Tag Archives: new release

Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

 

As I was coming out of this film, I heard the woman in front of me say, “What the fuck was that about?” You would think that after sitting in a movie theatre for two hours and forty-five minutes, the woman would know. She didn’t and neither did I.

Sadly, the latest Tarantino film failed to deliver much of a storyline. Set in 1969, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a washed-up actor, who begins to realise his stardom is waning in a changing world. Yet he seems to be very much in demand and working – what more does an actor want? Stunt man turned personal assistant, protector and long-time friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is at Rick’s beck and call. Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) happens to live next door to Rick. And that is about it. We watch a series of vignettes. Rick’s day to day struggles and his interactions with other stars. We spend an inordinate amount of time watching him making a B-grade Western. Cliff makes friends with a girl who lives on a ranch where Charles Manson lives who we glimpse now and then. When we think the story is finally going to head somewhere, we’re let down because it doesn’t lead anywhere.

The scenes with Sharon Tate had promise but mostly we got a long tedious look at her walking down a street in a mini-skirt; riding in a convertible; in a movie theatre watching a movie of herself. Margot Robbie really gets little dialogue and not a lot to do. Yet she still manages to light up the screen. It’s a pity that the Sharon Tate story wasn’t used to full effect because, in my opinion, this should have been the story.

Cliff as a character doesn’t seem to develop in any direction. There is a fight scene between Cliff and Bruce Lee. Why? If the scene had remained on the cutting room floor, it would have made no difference. And Bruce is not painted in a good light. Does Tarantino have something against him?

You could spend your time in the theatre spotting where Tarantino pays homage to Hollywood of old as well as the large numbers of cameo appearances from various actors. Every scene goes for too long and I wonder why the editing wasn’t more vigilant. That’s not to say that cutting scenes would have overly saved this movie. If you’re looking for the classic Tarantino violence, there are some brief moments but you will mostly have to wait until the end for this anticipated over-choreographed scene. The music is good as you’d expect and the acting strong. But there’s no tension, just a flat series of scenes with uninteresting people. The highlight for me was the little girl and the dog who stole the show. Hippies are given a bad rap and history is subverted.

Why this movie has got the acclaim it has escapes me. Perhaps Tarantino’s star has also waned or perhaps I just expected so much more to keep me interested.

Book Review: Islands by Peggy Frew

I loved Islands. There’s a rhythm of sadness in this beautifully written book as we are led into the lives of various characters and their points of view told in a mix of timelines. The style may not be to everyone’s taste. But my advice is to be patient and perhaps take time to read it to remember everyone.

There was a house on a hill in the city, and it was full, of us, our family, but then it began to empty. We fell out. We made a mess.
We draped ourselves in blame and disappointment and lurched around, bumping into each other. Some of us wailed and shouted; some of us barely made a sound. None of us was listening, or paying attention. And in the middle of it all you, very quietly, were gone.

The Worth family of John and Helen and their young two daughters Junie and Anna could be like any family until Helen has an affair and leaves John. The family begins to splinter slowly in the aftermath of divorce, then completely disintegrates when fifteen-year-old Anna, a troubled and rebellious teen, goes missing. Not knowing how to deal with Anna, Helen decides to give her daughter space, after all, she has taken off before. Blame and tensions arise when Helen fails to report her missing daughter for three days. The unresolved grief about Anna overhangs their lives for years to come.

The landscape is Phillip Island and the imagery is evocative. The house where John’s parents holidayed then retired to is ever-present in the memories of each of the main characters. This imagery is spot on. I know, because I spent my own late teens in a coastal town nearby where my parents owned a holiday house.


“The bald hills crowd in and let go again, and he sails down the last stretch, the flat water below reflecting a half-moon. Past the clustered darkness of the San Remo shops and over the bridge with its tall lights, empty of their daytime perching gulls.”

There are other characters, some of whom you wonder about until the end of their chapter when the connection is revealed.

It’s a remarkable book not just because of the writing but the raw emotion is so moving it stays with you for a long time. Frew’s talent is incredible and I’ll be checking out the rest of her books.

Book Launch: The Book of Dave by Peter Lingard and Colours of Death by Robert New

Last night I had the honour of saying a few words and launching two books of short stories for two wonderful writers, Peter Lingard and Robert New at Readings Book Store in Hawthorn.

I met Peter Lingard five years ago when I joined the Phoenix Park Writers Group and admire his writing. Peter has written more than three hundred short stories published in various publications around the world. He’s also written a full-length novel Boswell’s Fairies. (see my earlier review https://sckarakaltsas.com/2017/10/27/book-review-boswells-fairies-by-peter-lingard/) Last night, The Book of Dave was released to the world.

