Thursday, 27 September 2012

Happy 10,000 hits!

Today this blog passed a massive milestone and one that several months ago, I never would have imagined possible. I'm now fortunate enough to have just over ten thousand hits. Or to put it another way, my little blog has been viewed ten thousand times. Sure, it's small compared to the really popular book blogs out there, but that's still a lot of people reading my blog. Since February, I've had a lot of fun reading and reviewing. Here are some of the highlights:

I love Garfield and when I discovered that KaBOOM were releasing Garfield comic books, I just had to read it and write about it. I was the first Australian blogger to do so, and also one of the first reviewers in the world. Within hours the review was one of the first pages to come up when anyone googled Garfield KaBOOM comics.

By far my most popular blog post, this one received over one hundred hits within the first five hours of posting and still receives anywhere between twenty and fifty hits daily. I was one of the first bloggers to review the book and earned myself a number one spot on google in the process. The review happened after I requested a review copy (on where else but my blog,) from the publisher. 

I probably could have added more theories, but disproving this overhyped and simplified one-line piece of dating advice was a lot of fun. It's probably also the reason I'm still single.

This is my favourite interview of the ones I have conducted so far, and I'm incredibly grateful that the author took time out during a very hectic week to speak to me. 

An early post but a good one, this is my little effort at Sweet Valley High fan fiction with a grown up twist. Was it any good? Probably not. Did it make me laugh? Absolutely.

Review: Addie Pray by Joe David Brown

Addie Pray is a book that has received consistent five star reviews, has millions of copies in print and was made into a successful feature film that earned Tatum O'Neil an Oscar, but chances are, you have never heard of it. That is because the book was retitled in 1972 to fit in with the film it inspired, Paper Moon. I'm sure that most of you are aware of the film, which tells the story of a young girl, who, following the death of her mother is taken partway across the country by a man who may or may not be her father. The man, Moses Pray is a terrific conman and the girl, Addie, soon displays a talent in the same area. Set against the backdrop of the depression, the pair have a good time and learn a few harsh life lessons as they indulge in get rich quick schemes and rip-off various people, most notably by selling bibles to rich widows. The leads were played beautifully by Ryan and Tatum O'Neil, who are, of course, father and daughter in real life. 

Reading Addie Pray, I was surprised to discover that the film only covers a small portion of the book. In the book, Addie and Moses experience many more adventures, are often caught, sometimes stop to help those less fortunate (basically they're crooks with a conscience--they rip off those who have more money than sense and sometimes share their wealth with those who are struggling,) and eventually pull one final redemptive act, by conning a conman who was out to embezzle money from an eccentric old widow who had nothing. Addie Pray is a fun book with numerous twists and turns, though the author struggles at times with the voice of the narrator, making Addie seem far older and far less feminine than a nine year old girl. Still, the book remains a perfect distraction and a wonderful companion to the film, Paper Moon.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Everyone has a story to tell ... Part 2

Further to my post about the mystery novel that arrived on my doorstep this week, I'm now quite convinced that the book is One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern. You can check out more about the book here

PS I'm hoping to writing a review closer to the official release date.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Feature and Follow Friday

It's time for another Feature and Follow Friday. For those of you who don't know, Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkie's View designed to help like-minded bloggers to connect. This week's all important question is:

Q: What hyped up book was worth all of the fuss?

I'm going to state the obvious first with the Harry Potter series. When I first encountered the books as an 18 year old university student, I was a bit skeptical (at that stage, only three books had been released and the release of the fourth was imminent,) and thought it was probably just an overhyped kids series. Obviously, I was wrong.

My second choice is Water For Elephants which I read last year. When it was first released, I dismissed it as a piece of wannabe Literature (i.e. one of those books that appears more literary and intelligent than what it truly is, just pick up anything that has ever written by Jodi Picoult and you'll see what I mean). Anyway, I eventually picked it up after running out of things to read and I was pleasantly surprised by how well researched this tale actually was. That and I've always liked stories that feature train journeys.

