BOOK REVIEW: HELEN RAZER – THE HELEN 100 – HOW I TOOK MY WAXER’S ADVICE & CURED HEARTBREAK BY GOING ON 100 DATES IN LESS THAN A YEAR

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There was the bride stripped bare and now there’s the dumped stripped without a care. In The Helen 100, broadcaster and writer, Helen Razer is disarmingly honest in recounting the aftermath of the breakdown of her 15-year relationship. It’s a tale that thumbs its nose at traditional, dating self-help guides and instead offers something more funny and grounded in reality (the pain and heartbreak may be real but Razer sure does know how to make ‘em laugh).

Razer begins her dating odyssey by describing the day one dry Melbourne afternoon when her partner announced without warning that she was leaving and “Needed to grow.” It was only later on when Helen reflected on things (and hacked the ex’s Facebook account) where she learned that the writing had been on the wall for the relationship for some time. Her ex-girlfriend had been cheating on her and there were several occasions where these love trysts happened when Razer was standing several metres away.

Razer takes some tentative steps into the crazy and occasionally frightening world of online dating. She does this with her sweet cat, Eleven by her side and the pair share a diet of barbeque chicken and sadness (it’s a dish best consumed in sorrowful, elasticised pants like pyjamas.) Razer also decides to publicly criticise Coldplay (thank God) and embark on 100 dates inside a year. It will be one point per date and a maximum of five per individual and no, this isn’t an Australian Bridget Jones.

This book is not a gritty tell-all. Do not expect Helen to sit there writing about date one and his bad breath or that date two didn’t turn up. Instead, Razer recounts the exchanges she had with potential suitors on a XXX app (males and females) as well as the recent events in her life (like chucking in her soul-destroying job writing copy for a discount beauty website.) She also describes her world views on politics, which make this book not unlike Lee Zachariah’s Double Dissolution: Heartbreak and Chaos on the Campaign Trail.

Razer is an opinionated individual with some very clear ideas about politics. It is unsurprising then that we see her discussing Marxism with a man in possession of a “Big Slavic cock” (in his humble opinion). We don’t find out if Razer agrees with his assessment because she actually spends her night with this Russian man and his daughter. She is also forcibly restrained in order to watch the Barbie Live show (I may have made up the part about the restraint.)

The Helen 100 is an antidote to love just like Adam Sandler singing “Love Stinks” in The Wedding Singer or if you burn rather than listen to a Cure album. Razer is one cranky and messy lady but damn, she is one we can all relate to. Her story is a fresh take on love and heartbreak in all of its complicated wretchedness. The Helen 100 is an unfiltered and bold conversation that we all need to have and we should be glad that Helen wasn’t afraid to go there- chicken, cat hair and all.

Originally published on 22 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-helen-razers-the-helen-100-is-a-brutally-honest-look-at-heartbreak-and-bbq-chicken/

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

BOOK REVIEW: JOHNNY MARR – SET THE BOY FREE

autobiography

 

Here’s Johnny! For years Johnny Marr has created great music and influenced multiple generations of guitarists by wearing various musical hats. Set The Boy Free is the first time the former guitarist of The Smiths has committed the story of his life to paper. This book is a cracking read and it proves that Marr is one charming man, indeed.

Johnny Marr was born John Martin Maher to two young, Irish immigrants in Manchester in 1963. At the age of five he got his first guitar and he grew up to be a lad that was obsessed with music and clothes. As a teenager he would work at a few different clothing shops while he toyed with the idea of forming a band.

In 1982 Marr tracked down Steven Morrissey, whom he’d met through a mutual friend some years earlier. This meeting marked the beginning of a chaotic and important few years where The Smiths would release four studio albums and numerous hit singles. The group helped revitalise interest in guitar rock and independent music in England and their songs are anthems that continue to get played to this day. This period makes up a significant portion of Marr’s book, although he does tend to gloss over the band’s rather acrimonious break-up.

Marr sounds like the quintessential English gentleman in this book. He also sounds like a wonderful and affable chap that you’d love to have a beer with (or an orange juice, as he is now a marathon-running teetotaller and vegan). Unlike Morrissey’s more bitter and cynical, Autobiography, Marr’s story is instead one that is filled with a kind of romantic and misty-eyed optimism. When Marr does tackle a difficult subject like the lawsuit brought against himself and Morrissey by his former Smiths-bandmate, Mike Joyce, he gives the story short shrift, instead choosing to focus his words on sunnier things like music and songwriting. (Although in a curious twist, Marr does say that he met up with Morrissey in 2008 and that they discussed the possibility of a Smiths reunion but that this did not eventuate into anything).

This autobiography may take a positive stance towards things but this could be due to the fact that Marr realises that he has a lot to be thankful for. He met his wife, Angie when he was 15 and the pair remain happily married and together to this day. He’s the father to a grown-up son and daughter, Nile and Sonny, and there was a period where Marr and Morrissey’s friendship was a close and happy one. These elements of Marr’s memoir do not prevent him from being frank and honest at other points. Marr admits that he told a journalist he didn’t like Michael’s Jackson’s Thriller album and he describes the Twitter storm that erupted after he forbade David Cameron, the then Prime Minister of Britain from being (or claiming to be) a Smiths fan.

