Sunday, 31 March 2013

Review: Bared to You by Slyvia Day

A review on the back cover of Bared to You notes that this is the book that Fifty Shades of Grey could have been and in many respects I have to agree. The parallels between the two novels are many, though Bared to You is (slightly) more sophisticated than its more famous counterpart. Originally self-published in early 2012, Bared to You pretty much hightailed it to the waiting arms of a traditional publisher and the best seller charts thanks to the success of its more famous counterpart.

Bared to You tells the story of two wealthy and emotionally damaged people who meet. Eva Trammel is a wealthy university graduate who moves to New York to escape her interfering mother and the memories of her childhood. Gideon Cross is a billionaire who has some terrible childhood secrets of his own. The pair meet outside Gideon's building, an 'instant' sexual attraction is felt and an unhealthy, obsessive relationship with each other begins. At least this time around, the author seems to have some awareness that the leads characters do not necessarily bring out the best in one another. Still, some of the novels more obsessive moments made my stomach churn a little (such as Gideon building an exact replica of Eva's bedroom so that she would feel more 'at home' when she came to visit him,) as did the fact that the Gideon seemed to have a constant erection throughout the novel. 

There are a lot of heated sex scenes that are well written in comparison to other novels of this type (Day is the author of numerous erotic novels, most of which have now been picked up by traditional publishers,) and all of the characters seem to be reasonably well-rounded. In particular I enjoyed reading about Eva's flatmate and his sexual exploits that always end badly.

Bared to You isn't a perfect book and I think the ending could have been done a lot better, but the story and its telling is enjoyable enough.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Noughties Nostalgia: The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic

Wow. Who would have thought this book is now old enough to count as nostalgia? Since its release in 2000, The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (published as Confessions of a Shopaholic in the United States and Canada,) has gone on to spawn an entire series of novels and a somewhat lackluster film that has little in common with the book. (Well, apart from the lead character's name and spending habits.)

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic was the first novel to be penned by UK author Madeleine Wickham under her pseudonym Sophie Kinsella and told the story of Becky Bloomwood a university graduate who, despite working for a financial magazine, was unable to control her spending habits. Much of the comedy revolved around Becky's compulsion for shopping and her inability to pay off her debts. Each chapter of the novel began with a letter from Becky to her bank, explaining why she was unable to pay back the money owed. As the novel wore on, Becky's attempts at alternately saving money and making more money often went hilariously awry (at one point she lies on a job resume, claiming that she can speak Finnish, at another she pins all her hopes on winning the lottery,) until she faces up to the fact that she needs to control her spending habits. And then there is a great subplot between her and her potential love interest, the sometimes-snooty Luke Brandon who runs a PR company. The magic of the book lay in the way the author alternated between reality and the absurd. Becky, her family and friends seemed very normal, while their situations were quite absurd--they were things that could happen to someone that you know, but probably wouldn't. As for Luke Brandon, well we know that in real life, a self-made PR man with above average looks is going to most likely be a complete douche bag who wouldn't have time for an outlandish girl from a lower-middle class background. The fact that he does not fit this stereotype and is a good person makes us like him.

Madeleine Wickham has gone on to write several more Shopaholic novels--Shopaholic Abroad, Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic and Sister, Shopaholic and Baby and Mini Shopaholic, as well as several other novels using her now-famous pseudonym--Can You Keep a Secret, the Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me, Twenties Girl, I've Got Your Number and the soon-to-be-released Wedding Night. 

Friday, 29 March 2013

Feature Follow Friday + Giveaway

Time once again for Feature and Follow Friday, that awesome weekly meme hosted by those stars of the book blogosphere Parajunkee and Alison Can Read . This week's question is:

Q: Tell us about the most emotional scene you’ve ever read in a book – and how did you react?

Probably when Beth dies toward the end of Good Wives (published as the second volume of Little Women in the US and Canada). But if I can have a second choice, it would probably be the moment in Anne of Green Gables where Anne discovers that Marilla and Matthew had never intended to adopt her and that they had wanted a boy instead. It sounds silly, but I felt so sorry for her, after she had her hopes up thinking that she was going to have a home and a family of her own, discovering that she was unwanted after all. Of course, Marilla eventually changes her mind ...

