Monday, 25 May 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

I snapped a picture of this heavily decorated tram entering the Rundle Mall tram stop on King William Street back in March, when the Adelaide Fringe was on. Sponsored by Bank SA, this tram was an official part of the Adelaide Fringe, and helped patrons to venue hop. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

1980s Nostalgia: George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Every bit as funny as it was when it was originally published in 1981, George's Marvellous Medicine tells the story of eight year old George, who comes up with a clever way to get revenge on his horrid and selfish grandmother, and ends up causing absolute havoc with the special new medicine that he creates for his grandmother. Suddenly, Grandma's head is pushing through the roof and George's dad--a farmer--is keen to create more of the medicine and to bottle it, as he thinks that he can make a fortune by feeding it to the animals. In true Roald Dahl style, there are lots of great laugh out loud moments and everyone ends up getting exactly what they deserve.

I enjoyed reading this one, as it was a childhood favourite, though I was surprised by how little I remembered of the story. I suppose it is eclipsed a bit by some of Dahl's books that I read a bit later on--Matilda, The BFG, the Witches--and this easier to read junior novel was mostly forgotten. Anyway, this one is a worthwhile nostalgia trip for those who grew up with Dahl, and a perfect one to read out loud with kids.  

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Review: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Reminiscent of the old R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike novels that I read during my early adolescence, Becca Fitzpatrick's Black Ice is a mostly satisfying YA thriller with a number of twists and turns, some of which are more predicable than others. Britt and Kobie are planning a hiking trip, but their plans are foiled when a surprise snowstorm hits. Forced to abandon their vehicle, they take shelter in a cabin and find themselves in the company of two very dangerous men. 

Britt makes for an interesting heroine. She's smart, resourceful and comes with a whole lot of baggage including a failed relationship with Kobie's older brother, Calvin. The attraction between her and bad boy Mason is obvious from the beginning and the pair fit beautifully together on the page. There is also a subplot about the friendship between Britt and Kobie that is never explored in a great deal of detail. More interesting is the relationship between Britt and Calvin and Fitzpatrick does a commendable job of writing about a manipulative and self-centred, but also extremely damaged, young man. Most of the plot twists occur in the first half of the novel, in the second half I found myself more interested in knowing how the situation would resolve and if Britt would get out of there alive. 

Good YA reading that should appeal to a broader audience.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday Funnies: That's Good Advice

I think so too ...

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Review: Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice

Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire is a brilliantly imagined and written horror novel that has not only stood the test of time, but inspired the author to create a whole world and series of novels based within its universe. Despite this, there is something wonderfully humbling about the tale of Louis, the reluctant vampire who tells a young, unnamed journalist his life story--of how he was changed from human to vampire by the needy and spoiled Lestat, the creation of child vampire Claudia and his eventual relationship with the vampire Armand. Rice does not go easy on the horror and there are occasional touches of erotica and metaphors for sexual identity and frustration. It is a also a sympathetic portrait of somebody who was turned--against their will--into something that they despise.

Although thirty-nine years have passed since Interview With the Vampire was first published in 1976, the novel still has a very modern feel about it. I enjoyed reading this one, despite the gorishness, for its brilliant prose and sympathetic characterisation. Most definitely not for children, Interview With the Vampire is a chilling and sometimes sensual read. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Samantha Napier

Welcome to another great Writers on Wednesday interview. This week I'm chatting with debut author Samantha Napier, whose romantic comedy Dating the Alphabet was recently published by HarperCollins ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I’m not a very good sleeper which is handy when you’re trying to juggle a few realities at the same time.   My three beautiful boys keep me on my toes,  my wonderful husband , also a writer helps me bounce ideas around and my job as a flight attendant allows me these occasional overnights where I get to indulge in reading and watching movies.

