Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Review: Break Through by Marina Go

One part a how-to book and one part memoir, Break Through by Marina Go is an inspiring read offering tips on how to succeed in the workplace, as well as accounting the many triumphs and curve balls that the author has received throughout her long career within the cut-throat magazine industry.

When I was offered the chance to review this book, I immediately seized it. Not only did I feel that the subject matter would be entirely relevant to me, but I immediately recognised the name of the author from many, many years ago--Marina Go was the editor of Dolly when I first started reading the magazine, and at the time, my twelve year old self thought that she and her colleagues must have been very glamourous. (By the time Susie Pitts took over as editor I was almost thirteen and a little more jaded, but that's fodder for a different post.) Some of the memoir pages are devoted to Marina's time at Dolly (she was the editor of the magazine at age 23) and provide some of the funniest and most entertaining pages within the book. We also learn about Go's childhood--she was the daughter of immigrant parents, her mother was from Italy and her father from Hong Kong. Later parts show how the author managed motherhood and a successful career. Of course, the larger chunk of the book is focused on practical advice for women looking to succeed in their chosen fields and is set out in a clear and practical fashion. Each chapter focuses on a different strategy (I found myself reading Chapter 7, which is titled Develop Resilience, three times and highlighting a few bits of advice--things that I hope to implement in the future.)

Full of practical advice. Highly recommended. 

Thank you to Ventura Press for my reading copy.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2016.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

This is a mural that I snapped in a laneway on Leigh Street. As most Adelaide people know, Leigh Street (a pedestrian only city street, filled with bars and, during peak hour, office workers taking a short cut to the nearby Adelaide Railway station,) always has a lot tucked inside a relatively small space, and many, many strange and beautiful things can the found there if one takes the time to stop and have a look around. Although less than a hop, skip and a jump away from the delightfully colourful (and dare I say, far more iconic,) Hindley Street, Leigh Street is always has a bit of an upmarket, hipster vibe. (Even if the northern side does look straight at a run down hotel that is covered in ceramic tiles.)

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Review: Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt

Patrick DeWitt's latest novel is a trifle dark, a trifle funny, a trifle profane and a trifle pretentious. Which should tell you everything, and nothing at all, about this book.

A gothic coming of age tale, Undermajordomo Minor tells the story of Lucy, a misfit in his home and his town, who travels some distance away to take up a somewhat underwhelming position at a run down castle and finds himself surrounded by some dysfunctional people and some rather peculiar situations. And somehow, in between the clever prose and dark comedy, the author manages to tell a coming-of-age story of a young man away from home for the first time and his love for a young woman named Klara.

And that's really it.

Readers will need to be in a certain mood to appreciate this one--I think anyone who catches on to the humour will love it, whilst others will probably be left starting at this one and wondering what the fuck it is that they have just read. Anyway, I discovered this one a few months back at Adelaide Writers' Week after catching the second half of DeWitt's session. The book was about what I expected it to be, which was as enjoyable as it was irritating.

Oh, and that orgy in the ballroom scene is really something. I just don't know what that something is. (And maybe I am not supposed to.)


Friday, 29 April 2016

Friday Funnies

Yep. I've worn that face a few times, lol.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Review: The Other Side of the Season by Jenn J McLeod

In The Other Side of the Season Australian author Jenn J McLeod takes us to Watercolour Cove, a small seaside town where the choices, and tragedies, of one generation will impact on the lives of the next. In 1978 David, Matthew, Albie and Tilly are living on neighbouring banana plantations on the top of a town that is known as Dinghy Bay. David and Matthew are brothers, while Albie and Tilly are the adopted children of the couple who own the plantation next door. Life is simple and fun, until adult problems start to get in the way. Aspiring artist David wants to go to university,  with him, Matthew is jealous of David and Albie is perhaps not-so-secretly besotted with his adopted sister. As for Tilly, her heart lies with David, and she knows that one day she is going to leave the small town that she hates, and pursue her love of art. Anyway, a series of events, each one worse than the last, has some pretty serious consequences and will shape the lives of David, Matthew, Albie and Tilly.

In a parallel story set in 2015, thirty-five year old Sidney (named after artist Sidney Nolan,) and her brother Jake visit Watercolour Cove, a small town that was once home to the grandfather that they never knew. They stumble upon an art gallery at what was once a banana plantation, and Sidney soon makes a friend out of its owner, David. It is probably a generational thing, but of each of the characters, I found Sidney the easiest to identify with. I felt a lot of empathy, and admiration, for her--she was a woman who chose her principles, and her unborn child, over a man and had the strength of character to see it through with no regrets. (One central character, I suspect, is far prouder of her than what she lets on.) 

The author cleverly drip feeds information to readers, allowing them to piece the story together bit-by-bit and to discover each side of the story. I struggled with Natalie's character at first, feeling anger and contempt at some of the decisions that she made, but by the end of the story, I had a strong understanding of how her early years had been shaped by events that were out of her control, and that in turn had shaped her as an adult. And, of course, its easy for people to make mistakes and poor choices when they are young, especially when they do not have much guidance.

We also see how Natalie works to right the wrongs of the past, and I found myself admiring her tenacity. As the cover suggests, there is always more than one side to a story, and author Jenn J McLeod handles her characters with a very real and genuine respect.

I also admired the courage that Sidney had, choosing her baby over her partner, and I found myself wishing that the ratbagish (but fun) Jake featured a bit more within the narrative. The ending was a bit tearful, but entirely appropriate. 

