Friday, 30 May 2014

Friday Funnies: Wilkins Coffee Makes Kermit the Frog Kind of Crazy



Before Sesame Street came along to sober him up and well before he found fame with the Muppets, Kermit the Frog was the somewhat crazy and often violent spokes person for a popular brand of coffee in the United States. PS Does his offsider remind you of anyone?

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Review: Lick by Kylie Scott

Imagine waking in Las Vegas and discovering that one, you cannot remember anything about the night before, two, that you married to a very famous rock star and three, that you have his name tattooed on your backside. That is the premise of Lick, the first novel in Kylie Scott's Stage Dive series.

This one pretty much is what it is and publisher Pan Macmillan's marketing campaign--hiring male models to give away free copies in three major cities--should pretty much tell potential readers whether they belong in the target audience. The writing itself is fairly lightweight. The good girl heroine and rock star hero are relatively easy for the reader to identify with and some readers will probably enjoy Evelyn's musings about her future and the development of her own goals versus the vision that her straight-laced parents have for her. Most of the story revolves around the premise of will they or won't they stay married, coupled with a lot of erotic content. Anyone who likes NA romance with a lot of erotica will surely enjoy this one, those who are looking for something a bit deeper may be disappointed. For fans or those looking for lighthearted entertainment. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Kat Smutz

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week, I put my questions to Kat Smutz author of Spies on Neither Side ...



Tell us a bit about yourself …

I've always been sort of an independent thinker, always curious about everything and questioning whatever I didn't understand, and going where life leads me.  I studied engineering in collge, tried my hand at law enforcement, and somehow ended up in journalism, first in radio and then with newspapers.  Writing fiction was something that began in high school, and became my source of escapism.  Anyone who ever read any of my work always told me I should get it published.  So, when we reposted to Maine, my husband told me it was time to stay home and work on getting published.  I had no idea where to start.  Then, I had a history website begin following me on Twitter, and I began writing for them.  I had become addicted to history in college and I knew a lot about the American Civil War era.  So, History In An Hour asked me to do two books for them, one on slavery and the next on the war itself. 

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

I've released two new books in the last few months.  One is a third history book called Abraham Lincoln In An Hour, and the other is my first fiction release, a historical fiction novel called, Spies On Neither Side.  It focuses on a part of the American Civil War that you don't hear a lot about, which is what was going on in the American West during the war.  The main character is a young woman who is cut off from her family by the war and she turns to spying to earn a living.  But she's not a spy for the North or the South.  Her job is to gather information for a group of investors in England.  She's a neutral party, but if she gets caught, she'll still be hung as a spy.  She manages to survive the war without a lot of trouble until one of the people she works for shows up.  It causes so much trouble that she has to leave, and go back to her family.  But her troubles aren't over.  Her family has fled to England to ride out the war and the American government wants her out of the country. 

The characters, of course, are fictional, but the circumstances are quite real.  The border was a rather chaotic place during the war and there were quite a few female spies.  I've tried to keep the romance to a minimum, so, even the guys might enjoy reading it. 

Tell us about the first time you were published? 

I had been published before as a journalist.  Another writer once referred to me as 'the most overworked and underpaid journalist in West Texas.'  As for books, I started writing articles for History In An Hour, and after a few months, I was asked to write American Slavery In An Hour.  It is part of the History In An Hour series, which is designed for people who have an interest in history, but only want a general overview.  They're usually less than 20,000 words.  It was an opportunity to learn how publishing worked so that I could get my fiction published.

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

Getting published at all was a big thrill when my first book came out.  But I think my third history book, Abraham Lincoln In An Hour is the best of the three.  Within days, it was on the top ten list in the UK.  (At least, that's what I've been told.)  But I think as time goes on and I learn more and more about writing and publishing, my work will get better, and that my best work is yet to come.

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

I'm always working on something.  Sometimes, it's going back to something I've already written with a new idea or it might be completely new.  We were in Boston for the marathon this year, and made a side trip out to Salem.  I've had a lot of people ask me about a book on the Salem Witch Trials, so I'm considering proposing that to my editor.  In the meantime, one of my fictional characters is always running wild in my head or a new one is developing.  I have a lot of books I've written but never published, and I'm trying to decide which one to work on next for publication.

Do you have a favourite place to write? 

Someplace quiet and comfortable.  I carry my laptop all over the house.  I used to take it everywhere I went until I bought a tablet.  When inspiration hits, you have to write it down or lose it.  I can put notes and ideas into my tablet until I get home, so I don't lose them.

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

That is a tough question.  I like being able to take my books with me in my tablet so that I can read anywhere, but I love the feel and the smell of actual books.  They're often easier to work with when I'm doing research than ebooks are.  But with ebooks, I don't have to worry about finding space for them.  I keep any books I buy for research and I'm running out of space for them.

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

I'm not sure there is a 'one book' that everybody should read.  People have such a wide range of interests, and there are good writers out there writing about all of it.  Personally, my favorite book is The Mists of Avalon by Morgan Llewellyn. 

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

I'd love to visit.  New places and new people always inspire me to write.  If you decide to read one of my books, I'd like to know what you think.  Productive feedback is always welcome.

Links

I love to hear from history buffs, writers and readers.  I'm on Facebook at Kat Smutz, and my Twitter account is border2border.

