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Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Kiewarra, Australia has been going through a two year drought when Aaron Falk returns for the funeral of his former best friend, Luke, his wife Karen and their young son Billy. Aaron and his father slunk away twenty years earlier when the town inhabitants accused them of being involved in the death of sixteen year old Ellie Deacon, Aaron’s friend. However, no one was ever arrested and convicted of murdering her.

TheDry

Times haven’t changed much in twenty years. The drought has made emotions fragile and the thought of Luke using his shotgun on himself and his family is understandable, if not condoned. However, the town’s new police detective Raco feels that things are amiss and with the help of Falk, a Federal Police Detective, starts questioning the events leading up to the triple murder/suicide.

Memories and grudges last a long time in Kiewarra and most people recognize and remember Aaron, not too fondly, and some will not even talk to him. News travels fast in this small town and soon everyone is aware of the ongoing investigation, even though they all believe the case is closed.

In The Dry, Harper makes the devastation and desolation caused by the drought palpable. She ably brings up the events of twenty years ago, juxtaposed with current events, the lives of sixteen year old kids juxtaposed against their current adult lives. She shows the meanness that existed all those years ago doesn’t go away over time.

I will say that I guessed ‘who dun it’ about two thirds of the way through the book, not because of any lapse in Harper’s story. It was half lucky guess, half logic. Several (two) people told me that they thought the book lagged a little in the middle but I didn’t find it so. It gripped me from the beginning. I liked the main protagonists and although I could see them as the initial installment in a series, I’m not sure how that would work, being the setting is in a small town…unless they both move to Melbourne (Falk already lives there).

The Dry is a good story and Jane Harper is now on my radar. I’ll be looking for future books by her.

 

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GirlDefectiveThe Martin children are named after birds: fifteen year old Skylark (Sky) and eleven year old Seagull (Gully). Their mother left them when Sky was 10 to become a performance artist…in Japan. She has little contact with her former family. Their father never moved past the 1970s, owning a record shop that won’t stock anything past 1980, won’t stock CDs and won’t sell on the internet. He spends most days on the verge of drunkenness.

Unfortunately these circumstances leave Sky with primary responsibility for Gully who is autistic. He wears a pig snout most of the time which, as you can imagine, doesn’t endear him to his schoolmates. He fancies himself a detective and when a brick is thrown through the store window, he makes it his business to track down the perpetrator. She also helps out at the record store, which doesn’t get much traffic.

Sky’s only friend is a world-wise nineteen year old, Nancy. It must be true that opposites attract because Nancy is everything that Sky isn’t.

When Mr. Martin hires Luke Casey to work at the store for the Christmas season, Sky is miffed. When it turns out that Luke’s younger sister drowned after drinking and posters of her keep cropping up all over town, Sky is intrigued. The fact that Luke is cute doesn’t hurt.

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell is a story about growing up, both teens and adults. Sky must learn what the world is all about (on her own and through Nancy) and her father has to move into the new century and take on his fatherly responsibilities. Howell’s characters are good, although at times I’d like to hammer Mr. Martin for foisting Gully on Sky all the time, and her writing is descriptive, at some points exceptional (“Night fell soft as a shrug. Even the palm trees looked tired, like showgirls standing around waiting for their pay.”). Any story rooted in music is a plus, especially 70s and 80s music. Of course, since this takes place in Australia, I don’t know some of the musical references, but that’s OK.

All in all, Girl Defective is a fun book.

 

 

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You’ll need your tissue box for this one folks…well at least I did. Zac has had a few rounds and relapses ofZacAndMia leukemia and is now in the hospital (Room 1) recovering from a bone marrow transplant. It’s pretty much isolation other than the fact that his mother stays with him, despite his entreaties for her to go home.

A new patient enters Room 2. Typically they’re older people but this one seems young. Since the walls are thin (6 centimeters according to Zac who is a numbers, statistics person) he can hear the arguing in the next room. When Lady Gaga is put on a continuous loop, as loud as it can go, Zac’s sure it’s a young girl. It turns out that the pain in her ankle wasn’t due to a sprain. It was cancerous.

Unlikely as it is, since they are both isolated, Zac and Mia develop some sort of friendship through the walls and notes passed back and forth via Nina, the nurse.

Zac and Mia are a contrast in personalities. Zac is the old pro at this and wishes he could tell Mia what to do–crushed ice helps, grilled cheese with ketchup when your taste buds dull due to chemo. He’d also like to tell her that statistically, her chances are 98% that she’ll be cancer free for 5 years once her treatment is over. Mia on the other hand is  mad, belligerent, despondent. Yet, at 3 AM, the cursed hour, when both are up, they communicate through Facebook.

If John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars set the kids with cancer standard, Zac & Mia by A. J. Betts is not far behind. The locale is Australia and is peppered with alpaca and kangaroos. It’s poignant, funny, sad, teary. Readers will fall in love with Mia and Zac, absolutely. While no one can understand what they go through unless they’ve been there, readers will get a good idea.

I’m going out on a limb and saying this will make my Top 10 list this year, it’s that good. So, on a day when you’re indoors, it’s dreary out, and you need to involve yourself in a book, sad story, get out your tissue box, put up a hot chocolate, put your feet under the blanket and read. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. But you’ll be better for it.

 

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