Thursday, 31 January 2013

Think Out Loud

Time once again for Think Out Loud, an awesome weekly meme hosted by Thinks Books. Think Out Loud is a meme where bloggers can post about any topic they like. And so, this week I am posting a clip from The Simpsons. The reason is pretty simple. The clip is funny and I need some cheering up ...

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Literary Quotes

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Catholic.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

~ Martin Niemöller

Friday, 25 January 2013

Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop

I'm taking part in the Australia Day Book Giveaway Hop, which is being hosted by the very awesome Book'd Out and Confessions from Romaholics. Up for grabs are autographed copies of my novels Being Abigail and Best Forgotten. Both novels are, of course, completely brilliant (or maybe I'm just biased). You can enter the competition via the rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Review: The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata

The moment that I read the summery for The Rainbow Troops on Netgalley, I knew that I just had to request a review copy of this one. And why not? Since its publication in 2004, The Rainbow Troops has gone on to be the highest selling Indonesian novel of all time, which I think is an absolutely fantastic achievement. Now, in 2013 an English translation is available for the first time, meaning that readers like me now have access to this book for the first time.

The Rainbow Troops tells the story of a group of ten children, all from impoverished backgrounds who attend a small local school. Corrupt officials want to close the school down, but the children and their dedicated teacher Bu Mas who is just fifteen years old when the novel opens, triumph on. Each child has their own talents and story and it is surprising where each of them, particularly the brilliant Lintang end up in later life. The novel is somewhat based on the personal experiences of the author and explores the limited education and options that are available in parts of Indonesia for those with little or no money. I cannot say that I loved this one nearly as much as I would have liked to but it certainly offers an inside view of a country that is not so far from Australia.

PS Adelaide and Australian readers may be interested to know that Andrea Hirata will be one of the guests at Adelaide Writers' Week in March. Click here for more details.

Review Copy: Netgalley.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A New Cover For 1984

Big shout out to an old uni friend of mine for letting me know that Penguin are updating the cover for 1984. The new cover with the (almost) blacked out text is simple, but surprisingly effective. For those of you who don't know, 1984 is one of my favourite novels ... Also had to smile at today's Wizard of Id comic, which in a funny way also reminded me of 1984 ...

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Dot and the Line

I thought I'd share one of my favourite Chuck Jones cartoons, The Dot and the Line. This simple but brilliantly animated tale tells two stories. One that is quite simple in nature and one that is quite complex.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts What do you think the story was about?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Review: The Engagement by Chloe Hooper

I purchased The Engagement some months ago, as it was included as part of the Get Reading! 50 Books You Can't Put Down promotion. It ended up staying on my to-read pile (which is, in reality, a stack of books that sit atop of a white ottoman,) for months. And then I devoured the entire book in an afternoon. 

The Engagement tells the story of Liese, a young British woman who is difficult to like and who, I felt was somewhat impulsive and over-confident. After losing her job as an architect, she has travelled to Australia to work as a real estate agent for her uncle. Stuck in a mountain of debt and wanting to return home, the attractive Liese comes up with an ingenious but utterly repulsive solution. Knowing that one of her Uncle's clients, Alexander, desires her she offers him sex in exchange for money. What seems like a game continues for a while, and the Alexander asks her to stay at his country house for the weekend. Trapped in the middle of nowhere, Liese suddenly discovers that she is no longer in control of the game ...

Not to be mistaken for the numerous Fifty Shades rip-offs that have been published in recent months, The Engagement is a complex and well written psychological thriller. Although she is by means likable and in many ways morally ambiguous, it is not difficult to feel sympathy for the main character, who finds herself trapped in a frightening psychological battle with a brutal and emotionally bankrupt man. By the end of the novel, it is clear that Liese's psychological scars are many and we can only wonder what will become of this poor, confused young woman. Or if she knew what was going on the whole time and was a willing participant. (The final line in the novel is surprisingly ambivalent.)

As previously stated, I read this book over an afternoon and found myself caught up in the frightening adventure. It is by no means a romance and the ending is as cold as readers may expect. I cannot say that I liked the story, but I sure wanted to know what would happen. 

