Sunday, 28 April 2013

Review: The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines

Sex. Romance. Love triangles. The pastor's daughter gone bad.

The Vincent Boys either has a lot going for it, or is a huge pile of cliches depending on who you talk to and what your perspective is on the matter. This would have to be the first young adult novel I've ever read where the sweet, pastor's daughter ends up getting cunnilingus in her boyfriend's car (in fact, it's the first young adult novel I've read that features cunnilingus at all,) and I suspect that much of the novel's popularity has to do with the same elements that make the novel kind of annoying. The fact is, this book is sexually explicit for a young adult novel. It is also contains a love triangle that is as interesting as it is cliched. Sweet, Pastor's daughter Ashton is alone for the summer as her boyfriend, the perfect and popular Sawyer is away on a mountain trip. Chance leads Ashton to encountering Sawyer's cousin, the trailer dwelling bad boy Beau. Until she hit puberty, Ashton was friends with both boys, often playing dumb pranks with Beau, but her relationship with Sawyer changed all that. Now, with Beau gone, Ashton feels the bad girl in her coming to the surface.

And that's really it. We see the beginnings of Ashton and Beau's affair, the development of their sexual relationship, Sawyer's return, the all mighty fallout when Ashton and Beau's affair is discovered and the eventually resolution. And woven through the story is the dilemma of choosing happiness over duty.

What this novel does have in abundance is likeable characters (even if the choices they make aren't always the best,) and a brilliant depiction of life in Alabama. I did think that there was a real sexist undercurrent through the book and that some things, such as Beau's temper and his tendency to solve problems using his fists, should have been dealt with instead of being treated as if it were cute and quirky because he was "protecting" Ashton. But for reasons that I cannot understand, books of this type always seem to gloss over issues of anger management and treat jealousy and possessiveness as if it were a good thing, instead of a massive red flag that one is headed toward an abusive relationship. Or maybe this is dealt with in the sequel?

Or perhaps I'm just a grumpy old book critic. Anyway, this one isn't a bad read, though I suspect it will appeal more to the group of twenty and thirty-somethings who still read young adult novels rather that its intended audience. 

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Review: Restore My Heart by Chelsea Camaron

Ooh, this is a little bit exciting. I've been invited to take part in the Restore My Heart blog tour, which is intended to promote the first in a new series of romance novels by Chelsea Camaron, an indie author from the United States. According to her bio and goodreads page, Chelsea is quite the fan of old muscle cars and Harley Davidson motor cycles and her awesome knowledge of both shines in her work (in fact reading about the cars was my favourite part of the book). Anyway, Restore My Heart tells the story of Dina and Ryder. Dina is a sweet young woman whose trust was shattered by an abusive boyfriend. Ryder is the stereotypical bad boy ... but falling for Dina changes all of that. Can Dina learn to trust again and can Ryder break free of his old selfish ways?

Restore My Heart is a fun, lightweight read. The setting, which revolves mostly around old cars and a garage is quite interesting and the characters, though not perfect, are quite likeable which is always a plus for a romantic novel. There are a few things that could be improved. I felt that there were some issues with the pacing--the story had the potential to be quite suspenseful, but the author resolved some plot twists just that bit too easily--one example is where Dina discovers that Ryder has left town with Valerie. I would have liked to have seen some serious begging or at least a detailed explanation and some sucking up on the part of Ryder here. Sure, his shitty behaviour contributed to Valerie's problems and his attempts to help are commendable, but didn't he ever stop to consider the impact this may have on his current girlfriend who has serious trust issues?

There are several scenes that the author could have got a lot more milage out of--for example when Ryder stays over at Dina's house for the first time. We could have had quite an amusing little set-up here, for example if Dina had of woken in the morning and discovered Ryder there, or if we had seen a scene from his perspective were he snuck around, trying not to be discovered. It seemed to me that the author knew the elements that make a good romance, but could not always fit the pieces together to create a suspenseful plot or resolve issues realistically. On the whole, the manuscript could do with a bit of an edit and polish--this isn't to say that it is a bad book, just that it could have been better. The story itself doesn't really end, but leads into the next volume in the series, Salvaged which will focus on two minor characters from this novel, Brandon and Maggie. 

