Five Go Down Under (Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for Grown-Ups with text by Sophie Hamley

five go down under.jpgTitle: Five Go Down Under (Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for Grown-Ups)

Author: Sophie Hamley

Genre: Humour, Parody

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st October 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 106

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The Famous Five have gone on their greatest adventure yet – a trip Down Under to Oz for some gap year fun.

Enid Blyton’s books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourite of her fans. Now, in this new Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, Julian, George, Dick, Anne and Timmy head Down Under for some relaxing holiday fun. But will it be the adventure they had hoped for?

Setting up camp in Bondi they soon meet the Sydney Six, a couple of guitar-strumming Kiwis and a rogue South African and find themselves in the thick of Sydney’s real estate perils and the attempts of their omnipresent cousin Rupert Kirrin to buy up the local media.

But when the sun, surf and bluebottles have their revenge and things don’t quite go to plan, it’s time to head for the country for a spot of sheep-shearing and quad-bike riding. Will the country be kinder to them or will their close calls with the Australian wildlife have them heading back to the city before you can say decaff soy latte?

~*~

In Five Go Down Under, Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy decide to take a year off of work and the cold of England, and travel to warmer climates. They choose Australia, warm enough year around and far enough away to warrant a long trip, rather than heading to the usual destinations in Spain they’re used to. Of course, nothing will prepare them for the heat, the killer wildlife and the strange linguistic differences and slang that will greet them upon their arrival in Australia. And what will they make of their neighbours in Bondi, the trendy beach suburb of Sydney famous with tourists from all over the world?

In Australia, the Famous Five will encounter ferries, and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, sheep shearing and the harsh sun that burns without prejudice. They encounter things they never thought they would, and find that all their dreams of life in Sydney might not be quite what they thought it would be, as they try to navigate the culture that in some ways is similar yet so different from what they are used to. In a madcap series of events, they will come to find that the Australia that the Sydney Six are determined to show them is not quite the Australia they imagined, and that no country is immune to the evils of the world. As laid-back as the Australians they meet might be, the Five soon come to realise this only the surface – and their journey in Australia has just begun as they seek work during their gap year.

aww2017-badgeUsing Enid Blyton’s popular characters, Australian author Sophie Hamley has written a text that beautifully reproduces the original style and characters, whilst balancing this with new characteristics they displays as adults, and contrasts this with the current generation and the Australian way of speaking. She seamlessly weaves in references to current diet trends and the stereotypical Australians, as well as references to politics and popular culture – in true Australian satirical style, poking fun at the things about our country that need to be laughed about. Sophie Hamley’s text is accompanied by illustrations originals by Eileen Soper, who illustrated other editions of the original Famous Five stories, which gives a sense of character and nostalgia to the texts.

Using tongue-in-cheek humour, Sophie Hamley’s text is uniquely Australian whilst keeping the tone of the original stories intact, if not somewhat exaggerated for comedic impact. The Famous Five For Grown-Ups Series brings the beloved childhood characters back to life for adults, and into an unknown world, where poking fun at current trends and cultural phenomena all play a part in creating a fun read.

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Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl

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Title: Royce Rolls
Author: Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Published: 1st May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Price: $15.99
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Bentley Royce is the wild-child of a super-glam reality TV dynasty. She has it all – designer clothes, a fancy school and an actual Bentley to drive around in. Her ambitious mom Mercedes has dragged the family from trailer park to Hollywood stardom. But Bentley wants out – she wants to go to college, escape her own storyline, be NORMAL – but Royces don’t do normal (or college).

Rolling with the Royces is running out of ways to keep viewers hooked and suddenly the show is threatened with cancellation. Bentley faces an impossible choice. Without the show, she could live the college dream – but her family will crumble (and is $20million in debt). Bentley Royce has a mission. She must use her brains to save the show; if she saves the show, she can save her family – and she’ll do whatever it takes …

Royce Rolls is a laugh-out-loud funny romp with a twist of mystery – a behind-the-scenes comedy with a brilliant voice, a hilarious and subversive antidote to the Kardashians and TOWIE (which will still work for fans of both!).