Other books I'd like to add to this list are: On the Road by Jack Kerouac, The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmel and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Revisiting Gates of Paradise by VC Andrews

As regulars visitors to this blog will no doubt be aware, I am a fan of V.C. Andrews. I began reading the authors work during high school, starting with My Sweet Audrina, then moving on to her most famous work, Flowers in the Attic and then the other books in the Dollanganger Saga. And when I was done, I moved on to the Casteel series.
As true V.C. Andrews fans know, the author died shortly after the release of the second novel in the Casteel series, Dark Angel. In the years that followed three more books in the series were released, Fallen Hearts, Gates of Paradise and Web of Dreams. While V.C. Andrews influence was clear in Fallen Hearts and Web of Dreams, Gates of Paradise has long been the weakest link in the series and this was something that did not escape my attention as a sixteen year old reader. In fact, despite considering myself a fan, I never even finished the book.
It was not until many years later that I decided to read Gates of Paradise again.
This time, I vowed to read the novel from start to end. I selected a copy that had the most V.C. Andrews like cover, a POD reprint of the original US version, with a beautiful, gothic cover (perhaps this was the problem, my original copy was a very battered UK edition from the early 1990s, that looked a little too similar to all of the other sagas that were being published at the time,) and decided to only read the novel in the evenings, when I could soak up the spookiest atmosphere. Maybe this time around, I would be impressed by Gates of Paradise.
And did I enjoy this book?
Well, it wasn't awful. But it was still the weakest link in the Casteel series. Annie Stonewall, the main character, simply did not fit well with the other V.C. Andrews heroines. (Up until this point of course, the heroine of the series had been her mother, Heaven.) She seemed younger, spoiled, selfish and far weaker. Of course, it must have been a daunting task for Neiderman to go in and write the fourth book in a series that had been started by an author who was not only a different gender, but also a different age and came from an entirely different background. I also believe that Neiderman tried very hard to capture the spirit of V.C. Andrews in this novel. I don’t think it is coincidental that the main character, Annie, is an artist or that she spends much of the novel in a wheelchair. It is almost as if parts of Annie’s character plays tribute to V.C. Andrews in a small way. The book contains many of the key elements that made V.C. Andrews work so successful. Gates of Paradise is definitely a fairytale gone wrong. It opens with two children, on the cusp of adulthood, dreaming of a magical place where all of their dreams will come true. And then, one day, tragedy befalls the heroine and she finds herself whisked away with strangers to a dilapidated old mansion where she is kept prisoner by an old man, before eventually being rescued by the one man who truly loves her. And, although Annie and Luke are star-crossed lovers, a revelation from a kindly old relative at the end of the novel means that they are free to be together and live happily ever after. In that sense, Gates of Paradise was an interesting gothic fairytale. However, many of my original frustrations with the novel still remain. All good fairytales need a villain, especially V.C. Andrews ones. Think of some of her great villains – Olivia Foxworth and Kitty Dennison for example. Each of these characters was able to quite sadistically torture the lead character at every given opportunity. Then there are the torn bystanders, characters who may initially have some sympathy for the heroine until they are eventually seduced by thoughts of greed, sex and power. Corrine Foxworth, Cal Dennison, Damian Adare and surprisingly perhaps, Luke Casteel Senior, all fit into this mould.
So where do the characters from Gates of Paradise fit?
Tony Tatterton’s character has long been established as a torn bystander who was eventually seduced by greed, sex and power. In his version of events, revealed to Heaven toward the end of Dark Angel he was a young businessman who had inherited a large fortune from his recently deceased parents when he married Jillian VanVoreen. His marriage to Jillian soon failed when the vain, older woman failed to respond to him either emotionally or sexually. Tony’s affections soon turn toward Leigh, Jillian’s thirteen-year-old daughter. Tony confesses to Heaven in Dark Angel that he raped Leigh, but tries to justify his actions by claiming that the girl was worldly beyond her years and had been trying to seduce Tony in order to get revenge on her mother. Although he raped Leigh several times, Tony claims that she enjoyed it and often came back for more. Tony sticks to his story throughout the series, though scenes in Web of Dreams suggest that his claims may not be entirely accurate.
In Gates of Paradise, Tony keeps Annie as a prisoner inside Farthingale Manor, forces her to dress as her mother and grandmother and eventually attempts to rape her. In that sense, Tony is the villain. However, he is also presented in the novel as a confused old man. He often confuses Annie with Jillian, Leigh and Heaven. He also appears not to remember some of these episodes. After sexually assaulting Annie while she is in the bath, he returns to the young woman’s bedroom wearing different clothing and behaving as though he has not seen her for several hours. He does seem to genuinely care about his granddaughter and is afraid of losing her, which can be seen through his payment for her medical treatment and his outburst when Luke and Fanny rescue Annie from Fathinggale Manor. Tony, although evil enough to have assaulted or attempted assault on four generations of women, is never quite powerful enough to become a real villain. In fact at the end of the novel, Annie realises that she feels more sorry for him than anything.
