Archive for August, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge Task 5

For task 5 I read ‘The Man Who Loved Jane Austen’ by Sally Smith O’Rourke.

What a great name this author has and she also wrote a lovely book.

My review is here.

Posted on 13 August '09 by , under Jane Austen & Austen Inspired. No Comments.

Everything Austen Challenge Task 4

Task 4 Completed – 2008 BBC Mini-series Sense and Sensibility Review

I have been eagerly awaiting the 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility to become available in Australia and at last I’ve seen it.  The opening scene immediately distinguishes it from previous adaptions and certainly made this Austen fan sit up wide eyed.   Visually it is absolutely gorgeous and I’m going to say I love it far too much in the following review.

I was delighted with this version and the way it has picked up on parts of the book that have until now, not been translated to film.  The actors are terrific, solid and you feel convinced.   As much as I adore the Emma Thompson film version I feel this adaption is more true to the book.  It certainly has time to address more as it is a mini-series. I am torn between my favourite Elinors now, Emma Thompson swept me away in the film and I am a huge fan but closer in age to Elinor,  Hattie Morahan portrays Elinor Dashwood beautifully and I am sure it will be her face I visualise when I read the book from now on.  I did find myself thinking about Emma Thompson a lot while watching it and I think it is because the two actresses’ voices are uncannily similar.

Dan Stevens is my Edward from now on.  He plays the part so close to my idea of Edward that it felt like I’d just put on my comfy slippers.  I respected Hugh Grants’ portrayal but I was never completely convinced.

One of my highlights and it probably won’t make sense to everyone, was seeing Mark Williams waltz into Barton cottage as Sir Middleton.  I adore this man and his quirkiness.  Anyone who can get me to sit through an entire series on steam engines (Mark Williams on the Rails) just because of his infectious manner of delivery, makes it to my honours wall.

I would say the only part of this version that didn’t sit comfortably with me was the actor who played Willoughby, Dominic Cooper.  It certainly has nothing to do with his delivery, he was brilliant but it is simply that I visualise someone different, taller and more charming.  It’s hard to be impartial when I’ve already got such a vivid feeling about how my Austen men should be. Please don’t let this form a negative opinion of Dominic Cooper because I’m sure he will make many melt, just not my taste I guess.  I can’t see the sexual appeal of James McAvoy either and yet as an actor he is fantastic.

The scriptwriter Kevin Hood did an amazing job.  He’s written a period drama with a contemporary style and delivery and I’m sure this version will recruit many new Austen fans to the fold.

Love it, love it, love it, love it, just in case you weren’t convinced.

Posted on 11 August '09 by , under Jane Austen & Austen Inspired. 7 Comments.

Island of Fog – Book Review


by Keith Robinson

ISBN: 13 978-1-4421-1441-8

Published: April 2009

I love young adult fiction and make no excuses for it.  I eagerly awaited the arrival of my copy of Island of Fog but when it arrived I was suddenly nervous because I really wanted to like it.  I tentatively stepped into the prologue, let out the breath I was holding and launched into the first chapter.  Now my book has a distinct bend in the middle from being stuck under my arm while I tended to my life of the last 3 days.   What a great adventure Keith Robinson took me on.  In keeping with the tradition of young adult fiction, Island of Fog brings together a group of young people who have to solve a mystery in order to save themselves and those they love.

Twelve year old Hal and Robbie are best friends and live in a small community on a green lush island.  The outside world is not known to them, their parents exiled themselves when the world was ravaged by a deadly virus.  Despite being marooned, their island life, up till now, has been ideal but now in their teens they start to question their surroundings.  They crave things they have only heard about, they crave adventure and something new, they crave the sun and the moon.  The sun and moon are never seen on their island because the island is covered in a thick impenetrable fog.   Hal, Robbie and the other teenagers on the island are getting restless. They are adolescents and like all adolescents are going through physical and mental changes.  They are becoming adults, getting taller, stronger, and forming crushes.  They are growing hair in strange places but is it normal to grow it on your fingers, is it normal to be itching all day, is it normal to have a green scaly rash or sharp fangs.  Should they show their parents?  Can they trust their parents, whose explanations don’t seem convincing anymore?  Can they trust the strange outsider who arrives, unaffected by the virus and conveniently, at the same time as their physical changes?  They know they aren’t being told the truth and set out to find it.

