Thursday, 27 February 2014

Review: Rush by Maya Banks

Post-Fifty Shades erotica intrigues me. Three years ago, it's unlikely that I would have found a book like this at my local bookstore. Not necessarily because it was not been written, published and subsequently stocked at my local bookstore, but because it would have taken up a much smaller shelf, in a far less prominent area in the story and probably would have missed my eye completely. And, I'll be totally honest here. If by some miracle I had of found the book, I would have been far too embarrassed about reviewing it--as it would mean admitting that I had read this kind of trash in the first place. And I'll continue to be honest here. Most post-Fifty Shades erotica, whether it's just been published or enjoying a much larger second print run, is trash. Think repetitive, cliched romances and sex scenes reminiscent of porn. And perhaps those things are a massive part of the appeal. Also, there is the element escapism. The reader is free to experience an intense, sexual relationship that probably wouldn't work out so well in real life, within the safe confines of a book, or the risk of cheating on their long term partner. I do not think I'm the ideal reader for this kind of thing--I prefer erotica that has a strong literary element, because well, I'm a bit of a book snob. Also, I like strong women and don't like the glamourisation of what is, essentially, intimate partner violence. Make of that and my review of Rush below, what you will.

Rush is the first volume of New York Times Bestselling author Maya Banks Breathless trilogy. It's trashy, sensational and printed on cheap paper. Rush tells the story of Mia Crestwell is a young, university graduate who is contracted by an older billionaire to be his submissive. Essentially, she sells him her body and herself--he can do anything he likes to her and she does not have the right to say no. There are no safe words. Scary stuff. As the book progresses, I read some pretty sexy scenes and had confirmed over and over what I had suspected at the beginning. Gabe Hamilton is a complete bastard. As for Mia, she lacks the confidence to say no to Gabe--not that the nature of their relationship give her much opportunity. Young and naive, Mia mistakes her fears and infatuation for love, which probably explains why she would be willing to go along with a relationship that has such confining terms and conditions. Gabe's 'ownership' of Mia includes forced sex and a scene that I was unable to read in its entirety where Gabe asks Mia to perform fellatio on him in front of a number of his business associates. As for the romantic subplot, we get lots of descriptions of Gabe, his appearance, wealth and Mia's desire for him and not so much about Mia. This is a standard romance novel technique. Describe the hero in detail, and gloss over the heroine, so that members of the target, female readership, may insert themselves into the book and imagine for a few hours that they are the heroine. Though why anyone would want to imagine they were Mia Crestwell is a little beyond me, but that is their prerogative. 

Too me, Rush seemed to be all about shock value and the romantic ending felt quite unbelievable--that a man like Gabe could change so dramatically or that he would express his guilt over his actions in such a way, or that Mia could be so understanding. The volume ends with an introduction to the next book in the series, Fever. This one definitely was not a winner for me.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Iris Blobel

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week, I am chatting with Iris Blobel, author of the wonderful Beginnings series ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

Okay… I was born and raised in Germany and only immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s. I’m married, have two beautiful daughters, work at a private school and present a German Program at the local radio every Wednesday.

I’ve published a few books (lucky me, ey!) and have a few books that nobody seems to want (such is life!). I enjoy reading, mainly romance or crime, my favourite authors being Jill Shalvis and Lee Child.

How am I doing so far?

I live west of Melbourne, would love to live more south-west to be nearer to the beach, but, hey, you can’t have everything.

I love travelling and I’m really lucky, so does the rest of the family! So, that’s where you can find us most of the holidays, in some corner of Australia in our caravan.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

“More Beginnings” is the second book in the Beginnings series, the story about two sisters, Sophie and Mia Levesque, who inherited a house in Hobart.

It’s got a little bit of everything in it, relationship between sisters, grief, romance and the “mystery” of who the generous lady was, who left them the house.

The first book was “New Beginnings”, which was published last year.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

Scary! I self-published my first book and letting go of my little baby was a frightening experience. Even when readers commented positively and liked the book (and yes, there were/are a few), it was still a very humbling experience. But a nice ride so far!

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

Getting five books published so far. Having readers telling me how much they like my books is great and worth more than any money.

