Thursday, 18 December 2014

Review: Cityglitter by Carla Caruso

Cityglitter is a bit of fun, lighthearted reading with likeable characters and an amusing set-up. Twenty-something Christelle is living the good life in Sydney, she has a good job and invitations to a number of A-list events. And then her annoying little sister Trixie turns up uninvited and threatens to spill Christelle's secret--that she and Trixie are half-human and half-fairy. Can Christelle keep her identity a secret? Can she stop the naughty Trixie from meddling with her life? And what will happen if Christelle's boss, the very sexy Jasper, do if he finds out the truth about Christelle?

As I said, this one is a bit of fun, lighthearted reading. I read the bulk of this on in one sitting and found myself quite amused by some of Trixie's antics, particularly what she did with the nasty Lillian and the New York snow globe. There were a couple of unexpected plot twists in there, in particular the true identity of one character. But this really is not a book that warrants a great deal of analysis, it's one to be read purely for fun. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Review: Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

Ugly Love, the eighth novel from bestselling New Adult author Colleen Hoover, is a tale about the ugly side of sexual desire, juxtaposed against the healing and redemptive nature of romantic love. Tate Collins is a nursing student, new to San Francisco and too busy for a relationship. Miles Archer is a pilot with few friends and a tormented past that no one is allowed to ask about. Initially the pair cannot stand one another, but the sexual tension between them is obvious. The pair soon strike up a friends with benefits arrangement, but when emotions get in the way, things soon become ugly ...

I think by now, most readers know what to expect from a Colleen Hoover novel--tainted pasts, sexual tension and a dash of good, old fashioned melodrama. Ugly Love has all of this in abundance, though the nice girl heroine, Tate Collins, seemed to me to fall a little flat. Miles' backstory, told in short, poetic chapters, tugs at the heartstrings--it is a story of a forbidden teenage relationship that comes to an abrupt, heartbreaking end. (And not in the way I was expecting.) Most of the present day relationship is told through the eyes of Tate, an otherwise intelligent and capable young woman, whose affair with Miles goes against her better judgement. I think the story could have been improved had the author gone into a bit more detail about Tate's background and if she had properly addressed why Tate was so willing to enter in to her arrangement with Miles, when it was clear that what she truly desired was a relationship. What part of her knew for certain that he was worth it? Then again, sometimes the magic in these books is not to answer the why, but the way the author tells a story of that one-in-a-million romance that worked out despite a number of obstacles.

The event that eventually leads Miles to discover the redemptive and healing powers of love is a surprising one. There was enough material in this book to keep me reading well into the evening. 

A bit of melodrama that tugs at the heart strings, that will no doubt be enjoyed by loyal fans of Hoover's previous novels.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

This canine shutterbug is getting into the Christmas spirit. The bronze sculpture is one of four "dog paparazzi" to decorate the lower ground floor of Adelaide Central Plaza. I took this (slightly fuzzy) picture back in 2013. I wonder if he has his Christmas hat on again this year?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Off Topic: Am I a Stalker?



a person who pursues game, prey, or a person stealthily.
a person who harasses another person, as in a former love, a famous person, etc. in an aggressive, often threatening and illegal manner:

Hollywood stars often have security guards to keep dangerous stalkers at bay.

If you are reading this because you are concerned that you may have, quite accidentally, done something that another person might interpret as stalking then chances are, you are not a stalker. Stalker is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and tends to have one meaning in a social context and quite a separate meaning when put into a legal or psychological context.

From a social perspective, stalking can be defined activity that pertains to discovering information about another person without their consent, or trying to establish a closer relationship with that person when that person does not welcome it. From a legal perspective, stalking involves a persistent pattern of behaviour that would cause another person harm, or do things that a rational person would consider to be an invasion of their privacy. For example, someone cannot be arrested for viewing the photographs that another person has made public on their facebook account, because the owner of the account has opted to make those photographs available to the public. (Ditto if you look someone's name up in the phone book.) However, if someone was to intentionally photograph that person without consent, that would be stalking. (As would using their address and telephone number listed in the phone book as a means of further surveillance.)

