The Time Travel Diaries #1 by Caroline Lawrence

Time Travel Diaries 1.jpgTitle: The Time Travel Diaries #1

Author: Caroline Lawrence

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, History

Publisher: Piccadilly/Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:From the million-copy-selling author of The Roman Mysteries comes a nail-biting time-travel adventure in Roman London – where past meets present.

From the million-copy-selling author of The Roman Mysteries comes a nail-biting time-travel adventure in Roman London – where past meets present.

Billionaire Solomon Daisy is obsessed with the skeleton of a blue-eyed girl from Roman London. He has managed to invent a Time Machine so that he can go and find her, but it’s estimated that for each hour spent in the past, the time traveller’s life will be shortened so Solomon recruits a potential child time traveller: Alex Papas, a twelve-year-old boy who knows a smattering of Greek and Latin.

Alex’s mission is to go back to Londinium through a portal in London’s Mithraeum and find out all he can about the blue-eyed girl.

There are just three rules:

1. Naked you go and naked you must return.
2. Drink, don’t eat.
3. As little interaction as possible.

But Time Travel is no picnic – and Roman London is far more dangerous than anyone could have known.

~*~

Alex Papas lives with his grandmother and goes to school every day. He loves history, Latin and Greek. He’s going about his life at school when a teacher calls him in to see her, and soon he is recruited by billionaire Solomon Daisy to travel back to Roman London – Londinium in 260 AD. However, when he goes back, Alex is followed by Dinu, the new boy at school and a bully. Arriving in Londinium, they must find a way to blend in and follow the rules set forth by Solomon relating to time travel. On a quest to find the blue-eyed girl with the ivory knife, Alex and Dinu mustn’t communicate with people – yet other forces have other ideas. One small change in the past is said to change the future – and nothing can come back with them.

So as Alex and Dinu seek the blue-eyed girl, Londinium of 260 AD is revealed, and Alex gets to use his Latin – and readers get to learn a little too, and realises that everything he has been told or seen. And, he has to try to stay alive so he can get back.

Finding the girl proves to be easier than Alex thought – but trying to get home is harder, especially when Dinu goes missing and Alex must find him and get them both home safely. But can he succeed, and what awaits them in the future?

This book combined fantasy, history and Latin – in a fun, and easily accessible way for all readers. Knowing some basic Latin, I was able to understand some of the Latin. Having the English translation is good, as it is included seamlessly and allows readers to go on without going to a translator.

As the first in a series, I am looking forward to seeing how this progresses and where else Alex gets to go, especially after the ending of this one. I never saw it coming and it is an amazing away to end the first novel, and has me excited to see where it takes us.

Squidge Dibley Destroys the School by Mick Elliott

Squidge DibleyTitle: Squidge Dibley Destroys the School

Author: Mick Elliott

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books

Published: 25th June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 175

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Squidge Dibley is the new kid at Craglands South Primary … and the school might not survive him. The start of a hilarious new series about a very strange class, perfect for fans of Weirdo, Funny Kid and Tom Gates.

Things are going downhill fast for class 6PU at Craglands South Primary School. They’ve changed teachers more times than most kids change their socks, and their latest one is so strict they aren’t even allowed to sneeze. But just when it seems like the school term has been turned into a prison term, a new kid arrives.
A kid unlike any other kid at Craglands South.
A kid named Squidge Dibley.
He’s small, quiet and strangely … squidgy.
And he’s about to change everything.

SQUIDGE DIBLEY DESTROYS THE SCHOOL is book one in a hilarious new series by Mick Elliott, author of THE TURNERS, and features his unforgettable cartoon-style illustrations on every page.

~*~

Padman O’Donnell is in year six at Craglands South Primary School – and is in a class that churns through teachers faster than anyone could ever imagine. One day, the only teacher who has managed to survive the longest it taken away sick, and the class has to be taught by Vice Principal Hoovesly – who has so many rules, he starts to make them up as he goes just to have a reason to punish the class – for breathing, for gasping, for trying to learn. Until the day Squidge Dibley arrives. Unlike any other student, Squidge has a variety of unusual diseases that make him burp, stretch, and explode when exposed to certain elements and noises – something that kids will find very amusing if they enjoy this kind of humour.