Like most writers I eat way too much chocolate in the name of art but even when the sugar slump has set in I still enjoy putting a story together.  I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to write for stage, screen and now book and look forward to many other exciting opportunities.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Dating the Alphabet is a romcom about a woman who wants to make dating fun again so she comes up with a plan to date guys based on the first letter of their name.  That’s obviously the driving factor but there is also a lot about friendship and being true to the person you are.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

This is the first time I’ve been published in anything so I’m pretty chuffed that my first time is in the form of a book.  I’ve been writing a blog, Ramblings of a Quickwit, for a couple of years, had short plays performed and a short film made but this is my first book.

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

Not giving up on this project, I started writing it as a sitcom and got to develop it with some great people but it became obvious the chance of it getting up was slim so I started writing it as a book.  When I hit a bit of a wall I decided to pull one of the chapters out and write it as a short play which got selected for a short play festival.  The positive response I got for that really reinvigorated my desire to keep writing the book.  It wasn’t really a traditional way but it was one that helped me.

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

Of course I’m writing the sequel to Dating but right now I’ve put my producer hat on and am starting to shoot a comedy web-series next month and then mid year a play I wrote about Flight Attending is going to be produced. 

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

Being the author of an eBook I’m going to have to say eBook.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Well I’m lucky enough to be with HarperCollins but I would say however you can get an audience for your story is the way to go.

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?
I really enjoyed a quirky little book called Lost and Found by Australian author Brooke Davis, I laughed out loud a few times, which I always find is a good sign.  Apart from being funny though, it’s really touching, I’d highly recommend it.

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

You have a wonderful author and person in your midst, Fiona McIntosh.  I can honestly say that if I hadn’t come to you’re your beautiful city and attended her masterclass I would not have a published book.  She is inspiring, supportive and wonderful and right on your doorstep, lucky you.


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

British based author Paula Hawkins novel The Girl on the Train is a thriller with a number of surprising and unsavoury twists. Told through the eyes of three women--Rachel, Megan and Anne--we read of the mysterious disappearance of Megan and the connection that all three women have to one charismatic, but manipulative and unscrupulous man.

The novel opens with Rachel, a thirty-something woman whose life is in tatters following the end of her marriage to Tom. She believes the divorce is her fault and is told frequently so by her husband. An alcoholic, Rachel has been fired from her job and spends her days travelling back and forward on the train, which takes her past the home of a lovely couple who she dubs Jess and Jason. Rachel projects any number of wonderful qualities on the pair and experiences a type of wish fulfilment through what she imagines their life to be like. Rachel's life takes a surprise turn when she discovers through the media that Jess is actually named Megan and that she has just been reported missing by her husband. On the night before Megan disappeared, Rachel saw her from the train embracing another man that was not her husband. Having evidence that she can give to the police and to Megan's husband, Scott, gives Rachel a sense of importance that she has not experienced for some time, but how can she explain the cuts and bruises on her body and the fact that she was in the area at the time when Megan disappeared? The story is further complicated by those of Megan (told in flashback,) and that of Anne, a woman who is blinded by her love for her husband and child, and fearful of her husband's ex-wife who always seems to be hanging around. 

Reading a high profile thriller months after its release is always a bit risky. There is always the fear that something so hyped is not going to live up to expectations. And, honestly, what really makes this book brilliant is not so much the discovery of who the real killer is. The brilliance does not the twists and turns, or in the ending. The real brilliance lies in Hawkins sensitive and clever portrayal of Rachel.

Rachel is a mess. Rachel is not easy to like. Rachel needs to keep her nose out of other peoples' business. Rachel is uncomfortable to read about. But learning about her life, discovering how she got to that point and developing not so much empathy as understanding about her, was a wonderful journey to undertake as a reader. Rachel may be a victim of her own bad choices, but she is also the victim of a vile and manipulative man as, indeed, all three women in this story are. We also get a small glimpse of Scott, who is a victim of a vile and manipulative woman. 

The Girl on the Train offers an unflinching view of human nature and how humans can hurt one another and delude themselves. Recommended.