Saturday, 18 April 2015

Review: Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger by V.C. Andrews

Echoes of Dollanganger, I suspect will be best remembered by fans for it's epilogue which describes a surprising turn of events--the return from the dead of a major character from Flowers in the Attic. (And yes, that character is a Foxworth.) Picking up where the previous novel in the Diaries series leaves off, ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman reunites readers with Kristen Masterwood, a heroine with blonde hair, cerulean blue eyes and a mysterious link to the Foxworth family. Kristen also has in her possession a diary that belonged to Christopher Dollanganger and is reading about his time locked away in the attic by his mother and grandmother ...

As was the case in Secrets of Foxworth (read my review here) the strongest scenes are the diary entries. This novel tells the second half of the story, where the children suffer the most cruelty, where Christopher's relationship with Cathy is challenged and when the surviving children plan their escape. Christopher's storytelling remains very precise and to the point. (How many teenage boys would be able to accurately and confidently use the word 'menarche' in a sentence, for example? Although correct, it is a surprising word choice, particularly when puberty would suffice and would much more likely be understood by his ditzy mother.) And once again, it is lovely to revisit those scenes from a much-loved book.

Kristen's story is marginally less interesting. Kane has found her diary and proves himself to be far less of a gentleman than Christopher Dollanganger by insisting to Kristen that they read the diary together in her attic and that he will wear a blonde wig, so that he and Kristen may pretend to be Christopher and Cathy. The roleplaying comes across as creepy, disturbing and, dare I say it, just a little bit funny for all the wrong reasons, rather than sexy.  

The most truly memorable part of this one was the epilogue and the discovery that a much loved character from Flowers in the Attic may still be alive and living under a different name. What then, of the chilling discovery that Cathy made in the attic all those years ago, the one that caused Corrine to go mad? Of course, it has been debated among fans before who may have started the fire in Foxworth hall, whether it was Cathy or Corrine (and either had their reasons,) but the real clue that Cory is dead comes from Corrine's reaction. At the end of Petals on the Wind, she is able to dismiss everything until she is confronted with the possibility that Cathy may have discovered Cory's body. It's our best clue that Cory is dead. However, in Echoes of Dollanganger we are provided with the possibility of a plastic skeleton, that the attic always smelled bad because it was never properly aired and that Cory may have been abandoned at the hospital and subsequently adopted by a wealthy family. Unless, of course, William Anderson's connection to the Foxworth family turns out to be quite different.

Is the mysterious old man who calls himself William Anderson really who Kristen believes him to be? (Or is he just a nut?) Will his story help to explain Kristen's own connection to the Foxworth family? These questions remain open at the end of Echoes of Dollanganger and I hope that they, along with the fortunes of Cathy's children Jory, Bart and Cindy, and her grandchildren, Darren and Deirdre, will be revealed before the conclusion of the Diaries series.

Recommended for fans of Secrets of Foxworth. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Review: Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin

Denton Little's Deathdate is a deliciously dark and offbeat YA comedy/drama about coping with death at a young age ... or not. Set in the not-so-distant future, Denton Little lives in a world where everybody knows the exact date of their death, though they have no idea how it will happen. And seventeen-year-old Denton Little's death date is fast approaching, though not before he gets through a few firsts, such as his first hangover and his first and, somewhat awkward, love triangle. From there, the author creates a number of surprising twists and turns, including a strange virus (featuring a very unusual purple rash) and some almost-brushes-with-death with a yellow car.

Although the premise was a little far-fetched, this novel was bloody amusing in all the right ways and I found myself happily suspending my disbelief throughout a number of odd twists and turns that will no doubt appeal to the target YA audience. Many of the characters felt very human and it was interesting to see the way that they coped with the surefire knowledge that, on this given day, someone who they care about will die. And then, of course, there is the way Denton himself reacts to the news. The author has a lot of fun exploring the subject matter, for example, there are some great scenes where Denton's funeral is held the day before he dies and he gets to deliver his own eulogy. The ending was something of a surprise, though, going back, I could see that the author had perfectly set all of the groundwork. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. 