Each time a teacher tries to make Squidge do something, he produces a note – informing the teacher of what not to do and why, resulting in various incidents where the teacher, in many cases, Vice Principal Hoovesly, is thwarted in what he is trying to do. As the narrator, Padman provides his thoughts and impressions on each student and the teachers, so everything that happens is seen through his eyes. However, Hoovesly is quite an awful person, so even Principal Shouthmouth (called that because nobody in the story can pronounce her real name) is keen to see him get what he deserves. When a teacher forbids sneezing – something you can’t control, drastic measures must be taken.

The first in a new series, this is sure to capture the imaginations of younger readers with the cartoon-like illustrations that complement the text, and the fun characters who cause mischief, but when it counts, really come together and utilise their unusual talents and tricks to help their new friend, Squidge. Every character in this novel is different and has a quirk that makes them unique. It is these differences that are celebrated throughout the book, as they should be in real life as well.

This is a great book for primary school readers looking for a bit of fun and difference in their reading, and is a good, quick read as well.

Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

best foot forward.jpgTitle: Best Foot Forward

Author: Adam Hills

Genre: Non-Fiction/Comedy

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 355

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: One of Australia’s biggest comic personalities, much-loved host of Spicks and Specks and the hit UK TV show The Last Leg, Adam Hills’ charming and witty memoir is a lesson in following your heart, being positive and discovering that what makes you different also makes you unique.

Adam Hills was a quiet primary school kid with a prosthetic foot who did all his homework and only spoke when spoken to. His dad sparked in him a love of comedy, and together they’d spend hours watching and listening to the likes of Peter Sellers and Mel Brooks. So when it was Adam’s turn to speak, he made sure he was funny.

Once he hit high school, comedy was Adam’s obsession (along with a deep love for the South Sydney Rabbitohs). While his mates were listening to Iron Maiden and AC/DC, he was listening to Kenny Everett and Billy Connolly. And when a report card came home with a comment praising his sense of humour, he was far prouder of that than his grades (his mum not so much).

Adam’s shyness and his missing foot never held him back, though wearing thongs was tricky. While other teens snuck off to meet girls and drink cheap booze, Adam snuck off to see a young Jim Carrey perform. After that, a steady diet of Rodney Rude, Vince Sorrenti and Robin Williams led this sheltered, virginal university student from The Shire to his first stand-up open mic night on his 19th birthday.

In Best Foot Forward, Adam describes his early years on the Australian comedy scene sharing gigs with Steady Eddy and Jimeoin, how he coped the first time he died on stage, his early-morning apprenticeship in radio, touring the world’s comedy festivals, the magic of Spicks and Specks and his hosting gig for the 2008 Paralympics that led to his hit UK TV show The Last Leg. Kermit the Frog, Whoopi Goldberg, Barry Humphries, Billy Connolly – Adam’s learned from the best. In this charming and witty memoir Adam Hills shows how hard work, talent and being proudly different can see you find your feet.

~*~

Growing up in the Sutherland Shire, Adam Hills ‘ love of comedy was sparked by his dad – watching and listening to Mel Brooks, and Peter Sellers on family trips to the South Coast for holidays in the car, which led to him listening to Billy Connolly in place of the popular music his high school friends were listening to at the time. And having a prosthetic foot was normal for him – it just was, in the way that many disabled people who have grown up with their disability know it’s part of them and their identity – an everyday, normal part of life that they live with and adapt to.

Adam Hills is one of my favourite comedians in Australia – and I adored and still adore watching Spicks and Specks on TV. Best Foot Forward is Adam’s journey from growing up in the Sutherland Shire to entering the comedy scene in various clubs and festivals across Australia and Europe, to the making of Spicks and Specks. In it, Adam talks candidly about family life, his missing foot, and the people he meets and interacts with, all with the uniqueness that makes him wonderful to watch and listen to. From early morning radio to comedy tours, Adam is completely himself in this book, and he seamlessly integrates all his experiences with his sense of humour throughout the book.

What I liked about this book was Adam’s honesty and openness – it was like having an extended chat with a very good friend, and the kind of conversation that engages everyone wholly and takes you along for the ride, laughs and all. Much of the book is focussed on Adam’s journey to comedy, and through radio, though when he was asked to help co-host a show for the Paralympics in 2008, this was where Adam found a community of disabled people. People like him, his age, and younger, who had missing limbs, or no limbs. Adam had previously mentioned that he had never really thought of his prosthetic as a barrier because there were many things he could do that people who had what he saw as more restrictive disabilities couldn’t do – but the Paralympics changed his mind – and this is a very important part of the book. Many disabled people will and might be able to identify with the way Adam felt. The feeling that because you can do many things, you’re not as worse off as some, despite there being some limitations. Adam articulates this really well, and in a really relatable and understandable way for readers. Adam’s eloquence when discussing his disability and the way he dealt with it, the use of humour to cope, and as an ice breaker, and how the Paralympians made him feel was the most powerful aspect of the book for me. Adam is truly one of my favourite people in the entertainment industry.