Anyway, in happier news, this week I've got a signed copy of my novella Best Forgotten to give away to one lucky reader. (It has the old black and white cover, but otherwise is all good.) You can enter via the rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Review: A Ring Through Time by Felicity Pulman

Okay, I have a confession to make. I choose this book from Netgalley based purely on where the book was set. What I got was an intriguing ghost story, tale of Norfolk Island history and a moral on how sometimes people can twist history to suit themselves.

A Ring Through Time tells the story of Alice 'Allie' Bennett a sixteen-year-old only child who has moved to Norfolk Island with her parents. For her Dad it is a chance to find out more about his family history, as one of their direct ancestors was a governor of Norfolk Island. For Alice, it is a chance to start afresh after a traumatic experience. Alice finds fitting in with the local kids difficult at first and even more so when she begins to see ghosts. At least she has made one friend, Noah O'Brien. Then Alice makes the mistake of mentioning her family history at school. Her ancestor, it turns out, were considered to be the most brutal ruler on the island and responsible for the death of one of Noah's direct ancestors, who was a political prisoner and sent to the island as a convict. And then Alice discovers a diary, which tells her real family history ...

I found A Ring Through Time to be a fascinating young adult novel and an interesting account of how sometimes we don't always interpret history right. Both the Bennett's and O'Briens have their family legends, all of which paint their side as heroic and the other as the aggressor. The subplot about Allie and her relationship with her friends back in Sydney was a little distracting and there were a few other minor irritations (I find it surprising that a sixteen-year-old only child with no real interest in children would be asked to babysit an infant,) but overall this was an interesting read.

Review Copy: Publisher/Netgalley

The Peanuts Gang and Unrequited Love

As all Peanuts fans will know, unrequited love is one many recurring themes of the comic. The most famous recurring storyline has Charlie Brown all hung up on the Little Red Haired Girl, a girl who we never see and whose name remains unknown. Other characters have their own unrequited loves. Lucy has Schroeder, Sally Brown has Linus and just to make the comic complete, Peppermint Patty has a crush on Charlie Brown. Each of these stories are usually handled individually and very much in keeping with the characters. The crabby and headstrong Lucy for example, continues to pursue Schroeder despite the fact that he has told her repeatedly that he is not interested. A typical Schroeder/Lucy interaction works like this:

Sally and Linus are slightly younger than some of the other characters and this is reflected in their interactions. Often Sally will pursue a reluctant Linus, not getting the hint until he finally blows up and yells at her. And a typical Sally Brown response? Deny all knowledge and yell back:

From a personal perspective I find the Charlie Brown/Little Red Haired Girl and the Peppermint Patty/Charlie Brown stories to be the most realistic and, consequently, the most fun. The Little Red Haired Girl first appeared in the comic in November 1961. She attends the same school as Charlie Brown, but is never seen in the strip. Instead, the reader is treated to Charlie Brown's love at first site reaction and close to forty years worth of comics, where his budding romance with her remains completely in his mind. In Charlie Brown's own words, 'She's really something and I'm nothing."

As Charlie Brown's relationship with the Little Red Haired Girl is all in the mind, he is free to imagine all kinds of things about her and usually does. Her spurning of him is completely in his own mind, as can be observed in this comic from 1963:

Of course, we know that the Little Red Haired Girl isn't going to spurn Charlie Brown. She won't, because it is unlikely that she even knows he exists.

On Valentine's Day, Charlie Brown usually has the same heartbreaking fantasy that everybody who is suffering from unrequited love has at some point or another. He imagines (or perhaps hopes,) that the Little Red Haired Girl will send him a Valentine's Day card and then he won't have to make a move and risk rejection. Of course, it all goes wrong:

If anything, at least Charlie Brown can take some comfort in the fact that the Little Red Haired Girl's rejection comes from the fact that she is unaware that she exists. She has never rejected him outright, Charlie Brown simply imagines that, if given the chance, she would. Equally amusing is the fact that Charlie Brown himself is the object of unrequited love from another character Peppermint Patty:

Peppermint Patty's crush on Charlie Brown, or Chuck as she knows him, is made more complicated by the fact that she not only denies it--to both herself and others--but that she projects her own feelings on Charlie Brown:

Poor Peppermint Patty. She is the one lying in bed, unable to sleep, while Charlie Brown snoozes away peacefully. (Actually she reminds me all of the hopeful young women who write to advice sites asking, Does he like me? when it is obvious that the writer is the one with the crush.) Amusingly, I've been in this situation myself, to the point where I eventually typed out an email to a trusted friend, asking what the hell was up with this somewhat unpleasant guy that I knew. She promptly wrote back, stating Kathryn has the hots for Christian Grey! (I can laugh about it now, but at the time ...)

