BOOK REVIEW: MESHEL LAURIE – BUDDHISM FOR BREAK-UPS

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There are many people who ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” but in the case of Meshel Laurie, it was, “What would Buddha do?” The Australian writer, comedian and radio personality was looking towards her Buddhist faith as a way of making sense of the end of her 19 year marriage. Except that there were no self-help manuals on successfully separating, not from a Buddhist standpoint, so she wrote her own and it’s a thought-provoking, relatable and compassionate read.

Laurie’s book finds the right balance between offering her own personal tale as well as the fundamental principles that Buddhists believe. She describes her separation from her ex-husband, Adrian Lewinski in some detail, whilst also offering a template for navigating through the negative emotions of fear, grief and loneliness that are synonymous with heartbreak.

If you’re sitting there dismissing this book as a bunch of hippie nonsense then think again. This book is instead a rather practical and logical collection of different chapters. Early on Laurie has us considering the fact that we will all lose somebody close to us someday: “No relationship – romantic, familial or platonic – is absolute and forever. We will all lose someone we rely on at some point in our lives. Sometimes the other person chooses to leave us, sometimes they’re taken from us tragically, and sometimes we discover that they were never ours to begin with. But one way or another, the relationship will end.”

This means that the ability to deal with the loss of a relationship is a useful skill. Another handy lesson that Laurie offers is to learn about the Buddhist principles of “impermanence” i.e. understanding that everyone and everything is constantly changing and “dependent arising” or understanding that we never actually stop evolving or changing and that this process is shaped by the conditions around us. For Meshel she simply wants us to consider and focus on the positive aspects of a break-up – even if it’s just being able to lie in a large bed and watch your favourite shows on Netflix – you should seize this opportunity for happiness and growth.

Meshel Laurie offers us some very practical pieces of advice in her second book, Buddhism for Break-ups. This combination of well-written, well-explained and considered Buddhist teachings as well as her own real-life experiences can offer some real comfort to readers in much the same was as Chicken Soup For The Soul has done. You can really get a sense that, “If Meshel can do it then perhaps I can too.”

Buddhism for Break-ups should be essential reading for anyone that finds themselves broken-hearted and open to the prospect of learning new things and becoming a better individual. Buddhism for Break-ups may not answer all of your questions but it is certainly clever and therapeutic enough to steer you in the right direction. Namaste!

Originally published on 28 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-meshel-lauries-buddhism-for-break-ups-is-the-buddhist-dating-equivalent-of-chicken-soup-for-the-soul/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: LEE ZACHARIAH – DOUBLE DISSOLUTION – HEARTBREAK & CHAOS ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

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The combination of a political analysis and a memoir about the dissolution of a marriage could be considered similar to oil and water.  But in the hands of Australian author, Lee Zachariah, this book is quite a funny and rather seamless slice of gonzo journalism. Zachariah draws parallels between the Liberal party’s entry into office in 2013 and his marriage to his girlfriend as well as the aftermath of 2016, which saw Australians starring down the barrel of an uncertain election and Zachariah also facing an ambiguous future with respect to his relationship and life in general.

Double Dissolution is based around Zachariah’s series of articles for Vice Magazine about the 2016 Election, although none of his pieces are included here. Instead, diarised accounts of the highways, bad coffee and campaign bus are included as well as vox pops and interviews with volunteers, voters and politicians like: Greens senator, Sarah Hanson-Young and senator and leader of his own political party, Nick Xenophon. This book is pitched at all readers with political fans being able to enjoy the commentary while those less enamoured with politics can at least get enough context to understand Zachariah’s perspectives and encounters with those vying for power. Zachariah does a fabulous job of this, providing just enough information to be educational while never being dry or boring.

Some of the funniest parts of this book are Zachariah’s little asides and extra thoughts that can be found in the footnotes. He draws parallels between what is transpiring before him and various slices of pop culture. These links are never forced or tenuous. Zachariah has previously cut his teeth on TV shows like The Chaser’s Hamster Wheel and Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell and he certainly knows how to craft and tell an entertaining yarn or ten.