~*~

In Royce Rolls, the main character, Bentley Royce, is tired of playing the role of wild child in the reality television show, Rolling with the Royces. She’s tired of having her every waking minute filmed, and tired of being told how to act, and what to wear and humiliated by her sister, Porsche and her mother, Mercedes. After six seasons of the humiliation, Bentley’s only hope for a normal life and college – something that goes against everything Mercedes has instilled in her children and everything the show runners have encouraged for the Bentley character – is for the show to be cancelled. But when the threat of cancellation, her family will be faced with a large debt they’d have no chance of paying off. And so, Bentley must make a choice between family and a life that she has yearned for over many years.

Starting with an incident that shocks the reader, and inevitably, the characters, the novel switches back to the events that led to the tragedy. Each chapter ends or begins with relevant articles that would probably be found on a celebrity gossip site that blow things out of proportion with sensationalist headlines and stories, these do little to reflect the reality Bentley and her family manage to live when the cameras aren’t rolling during hiatus, or those rare hours when they’re studying their characters and Mercedes is probing them to be a person that they aren’t.

Bentley’s only solace is a local library, where she meets fellow library patron, Venice, and for the first time, experiences a real friendship, outside of a scripted “reality” that has been coerced to bring in ratings. She manages to get away at a certain time of day for this time out, and realises through these meetings that there is more than life on the show, and she wants more. Venice is the only person she can be the real Bentley with, not the scripted wild child “Bad Bentley” that everyone expects on the show.

Royce Rolls takes the reality television format and makes a mockery of it, revealing that what viewers see in the shows that populate television screens claiming to be reality television, television of real life, is really scripted and carefully produced and created using real people – acting as characters who are projected as the true selves of those on the screen, as opposed to fictional characters played by actors in television shows that often have much more interesting story lines.

As a rather anti-reality television fan, or at least, a viewer of shows like Masterchef who looks at the way things are edited for story telling purposes, this was an amusing read, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it. It shed light on the fallacy of reality television and indicates the power of reality comes from who a person really is, not what the world sees. It establishes the flaws of celebrity as well, and shows that that world is not as perfect as it may seem.

An interesting read for the YA audience, fans of reality television and those who don’t enjoy it. It is an antidote to the saturation of this genre and it uses humour and satire to show what this world is really like in an accessible and fun way.

Booktopia

Blog Tour: Girl In Between by Anna Daniels

Title: Girl In Betweenimage004

Author: Anna Daniels

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 26th April 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 314

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Life can be tricky when you’re a girl in between relationships, careers and cities… and sometimes you have to face some uncomfortable truths. The sparkling debut from comic TV and radio presenter, Anna Daniels.

Lucy Crighton has just moved in with some gregarious housemates called Brian and Denise… who are her parents. She’s also the proud mother of Glenda, her beloved 10-year-old… kelpie. And she has absolutely no interest in the dashing son of her parents’ new next-door neighbour… well, maybe just a little.

When you’re the girl in between relationships, careers and cities, you sometimes have to face some uncomfortable truths… like your Mum’s obsession with Cher, your father’s unsolicited advice, and the fact there’s probably more cash on the floor of your parents’ car than in your own bank account.

Thank goodness Lucy’s crazy but wonderful best friend, Rosie, is around to cushion reality, with wild nights at the local Whipcrack hotel, escapades in Japanese mud baths, and double dating under the Christmas lights in London.

But will Lucy work out what she really wants to do in life and who she wants to share it with?

Anna Daniels is a natural-born comedian. She originally set out to write a screenplay that was part Muriel’s Wedding, part The Castle. Instead, she wrote Girl In Between, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Vogel’s Award. She says ‘I’ve always loved comedy which not only makes you laugh but also pulls at your heartstrings. I think a lot of people may be able to relate to Lucy’s story!’

Girl in Between is a warm, upbeat and often hilarious story about life at the crossroads. Featuring an endearing and irrepressible cast of characters, it will have you chuckling from start to finish.

~*~

aww2017-badgeSet in Rockhampton, and London, Girl in Between is a story about the cross roads of life that Lucy Crighton, in her early thirties, is faced with. At her age, stuck between jobs, and living at home while she works towards her dream of becoming published, and recovering from a relationship that ended recently, and that she would rather forget, Lucy is in a rut. On one side, she has her parents nagging about the real world and real jobs, and at times, their slightly embarrassing jokes. On the other, her best friend Rosie, working part time, chummy with her parents, and pushing Lucy into the arms of the son of a new neighbour, and conspiring with her mother, Denise. Combine that with the re-emergence of her ex, and Lucy has become the Girl n Between: in between relationships, in between careers, in between life.