Meanwhile, Charlie Brown handles Peppermint Patty's crush with a surprising amount of maturity, as compared to the way that Schroeder and Linus handle being the object of unwanted affection. Perhaps because of his feelings for the Little Red Haired Girl, Charlie Brown is able to feel some empathy for Peppermint Patty. This as anyone who has been in his situation knows, is a very difficult thing to do. (Read this article on unrequited love--it's one of the few that details the feelings of guilt and frustration the target of infatuation can feel.) In any case, the fact that Charlie Brown remains respectful of Peppermint Patty and lets her down gently by ignoring her advances yet still offering friendship is probably one of his most redeeming characteristics. And perhaps this was also the most sensible option. As the comics wore on, Peppermint Patty's crush slowly faded. The other characters continued on with their crushes ...

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Review: The Day We Had Hitler Home by Rodney Hall

I first encountered this one more than ten years ago, when it formed part of the book list for an Australian Literature class I was taking at university. The concept is as brilliant as it is memorable. What if, at the conclusion of World War One, a young Adolf Hitler (who was temporarily blind due to injuries,) stepped on the wrong boat and eventually found himself in New South Wales? What follows is not only the story of how a solidier (who may or may not have been Hitler, Hall never quite lets on,) is quietly returned to Germany by the Australian family who finds him, but also a coming of age tale and a study on the many complex elements that would eventually give rise to World War Two. The prose is a little highbrow and there are a number of subtleties that can be easily missed, but it is still an interesting musing on an important time in history--Germany in the period between the two world wars. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

1980s Nostalgia: Marcie

After writing a piece on Peppermint Patty last week it occurred to me that no comic character worthy of his or the position in the funnies pages goes without some kind of companion. Garfield has Odie, Dagwood has Blondie, hell even April from For Better or For Worse had the annoying and spoiled Becky. In the comic world, a companion is often an extreme opposite to the star in some way. For example, Odie is as loyal and dumb as Garfield is smart and malevolent. In the Peanuts world, we have Lucy Van Pelt to offset Charlie Brown and (to a lesser extent,) the pairing of sweet Linus Van Pelt and somewhat self-serving Sally Brown. 

And Peppermint Patty has Marcie.

Marcie (whose surname is never revealed in the comics but was cited as Johnson in TV special,) is intelligent and rigid in the way that she processes information. She is the only character to wear glasses (her eyes can never be seen,) and has little interest in or understanding of sports. She and Peppermint Patty initially get off on the wrong foot when they meet at summer camp, with Marcie referring to Peppermint Patty as "Sir" (a dig at Peppermint Patty's tomboyishness,) while Peppermint Patty refers to Marcie as a "dorky kid". Later, the pair meet again when Marcie transfers to Peppermint Patty's school, much to the disgust of each other.

Over time, the pair slowly become friends. Marcie's calling Peppermint Patty "Sir" slowly becomes more affectionate, and Marcie is often the one who tries to talk sense into the often idealistic Peppermint Patty. The pairing is an interesting one as both are wholly good characters, and the comedy often comes from them trying to help one another, rather than from a mean-spirited place. Still Marcie remains a supporting character in the comic strip to Peppermint Patty and, in later years, to Snoopy when he takes on the part of the Red Barron. 

And, finally, don't ask me why, but for some reason I've always imagined that when Marcie grows up that she will become a cop or work in some form of law enforcement.

PS Bonus question. Who is your favourite Peanuts character and why?

Monday, 25 March 2013

Harry Potter vs Twilight

I was surfing Yahoo! Answers today (good old Y!A remains one of my favourite time wasters, though I have far less time for it now than in days gone by,) when I came across a question that basically resurrected the whole Twilight vs Harry Potter debate. Now that some time and distance has passed since I have read both books, I was able to provide a fair answer. I liked it so much, I thought I would duplicate it here: 

[W]hen Twilight first became popular, a lot of misguided people in the media dubbed it as, "the next Harry Potter." This was due to the fact that the books had a large teenage fan base. As I said, this was misguided, as 1, Harry Potter was popular with people of all ages, whereas Twilight appealed mostly to early teens and female twenty-somethings and 2, The content and quality of writing were quite different. Harry Potter fans were, naturally, annoyed to see what they felt was "their" book being constantly likened to something that was quite different and in many ways, cheaper in nature. 