Mrs Broadhurst plays a powerful part in Annie’s recovery. She is said to dislike spoiled rich children and systematically punishes Annie for behaving like a spoiled brat. Mrs Broadhurst’s punishments include placing Annie inside a tub of boiling water, from which she cannot escape, and placing laxatives in Annie’s food. Sadly, however, Mrs Broadhurst’s role in the novel is too small and she is too quickly removed from her place of employment for her to reach the status of a true villain.
Drake Casteel is quickly seduced into the Tatterton Empire and seems oblivious to the suffering of those around him. He is also a hypocrite. He admonishes and bullies Luke for what he perceives as an incestuous relationship with Annie, yet it is also hinted at that Drake has romantic feelings for his niece. For example, when Drake greets Annie with a peck on the cheek, his kiss always seems to land on the side of her mouth. Drake, like the others is not a true villain, but a fool.
Gates of Paradise lacks a true V.C. Andrews style villain. It is pleasing then, that the novel does have a saviour, a person who plays a small but vital role in rescuing the heroine in her time of need. Paul Sheffield from Petals on the Wind fits into this role, though his intentions may not have been entirely pure. Without Paul, it is unlikely that any of the Dollanganger children would have survived for very long. Like in Web of Dreams, Luke Casteel plays the part of a saviour marrying Leigh and offering to raise her child as his own. (Though, through his sadness at Leigh’s death, Luke soon reverts to his old ways.) In Gates of Paradise, Troy Tatterton, Annie’s long lost biological father is that saviour. It is Troy who finds Annie in the maze and Fathinggale Manor, listens to her story and encourages her to walk again. Knowing that the young woman is in danger, he also makes a small but vital step toward her rescue. It is he who phones Fanny and insists that she take Annie away from Fathinggale Manor.
Like all heroines from a fairy tale, Annie too has her devoted, handsome and forbidden prince. She and Luke Casteel junior have known one another since birth and have an exclusive friendship that would appear to be developing into something more. And like all good love stories, the pair face an impossible obstacle. Only in the case of Annie and Luke, it is not income or warring families who will keep them apart. Annie and Luke believe that they are half-brother and sister, Luke being the illegitimate son of Logan Stonewall. Luckily, Troy Tatterton is there to once again save the day, revealing that Annie is his daughter, and therefore she and Luke are not blood relatives. The author’s handling of Annie and Luke’s relationship has in a sense become the prototype for how incestuous relationships are handled in the books written by Andrew Neiderman. Unlike V.C. Andrews, who often painted a sympathetic view of incestuous relationships, it is clear through his work that Neiderman finds writing about incest either uncomfortable or he wants to make it seem as gross as possible. In subsequent series, the heroine will develop feelings for another character who she believes is her brother. The heroine knows that these feelings are wrong and does not act on them. For example, in the Cutler series, Dawn is careful not to get to close to Jimmy, although she has feelings for him. Often the pair are allowed to be together after and enjoy a happy ever after it is revealed that they are not truly related. Dawn and Jimmy, for example, eventually marry though it takes some time for the pair to adjust to the fact that they are not brother and sister. In the Logan series, a similar dynamic occurs between Cary and Melody. The pair soon develop feelings for one another, but do not dare act on them until it is revealed that they are not first cousins. This is a different world from the Dollanganger saga, where Cathy and Chris eventually give in to their feelings and live together as husband and wife, or the early part of the Casteel saga where Heaven and Troy make love twice after making the discovery that Troy is Heaven’s uncle. (Once, directly after making the discovery, and once more several years later when Heaven discovers that Troy had faked his own death.) In the novels written by Neiderman, incest never goes unpunished. For example, in the Cutler series, Phillip is tortured for his feelings for Dawn (and later for Christie,) and is eventually driven crazy. In his last scene in the novel, he is driven away by the police, presumably to an institution. Linden suffers a similar fate in the DeBeers saga. In the Landry Series, Ruby and Paul marry, despite the knowledge that they are half-brother and sister. The pair suffer greatly for their decision. Shortly after her wedding, Ruby discovers that Beau still loves her after all, and she is trapped in a marriage where she and Paul can never truly be husband and wife. Later, Ruby switches places with her dying sister. She watches as Paul and dies of grief, and then battles to regain custody of her daughter. Even many years later, Ruby continues to suffer, believing that the death of her son was a punishment for her marriage to Paul and has a mental breakdown. Meanwhile, in the Hudson series, Rain is disgusted by Roy’s feelings toward her, even when it is revealed they are not brother and sister. Meanwhile, Rain’s long-lost younger brother is so tortured by his feelings for Rain that he eventually kills himself after learning that she is his half-sister. In many later series, the incest was dropped, though it makes an ugly return in Daughters of Darkness, where Lorelei is expected to marry her father. 
Though much better than later works baring the V.C. Andrews name, Gates of Paradise will never sit easily on my bookshelf in its place, filed between copies of Fallen Hearts and Web of Dreams, it the sequel that V.C. Andrews herself would probably never have written, while becoming a prototype for to every series that followed afterward. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Everyone has a story to tell ...