Highly recommended.

Finally, a bit shout out and you to Simon and Schuster Australia and Netgalley for my review copy. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Susan Murphy

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am chatting with Adelaide based author, Susan Murphy ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I’m an author with HarperCollins Australia, mum to 3 fabulous ratbags, wife of 15 years, marriage celebrant, university student, teacher, Government employee and self-confessed chocolate addict. I’ve been found on numerous occasions hiding in the pantry while eating my stash.

My life can be chaotic most of the time, but I don’t seem to be able to function when I’m standing still! I work 3 days a week in a Government department and conduct wedding ceremonies (and a range of other ceremonies) on weekends. For the last few years I’ve also been travelling the country teaching Ongoing Professional Development to marriage celebrants and doing a writing degree with the University of South Australia.

I have an amazing little albino cockatiel who insists on being on my shoulder at every opportunity and a couple of gorgeous puppies, Bubbles and Jasper who keep me on toes (usually hiding things they’ve chewed before my husband gets home).

Tell us about your most recently published book?

‘Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don’t’ is a fun chick-lit story loaded with cringe-worthy moments, family, love, weddings and disaster. When the main character, Genevieve discovers that her husband of 19 years has been having an affair she confronts him in a dramatic scene. Left hurt and fed-up, Viv decides that she no longer believe in love, in fact she can’t stand it, but unfortunately as a marriage celebrant it’s constantly in her face. With 10 weddings already booked and paid for she decides that once they’re done, then so is she. She’ll give up being a celebrant forever. With her 3 crazy sisters by her side and best friend, Tom, Viv sets out to get through all 10 weddings which result in some hilarious moments. As new men enter her life she also has to once again navigate all that it is to be single including paranoia, waxing, awkward sexual encounters and embarrassing slip-ups. Overall, this book is a mix of love and heart-break with romance, fun and laughter.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

As an aspiring writer I never thought I’d hear those words ‘we like it’ from a publisher, but in August last year (while walking down a street in Hawaii, those wonderful words were uttered by the good people of Harper Collins and only 6 months later on Feb 1st 2015 ‘Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don’t’ was released.

My children, of course, immediately thought we’d won the lotto when I started hollering in the middle of the street and doing a happy dance. They were pleased, but deflated to find out I’d only been offered a publishing contract. I was over the moon!

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

Finishing! Honestly, I have never felt prouder than I did the moment I finished writing this book. (That was until the edits came back!) I remember that the day I finished it I felt as if I had just been let out of prison after a long stint. That sounds bad, but it wasn’t. My head had been in this story for so long, constantly re-working the characters, their lives and their stories. I’d ride the bus thinking about them, cook dinner with them talking to each other in my head, I was like a zoned out potatoe. I’ve learnt now how to turn it on and off rather than have it constantly consuming my thoughts, but when I finished this manuscript it was like being set free for the first time in months. It felt amazing!

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

I’m currently working on book 2 in this series which is set for released May 1st 2015. I’m also working on another wedding based story set in Hawaii, given my recent travels there and have plans for a few other chick-lit, fun reads.

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

Oooooh, hard one! I’ve always been a book person. I like the feel of a book and turning the pages, but after getting my first Kindle for Christmas, I have to admit, it’s pretty damn awesome. I jump around a lot with my reading so being able to take a Kindle loaded with different genres when I’m travelling or on the bus is fantastic. I gave myself a neck injury from carrying a hand bag stuffed with a Patricia Cornwell novel in it once. Those things way a tonne (but are so worth the injury!)

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

I respect both 100% Traditional publishing isn’t for everyone and neither is Indie. I think that writer’s need to do what feels right for them and their work and if they feel they want or need a traditional publisher then great, but if not then Indie is a fabulous way to get their work out there and read by the masses. When I look for books I go by what appeals to me about it, not by who published it.