So they rebelled, pointing out the many differences. (This was later done in spectacular style by Stephen King. I wont repeat his famous quote here.) 

The most vocal of the Twilight fans, fought back, with claims that often proved their lack of knowledge about books. To many of them, Twilight was a good book simply because it was the first "adult" book that they had been able to properly understand. Of course it is going to seem like a good book, when they have nothing to compare it to! Also, Twilight stirred up feelings of security--in Edward, Bella has a father figure who can "care" for her and offer her the promise of eternal youth. It's a vast difference from Harry Potter, who must, ultimately, face his destiny alone. 

I think yours is a story that we'll see a lot of in years to come, where people start out with books like Twilight and then progress naturally to things that are better written and have a broader appeal, once they become better read and more knowledgeable.

A good answer? What do you think? Where do you sit on the Harry Potter vs Twilight debate?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

What's Wrong With V.C. Andrews?

Now, lets get one thing straight. I am a big fan of V.C. Andrews. Huge. In fact, I can still remember the day my teenage self found of a copy of My Sweet Audrina in my high school library and not only read, but devoured the book in the space of a few days, much to the ire of my English teacher Ms Richards. Hell, this was even the famous book that I got caught reading under the desk in the old CBHS "focus room". (Other high schools had Withdrawal Rooms. We had a Focus Room. Same as we had "Pastoral Care" first thing in the morning, the two campuses were known as the East and the West with the train line serving as a pseudo Berlin wall and when we addressed our principal as Mr Cock we were not, in fact, being rude or swearing. But I digress ...) Anyway, over the next three and a bit years I would devour all of the titles written by the original author (who was always known as Virginia Andrews in Australia and her books were published by HarperCollins UK,) and the early titles written by ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman (which were always published under the name of V.C. Andrews by Simon & Schuster Australia and contained a note in the front by the V.C. Andrews trust explaining that these were new books written by someone else. Simon & Schuster Australia stopped publishing a unique Australian edition after the release of the Early Spring series and since then, have imported the English edition.) Happily I read the Dollanganger, Casteel, Cutler, Landry and first four volumes of the Logan sagas.

And then the Orphans mini-series was released.

It was June, 1998. This was around the time I was enjoying the new Garbage album Version 2.0 (I'd been converted after seeing an absolutely brilliant clip for one of their songs on Rage,) and studying the work of Rene Margritte in my art class. I was studying Shakespeare Sonnets in my advanced English class. A close friend (who I had gone right through school with,) was suffering cancer, my friend Hayley had moved away and I was ... well, frankly I was a bit of a pain in the arse to be around in those days. Anyway, I'm digressing again. A new V.C. Andrews series had debuted. And I was not happy. I knew the difference between Literature and popular fiction. And until then I had always considered V.C. Andrews to be good popular fiction.

You know, whoever designed the covers for those books really ought to have actually read the content. Especially when they repeated the same style covers for the far darker and adult-themed Wildflowers series a year later. The covers for the Orphans books were not only bright and colourful, but, and here was the big error on the part of Simon and Schuster, numbered. That's right. Butterfly had a nice big #1 on it, Crystal #2, Brooke #3 and Raven #4. The blurbs described the story in very simple terms and the characters as young, vulnerable children.

To me, the books just looked childish and silly. It wasn't until about two years ago that I actually picked them up and read them again, along with the final book in the series, that the whole thing made sense. It was, in fact, a mini-series, much like some of the work that other authors such as Stephen King had put out in roughly the same era. But anyway, with the release of the Orphans series, it was obvious that something had changed. The magic was gone.

Over the next few years, the Logan series would be completed with Olivia (originally to have been titled Muted Voices,) and two more mini-series The Wildflowers (arguably the best of the three mini-series,) and Shooting Stars (so dull it makes The Orphans look good,) and two more family sagas, The four volume Hudson series and five and a half volume De Beers series. (I say five and a half, because one of the volumes in the series was a short novella titled Dark Seed that was originally published as an eBook and is now included with copies of Hidden Leaves.) From then on, all new V.C. Andrews releases would either be two or three book series or stand alone novels. And therein lies one of the problems with the books. The second problem is several recurring themes, which I will address below:

1. The Douche Bag Boyfriend.

It seems that every modern V.C. Andrews heroine will, at some point, be courted by some horny little bastard from a rich family whose objective is wholly and solely to use her for sexual purposes. Once spurned, the horny little bastards interest usually turns into a full scale obsession that sometimes results in rape (ie Phillip Cutler, The Cutler Saga) or an obsessive love from afar (Adam Jackson The Logan Saga). Occasionally, the character just spreads a few rumours and fades into the background, such as in Secrets in the Attic or Forbidden Sister.  Occasionally, characters such as Rain Arnold or Willow DeBeers do fall for the charms of the horny bastard, but I'm scratching my head to understand why.

