Friday, 31 January 2014

Friday Funnies: The Best of Looney Tunes

Thanks to everyone who has been following my Looney Tunes posts. When I was putting these posts together, there were a lot of shorts that I wanted to feature. So this week, I am going to showcase a few of the shorts that I would have liked to have shared, but could not find a long enough or decent clip for:

The Three Little Bops:




Who could forget this awesome Looney Tunes musical number, with the Three Little Pigs taking up Rock and Roll and pitting themselves against a Big Bad Wolf who just couldn't play?

One Froggy Evening:




Who doesn't love that sneaky (but talented) frog?

Tweety and Sylvester's First Pairing:




One of many Looney Tunes classics to feature the duo.

Foghorn Leghorn opens his mouth and gets proven a fool, yet again:




I say boy ...

Hippety Hopper:




He's just unAustralian. Seriously, had Chuck Jones ever seen a kangaroo? Or know what fair go means?

Kiss Me Cat:



Who could forget Marc Anthony and his relationship with that adorable kitten?

And finally, there is just no way I can end this series on Looney Tunes without paying tribute to the weird, badly animated and downright tacky closing credits to the long-forgotten Porky Pig show from the 1960s


Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review: Perfect Ruin by Lauren Destefano

Perfect Ruin has a brilliant concept, backed up by decent writing and is written by a popular and seasoned YA author, so I am struggling to understand why I did not enjoy this one more. The concept is this: Morgan Stockhour lives in a floating city, basically a part of earth that was snatched up by the Gods and now exists in the sky, detached from the rest of humanity. This small monarchy is heavily regulated to ensure that its people live in perfect harmony and so that it does not become too populated. The most sacred rule of all is that the inhabitants of the city do not stray too close to the edge. And, naturally, there is something strange and exotic that draws many straight to the edge. 

As I said, a brilliant concept for a book.

Unfortunately, I struggled a little with the telling. In many ways, the obedient and easily frightened heroine who eventually rebels, Morgan, seemed a bit dull and was difficult for me to relate to. Some of the rules that ensured harmony between the inhabitants of this small monarchy such as betrothals, no real career choices and no real freedom for independent thought, are concepts that have been explored in other YA novels that I have read recently, most notably, Matched by Allie Condie. In many ways, it felt that I was reading a book with a bland heroine and a story that I had already read before. Fortunately, Perfect Ruin diverges a bit from Matched. Falling in love with someone other than her betrothed isn't on Morgan's agenda, though you get a sense that something could develop later in the series between her and the somewhat symbolically named Judas.

Anyway, in Perfect Ruin, a young woman is murdered, the mean government want to pin it on someone who didn't do it in order to cover something else up and Morgan, who has previously been quite obedient and unquestioning, becomes a part of the rebellion against the government. The novel leads up to quite an exciting ending, as it is the first in a trilogy. I don't really want to reveal the ending here, as that would spoil things for anyone reading the book. It's original enough not to be too predictable. 

In many ways, as a reader, I felt that something was missing from this book, though I am struggling to think what that missing something was. Perfect Ruin is not a bad book by any stretch, but it failed to engage me as a reader ...

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Ashley Howland

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am chatting with Ashley Howland, author of Ghostnapped and The Homework Goblin ...



Tell us a bit about yourself …

I have two beautiful daughters, who inspire me to write every day. They are always asking for the next book and we love writing together. I hope one day I can publish the books we write. I also have a beautiful Labrador - Stitch, who even has his own blog (Stitch Says for author interviews and reviews). Soon we will be adding a little puppy into the mix. We said goodbye to Obi in 2013, but he and Stitch have provided me with a lifetime of material to write about. I'm sure the puppy will bring his own stories to our lives. In my work I also get random extra Labradors coming to stay. When you combine well trained dogs and creative kids you get chaos. Still it's a fun life and I am so grateful that my girls will grow up with these dogs in their lives. There is nothing better than playing with them all.
I am also inspired by the places we go as a family. We love visiting zoos and going on holidays. As a family we are also very active. The beach, playing sports, going to the park and chasing each other around are all part of our normal week. It's all lots of fun.

Writing is my hobby. I love doing it and am so happy to be able to share my books with other children. It was my dream to have a book published. It was also my mother's dream. Unfortunately she never managed to complete this. She passed away from Breast Cancer without getting her work published. I wanted to dedicate my writing to her, so I used my maiden name - Howland. It's just my way of saying that dreams can come true.

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

The Homework Goblin was published in 2013. It’s a lot of fun. When I was teaching I had a year 6/7 class one day a week. On my day it was time for the students to hand in their homework. They always came up with such lame excuses for not doing it. We started to make it into a game. I challenged them to come up with a good excuse otherwise they would need to do it at lunch time. We had a lot of fun. My excuse was always the homework goblin stole it. Funnily enough they also always handed in their homework. You can check out The Homework Goblin at: http://sbpra.com/AshleyHowland/

Tell us about the first time you were published?

My first book Ghostnapped will always have a special place in my heart. The original draft was written for an assignment, while I was on a camping trip. It underwent some major alterations. The biggest being the creation of a unique monster. Still the elements of the story were the same. It’s a lot of fun and something I am very proud of. When I found out it had been accepted for publishing I didn’t believe it. In fact I went through the whole process in almost a trance. It wasn’t until I held the first copy in my hand with my name on the front that I realised I was a published author. A dream had been achieved. All I wanted was more though, it really was the start of bigger goals. However the best bit was when I heard parents tell me their kids wouldn’t go to sleep because they couldn’t put it down. That was and still is awesome to hear.