As I previously stated, stalking involves a persistent and intrusive pattern of behaviour. A stalker will not necessarily know or understand that their behaviour is wrong and nor will they back off when told that their victim does not like it. According to an episode of Insight that ran on SBS in 2013, stalkers fall in to one of five categories:

The Rejected

Someone who has been rejected by their partner and cannot let the relationship go. They resort to stalking as a way of staying close to the victim.

The Intimacy Seeker

The intimacy seeker becomes fixated on a stranger or casual acquaintance, or perhaps even a celebrity, applying desirable qualities to them. The intimacy seeker believes that the stranger is their soul mate and considers any solid evidence to the contrary (such as their victim already being in a relationship,) to be an obstacle that they must overcome. 

The Incompetent Suitor

The incompetent suitor knows that their victim does not want a relationship them. However, this type of stalker believes that they can somehow win their victim over and prove their devotion by stalking them. 

The Resentful

The resentful stalker is any with the victim for some kind of slight, real or imagined. Stalking is their way of getting back at the person they believe has done them wrong. 

The Predator

The most frightening stalker of all, the predator hunts the victim with the intention of hurting them. 

As a rule, most of the people you meet in your life time are not going to be stalkers and most of the dumb things that you may have done that annoy other people probably do not make you a stalker. Stalkers often believe that they have a special connection with their victim, or they are driven by the motivation to hurt them. For example, the following scenario would probably not be considered stalking:

Lisa is in grade ten. Although she is very shy, she enjoys the classes with her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr Blake and looks forward to them every week. Mr Blake sees Lisa's potential as a student and encourages her, along with several other students. However, Lisa feels that the attention that Mr Blake gives to her is special and she begins to develop a bit of a crush on him. Consequently, she works a little bit harder at each of her assignments, talks more in class and keeps finding excuses to hang around the classroom. Lisa feels this crush very acutely, believes that it is mutual and this is what 'real love' must feel like. 

Aware of what is going on, Mr Blake takes care to only speak with Lisa when there are other students present. Lisa plans to 'confess' her feelings for her teacher but her plans are foiled when she overhears Mr Blake mention to another teacher that he has a fiancee. Lisa is hurt and disappointed. After talking with her mother, she discovers that it is normal to sometimes have crushes, feels a bit silly about the whole thing, and is relieved when, the following year, she is placed in a different English class. 

But when does a crush become something more? Consider the following:

Lisa's younger sister, Michelle, is placed in Mr Blake's English class. She too develops a crush on her teacher. Lisa becomes aware of what is going on and warns her sister to stay away, adding that Mr Blake has a fiancee, along with the advice that her mother gave her about crushes. Michelle ignores her sister's advice. She believes that her feelings for Mr Blake are mutual and that the only reason he is ignoring her is because she is not trying hard enough. Michelle repeatedly makes a nuisance of herself following Mr Blake around the school. She sometimes secretly photographs him with her phone. Eventually, the school intervenes. Michelle is transferred a different English class. A sympathetic teacher advises her on boundaries and healthy relationships. Together, they come up with some strategies of how Michelle put her fixation with Mr Blake behind her.

That evening, Michelle goes out to dinner with her parents and sister. As the family leaves the restaurant, they encounter Mr Blake who is walking inside with his fiancee. 

Now. Imagine that you are Michelle. What do you do?
A) Feel very embarrassed. The whole thing was dumb of you and look! He has his fiancee right there. What more proof do you need? You stare at your feet, do your best to avoid him and remember all of the strategies that you and the teacher came up with. 
B) Mutter a quick hello, but do not really look at them or try to engage them in conversation. You contemplate asking your parents if you can change schools. 
C) You feel very annoyed. So the jerk doesn't want to date you? He doesn't need to follow you to the restaurant and bring his fiancee just to make his point. 
D) You say something insulting. The jerk deserves it. 
E) You figure that Mr Blake is here because he wants to see you. It's a sign that you're meant to be together after all!  
F) You consider it to be a huge opportunity. You take down the details of his fiancee and her car. You make an excuse to go back to the restaurant and find her name so that you can look her up on the internet and find out as much about her you possibly can. You turn up at her workplace the following Monday and warn her to stay away from your man.
If you picked A or B then you are not a stalker. 