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

I’m currently writing on Beginnings #3, which takes longer than expected. My fault, though!
It’s set in America and follows the holiday I did with my family last year. So every time I’m stuck with “where to go” or “to set a scene” I look at my itinerary or photos and we all start reminiscing about the great time we had. But I’m close to the finish ;-)

My other project is a trilogy about Australian Sports Stars. It’s fun to write, and as a lover of sports I’m really enjoying. Let’s hope, it’ll find a “home” soon.

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

Ack! I’d say Paper Books, but I’ve come to enjoy the convenience of ebooks over the last year or so. Wherever I go, I have my e-reader with me and I love it that I can just switch it on, read for five minutes or fifteen minutes. It doesn’t take up all that much room in my bag.

On the other hand, when I really, really liked a book, I try and get a paperback, because there’s nothing better than having a shelf full of books and occasionally just “browse” through them, remembering the story without reading it all.

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

One book? *sighs*  Tricky! – How about the “World Travel Guide”.

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


Hope you’re all surviving the 2014 heat waves. I'm thinking of you all.

Loooove Adelaide and can’t wait to come over in September! Hopefully coming to Hahndorf as well. I’m in need for some German food ;-)

Awesome Links

Twitter: _iris_b

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

If This Car Were a Lady ...

This one has been around for quite some time now, but I just had to share. I love the sentiment here ...

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Review: I Say Tomato by Katie Wall

I Say Tomato had, until a few days ago, the rare distinction of being the book that has sat on my to-read pile for the longest. I purchased it back in 2010 from a popular secondhand bookstore, slightly amazed that I had found a new release book there for less than three dollars. I took it home, placed it on my to-read pile and well ...

I guess these things happen ...

I Say Tomato is a brilliantly fun and entertaining novel about an Australian actor who is walking what has, in recent years, become a very familiar path for a lot of young actors. After a successful stint in a popular Australian television drama, she travels alone to LA to try her luck in Hollywood. From there, the reader is treated to an account of what Hollywood looks like through the eyes of a young Australian girl who probably isn't going to become a big star. Sunny is a refreshingly honest character though she is struggling a bit with what she wants out of life. A few months ago, back in Australia, her long-term boyfriend proposed and she turned him down. Now she is struggling with that choice. As the novel goes on, we see that travelling to Hollywood is more of an excuse for Sunny to hide from her feelings and the result of her choices than what it is about her trying to forge a career for herself as an actress.

Debut author Katie Wall is an AFI award winning actress (for her performance as Belinda in Marking Time,) and her knowledge of the industry, in Australia and abroad, shows quite comfortably and confidently in her work. Parts of the novel feel very episodic--moving from one scene to the next without really looking back--though what really keeps it together is learning more about Sunny and her relationship with Tobey who is back in Australia and who may or may not be moving on and finding someone else. With that in mind I would have liked an ending that gave Sunny a bit more closure, rather than leaving us wondering what would happen next between her and her ex-boyfriend Tobey now that she was back on Australian soil and had made some important decisions (I don't think I'm giving away too many spoilers by saying that).  

I Say Tomato offers an brilliant insiders view of life as an actor and its exploration of how Hollywood may feel to an outsider from halfway across the world. The relationship between Sunny and Tobey seemed very real, full of problems caused by miscommunication, fear and indecision. Recommended. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Sharon L Norris

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday, this week I'm talking to an amazing Australian writer, Sharon L Norris ...

Tell us a bit about yourself …

Having written since I was about nine years old, my greatest dream was to become a published author. I’m thrilled to say that dream came true nearly a decade ago when the first of my four children’s books was accepted for publication.

Now aged in my late forties, I’d love to tell you that I am living the writer’s dream and spending my days at the computer writing full time – but I can’t! I write around my full-time Government job, my family responsibilities (my youngest child is just entering high school) and my volunteer activities.
Having lived all over my home state of Queensland while growing up, as well as a spell in England in my late twenties, I currently live in the small township of Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory. It’s a very remote location in eastern Arnhem Land – right at the top of the Gulf of Carpentaria – and the land here is owned by the indigenous Yolgnu people. The Arafura Sea separates us from Papua New Guinea and the eastern isles of Indonesia. It’s remote. It’s wild. It’s wonderful. It’s also a great place to stir the creative spirit.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

I strongly believe that writers need to serve an apprenticeship and learn all they can about the industry and the genre/s they favour, as well as how to learn to write. In this way, ‘time’ becomes both the writer’s friend as well as their enemy.