American Slavery In An Hour, American Civil War In An Hour, and Abraham Lincoln In An Hour are all available from just about every ebook seller, including Amazon. 


Spies On Neither Side is available at Amazon

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Review: Red Hill by Jamie McGuire

Red Hill is the third novel I have read this year about the zombie apocalypse. The first was The Girl With All the Gifts and the second was Wake. Both of those two novels were very different, very unique and very well crafted. Red Hill goes out on a slightly different tangent--this one is a mass market page turner from the author of Walking Disaster and focuses very much on the emotional journey made by the three likeable lead characters.

Red Hill opens with Scarlett, a nurse and single mother who first gets an idea that something is very wrong when a patient arrives at the hospital where she is working displaying an odd variety of symptoms. Her part in the story is to find a safe haven and to be reunited with her daughters. Next up is Nathan, a newly single dad, who needs to find a safe place for himself and his young daughter. Rounding up the three is Miranda, a sensible college student who is on her way back to her father's ranch, along with her sister and their boyfriends. 

Reminiscent of Stephenie Meyer's The Host, Red Hill looks at the everyday struggles that these characters make to survive and how they eventually make their own little colony in a secluded ranch called Red Hill. There are reunions, unhappy endings and unsurprisingly, a couple of romances. Overall, this one is a lovely distraction and is easy to read, though it does not necessarily have the same impact or depth as other zombie novels that I have read in recent times. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art


This week, I am paying tribute to the most iconic work of Adelaide Street art of all, the silver balls in Rundle Mall, or Sphere's by Burt Flugelman if you want to get technical about it. (Or the Malls Balls, if you would prefer.) Located in Rundle Mall, the balls have become a popular meeting spot and were a subject of controversy a few years ago when the members of the Adelaide City Council wanted to shift them three metres. (Hey, it's Adelaide. We care about this kind of thing.)

PS I've already checked. No you can't zoom in on the shiny balls and see an image of me taking a photograph.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Review: The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel

Philip Siegel's teenage high school comedy brought back a lot of memories of Sweet Valley High and other books about puppy love. The whole thing is very innocent, occasionally funny and filled with innocent teenage romances. Our heroine is Becca, a young woman who is not doing so well in the high school popularity/romance hierarchy and who believe that romance can cause a lot of damage. After all, it was a teenage romance that changed her former best friend Huxley into a nasty social climber and it was not so long ago that her big sister was dumped at the altar. And so she creates an inventive solution to her problems. For $100 via PayPal she will break up various couples at her high school.

Initially, her business is a success, but things become complicated when she is offered the chance to break up the horrible Huxley and her boyfriend Steve. To further complicate things, Becca has mixed feelings for her best friend's new boyfriend and there may or may not be a blossoming romance between her and Fred, a nerdish but ultimately good guy that she hangs out with in the school cafeteria. 

I found the Break Up Artist to be a fun and lighthearted read. In some ways, I felt for Becca and in others I enjoyed watching her not only get her just desserts, but for her to learn that sometimes in life and love, things are not as simple as they may appear on the surface. The writing was fairly simple, though it flowed well in a pleasant, easy-to-read kind of way. In some respects, the heroine could be quite annoying, though it was obvious that the author was trying to present her as a flawed and occasionally bitter character--Becca is not someone that anyone would want to aspire to be, though they may see their own flaws in her. Overall, enjoyable enough in a light hearted kind of way. More for teens that adult readers.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Friday Funnies: Books Are the Food of Life


Saw this one doing the rounds on facebook and just had to repost as a Friday Funny. Caption says all...

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Review: Losing Kate by Kylie Kaden

Losing Kate is an intriguing novel that tells the story of how one single, chance event can change the future and destroy the lives of a number of people. The novel opens with Francesca, a single woman age thirty who is a social worker and who lives alone. Her world is a very safe one, until Jack, a boy she knew in her teens moves into the house next door along with his partner and child. The painful history that Francesca shares with Jack soon resurfaces and it becomes very obvious that neither can hide from their past, or their attraction to one another, forever. 

Losing Kate is told through two parallel narratives, the dominant one being the present day. Selected chapters tell stories of what happened in the past and how the lives and Jack were turned around when, in their final year of high school, a charismatic young woman named Kate transferred to their school. Kate is an instant hit with the other kids, but it is Francesca that she chooses for a best friend and Jack for a boyfriend. Jack and Kate have been best friends since infancy and it is only over the course of the year, and their inability too keep up with the often demanding Kate that they realise their feelings for one another may be deeper than friendship. There are a few lies and manipulations all around as the kids try to each work out who they are and who they want to be, which climaxes in a single, tragic event when a pregnant Kate disappears and drowns and Jack finds himself shouldered with the blame.

Fast forward twelve years and Francesca and Jack have barely spoken in all that time. Both have experienced (or are in the midst of experiencing,) unhappy relationships and unfulfilled dreams. Jack's partner knows little about his past, but the truth about his and Francesca's relationship, along with what really happened to Kate that night soon surfaces in some emotionally charged scenes. 