As I said, this is a fun, lightweight read. It some ways, it felt like a grown up version of Sweet Valley High--and I mean that in a good way, with the budding romances and cliffhanger ending. 

Friday, 26 April 2013

Review: Troubletwisters: The Monster by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

In all honesty, I did not think that I would ever be able to top the story of what happened when I bought a copy of the first book in this excellent series for middle readers, where I ended up having a long conversation about books with the checkout operator at my local Kmart. (You can read more here.) And then one of the authors saw my review and visited my workplace and presented me with a hardcover copy of the sequel, which I thought was just excellent. (To explain this one further, Sean Williams is a regular customer at the post office where I work. Hi Sean!) Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Monster. In this one, we find Jack and Jaide learning more about their gifts and trying desperately to find out more about a monster that is haunting Portland, much to the chagrin of their kind but stern Grandma X. The twins also must attend school, where they are soon befriended by a lonely girl called Tara. The next twist? Tara's dad may just be working for the Evil ...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, particularly as the final showdown incorporated two of my favourite things, cats (the very awesome Kleo is somewhat vital to the plot this time,) and old trains. It was also interesting to see how the twins coped with their new powers and discovered that developing them was not always going to be easy. I'm very much looking forward to the next book in the series, which will be released soon.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Friday Funnies - Daria

Just wanted to share another brilliant clip from Daria. In this one, Daria convinces Quinn to handle a situation with a bit of maturity--in her usual sarcastic fashion.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Seeds by M.M. Kin

Just finished reading Seeds Vol. 1, an independently published novel by M.M. Kin which retells a wonderful Greek myth--the romance between Hades and Persephone. Meticulously researched, Seeds tells the story of Persephone's conception and childhood and the beginnings of her romance with Hades. What I loved about this one was the sheer attention to detail and the way that the author made the characters seem real--her interest in the myths shows throughout the book. It's worth noting that Seeds started out being published online and eventually evolved into its current form after building a solid fan base. The only grumble I have with this one is the typesetting--we have a beautiful professionally designed cover but the interior looks like it could use a little tweaking. Still, this one is a solid addition to my bookshelf and I am looking forward to the next instalment in the next volume in the series.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Review: Our Little Secret by Allyane Webster

When I found a copy of Our Little Secret somewhere near the bottom of my reading pile, it took me a while to remember how it got there. I never purchase new books from this particular publisher (for reasons which, out of politeness, I will leave out of this blog post,) so it would have most likely come via a secondhand book seller. And then it came back to me. A while ago I had a certain amount of credit which had to be spent within a certain timeframe from a local secondhand bookstore and I couldn't find anything. I eventually picked this one up because it was written by a South Australian and appeared to be a reasonably intelligent young adult novel. Anyway, Our Little Secret has more or less sat at the bottom of my to-read pile for more than three years, until now. And what did I get?

An intelligently written, well-researched and well-told cautionary tale for young adults and, dare I say it, their parents.

Edwina is a teenager who lives in a country town. She does not get along well with her mother and her father is distant. Like many girls her age she reads teen magazines and believes in the notion of romantic relationships. Over time, she is groomed by Tom, a twenty-five year old from their church, who wants to keep their relationship a 'secret'. (Read, he wants to use her for sexual purposes, though Edwina does not understand this at first.) Edwina's response--a mix of shame and confusion--comes across as quite realistic as do her reasons for not telling her parents. I also think the author did a brilliant job with her portrayal of scumbag Tom. One part that really rang true, I felt, was that Tom actually bragged about his "relationship" with Edwina to some other boys from Edwina's school. Aside from proving that Tom was an arsehole, it also shows how Tom sought to pass off his guilt at what he had done. He was trying to convince himself, as well as others, that Edwina wanted to be used this way and was the instigator. (He's basically projecting his desires on to the victim.) This is another way that men like Tom get away with their actions. Edwina's confusion leads to her making some poor choices throughout the novel--such as wanting to be seen with the popular boys, even when deep down she knows it isn't a good idea. Anyway, after another tragic event befalls the town, Edwina realises that she must speak up and gets some sensible advice from one of her schoolteachers.