Double Dissolution is not the most deep or comprehensive look at Australian politics or the 2016 federal election and nor does it purport to be. Instead it is perhaps the most entertaining look at these topics. Zachariah is an interesting, gonzo character and his perspectives and commentary are quite intelligent and well-put. Perhaps this foray onto the campaign trail will see Zachariah run for office some day? Because as this book proves, he can’t be as bad as what we’ve previously had!

***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a Bookstr giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.bookstr.com/book/double-dissolution/10478633/

DVD REVIEW: STREETS OF YOUR TOWN

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Streets of Your Town is a romp through history, suburban Australia and its architecture. Comedian, Tim Ross, a self-confessed modernist tragic who has performed his own live shows in significant Australian buildings takes us on a journey through different Aussie structures, from the significant ones to the humble family home ranging from the 1950s to today. This two-part documentary could have been longer and is ultimately a love letter by Ross to Australian architects and buildings, but the series is not without a few structural trappings.

This fly-on-the-wall program from director, Sally Aitken (Getting Frank Gehry) begins in the post-war years when materials like concrete, steel and glass were used to make sleek and functional, modernist designs. In this special, Ross describes important buildings like the Sydney Opera House, Rose Seidler House, The Australian Academy of Science Building and Blues Point Tower. He also interviews a number of interesting individuals including Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs,) writer, Kathy Lette and philosopher, Alain de Botton.

The final part of the series tackles the impact of immigration on Australia’s homes, particularly the ones from the eighties where columns, arches and balconies saw them dubbed “Late 20th century immigrants’ nostalgia.” There is also the recent phenomena of upsizing the family home such that media rooms and en-suites are a must and are no longer a negotiable commodity.

Over the course of this programme Ross and his team go into detail about Australia’s pioneering architects including Robin Boyd, Harry Seidler and Syd Ancher, to name a few. Ross is also a little condescending at times when he dismisses the McMansions of today even though they are punctuating the suburbs. He calls them ugly in an aesthetic sense and he also believes that many old buildings should be cherished and preserved.

Streets of Your Town is an interesting documentary series about Australian architecture, history and suburban life. Ross is a passionate and rather opinionated presenter and sometimes his ideas may not accord with his viewers, as he is a little biased towards modernism. But at the end of the day this intriguing show demonstrates just what it takes for a house to be appreciated and considered a home.

Originally published on 12 December 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/streets-town-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com

BOOK REVIEW: DENG THIAK ADUT – SONGS OF A WAR BOY

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NSW Australian of the Year, Deng Thiak Adut, is nothing short of an inspiration. A lawyer with a keen interest in social justice, Adut was born in Southern Sudan and conscripted to fight for the rebels at the age of seven. Songs of a War Boy describes his amazing life as a child solider as well as his arrival as a refugee in Australia and how he used education and knowledge to become a community leader and forge a great career.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201611/211578

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

BOOK REVIEW: TONI JORDAN- OUR TINY, USELESS HEARTS

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David Bowie may have sung about modern love but it is author, Toni Jordan that has written a book about it. Her fourth novel, Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is set over the course of a single weekend in suburban Melbourne and it shows how three different relationships implode. This well-written and witty book is a fun and light read that is set in a kind of domestic chaos.

This novel is what you would get if you crossed Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina with the works of Marian Keyes or P. G. Wodehouse. The story begins with the end of Caroline and Henry’s marriage. It’s an ugly event where a night-long screaming match ends with Caroline cutting out the crotches of her husband’s fine suits. She then follows him to Noosa where he has planned a holiday with his new flame, a schoolteacher named Martha.