Quite underplayed is the brilliant way that the way that the author portrays Kate, her struggles with bipolar disorder and her ability to manipulate the people around her. Equally brilliant and underplayed is the role of Francesca's older brother Ben. I think this is where Kaden's talent lies and therefore, I feel that the author could have done more with Francesca and Jack--their characters did not come to life for me as easily as Kate and Ben did. Kate and Ben felt very real to me. While Francesca and Jack were easy for me to relate to and understand they both came across as a little boring at times--I would have liked to have seen each having more individual quirks or qualities, something that made them special and unique, something more than being good people trapped in difficult circumstances. 

Losing Kate is an enjoyable read, bound to appeal to fans of romantic suspense.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Extract: Behind the Scenes by Kathryn White


Just for fun, I thought that I would share an extract from my novel, Behind the Scenes. This is the beginning of Chapter Five. Catlin Ryan is an aspiring actress from the outer suburbs of Adelaide. Her fiance has recently passed away and she has been offered a part on a popular television series that is being filmed in Melbourne. She has been offered board and lodgings with her father, a man who she has not seen or spoken to in eleven years ...

‘Scuse me Miss. Miss ... Miss!’  
Huh? Turning in her economy class seat, Catlin looked up at a fat, bald man who was standing in the aisle. ‘You got the time?’ He gave her a gap toothed smile. He scratched at his day-old beard. 
‘Six-thirty,’ Catlin said. She watched as the man waddled back to his seat at the other end of the carriage. It was Sunday evening, a little over one week since Johnny had died. Catlin was travelling on the Overland, the train that ran from Adelaide to Melbourne.
Johnny’s funeral was held just two days earlier, in the local Uniting Church hall. Pastor Carpenter had delivered the sermon, telling the mourners not to be sad as Johnny was in a better place now. Johnny’s parents had introduced her to their family and friends as, ‘the girl Johnny was going to marry.’ 
There would be no wedding now, Catlin realised, as she glanced down at her ring. Johnny’s parents had been kind to her as she packed her things and prepared for the move to Melbourne. Well, almost, Catlin sighed. When she had explained that she was moving to Melbourne and why, Raelene had insisted on making some phone calls. ‘Why?’ Catlin demanded, after Raelene put down the phone. ‘I’m not a child. I can look after myself.’ 
Raelene sighed in return. ‘It’s not right, you going off to a strange city all by yourself. You need someone to look out for you.’
‘And you think that person should be him,’ Catlin said. 
Raelene nodded. ‘It’s what Johnny would have wanted ... It took him weeks to track down your father. He wanted your dad to be there at the wedding ... It was going to be a surprise.’ 
‘Why?’ Catlin had demanded. ‘As if I want to have anything to do with that man, or had him come to the wedding. ‘Why should I, he’s never wanted anything to do with me since I was seven ...’
Catlin allowed her voice to trail off as she noticed the tears that were in Raelene’s eyes. From the other side of the room, Jim flashed her a stern glare. ‘It was what Johnny wanted,’ he said, his voice firm. ‘And it is what he’d want for you now, to know that you had somewhere to live and family to look out for you. And let me tell you something else young lady, if you expect Raelene and I to treat you like an adult, you can damn well start acting like one.’ 
And so it was settled. Catlin would stay with her dad in Melbourne. At least until I can find somewhere else, Catlin thought bitterly, shifting in her seat. 
The train arrived in Melbourne at exactly eight-thirty. There was a clatter as the other passengers reached for their bags. They filed out of the doors, one by one, until the carriage was almost empty. Someone tapped on Catlin’s shoulder. Gently, she opened one eye. The man who had asked her the time earlier stood a few centimetres away. ‘We’re in Melbourne now, Miss.’ He smiled childishly. ‘You have to get off the train.’ 
Catlin climbed out of the long rail carriage. Looking up and down the noisy, diesel scented platform, she tried to locate her dad. Nausea bubbled in the back of her throat as she scanned through all of the waiting bodies. She watched as a girl of about five clambered off the train, to be gripped in a bear hug by her dad on the platform. Would Hayden Ryan really come to meet me, after all this time, she wondered. He had promised, after all. Then again, Catlin thought, Dad promised you a lot of things that didn’t- 
‘Catlin?’ 
A hand touched Catlin’s shoulder. Turning, Catlin found a tall man by her side. She could see little of his face, except for a deep scar that ran along his right cheek, all the way from his ear to his neck. 
‘Catlin Ryan,’ he murmured. 
Once, when Catlin and Johnny had been driving through the Adelaide Hills at night, a kangaroo had hopped out into the middle of the road. Catlin remembered how, this large and wild animal had stared straight into the headlights of the vehicle, too frightened to move until Johnny had swerved out of the way. At this precise moment in time, Catlin felt just like that kangaroo as she stared at her father, her feet unable to move from the platform floor, even though she wanted them to. Was this really him, Hayden Ryan, her dad? Up close, the resemblance was frightening. They shared the same green eyes and blonde hair that was flecked with strands of white and auburn. Unlike Catlin, his face was old and rugged. Deep circles had formed under each of his eyes while his scar stuck out, glaring angrily at the world. 
Catlin nodded. ‘Dad?’ 
Hayden Ryan nodded. ‘I would have recognised those green eyes anywhere. You’re the splitting image of your grandmother.’ 
I am, Catlin wondered. She only had a few memories of her grandparents, a kindly white haired old couple that lived on a farm. Catlin could remember staying at the farm one Christmas, watching Grandma Ryan to stuff the turkey and picking fresh apricots from the tree with Grandad. Grandad called me his little apricot, Catlin thought suddenly. I missed him and Grandma after we left. Slowly, Catlin looked up at Hayden. ‘Are Grandma and Grandad still ... ?’ 
Hayden shook his head. ‘A long time ago, Catlin.’