The novels by the original V.C. Andrews contained no such characters, though often the heroine would be courted by a complex and often weak male, such as the appropriately named Arden Lowe from My Sweet Audrina or Logan Stonewall from the Casteel Saga, who truly loved the heroine but lacked the ability to stand up for her when she needed him the most and also to keep their pants on when the heroine's sister was around. 

It is also worth noting that in the Casteel Saga, fifteen year old Heaven was seduced by a man ten years her senior. However, it is also clear that Cal Dennison's seduction were not merely the actions of a horny teenager, but a calculated, predatory attack by an intelligent adult who could see the heroine's vulnerability. 

2. Rape or Attempted Rape.

Practically every heroine since Dawn is the survivor of rape, attempted rape or some form of molestation. Then again, so too were all of the heroines from the novels by the original author. The big difference is, in the novels by the original author, this was often an important plot point and was dealt with sympathetically. My Sweet Audrina perfectly showcased the lifelong scars that the heroine experienced after the trauma of being gang raped for example. The Casteel series shows how one act of rape affects the lives of three generations of women. (Four if Jillian Tatterton, who was not an innocent victim, thought she would suffer for her actions, is counted.)

With the ghostwritten books, rape or attempted rape seems to be included for little more than shock value and is something that the heroine forgets easily. 

3. Date Rape.

In both Heavenstone Secrets and Family Storms the heroines are drugged by their older or adoptive sisters and raped by a willing accomplice. In Heavenstone Secrets this led to the ultimately bizarre plot twist where the heroine does not realise that she is pregnant until she is seven months gone. In Family Storms we have a stupid but slightly more believable plot twist where the adopted sister wanted to the heroine to fall pregnant in order to humiliate her and have her sent away from the family. Neither adequately address the feelings of betrayal or humiliation that anyone who is the victim of being drugged and raped would go through and is dealt with rather flippantly.

3. Recycled Names.

Okay, I'll forgive any author for giving minor characters the same or similar first names in different books, particularly if those names reflect the time and place of where the novel is set. In the world of V.C. Andrews we have a number of central characters who share the same first name. I've always been slightly unforgiving of the fact that the grandmother in the Logan saga was named Olivia and had a book named after her, when the well-known family matriarch from the Dollanganger saga was Olivia. A more surprising coincidence is that the heroine in the Early Spring series is named Jordan March and so too is the adoptive mother from the Storms series. (And no, they are not the same character.) Another surprising one is the two Jacks that appear in Hidden Jewel. The first Jack, Jack Weller, is a horny bastard who attempts to rape the heroine Pearl. The second Jack, Jack Clovis, is Pearl's love interest. And that's not even mentioning the fact that her great-grandfather was also named Jack and featured in three novels in the saga. Here are a few other characters we've seen with the same or similar names:

Laura Sue Cutler (Cutler) and Laura Logan* (Logan)
Melodie Richarme (Dollanganger) and Melody Logan* (Logan)
Paul Sheffield (Dollanganger) and Paul Tate (Landry)
Cory Dollanganger/Foxworth (Dollanganger) and Cary Logan (Logan)
Cathy Dollanganger/Foxworth/Sheffield* (Dollanganger) and Cathy "Cat" Carson* (the Wildflowers)

*Denote character was the heroine of at least one novel

4. Repetitive Language.

I smile impishly and my eyes become beady every time I read the same, repetitive language in each novel. Granted, some of the more recent releases have tried to address this. 

5. Immature or childish language. 

Hell, what is it with some of these characters? At seventeen years old, they are still calling their parents Mommy or Momma, and Daddy. Who does that? Yes, Cathy Dollanganger/Forworth called her mother Momma, but this was because she was twelve when the novel opened. As an adult, she only does so when she regresses into her childhood, such as at the end of If There be Thorns.