Fans of Adam Hills will enjoy this candid and entertaining book, and yes, I had a go at his Substitute test in the chapter on Spicks and Specks. Throughout, I heard Adam’s voice clearly – which made it a genuine and exciting experience. I hope others who enjoy Adam’s comedy and Spicks and Specks will enjoy this as much as I did.

Best Foot Forward will be filling next week’s Book Bingo Square for Comedy – thank you Adam!

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Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Nevermoor #2)

Wundersmith.jpgTitle: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

Author: Jessica Townsend

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Lothian

Published: 30th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 475

Price: $16.99 (PB), $24.99 (HB)

Synopsis: Wunder is gathering in Nevermoor … 

Morrigan Crow may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And she is fast learning that not all magic is used for good.

Return to the magical world of Nevermoor! Morrigan Crow’s perilous adventures continue in the most anticipated sequel of the year, a treat for all fans of magic and Wunder. 

Morrigan Crow has escaped her deadly fate and found a new home in the fantastical city of Nevermoor. She has also discovered that she has a strange and magical ability. But will her unique talent be a blessing or another curse?

Now that Morrigan and her best friend Hawthorne are proud scholars in the elite Wundrous Society, she is sure that she’s found a place to belong at last, but life is far from perfect. Can Morrigan prove that she deserves to be in the Society – or will an unexpected new enemy ruin her new life?

Praise for Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow:

Winner 
Dymocks Book of the Year 2018
Winner Book of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards 2018
Winner Book of the Year for Younger Children, Australian Book Industry
Awards 2018
Winner The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, Australian
Book Industry Awards 2018
Winner Book of the Year, Indie Book Awards 2018
Winner Children’s Category, Indie Book Awards 2018
Winner Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award, Australian Booksellers Association Awards 2018
Winner Best Children’s Fiction, Aurealis Awards 2017
Winner Younger Fiction, Waterstones Children’s Book Prize (UK) 2018
Shortlisted The Readings Children’s Book Prize 2018
A CBCA Notable book
Voted #1 in the Dymocks Kids’ Top 51


‘Unexpected, exciting and funny. Like Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and Doctor Who swirled up together.’ – Judith Rossell, ABIA Award-winning author of Withering-by-Sea

‘Exciting, charming, and wonderfully imagined, it’s the sort of delightful, grand adventure destined to be many a reader’s favourite book.’ – Trenton Lee Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of The Mysterious Benedict Society series and The Secret Keepers

‘It really is brilliant, with an engaging plot, plenty of twists, memorable characters and a marvellous sense of humour. Pick it up and the hours disappear, just like magic.’ – Daily Telegraph

‘An exciting and charming middle-grade read that will hook readers aged 10 and up with intricate imaginative detail and its sheer energy … a compulsively readable romp that fans of ‘Harry Potter’, Terry Pratchett or Studio Ghibli will gobble up.’ – Books and Publishing

~*~

Morrigan Crow’s journey began in Nevermoor, where she was whisked away from the Wintersea Republic on Eventide, the day she was destined to die, by Captain Jupiter North, whose red hair and flashy clothes were, and still are, in stark contrast to the black clothing donned by our heroine. Released exactly twelve months and twenty days after Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow picks up shortly after the first book, with Morrigan (Mog to Jupiter North), living at the Hotel Deucalion with its rooms that change depending on what you need at that moment, and the vampire dwarf, Frank, causing mischief and planning epic parties – this time to compete with a new hotel nearby, which is all in good fun amidst Morrigan’s acceptance into WunSoc, and her unit, Unit 919. Accepted by Hawthorne and Miss Cheery, Mog must work to earn the trust of the rest of her unit, as she grapples with her newfound identity as a Wundersmith, and she must fight all the prejudice flung at her because of it, and show everyone that there are good Wundersmiths, that they’re not all like Ezra Squall, who is trying to get back into Nevermoor.