Or, Kathryn has a mystery to solve ...

Earlier in the week I entered and was one of the winners of a competition that was running on HarperCollins Australia's facebook page. The prize was an advance copies of an upcoming release. But, there just happens to be a catch. A very, very intriguing catch. The book, which arrived on my doorstep today, has a white cover and the mysterious words, Everyone has a story to tell ... written on the front cover. It is up to me to guess which bestselling author has written this upcoming release. 

And well, because keeping something like this to myself would be no fun, I decided to share my guessing journey on my blog.

I have read the first few pages. So far, I am aware that the lead character is named Kitty and she is visiting her terminally ill friend Constance in hospital. The names alone suggest that the book is set in either the United Kingdom or Ireland. Reading further, I discover that the book is indeed set in Ireland.

Hmm. An Irish setting. Could this mean an Irish author? Given that the characters are females, a female Irish author, perhaps?

Who are some best selling female Irish authors? A few names come to mind ...

Maeve Binchy
Cecelia Ahern
Marian Keyes
Morag Prunty
Cathy Kelly

Could the author be one of these? I shall have to keep reading and investigating ...

Review: The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots by Loretta Hill

Okay, I confess. The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots is the first novel I have ever read where the lead character is an engineer. In fact, it is the first time that I've ever been attracted to a novel which is about the lives of engineers. The novel is essentially a romance set in remote Australia (a popular genre of late,) but I found that as well as the romantic element, I really enjoyed the setting, the technical detail (Loretta Hill is an engineer who did indeed work on the Pilbara in 2001,) and the concept of a lone female surrounded by men. (Maybe its the fact that I am the only female in my own workplace that helps me to identify with this last part.)

The novel tells the story of a young engineering graduate who is sent to a remote part of Western Australia. While making progress with her career (and, she hopes, making up for mistakes of the past,) she meets a number of colourful characters and slowly reaches out and falls in love with a man who is haunted by his own past. All in all, this is fun, romantic and intelligent light reading.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Spam Policy

Because the only spam I like is the kind you can eat.

