Tag Archives: review

Review: Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans

Alison Evans’ Highway Bodies was a superb new zombie apocalypse with its focus on gentle queer kids surviving in a savage world by leaning on love and friendship as well as their own resources.

Their next novel is another sweet tale of young queer people finding their place in the world and with each other, in an environment of fairies, strange green realms and a witch’s curse. It’s as much contemporary fairytale as modern YA novel, which is a good part of why it’s so delightful.

The chapters vary between non-binary Iris, who grew from a seed in the ground, and their new friend Babs, who was cursed by a witch and is sometimes invisible. The two befriend a new trans kid who hasn’t found his name yet, so they call him the boy until he chooses.

Babs, Iris and the boy negotiate school, home lives, art class, the woods and the realm beyond, and learning magic. Babs’ attempts to find and confront the witch that cursed her are complicated by Iris’s promise to the fairies to not help her, and by the attentions of otherworldly threats when they cross into the realm.

Euphoria Kids is charming, filled with lush growing things, wonderful descriptive language and effortlessly inclusive concepts and language. With home life difficulties and wild magic all around, the book’s inherent gentleness isn’t without tension or drama. Instead, Evans guides us through a world that is shifting and often uncertain, but filled with courage, kindness and friendship.

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Review: Wild in the City – A Guide to Urban Animals Around the World by Kate Baker, Illustrated by Gianluca Foli

Most of us have heard about the foxes that frequent London suburbia – I’ve seen a few myself, and a penfriend used to write about the vixen that had kits in a den under her allotment shed. In Melbourne, too, followers avidly check online for the state of the Collins Street falcons (with their chicks so entertainingly called by locals the ‘Murder Pom-Poms’).

It’s hardly a surprise that wild animals with shrinking habitats have found niches for themselves in cities around the world, and Lonely Planet Kids has created another fascinating book for the 9-12 age range on how wild creatures are adapting to the need to live in cities – and at times how humans are adapting too.

Wild in the City‘s critter citizens are presented in nice little sections about habits, habitats, human interactions, conservation status, examples of unusual sightings as well as where/when to usually see them.

For some critters, the book also offers some lovely tips on providing safe environments for bees, birds and other animals – including building bug hotels and the hedgehog highway.

While I’m aware of suburban foxes, squirrels, monkeys, falcons and bats in different parts of the world (and am much too aware of city dwelling spiders), I never knew about the hyenas of Harar in Ethiopia, or of the sloths who literally hang around Panama City.

Gianluca Foli’s illustrations are a charming accompaniment to Kate Baker’s accessible text. Wild in the City is a lovely coffee table book for any budding city-based naturalist in the family.

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Review: Myths and Legends of the World, Retold by Alli Brydon, Illustrated by Julia Iredale

Lonely Planet Kids is putting out some gorgeous illustrated books about the world, and Myths and Legends of the World is another beautiful example.

Julia Iredale’s sumptuously coloured artwork is a marvellous match for Alli Brydon’s smart retelling of this collection of world mythologies, using a nicely judged balanced of traditional storytelling rhythms with some fresh, modern turns of phrase that invite young readers to connect with the folklore of different parts of the world.

The creators and editor, Rhoda Belleza, have done an excellent job of curating a representative sample of global myths. Some are more familiar – the African trickster Anansi, Scottish Selkies, the origin of the elephant-headed Ganesh and Maui are all among the better known deities, demi-gods and supernatural beings.

The Anangu People’s tale of how Uluru was formed offers insight into why it is a place of spiritual significance – a lovely inclusion in this book, particularly in light of the recent ban on climbing the rock.

Myths and Legends of the World is for readers aged 9 to 12, but it isn’t just for kids – it’d be a beautiful coffee table book to dip into. It’s also available as an ebook if you want to take the pretty with you!

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Review: Darkness For Light by Emma Viskic

When review copies of Emma Viskic’s third Caleb Zelic crime novel became available, you can bet I leapt right on that review train and shouted PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME.

I loved the first two in this series – Resurrection Bay and And Fire Came Down – so hard that I compulsively live tweeted my feelz as I went.

Does Darkness for Light live up to the promise of the first two?

Reader, I compulsively live tweeted my (spoiler-free) feelz again. Spare a thought for Emma Viskic, who, when I wailed about Caleb’s terrible life choices, replied:

Darkness for Light is a fantastic crime thriller, drawing on thematic and plot threads from the first two. Caleb, the deaf security consultant protagonist, really is trying very, very hard to make good life decisions this time around, but with the detritus from previous the past clinging on, life is conspiring maliciously against him.

The blurb:

After a lifetime of bad decisions troubled PI Caleb Zelic is finally making good ones. He’s in therapy, reconnecting with the Deaf community, and reconciling with his beloved wife.

But he can’t escape his past.

A violent confrontation forces Caleb back into contact with his double-crossing partner, Frankie. When her niece is kidnapped, Frankie and Caleb must work together to save the child’s life. But their efforts will risk everything, including their own lives.

The title comes from a bible quote: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for better.” ~ Isaiah 5:20

Without giving away any of the key twists, turns, back flips and I-never-saw-it-comings, Darkness for Light not only matches the crisp writing and superbly crafted professional and personal tensions of the first two books, it ramps up the stakes.

The possibility of a better life is haunting Caleb, with his estranged wife Kat in the early stages of a pregnancy which they hope she can carry to term, this time. When Frankie’s niece Tilda is kidnapped in relation to a case he’s been reluctantly dragged into, Caleb is desperate to save the girl. (Narratively, it feels like Caleb’s instinct is that the fates of Kat’s developing child and Tilda are linked.)

For all his faults, Caleb remains likeable and you really want him to sort out his life, deal with all his issues and live the life he longs for with the woman he loves. And, as Emma Viskic points out, he really is trying, but old enemies, old frenemies and even old and new friends present such a deep blend of motivations and agendas that he has little hope of sorting out what choices constitute ‘good’.

Viskic is immensely clever and satisfying in the ways she weaves together the strengths and vulnerabilities of Caleb’s deafness, the textures of his complex relationships, and the weight of his past against the pull of a future he longs for.

All of this growth and pain plays out as Caleb first of all stumbles onto a dead body where he expected a rendezvous, is blackmailed into helping a Federal Police Officer into a job he’d rather not do, and finally gets horribly tangled up with money laundering, corruption, assault, and murder.

Oh, and he’s also trying to assist a friend from his community unravel a case of vandalism.

The story is engrossing from start to end. The key characters are textured and often sympathetic even when you doubt their motives and decisions. The plotting is clever and all the pieces fit together without being predictable.

In short, Darkness for Light is a thoroughly satisfying read, which adds to the flow and depth of its thoroughly satisfying predecessors. All the stars for Emma Viskic!

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