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

Hearing from the children who have read my books always makes me proud. However the best part of writing is listening to my girls when I read my stories to them. They are the reason I write and they also make it so much fun.

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

I am editing three manuscripts at the moment. One is a sequel to Obi the Super Puppy and the Mystery of the Red Mist. It’s a lot of fun to work on because it has Obi (who we had to say goodbye to earlier in the year), Stitch and the girls. It also includes some of the other dogs I work with, so it’s a good laugh.
The others are for different age groups. One is for older readers and is a bit different, but still a lot of fun. The last one is simply a fantasy story for my girls. I am hoping to self publish them all in 2014.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I write wherever I can find some quiet space. My laptop is my most prized possession, I couldn’t survive without it. I don’t have a particular place. When the writing bug hits I just write when I can.

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

I like both. I read eBooks, it is so much easier to get and store books. I love my kindle. I also have a kindle app for the girls, which is great on holidays. They love to read, so it’s easier to take that and have enough books for them. However I always buy paper books for the girls. Part of the joy of reading is getting the book and actually holding it. Plus it’s really hard to wrap up an eBook. I think there is space for both!

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

That’s a hard question. There are so many amazing books out there. When my girls were little I used to read Peter Pan to them and it is one of their favourites. I love this book, so much imagination. I would go with that one. Some of the others would include Alice in Wonderland, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Where the Wild Things Are. Plus anything written by Roald Dahl!
As you can see I really didn’t answer that question. Basically I think everyone should take the time to read!

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

I held my first book launch earlier in the year and it might sound strange, but it was fun to feel like a real author. It was also great to introduce my books to a whole lot of new people and children. To all my readers, here in Adelaide and everywhere I just want to say thanks! You have all helped me to make my dreams come true!

Links


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Review: The Yearning by Kate Belle

If one was to look only as far as the title, cover and blurb of this one, they could forgiven for thinking that The Yearning was straight out student-teacher porn. Which is a shame as The Yearning is an absolutely brilliant and sensitively told cautionary tale about the subtle differences between love and sexual desire. The novel opens in a small, Australian town. Our heroine, whose name is not revealed until the very end, is fifteen-years-old and is desperately awaiting her Prince Charming. And then along comes Solomon Andrews, a cool, charismatic twenty-something teacher who moves into the house next door. The heroine develops a crush on her teacher. A more sensible man would have ignored it and allowed the crush to fade away with time.

Solomon Andrews on the other hand is, well, a bit of a prick, really.

The author does a commendable job of explaining why Solomon is the way he is, his childhood shaped him into a very sexual man whose focus is on pleasure and living in the moment, mingled with the desire to always be in control. But the fact is, he's still a prick and our heroine cannot see that. While she spies on him through binoculars (secretly so she thinks,) he takes delight in taunting her emerging sexuality, playing tricks such as stripping off in front of the window and read naked. On another occasion, he has sex with one of her slutty classmates in full view of the window. These hijinks give him a feeling of power. He has one over her and he knows it. And while a smarter woman might have eventually said "stuff it" and walked away, the heroine is too far gone. She truly believes in her love for him. Angry and jealous, she writes out an erotic love note and leaves it in Solomon's mail box. 

And so begins a very sexual and very secret affair that ends only when the heroine's parents discover what is going on.

The second part of the book takes place many years later and examines the effect that the short-lived affair has on the life of the heroine and her eventual marriage to Max, who is well, a bit of a dud and not great husband material. Over the years, the heroine has never properly reconciled with her affair with Solomon in her mind or truly understood that their affair was driven by sexual desire, not love. Meanwhile, Max is battling with demons of his own, his marriage is crumbling. Then the heroine meets Solomon again ...

While I do not wish to give away too many spoilers, the ending is a tricky one. I love that the heroine gains a real sense of self and is able to, finally, reconcile with her past. As for the male characters, one gets his just desserts, the other does not. 

In many ways, this is a brilliant tale, brilliantly told. Solomon is a character who is larger than life yet in many ways, he felt very real to me. The author absolutely nails the nature of infatuation through her fifteen-year-old heroine--the longing, the way an ordinary, human man transforms in her mind into being something akin to a god and the sense that her life is somehow incomplete without him. We see Solomon take advantage of this, though for some reason--the sympathetic portrayal of his past, perhaps--I cannot hate him nearly as much as I would have liked to.

Highly recommended. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Review: Confessions of a Wild Child by Jackie Collins

Well. It's not often that I read a book by Jackie Collins. Actually, not often would be closer to never. I bypassed her books during that part of my adolescence (that phase many teenage girls seem to go through of reading sexy, scandalous novels that are well past their years,) favouring the more sinister works of Virginia Andrews (or V.C. Andrews for those of you outside Australia). Anyway, I probably never would have read Ms Collins latest release had I not just happened to see it lying around and had curiosity not gotten the better of me. 

And, just a warning. Curiosity kills cats.