I started writing for children in 1996, while pregnant with my first child, and spent the next seven years in the first part of my apprenticeship. I learnt all I could about writing, the industry, and how to use the internet to find out more about publishers and what they were looking for. Two of my works were accepted in 2003 - junior novels aimed at upper primary readers which were published in 2004. Finders Keepers was published by an ePublisher, Writers Exchange, and The Balloonatic! was published Macmillan Education. When the acceptance for Finders Keepers came through by email, I ran around the house screaming, so much that it frightened my youngest child, who was then just a year-old toddler.

Over time my apprenticeship has continued and taken on different elements as my focus on writing has changed. Two other book publication credits have also come my way via traditional publishers. I’m now taking my time as I work on the biggest project of my career – a two-book story aimed at young adults.

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

For the first time ever, I entered a writing competition in 2013 and made the final three shortlist. The CYA (Children’s and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators) Conference has a prestigious annual writing competition which features a section for published authors. I decided to try my hand by submitting the first three chapters of my current work-in-progress, a young adult novel whose story will be told over two books.

Titled The Land of the Free, this story was shortlisted with two other works (including that of my friend and fellow critique group member RJ Timmis) and the final placings in the competition were decided by an editor from a major publishing house. My story didn’t come first, but with feedback of 100% from the preliminary judges and a 5/5 for the ‘wow factor’, I felt like I’d won lotto. This result has encouraged me to go on and continue writing this story. My goal for 2014 is to finish the first book.

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

In 2013 I started turning my hand to young adult fiction. This is completely new for me as my writing to date has been firmly aimed at the ‘tween audience. I’m now working on a two-book story that is categorised as ‘futuristic dystopian’ – a story set in the future in a society that is far from perfect. Inspired by The Hunger Games, I’m writing about teens living in an oppressive society where a lot of personal freedoms have been removed from what remains of the world’s severely depleted population. It’s titled The Land of the Free, and the second book will be titled The Home of the Brave. You may well recognise these as the iconic words of the American national anthem. They are also the themes of this two-part young adult story.

My other writing projects are (hopefully!) interesting. I’m looking to start creative writing groups to cater for primary and high school writers in my town, and I’m developing a project to obtain books for libraries in the remote indigenous towns in Arnhem Land.

The first project, the writing groups, is really important to me. My own writing has benefited greatly by being involved in writing critique groups and I’m currently in two that are physically located in south-east Queensland. As I now live in the remote NT, I use Facebook’s video facility to ‘dial in’ to my writing groups when their meetings are held, and I can participate from afar in that way. There is no group locally that I can join for this specific genre-specific writing, and there’s nothing like this for children, so I am determined to start up writing groups for older and younger students, hopefully meeting at the town library.

I say ‘hopefully’ because our town is going through tremendous turmoil at present and the population will change dramatically in the coming months. Mining giant Rio Tinto will close its bauxite refinery by 1 July 2014 and its 1100 workers will leave our town of 4,000, taking their families with them. How many writing children will be left when the aluminium dust settles is anyone’s guess. I will have to wait and see.

My other project, tentatively titled Authors and Others For Arnhem, is important on so many levels. The average Australian has no idea what life is like in remote communities – in particular, remote Indigenous communities. In east Arnhem Land, English is often a fourth or fifth language for Yolgnu people. There aren’t that many books in languages the locals can read. The libraries are very small or may not exist at all in some communities. In one community I visit regularly, the library is set up on one side of a community meeting room. In another community, the library is inside a converted shipping container.

Every day, mainstream TV blasts us with ads asking us to give money to support the less fortunate and people doing it tough in other countries. While that’s important, it’s also important to remember Australia is the size of Europe and we have less fortunate citizens and people doing it tough right here at home. But because you often don’t get to hear about what’s happening in remote areas, you don’t know about it. Right now, I’m at concept-development stage with this project. There’s a lot of thinking that needs to be done about how to get people to donate books for these communities, and how to distribute them across the distance. I aim to progress this project in 2014 to the point where I can start asking for books to be donated.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

The kitchen table has always seemed the perfect place to write for me. It’s where my writing comes together. The thought of closeting myself away in a closed space like an office doesn’t sit well with me. Not that I’m claustrophobic or anything, but I prefer the open space.

