Out of the woods by Brent Williams
Book review by Nancy
Subtitled "A journey through Depression and Anxiety" and illustrated by Korkut Oztekin, this is a graphic novel about Brent's real life submersion into hopelessness. His marriage falls apart, he falls into despair and slowly begins to rebuild his world.
But what makes this story an excellent read are the illustrations that reflect the honesty of the tale. Oztekin draws Williams' pain and suffering and goes all Shakespearian on us. By that I mean the pictures are full of creepy woods, you can almost hear the wind whistling through, feel the chill night frost and the solitude. (In MacBeth, Shakespeare indicates the tragic unfolding in the castle by the owl screeching, the storms thundering and so on.)
That Brent is a bloke makes this trip all the more valuable since machismo deplores a man with emotions, considers him weak. Brent shares his pain with us and Oztekin's drawings give us the movie of it. He takes us through his fears, aversions, attempts at self-medication, healing methods, books, therapies and activities - the lot. In cinemascope.
Depression hits all of us - I personally consider it a normal and healthy response to our capitalist, money-god/less world, but that might just be me - and men may have more of a struggle in seeking help if the masculine culture of "strong man" has anything to do with it.
That makes this book vitally important - especially with the pictures that show an Everyman journey through the long tunnel of depression and anxiety. You can find Williams' own website at https://www.outofthewoods.co.nz/author-and-illustrator/ which also provides resources and help lines for blokes (and partners of blokes) who may think their own story has similarities. He also lists other books about same.
Very worthwhile and visceral because of the pictures!
And then we ran by Katy Cannon
Book review by Jacqui
Megan is seventeen and living in the shadow of her dead, older sister, Lizzie. Everyone had liked Lizzie. She was the bright one, with a brilliant future ahead of her when she died in a tragic accident. Since the cold shock of that day, Megan’s parents had seemingly transferred the hopes and dreams they had for Lizzie on to her. It was a heavy burden, for Megan had ambitions of her own.
Elliott was Megan’s childhood friend, but time and life events had caused them to drift apart. He also his aspirations, but circumstances seem unlikely to support them and he has sadly shelved his plans for the future and resigned himself to a life in the small seaside community that had frozen him out.
Then Megan came up with a plan. Just like Megan, it was bold, insistent and all about her. Elliott could hardly believe the audacity, but just perhaps… he would also benefit.
They planned an extraordinary road trip, which would free them from the encumbrances stifling their plans for the future.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a light read and a romance, which is not a genre I would usually choose, but this is quirky and a lot of fun, as the road trip does not go to plan at all.
Although aimed at young adults, it is an entertaining read for any age.
WeirDo by Anh Do
Review by Fallon
Weir is the new kid in school, his introduction in front of the class had his teacher in fits of laughter because his last name is Do, that’s right his name is WeirDo. He’s a little bit weird in character and not just in name, but that’s okay because we all have our own little quirks. School issues, unique family characters, fart jokes and lots of laughs!
Filled with humorous illustrations and antics this is perfect for young readers and those who are little reluctant to read will enjoy this one! The best thing about picking this book up now is knowing there is another nine in the chapter to read; I read this book with my stepson and we can’t wait to continue number two! Check out the author, Anh Do talking about the book
Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman
Book review by Nancy
A book about an idea whose time has come! And the idea? That to eradicate poverty around the world, what people actually need is cash, not programs. The opposition to that? That an unconditional basic income will encourage sloth, drunkenness, degeneracy et al.
Bregman is a journalist in the Netherlands who has written four books on history, philosophy and economics, winning prestigious prizes and is now renowned as the Basic Income Guy. Google him.
He defines Utopia as more practical than a land of milk and honey. In fact, we are mostly already there in comparison with how it all used to be. However, Bregman shines the light on the growing inequality of the present system, Capitalism, with statistics about how the richest 1% on the planet own more wealth than the rest of us combined and the gap is widening, with many living way below the poverty line.
For Realists, rather than "do-gooders" or quick fixes, the solution lies shortening the working week to 15 hours, an unconditional basic income to raise all out of poverty and open borders for easy labour exchange. He makes the point that all borders are now closed to people but do not affect trade of goods and services. But we people are restricted in our freedom of movement around the planet.
And the money for this basic income? He clarifies that more is spent on national Defence budgets and is easily attainable as a target because it's also self-repaying. For example, all services around anti-social behaviour are minimised when a family no longer has to worry about how to pay the bills. People have an innate common sense about what they need and how to budget when they aren't constantly struggling to survive.
Bregman illustrates with statistics and research how arguments against a basic income are empty - including those against open borders eg. they're all terrorists, criminals, out to undermine social cohesion, take our jobs, forcing wages down, too lazy to work and they'll never go back. These arguments come out of contempt for the non-rich, the hoi poloi, the great unwashed, the "other".
There's so much in this book to fill you with hope for the future rather than accept Joe Hockey's arrogant statement that all you need to do is get a "good job". And this from a man who is now living on a pension that you and I are subsidizing.
Guaranteed to bust a few myths around the place!
Great teen reads… for the young and young-at-heart
Dedicated Book revs NSW Youth Week (extra short book reviews)
The Graces (The Graces #1) - Laure Eve
Like everyone else in town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? This beautifully-written thriller will grip you from its very first page.
The bone witch (Bone witch #1) by Rin Chupeco
In the start to a new, darkly lyrical fantasy series, Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price. When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different to other witches in her family.
And then we ran by Katy Cannon
A road-trip story about following your dreams and embracing the unexpected.
Elliott and Megan embark on a road trip to escape their hometown. But life is a journey and not even Megan can control where theirs will lead.