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Think Out Loud

I'm a little late with the Think Out Loud meme this week, but hey, better late than never. Think Out Loud, is weekly meme designed to give book bloggers the opportunity to think outside the square and write about topics other than books. So for this week, I'm going to write about the famous, talented and eccentric artist Salvador Dali.

Although while I was studying art in my upper years of high school I became fascinated with surrealism, particularly the works of Rene Magritte (and the fact that it meant I could just draw random objects on the same page and then claim that it meant something,) Dali more or less passed me by. He probably would have continued to pass me by forever, had it not been for that damn social network that we all know, love and hate called facebook. Basically facebook recommended that I might like the Salvador Dali page and that I should check it out. And well, you know, seeing as I liked some of his contemporaries I thought that I would check it out.

After three weeks of seeing one or two of his pictures on my news feed each day and trying to like them, I have come to a surprising conclusion.

I hate his work.

Seriously. The melting clocks (yeah okay, the piece is actually named The Persistence of Memory and according to this Wikipedia article they were inspired by a surrealist perception of camembert cheese melting in the sun,) annoy me as does having my newsfeed constantly filled with images of people who are broken in one way or another. 

I suspect the truth is probably that I'm not learning about the work of a great artist by a great teacher. Then again, his artwork has sparked a reaction in me, so maybe Dali's work is doing its job ...

These melting clocks were inspired by a surrealist perception of Camembert
Cheese melting in the sun. Either that, or Dali was having a good laugh at his critics.

Review: Seduction by Kate Forster

Seduction is the perfect lighthearted, escapist read. Although I rarely read books of this type, something about the blurb, introducing me to an out of work Australian actress who was living in London, drew me in. I'm glad it did. As it turns out, Seduction tells the story of a variety of quirky characters, all of whom are unhappy and want something more out of life. There is the leading lady, the annoying and selfish Willow Carruthers, whose marriage has just broken up and who seems to have an endless capacity to ignore reality (i.e. spending more money than she earns, refusing to admit that her son may have learning difficulties). We are then introduced to her young nanny, Kitty, who suffers from a low self-esteem and is hiding from a surprising problem of her own. From there, we discover that Willow is about to be evicted, but Kitty has a surprising solution. She is the joint owner of a large, unkempt country house so they can live there. They family arrives at the cottage at the same time as Kitty's long lost brother, the introverted Merritt. From there, numerous twists and turns begin as each character begins to rebuild his or her life. 

The novel relies heavily on chance and coincidence (for example at one point, the PR agent that Willow jilted is revealed to be Merritt's ex-wife, whose current husband just happens to be the man who took Kitty's virginity and who eventually leaves her for the woman who Willow's husband had just had an affair and they all argue inside Merritt and Kitty's kitchen,) but the journey and conclusion make for fun light reading. I found myself warming to the characters more as the story went on, particularly to Willow and to Kitty's love interest, Ivo. I love the descriptions of Middlemist, but thought that more could have been done with the mystery surrounding the paintings.

A good read for a lazy summer afternoon.

Review Copy provided by Penguin Books Australia via Netgally.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Feature Follow Friday

Time once again for Feature and Follow Friday, an awesome weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read designed to help like-minded bloggers connect. This week's all-important question is:

Who is your favorite villain from a book?

This was a difficult choice for me, but one villain clearly stands head and shoulders above the rest. Who could possibly ignore that dreadful, disgusting Lyman from the early Garfield comics, whose biggest claim to fame is being the original owner of Odie and who allowed Garfield to shed orange hairs on his white disco suit.

Lyman. Ugh. Who lets a bossy tabby shed hair
on his white disco suit. 

In all seriousness, I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of my favourite villain. Maybe this is because no one compares to my favourite television villain, Mr Burns from the Simpsons. 