I also ‘write’ when I’m outdoors. In my current location, I’m just five minutes’ drive from the beach so I walk up and down the beach every day. The fresh air and exercise certainly help with my creative process. Of course, there are saltwater crocodiles in the sea where I live in Northern Australia, so walking on the beach can sometimes be fraught with peril. It’s important to always keep one eye on the water, especially at high tide, and never walk the same stretch of beach at the same time every day…

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

I like both, actually. eBooks make it so easy to take large works with you on the bus, to work, to the park or the beach, and lazing on your bed. Paper books are great, but bulky. I’d much rather put my Kindle in my handbag than a huge 350-page novel.

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

I think everyone should take the time to read The Diary of Anne Frank. It’s a book that has touched hearts everywhere, made tears tumble down cheeks, and has brought resolutions that we must stand up to tyranny so that the children of the future have a safe place to live (another theme of my current work-in-progress). With all the conflict going on around the world at present, much of it because followers of different religions can’t accept or tolerate each other, it’s increasingly important for people to be reminded that the genocidal horrors of the past are still happening today and should not be happening.

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

If you look directly north from Adelaide on a map, you will find the township of Nhulunbuy where I currently live. So we’re aligned on the map and aligned in our support of the written word. May you enjoy whatever you’re going to read today!

Twitter: @SharonLNorris

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Believe it or not, I actually bought my copy of Divergent before it became popular. In fact, it had probably only been available in Australia for a matter of days when I purchased this new YA novel from an unknown author. It was pretty obvious from the foil cover and endorsement on the front from bestselling author Melissa Marr that its publisher, HarperCollins was expecting it to be popular. Consequently, I could have been among the first to read what has gone on to become a very popular series with a huge following. But, you know, life comes with a whole lot of funny twists and turns and the other book I bought on the same trip to the bookshop just happened to be this one that everyone had been raving about for practically forever called The Hunger Games. I intended to read The Hunger Games first and then Divergent

And then I ended up reading both sequels to The Hunger Games. Somewhere between that and releases by some of my favourite authors, Divergent just sort of got forgotten and kept right on falling nearer and nearer to the bottom of my to-read pile and probably would have been forgotten had there not been such a fuss over the release of the final novel in the trilogy, coupled with an upcoming feature film release. And so I figured that I had better get reading. 

Divergent has some great moments. Set in Chicago in the near future, the city has become isolated from the rest of the world and divided into factions. At age sixteen, its people choose which faction they want to belong to. The factions are based on various personal qualities and values. For example those who value selflessness choose to belong to Abnegation, those who value knowledge choose to belong to Erudite and those who value bravery (which is basically shown in the book to be a code word for recklessness,) choose to belong to Dauntless. There are two other factions, Candor (honesty) and Amity (goodwill), but they do not feature greatly in the book. The heroine, Tris, feels that she does not quite belong in the faction she has been born into (Abnegation,) and longs to escape, but does not know which faction she should choose instead. Fortunately, she must sit an aptitude test, which is supposed to help her decide. All people, it is believed, will demonstrate a clear preference for one of the factions.

Tris' aptitude test reveals some surprising results. Tris, it seems, is Divergent. This is where someone does not show a clear preference for one of the factions. In her world, this is dangerous. People who are divergent rarely survive and are hated by the governing bodies, though its not really made clear why until toward the end of the novel. Fortunately, the people who test Tris find a way of wiping the results so that the ruling government does not find out and file a false report manually instead. On the day of the choosing ceremony, Tris faces a tough decision. Unable to stand pretending to be selfless anymore she ditches the faction she has grown up with and chooses to become one of the Dauntless instead.

From there, the novel moves slowly and perhaps a bit dully considering the violent content, as the story of Tris' initiation into Dauntless is told. You get the sense that their faction is not an entirely nice place and there is a lot of corruption. And there is a sense that there is a lot of corruption going on in other factions, until finally, war breaks out and all of the Dauntless are manipulated into acting as soldiers. 

Except, of course, the few like Tris who are Divergent. 

And then the novel starts to get very interesting ...