This book is not the most polished one in a literary sense but it is all of Marr’s own work and it is a fun and easy read. Marr is friends with and has collaborated with lots of people. There are stories involving no less than: Hans Zimmer, Paul McCartney, Neil Finn, The The, Talking Heads, The Cribs, Modest Mouse and Electronic, to name a few. Marr has a great anecdote about the time he discussed some important things with the former Beatle that’s worth the price of admission alone. Marr’s stories are interesting to read and are often filled with great advice and wisdom. For example, Marr received some advice from a teacher when he was a school boy and that was: to find something he liked, be good at it and be an artist rather than getting bored or in trouble. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it with the benefit of hindsight.

Set The Boy Free is a must-read for any self-respecting fan of The Smiths. It is Johnny Marr’s direct and grounded account of a wonderful life in music and his forays into the world of fashion. This rock autobiography is a romantic story from an energetic and enigmatic Englishman who isn’t content to just sit back on his laurels. Johnny Marr wants to continue making great music and he’s revved up by fans who know that in Messer Marr there is most certainly a light that never goes out.

Originally published on 23 January 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/books/book-review-johnny-marrs-set-the-boy-free-is-an-honest-fun-look-at-the-energetic-life-of-the-former-smiths-guitarist-and-quintessential-english-gentleman/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: F IS FOR FAMILY

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The letter “f” is at the beginning of a few different words. There’s the animated Netflix series, F Is For Family. There’s also “fail,” “f**ed,” “flimsy” and “forgettable.” It is easy to sit back and say that the aforementioned series about a dysfunctional family lead by a beer-swilling boob that works in a boring job is unoriginal insofar as that description could be used to describe numerous TV shows (Married With Children and The Simpsons are just two that immediately spring to mind.) F Is For Family is not a perfect show but what it does do well is that it is honest and offers no apologies, if it wants to use crude animations, characters swearing and making jokes that were acceptable in the seventies but are deemed racist today then it will take you there for better or worse and whether you want to or not.

The series is created by comedian Bill Burr and Michael Price (The Simpsons.) It should come as no surprise that the series obviously draws inspiration from both of its creators. For Burr it is in the long and angry rants that the Korean War-veteran father, Frank Murphy regularly delivers (a character that is also voiced by Burr.) There are also plenty of one-liner jokes that are quite obviously ripped off of The Simpsons because as South Park once declared, “The Simpsons already did it.”

F Is For Family stars the Murphy family. There is the father Frank, a disgruntled former baggage handler who has recently been promoted to middle manager at Mohican Airlines. There is his long-suffering wife (Laura Dern,) a woman who aspires to be more than just a housewife and a lady that voluntarily sells plast-a-ware (a take on Tupperware) to people. Kevin Murphy (Justin Long) is like a grown-up Bart Simpson in that he’s an underachiever and proud of it. His younger brother, Bill (Haley Reinhart) is a pathetic little wimp and wallflower and a kid who is easily manipulated and taken advantage of by the youngest Murphy, Maureen (Debi Derryberry.)

This show is a serialised one so we follow the storylines through the six episodes of the first series. Frank begins by trying to outdo his rich and handsome next-door neighbour by purchasing a colour TV that he cannot afford. Frank is not an overly likeable character, especially when he demands a hot meal and peace and quiet from his wife and kids. He also undermines his wife’s chance at a job and he is a terrible parent. Frank invents “Summer in Alaska” in a bid to get his children to go to bed in the afternoon and he offers “helpful” advice like, “Be nice to your sister. Someday you’ll be sleeping on her couch after your first divorce!”

F Is For Family has its moments but it could do with some more jokes. It could also resist the urge to resort to stereotypes and perhaps remove some characters altogether (the family’s German neighbour for instance, is a presumed Nazi but is actually a Holocaust survivor and these jokes often leave a bad taste in your mouth.) F Is For Family is a parody of a dysfunctional family set in the 1970s and is inspired in part by Burr’s childhood. It uses dark humour, basic animations and some distasteful jokes in order to make a point. While this can be rather enjoyable at times, at other moments it feels like yet another dysfunctional family in a sitcom running through the same old jokes on repeat.