As Morrigan starts her classes – at first, dully with only one class, referring to an abridged edition of the history of Wundersmiths, with a wuntortoise as her teacher – Professor Onstald – and gradually gaining a second class where she discovers the world of Nevermoor and all the sneaky, secret streets that lead to dangerous places like the Ghastly Market, or have rather unpleasant results, like vomiting everywhere. Despite this Tricksy Lanes, and their more nefarious relations, Morrigan finds herself in all sorts of trouble with Ezra Squall as Jupiter is called away more often, to the point where she fears she will have to leave WunSoc and Proudfoot House, but Morrigan will come to learn that loyalty and choice are what will make her the Wundersmith she is, and it is her loyalty to those who are around her in Nevermoor that make her a wunderful character. As she ventures into the world of WunSoc, along with readers, things are  not always as they seem, and there are threads and hints at certain things that are so subtle, the impact their reveal is given is magical and powerful.

I’ve been with this series since the first book came out last year, and it is absolutely delightful. Filled with everything from snarky cats to best friends, magical doors and rooms that change the type of bed you have based on what you need, I enjoyed my latest stay at the Hotel Deucalion, and spending time with Fen and Jupiter again. Fen is a character who doesn’t hold back, she tells it like it is. She is one of those characters who you really want to get behind and cheer on because, well, she’s magnificent and even though she’s full of snark and sarcasm, she truly cares for Mog and Jupiter.

Like many fantasy series before it, this series begins with an orphaned, or unwanted child, living a rather mundane experience until someone – in this case the enigmatic Jupiter North, arrives to whisk Morrigan away to a new, colourful world of magic and wonder, where good and evil fight each other and dastardly people lurk in the shadows, trying to disrupt the lives of those wanting to get by in Nevermoor peacefully. And, like in similar series, the threat of Squall will grow until a face-off – but the execution of Morrigan’s journey is as unique as every other story in the same genre. What Morrigan has to do is and will be unique, she is unique, and she shows people that they can overcome the bad things and shows that just because a certain fate is ascribed arbitrarily to you, it doesn’t mean you have to fulfil this fate. You can change it, and with Jupiter and Hawthorne’s help, that is just what Morrigan does.

Morrigan and Hawthorne are the heroes and friends we need – loyal, not perfect, and willing to learn from mistakes. Hawthorne’s loyalty to Morrigan, following certain events that turn the rest of their unit against her, and his willingness to do anything he can to help his friend, are what make him one of my favourite characters. There is nothing Hawthorne wouldn’t do for his friend, and I absolutely loved that.

The entire book from beginning to end is amazing, and fits in so well with the previous book, naturally, and gives a deeper look into the characters, but still with enough mystery to ensure there are secrets to come out in later books. I look forward to the continuation of this series, and where Mog goes from here.

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Total Quack Up by Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

total quack up.jpgTitle: Total Quack Up

Author: Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

Genre: Children’s fiction/humour

Publisher:  Penguin Random House/Puffin

Published: 15th October, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: 14.99

Synopsis: Authors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have gathered together an awesome line-up of writers and their funniest stories. Not only will the stories make you laugh out loud and feel good, royalties from sales of the book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities – so you can feel extra good!

Total Quack Up! features stories from Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton, plus a prize-winning story from a child!

~*~

Total Quack Up is a new anthology of short stories aimed at children, and published by Puffin for the Dymocks Children’s Charities, with royalties going towards these charities to help children learn to read and engage with reading. In these stories, there are superheroes, animals and magic, as well as robots and siblings, and practical jokes – all the things that kids find enjoyable and funny, in stories that they will enjoy and engage with, at all levels.

Each story is a quick read, starting with How to Be A Superhero by Deborah Abela – and ending with a story from a schoolkid, Ella Wallace, who won a competition to be included in the anthology. Each story stars a child as the protagonist, navigating life at school, at sport, or as a superhero, and with family, friends and siblings. Written by some of Australia’s most popular male and female authors, this makes my count for the Australian Women Writers Challenge seventy – with another review to write for a quiz book, and many more reviews to come – I hope. This will be included in my next challenge catch up post.

AWW-2018-badge-roseWith a uniqueness to each story, every reader who picks up this book will find a story and character they will enjoy, love and laugh with. From Arabella von Champion, a superhero who sees herself as extraordinary and is quite daring, to the little brother at the end who blocks up the dunny with everything imaginable, and the soccer team with the pig as a mascot – all other animals are banned from the sports field, to everything in between from some of the best-loved Australian authors, and some new voices to discover between these red covers, all aimed at raising money to help with children’s charities in Australia.