Divergent felt very slow to me in places and I felt that the author could have done more to flesh Tris out and her personality. I also would have liked to have seen more of her mother who proved to be, arguably, the most interesting character in the novel. I liked the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle,) messages on what it truly means to be selfless and brave. 

Although I enjoyed reading Divergent and am sorry that it took me so long to read it, (and, no doubt, I delve into the sequels at some point in the near future,) I felt that parts of it could have been fleshed out a lot more, while other parts seemed a bit overlong. The will-they, wont-they subplot between Tris and Four was a lot of fun. To me, Divergent was a B or B+ kind of novel, an intelligent book with an action packed ending and enough in there to satisfy me as a reader, though there were a few parts I think could have been done better. Still, where Roth truly shines is in her depictions of what it means to be a good and moral person. Through characters like Marcus, who are shown to be evil despite living a seemingly moral life and Tris herself, who may seem selfish and a traitor to her family and faction, we learn that what we believe to be a good and moral persona and what truly is a good and moral person are two different things. And I think that's a great take-home message for the target readership. Recommended.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Review: The Nameless City by Michael Scott

The Nameless City is the second in a year long series of eBooks released by Puffin in 2013 as a part of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who celebrations. Each story was to feature a different incarnation of the Doctor, written by a different and well-established author of books for children and young adults. And despite catching this one rather late, I have to admit, this and the other stories prove to be one hell of a nostalgia trip for an old Whovian like myself. Consequently, I have decided to feature them all on here, every Sunday over the space of the next few weeks.

The Second Doctor, as he
appears on Wikipedia
The Doctor: The Second Doctor 

The Doctor's Companion: Jamie

The Author: Michael Scott, Irish author of more than 100 books and most famous for the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.

My Verdict: I am less familiar with the Second Doctor than I am with the first, so I cannot comment too much on the characterisation. In this adventure, Jamie is given a copy of none other than the Necronomican by a mysterious book dealer and takes it back to the Doctor. This in turn leads to an adventure where they meet the Archons, a former deep sea race who want to take possession of the TARDIS. What follows is typical Doctor Who stuff with the Archons being defeated in a surprising but non-deadly way. Lots of fun ... 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Cole's Funny Picture Book

Okay. I confess. I am a huge fan of Professor Cole.

For those of you who don't know, Professor Cole (who was not, in fact, a professor,) was a bit of an eccentric chap who was born in England, but travelled to Australia during the gold rush and became famous for establishing one of the most unusual bookstores in Australia, if not the world. At its peak, Coles Book Arcade, which was located in Melbourne, was home to an astounding two million books. And legend has it, Professor Cole wasn't terribly bothered if people paid for his books or not. The entrance to the arcade was decorated with a rainbow and there were many unusual relics inside, most of which were salvaged after the arcade closed during the depression and now live inside a museum in Melbourne. And the most famous book of all to come out of Cole's Book Arcade, is none other than Coles Funny Picture Book, a children's book filled with poetry and quirky Victorian era pictures. The highlight of the book for me, as a child (yeah, okay and as an adult as well,) was Cole's Whipping Machine, designed to flog naughty boys:

Image source: Project Gutenburg

My grandma and I used to have great fun looking at the picture and the accompanying poem that detailed what each of these bad boys did to deserve such a dreadful punishment--so much so that my grandma ended up writing Kathryn's favourite page underneath the picture. 

The Cole's Funny Picture Book became so famous that it sold more than one million copies. The full version is now freely available on Project Gutenburg, something I think Professor Cole would approve of. Soon after Cole's Funny Picture Book was published, a second one was published and a third was written and published by his grandson, in the 1950s. In the 1990s, Cole's Funny Picture Book No.4 was published by members of the Cole family and included input from several generations of the Cole family. In 2013 Coles Funny Little Picture Book, a smaller version of the Cole's Funny Picture Book was published by Hardie Grant. With a bit of luck, this book and the legacy of Professor Cole will continue to charm generations to come ...

Do you have any memories of the Coles Funny Picture Book? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments section below ...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Review: Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

YA author Kami Garcia's first solo novel, Unbreakable, (she's one of the authors of the Beautiful Creatures series,) caused a bit of a storm when it was released in late 2013 and it is not difficult to see why. Unbreakable is an action packed, suspenseful novel with a decent heroine and an enjoyable romantic subplot. It's also bloody scary in places.