Oh. Catlin felt a pang of sadness. 
‘Is this all of your luggage?’ Hayden took Catlin’s backpack. ‘Come along then.’ 
Hayden led Catlin up to a large, crowded car park. Catlin watched as Hayden unlocked the doors of an old Holden Statesman De Ville. Despite its age, the vehicle was in pristine condition, Catlin noted, running a finger along the smooth white paintwork. Inside, the leather seats were soft and comfortable. 
Hayden turned a key in the ignition. The engine came smoothly to life. Catlin watched as her dad expertly steered the Statesman out of the park. It was obvious that he and the car were old friends. Had he owned it since new, Catlin wondered. She tried to recall what kind of car her dad had owned before he and her mum had split up. Just as every time she thought about her early childhood, her mind came back empty. 
Rain tumbled down on the windscreen as Hayden inched the Statesman through the thick, inner city traffic. ‘I was sorry to hear about your fiancé, Catlin,’ Hayden murmured. He kept his eyes fixed on the road. 
‘Yeah.’ Catlin looked down at her lap. This whole situation felt so strange and uncomfortable. Eleven years had passed since she had last spoken with her dad. What did you say to someone after all that time, Catlin wondered. Hi ... I’m your daughter. I’m really sorry that my fiancé died and you got stuck with me. 
‘I would have liked to have been there for the funeral,’ Hayden said. ‘I understand that the police are charging the other young man concerned with reckless driving.’ 
Catlin nodded. Rocco Baker and whatever punishment the courts handed out seemed so unimportant now. Nothing the police or any court could do to Rocco would ever bring Johnny back.
Hayden turned the Statesman onto St Kilda Road. He followed a tram over the bridge that crossed the Yarra. Through the beam of the streetlights, Catlin stared down at the murky water below. Funny how the Yarra always looked like it ran upside down, with the mud floating on top and the water underneath. 
‘So ...’ Hayden said. ‘I hear you’re going to be on some television show.’ 
Some TV show, Catlin wondered. ‘Angel Street is the highest rating drama series on Australian television.’ 
‘Mmm.’ Hayden nodded. ‘I don’t really watch much television, apart from the ABC. Adele does, she likes to keep up with everything Kimmy is in, of course. I believe Keeley ... your sister ... was rather fond of that singing idol show.’ 
‘Australian Idol?’ Catlin frowned. 
‘That’s the one.’ Hayden chuckled. ‘And I have a copy of Paralysed Beach on DVD, of course.’ 
‘You do?’ Catlin was genuinely surprised. ‘Mmm.’ Hayden nodded. ‘Kimmy, your ... other sister, found the DVD a few months ago. She’s very interested in that sort of thing, works in the industry herself. Perhaps you’ve seen or heard of her.’ 
Catlin shook her head. Kimmy was Adele’s daughter, she knew that much. So far Catlin had not met anyone named Kimmy in the industry. But then again, that was not surprising given that Kimmy was obviously based in Melbourne. 
‘Gave us all quite a surprise, little Catlin all grown up and starring in a movie.’ Hayden said. ‘Not that I think acting is a sensible career choice.’ 
The words cut Catlin as sharp as any knife. She supposed that she had been secretly hoping Hayden would be impressed with her career path. 
‘I suppose there are a few good actors on television, like our Kimmy, but most of them seem to be more interested in fame and money. The media is good at exploiting people like that.’ As the Statesman stopped at a traffic light, Hayden nodded toward a newsagency. Beneath a dim and flicking light, Catlin could just make out a poster for a popular tabloid. An image of Milo Bartemucci, wearing nothing but a few strategically placed feathers filled most of the poster. The caption was so tiny that Catlin could make out none of it apart from the words, Page Three. 
‘She’ll be forgotten in a years time,’ Hayden sighed ‘And another girl will take her place, on the front of every newspaper and magazine. Then another girl will come along and another. Don’t be like them. Make acting your first priority; be careful how much information you give to the media. And be careful who you associate with.’ Hayden nodded toward another poster. This one featured an image of Tom Arbuckle his face partially covered by a hoodie and sunglasses. ‘There are a lot of bad people out there, Catlin.’ 
Don’t I know it, Catlin thought. She watched as the traffic light changed to green. Like rotten, cheating fathers who will abandon their wife and child the second that someone better comes along. Do you remember that, Dad? 
Hayden followed a tram along St Kilda Road for a while. Eventually, he turned the Statesman into Baird Avenue, slowing down as they reached number 10. ‘This is it,’ he murmured. ‘Home.’ 
Home ... 
Standing in the driveway beside the Statesman, Catlin felt slightly dizzy as she stared at through the beam of the headlights at the older-style home. It was as though someone had flicked on a switch inside her head. It was the exact home that she remembered from her early childhood, big and old, with a balcony along the front and morning glory growing along one of the walls. As she followed Hayden along the front veranda, Catlin recalled how the garden used look in spring, when the jacaranda tree would be in blossom. ‘This way.’ 
Hayden held the door open. Catlin stepped inside. The hallway was cool, and smelled of a mixture of old wood and Mr Sheen. An ugly, elephant foot umbrella rack stood beside an old antique telephone. Catlin remembered the telephone well. Hayden had found it at a market stall and spent the entire weekend meticulously restoring it. Catlin had always secretly thought that the phone looked strange, with a chunky receiver and a round dial in place of a slim handpiece with buttons. 
Hayden closed the front door. A floorboard squealed as he walked through the room. Beside the stairs, an ancient grandfather clock creaked, its pendulum swinging from left to right. Tick ... tick ... tick ... Catlin paused. She remembered that noise! It echoed through the entire house at night. She would lie in her tiny bed, listening to the steady, hypnotic rhythm of the clock until her eyelids grew heavy and drifted away to sleep... 
‘Good to be home?’ 
Hayden’s voice interrupted Catlin’s thoughts. Catlin blinked, jolted back into reality. 
‘Catlin?’ 
‘Yeah...’ 
The phone rang, saving Catlin from any more awkward small talk. Hayden took the call in his study. ‘Feel free to explore,’ he told Catlin. ‘The kitchen is at the back if you’re hungry...’ 
Catlin nodded. Shafted already, she thought. What a surprise. A floorboard squealed under her foot as she turned inside the kitchen and flicked on the light. Taking a clean glass from the dishwasher, Catlin poured herself some water. The kitchen was large and filled with every possible modern convenience, from stainless steel refrigerators to a coffee maker that looked more like a computer. Spooky, Catlin decided, staring at the coffee maker. I wonder how you even turn it on ... Suddenly, Catlin smiled. When she had first arrived at Southcoast, as a seven-year-old, the tiny kitchenette in their caravan had frightened her too, because it was so small and old fashioned. I guess it just depends on what you’re used to, Catlin decided as she opened the biscuit tin. There were plenty of iced vo-vos available, her favourite, but Catlin found herself placing the tin back on the shelf. For some reason, she did not feel hungry tonight ...
Behind the Scenes Copyright  © Kathryn White 2013

