Monday, 30 March 2020

Your wild imagination: nature play activities for kids by Brooke Davis

In 2016, Brooke Davis established a nature play program in Adelaide called Wild Imagination. She noticed the significant shift away from green time since her childhood a few 'short' decades ago and thought kids today could do with a little old style fun!  Wild Imagination has since seen about 20,000 kids get stuck into nature play the Wild way.  In 2018 it won the award for Best Program at the City of Adelaide's Sport and Recreation Awards.
Fast forward to now, and Brooke has integrated her program into a wonderfully easy to understand and simply laid-out book with plenty of pictures and clear explanations to help with child-led learning. Kids are encouraged to use materials from the earth to make things like flower crowns, natural paint brushes and natural mandalas, which can easily be returned to the earth after play. Some of the activities included in the book such as whittling are intended to encourage supervised risk taking, so that children can improve their  ability to problem solve and be creative, patient and persistent to achieve something to be proud of.
This book is ideal for parents looking for enriching activities for children on weekends and school holidays, and with the end of the heatwave conditions, now is the ideal time to explore the great outdoors.

Hell’s detective by Michael Logan

Kat Murphy is a cynical, wise-cracking private detective at the top of her game, but must deal with her own demons. Actually one in particular, since she dwells in the city of Lost Angeles, better known as Hell. After making a terrible mistake in the mortal world, she now exists in a city peopled by others similarly fated by their sins to live forever in a city from which they cannot  escape, visited nightly by demons known as Torments, who force them to relive every detail of the acts for which they were condemned.
When a mysterious woman called Laureen approaches Kat with the apparently mundane  job of retrieving a stolen box, Kat quickly reconsiders her initial refusal when she discovers Laureen’s true identity and the nature of payment she is offering. As she plumbs the considerable depths of the Lost Angeles underworld, little does she realise her investigations may lead to her own salvation – or a fate worse than Hell.
Michael Logan (author of Apocalypse cow) has created a page-turning noir thriller mixed with elements of horror that is also seriously funny, set in a version of Hell that is strangely familiar.

The last astronaut by David Wellington

Astronaut Sally Jansen was at the peak of her career when she led NASA’s first mission to Mars. The mission was tragically cut short when an explosion damaged the ship and killed a crew member. They had no choice but to turn back and abort the mission.  Having never reached the red planet Sally is now retired and just a shell of her former self. When a large alien object is tracked heading towards Earth, Sally’s former commander calls her back to NASA. Sally is one of the few astronauts left with the knowledge to command NASA’s ageing and decommissioned space craft. Along with a small crew her mission is to intercept the alien object and discover its intentions. What follows is a tense and at times horrific exploration of a strange alien ship.  The Last Astronaut successfully manages to blend the cosmic horror of Lovecraft with the cinematic style of the Alien movies.  The uneasy tension of the book is maintained all the way to the satisfying conclusion making this novel a must read for science fiction and horror fans alike.

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The small country town of Featherbank has a dark past. Twenty years ago, five children were abducted, kept for two months, and then murdered. Before each child disappeared, they reported hearing whispering outside their windows. Eventually Frank Carter, labelled by the media as The Whisper Man, was caught and imprisoned.
Moving forward to current day, recent widower Tom Kennedy and his troubled son Jake are new arrivals to Featherbank. They are seeking a change after the sudden death of Tom’s wife, and mother of Jake. What they are hoping will be a fresh start becomes tangled up in the past of the town, and of the past of Tom himself. Another boy has gone missing and Jake is talking to someone who isn’t there…yet Frank Carter is still in jail.
A gripping, dark thriller for fans of mysteries with an undertone of the supernatural. Alex North’s debut crime novel The Whisper Man is available in hard copy book (ordinary and large print), e-book and as MP3 audiobook on CD.

How to clean your house: and tidy up your life by Lynsey Crombie

The decluttering phenomenon has a new champion. Lynsey Crombie the “Queen of Clean” is here to help you give your home that extra shine. Lynsey’s fame began with an Instagram post of her cleaning arsenal and thousands of people liked her style. In this book she presents easy to follow step-by-step guides and routines to get you keen to clean and feel good about it. From her tried and true methods she presents tips for maintaining every aspect of the household with a lot of the eco-friendly cleaning products having a variety of uses. There are many different methods to try, and not all have to be done by you - Lynsey has plans to get the whole family involved in the cleaning. Lynsey clearly is an extreme cleaner but the great thing is you can take or leave as much as you want from this book. It’s got great tips you can trust with quick and easy ways to freshen up the whole household, from the kitchen to the bedroom and bathroom through to your pets and cars—you’re bound to find something you’d like to try!

The dark pictures anthology: Man of Medan [PlayStation 4]

From the creators of Until Dawn comes another 
psychological horror that focuses on the decisions of the players. Every choice they made and every button they pressed can lead to a different ending.
A group of 5 divers go out to sea on a small boat, hoping to find a wreck to explore. They find a plane under the
surface that appears to have been shot down, leaving them with more questions than when they began their journey. The group spends the night on the water. As they sleep, a small band of pirates creeps on board. They are forced to board a huge abandoned ship, in search of the legendary Manchurian Gold. Amidst terrifying spectres and the pursuit of their savage captors, the group must try to escape and uncover the truth of what happened on the ship so many years ago.
This game can be quite punishing for those with slower reaction times. If the player misses the timing on one button, the circumstances can take a rapid turn for the worse. Relationships with the other characters and decisions made during conversations are also important in this game. If the player is careless, they might turn their friends into enemies. The good thing about Man of Medan is that, due to different potential endings, it can be enjoyed many times. It can also be played with multiple players. Though a relatively short game, it is lots of fun.