Peter with writers from Phoenix Park Writers Group

A bit about The Book of Dave by Peter Lingard
Dave Wilson is a London barman who, in late December, sifts through telephone numbers accumulated during the year. Each chapter tells the story behind the number.
He joins a band of people who wear pink underwear every Friday, goes to sea in a collier, helps a client sell his invention, takes a sick woman to hospital. Dave becomes friendly with a less than honest policeman, and flies to New York where he falls for an unobtainable woman.

If you ever wanted to get a bird’s eye view at what happens to a barman, this is the book for you. The fact that Peter once worked behind the bar gives some authenticity and he tells each story with humour.

I  also met Robert New five years when I joined Monash Writers Group. He was preparing his second novel, Incite Insight for release and I was writing Climbing the Coconut Tree. We both launched our books three years ago and have supported each other ever since.

Working full time and raising a young family, I asked Robert how he’s been able to write so prolifically and he told me that he simply tries to write at least two hundred and fifty words per day. That’s fewer words than this blog post but over a year adds up. Of course, there are days when he has the time to do more. That’s how he was able to put together Colours of Death. His passion for science shows through in each story as he finds unusual and sometimes bizarre ways people can be murdered.

A bit about Colours of Death: Sergeant Thomas’ Casebook by Robert New
What colour death would you fear the most? This is a collection of nine detective stories where colour plays a role in the mystery.
A high school awards ceremony turns to tragedy when the audience turns blue as they die.
A serial killer’s hair colour could be the key to their capture. An arsonist is trapping people in burning buildings, just to write a story about the rescuers. After a body is dumped in public, working out how the victim died is harder than decoding the intended message.
An incident with the Red Man haunts Detective Thomas, but may also be the key to solving a new case.

There is quite a bit of science behind the stories and you’ll definitely learn something.

It was a privilege to help launch these two books by two wonderful writers and I wish them every success.

Copies are available for sale now. Check them out. Links below:

The Book of Dave by Peter Lingard

 

https://www.amazon.com/Book-Dave-Peter-Lingard-ebook/dp/B07RG8MH9N/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Book+of+Dave+by+peter+lingard&qid=1561687101&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Colours of Death Sergeant Thomas Casebook by Robert New

https://www.amazon.com/Colours-Death-Sergeant-Thomas-Casebook-ebook/dp/B07RBJR1VJ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Colours+of+Death+Sergeant+Thomas%27+Casebook+by+Robert+New&qid=1561687511&s=gateway&sr=8-

 

Book Review: The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

 

I’d heard a lot about this author and was interested to read her work.

This is the second book in the series about Detective Sergeant Cormac Reilly. His girlfriend Emma, a brilliant scientist stumbles upon a girl who has been the victim of a hit and run. It turns out the girl has been murdered and the only thing she has on her is the swipe card of another girl, Carline Darcy. Carline happens to be the granddaughter of a wealthy man who owns the largest pharmaceutical company in Ireland. The company has many tentacles including funding research and employing Emma. When a second murder occurs, the investigation takes a twist and Emma herself becomes a chief suspect.

Although this was a second in a series, it didn’t seem to matter as it stood on its own quite nicely. I enjoyed the complexities and twists in the plot. The character development was well done and I appreciated the relationships particularly within the police investigation team.

I wondered about the inclusion of Detective O’Halloran and her personal life. Her story, unless it’s set up for the next book didn’t really add much value. The other thing that jarred a little was the repetitive nature of the information. It revealed itself in several different ways and for the reader I felt it was overdone. For example, Cormac at the end explains the case to Emma and apart from a titbit of new information, there was nothing new for the reader. The interesting part for me was Emma’s reaction and perhaps that should have had more focus.

Overall, an easy to read, well written novel. Now, I’m interested to read the first one, The Ruin.

Book Review: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

I held this tome of a book in my hands with trepidation at first, just because it’s a long read. Now I’ve finished it, I hold it like it’s a bible of words to be revered.

I simply loved this book.

Within the first few pages we’re introduced to the narrator, Matthew Dunbar, who, the day after getting married, is digging in someone’s backyard he doesn’t know for a typewriter he’s never seen before.

If before the beginning … was a typewriter, a dog and a snake, the beginning itself – eleven years previously – was a murderer, a mule and Clay.

And from that point we are engulfed in the story of the five Dunbar boys whose mother, Penny has died and their father has fled. The oldest is Matthew and the fourth boy is Clay who builds a bridge.