Monday, 19 May 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art


Just to prove that Noarlunga Centre isn't the only place in Adelaide to possess a brightly coloured piano (see my post from last week,) I snapped this one outside the Adelaide Festival Theatre ...

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Review: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

Maybe Someday was a book that, initially I felt very hesitant about. The first couple of chapters did not work as well for me as they could have. After reading a couple of poor reviews from trusted sources, I wondered if perhaps the author had reached her saturation point. After all, in the past couple of years, the best sellers have been coming through thick and fast for Colleen Hoover--Slammed and its sequels Point of Retreat and This Girl, followed by Hopeless, its sequel Losing Hope and another sort-of sequel  to Hopeless, Finding Cinderella. And later in the year a new novel, Ugly Love is set for release. (I am unable to find any official confirmation for November Nine, a rumoured release.) It would not be at all surprising if the novels did start to have a manufactured, churned out feel to them.

But for one reason or another, I found myself wondering about the heroine, Sydney, and her potential new love interest, the mysterious Ryder and I found myself drawn back into their world. What I got was a very cleverly crafted and slow burning piece of escapism. Maybe Someday is a story of two people who meet in unlikely circumstances and battle with the issue of love versus personal responsibility and the needs of others. The dilemma faced by Ryder and Sydney--of falling in love with the person that you cannot have--felt very real to me. 

The novel opens with Sydney, a young woman who is working her way through college. She shares a flat with her boyfriend's best friend and her evenings sitting on the balcony listening as one of her neighbours plays his guitar. That guitarist is Ryder and he has two surprising secrets. Revealing one of these secrets would also mean revealing a major plot spoiler, though I will say that it means the relationship between Sydney and Ryder takes a surprising turn and develops in a way that is quite unusual for a NA romance. It also adds a very pleasant dimension to the story.

Ryder's other secret is more pivotal to the early set-up of the book. Ryder has never spoken to Sydney, but he knows that her boyfriend, Hunter, is cheating on her with his best friend (and Sydney's housemate,) Tori. Eventually, after Hunter and Tori are called out on their behaviour, Sydney finds that she has nowhere to go ... Lucky then that Ryder just happens to be looking for a new housemate. Anyway, over the next couple of months, Ryder and Sydney's relationship slowly develops--it's lovely to see their emotions develop into song lyrics. There is a lot of sexual tension between the pair, which leads to a lot of heartbreak and questions about love versus loyalty, duty and promises already made. Ryder already has a girlfriend and rather than being portrayed as selfish and annoying, it's clear that his love, Maggie, is a good person. Maggie also has a chronic illness.

Most of the tension comes from Ryder and Sydney knowing that acting on their feelings would be wrong, and from Sydney knowing that she does not want to cause Maggie to be hurt in the same way that she was by Hunter and Tori. This creates a kind of sexual tension that is slow and difficult to resolve, but one that feels surprisingly realistic. I would have liked to have seen a bit more resolution between Sydney, Hunter and Tori, particularly toward the end of Sydney's story--it would have been interesting to see if her own experiences with Ryder had altered Sydney's perspective of what Hunter and Tori did and it may have added some greater depth to the ending and an understanding that sometimes, hurting the people we care about may, sadly, be an inevitable part of being human.

This one is a bit slower than Colleen Hoover's previous novels and though it may not be one to read if you're looking for a novel filled with intense sexual tension, it is a pleasing romantic tale. 