Caroline and Henry are the parents of two precocious young girls (one of whom is taught by Martha). Their Aunty Janice is called in to babysit because she is the “sensible one,” or so it would seem. Janice is the story’s narrator and is a clever and witty scientist but she has also made some silly mistakes involving her own love life. She divorced the man she loves- the sweet and kind-hearted Alec and she did not divulge the true reasons for her change of heart. This is just one of the many secrets that are revealed in this novel. The other main characters are Caroline and Henry’s neighbours, the attractive but dumb, Craig and his self-absorbed artist wife, Lesley.

The characters in this novel are very flawed but for this reason the also seem very real and believable. Jordan has done an excellent job by providing rich characterisation, as the adults provide many moments of real humour as well as emotion and thoughtfulness. The whole experience is like being a fly-on-the-wall to the shenanigans that take place. Jordan expertly reveals each secret and lie from the past and tells these alongside the light of the present day, while also offering up some social observations about fertility, fidelity, parenting, sex and more.

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is a warm and pithy take on modern romance. This Australian, domestic dramedy is an easy and enjoyable read. It’s ultimately a good satire based on love and marriage and a jaunty take on an institute you can’t disparage, lest you wind up being the star of a novel and the butt of a joke.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer thanks to a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29285427-our-tiny-useless-hearts

BOOK REVIEW: VANESSA DE LARGIE – DON’T HIT ME!

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Trigger warning: This post includes information about domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers.

Vanessa de Largie’s book will leave you torn. It’s a diarised account of the domestic violence she suffered from 2001–03. On the one hand you wish this book didn’t exist (and that de Largie didn’t have to live through such pain, horror and terror) but on the other hand it’s good to know that others will have somewhere to turn to if they or someone they know is caught as a victim.

De Largie is a successful actress and writer and in some ways she reminds me of Tara Moss. De Largie is a very eloquent, outspoken and vocal in her views on feminism and female sexuality. In Don’t Hit Me! her style is very direct and immediate, and she commands you as a reader to listen to her tragic tale.

This book makes no apologies about being an unconventional and non-traditional one. The story is made up of different vignettes, poems and fragments, which means that the volume can be read in a non-linear way or in fact however the reader may choose. No matter which method the reader decides to employ, the prose is often very graphic and confronting in its detailing the psychological and physical abuse she endured, and the manipulative and controlling behaviour she was subjected to by one violent and unstable man.

Don’t Hit Me! is a bold statement and also one rich and vivid account of de Largie’s life. It’s a book that is told in an effective, no-holds barred way where it is steadfastly raw and gritty. De Largie should be commended for tackling the elephant in the room head-on and opening up the dialogue on an important issue that is too often ignored or swept under the carpet.

Originally published on 24 May 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-dont-hit-me-by-vanessa-de-largie-booktrope-books-2016/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

DVD REVIEW: LUKE WARM SEX

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Let’s talk about sex baby. Luke McGregor’s doco-comedy, Luke Warm Sex is a raw, honest and no-holds-barred approach to copulation. It also promises to educate viewers in how to get better at or to have a more satisfying sex life. Across six episodes the viewer embarks on a journey with the most awkward comedian in history to learn a lot about lovin’.

Luke McGregor has graced our small screens before in sitcoms like Utopia and Please Like Me. The Tasmanian-born funnyman is a naturally rather anxious guy with nervous chuckles punctuating his speech. This man has a very awkward persona and some people may have thought this was all an act or something that would not have helped in making a program like Luke Warm Sex.

It may come across as a bit of a surprise but this nervy guy is actually quite a charming presenter. McGregor was – by his own admission – a complete novice when it came to matters of the bedroom, having only had sex twice in his 33 years on earth. To this series he brings an eagerness, enthusiasm and a natural zeal to learn more and to improve himself. He lays his insecurities out in the open and in doing so is actually quite endearing and wins over the audience. Luke Warm Sex is ultimately quite a relatable, entertaining and informative program.

