Monday, 30 December 2013

Review: Chocolate Cake For Breakfast by Danielle Hawkins

For those of you who have ever wondered if I am inspired to read books after reading a review, the answer is yes, sometimes. I'd heard of Chocolate Cake For Breakfast around the time when it was released and after reading this review on Book'd Out I was fairly certain that it was one that I would enjoy. Then again, I guess that is the purpose of a review, to share our thoughts on a book so that we can recommend it (or not,) to other readers and help them make up their minds whether or not it is something that they might enjoy. (Hmm. Did I just state the obvious then?)

Anyway, Chocolate Cake For Breakfast is a bit of unique read. It tells the story of Helen McNeil, a somewhat clumsy, insecure and ultimately likeable vet who lives in a small town in New Zealand. Into town comes Mark Tipene, who plays rugby for the All Blacks. Mark and Helen meet at a party, Helen does not recognise Mark and he thinks this is absolutely wonderful. Under the watchful eyes of some very quirky locals (which includes Helen's nymphomaniac--well, almost--stepmother,) Mark and Helen begin an unlikely relationship. Then something happens to throw the pair together that I can't mention without totally spoiling the plot, and we get to look at the implications of two people from very different backgrounds trying to make their relationship work. Mark feels like a very distant character at times, though this may be due to the fact that we see him through the eyes of Helen, who feels very insecure about their relationship. We also see a huge contrast in their backgrounds--although quirky, Helen's family are a warm and wonderful bunch, while Mark's family is quite distant and selfish.

There is a little bit of gore, but I kind of liked that because it made the book feel a bit more realistic and moved the book away from the possibility of dragging into sappy romance territory. I really liked this one and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a romance with a bit of guts. Literally.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Feature and Follow Friday

Wow. It feels like an age since I last participated in a Feature and Follow Friday (yeah, okay, it's only been a few months). My life has sort of got a bit busier in recent months and I have to often schedule posts ahead, meaning that I miss out on the spontaneous conversation and visiting that goes hand in hand with the meme. Anyway, I don't think it's very fair to schedule these ones ahead (because I like the whole social aspect of clicking on the list, seeing who is featured and meeting new bloggers,) so I usually opt out. Anyway, on this particular evening I'm home and blogging, so I hope it's a great chance to catch up with some old friends and to make some new ones.

Anyway ... for those of you who don't know, Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme designed to help book bloggers connect and meet one another. It two awesome hosts, Parajunkee and Alison Can Read and also showcases two very cool blogs. And there is always a question to answer. This weeks question is ...

Question of the Week: Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! What books did Santa stuff your stocking with this holiday season? Do a holiday book haul for us! If you don’t celebrate just show off your books that you got this week. Pictures!!!

I didn't receive any books in my Christmas stocking. I guess even Santa wasn't sure what is and is not on my epic to-read pile. (Seriously, one day I'm going to post a photograph of my to read pile and shock you all.) Still, I stopped by a very cool bookstore at Edwardstown today and bought a copy of Dreaming of Zhou Gong by Traci Harding. It is a bit different from the books that I usually read, so I am looking forward to the challenge. 

Anyway, I'm sure Santa was generous with you, but just in case he wasn't, while you are here you may be interested to know that I'm offering two of my novels, Behind the Scenes and Best Forgotten as free downloads from the Amazon Kindle Store at the moment. Behind the Scenes will only be available for a short time--it runs out at midnight Saturday PST, while Best Forgotten will be available until midnight Sunday PST. I'll be chuffed if you download them and even more so if you give them a review at some point. The links are here:

Newsflash: Behind the Scenes Free From Amazon Kindle Store Today!

As many of you know, 2013 has been a big year for me writing wise. I had my first, second and third book signings, and got my own magazine column with Spiritual Wisdom Magazine. In April, I launched my fourth novel Behind the Scenes. And, meanwhile, this blog keeps going from strength to strength. I've had authors and publishers offer me some awesome books to read and review.

Anyway, to celebrate a great year and to thank everyone that has supported me, I'm offering Behind the Scenes as a free download from the Amazon Kindle Store until midnight PST in the United States. (That's about 7.30pm Saturday, Adelaide time.)  For those of you who don't know, Behind the Scenes tells the story of eighteen year old Catlin Ryan, an aspiring actress who scores a role on her favourite television series. She soon discovers that fame isn't all that it is cracked up to be and along the way she uncovers some dark family secrets about her past. And so too, does the media ...

I'm probably horribly, horribly biased, but I think that Behind the Scenes is an awesome book and if you don't have a copy already, then take advantage of this very limited offer. And maybe even leave me a review? I like reviews ...