Seriously. Back when I was a teenager, R.L. Stein and Christopher Pike were about as scary as it got. By comparison, this one feels like the bad arse big sister who has just grabbed the genre by the balls and now she won't let go. Brutal, but unputdownable.

Sadly, the only thing that lets this one down is the premise. When Kennedy's mother dies suddenly, she is visited by a pair of identical twins (who just happen to be gorgeous but hey, this is YA fiction,) who reveal that her mother belonged to a secret society who protect the world from all kinds of evil, supernatural phenomena. And not only that, but four other members of the society died on the same night. Luckily, this secret society works in sort of the same way that the Phantom does, with an heir taking up the duties of the recently deceased. And this is where I struggle a little bit with the plot. The four other heirs (which include the gorgeous twins, Lukas and Jared Lockheart,) have been training for this for a long time. Kennedy, on the other hand, had no knowledge of what her mother was involved with. The implication is that her mother left the group, but is seems awfully strange that, knowing her daughter was her most likely heir, that her mother would not have equipped her with at least some skills and knowledge about fighting ghosts. Anyway, along with the other members of the group, the unfriendly Alara and a guy called Priest, Kennedy finds herself a part of a ghostbusters style group that travel about destroying ghosts or setting them free into the other world. The goal is to track and destroy the evil that murdered all five members of the group. Each encounter with the other side gets a little bit more scary and gory until the utterly frightening, cliffhanger ending ...

What lets this one down for me is not knowing enough about Kennedy's mother and her backstory, though as this is the first in a series, I suspect that it may be revealed at a later stage. Kennedy's scars (or lack thereof,) point to their being something a little different in her background to the other members of her group. So while not knowing enough about her mother annoyed me, there is a very good chance that the author knows what she is doing and that I should trust her. The second book in the Legions series, Unmarked, will be released in October 2014. 

This is definitely one for YA horror fans, though those with delicate sensibilities might be advised to proceed with caution. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Friday Funnies: Valentines Day

This Valentines Day, spare a thought for Charlie Brown ...

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Writers On Wednesday: Andrew Leon

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday, that weekly post where I chat to a different writer. This time around I am chatting with the talented Andrew Leon, author of Shadow Spinner ...

Tell us a bit about yourself …

I was born a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

No, wait, that's the wrong one...

I was working in a lab one day when lightning struck me through the window...

Wait, still wrong.

One night when I was out walking in the desert, a spaceship landed and gave me a super suit. There was this instruction manual...

Okay, still not it. Yeah, I got nothing.

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

My most recent book is Shadow Spinner, which I released serially. I'm in the process of gathering all of the chapters into collections to make it easier to purchase in e-format now that I'm not making the chapters free anymore. It's also available all in one place as a physical book.

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

I'm working on Brother's Keeper, the sequel to The House on the Corner. I'm way behind schedule on it, though. I also have a murder mystery as a side project that I'm pretty excited about. You might even call it a paranormal murder mystery.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

My favorite place to have written was while on vacation in the Trinity Alps. It was great to sit out on the deck with my notepad each morning before the kids were up. It never lasted long enough, but it was great.

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

I have three:

The Hobbit, which is almost more about The Lord of the Rings, but you probably shouldn't try LotR if you can't get through The Hobbit, which is great in its own right. It's just a great tale with some great lessons about learning who you are.

Watership Down – It's just a great story that has a lot to say.

The Sparrow – The other two I'd tell people to read starting when they're teenagers, but this is definitely one that should wait for adulthood. It's a great story about faith and what it mean in a sci-fi setting.

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

Do I have readers in Adelaide, Australia? Because, if I do, that's cool! Hello, peoples!


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Review: Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Rachel Cain is a YA/NA writer that most will associate with her popular series of books, The Morganville Vampires. (Of course, Cain has written many other works, however these are her most famous.) I have not yet read any of her other books be they Morganville Vampires or another series, which means that I got the opportunity to read her stand-alone retelling of Romeo and Juliet without having anything that could potentially alter my opinion. Also, it's been more than fifteen years since I last studied Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (in high school,) so I would have undoubtedly forgotten a number of the subtleties that exist within the story. Both of these things combined meant that I had the chance to read this one purely for pleasure and not as a critic. And, you know, sometimes that can be fun and the best way to let the story wash over you.