Just a reminder all that I do not take kindly to people spamming this blog with ads for their goods or services, or to blatantly advertise websites that are unrelated to books, writing or authors. You are, of course, welcome to post links in the comments section to your blog if it relates to the topic at hand or if you think it will be of interest to me and my followers. (Follow Fridays are a great example of where users have posted relevant links.) Naturally, I will treat your blog  or website with the same respect.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Review: The Waking Dream by Jennifer Ford

One of the (many) great things about writing a book review blog is being one of the first to discover awesome new indie authors. I have a lot of respect for these authors who, at their own time and expense send me their work, sometimes from halfway across the world. The latest indie author to send me her book (which was also beautifully signed,) is debut novelist Jennifer Ford. 

The Waking Dream is a complex tale and one that is difficult for me to describe. The story is set in Illamar, a small city that has been cut off from the rest of civilization by a desert. The two main characters, Dante and Karran are working to discover more about the mysterious woman who visits them in a series of dreams. From there, the story becomes more and more complex, as we watch the characters grow and develop. Much is set in dream sequences, before building up to an ending which does the plot justice.

A little slow in places, this is one well worth your time if you're tired of the same old plots and are looking for something new and completely different.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Destined to Feel by Indigo Bloome

Fans of Indigo Bloome's Destined to Play will be pleased to know that the second installment in the Avalon series, Destined to Feel will be released on October 1. The author is offering a free extract from the novel on her official facebook page. (Interested? Follow this link.)

I have read through the extract and just as with Destined to Play, I enjoyed the suspenseful nature  of Bloome's writing (it certainly gets off to an interesting start). I also liked that part of this extract was from Jeremy's perspective. It did make me smile a bit when I read a paragraph where Alexa addresses the speculation from other women as to whether or not she is a good mother--as this was one of the criticisms that some readers, myself included, had about the first book, i.e. how could the main character not give a thought to her children and what effect her affair could potentially have on them.

I will be interested to see how the rest of the novel pans out ...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Free eBook: Best Forgotten by Kathryn White

Hi folks, just a reminder that my novella Best Forgotten is available as a free download at Smashwords. (Or you can go to Amazon and pay for a print copy if you'd rather.) I'd love for all of my faithful followers to read and review this cute little thriller, because I'm a publicity junkie, ahem, I mean because I think that you will all enjoy it and you'll want to recommend it to all of your friends. 

Anyway, you can download your copy of this awesome little novella here.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Feature and Follow Friday

It's time for another Feature and Follow Friday. For those of you who don't know, Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkie's View designed to help like-minded bloggers to connect. This week's all important question is:

Q: What are you reading right now? How do you like it?

I have just started reading The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots by Loretta Hill, which is about a young, female engineer who gets sent to work on a project in a remote part of Western Australian. I'm really enjoying it so far--it's a little different to your typical rural romance.

What are you reading right now?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


A few years ago, I took one of those cute little internet quizzes, to find out which character from Peanuts was closest to my personality. Half terrified that the answer awaiting me in cyberspace was Lucy Van Pelt, I was pleasantly surprised when, instead, the result was Snoopy.