The moving family saga swaps between the present, the past and the time before and while this may be confusing at first, this is a book that commands your undivided attention and almost your every waking moment. There’s a rhythm and heartbeat to the writing, much like the metronome used by the Penny when teaching kids to read. The writing is pared back and at times almost poetic. The words are there for a reason and boy, does Markus Zusak know how to put them together.

For the longest time then, ten minutes at least, he stood at the mouth of Archer street, relieved to have finally made it, terrified to be there. The street didn’t seem to care; its breeze was close but casual, its smoky scent was untouchable. Cars stubbed out rather than parked, and the powerlines drooped from the weight of mute, hot and bothered pigeons. Around it, a city climbed and called:
Welcome back, murderer.

Each boy has his place in the family but Clay is the one they all look up to and need. The bonds of brotherhood can never be broken and their survival and hurt belongs to them all.
I loved the animals; the mule, Achilles, is a star in his own right.

This grey, patchy, ginger, light brown, thatch-faced, wide-eyed, fat nostrilled casual bastard of a mule – was standing steadfast, on the cracked lino.

And who could forget fur-shedding Hector the cat, Agamemnon, the head-butting fish and Telemachus the pigeon?

We grow to love Penny, and understand her background and the power of motherhood on her tribe of boys. Her passing is truly heartbreaking.

The reader is privy to the rough and tumble of what young boys are like, beating each other up all in preparation for what lies ahead.

They reached the sixth floor and Clay dumped Tommy sideways and tackled the mouth on his right. They landed on musty tiles, Clay half smiled, the other two laughed, and they all shrugged off the sweat. In the struggle, Clay got Henry in a headlock. He picked him up and ran him round.
‘You really need a shower, mate.’ Typical Henry … To interrupt, Tommy, thoroughly thirteen, took a running jump and brought all three of them down, arms and legs, boys and floor.

And like an onion we peel off the layers and the story reveals itself bit by bit so that by the end we know everything that’s happened and why.

I enjoyed spending time with the Dunbar boys. I worried for them, shed a tear for them, laughed with them, and didn’t want to leave them when I closed the final page. They will stay with me for a very long time.

Dive in, take your time, immerse yourself and enjoy this one.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Stars in the Night by Clare Rhoden

 

Last year, I discovered letters, photos and other paraphernalia which belonged to my grandparents. There were letters from my grandfather when he fought in WW1. He spent time in Egypt and then in France where he was wounded. The Stars in the Night took my breath away as I was transported to some of the same places where my grandfather had been.

Clare Rhoden tells the story of Harry Fletcher, who with his foster brother Eddie heads off in December 1914 from Semaphore, a town in South Australia to Egypt, Gallipoli and France. He leaves behind the love of his life, Nora and despite the fact they’re from different backgrounds, his desire to come back and marry her drives him to survive.

The author artfully takes us on a journey and what a journey it is.

Through Egypt –

‘every bit of Egypt, from the vomit and crap in the ward to the bustling, slovenly, thieving damn streets, stank like damnation.’

To Gallipoli –

‘Anzac Cove had a stench, too, higher that the waste out the back of the butcher shop in January. Australian and Turkish dead lay bloating between the lines.’

To the trenches of France –

‘There was watery mud up to his chin. The trick was not to swallow any.
He stretched his right leg beneath him. The mud stirred like cold lumpy soup and he found
some sort of purchase… he drove his foot into whatever – whoever – was underneath him.’

At times it’s gut-wrenching as we’re put right into the action. The love and friendship Harry has for Eddie was touching as was the camaraderie the soldiers had for each other. War is not confined to the fight itself but lingers long afterwards into lives and future generations. And Harry’s fight, like so many others never stops.

This is a very well researched and beautifully written novel with wonderful characters. I found it difficult to put down and at times quite emotional. If you haven’t read anything about this war, then try this new release. And even if WW1 is your thing, read it anyway. You won’t be sorry.

Copy provided courtesy of Clare Rhoden Clare Rhoden webpage

Buy links

The Stars in the Night

A Perfect Stone by S.C. Karakaltsas

Why are readers talking about A Perfect Stone?

Is it because  almost 38000 Greek and Macedonian children were forcibly wrenched away from their homes and their families during the Greek Civil War and no-one seems to know about this little slice of history?

A Perfect Stone is a sweeping tale of survival, loss and love.

Eighty-year old Jim’s suppressed memories surface in the most unimaginable way when he finally confronts what happened when, as a ten-year-old boy, he was forced at gunpoint to leave his family and trek barefoot through the mountains to escape the Greek Civil War in 1948.

On sale at .99c on Kindle only until 21 January 2019. Get a copy while you can at this exclusive price.