In this retelling, we have a narrator, none of than Benvolio Montague, cousin of Romeo. In many way, this time around it is his story being told and that of his own forbidden love--that for none other than Rosaline, the cousin of Juliet who initially had Romeo's heart. In this version Romeo is a bit of a romantic fool and is shown on several occasions to be lacking any kind of common sense. Benvolio, meanwhile, has been saddled with the job of babysitting his younger cousin (and heir to the Montague fortune,) thanks his controlling grandmother. Meanwhile, Benvolio finds solace in his nighttime 'career' as a thief know throughout Verona as the Prince of Shadows. It is during one of his jaunts as the Prince of Shadows that he breaks inside the Capulet household and meets Rosaline. In Cain's interpretation Roseline is an intelligent, bookish young woman who is bound for a convent, because the Capulets think that they have no hope of marrying her off. Benvolio figures he has no hope and the pair spend most of the novel trying to ignore their feelings for one another and trying to sort out the increasing troubles between their families--the perfect role for Benvolio, as he is shown to be the peacemaker in Romeo and Juliet. Roseline, meanwhile, comes with more of a clean slate, as she is an unseen character in the play. All we know of her is that she objects to Romeos advances. So in her, Cain has a character that she can take as many liberties as she wishes. It's also interesting to read why Cain thinks that Mercutio may have called for, "A plague upon both your houses," but that is a plot best discovered by the reader, so I will not be revealing any details here. 

Of course, the inevitable deaths of Romeo and Juliet occur and then Cain gets to have the fun of telling us what happened afterward. And, again, revealing that would be be a great disservice to the reader. So I'll just say this. Although the ending feels a little rushed, it is a fitting one. Prince of Shadows is an entertaining and decently written YA retelling of Romeo and Juliet that brings a number of minor characters to life. Recommended.

This book was read as part of the Eclectic Reader Challenge

Category: Published in 2014

Progress so Far: 2/12

Monday, 10 February 2014

Review: A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

I really do not know what I was expecting when I purchased a copy of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing from my local bookstore last Saturday morning, but delving inside the pages, I soon discovered a coming-of-age tale that was every bit as uncomfortable as it was addictive. Set in Ireland, the book is told in a funny, stream-of-consciousness narrative that I found quite irritating at first, but it became easier to read as the novel went on. There is no real plot. We meet our unnamed heroine, discover that she has an older brother who almost died of childhood cancer and watch as she grows up against a backdrop of a broken and abusive family. Most the book is made up of the heroines perceptions of the world, which are based upon some pretty heart wrenching experiences--her relationship with her 'uncle' for example--and it makes for uncomfortable reading. I cannot say that I liked the heroine or any of the characters in the book, but then again, I don't think that I was supposed to. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is an awful tale of an awful life lived, told in a way that is both frightening and addictive.

A fine and engaging story in its own way, but not a great read for anyone wanting to read book with a happy ending. 

Friday, 7 February 2014

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 book bloggers meet and connect. This weeks all-important question is:

If you could read a book for the “first time” again, which book would it be? Why?

Even though it probably feels a bit dated now (as it was first published in 1993,) I would choose Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden. This one has so many amazing twists and turns as the lead characters fight to defend their country against invading forces. The heroine Ellie is not only a very strong young woman, but she is amazingly resourceful. I think a lot of modern YA heroines could take a leaf out of her book.

The second book I would choose is one of my all-time favourites, Oliver Twist. I was amazed by just how different the book is to its most famous film adaption. It's actually quite dark. It surprised me that anyone could make a musical out of some of the subject matter. 

What about you? Which book (or books) would you choose?