A wonderful story of Australian people with a dash of Australian art. Recommended. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2016

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Writers on Wednesday: Dean Mayes

Welcome to another great Writers on Wednesday post. This week, I am chatting with Adelaide based author Dean Mayes, whose third novel, the recipient will be released on May 1. Dean is currently the writer in residence at the South Australian Writers Centre. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview and I hope that you do too ...

Tell us a bit about yourself …

So I'm an author and Intensive Care Nurse living in Adelaide, Australia with my wife Emily, my children Xavier and Lucy and my spaniel Sam. I have a pretty full life with work with my writing commitments while juggling family, school runs and junior sports commitments but, somehow, I manage to make it all work. Oh - I'm also a massive Star Wars fan. I guess you could say that it was Star Wars that is chiefly responsible for my love of story telling.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

The Recipient is my upcoming novel (out May 1st) which will be my third published novel for Central Avenue Publishing. The Recipient follows a young heart transplant recipient named Casey Schillinge who, after receiving her life saving surgery, begins to have horrible nightmares about being violently attacked and murdered. The nightmares have become so bad that they are slowly driving her mad. In desperation to learn why she is having them, Casey makes a terrifying discovery about the fate of her donor and this leads her on a desperate search for answers. The further she delves, Casey finds herself at the centre of a deadly conspiracy that will threaten her life all over again. 

Set in Melbourne, Australia, The Recipient is described as a tense psychological thriller in the tradition of Girl on a Train and Dark Places.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

I was discovered by my publisher who spotted my blog back in mid 2009. At the time, I had given up on the idea of ever being published but I had this story I wanted to tell so I thought why not blog it. Unexpectedly, the blog took off, attracting upwards of 3000 visitors per month who were tuning into this story of mine about a young man search for his lost love on both sides of mortality. One of those visitors to that blog was Michelle Halket of Central Avenue Publishing. She saw enough potential in my story that she signed me to an initial two year agreement and my blog eventually became my debut novel, "The Hambledown Dream".

As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?

Probably the publication of my second novel "Gifts of the Peramangk" in 2012. This was a story about an Aboriginal family living in abject poverty in Adelaide, South Australia - at the heart of which is a child prodigy in 8 year old Ruby Delfy, who has been taught to play violin by her ageing grandmother Virginia. Across two time periods - 1950's Australia and the modern day - I told this coming of age story that was part triumph over adversity and part cinderella story. I'm proud of that story because I'm not an Aboroginal Australian and I poured roughly a year of pure research into the novel. I wasn't sure how the novel would be received but it has since gone on to be my most critically acclaimed work to date. I'm very proud of that story.

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?

I am currently engaged as the Writer in Residence at the South Australian Writer's Centre here in Adelaide which is a great opportunity for me to develop a new project called 'Walhalla' which is a return to my romantic roots. Walhalla will follow the story of a young Adelaide doctor who, in the aftermath of the collapse of his marriage, returns to his childhood home in the Victorian high country. There he reconnects with an eclectic group of people who help him to get through his grief and he encounters a childhood nemesis with whom a potential romance may develop. It's an old school romance which I have a great fondness for.

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?

I'm not really opposed to either. For me, as a writer, they offer opportunities to access two different segments of the reading market. As a reader, ebooks offer a library of really talented writers who I might not have otherwise discovered, so I'm grateful to have both.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Well, I'm traditionally published so I'm biased I guess. However, quality indie publishing is just as valuable - especially where authors have invested time and commitment to ensuring a quality product.

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

Anything the fires your imagination and encourages you to read more and widely. There are so many titles out there that it would be a little arrogant of me to declare that you *must* read such and such a title. One of my favorite books is a really quirky title called "The Map That Changed The World" by Simon Winchester. It's a nonfiction account of the first geological survey map ever drawn by an amatuer geologist named William Smith back in 1802. Geology was such a nascent field of study then and it had alot of detractors - most notably religious elements who saw it as a threat to their orthodoxy. The story of William Smith has the potential to be a droll piece but Winchester tells the story with such flair and affection that it's impossible not to be captivated by it. For me, it is a perfect marriage of history and narrative story telling.

Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

I am appreciative of those people who have supported me and championed my work both here in Adelaide and around the world. Without their support, I doubt I could have achieved as much as I have.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Author Caroline Kepnes follows on her deliciously terrifying stalker tale YOU with Hidden Bodies a black comedy that follows psychopath Joe Goldberg from New York to a terrifically shallow version of Los Angeles. In LA Joe meets his newest obsession, Love, but not before he leaves a string of dead bodies behind him.

The novel opens with a shift in narrative (first person instead of the iconic second person narrative that we saw in YOU,) and has Joe romancing (or so he thinks) the crazy and somewhat unhinged Amy. That all comes unstuck when Amy wrongs Joe, and he follows her to LA with the intent of teaching her a lesson, but then he, quite literally, finds Love, instead. As quirky as Bek and Amy, Love comes from a wealthy family and lives a somewhat privileged existence, along with her bitter twin brother, Forty. In many respects, Love feels like the selfish and deep thinking Joe's opposite, but she could also be his perfect match.

Most of the story reads like a amusing take on Hollywood, and there is not quite as much tension, or intensity, as the novel's predecessor. I found my interest shifting--the novel gets off to a strong start and the prose is addictive, but the story goes downhill and seems to drag after Joe moves to LA, picking up again only in the final parts of the novel. Joe, of course, is a character who is able to justify every disgusting act that he has committed. He is, after all, a narcissist who considers himself to be an avenging angel, rather than a serial killer. The fact that this left me, as a reader, cheering for him (when in real life I would find such a person disgusting,) showcases Kepnes talent as an author.

A terrifying but amusing satire. Recommended.