In Luke Warm Sex McGregor tackles his body hang-ups and overcomes his fear of being nude while in the company of some kind-hearted naturists. He becomes comfortable with the idea of touch and contact and learns how to prepare the body for sex. The final stages he learns about are pleasure, intimacy and creative ways of getting down and dirty. In this series, McGregor speaks to various individuals including sexperts like: sex therapists and educators, tantric practitioners, sex coaches and naturists, to name a few.

The special features on the DVD include an eclectic mix of titbits. Dr Judith Glover offers a history of vibrators while Roger Butler gives us the “flip board of love”. Academics, Thiagarajan and Gomathi Sitharthan discuss porn while Amanda Lambrose makes a “sex” smoothie and Cindy Darnell and McGregor discuss sex toys. There are some comedic moments like “The STI House” (starring Dave Hughes, Hamish Blake and other comedians), “The Consent Sketch” and a little segment where McGregor visits his hometown and old school. There are also some outtakes, promo trailers and some vox pops that McGregor did in Melbourne.

Luke Warm Sex offers the viewer a light-hearted and educational look at sex. In an age where a lot of people learn about sex through porn, it is refreshing to see a program tackle some real experiments and offer facts from a guy who is painfully honest about his lack of know-how. This series is a brave one that should be mandatory viewing by everyone because we could all learn a thing or two from this endearing, gentle and original show.

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/luke-warm-sex-dvd-review/

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BOOK REVIEW: JOSEPHINE MOON – THE BEEKEEPER’S SECRET

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The Beekeeper’s Secret marks a slight departure in style for Australian author, Josephine Moon. In her third novel the writer has once again put together a vibrant and easy-to-read story about love, loss, family and friendship but this time around also manages to thread in some extra twists of suspense and mystery to the tale, as well tackling some dark and topical subject matter.  This was ultimately an enjoyable book boasting some well-realised characters and hopefully this is not the last that readers will hear from this diverse and intriguing lot.

The story stars a kind-hearted and well-meaning former nun named Maria Lindsey. The latter likes nothing more than her solitary life tending to her honeybees and making honey-based products that she can sell at the local markets in order to raise funds for an orphanage in Cambodia. Maria is a likeable character who is also harbouring a number of terrible secrets. She is plagued by a sense of guilt and feels like she needs to continue in her quest for atonement.

Tansy Butterfield is a successful 30-year-old interior decorator and the estranged niece of Lindsey. She is suffering a mid-life crisis because she must reconsider her feelings and make some big decisions with respect to child-rearing and following her husband overseas. At the same time she also wants to establish a relationship with an aunt she’s never met and knows nothing about. If that’s not enough, Butterfield also has a tight-knit immediate family and they are battling a number of their own issues like loss of faith, infidelity, sick children and regrets about the past.

Moon’s story was a little slow to begin with but it really hit its stride in the middle and towards the end. The characters are rich and realistic ones like those found in Marian Keyes’s novels and the story is an interesting and relevant dramedy that contains added messages, meaning and metaphors thanks to the vivid descriptions of honeybees. In all, this book shows a dysfunctional family negotiating their way through rights, wrongs, cover-ups, lies and betrayals in a story that is like a pot of amber gold and a rather sweet family tale.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28509498-the-beekeeper-s-secret

DVD REVIEW: THE FAMILY LAW

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For too long, Australian TV shows have been white-washed and white bread but a series like The Family Law looks poised to change all of that. The SBS dramedy feels authentic in its depiction of the Law family living in Queensland in the nineties. The show has real heart and it will make you laugh and it’s no surprise that it has become a swift favourite among viewers.

The program is an adaption of writer, Benjamin Law’s 2010 memoir of the same name. The TV series was also co-written with Marieke Hardy. It uses some of the vignettes from Law’s memoir where he describes growing up as a gay, Asian kid in Australia. The TV show also fashions it all into a cohesive whole by making it seem like it all took place over one long, hot Australian summer.