PS Maggie gets her very own special Epilogue on this website. (I spy plans for a sequel.) Once you've read Maybe Someday, just enter the password and you'll get to discover what is in store for this lovely young woman. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Gabrielle Arrowsmith

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week, YA novelist, math teacher, soccer trainer and actress Gabrielle Arrowsmith answers my questions ...



Tell me a bit about yourself …

Hello! I’m Gabrielle Arrowsmith, a YA novelist, math teacher, soccer trainer, and actress. I have lived all of my twenty-something years in Ham Lake, Minnesota. I’m itching for the snow to melt so I can partake in some of my favorite outdoor activities, especially trail running and playing soccer. I also enjoy reading, watching movies, listening to music, and spending time with my family, friends, and pets!

Tell us about your most recently published book?

My latest book, Released from the Darkness (Concealed in the Shadows #2), came out just weeks ago. In this novel, eighteen-year-old Sydney fights to re-establish rights that citizens in this futuristic society have been denied. In book one, the reader learns that unforgiving laws limited Sydney’s contact with her younger sister and confined her to a designated county. In book two, the stakes of Sydney’s fight are heightened as terrible secrets are revealed.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

I self-published Concealed in the Shadows in December, 2012. I was a first time author with a tiny following, so my debut novel gathered dust on the virtual shelves. I was very fond of the story that I had poured my heart into, so I had to keep working to bring it to more readers. I found a home for Concealed in the Shadows with Clean Teen Publishing, who released the revamped version in May, 2013.

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

Finishing a novel and then signing a contract for it were huge achievements - both of which I never expected to happen when I began writing it. Yet, my proudest moments have come as I’ve watched Concealed in the Shadows’ rank improve in the YA action and YA dystopian categories on Amazon. All I ever wanted was to share the story with readers, so it’s been wonderful to have that dream realized.

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

I’m currently working on the third installment in the Concealed in the Shadows series, and also doing outlining for a new series that I am very excited about.

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

It’s so hard to pick only one! I have to go with Flowers for Algernon because the reader is taken on a very unique and emotional journey. In the YA genre, I recommend The Hunger Games because the trilogy is simply awesome and it inspired me to finally put Concealed in the Shadows on paper.

Get Gabrielle’s Books:

Concealed in the Shadows (FREE eBook)

Released from the Darkness

Watch the Book Trailers:

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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Guest Post by Dianne Bates: Things I Wish I Knew As a Beginning Writer

Today we welcome prolific Australian writer Dianne Bates for a brilliant guest post--I think this one will be of interest to many aspiring writers out there ...


Things I Wish I Knew As a Beginning Writer


I’ve been writing for over 30 years. I was 29 years old and all I’d achieved in my life until then was becoming a wife, a mother, and a school teacher. I wanted my life to mean something so I resolved to write my first (children’s) book and have it published by the time I was 30. I did this, the book was published by Penguin Books (Puffin imprint). Since then I’ve published 120+ books, mostly for young readers some of which have won state and national awards, including children’s choice book awards. Nowadays I make a living from writing.


Here are some things I Wish I Knew as a Beginner Writer:

1. Learn the fundamentals of writing before you even attempt a writing career. I cannot stress this enough, even if you feel that writing comes naturally to you, especially learn grammar and the mechanics of writing. Take classes, attend workshops and/or read how-to books. You will need to do so eventually and getting it out of the way first will save you much precious time. I was very lucky to have been taught the fundamentals of grammar at high school.

2. Polish, polish and polish. A piece is almost never done after the first draft is complete. The longer you keep a piece of writing, the more mistakes you will see in it. After you have some years of writing under your belt you know when a piece is complete and until it isn’t, the piece nags at you and you can’t stop thinking about it.


3. Accept feedback from others and pay heed to what they have to say (except those closest to you who love you, hence they will love what you write). For more unbiased feedback post your work on message boards or social media. Writers groups are also helpful. Even after 30+ years of writing, I still workshop my writing-in-progress weekly with other professional writers.


4. Diversify. It’s wise to create multiple revenue streams if you plan to make a comfortable living at writing. If you want to write books also consider seeking freelance writing jobs and/or speaking engagements. Establish yourself as an expert on what you write about.


5. Work to overcome trepidation about public speaking. Many writers are introverts by nature. You need to work to become more outgoing and be ready at any moment to speak enthusiastically about your work. Begin with baby steps and each time you step outside of your comfort zone you will build confidence. You must become your own biggest fan and best salesperson. 


When I first realised the value of speaking publicly about my life as a writer and about specific books I’d written, I joined Toastmasters International and learnt how to train the butterflies in my tummy. There is an incredible amount of competition out there for the attention of readers and it doesn’t matter how good your work is: if it isn’t getting in front of readers it will never get noticed.

6. A writing career is not easy. It’s very easy to romanticise the writer’s life but most times it is far from glamorous. To be a successful writer requires a mega dose of hard work, commitment, good networking skills, optimism, and also a healthy dose of luck. If you have the discipline to hone your craft, writing can be equally as rewarding as it is often difficult. I treat writing as a full-time occupation so I usually spend 40 hours a week at it.