The expressionist by Dean Mobbs
This tale centres on a young Australian boy, Albert Dennis Braun - living in rural NSW - and his coming of age into a realm of creativity. The story involves loss and sadness, as well as physical, spiritual and artistic growth.
The lies about truth by Courtney Stevens
After surviving an accident that killed her friend Trent and left her scarred, Sadie can’t move forward. When the truth about the accident and comes to light, Sadie has to decide if she can embrace the future or always be trapped in the past.
Control by Lydia Kang
Set in 2150 in a very different world, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before.
Fairy tail by Hiro Mashima
This is a Japanese manga series that follows the adventures of Natsu Dragneel, a teenage wizard who is a member of the popular wizards' guild Fairy Tail, as he searches for the dragon, Igneel
Dangerous to know by Katy Moran
Alex and Bethany are just two teenagers in love. There’s only one problem: Alex's family has a dark past, and whilst he and Bethany are desperate to be together, Bethany's family is desperate to keep them apart.
Look into my eyes (Ruby Redfort #1) by Lauren Child
Ruby Redfort is a code-cracker, daring detective and special agent who happens to be a 13-year-old girl. She and her side-kick butler, Hitch, foil crimes and get into scrapes with evil villains, but they're always ice-cool in a crisis.
Sister Heart by Sally Morgan
A young Aboriginal girl is taken from the north of Australia and sent to an institution in the distant south. There, she slowly makes a new life for herself and, in the face of tragedy, finds strength in new friendships.
13 reasons why by Jay Asher
Reviewed by Jacqueline Smith.
I may be the only person in Australia who has not watched this on Netflix (and I plan to keep it that way, as I believe the film version departs significantly from the book).
Certainly, it’s a sad tale, but I found it very gripping. At the beginning, you meet teenager, Clay Jensen, who receives by post a box full of cassette tapes, marked 1-13 in blue nail polish. Curiously, he begins to listen to the first tape and is shocked to hear the voice of Hannah Baker, a classmate and crush who has recently committed suicide.
Hannah’s story sets out the thirteen reasons she decided to end her life and the people who contributed to that resolve. The parcel of tapes is to be sent to each of the thirteen and Clay realizes with pain and dismay that he is one of them. Horrified, he wracks his brain to discover his part in Hannah’s death.
Through the space of a night, Clay listens to each of the tapes as he follows the map provided, each significant place in the story marked by a red star. “There are only two rules,” says Hannah’s voice, “Rule number one: you listen. Rule number two: you pass it on. Hopefully, neither of these will be easy for you.”
The book alternates between the condemning voice of Hannah and the thoughts and feelings of Clay. I think it makes two important points: that our actions can have unexpected consequences and the devastating effect suicide can have on a community.
I know that Asher’s book has been criticised by some reviewers as either unrealistic, or distasteful because it glorifies suicide, but I disagree. Without spoiling the plot, Hannah does not come across as entirely the sweet little victim. At times she appears as thoughtless or downright vindictive, but for me this adds to the depth of her character. At no time did I feel that Asher presented suicide as an appealing option.
Suicide is an uncomfortable issue, but unfortunately it is a real life circumstance for many people. On the whole, I liked Asher’s treatment of the subject and the novel way in which the story is presented. The book finishes with places to get help if you are dealing with mental health issues, bullying or abuse, although as the copy I read was printed in the U.K., it references services there.
I won’t say it was an enjoyable book. It was confronting, but compelling. I became very involved in Clay’s journey and am glad to have read it. It is not an easy read, but I do recommend it
Cardinal : the rise and fall of George Pell by Louise Milligan
Reviewed by Jacqueline Smith.
This is a very topical book, while the community waits to see whether George Pell is committed for trial on historical child sex abuse offences.
Whether Pell is guilty remains to be seen, but in her book, Milligan puts forward a compelling case. Painstaking it its research, the book sprang from a 7:30 report the author, an investigative journalist, put together in 2017, suggesting that numerous complainants had made allegations relating to Pell’s sexual misconduct.
Last year, many of us will have seen Cardinal Pell’s appearance in front of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse. The allegation of the Royal Commission was that Pell had dismissed reports made to him (in his various positions as he ascended in rank through the Australian Catholic church) of acts of sexual abuse and indeed had been complicit in covering up such behaviour by moving the guilty priests around when the whiff of wrongdoing surfaced.
Pell did not inspire confidence through his testimony, appearing arrogant and crafty: trying to convince listeners that he had been duped and misled by others who had acted without his knowledge in concealing the crimes of these priests who were later convicted and punished. His plea of ignorance was hard to accept. This is an intelligent and ambitious man. Was he really so easily fooled?
Tellingly, Pell said of one complaint that he admitted hearing, it was, “a sad story and not of much interest to me.” Really?
Regardless, the Royal Commission’s focus was on Pell’s culpability as one who should have reported the transgressions of others. Milligan’s book goes much further, detailing claims by a large number of people relating to the abusive behaviour of Pell himself.
The complainants are diverse and from various locations, although a number of grievances relate to Ballarat, where Pell resided for many years. Some alleged victims are named, some anonymous. Some have sought or are currently seeking compensation, where others just want acknowledgement. Many have had a history of substance abuse and in some cases, criminal offences. Many are now dead – tragically, often by their own hand.
Milligan details each claim, many of which are heartbreaking. She has made an effort to substantiate the allegations as far as possible with corroborating information from family, schoolmates and other sources.
Although it is worthwhile remembering that these stories are yet to be proved in court, Milligan’s book makes for gripping reading and I highly recommend it.