Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Reggie’s Rush, only with Books!

The Tables
The Invite
It was a late Saturday evening, and I was sprawled across the couch ensconced in flannel PJs and drool.  My phone beeped with the new age communication method: Facebook.  A message. I shrugged and yelped as my arm was forced from its “dead” pose and clicked on the Facebook message from Rene Brophy from Exclusive Books

Hey Kelly, I hope to see our favourite bloggers at the
Exclusive Books Preview of the
Winter Sale this Monday.

I read it and screamed!  And when I was done with the screaming, I contacted Tarryn who also screamed, fainted and dropped the phone.

The Venue

The Day

Firstly, I need to point out that Tarryn & I are very new to being the “media” at book events.  So we arrived at the preview, wallets filled to brim, ready to cart home copious amounts of books.  The venue was Ciros on 7th Avenue in Parkhurst, Tarryn and I wonder down the secret-garden-esque pathway, the winter sun seeping slowly through the leaves into what is known as “The Pudding Shop”.  We are greeted with tables upon tables of roughly packed books to browse through.  A wonderland on its own!  

Tarryn and her Books!

The Books – Oh the Books!
We first did a run through, sipping our drinks slowly and wading through the gems piled on the tables.  Finding classics to bestsellers – we were wide-eyed and scrounging each and every table.  Tarryn said breathlessly “This is like the Reggies Rush” and she was right.

Kelly says: "YES!"

“There is no Cash register, Kelly!” - Tarryn

Our arms full and wallets about to be handed over to the woman manning the scanner; Tarryn stops dead in her tracks and says in a husky whisper “Where do we pay?”, I reply in a confident tone – as if I do this all the time – “Uhm, it might be inside”.  There was no till.  Yes readers, stop screaming and plotting our deaths – we got each and every book for free!  FOR FREE!!  I didn’t believe it at first, my judgment clouded by hysteria and Tarryn hugging her packet like it was a missing child.  It was free! Free like bookmarks at bookshop counters and pamphlets! FREE.


“Free books are like a free dinner, only better” – Tarryn
On the way back to the office, Tarryn and I were glowing like new mothers.  We neatly packed our treasures into Tarryn’s boot and set off.  Tarryn squealed and did what I can only assume was a happy dance (a mix of dance meets chant).  We stop at a robot; Tarryn says “Free books are like a free dinner, only better and with more pages”.  It must have been my euphoria but at that moment because I could have jumped out the car and run through the traffic as naked as the day I was born, Tarryn sounded as if she had just discovered the cure to cancer; pure genius!

We love our new books! - Thank you Exclusive Books

So don’t forget to stop by your nearest Exclusive Books store and take in the magic of cheap books.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Finding Sarah: A True Story of Living with Bulimia by Joanne Jowell

The cover of Finding Sarah

About the Book
‘Society turns a blind eye to people with eating disorders as they are often considered as merely seeking attention. This is extremely ignorant as it goes way beyond that,’ says Finding Sarah’s troubled but captivating protagonist, 26-year-old Sarah Picton.

For more than nine years, Sarah has been purging her food in any place she can find: public toilets, plastic bags, coffee mugs. When she couldn’t satisfy her bulimic addiction, she restricted her diet to the point that she weighed only 41 kilograms, a weight better suited to a girl less than half her age. She has lost teeth and her gag reflex. She has lost her energy and her friends. She has come close to losing her life.

But then she decided to do something about it.

Sarah reveals her story in brutally honest detail to author Joanne Jowell, setting herself on a path of enlightenment for herself, her family and anyone who might hear her story. No holds are barred as Sarah describes the selfishness of the illness, the shame surrounding her condition, and the deceptive ends to which she will go to hide her addiction. Along the way, Joanne meets the players in this story, including Sarah’s mother, friends, ex-boyfriend and psychiatrist. And, of course, there is Sarah herself – cowed but not beaten, searching for herself even as the author does, sharing her life story so that she can reach out to the countless others who suffer in the shadow of addiction.

Reading Finding Sarah: A True Story of Living with Bulimia is like watching brain surgery.  You always wonder, grotesque visions of blood and gore, how it is done but never really get to see it.  This is what reading Finding Sarah felt like for me.  I watched friends and family use the very same tricks; from peas, a ‘marker’ Sarah used to limit her bulimic spells, to popcorn.  Random trips to the bathroom and the deafening sound of the hairdryer drowning out the sounds of retching was my experience of this disease.  