Lucy Crighton lives with her parents – Brian and Denise, a ten-year-old kelpie called Glenda, and her mother’s obsession with Cher, and a variety of hobbies that come in and out of the house all the time. Her best friend, Rosie, makes herself at home. And the people who drift in and out of their lives in Rockhampton are just as quirky and interesting, and they all ensure a story full of fun and laughs, where big mouths get people into trouble and reveal things that shouldn’t be revealed. Through a series of mistakes that anyone can make, each character is shown to be not so perfect – a refreshing change in a novel with a hint of romance, as having characters in a romance who aren’t flawed and who are perfect and where finding their path isn’t complicated can be boring. Lucy’s journey to where she finally ends up certainly isn’t boring.

There is romance in this novel, however, I quite liked that it took a while to develop and that Lucy didn’t jump into it head first, rather she floundered, and travelled and tried different things. The London chapters were perhaps my favourite, as I felt like I was there, and working with Lucy in Scribe. As an aspiring author and book lover, and someone in their thirties, I could identify with Lucy, and hopefully others will too. She’s not perfect – she has her flaws, and like characters such as Bridget Jones and Nina Proudman, she makes mistakes, and at times, seems to fumble her way around life – but we all do. That is what makes characters like Lucy so relatable.

In a story about life and the choices we make, and the people in our lives, Girl in Between is fun and contemporary, with a creatively driven character who is unwilling to settle for things but at the same time, is faced with choices that must be made, and a character who has her ups and downs. In a story where these are embraced and not swept away under the carpet, Girl in Between by Anna Daniels gives readers after something a little more in their romance novels, where romance occurs but isn’t necessarily the goal a book to enjoy. It is a story about cross roads and discovering yourself, and how things work out – and where you end up in life. The eventual romance bubbled and simmered as the story went along, which made if more enjoyable for me, as I got to experience Lucy as she found her way in life without worrying about falling in love: it was something that just happened.

Girl in Between is a delightful and funny story about finding yourself at a point in your life were not everything is working out, and finding a way to make it work.

 

Girl in Between by Anna Daniels is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.

Find Anna here on social media:

• Twitter: @annadtweets
• Insta: @annamdanielsAnna Daniels
• Website: http://www.annamdaniels.com

 

Disappearing off the Face of the Earth by David Cohen

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Title: Disappearing Off The Face of The Earth

Author: David Cohen

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Transit Lounge

Published: 1st May 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Hideaway Self Storage, located just off Brisbane’s M1, is in decline. But manager Ken Guy and his assistant Bruce carry on with their daily rituals even as the facility falls apart around them. Lately, however, certain tenants have been disappearing off the face of the earth, leaving behind units full of valuable items. Ken has no idea where these rent defaulters have gone but he thinks he might be able to turn their abandoned ‘things’ into a nice little earner that could help save his business. But the disappearances are accompanied by strange occurrences such as Bruce’s inexplicable late-night excursions, Ken’s intensifying aversion to fluorescent lights, and Ken’s girlfriend’s intensifying aversion to Ken. While  further along the motorway, construction of a rival facility – Pharoah’s Tomb Self Storage, part of a nationwide franchise – hints at a  mysterious past and a precarious future.

A surprisingly funny study of physical and mental deterioration, David Cohen’s second novel is never quite what it seems. Sharply attuned to the absurdities of contemporary urban life, it is that rare literary beast, a comic drama that is at once intelligent and suspenseful, humorous and deep.

~*~

Dropping Off The Face of the Earth begins with the main character, Ken, working at his business, Hideaway Self Storage near Brisbane, with his assistant, Bruce, whom he has worked with before, yet, until Bruce started working at Hideaway, had not seen him for years. As the story progresses, Ken’s relationship with Ellen begins to deteriorate, and the people renting out storage spaces begin to go missing. And so begins a mystery that has elements of being disturbing and mixes it with a warped sense of humour to look at the day to day working life of an individual. And also, into how the relationships they have deteriorate or area affected by the strain on the body and the mind of the job Ken is in, interrogating the way the mind can begin to play tricks on you, and shake your sense of what is real.