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

Well, if you’re a writer or love words then Mark Tredinnik’s ‘Little Red Writing Book’. I fell in love with it when I had to read it as a text for university. It really made me think about my writing and the way I portray things.

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

Let’s have coffee! I’m a born and bred Adelaidian and spend most lunchtimes in book shops in and around the mall. I’m hoping to have a launch for ‘Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don’t’ sometime in April in or around the CBD, (yet to be decided). Keep an eye on my Facebook page: for details.

~ Lol, we probably see each other at bookshops and cafes all the time and never realise, Kathryn.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Review: Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

The moral and ethical implication of embryo donation are at the heart of Claiming Noah, the debut novel from Australian author Amanda Ortlepp. Catriona and James are keen to start a family. When an IVF treatment is successful, they decide to donate the remaining embryo. Childless couple Diana and Liam, meanwhile, have just received the news that they have been waiting for--after a lengthy wait, an embryo is available. Two boys are born, just a month apart. The lives of Catriona and Diana could not be more different. Diana happily settles into motherhood, while Catriona suffers a psychotic episode that sees her removed temporarily into psychosis. When Catriona returns from hospital, she notices some differences in Sebastian, her son. Meanwhile, Diana's son, Noah, is missing ...

Claiming Noah is not so much driven by the mystery of who took baby Noah (that is fairly obvious,) but the implications that Catriona and James' decision to donate an embryo had on their lives, the lives of Diana and Liam and ultimately, the life of Noah. Who does Noah belong to, really? Diana and Liam? Catrionia and James? Or is he in actual fact a part of all of their lives?

This novel is filled with gut wrenching emotional drama as the reader shares in the lives of the characters--pregnancies, psychosis, abductions, custody battles, affairs and the heartache of discovering that ones spouse has done the unthinkable. The writing itself is very accessible, Ortlepp does not fill narrative with medical or legal terminology, or overlong descriptions and makes complex issues easy for her readers to understand. I found the ending to be satisfactory, given the issues.

Recommended, but keep some tissues nearby.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my review copy.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2015

Monday, 13 April 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

Rhythm by Greg Johns 
This large artwork has graced the Glenelg foreshore since 1978 and has survived many upgrades to the area. Titled rhythm, it is made of up a series of well-paced semi-circles and looks lovely with the beach in the background. In summertime, it is not unusual to see children playing on and around the artwork. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Review: Twice Upon a Time, Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier

Twice Upon a Time is a brilliant new anthology, featuring some very clever retellings of fairy tales, folklore and ancient myths and published by the Bearded Scribe Press. Fairytales, folklore and myths are, of course, tales designed to educate us on everything from the changing of the seasons, to morality tales on how to live right. Each story in Twice Upon a Time puts a new twist onto this old theme. The authors are as diverse as the stories (and their new settings,) themselves. There are some debut authors, along with some more established names. My personal favourites were Forbidden Fruit (a clever retelling of The Red Shoes,) while The First Day of Winter was a wonderful re-imagining of The Selkie Bride (the latter already being one of my favourites from Clarissia Pinkola Estes' brilliant Women Who Run With the Wolves.) Another great highlight was Tarran Jones' All That Glitters, a retelling of Brothers Grimms The Silver Hands.

At 706 pages (much the same size as my own, old copy of Grimms Fairy Tales,) Twice Upon a Time took me a little while to get through. I soon found that I enjoyed it best when reading just one or two stories in a sitting, as this gave them maximum impact. (I often find that if I read three or more short stories in a row, that they begin to blend together and lose some of their impact.) Anyway, if you love fairytales and retellings, this one deserves a place on your bookshelf, or a spot on your eReader.

Thank you to Joshua Allen Mercier for my electronic ARC and also to Tarran Jones for signing my print copy (in gold, no less, which I thought was a lovely touch.)

This book was read as part of the Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015 

Category: Retellings

Progress 4/12