Originally published on 28 December 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/f-is-for-family-dvd-review/

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BOOK REVIEW: CAREK STELSON – SACHIKO – A NAGASAKI SURVIVOR’S STORY

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The story of Sachiko and other hibakusha are important, as they chronicle a fundamental part of history. This book also supports Yasui’s work as an activist for peace, as it is a cautionary tale about nuclear weaponry, but also one of hardship and human resilience. At 144 pages there were elements that could have been elaborated on further, but it remains a well-researched piece of narrative non-fiction and essential reading for anyone interested in learning from the perils and tragedy of war.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201611/207492

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

BOOK REVIEW: TIM COSTELLO – FAITH

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As the CEO of the World Vision charity, Tim Costello AO has often had to discuss faith. His latest book also deals with the topic of belief and how it can be used to highlight the things that humanity has in common as well as offering a vehicle for reconciliation and hope. This series of short essays is a mix of philosophy, morality, religion and inspiration as well as observations and quotes that seem more like pure memoir. Faith is not the kind of book you can skim through quickly. It is a disarming read where you need to pause, reflect and discuss the bigger issues with other people.

Costello is a Baptist minister who has had an impressive career in advocacy, social justice, charity and politics. He is the brother of Australia’s former Treasurer, Peter Costello but Tim’s ideology is more unashamedly Christian in focus. This collection of writings is not too dissimilar to Morgan Freeman’s The Story Of God documentary series in that it draws our attention to the things that individuals of different faiths have in common, even if it is little more than a belief in a higher being or power.

It is interesting that this collection is not too sanctimonious or preachy. Costello is honest and forthcoming in his admission that he is occasionally fed up with faith. He also says that he faces ire from the two opposing sides after speaking engagements because the secularists want him to dial down the spiritual elements while religious people think he should do more to emphasise his beliefs. What he does do well is talk about the importance of faith and inclusiveness while framing it through significant contemporary issues like: corruption, war, refugees, global warming and poverty.

In Faith, Tim Costello offers us some interesting food for thought about ideology, faith, human compassion and hope. He describes our first-world problems and the “soul sickness” that is permeating the affluent and manifesting itself in the high incidence of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and high suicide rates. But perhaps the most fundamental message is that instead of comparing up and trying to keep up with the Joneses, Costello tells us we should compare down and count our blessings. It’s an important idea in our blasé modern world and one that should resonate with people irrespective of their beliefs.

Originally published on 9 September 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-faith-by-tim-costello/

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

BOOK REVIEW: COLLEEN HOOVER – IT ENDS WITH US

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It Ends With Us is a title that hints at a certain sense of finality or ending. But in reality this novel is only the beginning. This bold book from New York Times bestseller, Colleen Hoover is an important one that slowly reveals itself to be a rather hard lesson in love, told by an excellent storyteller with a deft hand and a sensitive heart.

The cover of this book reminds me of Charlotte Woods’s The Natural Way Of Things. Both books are works of fiction but they are also so raw and honest that they often feel as though they could be real stories. They also deal with some difficult subjects that are hard to discuss or raise, so hopefully this gets readers talking about them.

Colleen Hoover has offered us a story about an engaging young woman named Lily. At the beginning of the story she is reeling from the recent death of her father. It’s a bittersweet moment for her because their relationship had been a rather fraught one.  At the same time she also meets a handsome neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid. The two connect and he literally sweeps her off of her feet. But the honeymoon doesn’t last forever because Lily also has to process some stuff to do with a previous relationship. It is material that will make her reassess things and challenge what she previously thought. It’s also something we can all learn from.

This novel is a bold one from Colleen Hoover and a very personal story. In her author’s note (which you should only read after finishing the book) she reveals her true connection to this tale. This intense book will tug at your heartstrings and thrust you onto an emotional rollercoaster that will take you through every emotion on the spectrum of feelings. To reveal anything more would ruin things but suffice to say the naked truth is that this is one excellent book full of depth, pathos and grit.

 

***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-it-ends-with-us

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/

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BOOK REVIEW: QUINN, THE ROTTWEILER – A STORY OF A DOG DEALING WITH CANCER

quinn

 

Quinn, the Rottweiler- A Story of a Dog Dealing with Cancer is a charming little book about a beautiful canine. The story is told from Quinn the dog’s perspective and is a nice, feel-good tale in parts (at least when you consider Quinn enjoying his new and happy life with Maryly Turner and her pets). Quinn was originally named Chong and was forced to live outside or in a shed and was regularly chained up. But once he was adopted by Turner (after his previous owner could no longer care for him) his life took a turn for the better.

The story of Quinn leapt off the page. You could imagine this dog with a big smile on his face and wagging his tail as he enjoyed meeting new people and animals and sleeping on a warm bed, eating treats and going for rides in the car. It is sad that Maryly – who was recovering from cancer treatment at the time – would discover a lump on Quinn’s foot that would prove cancerous. We follow Quinn’s treatment as he has painful surgery and chemotherapy and we can feel real empathy for what he endures.

This book is ultimately a warm and big-hearted story that should help us understand our pets that little bit more. It’s a great tale that shows the power of family and family and their ability to help and support others, through the good times and the bad. Quinn is an inspirational character that at times reminded me of Oddball and he is one that readers will come to fall in love with.

***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/7543053-quinn-the-rottweiler

DVD REVIEW: LUKE WARM SEX

lukewarmsex

 

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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