6. Two part series and stand alone instead of family sagas.

According to the official V.C. Andrews facebook page, the family sagas were stopped at the request of bookstores who wanted to cut down on the number of V.C. Andrews releases per year. A more likely scenario is that, due to the declining quality, the books were no longer selling as highly as they used to. 

The problem with this is that the two part and stand alone novels do not always answer questions that were raised in the novels and don't always explain the motives of various characters. The Casteel series brilliantly showcases how the selfish decisions of one couple impact on three generations of women and each has her own story to tell.

* * * 

Obviously, the books still contain enough material to hold my interest--in fact I've made at least some positive comments about the last two releases, Daughter of Light and Forbidden Sister. However, it seems that there are a number of problems with the books that the ghostwriter and publisher are reluctant to address, despite frequent poor reviews of well, practically everything post-Logan saga.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Review: Cora's Heart by Rachael Herron

In recent times, I have read and reviewed a few Australian rural romance novels, but Cora's Heart is the first book in the genre that I have read that is set in America. Cora's Heart is the fourth in an interconnected series of novels (in other words, it can be read as part of a series or as a stand alone novel,) set in Cypress Hollow and features characters who both enjoy knitting and are somehow connected with a lady named Eliza. For me, this was my first visit to Cypress Hollow, so it was read as a stand alone novel.

Cora's Heart was an interesting lightweight romance. It's one of those novels, where the reader knows that everything is going to work out in the end, but what keeps the pages turning is the how. The heroine is Cora, a young widow who often worries about the what-ifs in life. Cora was abandoned by her parents at a young age, grew up in foster homes and had a husband who was somewhat unreliable, though she is reluctant to admit that last part to anyone else, let alone herself. She is even less reluctant to admit her feelings for Mac, her husband's cousin or the kiss that nearly occurred before her wedding.

Much of the drama in the story comes through misfortune, misunderstandings and characters who cannot communicate what they want. It is an enjoyable enough read, though the book is neither groundbreaking or particularly memorable. I liked Mac best of all the characters. Both he and teenage Olivia seemed to be the only main characters who were honest with themselves. Cora came across as a bit annoying and helpless at times and I didn't emphasise with her about her conflicting feelings with Mac as much as I could have. Still, the novel was an enjoyable enough lazy evening read.

Review copy: publisher/netgalley. 

Monday, 18 March 2013

1980s Nostalgia: Peppermint Patty

Today I thought I would pay tribute to another of my favourite characters from Schulz's brilliant Peanuts comic strip, Peppermint Patty. As crazy as it sounds, Peppermint Patty was actually my hero for a little while, when I was about eight or nine years old. (In fact, once at school my teacher, that darned Mrs Pettingill asked us to each draw our self-portrait. I remember all the other boys and girls in the class drawing these beautiful portraits of themselves. I drew a picture of myself looking somewhat like Peppermint Patty. Loyal followers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that this led to a showdown between me and Mrs Pettingill who, as usual, failed to understand my artistic sensibilities. Then again, what did I expect from a primary school teacher who point blank refused to admit salt is sourced from seawater?)

 Looking back, I think what I loved about Peppermint Patty was that she was not a stereotyped little girl. Peppermint Patty was a tomboy, she made mistakes and was often portrayed as being lovably, foolishly human. Unlike Lucy who was crabby, Sally who was pragmatic and Marcie who was a realist, Peppermint Patty was the optimist of the female characters. (Note: by the time Peppermint Patty became a regular character, Violet and Patty had for all intents and purposes left the strip.) Often, this blind optimism could make Peppermint Patty appear quite foolish--for example, for a time she believed that Snoopy was a funny looking kid with a big nose that Charlie Brown knew and refused to accept that Snoopy was a beagle. More worrying is her crush on Charlie Brown, who she knows as "Chuck". Often the character attempts to put words into his mouth and make it appear that he is the one with a crush, however, it is obvious to readers of the comic strip that the reverse is true. Poor Charlie Brown is often left red-faced and will pretend not to understand Peppermint Patty's words. (After all, Charlie Brown's heart lies with the little red haired girl.) However, it is clear though his actions that he does like and, more importantly, respects Peppermint Patty as a friend. 