Fortunately, I don't think that any cats were killed during my reading of Confessions of a Wild Child. However, for someone who was unfamiliar with this author, her work and the series that this is a prequel, this probably wasn't the best book to read. I found the story to be a very shallow and superficial tale of a confident and highly sexualised young woman from a family of shady businesspeople as she hops around the world, doing everything short of actually having sex with the young men that she meets, until her dad catches up with her and arranges her to be married off to some silly mummy's boy. And really, that's it. Most of the plot twists seem rather convenient (Lucky's friend Liz drowning in a swimming pool as soon as she is no longer needed and is never really mentioned again, for example,) and the whole thing seems to be designed to shock readers and to persuade them to keep turning pages. And okay, I get it. This is meant to be a glitzy, shocking page-turner, but in all honesty, I'm struggling to think of a novel that had less depth than this one.

I suppose this is a book for those of you out there who like your words light, your plot easy to follow and your story dowsed with generous lashings of sex and sin ... A guilty pleasure for some, perhaps, but this one really wasn't for me.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop!


For the second year running, I am participating in this very awesome Australia Day blog hop which is being hosted by Book'd Out (an awesome blog, check it out if you haven't already). Up for grabs from me is an autographed copy of my novel, Being Abigail, which is about a slightly ... well eccentric young woman and her everyday domestic dramas. It is set in Glenelg, a part of Adelaide that is very close to my heart as my brothers and I were all born there, and is now a popular tourist destination. (But not, you know, because I was born there. That part is pure coincidence.) You can enter by clicking on the rafflecopter widget below. Entry is open to international readers. Don't forget to visit Book'd Out if you haven't already to get a full list of the bloggers who are participating.

PS For those of you who are wondering, I'll probably be spending my Australia Day chilling on the back veranda with my laptop (I'm well into the second draft of my next novel, hence why this post is so short,) a vegemite sandwich and perhaps I'll exchange my customary frog cake for a lamington ... 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 24 January 2014

Feature and Follow Friday


Yay! Once again I am participating in Feature and Follow Friday, an awesome weekly meme that is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read and is designed to help book bloggers meet, connect and basically have a good time whilst talking about bookish things. If this is your first time here, welcome and don't be shy, I love getting comments (but doesn't everyone). And please feel free to take a look around the archive list ...

Anyway, it wouldn't be Feature and Follow Friday without a question, so ...

What books are you looking forward to reading in 2014?

This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer as, for the moment, most of my reading wants and whims have been satisfied. I have finished most of the series that I have been following (or abandoned them out of frustration, i.e. the Matched series by Allie Condie which started good but turned out to be a massive disappointment,) with the exception of Bloodlines, but the next book in that series won't be out until May, so I've still got quite a bit of time to wait there. Same as the second book in the Twinmaker series won't be out until mid-to-late 2014. And some of my favourite authors such as Tim Winton released their novels in late 2013, so we probably won't see another release for quite some time yet. And as has been traditional since the 1990s, every V.C. Andrews release proves to be a massive disappointment, so I'm not really looking forward to this weeks new release The Unwelcome Child though it will probably get a review on here at some stage simply because I seem faithfully buy all of her books, even though I think all of the new ones are lame and I hate them. 

Anyway, over to you. Which releases are you looking forward to?

Friday Funnies: Duck Amuck



This week, I am paying tribute to one of the finest Daffy Duck cartoons ever made (in my humble opinion, though I suspect a lot of people may agree with me--read more here,) Duck Amuck. In this short, which is nearly impossible to find unbutchered or whole on the internet Daffy speaks with an unseen (well until the end,) and antagonistic animator who communicates back via a pencil and paintbrush. It is a simple but brilliant concept and it works well. 

I am devoting all of my Friday Funnies posts to Looney Tunes. Feel free to comment by telling me of your favourite Looney Tunes moments or to share any Looney Tunes related clips. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Writers On Wednesday: M.M. Kin

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am talking with M.M. Kin, author of the Seeds trilogy, a brilliant take on the myth of Hades and Persephone ...



Tell us a bit about yourself …

I've always been an avid reader, since I was little. To me, books were a portal to another world, as cheesy as that may sound. Later on, I realised I wanted to make worlds of my own.

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

I just recently published Seeds Volume 3, the third and final book in my Seeds trilogy. The trilogy itself is a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth, with my own twists and additions to it, there were parts of the original myth that always bothered me, or there were gaps in the story that left things unanswered. I have noticed this with other myths though, and my next book explores various world-myths in the form of short stories., with my own twists to them.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

That was this spring, with the first volume in my trilogy. It was quite exciting and somewhat surreal, to actually be able to call myself a published author, with a real, actual book. It still feels surreal sometimes, because I looked up to authors when I was little and now I am one myself!

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

Being published, what else can I say? But then, I also feel accomplished knowing that I was able to sit down and write a book, let alone three of them, writing a book is not easy, as any author who takes their profession seriously knows.

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

As I mentioned before, I have an upcoming book of short stories. After that I do want to expand my repertoire into other genres, namely science fiction as well as historical fiction and family gothic, and possibly a vampire story. I have plot ideas and outlines for these genres, but I am unable to say which story I will finish first. Myths and history will continue to be part of my writing, as I have always been fascinated by mythology and folklore and the history and culture that goes with them.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

On the couch with a cat or two curled up at my side and a nice cup of green tea, or hot chocolate.