Everyone tip toes around this issue, not fully understanding it or fully grasping what it really means but yet there is always someone you know that suffered from this disease.  Jowell puts Sarah Picton on display – not Sarah herself but her disorder that yanks plump cheeked girls from their youth and pushes them into bathroom stalls with a silent wish “Just one more kilogram”.  Joanne’s interviews with those closest to Sarah help see the deterioration this condition brings with it giving the reader a balanced view of the disease–From Sarah’s brother to her therapist–each talks how Sarah’s fall into these EDs (Eating Disorders) impacted them, Sarah and the relationships between them. 

Sarah’s struggle with bulimia and anorexia is tied to more than just wanting to be thin, a pick-and-mix of psychological disorders such as bipolar, OCD and an addictive personality.  What is the root of all eating disorders?  Was it the death of her father? Her drug addiction? Or was it the need to be thin?  Sarah Picton tells it all in this evocative, gasp-worthy telling of her story of a life that nearly killed her.

Not to be humorous, but I did find Sarah; in a 17 year old Kelly wanting the perfect Matric Dance Dress, a 19 year old Kelly – first year varsity!  I also found her in my thoughts of lunch (I shouldn’t eat that, I should halve that) and in the eyes of most women I meet.  I am sure you know Sarah, or at least your very own version of her? 

“Just 3 more kilos...”
“I won’t eat that”
“I have to fit into that dress”
“He would notice me if I was thinner”
We have all been there?

A topic that seems to be thrown aside as “attention seeking” is fully splayed out for everyone to grasp! Powerful and honest!  This book really needs to be given to every man, woman and girl.
You need to read this book; it will have you talking about EDs with colleagues, family and friends.  Talk about it!

Favourite Quotes:

Because it’s like, ‘Well, fuck you, I can live without it, I’m better than you.’
You look at somebody who’s eating and you think, ‘Oh my God, she’s so weak, she’s disgusting, how could she eat that?’ And so it starts …
 Buy the book here ( or here (
Buy the eBook here (

 - Review by Kelly Ansara

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

About the Book
Can you ever let go of those who leave?
Alice Bliss is fifteen. She's smart, funny, and clever. Not afraid to stand up for the things she believes in. She also idolises her father and, when he leaves home to fight a war she doesn't believe in, Alice is distraught. She and her mother negotiate his absence as best they can -- waiting impatiently for his letters, throwing themselves into school and work respectively, bickering intermittently and, in Alice's case, falling for the boy next door -- but then they're told that he's missing in action and have to face up to the fact that he may never return.
Telling a story of love and loss, of grief and growing up, of family and friendship, Alice Bliss is a powerful, poignant portrayal of a young girl facing up to the unthinkable. Both intimate and universal, it is, ultimately, a story of a daughter's love for her father.


Once it was discussed that this book would be a cross-over, more for YA actually, I decided to pick it up and give it a go. I am so glad that I did.  Terry was the first to mention that this book is more suitable for YA than adult and I have to agree.  And it certainly makes a very good change from the paranormal. I would recommend that anyone looking for an emotional read, though easy, and for any daughter who loves her father, this is a book for you.

Alice Bliss is the main character of the book. She is intelligent and emotional and exceptionally close to her father.  The reader is taken on Alice’s tumultuous journey as she deals with the absence of her father (Matt) and the way she harnesses her pent up depression and anger over her father’s leaving to go to the army.  As the reader, I empathised with Alice’s pain and the “mother” role she had to play with her younger sister, Ellie, as her mom battled to emotionally cope with the day to day runnings of a household when Matt left.  I loved Ellie, an eight-year old with a determined love of words and flair for the original. Another colourful character is Alice’s grandmother, affectionately known as ‘gram’.

The relationship between Alice and her mother (Angie) is -as one is when a hormonal teenager is involved -a volatile one.  They are both battling deeply with their loss and, at times, they both take it out on each other.  Most of the time, although it is never admitted, it is jealousy.  When Matt does manage to call home, Angie is allowed the most time on the phone and it is mostly behind closed doors.  On Angie’s side, Alice and Matt have always shared a special connection that Angie has never quite understood or been a part of. This meant quite an interesting theme for the book, the daughter and father relationship vs daughter and mother.  Included in this, is the question ‘who was the guardian, the person who took care of everything when everyone else was falling apart? Who was the ‘mother’?