The variety of stories shows just how diverse and eclectic Australian authors are, and how different stories and characters will appeal to different children, and what will hook them into reading. This book offers bite-sized pieces of Australian talent for new readers to discover, and for old readers of these authors who have enjoyed their previous works and books over the years, and for the adults who would have read some as children, now able to pass these authors down.

Another great book aimed at kids, and with stories to enjoy and laugh with, I hope all those who get to read this enjoy it.

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Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

early riser .jpgTitle: Early Riser

Author: Jasper Fforde

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Adventure/Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder & Stoughton

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Jasper Fforde’s first standalone novel – full of the imagination, wit and intelligence that has made Fforde a Number One bestseller.

The new standalone novel from Number 1 bestselling author Jasper Fforde. 

Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies dangerously close to death as they enter an ultra-low metabolic state of utterly dreamless sleep. All humans, that is, apart from the Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens.

Charlie Worthing is a novice, chosen by a highflying hero Winter Consul to accompany him to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of Wales, to investigate a dream which is somehow spreading amongst those in the hibernational state, causing paranoia, hallucination and a psychotic episode that can end in murder.

Worthing has been trained to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation, leaving only one or two skills and an incredible hunger; he’s been trained to stay alive through the bleakest and loneliest of winters – but he is in no way prepared for what awaits him in Sector Twelve. There are no heroes in Winter, Worthing has been told. And he’s about to find out why…

~*~

It has been many years since a Jasper Fforde novel has been released, and of all his books, my two favourite series are the Thursday Next books, and the Nursery Crimes books – both of which I hope get updates soon, so I can find out what happens to my favourite characters. In Early Riser, the first stand-alone novel by Fforde, which is filled with the same satire, the same references to history, popular culture, entertainment and reading, as the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series his readers have come to know and love. Yet this is a different world to that of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, set in another alternate United Kingdom, this time in Wales, where humans spend the entire winter hibernating – and where a select few have volunteered to stay awake through winter to ensure everyone makes it through.

Charlie Worthing is one such volunteer. It is his first Winter awake, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time – there is an outbreak of viral dreams that start to kill people, and Charlie must work with the Winter Consul, and contend with the Wintervolk and those infecting the dreams of the hibernating folk and killing them.

This is a sort of dystopian, alternate universe that is quintessentially British, and charmingly so, with the presence of After Eights, Tunnocks Tea Cakes and a tongue-in-cheek humour that I have come to expect and love in Fforde’s works. It is a humour that knowing some of the references, such as his cheeky nods to The Sound of Music, that knowing where they are from helps you appreciate them all the more, and it is so typically Fforde – he manages to get the balance of respect and satire just right, and it suits the book and the character of Charlie so well -one wonders if Charlie has ever crossed paths with the Nursery Crime Division and Thursday Next – books I must read again, and am hoping for continuations of.

The cruelty of Charlie’s first Winter is evident in how the Consul treats him, in the hints at hazing and how different departments perform this – where one might be akin to pranks and drills, Charlie’s hazing is said to be more like making tea and doing laundry – that is, until he is given a promotion to take on heavier duties and investigations into the dream deaths. Fforde cleverly shows how this happens but using subversive and discreet language – nothing is obviously stated, and Charlie is constantly warned about the consequences of falling asleep. Part mystery as well as satire as Charlie investigates what happens, he soon finds himself uncovering secrets about people he thought he knew and finding out things he never thought he would.

Fforde manages to capture something unique about the world, about history and literature, and British culture that is entertaining, informative and amusing. He uses the punching up rule of humour, mixed in with equal delectable dollops of parody and satire to complement the seemingly insane and odd mystery that makes sense in the dystopian alternate universe of Wales that Fforde has created for Charlie to live in, with an ending that is both conclusive and open enough for readers to imagine what happens next. It is a novel that will appeal to Fforde fans and hopefully those who appreciate a tongue in cheek humour and nods to things we’ve all encountered or heard of at some stage, which makes the reading experience richer and more enticing when you can understand these references.

Jasper’s first novel in about four years, Early Riser is the beginning of what will hopefully be a barrage of new books, and updates on our favourite characters and stories. I enjoyed being back in the world of Jasper Fforde and can’t wait for his next offering – which I hope will be soon. In the meantime, I plan to re-read the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, that latter of which only has two books at this stage.