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or all the best for whatever you may be celebrating at this time of year (or not). Stay well, stay healthy, hug your loved ones and keep on reading ...

Monday, 23 December 2013

Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Well. It looks like this one got released just in time. As many of you will know, over the past couple of months I have been reading my way through Richelle Mead's brilliant Vampire Academy series and its follow-on series Bloodlines. As chance would have it, I finished the third book in the Bloodlines series just shortly before the fourth book, The Fiery Heart was released, so unlike other fans who have been waiting for a good chunk of 2013 to find out what happens next, I had the luxury of moving straight from one book in the series to the next. 

The Indigo Spell ended on quite a surprising note and had a couple of unnecessary plot twists, so it was nice to see a lot of those problems being ironed out in The Fiery Heart. Unlike the first three books in the series, this one is jointly narrated by Adrian, who is now Sydney's very secret and very, very passionate lover. (Though, secretly, I do think the author could have pushed some of the love scenes a little bit further than she did, given that the romantic element of the book is quite an important one.) We get to see a lot more of the Moroi in this book--a given considering that part of it is from Adrian's perspective, and it makes a refreshing change from the cold, calculating Alchemists, who have proven themselves to be quite a cruel bunch. Joining Sydney in her adventures in Palm Springs is her fifteen-year-old sister Zoe who is on her first Alchemist assignment and is a little too eager to please their dad, who is more or less revealed to be a hard-arsed bastard. Through the introduction of Zoe (who up until now has been a minor character,) and a harrowing scene where Sydney learns that her parents are divorcing (and Dad's tricks to ensure that their kind and loving mother does not get custody of Zoe,) we get to see just how far Sydney has developed as a person. Meanwhile, it is now Zoe who is devoted to the Alchemists with a frightening, slave-like devotion. Zoe's age and immaturity make it clear that she is very vulnerable to a group who are not as honest or kind as they appear on the surface. Some things, such as the re-education scene (basically a torture camp where 'bad' Alchemists are punished and deprogrammed,) from The Golden Lilly begin to make a lot more sense and are put into a real and frightening context, instead of being something gross that happened to a character who probably deserved some form of punishment. From the Moroi perspective, there is a lot more on the healing qualities of Spirit and the possibility of saving people who have been turned Strigoi. Jill and Eddie remain minor characters, though yet again, Eddie proves himself to be one of the most honest, loyal and quite frankly, likable characters in the series. I am hoping that when Bloodlines is done that Mead may consider the possibility of a third series, focusing on Eddie and Jill.

The Fiery Heart gets off to a slow start and is focused mainly on the development of Sydney and Adrian's relationship and the complications in hiding it from the others, primarily Zoe who, along with Sydney's dad prove themselves to be the main antagonists of the novel. It is difficult not to giggle at parts of Adrian and Sydney's relationship (Love Phone, anyone?). And then, well, I don't think I am giving away too many spoilers here by saying that they are eventually caught and Sydney finds herself on the receiving end of a harrowing punishment from the Alchemists. But what is surprising is just who would be willing to stab Sydney in the back and send her to such a fate ...

The Fiery Heart is a brilliant instalment in the series and one that helps put many of the smaller parts from the first three novels, along with parts of the Vampire Academy series, into a bigger, compelling and sometimes more frightening context. I'm looking forward to the release of Silver Shadows in May 2014 to find out what happens next ...

Friday, 20 December 2013

Friday Funnies: The Goodies Make a Daft Noise for Christmas

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Review: In Conversations With Strangers by Brenda Cheers

First and foremost, a big shout out to author Brenda Cheers and Goodreads for my free reading copy, which I won in a recent competition. Thanks!

Let me start this review with a little anecdote. A few evenings ago, I had a craving for some cheese and Vegemite toasties. With my senses tingling and mouth watering in that very special way that one only reserves for cheese and Vegemite toasties, I set about in the kitchen, collecting the right ingredients, lightly toasting the bread and then smearing on the Vegemite so that it was at that special consistency where you can still taste it under the layer of cheese but isn't yet strong enough to overpower the whole thing. Then I added a layer of cheese and laid my special and much wanted snack under the grill for the final toasting that would melt the cheese to that very special bubbling and slightly brown consistency. All good right? Well, it was until I got impatient. I was so hungry and so eager for my little snack that I took it off the grill just a moment too soon. My cheese and Vegemite toastie wasn't bad by a long stretch, but it certainly did not live up to its full potential.