As the story was told in first person narration, the world of the story was seen purely from Ken’s point of view. For what the author was trying to achieve, this worked but still had it’s flaws: the other characters didn’t feel fully thought out, and only seeing them through Ken’s eyes gave a warped view of his world that didn’t always make sense. As the novel flicked back and forth, I started to wonder if there was more to Ken, and when Bruce disappeared, and Ken went in search of him and recognised some places and names but couldn’t recall being there, I wondered if the author was examining how one’s mental health can begin to deteriorate and affect our perceptions of the world.

At times, the comedy shone through but at other times it was a little obscure for me – I may not be the right audience for this book. David Cohen has taken a usually dry and boring subject and injected humour, and wit into it. I felt that the story looked at the fragility of human life and mental health, and as the story progressed, Ken’s telling felt like it flickered all over the place, making him and the reader question a sense of what was real and what wasn’t by the end. I read the last few pages a few times, but the ending was obscure and offered little in a satisfying conclusion in either direction for me.

Whilst this book wasn’t for me, and I am unlikely to read it again because at times I found it confusing, and simply didn’t enjoy the story or connect with the characters, there will be an audience out there for this book.

London Bound by CJ Duggan

london bound

Title: London Bound

Author: CJ Duggan

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 28th March, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 322

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: Like so many of her university friends, Kate Brown is London bound, but unlike her friends – who had the chance to enjoy the beer, sights and attractions of the UK – Kate is instead visiting her grandmother (who may or may not be the devil).

Wanting nothing more than to be a normal, independent twenty-something living it up in ol’ London town, Kate finds herself a prisoner in her grandmother’s Kensington terrace, daydreaming about the holiday that could have been. But when Kate is almost run over by the ridiculously good looking Jack Baker, it leaves her wondering if being out and about is such a good idea after all, especially when she catches herself laughing at his jokes.

One thing Kate knows for sure is that she has to avoid Jack at all costs. But with her balcony facing his, you can pretty much guarantee Kate’s London adventure is going to be anything but boring . . .

~*~

aww2017-badgeNovels that centre on a romance aren’t usually what I enjoy reading, but C.J. Duggan has managed to balance the romance aspect with character and plot development well. In London Bound, Kate Brown has moved to London to experience the city for herself, and work on her blog. Living with her grandmother, who seems to be the devil incarnate to Kate, she has several encounters with neighbour, Jack, who holds back much of his life as he gets to know her. When Kate stumbles across her grandmother’s secret room, she is inspired and begins to flesh out her blog, showing it to Jack and watching it grow. Inevitably, a romance develops and they hit a rocky moment, that is quickly resolved, and like many romance novels, results in a happy ending.

Whilst the romance factor in this book didn’t capture my interest, it was the London setting and Kate the writer that made the book enjoyable for me, even though I could guess how things would be resolved at the end. Jack was a more interesting character than I anticipated, and he was rather entertaining in the bar and at other moments, and during his interactions with Nana Joy.I found that each character had their own growth within the story – whether it was realising something about themselves or other people, or a combination of both, and to me, that made it more than just a romance, it had a romantic love but also a familial connection and love and a friendship.

Kate and Jack’s romance and subsequent relationship didn’t happen as soon as they met, or as soon as the novel began. Instead, it slowly developed along with the plot and Kate’s imagesblogging plans, and her desire to see more of London than the rooms she occupied.

The refreshing thing about this book was the meat to the plot and characters. The mysterious male figure was a bit of a trope but at least Jack had a pleasant side, which made him likeable. I’m still not a total fan but it was an enjoyable and quick read, and suited for fans of the author and genre.

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New York Nights by CJ Duggan

new-york-nights

Title: New York Nights

Author: CJ Duggan

Genre: Fiction/New Adult

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 306

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: Sarah Williams is a spirited, independent Aussie who has always dreamed of New York City. So when a job opportunity arises to become an au pair for a successful businessman in the heart of Manhattan, Sarah jumps at the chance to follow her dream.

What she didn’t bet on was a beautiful newborn and a distant, abrasive man whose eyes hold a million anguished secrets. Determined to care for his daughter and face the challenges of the impossible Ben Worthington, Sarah was always prepared to follow her heart; she just wasn’t prepared to lose it to a complicated man like Ben.

