Monday, 2 March 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

Visitors to Glenelg will be familiar with this monument which stands tall and proud at the western end of Moseley Square. The monument is to celebrate--or perhaps commiserate, remember many wrongs were done to the traditional owners of the land--the day that South Australia was proclaimed a colony on 28 December 1836 at this place. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Newsflash! Poison Ivy Now Available For Sale

Great news. My seventh novel, Poison Ivy is now available for sale. Poison Ivy is a short, engaging YA novella about a young woman who, in a fit temper, does the wrong thing and finds herself arrested and charged. In the story, Ivy goes back and recounts the events that led up to her actions and we discover that there is a real back story leading up to the event. What I enjoyed about writing this one was coming up with a character who may have done a bad thing, but who was not in herself a bad person and had suffered a surprising number of setbacks for a young woman who had lived a supposedly privileged middle-class existence. 

A few deeper issues play in the background--Ivy's mother is living with HIV, her younger sister was also HIV positive and died after she became depressed and secretly stopped taking her medication. Sexuality is another theme--although Ivy is comfortable with her sexuality, many of the people around her are not, including her former best friend and her sister's new boyfriend--and this discomfort from both--and how they react to Ivy--forms the foundation that leads up to the terrible event. 

There is also a bit on books and book reviewing in there, which might seem surprising, given the other themes in the book. (Ivy writes a less than stellar review of a book and leaves it on a popular website and the author of the book--who is her sister's boyfriend, comes to her house and demands that she takes it down.) I've been wanting to write something on book reviews for a while, because they are so personal, and so subjective. Reviews are, of course, essentially based on opinions and experiences. Sometimes we agree with other people's reviews and sometimes we disagree. For a reviewer, there is nothing more insulting than being asked to remove a review. On the other hand, Henry, who has authored the book, has to go through his own experiences of learning and understanding that other people may not necessarily value his book nearly as much as he does, which is a tough learning kerb for him. Anyway, I think that the ending is appropriate and will be interested to see whether readers agree or disagree with me on that one.

Poison Ivy is now available to purchase as both print and as an eBook from Amazon and should be available from other retailers in the next few days.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

1980s Nostalgia: The Twits by Roald Dahl

I decided to pick up Roald Dahl's clever The Twits again and go on a bit of a nostalgia trip after reading Danny Champion of the World recently and also Dahl's autobiography, Boy. In this short, clever book for children there is a lot of humour as Dahl depicts the gross and ghastly behaviours of Mr and Mrs Twit. Dahl dislike of beards is obvious (Mr Twit has a shocker,) and the eventual revenge that both the monkeys and the birds get on this horrible pair is as perfect as it is hilarious. And so too are Quentin Blake's illustrations.

I wish that I could add more to this one, but it is what it is. Some books don't require in depth discussion and recommendations, they exist to be enjoyed. Anyway, this one is great for a nostalgia trip and also great for sharing with primary school aged children.

Highly recommended. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

Laline Paul's debut The Bees is a cleverly imagined and executed thriller with a surprising setting and characters ... ones that may just be more like humans than we care to admit. Flora 717 has just hatched and discovered that she belongs to the lowest caste in her hive and has only narrowly escaped death for being too large, too ugly and too damn smart. To survive Flora must follow the rules.  Accept. Obey. Serve ...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. The Bees is the first book that I have read that is from the perspective of well, a bee. The subject matter is well researched and much plays as a bit of a take on humanity--particularly on how survival of the fittest does not necessarily mean survival of those who are the strongest but, rather, those who are the most cunning. It was a bit gut wrenching watching a number of sacrifices (sacrifices: a euphemism for mass murder and, in one instance, genocide, while murder is generally referred to as The Kindness) and the blind loyalty with which the hive all followed their queen, even when it leads them to a deadly end. Flora's maternal longings were bittersweet, though the ending is fitting and properly explains Flora's place in the hive. (Flora is both a saviour and a threat.)