Help me out here. Tell me your favourite literary villain and why. And don't forget to add links.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Happy 200th Anniversary Pride and Prejudice

Who would have thought ... 200 years have passed since Jane Austen's most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice was first published in the United Kingdom. Opening with the immortal line, It is a truth, universally acknowledged that any man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, the novel goes on to tell the tale of the unlikely romance between the middle-class and outspoken Elizabeth Bennett and the stoic upper-class Mr Darcy, while poking gently fun at British society along the way. It is a story that has inspired many film and television adaptions (including the truly awful 1940 version starring Greer Garson,) and numerous rip-offs, most notably Bridget Jones's Diary, which in turn has inspired film adaptions and many rip-offs. Pride and Prejudice was Austen's second published novel, her first was the slightly less mature (but no less enjoyable,) Sense and Sensibility.

Austen would go on to publish two more novels in her lifetime, Mansfield Park and Emma, each one equally brilliant though in a different way. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published in the year following Austen's death. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Review: Gabriel's Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

To be honest, I would really like to review Gabriel's Inferno without making comparisons to a certain other title that belongs to the same genre. However, this has proven to be a somewhat difficult task as, on the surface at least, the similarities are many. Both novels tell the highly unbelievable story of a young virgin who falls hopelessly in love with incredibly wealthy men with dark pasts and kinky sexual fetishes. Both novels were originally published in niche markets before the worldwide rights were picked up by major publishing houses. Both started out as Twilight fanfictions. (Gabriel's Inferno started out as a Twilight fanfiction titled The University of Edward Masson.) Both authors use pseudonyms. Fortunately, however, this is one difference that sets Gabriel's Inferno apart from it's companion. While the tale may be highly unbelievable and, at times, misogynistic, the book itself is well written, decently researched and tells a much sweeter romantic tale, often drawing on elements of Dante's Divine Comedy in the process. The author is also very probably male, rather than female.

Gabriel's Inferno tells the story of Julia, a young woman struggling to come to terms with her past, who falls in love with her university professor, the tortured Gabriel, who has a dark past of his own. It's not difficult to see what happens thereafter, but the journey is enjoyable enough. The story is of the development of Julia and Gabriel's romance and how it changes them as people. The sexual element of the novel is incredibly well drawn, with no scene done purely for show or shock value. I would recommend this one for anyone who feels like reading a decently written (though not always believable) romance. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Garfield: Things People Would Rather Have Than Money

I was trawling the net earlier for hair salons (of all things) when I suddenly thought of this brilliant Garfield comic from the late 1980s. (Back in the days when Garfield was, arguably, far sharper than its current form.) Basically, Jon comes home with an awful looking hat and is happily showing it off and Garfield points out with his usual thought-bubble sarcasm that he is amazed at what people will happily exchange for money. Which is precisely how I felt when looking at the prices and services offered by several Adelaide-based hair salons. That's not to say that I thought any of the haircuts were ugly, tacky or in any way comparable to Jon's hat, just that I'm unwilling to part with that much money for a hair cut and it surprises me that other people do, probably on a regular basis. 

Yes, I'm aware that some of these are owned and run by people who are at the top of their field and are very selective about who they employ. I also imagine that they would treat me quite well if I should ever visit their salon. If I were considering a career in film or television (God forbid,) or if my hair had been damaged to the point where I was reluctant to leave the house without a paper bag on my head, then I would probably consider it worth my while paying an excess of seventy dollars to have my long, brown locks trimmed. But the fact is, I have no desire to appear on television and my hair is in good condition. And to be honest, I'm just not that well, vain about it.

Fashion is fashion and for me, fashion in its most pure form is rather low on my list of priorities. I do not need the latest hair cut and colour to feel that I am a worthy or attractive person. On the other hand, I do not look down on anyone else who chooses to follow and enjoy fashion--for some fashion is to them what books and writing are to me. It is a kind of art. It is just not one that I choose to follow.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Spiritual Wisdom Magazine first edition Video Trailer

Check it out. Not only is Spiritual Wisdom Magazine an awesome new publication that will be launched on January 21, but guess who is their official book reviewer? I will be penning the aptly titled White Feather Book Review Column and my first review will be of I'm a Believer by Jessica Adams. Really happy to be a part of this one ...