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

Personally, I have always preferred paperback, as there is nothing like the feel of a real book in your hands, or seeing a row of books on a shelf, or even a bookshelf full of books. Of course, I realise that e-books are a better option for some people, so I have my own books available in both formats, I feel that each reader should have a choice in how they consume a book.

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

I have several favourite authors and books, so it's hard to choose just one since everyone has their favourite genre and so on. It's impossible to pick one, so if it's all right with you, I'll recommend a few books... Dune, The Good Earth, Anne of Green Gables, Redwall, and Stranger in a Strange Land.

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

Reading, and writing, should always be fun, never a chore. If you're not enjoying a book, just put it down. If you feel stuck on writing, just step away from the computer and do something else.

Links

My books are available in print and Kindle from Amazon, and in Nook form from Barnes and Noble.
I can be found on Facebook, Goodreads, and I also have a blog.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

1980s Nostalgia: Hunter & Computer Cat ABC Hobart Documentary (2012)



I have to admit, I was absolutely delighted on Wednesday morning last week when the Adelaide Remember When page on facebook shared a link about the ABC children's educational programme Hunter. Like a lot of kids who were born and grew up in the 1980s, I have a lot of fond memories of watching this one in the TV room at my primary school.  Hunter was a bumbling, budding scientist with an interest in how things worked, while his companion, Computer Cat was well, a smug know-it-all. Shortly afterward, someone else shared a link on the page to the above documentary on YouTube. Well worth a watch if you remember the series ...

Monday, 20 January 2014

Review: Vampire Academy: A Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead, Leigh Dragoon & Emma Vieceli

The Vampire Academy series was just so brilliant that they had to adapt the series in graphic novel format. While some graphic novels can be a bit of a disappointment, Vampire Academy has so much action and a strong visual element which works well within the frame of a graphic novel format. (I suspect this will work very well in the upcoming film adaption too.) Leigh Dragoon has adapted the story into graphic format, condensing it in places and Emma Vieceli's illustrations are brilliant. It was lovely to see her interpretation of what Rose, Lissa and Dimitri all looked like. She also does a great job of illustrating the tiresome Mia as a spoiled little brat (who comes complete with blonde ringlets). It was also great seeing Natalie as a Strigoi. 

Obviously, the plot is the same as that of the first book in the Vampire Academy series, with Rose and Lissa being brought back to boarding school after two years on the run. Lissa's talents as a spirit user are slowly exposed and Victor wants to exploit them for his own personal gain. And, of course, Rose and Dimitri meet for the first time. The charmed jewellery scene is perhaps a little too short and a little too tastefully in comparison to the book and I think they could have pushed the boundaries a little further and gotten away with it. 

Anyway, this book is a real treat for fans, but may not have quite so much to offer readers who are not already familiar with the story.



I read this book as part of the Eclectic Reader Challenge 2014. 1/12

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Review: My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

Unlike a lot of my Australian peers, I somehow managed to bypass reading this one when I was in high school. In fact I never really thought that much or terribly deeply about Miles Franklin and her work at all until I was in my Honours year at university and during the course of my research I encountered an article that Ms Franklin wrote on Australian women writers, where she dismissed Catherine Martin's brilliant novel An Australian Girl as "A trying rigmarole about a woman caught between two men."

It wasn't long before disgust and loathing took hold. Who the fuck was Miles Franklin and what made her qualified to say so?

Fast forward ten years and I'm older, wiser and also have a bit more respect for the absolutely massive contribution that Ms Franklin made to Australian Literature. Her first novel was published when she was twenty-one, she was a strong supporter of two literary journals (both of which I often used for academic research,) Southerly and Meanjin made some generous donations to her local library and in her will asked for an annual literary award to be established in her name, which we now know as the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the winners have included authors such as Patrick White, Tim Winton, Thea Astley and Elizabeth Jolley. Franklin was also a feminist and was annoyed about misconceptions about her novel My Brilliant Career to the point where the sequel My Career Goes Bung would not be published until 1946, though it was written shortly after My Brilliant Career.

As for My Brilliant Career, it has, as the author points out at the beginning of the novel, no plot. It is the description of an idealistic and feminist young woman growing up in an Australian landscape. Sybella knows she is destined for better things than what the bush and life as a wife and mother, or perhaps as a nurse or teacher (the only options open to women,) can possibly offer her. So even though she finds herself attracted to a man, she turns down his proposal of marriage to embark on a possible career as a writer. And that's basically it. In between there are descriptions of what is to live in the Colony of New South Wales in the years just prior to federation. As a heroine, Sybella is often frank, shocks those around her and can be headstrong and foolish. She is also a bit of a loner. I'm not sure that I liked her, though she was interesting to read about. 

Apparently, after the novel's publication Franklin became very annoyed with the publicity surrounding the book and it's not difficult to see why. In the introduction, Henry Lawson says to readers that she is a little bush girl, which frankly, is an insult to an intelligent woman of twenty one years who has just written a book, and readers often confused the outgoing Franklin with her introverted heroine Sybella. 