~*~

As someone who steers away from romance as much as possible, mainly because it’s not a genre I tend to enjoy unless there’s more to the storyline than a man and a woman chasing each other around without any obstacles or complications that make the plot more interesting, this was my first encounter with CJ Duggan, and my first encounter with what is referred to as New Adult, a classification that comes after Young Adult, aimed at people perhaps in their twenties. In New York Nights, we meet Sarah, an Australian who has travelled abroad to become an au pair for a single father and his newborn daughter, Grace. In a house and family filled with secrets and a seemingly cold greeting from all but Nikki, the one sister, Sarah is isolated in the Greenwich Village apartment with Sarah.

As Sarah and Ben grow closer, secrets are brought into the open and the very real possibility of betrayal starts to emerge. It was the lingering secrets and mystery, and the conflict these caused within the family that intrigued me more than the romance. On the surface, one might say this is just a romance, but go a little deeper, and it is about a scarred family, trying to recover, and doing so through hidden secrets and cold facades.

It is the sort of book that can be read quickly – a good summer read for a beach day, or just for when you want something quick and easy to read in between everything else and between heavier reads. I may not be heading off to read this again, but there is an audience out there for these books and this author. I hope that these readers enjoy these books as much as I enjoy books by my favourite authors.

Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

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Title: Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay

Author: Jill Mansell

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia, Headline Review

Published: January 10, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 405

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Love is in the air in St Carys, but you’d never know it – the people of this seaside town are very good at keeping secrets…

The man Clemency loves belongs to someone else. She has to hide her true feelings – but when she ropes in an unsuspecting friend to help, wires start to get crossed.

For the first time in Ronan’s life his charm has failed him in winning over the woman he wants. Loving her from afar appears to be his only option.

Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right. And now a long-buried secret is slowly rising to the surface.

The truth has a funny way of revealing itself, and when it does St Carys will be a very different place indeed…

~*~

Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay was a book that took me a little longer than usual to get into. It is a genre I don’t really read out of choice, because I often find romance novels  have characters that are too perfect. In this one, there was a decent mix of characters with their own flaws and individual backgrounds. Set in the small town of St Cary’s the story revolves around a group of people who come to find themselves interlinked through each other for various reasons. Everyone has a secret to keep from someone else, some that they are unaware of until the final chapters of the novel.

Stepsisters Belle and Clemency are always at odds: this is no secret in St Cary – they have been since they were teenagers. Yet in a small town where gossip is rife, anything that they try and hide from each other, themselves or anyone else is sure to come out sooner rather than later. It is this gossip that leads to secrets that have been hidden for years to come to the surface, culminating in an all too convenient ending for each character and what they desire – whether it is love, friendship or family.

Marina, the artist is harbouring a secret of her own, and one she has not been able to share at all. Ronan is adopted, and happy, but always wondering about the woman he loves but cannot have, and his birth parents. Kate, the post carrier, has a secret that not even she knows about. And Clemency is in love with the man her sister is with – but does Belle really like Sam?

Each chapter is generally told from a different perspective at first, at least until everyone becomes linked and eventually, they are all consistently thrown together in one way or another, or at least with one or more people at a time. This technique allows the secrets to unfold slowly and to evolve as the characters come together.

Given that this is marketed as romance, or chick lit, the clean and convenient tying up of plots and characters is possibly expected, and the conflicts that lead to that point work. I would have liked a little more conflict though, rather than just everyone happily getting along. Though this isn’t what would happen in the genre, and even though it did not work for me, there are others who will enjoy it. I managed to make it to the end though, and in the end, did find aspects I enjoyed – The friendship between Ronan and Clemency was perhaps my favourite relationship in the book, and Ronan was my favourite character. His story was indeed the most intriguing, and I would have liked to have it explored a little more.

One thing I did like was that not every character got what they wanted immediately – even if it is inevitable that they will in the end – they had to go on their own journeys to get there. Ronan and Kate’s is perhaps the most interesting too – maybe because it is shrouded in more secrecy than the others, and the result come out quite suddenly – a shock that begins each relationship changing and the convenience of everything working out, and leading to a surprise ending for two characters that aren’t as prominent as Ronan, but just as important.

A great beach read, an easy read f you’re in the mood for something light, and the perfect read for people who, unlike me, enjoy this genre all the time.