Island of Fog travels along at an enjoyable pace and the suspense has you hungry for each page turn.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and love that young adult fiction can take you off on a great adventure without you being muddied up by ‘adult themes’.  Island of Fog ends but the story is certainly not wrapped up and I searched the last few blank pages with hope of finding an excerpt of the next book.   So, Keith Robinson, thank you for Island of Fog and as I can feel a series coming on, I sit, eagerly awaiting book two.

Posted on 5 August '09 by , under Childrens fiction, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 3 Comments.

The True Story of Butterfish – Book Review


by Nick Earls

ISBN: 9781741666335

Published: 1/7/09

We all ‘think’ we know what we want but it often takes a wake up call to really ‘understand’ what is best for us.

Curtis Holland is an average guy who has had extraordinary luck come his way.  He and his friend Derek Frisk had a band called Butterfish, which went from local to global.  With that came all the rockstar trappings, travel, money, parties, celebrity and pressure.  After their 3rd album fails they are dropped by their record label and the band dissolves.  Derek stays in LA to keep up the rockstar image but with some relief , Curtis gladly leaves that life and plans to work on producing other musician’s work. So now he is back in Brisbane, has no band, his father died while he was on tour and so did his marriage.  Moving into a suburban home with a studio in the back garden, disguised as a granny flat, Curtis takes a breath, opens a beer and adds up the cost of his absurd rockstar life.

When Annaliese Winter floats down his driveway looking for her dog, Curtis is rattled by his fascination with the complex 16 years old.  As he gets to know the rest of her family, 14 year old brother Mark and their mother Kate, he find himself drawn to them and it seems his average street, in an average suburb is suddenly less ordinary.  Curtis isn’t sure what he can contribute to the relationship developing with his new neighbours.  He is still jet lagged from his rockstar life and the truth is that he hasn’t dealt with the loss of his father, his marriage or his band.  Together with his brother Patrick, Curtis tries to reconnect with their father and by going through his belongings, they uncover much they didn’t know and much they’ll never know.  A fast and furious visit from Derek drags up further regrets but also offers Curtis an alternate view of himself.

Curtis’ return to reality explores the relationship with the place we call home and the need for balance in life.  Returning home stirs up history of our time before we left but also gives us a safe place to review where we’ve been.  Rediscovering what is important in our lives sounds simple but the fact that you’ve lost sight of it means that havoc was wreaked and there is much cleaning up to be done.

I particularly liked Curtis’ journey to reconnect with his father.  Exploring the idea that after we die we are reduced to a sum of our stuff and what we have chosen to share with others.  It reinforces the lessen to be careful what you leave behind because you may leave an impression that you would be disappointed by.   Perhaps we should all engage a trusted friend, who in the case of our demise, will remove those things we wouldn’t want our family to find.

It was also interesting seeing Curtis and Patrick trying to resettle themselves after losing their last parent.  I heard someone mention once – and I wish I could remember who, so I could credit them – that we never truly grow up while we still have our parents.  That we complete our development when we have to face a world without our parents in it.   Despite the sadness of losing their father, I was heartened to see them both grow a little taller from the experience.

I really enjoyed ‘The True Story of Butterfish’ and its simple message about discovering what is important in our lives.  Although I read it over a very busy week, I found myself heaving an audible sign of relief each time I was able to pick it up again.

Nick Earls has a knack for making average into extraordinary and he’s done it again with The True Story of Butterfish. It is full of Australian markers but with relief, is free of those Australian stereotypes and cliches that make me cringe, no shrimps on barbies or crocodile dundees to be seen.

Curtis’ experience with the illusion of celebrity life highlights that at home we are all the same.  That before ‘they’ were celebrities they were average people just like us and that in reality they still are.  He sets his story in an average house, in an average street, in an average suburb, which could translate to any suburb in the developed world.  By so doing, he reaches out to all us average folk, sitting on our average couches, doing washing, cooking, cleaning or like me typing a review on my laptop with a 4 year old tucked up beside me giggling away at ‘The Little Rascals’ on DVD and makes our lives seem a lot less average and in fact, quite extraordinary.

Thank you Nick Earls for The True Story of Butterfish.

Posted on 3 August '09 by , under Reviews. 1 Comment.