Dying light: the following [PlayStation 4]

A mysterious virus breaks out in the city of Harran, transforming most of the citizens into aggressive zombie-like creatures. Agent Kyle Crane is sent in to find a sensitive file but he is ambushed and bitten by the infected. Rescued by a woman named Jade, he finds himself in a sanctuary called the Tower. He recovers and is taught in parkour in order to become a Runner for the Tower, collecting supplies and taking on jobs to help the survivors and trying to stop the leader of a savage bandit group from wreaking havoc on the lives of the remaining citizens.
With mutations producing deadly beasts, increasingly aggressive and difficult to defeat zombies and desperate humans, every mission is fraught with danger.
Dying Light is a lot of fun to play. The graphics are very well done, featuring some stunning views of the landscape. The higher you climb, the more you can see.
The use of parkour in a realm of zombies is innovative, and depending on how you choose to spend your Skill Points, you can level up abilities and weaponry to combat your enemies in creative ways. Players can focus on the story mode and finish the game much quicker, but there are plenty of side quests and mini games available, which reward you with points, money and other resources. The game can be challenging at times, but also very satisfying.

Dancing with demons: true life misadventures of a criminal psychologist by Tim Watson-Munro

Tim Watson-Munro is a forensic psychologist whose clients ranged from corporate fraudster Alan Bond to  organised crime boss Alphonse Gangitano and mass murderer Julian Knight. In Dancing with demons, Watson-Munro describes his dealings not only with his high-profile clients, but also people not in the public eye.

Watson-Munro tells his own complicated story alonside those of his clients. Raised in San Francisco by his Canadian parents, he moves with his family to Sydney where his interest in people’s behaviour leads to pursuing a psychology degree. Soon after graduating, he accepts a position as psychologist at Parramatta Gaol. With his appetite whetted for criminal psychology, he enters private practice where his professional skills and personal charm allow him to work his way to national prominence in his field. After moving to Melbourne, he becomes involved with high-flyers in the media, law and politics. But the nature of his clientele and punishing work hours, combined with his social circle where long alcohol and cocaine-fuelled lunches are the norm, lead to chaos in his personal and professional life and his ultimate downfall, as his external and internal demons take hold.
Dancing with demons is by turns amusing and disturbing and gobsmacking as Watson-Munro reveals his own story of his personal descent into darkness amidst the extremes of behaviour of which humans are capable

The Radleys by Matt Haig

The Radleys – parents Helen and Peter and teenagers Clara and Rowan - are an ordinary middle-class English family, living in leafy Orchard Lane in the quiet village of Bishopthorpe. Their lives are deliberately routine, though seventeen-year-old Rowan is bullied on account of his bookish demeanour and permanent skin rash, while daughter Clara’s new vegan diet is playing havoc with her health. And the entire family must wear factor 60 sunscreen any time they step outside during daylight hours. Nonetheless, life ticks over unremarkably until Clara’s violent retribution against a local boy’s unwanted advances tilts the Radleys’ existence off its axis. When Peter’s brother Will turns up, supposedly to help, Clara and Rowan abruptly discover the reason for their health issues and other anomalies about their lives. Now the family must make difficult decisions or risk being destroyed – but how far will they go?
Matt Haig, author of Reasons to stay alive and The humans, has written a story that is as much about both the pain and solidarity of family relationships as it is a thriller. As secrets are revealed and the tension gradually increases, The Radleys becomes very difficult to put down.

The Institute by Stephen King

To say Stephen King has a way with characters is an understatement—it’s one reason he is one of the bestselling authors of the last few decades. His latest novel The Institute clearly demonstrates his ability to develop characters that you feel engaged with – both positively and negatively. It also embraces shades of grey, as no one is wholly good or wholly bad.
The world of The Institute has much in common with our own, but with supernatural and science-fiction undercurrents amidst the eternally warring elements of good and evil. This is familiar ground for King, with quite a few of his typical components evident: the power of friendship amongst a group of children; telekinetic abilities; perfectly rendered small rural towns; and a shady government agency.
The story follows Luke Ellis, a highly intelligent twelve-year-old, whose promising future is shattered when he is kidnapped in the dark of night. Taken to the mysterious Institute, he finds children of all ages and intelligence levels in what feels like a prison. The expectations are high and the punishments brutal. Luke’s story runs in tandem with that of Tim Jamieson, an ex-cop who finds himself in a small town
performing an intriguing role. He is a good man with a less than perfect past, and his journey will end up entangled with Luke’s in a way that neither of them could have predicted.
The Institute is an example of King at his best. There is a slow paced character engagement, drama, supernatural powers, thrills, tragedy, suspense, and positive aspects within a  story where the good guys don’t always triumph. Highly recommended.