And that is a little how I felt about In Converstations With Strangers. The author had all the ingredients there to make a special and unique book. It is a tale of a woman, Janine, who, as she flees from her home and heartbreak, travels through Australia and begins writing down the stories of the people that she meets.

Unfortunately, as a reader, I felt that something about it wasn't quite done yet. The heroine, Janine, was an interesting lady with a huge backstory that doesn't get fully revealed until the very end. Unfortunately, I felt that the story lacked a certain level of depth that would have helped me to understand the character and her motives a bit more. I can see that the author wanted to create literary fiction that included a layer of mystery, but it would have helped me early on if I had understood why Janine was running away, or what her motive were for recording the stories of the strangers that she meets as she travels through Australia. This doesn't need to be said explicitly, but some kind of hint needs to be there. Or even if I could just have reason to feel some kind of empathy for the heroine. Literary fiction is more than just keeping details from the reader. What is unsaid is often important and must be shown or hinted at in other ways. The concept of stories within a story is brilliant though, and reminded me a little of Eucalyptus by Murray Bail but with a bit more of a 'real life' twist. The ending was quite a dark one and left me feeling cold.

In Conversations With Strangers isn't an awful book, but I really get the feeling that this one could have been a lot better if the author had spent some more on the manuscript to develop the characters and situations to a greater level.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Writers on Wednesday: Cameron Trost

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week we're catching up with the very talented and very, very individual Cameron Trost ...

Tell us a bit about yourself …

I was born and grew up in Brisbane but live in France with my wife and son. I teach English as a foreign language to scrape in a living and love travelling, history, chess, forests, and rainy weather. My writing is often inspired by my observations of society and human behaviour, which is probably why greed and obsession are two recurrent themes.

Tell us about your most recently published, or about to be published, book?

“Hoffman’s Creeper and Other Disturbing Tales” is my début short story collection. It features a cast of characters that includes an obsessed botanist, a budding film director, a sleazy hypnotist, a man about to jump off a cliff, and a little boy who gets struck by lightning. The fiction in this collection is thought-provoking, mysterious, creepy, quirky… and always disturbing.  

Tell us about the first time you were published?

My first published piece was a flash fiction story called “Beneath the Flowers” which appeared in Brimstone Press’ ground-breaking multimedia anthology Black Box 2. It is a glimpse of a couple having a picnic in Normandy. Unfortunately, the anthology is out-of-print, but my contribution is included in “Hoffman’s Creeper and Other Disturbing Tales”.

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

I have several stories in the works at the moment and wish I had more time to spend on them. Settling into fatherhood and moving back to France are my current priorities – yes, you can expect a lot more tales with a distinctly Gallic edge in future. However, I am slowly doing the fifth – or is it sixth? – draft of my novel-in-progress, an epic tale of urban adventure and social tension set in and under the streets of my hometown, Brisbane. I’m also working on a series of novellas featuring a private investigator who struggles to make a living by using his various talents and great mental acuity to solve strange occurrences. Most importantly of all for me, I have three or four short stories in progress and many more in slush piles all around the English-speaking world. Oh, and at some stage, I need to translate my previously published fiction into French.     

Do you have a favourite place to write?

In a lighthouse overlooking a Breton fishing village – preferably at night… during a windstorm… with a bottle of scotch at hand.

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

I love second-hand books, especially smelly ones with surprises like crushed moths and flower buds between the pages… I really don’t know why.

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

I hate the idea that everybody should read the same book. I think people are ovine enough. Don’t follow the flock. Get out there and make your own discoveries.

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

Yes, get in touch with me. Tell me which of my tales you’ve read and what you loved or loathed about them. Writing is a solitary art and writers crave feedback.


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Famous Speeches: Martin Luther King Jr "I Have a Dream"

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. 

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. 
Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

EDIT: It seems that my commentary didn't post along with this speech and, consequently, it appears that I have posted this awesome speech for no good reason at all. The truth is, Martin Luther King Jr's speech is something that has been on my mind a little bit recently. Maybe it's naive of me, but it made me think of just how far the human race has come toward equal rights, and how far we still have to go. Perhaps the saddest part of this speech was that the speaker wanted to bring peace and freedom to the world and that someone eventually decided to assassinate him.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Friday Funnies: Garfield Minus Garfield Christmas Special

The Garfield Christmas Special from 1989 gets the Garfield Minus Garfield treatment.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review: The Girl in the Basement by Dianne Bates

The Girl in the Basement is a frightening glimpse into the mind of a psychopath and his teenage victim. Libby is a young woman celebrating her sixteenth birthday, when she is snatched away by a predator who is determined to make her a part of his 'family' along with a younger boy. Far from home and locked away in a basement, Libby must find a way to defeat her sadistic and often deluded captor who wants to rename her Serena and use her as a replacement for the sister he murdered many years before. Meanwhile, a smaller boy is being used as a replacement for their captors brother. Together, this trio are supposed to be a family, but Papa has all the power and rarely shows mercy on his captives.

