Thursday, 28 August 2014

Review: Golden Boys by Sonya Harnett

Sonya Harnett's latest release is a quietly menacing tale, telling the story of a group of working class kids and one very charismatic, but not-quite-nice adult. Set in an unnamed Australian suburb during the 1970s, we meet the Kiley's, a large, working class Catholic family and the Jenson's--a new family in town with a dad who comes across as slippery, but quite charismatic. Rounding out the Kiley and Jenson kids--Freya, Declan and Syd Kiley (and their younger siblings,) and Colt and Bastin Jenson is Garrick and Avery. Garrick is the bully among the kids, while Avery is a bit of a victim. A neglected child who has been sent to live with his grandparents, no one seems to look out for him. Until he is befriended by Rex Jenson.

Colt and Bastin 'Bas' Jenson are spoiled, 'golden boys' who are lavished with every kind of toy and trinket imaginable from their father, including a BMX bike. The novels opening, with Colt and Bas being presented with the next bike from their father, who teases them quite a bit with a game that is more for his amusement than theirs (making them guess the colour and telling them that they had it wrong on a technicality,) and thus subtly proving that Rex is not a man who should be trusted and who appears to enjoy, to some extent, the suffering of others. I found that the author nailed the character of Rex Jenson quite subtly, yet quite brilliantly in this chapter, as well as Colt's disappointment in his father and a gift that was more for Rex and his amusement than presenting his sons with a much wanted or needed gift. (The boys already each have an almost new bicycle.)

What becomes less subtle as the narrative wears on is that Rex Jenson is quite eager to appeal to the neighbourhood kids, particularly the boys, using gifts of ice creams and the promise of being allowed to share in the family pool and Colt and Bas' many toys, as well as offering a surprising amount of medical attention to Avery's injured knee. As a reader I knew what was probably going to happen, but the when and how, and the length that Rex would go to in order to cover his actions or to make them see okay, was what kept me reading. Harnett is never graphic in her descriptions, rather the story is about the charisma of a predatory adult, juxtaposed against those who feel that they have no right to speak back. I wonder if readers may struggle to come to terms with the novels ending, though it is realistic and there is a funny sense of retribution--or eye for an eye perhaps. The ones who suffer most after the kids caught in the crossfire and we get a real sense that life is not going to be easy for Colt, who knows that what his father is doing is wrong, but is powerless to stop it. 

It's difficult to say I enjoyed a novel with such a heart wrenching plot, but I did enjoy the writing which told the story from the perspective of the kids and never strayed into the adult world, and felt that Hartnett very cleverly developed her characters and the sense of unease. Highly recommended. 

Finally, a big shout out to The Reading Room and Penguin Books for my review copy. Thanks. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Ann Grech

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am chatting with Australian romance writer, Ann Grech ...

Tell us a bit about yourself …

Well, I’m an early-30’s (ok, ok let’s just pretend I’m in my early 30’s), a former solicitor (I know, don’t hold it against me!), a teacher, a mum of two beautiful, if slightly rambunctious, boys, a wife, an avid erotic romance reader and a new writer.  I’ve lived on the Gold Coast for over half my life and love it.  

Tell us about your most recently published book?

I have most recently self-published a box set of my trilogy, Adversaries’ Lust, Adversaries’ Pain and Adversaries’ Love.  The story is based on a slightly neurotic, beautiful and damaged but brilliant solicitor, Emma Wilson.  She has had her heart broken in the past so shied away from any relationships for years.  When she meets Nicholas Daniels, her opponent in a court case that she’s travelled to Brisbane, Queensland for, she thinks he’s gorgeous but arrogant.  When he kisses her she melts and yet, wants to punch him.  Their love affair is fast, passionate, erotic, filled with speed bumps and some not so small hurdles that they work their way though.   

Tell us about the first time you were published?

I may have some exciting news on that front so sign up to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook to find out more.

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

Apart from my not so cryptic answer to the last question, it would have been when I had my first book reviewed for the first time by a blogger.  She loved it and left the most fantastic feedback.  It was a great feeling getting feedback that someone enjoyed all the hard work I’d put into writing the books.

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

I’m currently working on a four-book erotic romance series.  The first book is called “Delectable” and follows the story of Katy, Levi and Connor.   

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

I used to be one of those people who would troll book stores for hours and despised e-books.  And then I had a second baby and couldn’t juggle feeding him, helping his brother do whatever it is he needed help with, flipping pages and maintaining my sanity.  So now, I love my e-book reader and the ease of one-clicking any and all titles that grab my fancy (I intentionally don’t look at the breakdown of my credit card statements because I know I’d be horrified at how much I actually spend buying books each month!).

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

I’m all for a good book.  I don’t care whether its indie published or traditionally published.  The quality 
of some indie published work is so good now that unless you look for publisher’s names, you don’t realise they are indie published. 