This is a good one to read for historical purposes and so that one may gain a better understanding of the history of Australian Literature.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Promotional Poster: Cats, Scarves and Liars by Kathryn White



Just wanted to share this small and simple promotional poster that I made for my upcoming novel Cats, Scarves and Liars which I plan to release later this year ... 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Friday Funnies: Porky's Hare Hunt



Here is a bit of random trivia for you. In the 1930s, the most popular Looney Tunes character by far was none other than Porky Pig. A little more aggressive than we know him now (though still with the trademark stutter,) Porky, like many outdoorsy American men of his generation, enjoyed rabbit hunting.

And then, along came this cartoon, where Porky is outsmarted by an unnamed rabbit. The character would later become Bugs Bunny (named after the director of this short, Ben "Bugs" Hardaway,) and when his "real" debut came in 1940, he would soon overtake Porky in the popularity stakes. Meanwhile, Porky's occasional sidekick Daffy Duck, who was already building up a following of his own, after his debut in 1937, would soon find himself cast in the role of the best friend and occasional enemy of Bugs, though he continued to be paired off with Porky during the 1950s and 1960s where they would parody popular films and television shows of the times.

Through January I will be devoting Friday Funnies to Looney Tunes. Feel free to share any of your favourite clips or moments in the comments section. 


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Writers on Wednesday: H.M.C.

Welcome back to Writers On Wednesday. This week, I put my usual questions the very talented H.M.C. author of White Walls ...




Tell us a bit about yourself …

I’m an author, teacher, artist, and mum who lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. I adore teaching, it’s such a rewarding job, and I get to hang out with funny people all day.

Dancing, drumming, and vegetable patches are some of my other hobbies.

My favourite thing to do, however, is to create stories.

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

My most recent novel is a psychological thriller called, White Walls.

It’s a conspiracy novel set in Australia that follows several quirky characters that all end up in the same mental institution.

Here’s the blurb:

Psychiatrist Jade Thatcher thinks that returning to her small, Australian hometown to start again, will be a healing experience – until her new job proves to be just the opposite. Her patients are linked in ways that she can’t explain, and the hospital has seen too many doctors come and go. It’s not long before she is lured by a well-guarded secret; one that sends her to a dark and dangerous place, with little hope of returning.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

It was an interesting experience, that’s for sure! I wrote an entire blog on it if you’d like to take a look.
It’s called, ‘Why I Left my Publisher.’ http://hmcwriter.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/why-i-left-my-publisher/

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

Most definitely the night of my book launch in July this year.
Having people buy and read my book, then give me such positive feedback, has made me realise I’m not only following a dream, I’m entertaining people, just as I’d set out to do.

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

This time I’m writing for the children!

My next novel is an fantasy/adventure called Robert Mumpkin Myer and the Wish Makers.
Here’s part of the synopsis:

Robert Mumpkin Myer has no one to talk to but the staff of the Myer Manor. When a Willie Wagtail lures him up a tree, Robert discovers something he wasn’t meant to see, and his world is changed forever. With a keen eye, Robert tries to understand the secrets of the Manor, which are many—like the strange ingredients in Mrs Mac’s kitchen drawer!
            Thrust into a magical realm called Upworld, via the Orb Bringers in his back garden, Robert finds himself in a world where wishes come true in an instant. People and animals he knows are ‘down the rabbit hole’ different in this alternate world. Miss Henry, his usually shy and light-hearted home-school teacher, has become a fairy who is adept in martial arts. The gardener, Mr Bretticus, is now a wizard who can turn things big and small. Mrs Mac, the Manor cook, is a potions expert here. In Upworld, Robert’s pet rabbit, Mike, is a seven-foot tall, talking Roobihare who wears a blazer and prefers to be called Michael!  And here even Robert is different.  He is a powerful wish-maker. And he is Upworld’s last hope.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

When writing stories, I like to sit at my writing desk.
However, it’s more like wherever I can. I’m the mother of a 15-month-old and right now I’m typing on the floor next to her as she builds a tower.

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

The conclusion I’ve come to is that both are a good thing, but I’ll always prefer a paperback over an Ebook. It’s the book smell!

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

This is a great question.

Angela’s Ashes by Frank Mcourt.

It’s a tragedy, so beautifully written, and of course, there’s triumph.

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

Hello! Lovely to meet you. Please leave a comment and have a chat.

Links

Amazon U.S


Amazon UK

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Review: My Beautiful Suicide

Well, I have to hand it to debut author Atty Eve. She certainly knows how to create a story full of unpredictable, yet believable twists. Much like Kelly Braffet gave the YA/NA a bit of a kick up the bum with her brilliant novel Save Yourself, with My Beautiful Suicide Atty Eve creates a novel that is challenging, unpredictable and, at times, utterly frightening. 

The novel opens on familiar ground, though those with a sound knowledge of English Literature will enjoy the many references to Les Miserables including the names of some of the characters. The heroine is Cozette or Cozy Hugo, a high school junior. Things in Cozy's life are pretty damn ordinary when the novel opens. Her brother, Victor (I'm sure you'll get the reference,) has died under tragic circumstances. Her parents have divorced and Dad has remarried a gold-digger has a new kid and has pretty much forgotten Cozy's existence. Mum doesn't have a lot of time or money--she's working odd hours at the local hospital--and Cozy's life is being further complicated by Hilda (yep) the school mean girl and bully. Although she possesses great strength and the ability to fight, Cozy feels utterly defeated by Hilda until one night when she comes to Hilda's rescue during a savage attack. There's a gang on the loose in the local area, preying on young woman. And, suddenly, the suicidal Cozy has an idea that is as ridiculous as it is clever.