As I said, this one is a well-researched cautionary tale. It's probably a good one for parents to read as well.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Review: Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life by Maureen McCarthy

The original cover from 1995.
Even in my early teens, I thought
these models looked too old
for the characters they were meant to
This book is so old and I first read it such a long time ago that I was tempted to file it under 1990s nostalgia, but I decided that would be doing this great novel a diservice. In recent times there has been much discussion about New Adult, a supposedly new genre. Well, folks, I have news for you. Maureen McCarthy was writing "New Adult" in the mid-1990s and doing a bloody fine job of it. Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life was her first novel of this type and was soon followed on by two more novels, Chain of Hearts and When You Wake and Find Me Gone. These novels contained strong, female characters who had very recently reached adulthood and were facing some new and scary challenges. As I said, the novel was released in the mid-1990s and judging by some of the other titles that were released during that era (Livin' Large, for example,) it was obvious that what publishers were looking for was a 1990s version of Puberty Blues. Real life, a representation of what it meant to be growing up in a world that was constantly changing that young readers could relate to. Interesting then that the two classic books of the era would end up being Looking For Alibrandi and Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life. These were realistic novels, but both had more guts and far more rounded situations and strong female characters than what Puberty Blues did, and the long forgotten Livin' Large. (Sidenote: If Livin' Large deserves to be remembered for anything, it's the fact that its three authors were all still in their teens when the book was published.)

Anyway, Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life follows the adventures of three very different young women who move from country Victoria to attend university in Melbourne. This is, obviously, each girls first step into adulthood and a scary new world where life isn't always fair. As the title suggests, Kat is the rich, spoiled girl of the trio, whose adventures show that sometimes being the pretty girl isn't always an advantage--she has plenty of admirers and is eventually exploited for profit by an older man who wants her for modelling work. We also see that she is very lonely for female company and her only real friends would appear to be Carmel and Jude, despite the fact that she often socialises with other "rich kids". 

Jude came to Australia from Chile as a refugee when she was very small, aspires to be a doctor and is something of an activist. She sees herself as "St Jude" a saviour for others, but eventually learns that sometimes solutions are not as simple as they appear on the surface.

The third and final member of the trio is a character who often seems to appear in Maureen McCathy's work (albiet with a different name,) the shy and chubby Carmel. Her lesson comes in the form of learning to stand up for herself and, somehow, capturing the attention of an attractive young man who likes her for who she is. I found myself smiling when Carmel stood up to Anton, her boyfriend by breaking his window when she discovered that he was in bed with another woman, but always felt disappointed by how the story resolved. It was more or less explained that Anton and the other woman had a friends-with-benefits style relationship and that Anton felt it was okay to continue bedding a more attractive woman while dating Carmel, because what he and the other woman had was "just sex". In other words, a woman like Carmel would simply have to accept that as she goes through life her partners will probably cheat, because although men like her for her company she's you know, fat and kind of shy so that means that she is undeserving of monogamy. Of course, toward the even of the novel the author notes that Carmel and Anton had a conversation and no one knew what they were talking about, so I hope that Carmel was strong enough to give him a "shape-up or ship-out" message.

In 2000, Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life was made into a four-part television series retitled Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude and aired on the ABC. (I still remember my dad watching the ad and dismissing it as "feminist bullshit". I wonder if he knew his daughter had read the book four years previously?) The novel has subsequently achieved "modern classic" status and has been republished several times. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Film Review: The Host (2013)


Friday, 12 April 2013

Friday Funnies - Garfield Wallpaper

Just wanted to share this litte gem, a Garfield strip from May 1981. This comic was written back in the days when garish, tacky wallpaper was still considered to be a classy choice for interior decoration. I'm not sure if Jim Davis is trying to say that such wallpapers look awful, or if it was a clever hint to various wallpaper manufactures that he would like to organise a licensing deal. Or you know, maybe he just came up with the strip because he wanted people to laugh ... In any case, this one is a solid contribution to Garfield's early years.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Off Topic: Winking and it's Meanings

Google winking, wink meaning or winking and body language and a vast array of sites will come up, each with a list of meanings. Some of them also noted the old expression a wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse, which I think is true. Winking, or the action of looking at another person and deliberately closing one eye can have a variety of meanings. In some cultures it is a friendly gesture, in others it is sexual and in some parts of the world winking can be considered vulgar. In my own life, I have been on the receiving end of winks that felt like everything from comradeship to sexual harassment. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to explore the variety of winks and meanings ...