I found The Bees to be bit like Animal Farm, but with a more general commentary on human nature, rather than being politically motivated. I disagree with a number of comparisons to The Hunger Games and I am not sure that I would label this one as dystopia as it was in this review that appeared in The Guardian

Recommended to anyone who wants to take a chance with a book with an unusual premise, though I suspect that this will not appeal to every reader. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Sally Odgers

Welcome once again to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am chatting with prolific Australian author Sally Odgers. Sally has been writing for a long time--in fact, I can remember borrowing her book Amy Amaryllis from my local library when I was in my upper years at primary school. (I think I may have owned a couple of the Blinky Bill adaptions as well.) Anyway, welcome Sally ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I was born in Tasmania and still live in the same road. I grew up on a dairy farm with one elder sister, and a lot of animals. My sister and I used to share books and pets and played a game called “quotations” in which one of us came up with a quote from one of the books we’d both read and the other had to identify it. We did this while walking, rowing, riding and feeding or grooming animals. My first story was published in 1970, and my first book in 1977. Since then, just two years have passed without a new book coming out. As well as writing, I run a small manuscript assessment and editing service called Affordable Manuscript Assessments, a tiny publishing collective called Prints Charming Books, an artist-promotion blog called Promote Me Please, and a speakers’ listing called Tassie Book Talks. My husband and I have a lot of Jack Russells, which inspired us to write three series narrated by dogs. We have two children and two grandchildren.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Three books are available this quarter. Two are books one (Farm Rescue) and two (Bush Rescue) in the Pup Patrol series I co-write with my husband. The other is Heather and Heath, a long historical novel coming from Satalyte.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

My first story came out in the NSW School Magazine when I was twelve or so. After selling more stories to that market, I wrote a farm adventure and two fantasies called The Kamarand and The Kamarand 2. I subbed The Kamarand to a publisher and the editor rejected it, but suggested I should put together a collection of short stories. This I did when I was fifteen/sixteen. The book was published in 1977.

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

Surviving, I think! My writing career has spanned six decades which isn’t too bad for a person who is still in her fifties. (It’s a strange feature of maths that this is possible.)

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

I’m working on Book #4 of the Pup Patrol series and also a little project called The Fairies of Farholt. I have several other WsiP.

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

Paper books. I find it disturbing that eBooks are so cheap. It’s as if we’re implying the paper of a book is worth hundreds of percent more than the actual story. I also prefer not to read on screen, because I do that for hours and hours a day for work. In fact, my preference is for audio books, because I can read those while walking, gardening or cooking.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Both. I am an enthusiastic supporter of both forms of publishing. Indie is more difficult to make a living from, but indie gives us some glorious books that might not have the mass-market appeal trad publishers need. I’ve read some darned good self-published books too in recent times. Self-publishers often hire me to assess and edit their work so I have a ringside seat to see what’s out there.

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

The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

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

Several things! Don’t lend, recommend. Don’t read a book just because you think you should. Have confidence in your own opinion. Read books you love. If you enjoyed a book, why not let the author and/or publisher know? If you write to an author, please don’t just say, “I love your book(s).” Tell us what you loved, specifically, and why. Finally, if you are an author, aspiring, novice, seasoned, mainstream, midlist or whatever else, improve your own chances by buying new recently-and-locally-published books in your own genre. If possible, buy them from your local book shop. Our local industry depends on sales.


Any of these will find me.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review: Stone Castles by Trish Morey

When I read in The Advertiser that South Australian author Trish Morey had penned a novel set in one of my favourite parts of the state, I knew that I just had to wander down to my local bookstore and purchase a copy. Although I do not read a lot of rural romance, I had a gut feeling that I would very much enjoy Stone Castles and I am pleased to report that gut feeling was spot-on about that one. 

Stone Castles tells the story of Pip Martin, a girl born and raised in Kadina, South Australia. The combination of a tragic loss and a lie left Pip questioning everything she knew when she was just eighteen years old. She left Kadina for Sydney, and then New York and has enjoyed a successful career in the finance industry. Now in her thirties, Pip has returned to Kadina to say good-bye to her grandmother and soon finds her past catching up with her ...

As I said before, I enjoyed reading this one. I loved the level of research and accuracy that the author put into her work, depicting the small Yorke Peninsula town. (It was also very eerie reading the depiction of the Moonta cemetery, as I visited there recently.) I loved the completely appropriate mention in there of Not Only in Stone Phyllis Somerville's brilliant historical novel that is set in the region. And then, of course, there is the fact that at its heart, the novel is a well-written and emotionally charged romance. I liked Pip, Luke and the funny coincidences that brought them together at the beginning of the novel. I wanted to know more about their pasts and found myself becoming more and more emotionally invested in the characters as the story continued. 

A thoroughly likeable rural romance, set in one of my favourite parts of South Australia. Recommended.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author challenge 2015.