Out of all of the characters from the Peanuts gang, I think that Snoopy is not only the nicest, but the most loyal and the most complex. Initially a minor character, a non-speaking beagle that belongs to the original star of the comics, Charlie Brown, Snoopy began to develop a real personality of his own. Unlike other dogs, Snoopy didn't sleep inside his kennel, he preferred to sit on top. Often, his friend Woodstock would be by his side, or he would sitting at his typewriter, writing what he hoped would be his breakthrough novel. He could become hurt by rejection (in one strip he wrote a letter back to the publisher who had rejected him, stating that he was unable to accept the rejection at this time,) and could often experience writers block, being completely unable to move on from the opening sentence 'It was a dark and stormy night.' (A dark and stormy night being, of course, the famous cliche that all writers are advised to avoid.) Snoopy's loyalty to those around him knew no bounds, he often tried to cheer the other members of the gang up, despite their indifference toward him. (With the possible exception of Peppermint Patty, who believed that Snoopy was a funny looking kid that Charlie Brown knew and subsequently developed a crush on him.) But the most wonderful thing about this small beagle was undoubtably his imagination. He could take on many different personalities, such as the Flying Ace (which came complete with a scarf and goggles,) or Joe Cool (Snoopy in a sweater and sunglasses). Am I half the things that Snoopy is? Hmm, maybe not. But I do feel that Snoopy was always a good, honest character, there to help the others without expecting a thing in return and always remaining true to himself, his unique world view and his dreams, making him a rare but wonderful comic character. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Review: The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin

As regular visitors to this blog will no doubt be aware, I was a big fan of Ann M. Martins Babysitters Club series when I during my middle and upper primary school years. I smiled to myself a few years ago when I learned that the series was to be re-released for a new generation of readers, along with a brand new prequel, and wondered if  kids today would enjoy it as much as I did. But it wasn't until a trip to QBD last week when I found a copy of the BSC prequel The Summer Before sitting on the shelf that I began to feel excited. Very excited. Even though it was aimed at children, I just had to take this book from the shelf, buy it and take it home. And you know what? I'm glad I did.

The Summer Before is the perfect nostalgia trip for grown up BSC fans. Yes, it is a childrens book, but did we ever really, truly want to know what happened to the girls after they graduated from Stoneybrook Middle School? There's something much more comforting about going back to Bradford Court and reading about where it all began, to a time when Mary-Anne was still being treated like a little girl by her strict father, where Claudia is growing up faster than her friends, when Stacey is about to move from New York to Stoneybrook and start anew and when Kristy is having difficulties coming to terms with the fact that her father is no longer a part of her life and that her mother has a new boyfriend. Each girl has her own set of problems and their summer isn't always a pleasant one. Stacey in particular has suffered a large degree of bullying from her former best friend Laine as well as having to cope with an extreme form of type 1 diabetes. The authors attention to detail is incredible and many well-known Stoneybrook locations are mentioned, such as Fawcett Avenue and Stoneybrook Middle School. A sullen ten-year-old Mallory Pike makes a brief appearance as a sitting charge (she is quickly instated by Kristy as a junior babysitter,) and many other minor characters from the early books in the series appear throughout the novel, including sitting charges like Jamie Newton and Jenny Prezziosos. It was also pleasing to see that the author had made Janine Kishi a far more sympathetic character and it was lovely to read about Mimi, one of my favourite 'adult' characters from the series. And, of course, because its Stoneybrook, the kids all seem much older than their twelve years and the town has a real 1950s sense of community about it.

All good fun, a great read for kids and a perfect nostalgia trip for grown up fans.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Review: Troubletwisters by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

I'll tell you a secret. I love it when I sit down to write a book review and I have a great story of what happened when I purchased the book. This review starts off with a fun one. I purchased Troubletwisters a little while back from a popular department store near my home. As I was taking it (and a few other items beside,) through the checkouts, the checkout operator paused, looked at the book and asked me if I thought it was any good. (Of course I did. Why else would I be bothering to read it?) Anyway, this all turned into a conversation about some of our favourite books and authors, much to the irritation of the other shoppers in the queue who probably weren't at all interested in my opinion on which children's/young adult books were better than Twilight. (Which is practically everything that has been published up until this date.) Anyway, as I predicted, I rather enjoyed Troubletwisters, which tells the story of Jack and Jaide a pair of twelve-year-old twins who are sent to live with the mysterious Grandma X after their home quite literally explodes around them. It soon becomes clear that nothing in Grandma X's neighbourhood is quite normal, from talking cats, to an antique store that not everyone can see. And who or what is the strange voice that keeps calling to the twins? All in all, Troubletwisters is a fun read. I really liked the cats (particularly Ari,) and though a minor character, the crocodile skull.