Styles of Winking

Apparently, there is more than one way to wink. People usually wink with their dominant eye--for example if the left eye is dominant, that person will always wink with their left eye--or winking may be sometimes done with both eyes. (I have yet to see anyone do that.)

Another varient of the wink is the 'clink' which is basically a wink that is accompanied by a perfectly timed click of the tongue. (I'm a bit of a fan of this kind of wink. The clicking and obviousness of it all makes it fun.)

While researching this article I was also surprised to discover that in North America there is a style of winking that involves not only the wink itself, but a click of the tongue and pointing ones thumb, index and middle fingers like a gun. (I'm not sure how popular this gesture is.)

Then, of course, there is the famous Monty Python sketch where the spoken words Wink, wink, nudge, nudge accompany the appropriate gesture ...


Winking can have a variety of meanings, most of which depend on who is the sender and who is the receiver of a wink. Here are a few common ones:

Shared Knowledge
This kind of wink is normally done to convey shared knowledge between two people, usually at the exclusion of others. For example Person A might play a prank on person B and then wink at Person C to let them in on the joke. Some Doctor Who fans might note that during the opening credits the seventh doctor would look at the camera and wink. The meaning for this one is clear. The doctor is letting viewers in to his secret world for a little while ...
This is usually done to give someone silent encouragement--a way of saying, yes, you can do this!
In some instances a wink can be a very quick way of saying 'thank you' or 'well done'.  
It's basically a way of saying, I find you attractive. Sometimes a wink while flirting can really just mean, I'm doing this in fun and hope that you had fun too. In other words the winker doesn't want the flirting to be taken seriously. It's all just in fun.
 Sexual Attraction
Winking can also be a way of someone to express their sexual interest in another person, particularly if partnered with sexual words or touch. This is sometimes where sexual harassment can come into play--if the winking is inappropriate, or if the winker can (or reasonably should,) be able to tell, that the other person is uncomfortable but continues with the behaviour.
Personally, my favourite style of winking is the 'clink' because it is one of the more fun ways to wink. Clinking is usually done to show comfort, satisfaction or when somebody flirts.

And, finally, I cannot resist ending this post with this awesome clip that I found on YouTube:

Friday, 5 April 2013

Feature and Follow Friday

After a very big week for Kathryn's Inbox, it's 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 meet and connect. This week's all important question is:

Q:  Have you ever read a book that you thought you would hate — ? Did you end up hating it? Did you end up loving it? Or would you never do that?

This has happened to me. You may be surprised to learn that I thought that I would hate Harry Potter. I first encountered the series shortly after the release of the third book in the series, which was kind-of before they became popular in Australia. Anyway, my auntie kept trying to push what looked like a kids book on to me and I kept getting annoyed. Finally, I caved in, read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and loved it. Hmm, must have been Snape's influence.

Severus Snape. Who can resist a man like this?

PS For those of you who don't know, I launched my fourth novel, Behind the Scenes this week. You can read more about it here and enter the international giveaway to win Behind the Scenes and a prize pack.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Launching ... Behind the Scenes (Plus Giveaway)

Finally, after many, many months of hard work, I'm proud to launch my fourth novel, Behind the Scenes!

Behind the Scenes tells the story of aspiring actress, Catlin Ryan, who scores a starring role on her favourite television drama, Angel Street. Taking the role means moving to Melbourne ... and in with the father that she barely knows. A dark family secret is soon uncovered ... but can Australia's hottest new celebrity stop the media from finding out about her past?

Behind the Scenes is available at Amazon, Amazon Kindle Store, CreateSpace and Smashwords, with more retailers to follow very soon.

And because no launch is complete without some kind of awesome giveaway or another, throughout April, I'll be running a very awesome international giveaway where you can win:

Personally Signed copy of Behind the Scenes
Personally Signed Copies of Being Abigail and Best Forgotten (not pictured)
A beautiful journal
Gorgeous letter writing set
And we'll throw in a pen to go with the writing set & journal

Enter via the rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PS. Behind the Scenes was partly inspired by a dream I had during my teenage years of being an actress, but, obviously, got pushed aside when I discovered that I preferred writing and drama classes. (That didn't stop me from going to one very embarrassing audition at SA Casting, but the less said about that, the better. We'll pretend a certain scene in the book is all artistic licence and was not at all based on my experience of telling a certain casting agent to get bent.)