An important point that this book highlights is that when your world is falling apart, that everything has been turned upside down, life still carries on.  As it does with Alice, as she still handles the teenage life of school, little sister pestering and boys (highlighted by Alice’s new-found feelings for her childhood friend, Henry). 

For the first couple of chapters, I thought that perhaps this was an adult book after all.  But the further one reads, the more apparent it is that this is a YA book, and a beautiful one at that.  Not to say that adults will not enjoy this book. No matter our age, we all understand family relationships and have suffered loss before. The writing is simple (apart from Ellie’s new-found obsession with 20-letter words) but manages to capture the feelings of all the characters.  The voices are strong and real.  I felt that, if met on the street, these people could actually exist.

What I loved about the book:

Books are quite different to television. They do not have the slow motion visuals and violins to persuade the tear ducts.  It is much harder to get a reader to cry.  But Alice Bliss makes the reader reach for the tissue box. Not in a chocolate-and-sob way but more as the tears drop down silently, as you more deeply recede into The Bliss’ loss.

There are two particularly favourite passages of mine. The first is when, learning about Matt’s MIA, Alice decides to go into his work shed and finds ‘a gift’ from her father:

She steps off the ladder and sets the box on the workbench in the watery light coming through the rain slick windows.  What has he left for her? Sand dollars? Shells? Seed packets? She lifts off the top and looks inside:

Dear Alice,
I wrote you a few lettersThey’re not really for right now.  They’re for just in case I have to miss anything important. 
I love you Sweetheart.   Never forget it.

Inside, there’s a stack of envelopes, each with his precise writing, each with a date or an event: Graduation from high school, from college, the first time she gets her heart broken, her wedding day, the birth of her first child, the death of her mother.

There’s a series of letter with the heading “the little moments that make up the big moments, that might get forgotten.”  The subheadings in the group are: “the moment you don’t realize you want this boy to kiss you,” “the moment you realize you don’t love this boy anymore.” “the moment you realize you’re going to leave home and never really live there again” “the moment you realise that you’re more like your mother than you want to be”.

The second passage, SPOILER ALERT, is after Alice learns that her father has passed away.  I won’t put down the entire passage.  Henry and Alice decide that they will still go to the high school dance but she cannot bring herself to go inside. So they go to the field where they can still hear the music, stand under a tree and dance. And then they leave. Short and poignant.

Well-worth the read for females of any age, but most suited for teenage girls (from about 14/15).

Follow Laura Harrington on Twitter

Review by Tarryn Talbot

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Embassytown by China Miéville

The enthralling new novel from the award-winning author of Kraken and The City & The City

Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.
Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie.
Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.
Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts.
And that is impossible.


For some reason, science fiction novels are never considered for prizes such as the Booker.  There is a whispered notion that sci-fi can never be ‘literary’ enough.  This is, in my opinion, pretentious hogwash!

I have just finished reading a novel worthy of such a Booker nomination – Embassytown by China Miéville. This is the author’s ninth full length book and is an excellent piece of writing. A really good book makes one think about what one is reading; constantly offering fresh but rewarding challenges. Embassytown does exactly that.

Set in some distant indeterminate future on the planet of Arieka, this great read is about a town’s struggle to come to grips with a very alien language and the race that speaks it. It is about language; and how it defines a culture so completely. It’s about truth and lies and the grey area between where it overlaps and merges and the paradox that is language. It is about politics and hidden agendas; revolutions and unlikely heroes. It’s about people unwilling to accept drastic change; and how that can tear apart and create new societies. In short, it could be a very accurate reflection of our modern world and applies (in its own way) to the present. Is that not tremendous literature?

Language is an integral theme of the book – and this is noticeable from the first page. Miéville explores language in order to convey the alienness of the environment. His use of words such as ‘immer’ for space means that people don’t fly or travel into space – they immerse. Other colourful vocabulary used are words like ‘trid’ or ‘miab’. The reader needs to pay attention in order to decipher these terms, and for me, it creates a realistic edge to the story. Imagine living in the time of Charles Dickens, and writing a novel set in 2011. Phrases such as ‘logging on to the internet’, or ‘google it’ would be fanciful and incomprehensible.

