, a ‘senior’ protagonist and both author’s are Swedish to begin with, but in truth there are few similarities.

While Allan Karlsson’s only plan is to escape his centenarian celebrations at the care home, Martha and her gang make meticulous plans for their break out and subsequent adventures with a clear goal in mind. The plot is largely straightforward with their initial schemes escalating when things don’t go exactly to plan. And things go wrong – a wild storm, a curious Yugoslav Mafia member and an ambitious hotel housekeeper, all add excitement and a touch of danger to the pensioners enterprise.

Ingelman-Sundberg plays it straight where Jonasson comedic sense wanders into the absurd. There is humor of course in a group of old age pensioners rebellion against society’s ‘rules’, the care home’s restrictions and their crime spree, certainly enough to raise a chuckle or three.

Commentary on the marginalisation of the elderly and their vulnerability to the power of care institutions, more concerned with profit margins than the well-being of their clientele, is inevitable though tempered by the idea of ‘growing old disgracefully’. You can’t help but admire the group’s sense of fun and mischief.

I read the English translation of the novel which I think was well done. I did find the pace a little uneven and thought perhaps overall the novel was a little too long.

I did enjoy The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules, it’s an entertaining, feel good crime caper which will have you cheering for the elderly rebels on the wrong side of the law.

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Review: Monkey Business by Kathryn Ledson

Title: Monkey Business {Erica Jewell #2}

Author: Kathryn Ledson

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Au January 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from December 31, 2013 to January 02, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A sequel to Ledson’s debut novel, Rough Diamond, Monkey Business sees Jack Jones heading out on another clandestine mission while Erica agonises over the status of their relationship and grows increasingly restless when he fails to return. When Erica realises Jack, and Joe, are actually missing-in-action and no one is willing to help him, she decides to go after him, flying to the troubled island of St Sebastian, where she quickly becomes entangled in some dangerous monkey business.

While I enjoyed the improbable but vaguely plausible plot in the first book this adventure didn’t quite work for me. Despite braving the trip to St Sebastian to rescue Jack, once there, Erica mainly wanders around aimlessly, asking random questions and being tortured by a cheerful taxi driver. I would have preferred Erica to be more active in her efforts to find Jack and while she eventually proves herself resourceful, in the depths of the jungle it has more to do with luck than good management.

I did giggle at the idea of black market Tupperware, the stuff is now so horrendously expensive that I am in fear of losing a piece of the 1970-80’s collection I liberated from my mother (including that lettuce crisper and the beetroot container).

Though not as strong as the first book for me, Monkey Business is a fast, easy read, offering plenty of laughs and I am hoping Erica Jewell will be back.

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Review: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

 

Title: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion

Author: Fannie Flagg

Published: Chatto and Windus: Random House AU November 2013

Status: Read from November 15 to 17, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Anna at the ReadingRoom and Random House}

My Thoughts:

I adore Fannie Flagg’s southern fiction, and was thrilled to learn of a new release. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is a heartwarming tale of family, idenity and flying.

Sookie (Sarah Jane) Poole is a timid fifty nine year old wife and mother in Pt Clear, Alabama. She has never doubted who she is, despite being a continual disappointment to her mother, the imperious Southern matriarch Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, until she accidentally learns her mothers darkest secret.

The dual narrative alternates between the fallout of Sookie’s discovery as she struggles to reconcile what she has always believed to be true with what her mothers secret reveals, and the fascinating story of the Jurdabralinski sisters of Wisconsin, to whom Sookie learns she is connected.

Sookie’s identity crisis has her questioning the issue of nature versus nurture, wondering what might have been, had things been different. Though I thought perhaps her angst dragged on a bit too long, there is also a lot of humour and warmth in Sookie’s journey, and of course in the sharing of the eccentricities of her Southern Belle mother and the benefits and pitfalls of small town living.

I was, however, always most eager to get back to the story of the Jurdabralinski’s, a hardworking, Polish immigrant family of four daughters and one son. Fritzi, the most adventurous and unconventional of the girls, forges an extraordinary career as an aerial wing walker after being swept off her feet by a handsome but roguish stunt flyer. Unfortunately the war interrupts her career and she returns home where she is faced with the challenge of rescuing her family’s gas station business while their father is recovering from TB and her brother in serving in the military. At Fritzi’s suggestion, the four daughters of the family take over and manage to keep it profitable by exploiting the novelty of the girls being in charge…hence the title of the novel.
As the war drags on, Fritzi is finally given the chance to fly again when, due to the lack of manpower available, women were reluctantly recruited by the military to assist in the war effort, transporting goods, including the planes themselves around the country. Eventually three of the Jurdabralinski sisters become fly girls,
I was fascinated by this element of the novel, the WASP’s, despite skepticism, and sometimes outright opposition, proved they were more than capable of providing crucial assistance to their country, but were never given official recognition by the powers that be and were summarily dismissed when the war finally ended. I love that Flagg has given recognition to this group of unsung heroines.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is a charming story combining southern humour and eccentricity with a fascinating tale of adventure and heroism. Flagg is a wonderful storyteller and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this delightful novel.

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US Cover

 

 

Review: Ride Like Hell and You’ll Get There: Detours into Mayhem by Paul Carter

Title: Ride Like Hell and You’ll Get There: Detours into Mayhem

Author: Paul Carter

Published: Allen and Unwin October 2013

Status: Read from October 21 to 23, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A few years ago now I picked up Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs, She Thinks I’m a Piano Player in a Whorehouse by Paul Carter at the library on a whim. Part memoir, part travel diary Paul wrote about his adventures as an oil rigger around the world and I remember finding the anecdotes within to be oftentimes hilarious but also interesting.