7. Beware of any publisher or agent asking you for money from you to do business with you. There are plenty of unscrupulous individuals and companies out there who prey on both the vanity and naiveté of aspiring writers. Thankfully, reviews are now just a click away on the internet. Even if you are self-publishing your work, invest the time in reading online reviews before you sign a contract or upload your work.


8. Read voraciously. Reading the work of other authors in your genre will expand your vocabulary and will make you a better writer. Often when I’m about to write in a particular genre, I will read books in that genre for weeks beforehand; it helps put my head into the right mood. 


9. Develop your own unique voice and learn how to spark creativity. Your style is what eventually will set you apart and allow you to develop your niche which will ultimately develop into your fan base. 

10. Don’t believe in writer’s block as an excuse not to write. Superglue is the answer (paste it on your backside and get in front of the computer and write!) I’ve learned it’s best to do anything that has nothing to do with writing if you hit a stumbling block, and pretty soon the ideas start flowing freely again.

11. Writing is not only a form of personal expression, it is therapeutic and it is also a lifelong journey of self discovery. If I stop writing I feel there is a huge void within me, life doesn’t seem as fulfilling. Take your craft seriously, create a space to write that is quiet and free from interruptions.  Although writers spend lots of time crafting fictional characters, ironically, the act of writing develops the character of the author more than anything else.


12. Get involved in the writing world. Make contact with other writers, if only online. Join the Children’s Book Council of Australia if you are writing for children and become proactive in book events. Accept invitations to speak at festivals and conferences. Help newer writers than you. Get yourself a business card with your contact details on it and hand it out to new writing colleagues and readers. 

13. Get yourself a website, a blog and a Facebook page. Be proactive in promoting your books. And be thankful and supportive of publishers who invest time and energy into publishing your books.


Dianne (Di) Bates has published 120+ books in her more than 30 year writing career. Her blog, Writing for Children, http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au is pitched at new writers; it also showcases new Australian children’s books. She also hosts Australian Children’s Poetry http://wwww.australianchildrenspoetry.com.au Di’s website is http://www.enterprisingwords.com.au

Note from Kathryn: This article previously appeared on Di's website Dianne's Website and is being reproduced with her  kind permission. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art

Yarn Bombed Trees, Kent Town 
Adelaide is never far away from a tree controversy, but the spat of yarn bombings around Adelaide in recent years is probably one of the more pleasant controversies in recent times. I first started noticing these in about mid-2012, but now it seems to be commonplace to walk around Adelaide or the suburbs and find trees that are covered in bright, colourful knits. This picture was taken on Dequetteville Terrace, Kent Town in December 2013.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Three Stars is Not a Bad Review ...

I'll tell you a secret.

As a reader, I devour three star reviews. (As an author, I find them moderately less easy to digest, but I still enjoy the taste.) Why? Because three star reviews are generally honest. A reviewer who gives a book three stars is likely to be able to see both the good bits and the limitations within the novel.

Three star reviews have a bad reputation. I was surprised recently when someone approached me on amazon and wanted to know why I had rated a book three stars, when I had written so many nice things about it. Consequently, I felt that it was something that needs to be addressed.

First and foremost, this blog has no star rating system--I usually just talk about what within the book works for me, what may not work so well, whether or not I would recommend it to others or if it is better suited to a niche audience. I find this works rather well and fits in with the artsy feel of this blog. When I move on to sites such as Goodreads, Amazon and the Reading Room, I usually add my star rating there, as it forms an important part of the set up of the site. (Although, it is not compulsory for users to leave star ratings on Goodreads or The Reading Room, I realise that it is helpful to do so.) The vast majority of reviews I leave there are three, four and five stars. This is generally because I do not bother to review books that I do not enjoy very often. 

To me, three stars usually mean that the book meets my expectations. It was a good, well-written book. I enjoyed it. The author passed the test and their book is something that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys books in that genre. A three star book may, however, lack something that would make it a favourite book or it may not have writing or themes that caused it to linger on in my mind after I put the book down. One book I gave a three star rating to recently was Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. I felt that hopeless was a decent book, though a few things did not match my personal expectations. I was also aware that some of the things that I did not like about the book were highly subjective. It was clear that I am a bit outside of the intended YA/NA audience. But none of that means that Hopeless is a bad book. Quite the contrary. Hopeless is a good book. It just may not be the perfect book for me.

What is more bothersome and is, in my opinion, a debate worth having, is the relevance of certain one star reviews. Now don't get me wrong here. Everyone has a right to an opinion and so long as people abide by the Terms of Service on the site where they choose to post those reviews, they should be able to express that opinion how they see fit. The nature of the internet means that expressing that opinion whilst using an avatar and a pseudonym means that the reviewer is free (should they wish,) to use a bunch of vehement, hyperbolic statements (i.e. I nearly vomited all over my keyboard), gifs to emphasise their point (cue repetitive loop of an actor or actress vomiting in a scene from a teen movie,) and some possible misunderstandings about themes or the purpose of the book (i.e. I'm giving Watership Down by Richard Adams one star because I hate books about rabbits.) And sometimes the review is filled with spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. Now, again, people have the right to hold those views and to express them. But the big question is why would anyone take a review like that seriously? Why would you let someone who comes across as semi-literate and bitchy influence your reading choices?

Or do you? Let me know. Do you take negative reviews seriously? In which ways are they helpful and which ways are they not?