Australian author Dianne Bates does a commendable job of showcasing the mind of a man who has many wants, thrives on cruelty and has no natural empathy for others. Meanwhile, Libby is shown to be a strong and resourceful young woman who, in places, has a lovely wisdom that is well beyond her years. The narrative had me turning pages and wanting to know more about Libby's fate and if there was a way for her to escape her captor. I wept for Angus, who wanted only to return to his rightful home and family. 

This is a fast paced read, suitable for YA audiences and beyond.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Writers on Wednesday: TW Lawless

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week, we are talking to TW Lawless an emerging Australian writer ...

Tell us a bit about yourself …

I was raised on a cattle station then a country town in North Queensland but I now live in Melbourne with my wife. She is also a published author. I was a registered nurse for many years but I always wanted to fulfil my ambition of becoming an author. It finally came two years ago when I became very ill. My way of coping was to write a book.  That book is called Homecountry. The book introduces a character called Peter Clancy, a hard-living tabloid journalist from Melbourne.

Tell us about your most recently published, or about to be published, book?

My latest book is called Thornydevils, the second book of the Peter Clancy series. It will be released in early 2014. Set in Melbourne in the late 1980s it features a cast of quirky characters, a great plot and plenty of grit.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

I was proud as a first time dad. I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing process but I learnt very quickly. Publishing a book would is one of the high points of my life so far.

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

To be published for the first time of course, but to have also finished a second book. Probably my proudest achievement was to have my first book, Homecountry picked up by overseas distributors at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

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

I’m currently researching the third Peter Clancy book which is to be set in London. I also blog regularly about my experiences of growing up on a cattle station. It’s called:

Do you have a favourite place to write?

Writing in my cubby-hole office tucked in with book shelves and my guitar collection at home.  

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

I’m a traditionalist. I like the look and smell of books and I like how they look on my big book shelf.

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

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. A brilliant book about inhumanity and the strength of the human condition.

Awesome Links

Monday, 9 December 2013

Garfield Plus Garfield

I have to admit, I was secretly delighted when I found this little remembered Garfield comic strip from 2003. Written to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the comic, and therefore, Garfield's 25th birthday on June 19, this strip has the early version of Garfield visiting the modern one. As all fans know, Garfield evolved quite a lot during the first fifteen of the comic until Jim Davis finally settled on the slightly smaller incarnate who could walk and had large and very expressive eyes. (On a side note, his stripes are now far less visible, making him less time consuming to draw.) And, in my opinion, by 2003 the comic had pretty much reached its lowest point. The jokes were no longer funny, none of the characters seemed to do very much and Jon's stupidity was beyond repetitive. The comic seemed little more than a vehicle to distribute the endless, tacky Garfield merchandise that was being churned out by Paws Inc.

And then this series of comic came along.

The week Garfield spends with his former self reads very much like a reconciliation between the old comics and the newer ones. Shortly afterward, the humour began to pick up. Jon found a girlfriend and several tired running gags such as Spluts (pies that randomly appeared and would hit Garfield in the face,) were retired or used less frequently. Even Clive, Garfield's invisible friend was last seen in July 2003. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Review: One More Slip by Marion Von Adlerstein

Big shout out to Anna from the Reading Room for my review copy. Thanks!

Marion Von Alderstein's 2011 novel The Freudian Slip detailing the lives of three fashionable and successful women (or, at least two of those women are successful,) in Sydney in the early 1960s was such a hit that she just had to write a sequel and bring a wonderful minor character, Isabel to the front. One More Slip moves on to the mid-1960s where Bea and Desi are still working for advertising agency BARK and juggling successful professional lives in a time when women rarely had lasting careers beyond teaching or nursing. Of course, the times are slowly changing and, or the blurb puts it, hemlines are getting shorter. Bea and Desi both have complicated personal lives and relationships, while the complications of Isabel's personal life and desires do not become entirely clear until midway through the novel. And we do get to learn more of what happens to the disgusting Stella after she is shafted to New Zealand--at first it looks like her scheming may triumph, but as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that is she who is being taking advantage of in what is perhaps the most fitting of circumstances.