In Ride Like Hell and You’ll Get There: Detours into Mayhem Pauli has grown older, if not quite up. Though now a middle aged, executive part owner of a successful oil-related company, and a happily married man with young children, British born/Australian resident Paul, continues to seek adventure and challenge, albeit a little closer to home.

Ride Like Hell and You’ll Get There chronicles,in the main, Paul’s efforts to race in Speed Week on a motorcycle (of sorts) engineered to run on bio-diesel fuel and go very fast on a salt lake in the middle of nowhere. Plagued by cancellations, logistical obstacles, lost keys and broken limbs, it takes three years before Paul finally gets a break.

Paul also writes of a motorcycle touring trip with a friend around Tasmania, a wild conference in the US and his temporary gig as a documentary presenter, marriage, fatherhood and business

Carter’s books could be accused of being juvenile and crude, and there is some truth to that. Reading Ride Like Hell and You’ll Get There is often like eavesdropping on a ‘boy’s’ only pub night, complete with poo jokes, copious amounts of alcohol, bad language and displays of machismo. Not everyone will appreciate Paul’s sense of humour but I found myself smiling widely often, even while occasionally shaking my head with a mixture of disbelief and wry contempt.
Yet Ride Like Hell and You’ll Get There is not all a ‘boys own adventure’, Paul also relates several serious moments though often tempered by the surreal, including suffering the side effects of food poisoning while his wife is in the throes of a miscarriage, a court case that drags on and on and on, and a ruined $1000 helmet thanks to a territorial dog and a potty training two year old.

I’m not that interested in motor racing or the specifics of alternate fuel (though I believe we should be investing in it) but I still enjoyed Ride Like Hell and You’ll Get There. It’s a quick read, mostly light and amusing and is as advertised -a detour into mayhem. I imagine this book will particularly find an audience amongst fans of the television show ‘Top Gear’ and its ilk and, with Christmas coming up, it would make a great stocking stuffer for your father/husband/brother etc.

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Blog Tour: Seven Sins in Seven Days: Pride, with Gigi Levangie

7sins7days

Welcome to the Seven Sins in Seven days Blog Tour to introduce

Seven Deadlies by Gigi Levangie

SEVEN DEADLIES COVER_small

This quirky, satirical tale takes the form of a college admission essay sharing fourteen year old Perry Gonzalez’s insights into the privileged lives of her peers.

A precocious Latina scholarship student living in a tiny apartment with her estimable mother, Perry tutors, or babysits, the progeny of the Hollywood neighbourhood to save for her future. In this manner she is exposed to the personification of the seven deadly sins and writes of the inevitable consequences of lust, wrath, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy and pride.

From the demanding diva whose lust for her every desire results in electrocution, to the gluttonous appetite of a young boy who mistakes his own flesh for a leg of ham, there is plenty of humour, if morbidly exaggerated, in the stories Perry has to share. However in each vignette there is also the dark, sad truth of children corrupted by excess, variously indulged or ignored by their parents, and who ultimately pay a high price for their sinful behaviour.

While I was a little puzzled by the ending and didn’t think the twist necessary, I found Seven Deadlies to be an entertaining novel with the potential to find an audience with both young adult readers and a more mature audience.

***

Q & A With Gigi Levangie

I was invited to ask Gigi Levangie a few questions about Seven Deadlies and feature the sin of

*Pride*

Q: Tell us about Seven Deadlies…
A: The Seven Deadlies is about a scholarship student, Perry Gonzalez, who attends an exclusive private high school and finds herself tutoring teenagers who embody the Seven Deadly Sins. In a nutshell, it’s the Seven Deadly Sins in high school – and what better place to find them.

Q: What was the subject of your college admissions essay?
A: Good question! If I remember correctly, the subject of my college admissions essay was about the neighborhood I grew up in – the quintessential melting pot. There really were over 80 dialects spoken in my high school – Hollywood High.

Q: What or who  inspired the story of Pride?
A: Pride is the story of an athlete pushed to his limits – by himself and his father. I’m raising boys who are athletic – and I see this story played out over and over again on the field. (Hi, Baseball Dads – calm down! Little League isn’t the MLB!)  Then, there are the professional athletes – Lance Armstrong, whom I still admire for personal reasons, is obviously an example of Pride Gone Wild.

Q: What are you most proud of?
A: I’m most proud of my ability to bounce back. Knock me down 100 times, I’ll get back up on 101. Perseverance is key. I’m also really proud of the depth of my relationship with my children – all the kids in my family, in fact.

Q: Which sin are you most guilty of?
A: The sin I’m most guilty of? See above. Pride. My pride sometimes stands in the way of asking for help or appearing vulnerable. Just ask anyone I’ve ever dated!

Q: Who do you think will most enjoy Seven Deadlies?
A: I think the Seven Deadlies audience is pretty wide – starting with 12 or 13-year-olds – all the way to adult. I see it as a Tim Burton movie in book form. And Cecilia Ruiz’s illustrations alone are worth the price of admission!

***

GIVEAWAY

Thanks to Blue Rider Press

I have

1 print edition of Seven Deadlies to giveaway

*US/Canada Only*

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