The six-part series is mostly told from Law’s perspective. He is a creative, enthusiastic and well-meaning middle child who is close to his large family, especially his mother. Here, Law is played by the well-cast, Trystan Go, whose acting credits include the theatrical production, The King & I. But one character’s star shines the brightest out of the Law family and that is Ben’s mother, Jenny (played by the wonderful, Fiona Choi). Jenny is the family matriarch and a rambunctious, eccentric and colourful character. Jenny can be inappropriate at times and a no-nonsense and kind woman at others. She also has no filter and has by far, some of the funniest lines.

The Law family also includes the hard-working father, Danny (Anthony Brandon Wong (who plays a villain in several Matrix films)). Danny is thrown-out of the Law house and is forced to sleep at the restaurant he owns. There are also Ben’s four siblings- Candy (Shuang Hu), Andrew (George Zhao), Tammy (Karina Lee) and Michelle (Vivian Wei). The show is a warm, relatable and amiable one that focuses on Ben’s teenage life- from aspirations of fame and entries into school talent quests, to his parent’s wedding anniversary and marriage break-up to family Christmases, engagements and visits from friends.

The special features are interesting and include a trailer as well as a series of featurettes where there are interviews with Law, the actors and director, Jonathan Brough  (It’s a Date, Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane). It is fascinating to learn that the production team went to great lengths to make the setting feel like a cosy, lived-in family home. Law referred to it as a “lasagne of shit” and this is particularly obvious in the mountains of laundry and family bric-a-brac. It’s also nice to see the real members of the Law family meeting their counterparts (they make a cameo in episode one which is lovely and rather funny).

The Family Law is a fun, Australian family show that expertly straddles the lines between drama and comedy. The show has some funny moments but it also doesn’t shy away from depicting some real drama and emotion. In all, this is a long-overdue program about a dysfunctional Asian family that everyone can enjoy thanks to its rich tapestry and depiction of modern Australian life that is full of off-beat irreverence and colourful shenanigans aplenty.

Originally published on 5 March 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/the-family-law-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

BOOK REVIEW: KARLY LANE – TALLOWOOD BOUND

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Karly Lane’s latest novel, Tallowood Bound allows you to immerse yourself in some good, ol’fashioned romance as well as spend some time away in the country. The book is an Australian, rural romance novel that also spins together elements of historic fiction and contemporary, chick lit. The novel is ultimately a pleasant and engaging one about three generations of women from the Macalister family.

The story begins with Sydney-based girl, Erin Macalister leaving the big smoke behind in order to care for her gran, Evelyn, who lives in Tuendoc, a small rural town in Queensland. Evelyn has had a bad fall and is also suffering from severe memory loss as a result of having dementia. The only way Erin can still get through to her grandma is to bring in some old photographs. But these pictures also unlock a series of long-lost memories and family secrets that have been buried for decades.

The other major arc to this novel is about Evelyn’s life as a young woman living in Townsville and working for the Red Cross during the Second World War. She is engaged to a close family friend named Roy and he in turn has struck up a friendship with an American serviceman named Jimmy while the two were stationed in New Guinea. When Jimmy is allowed some leave in Australia he goes to meet Evelyn and her family and this sets off a series of events that had long remained a mystery and this is all slowly revealed to the reader.

After Erin returns to Tuendoc she also meets up with an old love of her own named Jamie McBride, who also happens to be her grandma’s neighbour. The latter is keen to rekindle his relationship with Erin but she is weary and still wounded by her recent marriage breakdown as well as several ghosts from the past. Lane does an excellent job of writing realistic characters and creating authentic and complex relationships complete with feelings like emotion, loss and heartbreak.

Tallowood Bound is a vivid, romance tale set in the country but it’s also a story that is far bigger than that. It successfully draws together multiple generations of a family and shows the long-lasting impact of some key decisions. In all, this was an enjoyable and predictable dramatic tale that has one big, old heart at its core.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-tallowood-bound

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