However, Miéville ensures that the reader is not lost by placing them in context which yields their meaning. One gets a very good idea of what he is depicting whilst still leaving much to the imagination.

Language plays an even bigger role concerning the native inhabitants of the planet. The very alien Ariekei have such a unique way of speaking that they cannot lie. They can only talk of that which they know and can conceive – it is a literal language that has no room for untruths. It is not that they do not lie – they cannot. This is the crux of Embassytown – because whist interacting with humans, the aliens begin to understand the concept of lying which will be the catalyst for an incredible change in not only the way they think, but the way they speak language.

The book has an intriguing cast of characters, as you’d expect in a sci-fi tale. The Ariekei of Embassytown provide a different spin on what the conventional alien should be like. The human characters are at once familiar and foreign. There is much to get used to, such as the Ambassadors who are referred to as one person but are, in fact two – a necessity which allows them to speak to the alien Ariekei. There is much politicking, as various factions attempt to exert control, even in dire circumstances. The social dilemmas faced on both sides (human and alien) are dealt with in a way which the reader will recognise as very plausible indeed.

Do not be put off by the strangeness of the book. This is well worth the read. Sci-fi it may be, but the observations about society and individuals are so applicable to our own everyday life. Ursula le Guin, when reviewing Miéville’s latest work, said: Embassytown is a fully achieved work of art.” That it most certainly is. Take my word for it.

Visit China Miéville’s Website

See the Guardian Review

Review by Bradley Lutz

Friday, June 3, 2011

Much Ado About Blogging

What is a blog without at least one vlog!

Dear Follower,

What is a blog without at least one vlog!
See our YouTube Channel here:

If you are reading this, it means that:
  1. You really love us (Sally Fields Moment)
  2. We make you laugh.
  3. You were forced by one of us to read this blog... “Kelly, put the knife down!”
We realised, during the making of this vlog that we in fact talk far too much for any normal human being. Pizza was eaten, books thrown, more than enough ‘eye-rolling’ from Tarryn and the ousting of what Tarryn calls Kelly’s “Default Face”.

We hope you enjoy the video and hope that after meeting us you don’t UNFOLLOW us with a heavy sigh and dramatic mouse click.  

Leave comments and SHARE SHARE SHARE!

Kelly & Tarryn

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming... The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.


Dear Reader,
I can think of a dozen situations that brought this book to you, but it won’t matter because what really does matter is where the story took you.
My story is rather boring; the book landed on my desk with a thump that caused me to swivel in my chair, intrigued by the cover alone.  A Monster Calls resound like whisper; as books do with their readers.
I picked it up ready for whatever lay between the pages, what I found were Illustrations, too dark for a sane person to imagine, and a story that really leaves, you, the reader heartbroken.  A Monster Calls personifies the monster we all hold in our nightmares, the one that hangs in the shadows of your thoughts and the on precipice of your dreams.  Conor has been visited by that exact monster, but this monster isn’t the one he is expecting.  As his mother wilts away from Cancer, Conor waits for the terrifying monster from his nightmare, the one where there is screaming, darkness and a truth that Conor isn’t ready to face.  The Monster in Conor’s backyard comes every night to tell him a story with the deal that Conor must tell him his story, the only problem is Conor doesn’t know how his story ends...
So as I hand this over to you, dear Reader, I can only hope you are moved by this book as much as I was.  I urge you to take this journey with young Conor, his monster and his truth; you are bound to find something that scares you to the point of nightmares...
Kelly Ansara
About Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and SUNDAY TELEGRAPH and is a literary critic for THE GUARDIAN. He has written five books (Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, and Topics About Which I Know Nothing). Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

About the Book

Destiny brought them together. The Gods will keep them apart.
When shy, awkward Helen Hamilton sees Lucas Delos for the first time she thinks two things: the first, that he is the most ridiculously beautiful boy she has seen in her life; the second, that she wants to kill him with her bare hands.
An ancient curse means Lucas and Helen are destined to loathe one another. But sometimes love is stronger than hate, and not even the gods themselves can prevent what will happen next . . .

Helen's Song by DemiGoddess

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