There is a lot to like about One More Slip. The author displays her firsthand knowledge of 1960s Sydney, the emerging career women, changing attitudes and the odd bit of jet setting. The scenes where the dog food commercial are filmed are hilarious as are Stella's misfortunes. It's pleasing to see Tom's scheme to get revenge on Desi go awry in the most surprising of ways. However, the writing is not as polished as it should be--while the author gives detailed descriptions to places and settings, I would have liked to have seen more character building, particularly where Isabel and Desi were concerned rather than simply being confronted and surprised by their choices. I would have liked to know more about Isabel, why she felt that way and her personal struggles. I would have also liked to have seen more of a hint that this too was the right choice for Desi. It's a sensitive subject, particularly when contrasted against the setting and deserves more than to be treated as a convenient plot twist that ensures a happy ending for two major characters and disappointment to one of the novel's anti-heroes. That aside, this was a fun read in many ways and had me wondering what silly thing each of the characters would do next. I loved the epilogue at the end detailing what happened to each character--everybody got the ending they deserved.

One More Slip probably won't cater to all tastes, but is a funny, occasionally feminist read.

Why Charlie Brown, Why?

Not all cartoons are made equal. Not all cartoon TV specials are made equal either. Why Charlie Brown, Why? is one of those special ones that stands alone. Made in 1990, Why Charlie Brown, Why? tells the story of Janice, a little girl who is in the same class as Linus and Charlie Brown at school who becomes ill with leukaemia. It was the first time that an animated TV special discussed childhood cancer. It is also one of the most accurate depictions I personally have ever seen of what it is like for a kid to watch helplessly as one of their friends becomes seriously ill. Some of the things Linus experiences while he watches his friend become are so accurate I felt at times that the writers and producers were discussing my own childhood experiences, when, sadly one of my close friends developed cancer. (While my friend, Melanie, or Mel as we used to call her, passed away, Janice's future is much brighter.)

We see Linus as he goes through fear for his friend, a visit to the hospital and his inability to understand how such a terrible thing could happen to anyone. (It is then that he mutters the words, "Why Charlie Brown, Why?") Lucy worries that cancer is contagious. Then we see Janice begin to recover and get teased for her baldness by another child who does not understand about cancer. There is a moment when Linus visits Janice's sisters and discover that they are going through some pretty heavy duty emotions as well--they are jealous of the attention that their sister is receiving, but are also scared for her and feel bad for feeling any jealousy at all--which are quite normal and understandable emotions for kids whose siblings are seriously ill. Janice suffers a relapse but is eventually cured. Her hair grows back (though surprisingly quick,) and she and Linus are able to play on the swings once more. And that is where the episode ends. Oh and we gets to see Snoopy do a few silly things and listen to Sally complain about everything. There are a few goofs in the episode as well--notably Peppermint Patty is show as being in the same class as Linus and Janice, when it is known that she, Marcie and Franklin all attend a different school in the comics. And you get to actually hear grown up voices on the PA at the hospital. And Linus does not mention his blanket. But those are pretty small pay offs for what is a very insightful special. Unsurprisingly, according to wikipedia, the special is often shown in schools and hospitals to help educate kids about childhood cancers.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Pre-release Promo Tour: The Souls of Rain By Diana Nixon

The Souls of Rain (Heavens Trilogy, # 1)
By Diana Nixon

COMING Out December 18th 2013


The secrets of the heavens had always been carefully guarded. Until one day when the angels realized that what they used to believe in was nothing but a cruel game between heaven and hell.
And Claire’s life is a part of that game too. She is a guardian angel.
She always thought that her existence was perfect. But perfection is a very relative term, and no one is protected from making mistakes.

Everything changes the moment Claire gets a new assignment. Guarding humans has never been easy, and this time won’t be an exception.

Alan Rosenford is a spoilt party-boy, whose life is a hurricane of risk and adrenaline rush. His soul is damaged, his heart is bleeding, and there are so many things he prefers to keep private….

The words they have never said before …
The sins they have never committed….

How much does forgiveness of the heavens cost?
Or maybe even the heavens make mistakes?....


Trailing my fingers over the lines of your face,
Kissing your lips and melting in your embrace,
Enjoying the warmth and drinking in the moment,
Leading multiple lives feels like a pure torment.

Falling even deeper in love with you,
Discovering all the things I never knew,
Evolving into someone better and someone new,
I’ll stay for one more day, or maybe for a few,
To build up my strength to live centuries without you.

I’ll follow you to the deserts and across the oceans,
Desperate for changes and overwhelming emotions;
I’ll stay with you on the earth, or follow you to the sky,
Only with you can I breathe and feel myself alive.