If you picked C you are not a stalker, but you really need to get a better handle on the situation. Stop fixating on the guy. Not everything he does is about you.

If you picked D, you're not a stalker, however, you need to consider if this is the most appropriate course of action. 

If you picked E, you are severely infatuated and may sliding toward stalker territory. Sometimes people with extreme infatuations can jump straight to this conclusion, purely because they are desperate for any kind of positive sign. If you feel this is you, then you need to talk to somebody about your feelings. 

If you picked F, then beware. This is stalking behaviour. 

* * *

So are you a stalker? Probably not. However, if you do feel uncomfortable with your own behaviour or think that you might have done something wrong, then I strongly suggest that you stop whatever is that you are doing, or talk to somebody you can trust about the way you are feeling. And then, just move on. Come on, I'm sure you have better things to think about anyway ...

Disclaimer: This post has been written purely for entertainment purposes. I am not a qualified psychologist and nor am I offering legal advice. This article should not be considered legal advice. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Friday Funnies: Make a Daft Noise for Christmas, The Goodies

I know that I shared this clip last Christmas, but I just could not resist sharing again this year. Not only is a lot of fun and very retro, but it also makes a subtle but valid point about the over-commercialisation of Christmas. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Changing Nature of Publishing ...

Eleven, almost twelve, years have passed since I first sent a manuscript to a publisher. I was twenty-one years old and about to start my Honours year at university. Lovingly, I printed off the first three chapters of my manuscript, bundled them together and caught a bus to the post office, where I sent my manuscript, along with an envelope and return postage. It was mailed to Penguin Books in Victoria. Eight weeks later, Penguin returned the manuscript to me, along with a rejection slip and a lovely, short note telling me that they hoped that this decision would not deter me from continuing to write, as the editor who saw my work thought that I showed real promise. 

From there, I had three choices. Submit elsewhere, wait until I had written something else and submit that instead, or pay a good couple of thousand dollars to a vanity press.

Publishing, or at least the submission of manuscripts, was always a bit slow with the digital age. It was not until a few years ago that the major Australian publishing houses would accept manuscripts that were submitted online instead of in hard copy. Soon after, Allen & Unwin began the Friday Pitch, an initiative where anyone could submit a manuscript, so long as they did so only on a Friday and followed the submission guidelines. A number of other major publishers followed suit, tailoring the initiative to suit their own business model. (Macmillan for example has Manuscript Monday, while HarperCollins has the Wednesday Post.) And it is a great idea. It is inexpensive and it means that everybody has the opportunity to submit their work to the publisher. It does not, of course, guarantee that everyone (or even anyone) using this submissions process will be published. 

And then authonomy came along. Run by HarperCollins in the UK, authonomy works on the principal that anyone can upload their manuscript to the site. The books that get a certain number of votes within a certain time frame will be read and considered from publication. More recently, in the United States, Macmillan established Swoon Reads, a YA romance imprint. YA romance authors are encouraged to upload their manuscript to the site. The manuscripts with the highest reads and rating will be considered for publication. It is an interesting business model, though ultimately there is always going to be that risk that the best manuscript on the site may not be the one that is the most popular. 

Meanwhile, fan fiction and self published novels are starting to find home with major publishers. I'm sure everybody is already aware that Fifty Shades of Grey started out as a Twilight fan fiction, as did the arguably more intelligent Gabriel's Inferno. And let's not forget After by Anna Todd which started out as an odd One Direction fan fiction published on Wattpad. Meanwhile, authors such as Sylvia Day have gone from being little known self-published authors to having multiple best selling novels. 

Much has changed in a relatively short space of time, thanks mostly to the rise of the internet. This makes me wonder what the publishing industry will look like in eleven years from today.