Review: The Rules of Backyard Cricket

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Darren Keefe is not having a great day. When we meet him he is gagged, bound, has been shot in the knee and has been shoved in the boot of a car. Darren begins to reflect on his life and how he has ended up in this position.

Darren reminisces through the highs and lows of his life, his mum who sacrificed everything for her boys, his difficult relationship with his brother and their love of cricket, the high life he enjoyed while playing professionally and the trouble that his excesses landed him in much to his brother’s shame and embarrassment.

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This unassumingly titled book sure packs a whallop. Serong’s characters leap off the page. He beautifully captures the stress of the single parent family, and the life long friction between two brothers who both want to be the best. Darren and Wally are both great at cricket and the competition they feel with the other far outstrips what they feel against anyone else. Wally is the serious, up tight older brother. Darren is younger, wilder, more irresponsible. And so they journey together into the bright and shining world of professional cricket with all the distractions that entails.

While Wally is the picture of seriousness and responsibility, Darren is his polar opposite. Craigo, a mate since childhood, can get Darren whatever he wants – drinks, drugs, women, nothing is out of the question, despite how much his behaviour angers Wally.

This book is about family and the ties that bind, sacrifice and cricket. Serong’s writing is sharp, snappy and has that great Aussie sense of humour and self deprecation. Each chapter opens with Darren’s progress in the boot of the car before delivering you back to the past, keeping the tension levels high and drawing you in to the drama, of which there is plenty.

You don’t need to be a cricket fan to enjoy this book, but you may need and Aussie to English dictionary occasionally.

4 out of 5 Rolando’s fractures.

With thanks to Netgalley and Text Publishing for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: On the Run

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It’s the 1990s in California. Pablo is a young, wealthy Central American man leading the good life. Until one day  he witnesses and is blamed for a vicious crime which leaves him with both the police and drug lords after him.

His money gone and a bounty on his head, Pablo descends into crime himself in order to survive. He heads across the country to New York to seek out the only person he can think of with the knowledge and skills to assist him – Mad Dog, his best friend’s cousin who himself has been working in the drug trade for the last ten years. Pablo will face many challenges in his new life underground, but one of the biggest will be dealing with his new ally, whose way of seeing the world is very different to his own.

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This book is so much fun! Pablo is an interesting study of what a person will do when they are pushed to the limit to find out what they are capable of.  His own horror at his initial actions is realistic and he then rather than bottoming out he seems to equalise and find his new moral compass.

Mad Dog, however, is my favourite character. He is a hardened dug dealer who has seen bad things and had bad things happen to him. But he is not a bad guy. He’s not just interested, but invested in Pablo’s welfare and continually tries to expand Pablo’s thinking and encourage his self-development and self awareness. Mad Dog also has concern for his clients – he doesn’t see an addiction to cocaine as being any different to an addiction to sex, money or power (although is worse as it could kill you). All of these things indicate someone is trying to fill a hole inside them. Pablo gets really frustrated with Mad Dog’s “new age crap” but realises he has no choice but to suck it up because Mad Dog is literally saving his life. On the Run is essentially a journey to self for Pablo, with Mad Dog as his guide.

The book is incredibly well researched and intricately detailed. There were times I had to remind myself that I was reading a work of fiction rather than a memoir. The story is well paced and will completely suck you in!

4 out of 5 offshore bank accounts.

With thanks to Netgalley and the author for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.