Why not kill herself by baiting the gang into attacking her? She'll go down, but she will make sure that they die with her ...

And then, the plot really takes off. Not only does Cozy keep surviving the attacks that she tries to organise, but she finds herself in a strange Bonnie and Clyde style alliance with Chris, a boy from school who has a troubled family life of his own. Reader beware though, Cozy and Chris' relationship is a far cry from the romances that we've seen in YA/NA fiction in recent years. Or to put it another way, Chris is no stand in for Edward Cullen. He's a whole and complex character who comes with problems of his own and his alliance with Cozy is certainly, well, unusual. 

It's difficult to say more about the novel without giving much of the plot away, but I will tell you that this is the first in a series and it ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. I'm very much looking forward to the sequel. 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Review: Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

I picked up Between the Lives a little while ago, after finding it on the discount pile at Kmart. I do not know if other Kmarts do this, or if it is just my local, but sometimes if a book has been sitting on their shelves for a certain amount of time, they mark the price down. If it remains on the shelf, they mark the price down again. And again and again, until you can (sometimes) find a new paperback for a just a couple of dollars. Over the years, I have picked up some very good books this way--The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmel is one example--and there has been the odd dud. The author of Between the Lives has also already made a bit of a name for herself as the author of a YA paranormal series. So when I saw this book marked down, I thought that I would give it a chance. I won't say that I was disappointed, as the story was interesting enough, though the ending was a bit unsatisfactory. 

Sabrine is a young woman with a very interesting problem. She is living two lives. Every twenty-four hours Sabrine shifts from one life to the other and must live the same day over again, as a different person. She dreads the shifts, resents the fact that she is the only person in the world who must live like this and wishes that she could choose just one life. In each life she is known as Sabrine, and she looks basically the same, but each life is also quite the opposite of the other. In her life in Wellesley, Sabrine comes from a wealthy family, has two older brothers that she hates and a bright future ahead, though her boyfriend is a bit of a dud. In her life in Roxbury, Sabrine's future is starting to look very dim, though she is able to find true love with Ethan, a fellow patient at the clinic where she is an inmate. From there, what we see is a love story, where Sabrine feels forced to choose between the perfect life or the perfect love. 

In many ways, Between the Lives feels like a purely by the numbers YA romance with a bit of a paranormal twist. There are the usual themes of fitting in and first loves. Exciting if you're, I don't know ... fourteen. I found the supposedly emotional parts of the novel a bit ... well, about as flat as Sabrine's personality to be honest. I never got a real sense of who she was. 

The main strength of the novel is also its greatest irritation. The fact that while in Roxbury, Sabrine is placed under medical care and is thought to be suffering delusions after she starts cutting herself and taking drugs as an 'experiment' and then begins to tell her family about her life in Wellsey, coupled with the fact that both lives are in contrast with one another, offers us a pretty big hint as to what is going on. So too does the fact that Ethan turns up in Sabrine's Wellsey life shortly after he passes away. Wellsey, it would seem, is a product of Sabrine's delusions. But the author never really makes that clear, or tells us that yes, both lives are real. As a reader, I was left wondering and that just made me annoyed, rather than making me ponder all the different possibilities ...

Anyway, this book is entertaining enough, though the ending falls a little flat. 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Friday Funnies: Bugs Bunny & Wile E. Coyote - My Name is Mud



I'm declaring January to be Looney Tunes month. All through January, my regular Friday Funnies posts are going to be devoted to celebrating some of my favourite clips from various Looney Tunes shorts. (Or, at least the ones that I can find on YouTube.) Kicking off, is the final forty-five seconds of Operation Rabbit.

While Wile E. Coyote is best remembered for his inability to catch the Road Runner (and not his ability to paint realistic images of tunnels, which I think is a shame, and you can read more about that one here,) some of his pairings with Bugs Bunny are among the funniest of all Looney Tunes shorts. In these shorts, he speaks with a refined accent (heard only very, very occasionally in the Road Runner cartoons,) and considers himself to be a genius. And there is no doubting that Wile E. Coyote is, in fact, very clever. However, arrogance is the Coyote's downfall (he often fails to check the finer details of his elaborate schemes, or check that the goods he purchases are fit for their intended purpose) and the streetwise Bugs uses it to his full advantage, noting at the end of the cartoon when his nemesis admits defeat that, Mud spelled backwards is Dum. 

Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny met on four more occasions. Check out some of there best moments here:


Operation Rabbit (Bride Scene)

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Review: Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

I am going to be honest here. I bought this one against my better judgement. And I did at least, try to like it. Unfortunately, my better judgement was telling me that such a project, updating Austen's Sense and Sensibility and setting it in modern day England, was foolhardy and a waste of my valuable reading time. But other factors soon came into play. Like the fact that Austen's work has been successfully modernised in the past. The film Clueless is, of course, a modern take on Emma, while Bridget Jones's Diary puts a unique modern spin on Pride and Prejudice. And so, something within me decided to give this one a chance. 

And well ... other reviewers may have more positive feelings about the book and are entitled to of course, but for me, the whole thing was a waste of my time and hard-earned money. 