Friday Funnies: Truffles

For this weeks Friday Funnies, I am paying tribute to a minor character from the Peanuts comic strip, the delightful Truffles. Truffles appeared in two different storylines during the 1970s. In the first, Snoopy and Linus go out hunting for Truffles, but find themselves making friends with a doe-eyed brunette instead, who is named none other than Truffles. It is unknown where Truffles lives most of the time, but at present she is staying with her grandfather on his farm. It was, apparently, her grandfather who named her, stating that she is as rare as a truffle. After Snoopy and Linus leave, Linus is unable to make his way back to the farm, which devastates him, because he does not know how to find Truffles again. Fortunately, two years later, Linus and Truffles meet again on a school excursion.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Review: The Cinderella Moment by Jennifer Kloester

After some heavy duty reading earlier this week with Kiss Me First, it was nice to delve into this beautifully written young adult romance. Far from being a typical tale of teen angst, The Cinderella Moment is a fun and romantic rags-to-riches tale set against a backdrop of New York and Paris. Angel wants to be a fashion designer, but all of the odds are against her, as she has neither money, nor the right social connections to make it in such an exclusive industry. With her dreams of entering the Teen Couture competition cruelly snatched away by the spoiled and scheming Clarissa who steals Angel's designs and then blackmails her, and with her mother ill and in hospital, Angel's future is looking bleak. 

And then, Angel's best friend (and daughter of her mother's employer,) Lily comes up with a surprising scheme of her own. Lily, it seems, is desperate to study acting at a school in London, but her two weeks tuition clash with a trip to Paris to visit her grandmother, who she has not seen since she was five years old. By chance, Angel and Lily have an uncanny resemblance to one another. And thats where Lily's scheme begins. Why not send Angel to Paris in her place, while she travels to her acting school in London. And the best bit? Lily's grandmother just happens to be a close, personal friend of the designer who is judging the teen couture awards. And Angel might just get the opportunity to stop Clarissa from winning the award with her stolen entry ...

Of course, not everything goes to plan ... But to tell you what happens would spoil the story. (Though I will reveal there is a rich boy who falls for Angel believing that she is Lily.) A few things go horribly awry and truths are revealed in spectacular style before a wonderful, Cinderella style ending. I loved every moment of this cleverly plotted teen romance. The book feels very innocent in places, but that just adds to its charms. The romance between Nick and Angel is a sweet and respectful one. I understand that author Jennifer Kloester is quite a fan of Georgette Heyer and it shows in her work.

This is highly recommended for those moments when you just want to escape and read a beautiful, happily-ever-after tale ...

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Julie McCullough

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday, that feature where we get to meet a different author every week and take a tiny little peek into their minds and careers. This week, I am talking with Australian author Julie McCullough ...

Tell us a bit about yourself … 

I am 48, married with 2 children, Dylan 11 and Ayla 9.  I live on a small farm near Rosedale in Qld, where I breed rare chooks, and also organically produce as much of our fresh food as possible, including making cheese with our own fresh milk.  I also do Remedial Massage at home.

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

It is cryptically entitled, “Of Wolves and Wildflowers” – it is a contemporary romance/thriller with some adventure and some humour, and some tastefully done sex scenes. The novel is set in various locations around Australia.  Front and back blurbs can be found on my website. It has only been available since Friday the 6th of Dec (6 days ago) but I am already getting some very positive and exciting feedback – “Loved it, couldn’t put it down. I laughed and I cried.” “The descriptive passages are amazing.” “This book should be made into a movie!!”

Tell us about the first time you were published? 

It was a short story, “Terror at the Windmill,” in the Central Qld University yearly book of short stories and poems during the 90’s. I was thrilled.

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

Completing my novel, redoing it years later (this year) and getting it independently published.

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

Promoting this one, but also starting to think about my next one – based on my family’s struggles during the early 60’s in rural QLD.

Do you have a favourite place to write? 

In the past it was on the beach or down in the bush, but these days it has to be at the computer.

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

Paper books.  You can see and feel them and you don’t have to worry about the batteries going flat!!!

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

“Eat Right For Your Blood Type.”  It has changed my life for the better.

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

Hope you will enjoy my book. Some of it is set in SA too.


My novel is not available in e-book form yet, but will be very soon – it may be by the time you are reading this. It can be ordered directly from me via my website and posted within Australia for $8.25 for 1 copy or 2-4 copies can go into a $13.40 satchel.  The copies are $20 each.  Print on Demand copies for readers outside of Australia can be ordered on It is a good sized read – just over 114 000 words.

There is much more info including the front and back cover blurbs and blogs on the website  Also you can find me on FB, just under Julie McCullough, Rosedale Qld, Australia.