And my favourite Peppermint Patty moment? Well, that would be where she and Marcie go searching for Charlie Brown and Snoopy who have become lost in a snowstorm. Peppermint Patty has lost her shoes (as only Peppermint Patty could do such a thing during a snowstorm,) but keeps her feet warm with the pages from some old comic books. It seems (and probably is) a dumb thing to do, until it is a trail of old comic book pages that eventually reunites Charlie Brown and Snoopy with Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Together, they are all able to find their way home from the snowstorm. And you sort of get the sense that is the person Peppermint Patty is. She is equal parts loyal, deluded, honest and foolish but in the end she might just make a hero of herself.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Review: Waking Beauty by Elyse Friedman

I first encountered Waking Beauty in 2009 when I recovering from swine flu. Stuck at home with a runny nose and cough that was seemingly never going to end, I picked up this strange little book that had been sitting on my to-read pile for some months. What I got was an odd tale of an physically unattractive young woman with a good personality who one day wakes and discovers that she now has the body of a supermodel. And so she spends the course of the novel trying to get revenge on all of the people who treated her like dirt (including her adoptive mother,) because of her looks, until eventually she tires of the way the general public will lavish attention on her because she is gorgeous. And the moral to the story? Looks do matter. 

The heroine, Allison Penny, is no saint and is difficult to like or feel sorry for. I suspect a low self-esteem is the real cause of most of her problems early on in the novel and it certainly drives her revenge in the chapters that follow. She's more than happy to treat others cruelly if it bolsters her own feelings of self-worth until she's content enough with her own life to stop.

I really don't know whether I loved or hated this novel. In fact, I've just finished re-reading it in order to work out whether I do love or hate it (as my swine flu brain may not be the best judge). And in all honesty, I still don't know if I love or hate Waking Beauty. It is certainly amusing in places--it is fun to  Allison get revenge on her cruel and stuck up housemate. On the other hand, the premise is totally unbelievable. The author never really explains how Allison's apearance could alter so radically or why. Or even why, apart from judging someone on their looks did the supporting characters feel the need to be quite so cruel to Allison to begin with. The supporting characters were a little too selfish and a little too black and white, to give the story any real depth. And some of the language (ie the main character waking to hear her flatmate being "vaginally plumbed" is crude rather than amusing) as is the fact that Allison's first quest once she discovers her new body is to lose her virginity and ends up giving a married construction worker a hand job. (Who then ejaculates on her shoe. Charming, Ms Friedman) 

I get that the whole thing is supposed to be a black comedy and an anti-chick-lit novel, but I still feel like it was either poorly written or that I missed something ...

Monday, 11 March 2013

Review: Forbidden Sister by VC Andrews

The release of a new VC Andrews novel is an exciting time. For diehard fans like me, there is always that tiny spark of hope that finally, this will be the novel that lives up to the legacy created by the original author, despite the number of disappointing releases that have flooded our shelves for the past few years. Capturing Angels, Into the Darkness, Cloudburst, Daughter of Darkness, the two novel Heavenstone series ... 

Fortunately, Forbidden Sister is not another disappointment. Set in New York, Forbidden Sister tells the story of Emmie, a fifteen-year-old from a strict family. Emmie has an older sister, Roxy, who she is forbidden to speak about since her father cast her out of their home. When Emmie learns that Roxy is living nearby and working as a high class call girl she cannot resist learning more about her older sister.

While by no means perfect, I found Forbidden Sister to be one of the most enjoyable V.C. Andrews novels I have read since Into the Garden was released in the late 1990s. For once, the novel contained a female lead I actually cared about, instead of simply wondering how she could be so stupid over and over. Of course, there were plenty of flaws--the deaths of each of the Wilcox parents seemed to be a bit too convenient for the plot and I would have liked to have seen some conflict or some kind of meeting between Roxy and her father before he died--just as I would have liked to have seen Emmie stand up to her father. I found the mother to be a rather spineless character and I think that she could have tried harder to contact her long-lost daughter. Oh and there was some dud boyfriend who eventually revealed himself to be a complete douche bag, but I found him to be more of a distraction to an otherwise interesting plot.

Overall, this one was an enjoyable enough read for a public holiday weekend (yes, in Adelaide we really do have a public holiday today for a horse race,) and remains the best VC Andrews release in recent years. And once again, Mr Neiderman, I love the fact that you slipped a "No worries" in there.

Here's hoping that the sequel, Roxy's Story is just as enjoyable if not better.