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Think Out Loud

Time again for Think Out Loud, a fantastic weekly meme hosted by Thinks Books that encourages book bloggers to think outside the square and post about any subject they please. This week, I'm going to post a small tribute to Marie Curie, a Polish born physicist who became the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Curie's work is among the most important of the twentieth century, thanks to her discovery of two elements, polonium and radium. In later years, she founded the Marie Curie institute, which still operates today and conducts medical research. Marie Curie died of radiation poisoning in 1943.

Marie Curie

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Off Topic: Not Asking For It

Just had to share this photograph, which came up on my facebook newsfeed mid-yesterday (and yeah, I totally stole,) because I think it makes a valid point. Clothing does not dictate whether or not is acceptable to sexually harass or sexually assault another person. The blame for sexual assault should never be put back on the victim--it is the perpetrator who made a choice to do so. 

But all of that is overlooking one important fact anyway. Sexual assault and sexual harassment isn't about sexual desire. It is about holding power over another person. What I love about this picture is that the woman in it is no doormat. She's turning and pointing the finger straight where it belongs. With the perpetrators of sexual assault. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Review: Melody Burning by Whitley Strieber

After thoroughly enjoying Girl, Stolen, a YA novel that had been on my to-read pile for practically forever, I decided to take another look at Melody Burning, another YA novel that has been waiting patiently on my to-read pile for the best part of a year. The result was, well ... perhaps a bit of a let down.

Melody Burning tells the story of a pair of unlikely lovers. Beresford is a teenager who has grown up living in the chutes and crawl spaces of a large high rise in LA. Melody is the latest teen rock sensation. Beresford watches Melody sleep every night and has convinced himself that he is in love with her. Melody finds him watching, discovers how much he cares and falls in love with him. Oh and there's an assassin that wants Beresford out of the way and Melody's stage mother doesn't want him around either. The owner of the high rise is going to set fire to the building and claim the insurance money. And that's about it, really. An unbelievable plot comes to an unbelievable climax and then it all ends. Not my cup of tea, but it might be fun light reading for those willing to suspend their disbelief.

Feature and Follow Friday

Time once again for Feature and Follow Friday, an awesome weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read designed to help like minded book bloggers connect. This week's all-important question is:

Q: What New Years Blogging or Writing resolution have you placed on yourself?

Hmm, you know, I had lots of different ideas. For a while there, I was considering changing my blog wallpaper to a series of pictures of the boys from One Direction, you know, because all the kids seem to be doing it, but then I realised that I have absolutely no idea who One Direction actually is or what their music sounds like, owing to the fact that I don't listen to much commercial radio, or watch much commercial television. (Though I have been informed that just mentioning their name on my blog will guarantee me thousands of hits.)

Seriously, my New Years Blogging resolution is just to keep trying different things and to keep having a lot of fun with it. I like the eclectic, slightly artsy feel that my blog has at the moment and have no plans to change.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Review: The Girl in the Hard Hat by Loretta Hill

Loretta Hill's novel The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots was such a fun, romantic read that it is no wonder that she wrote a sequel. In The Girl in the Hard Hat, readers are reunited with the Pilbara albeit with a new heroine. Wendy Hopkins is a woman with a mission. Not only is she the new safety officer at the somewhat complacent Barnes Inc, but she has come to the Pilbara in the hope of finding the father who abandoned her at birth. Considering that she has only a first name to go buy, and the one family member who could help (her Uncle Mike, yes the same bitter Mike Hopkins who appeared in The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots,) keeps telling her to leave it alone, Wendy isn't poised for much success. There is false hope, followed by a surprising revelation. Meanwhile, many of the other characters from The Girl in Steel-Capped boots are back. Readers get to learn what becomes of Lena and Bulldog's romance as well as seeing a new side to resident larrikin Gavin Jones, who makes a fitting hero.

The Girl in the Hard Hat is a fun and entertaining sequel. I thoroughly enjoyed reacquainting myself with some much-liked characters. I did feel that the book was a bit rushed in places--although the surprise was very funny, I would have liked to have seen Chub and Anabelle's romance develop, or at least a stronger hint that romance could develop between the unlikely but fitting pair. Other than that, lots of fun.

Source: Review Copy provided by Netgalley.