Holding hands, we walk between the silver raindrops,
With the snow-white doves flying around us;
Leaving for the memories we shared, lives ago,
Can we put them back together? No one knows.

Look around and tell me what you see,
There’s no one else in sight, but you and me,
Chasing away the darkness and stormy clouds,
Just the way it was always meant to be.

Living like there’s nothing left to lose,
No one to forgive, no one to accuse.
When the bridges of hope come crashing down,
In the bewitching sounds of love we drown,
As we kiss away each other’s worst fears,
Banishing regrets, pains and bitter tears.

Take a breath and wait for the long tomorrow,
If I disappear in the shadows, find me and follow,
Rescue me in the midst of my endless night,
Turn the pale moon into bright daylight,
Make this heart of mine miss a beat,
Only with you is my soul complete.


Three angels were standing in the middle of a round, crystal room. Their long, silver cloaks were swaying slowly in the wind; the rustle of their wings was the only sound breaking the intense silence. One of them, a woman with curly, strawberry-blond hair that went to her feet, raised her hand and a huge, white cloud formed in front of her.
“The girl deserves to know the truth,” she said to the others.
“This is insane,” a male angel replied, shaking his head. He ran one palm through his messy, sandy hair; his big, blue eyes seemed to be brighter than the sky itself. “What if something goes wrong?” He stared nervously at the picture appearing inside the cloud.
“We are losing control over her.”
“She’s right,” the other male angel said. “It’s not safe to keep her here.” His golden eyes shifted impatiently between his companions. “We need to send her back to the earth.”
“You will follow her,” the woman said, looking at the blue-eyed angel. He was the youngest of the three of them, and his age was the only thing that stopped him from breaking the order. He didn’t want to spy on anyone. He used to be one of the best guardian angels, until one day he made a mistake and was obliged to follow the orders of the top-ranked angels. It was the worst part of his punishment; he hated being told what to do.
“You didn’t have to say that,” he snapped, meeting the woman’s emotionless eyes. Sometimes it was really hard to believe that she was an angel, and not a demon wearing snow-white wings. “You know I would have never left her unprotected.”
“Right.” The other angel smirked.
“Albert,” the woman hissed, warningly. Her voice sounded calm, but the intonation said it all — she didn’t approve fights between her subordinates. “This meeting is over. I’ll see you two later.” And just like that she disappeared, making the air in the room crackle. Albert grimaced at the force of energy left after her disappearance. He wasn’t as strong as she was, and the powers she possessed always made him uneasy. He looked one last time at the blue-eyed angel and followed the woman.

Left alone, the angel stared at the picture of the girl he was supposed to spy on. The girl was a guardian angel. She was slim and beautiful; with long, black hair and big green eyes, shadowed by the curling lashes.
She was walking down the alley surrounded by the age-old oaks, watching her fosterling. She seemed to be relaxed, but in reality her every instinct was on alert. Her wings were outspread, and though no human could see her like that, the creatures of the heavens always knew when she was on duty.
 “I won’t let you down, Claire,” the angel swore in a whisper, making the cloud in front of him turn black. “Never again….”