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

I should probably say something deep and meaningful here but apart from one title I won’t!  To Kill a Mockingbird motivated me to become a lawyer.  It is and always will be one of my favourite books.  Anything by Matthew Riley always grabs my attention and I don’t even hesitate to buy anything by Jayne Rylon.  I’ve loved every one of her books so far.  Her co-authored books with Mari Carr are amazing too.

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

Save me a bottle of your amazing wine!  Your farmer’s markets rock and I just want to give those pandas of yours a squeeze.  Oh, and Haigh’s Chocolate: to die for.  I love Adelaide (unfortunately I haven’t seen much of SA apart from Adelaide) and I’d love to get down there again soon to look around.   


Adversaries’ lust

Adversaries’ Pain

Adversaries’ love

Box set: Adversaries’ Lust, Adversaries’ Pain, Adversaries’ Love

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Review: One Kick by Chelsea Cain

The debut novel in Chelsea Cain's Kick Lannigan series is a face-paced, arse-kicking tale of a young woman who wants to avenge her dark past. Kathleen "Kick" Lannigan was abducted as a six year old, subjected to a horrific ring of paedophiles and was routinely exploited in a number of videos that are still circling the internet. Rescued by FBI agent Frank at age twelve, she has struggled to adjust to the real world and suffers a difficult family life--her father left, her mother used Kick's abduction as a means of becoming a media star and her sister hates her. She considers her real family to be James, a fellow abductee who she bailed from a mental institution. Together, Kick and James follow the investigations of missing children carefully and they make for a great team--she's a kick arse fighter, good with a gun, he's a reclusive software developer who can create all kinds of programmes to follow people. When two children go missing in circumstances close to their own, Kick and James try to create ways to find them. And then a mysterious and somewhat untrustworthy man named Bishop breaks inside Kick's home. He wants her help to find the children.

One Kick is not a novel for the faint hearted. From a personal perspective, I struggled a bit with some of the themes of paedophilia--though to the credit of the author, she sure knows how to create a disgusting villain. The novel is also loosely inspired by the real life abduction of American teenager, Elizabeth Smart. (Read more here.)

One Kick was a real page turner, that I read in a relatively short space of time. Bishop is an interesting contrast to Kick--while she is vulnerable and fights for justice, he is manipulative and untrustworthy and one cannot be entirely sure who or what he is fighting for. Cain's prose is short, fast and unsentimental, which will no doubt appeal to readers looking for an action packed read. The ending leaves some questions open, leading in to the as-yet untitled sequel, which will be available in August 2015.

I suspect this one will be a must for crime fans.

One Kick will be released in Australia on September 1. 

Finally, a big shout out to Simon and Schuster Australia for my review copy. Thanks!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art

I snapped this one at Christies Beach. I'm not an expert on graffiti, though I like the fact that the fence makes it pretty obvious that what is depicted is art and a means of creative expression--which is what I feel good street art should be.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Review: No Safe House by Linwood Barclay

No Safe House is a page-turning crime novel about an ordinary American family caught up in a web of dangerous people and dangerous situations. Several years ago, Terry Archer, his wife Cynthia and their daughter found themselves caught in a terrible situation, which is depicted in Barclay's previous novel, No Time For Goodbye. The trio were rescued by criminal mastermind Vince. And now, it seems that the family may need Vince's help again, after rebellious daughter Grace and her delinquent boyfriend Stuart find themselves in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. 

A big part of the story hinges on why Vince, and his stepdaughter Jane, are so willing to help the family and what they may possibly want in exchange. And do either know anything about a spate of robberies and murders that are occurring in the town?

Barclay's novel is a satisfying, face-paced page turner. Some parts of the story are a little gory (or perhaps just not for the feint-hearted,) there are a few interesting twists (the vase for example,) and the ending is a satisfying one. The writing itself is very straight to the point and there isn't a lot of description, detail or (dare I say depth,) though this made it easier for me to keep turning the pages. I do not read a lot of crime novels, so it is difficult for me to judge it against its peers, though I found it to be an enjoyable read. 

Finally a big shout out to the Reading Room and to Hachette for my review copy. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Review: Educating Rita by Willy Russell

I have to admit, I had not thought of this play for a long time--not since early university in fact--and I was pleasantly surprised when I found a copy available for sale in the modern classic section at QBD. I snatched the copy up, brought it home and read it within a couple of hours. As an adult reading this for the second time around, I was quite charmed about the story of working class hairdresser Susan (who prefers to be called Rita,) and her initially reluctantly open university tutor, Frank. Over the course of the year, it becomes obvious that Susan/Rita's life and career prospects are improving, while Frank's own life and career is on the decline. The play examines what it means to be educated and the ending looks at what it means to have a choice--we know that Frank is on his way to Australia, but we do not know what will happen to Rita/Susan. Will she return to her husband, will she remain on her own and continue her education or (the least probably of all her choices,) will she accept Frank's invitation and go to Australia with him. 

Though short, the play is quite enjoyable and it is a reminder of how education can free us and allow greater room for choices, though as Frank's character shows success may not always equal happiness. A thought provoking quick read.