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The Upside of Over by JD Barrett

upside of overTitle: The Upside of Over

Author: J.D. Barrett

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 29th May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 298

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A scathingly brilliant new novel from TV scriptwriter J.D. Barrett, author of THE SECRET RECIPE FOR SECOND CHANCES, that explores sex, love and all the stuff in-between.

What happens when one of the country’s most popular identities goes from reading the news to being the news?

Olivia Law had always been the good girl. Great grades, perfect career, husband, house and hairdo. She’d learnt image was everything, so she refused to look below the surface of her life. When not at work, her minutes were filled with causes, chairing boards and dining at fabulous restaurants with her equally fabulous husband, David. She kept up the Botox, blow-dries and worked hard. It wasn’t enough, but whenever doubt crept in she’d head to a Pilates class or plan a renovation on her trophy house.

Then she turned 45.
Olivia wasn’t prepared for David to leave. The fact that they hadn’t had sex for two years should have triggered warning bells … it didn’t.

In an attempt to fix her broken marriage Olivia exposes herself like never before. But when her confession goes viral, the husband, house and job disappear. The woman who once offered glamorous reassurance and a steady gaze is labelled a princess of perversion. Humiliated, defeated, facing fifty shades of failure, she’s left wondering who the hell she really is? Stripped bare, she abandons perfection … and something remarkable happens.

Olivia Law just might get her sass back (and this time, it’s the real thing).

The brilliant new novel from J.D. Barrett about break ups, breakdowns and break throughs. Batteries not included.

 

~*~

Olivia Law has enjoyed a well-respected career as a newsreader and in the media for many years. And then her marriage falls apart, and she sends a private video to her ex-husband that is a little risqué, which somehow goes viral. What follows is the epic fallout that sees Olivia hit rock bottom, and it takes best friend Darcy, stepson, Finn, her best gay friends, Hugo and Ricky, and a few unexpected allies to pull her through. Escaping up to Byron, Olivia confronts her own sexuality and identity, finding friends in Leo, and Ace, and a new identity that she forges through an online personality, which is encouraged by her friends and her stepson’s mother, Karen and sister Ava. As she ventures into this new life, hints of why she was fired and how the video was leaked to the public start to come out, and sexual harassment cases start to emerge as Olivia’s videos begin to empower women to speak out about anything and everything and stand up for themselves. What will follow results in the reactions to what happens in these cases and how people try to make sure the least harm is done, and what happens when people are caught out.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Upside of Over looks at how women in the entertainment industry can and at times, are treated once they reach a certain age, as though they have a use by date that society seems to impose on them for career, family, marriage. After her unsuccessful marriage, Olivia feels lost for a while and is questioning where she fits in, and whether she really has a place in the world anymore, which leads to her exploration of self. When she fails, that failure is what catapults her into a new life, and with a renewed sense of self. It is a funny book, that readers at cross roads of their life, and wondering about where they are going, J.D. Barrett writes about the forced invisibility and compliance of Olivia with humour and sass that ensures each page is a surprise and creates a story with charm as well as humour.

Of all the characters, I think Ricky, Hugo and Finn ended up being my favourites, and I was surprised by Karen, and the way she turned out to be such a good friend to Olivia in the end and backed her at every stage in the case that the network Olivia had worked for brought against her. I loved the diversity in this book – the ages, the genders, everything and the way the plot and everything else all flowed so seamlessly together, showing that the world isn’t always what we see on the surface, that there is more to people than meets the eye and peeling back the layers shows who we truly are.

In today’s world, where the #TimesUp movement was started with the revelations last year about Harvey Weinstein, this is an eerily prophetic book that looks at the inner workings of the television and media industries – what we see onscreen doesn’t reveal what happens behind the scenes, and the way the media treated Olivia in the novel – when it had never been her intention for the video to be leaked – illustrated the different ways media reports scandals depending on who is involved and the perspective they want to present. Where Olivia’s network tried to throw her under  the bus, when one of her former colleagues came through for her, I liked that, and thought it sent a powerful message that sometimes standing up for what is right, and doing everything possible to uncover the truth, even if it means risking your own career, is better than kowtowing to executives and what they want.

With the current wave of stories coming out against Hollywood producers, this could not be a more timely novel in my mind, and even though it doesn’t directly reference the #TimesUp movement or Weinstein, the shadows and hints about it are there, showing the fickleness of the outward appearance of perfection, and how quickly things can go wrong, but the upside of this is what Olivia made of it, and the voice that she gave to women all over through her venture – even those she didn’t expect to hear from.

Interview with J.D. Barret appears on this blog too.

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