Chapter 1

I was staring at the file in my hands. It was thick and heavy, and I didn’t have the slightest desire to read it.
“What’s this?” I asked Bert, my trainer.
“Your new assignment,” he said, walking down the hall that led to the training rooms.  
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. “My new assignment? Seriously?”
“Yes. Why?” He opened the door to one of the rooms and led me to the wall with crystal daggers.
“I was reassigned just a few days ago, remember? No angel changes humans so often!”
“It’s not your call, Claire. They give commands, you execute them. Period.” He gave me one of the daggers to replace the one I broke last night, trying to kill a demon following my fosterling. “Be careful with the weapons. You are the only guardian angel who breaks them so often.”
“I’m also the only guardian angel who destroys the biggest number of demons.”
“True.” Bert smiled briefly, and looked at the wound on my right wing. “Close your eyes, I will heal it.”
I sighed and obeyed, waiting for Bert’s powers to deal with the wound. It didn’t hurt much, but the feeling wasn’t pleasant either. Guardian angels couldn’t heal themselves. We always needed the help of other angels, whose powers were different from ours.
 My thoughts switched back to my new assignment, and I sighed again. Bert was right, I couldn’t help matters. And neither could he. He was just a messenger in this case. I answered to him for my every step, but when it came to the orders of Santunary, he was as helpless as I was. 
No one could ignore the words of Ledons — top-ranked angels. They formed the Santunary: the highest and the cruelest governmental authority, and the most respectful body of the heavens (except for God, of course). There were no ‘ifs’ for Ledons. They accepted only ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The last word was better not to pronounce if you cared about your life.
Ledons were followed by Deerons, our trainers. They guarded the gates of the heavens. No one could come or go without their permission, even the souls.
Then there was us, the guardian angels, followed by our loyal servants, the Pastreens. I didn’t know what exactly their duties consisted of, but they were a real pain in our necks; always watching us and laughing at our mistakes. Though sometimes they were really helpful, especially when it came to doing my hair or cleaning my wings.
“So who’s my new baby?” I asked the trainer. We called humans our babies, because we felt like their nannies that were always there for them, no matter how bad or good they really were.
“Why don’t you open the file?” Bert winked at me. Oh, no…it was a sign of bad news.
Alan Rosenford,” I read the name, written on the file’s cover. “Who is he?”
“Just don’t tell me you’ve never heard about him! How long have you been working in New York…for two years? And you’ve never heard about Alan Rosenford?”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I haven’t.”
“Well, this is probably for the best.” Bert smirked and vanished. Literally.
Angels always appeared out of nowhere and disappeared as abruptly. But I hated when Bert did that. He never answered my questions, and he always left without saying good-bye. Not that it was the only unpleasant thing about my life. Nothing about it was normal actually.
Sometimes it felt like my life was an endless cascade of ups and downs. I could fly and I could walk; I could save and I could destroy. Heaven was my home, and the days I spent there couldn’t be compared with anything else; they were special.
But there were also days that I had to spend walking down the roads of sinful earth. Everything about them was even and painfully predictable.
Unlike those humans I guard, I don’t need to count seconds; I have a whole eternity to live. I don’t need sleep or food, though cakes and ice-cream are my weaknesses and the best things about my perfect life.
 I don’t have a family, and I never had one. I was created by the heavens. I don’t have friends, but I do have enemies. And all of them are demons — soulless, cruel creatures that make people do things they will have to spend forever in hell for.
My job is to protect humans from demons, making their lives better and happier. Funny enough, I’m the unhappiest creature in the world. It feels like my happiness is always near, and too far away at the same time.
There are things that I will probably never be able to understand. I don’t know what love means. It always felt like something mysterious and too unreal. But unlike humans, I can live perfectly well without it. As well as without boys, parties and other essential attributes of every girl’s life.
But there is one thing that I can’t live a single day without. My wings. They are my faith and an essential part of me. I can’t show them to humans, and every time I let them see me, they think I’m just a girl in my early twenties. Too bad no human girl knows how to cross the distance between two places in seconds.

I closed my eyes and imagined myself standing in the middle of my sky-blue living room. I liked the color. It reminded me of my true home and the sky that I liked gazing at so much.
I had a two-bedroom apartment not far away from Central Park. I didn’t have much time to spend there, but there were times, like today, when I wasn’t on duty. My last assignment, a five-year-old Annabel Walders left for a few days to visit her grandparents, but I couldn’t leave New York, so she was guarded by one of the local angels of Washington.
It was supposed to be a free weekend: no work, no demons; only freedom and me. Yeah, too good to be true….

I looked back at the files I was still holding in my hands. I never read people’s files. I liked making my own opinion about them. No matter how bad or perfect they were, the only thing I cared about were their souls. And even a criminal’s soul can be pure. Because when people kill or lie it means that demons win. It also means that angels lose. And we lose only if we don’t take our duties seriously. Usually it leads to becoming Pastreens. Or fallen. Both variants close the doors to the heavens and leave us wandering around the earth forever. And no matter how heavy the sin we commit is, we always want to be forgiven and returned to the heavens.
Speaking of sins….
“Nolan, what are you doing here?” I asked the fallen angel, standing behind me.
“Good to see you too, Claire.” He smiled, taking a seat on my couch. The guy didn’t need my permission to make himself at home.
Nolan was the only fallen who never wanted to be forgiven. At least that was what he was saying every time I asked him about his life. He liked living among humans. Though I never asked him about the rule he broke to be kicked out of the heavens.
“I heard about your new assignment,” he said, turning on the TV set.
“Why do you even care?” I crossed my arms, watching him curiously. I didn’t understand why Nolan liked spending time with me. My life was a picture of everything he couldn’t have.
“Because we are best friends. And friends always care about each other.”
I rolled my eyes. “We are far from being friends, Nolan. Let alone best friends. You are stalking me. This is how it calls.”
“Whatever you call it, the fact remains — I’m here, and I want to know how you feel about being Alan’s new babysitter.” He smiled again, and I desperately wanted to slap him in the face. God, forgive me.
“What is wrong with the guy that everyone is so worried about me guarding him?”
“Nothing’s wrong. He’s a good guy actually. He likes drinking, smoking, girls, and car racing.”
“Sounds like a typical description of a good guy.”
“Sarcasm doesn’t fit your pretty face, my angel. And Alan is a good guy. You will see.”
“Can’t wait,” I muttered, heading for the kitchen to get a piece of a strawberry pie I made earlier today.
“How can you think about food when your human is dying?” Nolan shouted after me.
I stopped and turned around, barely breathing. “What did you say?”
“Alan Rosenford was taken to the St. Mary’s hospital about an hour ago. He kissed a tree with a bumper of his new car.”
No more details were needed. I closed my eyes and sank into the red vortex of a bittersweet smoke that took me straight to the hospital ward.