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope is as disappointing Mr Willoughby. For those of you who don't know, Willoughby was the rich, flashy guy who seduced the young and idealistic Marianne and then ditched her as soon as someone better came along. And then Marianne decided that she was better off with good old Colonel Brandon, who she initially thought was old and boring, but was actually pretty good value on his own. And that pretty much sums up how I feel about the book. Trollope's Sense and Sensibility is grander and flashier than Austen's version, and does have a few moments that feel quite insightful and are quite entertaining (Marianne's temper tantrum being broadcast on YouTube for example,) but the whole thing overall is a bit of a disappointment. Austen's Sense and Sensibility is a bit quieter, a bit less flashy in its approach but offers readers better value. 

The reason Trollope's version fails, I feel, is that she simply transplants the main characters into modern day England, but they don't necessarily adapt with it as easily as they could. It's almost impossible to believe that their mother--who must surely have lived through second-wave feminism--could be quite such a useless character. When Austen created Elinor, Marianne and the others they were both products of their times and had much to say about the nature of inheritance and the need for woman to marry to survive. Such a need is almost redundant in the time and place where Trollope's version is set and Elinor is the only character who shows any kind of backbone at all when it comes to creating her own path in life. (On a side note, the reason why Bridget Jones and Clueless work so well, is because the writers took the basic ideas and transposed them into modern settings, with truly modern characters.) Fanny, meanwhile, provides an amusing portrayal of the Nouveau Riche and steals practically every scene that she is in, while her husband is proven to be well, a bit of fool. It's a bit of a shame really, as it's obvious that Trollope has done a lot of research and would seem to truly love adding her own spin to Austen's world.

Sense and Sensibility is the first in something called the Austen Project, which seeks to update all six of Austen's completed works, with novels written by contemporary authors who have achieved literary significance. The novels will be released and written as follows:

Sense and Sensibility Joanna Trollope
Northanger Abbey Val McDermid
Pride and Prejudice Curtis Sittenfeld
Emma Alexander McCall Smith

Which, of course, leaves me wondering who will be rewriting Mansfield Park and Persuasion ... Then again, unless this review gets thousands upon thousands of hits, it's unlikely that I will be sticking around ...

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Writers On Wednesday: Lorraine Cobcroft

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week, I have put my usual five questions to Lorraine Cobcroft, a talented Australian writer, and author of the children's novel The Pencil Case ...



Tell us a bit about yourself …

I'm mother to three wonderful children; have five grandchildren who are the light of my life; am blessed to have been happily married for over 43 years to the love of my life; and am now happily semi-retired after working in an astonishing variety of jobs but mostly as a technical, business and ghost writer. I now spend my time writing, editing, doing pre-publishing work, reviewing books, mentoring writers, writing courseware for writers, running a writer's community at www.rainbowriter.com, and supporting fights against injustice and destruction of the environment.

I've been fortunate to experience more diversity in my life than most people ever see; travelling both in Australia and abroad; and living in an army camp, three foreign countries, small country towns and rural villages, on farms, and in major cities. In addition to writing, I've worked as everything from CEO of a public technology company to ironing lady, fast food kiosk cook, school tuck-shop manager, receptionist, architectural draftsman, nurse's aide, paralegal, and bookkeeper.

In the autumn of my life, I'm lucky to live in a bush and beach paradise and to have freedom to write for my own pleasure and satisfaction, and to read all the wonderful books I had too little time to enjoy during a busy working life.

Apart from writing, I love people, travel, reading, sewing, art and music. I am a country girl, born in New England, NSW, and though I spent 30 years in the city, I love the Aussie bush. One of my greatest pleasures is caravanning in the outback.

I write, now, to ''nudge the world a little'' - to hopefully inspire questioning of what we too often blindly accept as truth; aid understanding of other lives, cultures and challenges; and drive social reform that will make the world a better place for all.  I believe the pen is the most powerful weapon we have to wage war on injustice, and writers have an obligation to use it well.

I think today's writer is incredibly fortunate to have access to the support and friendship of an international community of writers, editors, artists, and publishers, and I've been richly blessed. I've made dozens of wonderful friends from all over the world who help and support me on my journey. I enjoy supporting them in return.

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

The Pencil Case is a slightly fictionalized biography of a stolen child; a fifth-generation native-born white Australian taken from his family at age 7 and kept apart from loved ones, abused and deprived; effectively incarcerated - in his view - for 18 years. The after-effects of incarceration lasted a lifetime.
The story was written to dispel a popular myth, supported for political reasons, that ''The Stolen Generation'' were all Aboriginals taken because of race. My research indicates that there were some 96,000 whites taken in the same way - generally because of poverty. And that number doesn't include forced adoptions in infancy or British migrants.

The removal of these children was a social crime committed for economic gain by bureaucrats and the churches that ran the institutions that housed them. I wrote the book to expose a truth widely denied, and to protest a cruel injustice that has never been properly acknowledged and will almost certainly never be redressed. I've been branded a racist, a liar and a fraud for writing this story. But I am none of those. The truth of the tale is conclusively provable. I have the deepest sympathy for Aboriginals. I know the pain of loss of family and culture better than most. I share it. But their story has been distorted and manipulated for economic, political and social gain - mostly by greedy whites and mixed bloods who steal from Aboriginals and deny them their moral entitlements and their pride, and incite hatred against them.