Best Forgotten by Kathryn White

Exciting news. This month, I am relaunching my novella Best Forgotten with an awesome new cover. The reason for the relaunch and new cover is pretty simple--when I was searching for photographs to include on the front cover of my upcoming novel Behind the Scenes I stumbled across the photograph of this gorgeous blonde standing beside a mirror and instantly thought of Best Forgotten. I knew the photograph was perfect for the novel, so I thought, why not?

Anyway, there's a new blurb to go with the updated cover, which reads:

An intriguing tale of murder, amnesia and the lies we tell ourselves. 

A young woman wakes in hospital, unable to recall the past eighteen months. Once an awkward, introverted teenager battling Anorexia Nervosa, Kellie-Sue discovers that she has blossomed into a beautiful woman with a loving husband. But what secrets are lurking beneath the surface? Why is Kellie-Sue haunted with memories of the bruised and bloody of her abusive ex-boyfriend lying on the kitchen floor? Is Kellie-Sue capable of murder? Or is the truth best forgotten…

Best Forgotten is available from Amazon for $2.99 for the kindle or $9.99 in print.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Review: Gabriel's Rapture by Sylvain Reynard

I'm not a fan of the whole "obsessive love" genre that was sparked by Twilight a few years ago and soon moved into the realm of erotica with the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey, so I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up Gabriel's Inferno by Sylvain Reynard a month or so ago. While the book still contained many of the same elements that bothered me about both aforementioned novels--a naive young woman meets an emotionally damaged and brutish man who proves his love by showering her with gifts and controlling her every move--Gabriel's Inferno at least had an interesting and well researched back story, good writing and characters that I actually cared about. And with this in mind, I happy picked up and paid for a copy of the sequel. And what did I get?

Well .... It isn't that Gabriel's Inferno is by any stretch a bad book--I found it decently written--but the story itself a little soap opera-like and unbelievable. Inferno basically tells the story of how Julia and Gabriel's romance is found out by the university administration and their lives and careers are thrown into turmoil. It appears that Gabriel is a complete bastard after all and then ...

I don't want to completely give away the ending, so I'll let you guess that one. Suffice to say that Gabriel was based on Edward Cullen after all ...

In many ways, I found the sequel to be less enjoyable than the first book in this series. In many ways, the whole book seemed unnecessary and far too long. I guess like all books of this type, there are many fans out there who wanted a sequel and a chance to recapture the magic of the first novel (and no doubt, there are many fans out there who want a third book,) but I don't think it really had anything new to offer the readers. No great insights or revelations, just a chance to catch up with old friends.

Monday, 4 March 2013

An Update ...

Wow, just wow.

I cannot believe how much is going on in my little corner of the web at the moment. I was thrilled to be chosen as a feature blog for Feature and Follow Friday and have been completely overwhelmed by the number of new followers (and hopefully friends) that I have made. I haven't had a chance to return the favour and visit everyones FF yet, but I hope to do so in the next few days.

In other news, congratulations to Ruty, the winner of the Being Abigail giveaway, who has already been contacted via email. Thanks to everyone who entered.

I received a proof copy of Behind the Scenes on Saturday. It looks good so far, so hopefully the official launch can go ahead in April. Keep your eyes peeled for a possible giveaway ...

In review related news, I received a copy of Forbidden Sister by V.C. Andrews in the mail today, which I am looking forward to reviewing. Word is, this one is better than some of the recent V.C. Andrews novels, so fingers crossed I'll be able to give it a good review. But either way, I will be honest in my review. I'm also hoping to post reviews of Gabriel's Rapture by Sylvain Reynard and Cora's Heart by Rachel Herron later this week. And you know, whatever comic related news of commentary takes my fancy and hopefully I'll have an interesting topic for Think Out Loud. I'm also working on my column for Spiritual Wisdom Magazine, so it looks like I'll have a busy week ahead.


Friday, 1 March 2013

Feature and Follow Friday Feature blogger!

Good grief! It's 8am, I've just jumped on the bus, checked my emails and discovered that I'm one of this week's Feature and Follow Friday feature bloggers! So, welcome everyone, and thanks heaps to Parajunkee and Alison Can Read!

This week's question is: 

Confess your blogger sins! Is there anything as a newbie blogger that you've done, that as you've gained more experience you were like -- oops?

For me, probably being a bit too hard and critical in my reviews than what the author deserved. I used to think that I was failing as a reviewer if I didn't point out at least one thing that was wrong with the book. As I've grown more experienced, I've realised that sometimes that said more about my skills as a reviewer/critic than it did about the authors work.