The moment I opened my eyes the smell of drugs hit my nostrils. I hated hospitals. To me they always looked overcrowded. Hundreds of lost souls, whose physical bodies died and were not allowed to ascend to the heavens, were flying everywhere, making people shiver and shrink from the pure cold they consisted of. Humans didn’t see them, but I did.  And they did see me.
“He doesn’t look good,” Nolan said, coming closer to the bed where a guy in his mid twenties was sleeping. He was on a drip; about a dozen multicolored cables went from his body to the monitors on his left.
“I’m sure you wouldn’t look any better being him,” I said, examining the numerous bruises and scratches on the guy’s body. “How bad was the crash?”
“The boy will need a new car. But I don’t think he cares about a few more scars. It’s not his first accident.”
“You said he’s a car racer, right? How often does he get into accidents?”
“Every week or so.”
“Does he even care about his life?” I didn’t like people who risked their lives just to get an adrenaline rush. It meant their souls were hurt. And they didn’t want to do anything to heal them. Stupid humans…they didn’t know that losing a soul meant becoming demons.
“You didn’t read his file, did you?” Nolan chuckled at his own words. He knew I didn’t. “You should probably start reading files, Claire. It would save you plenty of time.”
“Thanks for the advice, Nolan. Maybe one day I will follow it.”
I took Alan’s hand in mine and tried to feel his soul. I was good at feeling souls. Not every angel could do that. It was one of my angelic powers that I had been trying to perfect every day, for the last seven centuries of my existence. And with every passing day I could tell more and more about the souls I was guarding.
“He is a good person,” I said, knowing that Nolan was still there with us. Every time I tried to feel someone’s soul, it felt like sinking into the depths of multicolored oceans, where every single word, action and thought had its own shade.
“I told you,” he said, and I smiled; my best friend liked being right.
I let go of Alan’s hand and breathed a sigh of relief. Guarding good people was always easier. Demons couldn’t get to their souls, and fighting them was as simple as anything.
I was good at fighting demons. They didn’t stand a chance with me. Especially when I was guarding children. They were like little angels to me, and I always felt sorry for the couples that couldn’t have them. It felt like the worst curse ever.
My new assignment wasn’t a child anymore, but something about him wasn’t right. His soul was too fragile and sensitive. Not a regular picture of a man’s soul. Maybe I should have read his file after all?…
“Hey…Claire, you okay?” Nolan asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I replied absently, still watching the guy on the bed. “How old is he?”
“Will turn twenty-five next week.”
Even with the dark-purple bruises all over his face and a swollen lip Alan looked much younger than his real age. I couldn’t say the same about his soul. If I didn’t know it belonged to him, I would say it was a soul of an eighty-year-old man. Suddenly I wanted to know what happened to make him get old too soon.
“Read the file, Claire,” Nolan said, as if reading my mind. “I need to go now, but if you need anything, call me, okay?”
I nodded and the fallen angel disappeared. He was always saying the same thing, “Call me, if you need me.” And we both knew that he would never be able to help me if I actually needed help. We played for different teams.

Copyright @ 2013, Diana Nixon

Cover Design by Jennifer Wieland
(J.M. Rising Horse Creations)

OTHER BOOKS  by Diana Nixon:
Love Lines Series (YA/paranormal)

Hate at First Sight (A contemporary romance)

About the author:
Diana Nixon is a poet and the author of fantasy and contemporary romances.
She was born in Minsk, Belarus, where she currently lives. In 2008 she graduated from Belorussian state University. She has a Master of Law degree and speaks several foreign languages, including English, Polish and Spanish.
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