The story follows Paul Wilson from the happy bush home of a war veteran, to an institution where Paul suffers deprivation and abuse, to foster homes, another institution, an army training school for boys, and through an eventful adult life desperately searching for identity, love, a sense of belonging, and self-respect. It explores the long-term psychological effects and practical challenges faced by victims, their partners and their offspring as a consequence of trauma, family separation, and the absence of love in childhood.

Readers say it's a story you will read between tears and fits of rage. Many have said they had to pause at times and gather strength to read on. But it's a story of personal courage and victory over adversity; of human kindness, charity, and dedication to a cause. It's a story that will reassure you of the enormous strength of the human spirit and the power of family love.

You can read the first two chapters free at http://www.rainbowriter.com/ThePencilCase.php (Scroll down and click the Preview Link to the right of the cover image).

I welcome requests for a coupon for free download from anyone seriously interested in reviewing it.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

It was 1976. I was twenty-five and had just delivered my third child, a beautiful daughter. I was keen to stay at home and spend as much time as I could with my children while they were young. I read an article promoting women's liberation, and branding stay-at-home mums ''mindless cabbages, tied to the kitchen sink''. I was incensed, and I wrote a response titled ''Time for an International Motherhood Year''. I showed it to my husband, then buried it in my bottom drawer. I had been writing for a hobby for years, but never had the courage to submit anything for publication - other than to the school newspaper, which didn't count as a 'publication' in my view.

I was in the garden on Easter Saturday, covered in mud, when the phone rang. I cursed because I had to run across cream-coloured carpet to answer it. A voice said ''I'm deputy editor with Australian Woman's Day. We'd like a photograph and some personal information about you please. We want to publish your article in our special Mothers' Day edition.'' I was speechless. I thought the speaker was insane. The article hadn't left my bottom drawer, to the best of my knowledge.

Actually, my husband had submitted it without my knowledge. It was printed and paid the princely sum of $70 (a tidy reward back then!) What delighted me far more than the cheque was that I received a veritable flood of supportive responses and thank you letters from women Australia-wide. Thousands wrote to me. There were some lovely letters amongst them.

I wonder how many women today would endorse a call for greater support for women to stay at home and be just ''mum'' during their children's formative years? 

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

It's difficult to say because several works qualify, according to different criteria. I was very proud to be able to gift the proceeds of Melanie's Easter Gift to the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Foundation. I was proud of my success with my programming courseware because it qualified me as a successful technical writer. I am fiercely proud of The Pencil Case because of what it has achieved for victims of a serious social wrong, and because it demonstrated that it is possible to ''nudge the world a little'' - to make a difference in society by speaking out against deception, cruelty, and injustice.

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

Right now, I'm working on a couple of informational books, a family saga (narrative non-fiction based on research into the history of my family - being written primarily so my descendants will have access to information about their heritage), and a novel titled Mortgaged Goods, about a woman who suffers psychological damage in early childhood, feeling unwanted, then struggles to love her own disabled child, torn between a successful career and material comfort, and a feeling of obligation to care for her offspring. Can she abandon her child and enjoy ''the perfect life'': career success, money, travel, and freedom?  Will she ever experience ''normal'' maternal instincts and come to love her son?

Do you have a favourite place to write?

My office. We moved into a new home in August, and it has a magnificent sunny office overlooking a koala sanctuary and beautiful bushland. I also like to take my Neo to the beach or to pretty picnic spots in the bush, or just out to our outdoor living room where there are lovely sea breezes and bushland views. We live in paradise!  It's an amazing spot. Sadly, I don't think developers and their buddies on local Councils will allow it to stay that way for long. We are already engaged in a battle to stop a seriously unwelcome development wiping out a major koala breeding ground. (Anyone concerned to save koalas and other native wildlife from extinction might want to sign our petition at http://t.co/ocLsi0Edxg)

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

I love printed books - the feel of them and the warm, welcoming look a filled bookshelf gives a home. But I prefer to read eBooks now, because I find them easier on my eyes and far more convenient. They are wonderful when we are travelling. Being able to take thousands of books with me without taking up space or adding weight is an amazing benefit both on flights and when caravanning.

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

Oh, that's not a fair question. There are a million books that everybody should read, and it's almost impossible to choose one over another. The bible, perhaps. But the Koran and other religious texts are of similar importance. What matters, I think, is that people read a wide variety of books, keep an open mind, and respect the ideas, opinions, beliefs and traditions of people of all cultures. You don't have to agree or approve, but try to walk a mile in the shoes of others and gain some understanding of their life journeys and the challenges they face.

Of course, readers should also read ''Changing Seasons'', an Anthology by Fairfield Writers Group (Brisbane) that I edited and published and that contains four of my short stories. It was launched on Sept 28, 2013, and it's a great read.

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

Adelaide (and surrounds) is one of the few places I haven't explored nearly enough. I was going there two years ago but family tragedy forced me to abandon plans for a major trip. I hope to go next year, and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope my readers there will welcome me warmly. And I hope they will work to maintain the unique character of one of Australia's most beautiful cities. Try not to let greedy developers spoil. From the little I have seen of it, Adelaide is a very special place.

Awesome Links:

(Anthologies including some of Lorraine's short stories will go on sale here soon)


Thank you, all, for your interest in me and for taking time to read this interview. Contact me at writer@rainbowriter.com to follow up or request a book review or other services