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Review: Not Another Happy Ending by David Solomons

It is not often that at book based on a screenplay turns out to be a winner, but Not Another Happy Ending proved itself to be one of those rare gems. Author David Solomon also wrote the screenplay for this quirky, set-in-Scotland, romantic comedy that pokes fun at the publishing industry, so it is no surprise that the story survives the transition from screen to print. The film/novel tells the story of Jane Lockheart, a twenty-something aspiring writer and lover of all things miserable, whose novel goes on to be a surprise literary hit. She also enjoys a brief relationship with her editor, but then all of her success goes on to make her rather happy, which destroys not only her relationship, but leaves her with a terrible case of writers block. Ex-boyfriend Tom is quick to realise that Jane's happiness is getting in the way of her becoming a successful writer so he goes about in a cruel-but-ultimately-disastrous attempt at making her unhappy. There is a couple of twists and turns, but mostly the comedy revolves around Tom's many failed attempts at making Jane miserable, along with his unwillingness to admit that he is still in love with Jane. It's not a plot that is terribly deep and nor is it going to please everyone. I struggled to identify with Jane and feel that the story may have been more interesting had it been told entirely from Tom's perspective--I think the author had a better understanding of this character and his motivations, whereas Jane came across as quite unremarkable despite possessing a number of quirks. There are a few romantic comedy cliches--i.e. kissing in the rain, a leading lady who loves Jane Austen, but these feel delightfully ironic, rather than annoying.

This one could have been a hell of a lot deeper and there are a lot of digs at the publishing industry (I had to laugh when one of Tom's ideas on how he could make Jane unhappy was to show her what bloggers were saying about her book,) but Not Another Happy Ending remains fun, light entertainment. This one is recommended for a lazy afternoon or evening.

This book was read as part of the Eclectic Reader Challenger 2014
Category: Romantic Comedy
Progress 4/12

Friday, 9 May 2014

Friday Funnies: Your Mother Wouldn't Like It

Last week, I posted about the Canadian television series, You Can't Do That On Television. Similar in nature was this little gem from the UK, Your Mother Wouldn't Like It which was made during the mid-1980s. I remember it airing in Australia sometime around the summer of 1988-1989. What I remember best about this show is certain character called Tapeworm and the fact that it inspired years of my brother, Damien, and I saying to one another, "I've had just about enough of you ..." whilst doing an imitation of Mr Briefcase ...


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Ann Herrick

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week I put my questions to YA novelist Ann Herrick ...



Tell me a bit about yourself …

I grew up in Connecticut, where I graduated from The Morgan School and Quinnipiac University.  I now live in Oregon with my husband, who was my high-school sweetheart.  Our wonderful daughter is grown, married and gainfully employed as an advertising copywriter, and has given us our only grand-dog, Puff, a bloodhound-rottweiller-beagle mix and six grand-kitties.  While I miss the East Coast, especially houses built before 1900, I enjoy the green valleys, fresh air and low humidity in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  I love cats, walking, the Oregon Ducks and working in my back yard.  In addition to stories and books for children and young adults, I also write copy for humorous and conventional greeting cards.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Life, Love, and Surviving High School is pretty much about, well, the stress of high- school. The main character would like to skip ahead to her early twenties and not have to deal with her first date, first kiss, her driver's test, taking the SATs, filling out all those college applications, etc. Except she discovers that if she did that she’ll miss out on many of the important aspects of life (guys, just as one not-so-minor example). She has managed to stay BFF with her three best friends and doesn't need to share in her friends' spotlight. She's happy to follow along in the shadows, as long as she's not totally cast aside. When she secretly lusts after Brent, Claire's boyfriend, and then Claire makes Becca an offer about Brent that she can't resist, that changes everything.

Tell us about the first time you were published? 

My first publication was actually a greeting-card idea. I then had two short stories that were accepted and came out at almost the same time. One was “The Chocolate Day,” for young kids in a magazine called Trails and the other was for older readers, a story called “What Are Friends For?” in ‘Teen magazine.

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

Just getting published in any way, shape or form feels like a major accomplishment! I think getting my second book published (The Perfect Guy, first published by Bantam and now available from Books We Love, Ltd.) was major to me, because it was my second book, so I felt as if my having my first book published was not a fluke!

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

I’m working on my next young adult novel. I don’t talk about what I’m writing while I’m writing it, because so much changes along the way. So stay tuned!

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

I like both and I buy both. I like paper books because of the way the pages feel and because I see the cover each time I pick up the book. I like the convenience of ebooks. I can load up to something like 2,000 books on my ereader, and I can buy a book and get it downloaded any time of day or night in 60 seconds. So I’m never without something to read.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing? 

Both have their pluses. Tradtional publishing is backed with more money and to some extent with more publicity. Indie books allow the author a lot more flexibility. For example, indies can mix and combine genres, be longer or shorter than usual.

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

Wow, it’s hard to select just one book, because people’s tastes are so different. So, let’s say I highly recommend Pride and Prejudice. The development of characters, the dialogue, the wit are such fine aspects of wonderful writing.

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

Since some of my print books have been published in Australia and since ebooks are available worldwide, I’ll assume that I actually have some readers in Adelaide. To them I say, I’d love to visit your town some day and I hope you enjoy my books!

Links

My Amazon Author Page (where you can purchase my books):