Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Review: YOU by Caroline Kepnes

YOU is a deliciously terrifying stalker tale that grabbed hold of me on page one and kept me captivated right until the very end. Joe is a young man working at an independent bookstore. Beck, the young woman he meets in the F--K section of the store, is his perfect match in every possible way ... even if she does not realise it. The narrative--told as though Joe is speaking directly to Beck--tells the story of Joe's obsession with Beck and the extent to which he mercilessly stalks her and anyone else who gets in their way. Sealing the deal on the creepiness factor on this stalker tale is the fact that Beck is not entirely innocent herself ...

Caroline Kepnes is a talented author. Her ability to demonstrate the extent of Joe's delusions and Beck's deceptions and make them easily identifiable to the reader without being explicit or obvious is commendable. At times I found myself questioning who was truly calling the shots as Beck's ability to manipulate others--particularly Joe, Peach and Dr Nicky--demonstrated the markings of a psychopath. I also found the many Stephen King and Paula Fox references to be quite appropriate. In many ways, the book feels like a combination of some of the best elements of literary and commercial fiction.

Utterly unputdownable YOU features many twists and turns that kept me guessing about who was the villain and who was the victim right until the gruesome and frightening end. YOU is not a tale for those wanting a happily-ever-after romance. Highly recommended. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for my review copy. 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art


Perhaps one of the more modest works of street art in Adelaide, this small fountain sits in the small section of park bordered by Pirie Street, Grenfell Street and East Terrace. Despite doing some research on the area, I am unable to discover if this park has an official name, or if it is considered to be an extension of Rymill Park. (This map leaves the question unanswered.) If anyone knows, please feel free to tell me in the comments below.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Off Topic: Oh, Asthma

Someone asked me what asthma feels like.
This picture from the University of Calgary website pretty much sums it up.

While everyone else in Adelaide is off enjoying the great spring weather, I am stuck indoors with my inhaler. While being indoors for a long stretch really isn't such an ordeal for someone who loves reading and writing anyway and has a few reviews that need she needs to catch up on. But, anyway, asthma is a bit of a scary disease. Here's why:

Asthma can strike at any time.

I take my medications like I am supposed to, and try to avoid things that may it worse (long aeroplane rides for example,) but that doesn't mean that I never have an attack. Anyway, an asthma attack can happen at any time, meaning that no matter where I am or where I'm going and for how short a time, I always have to have my medication on me.

People really don't know how to react when someone has an attack.

This includes people in the medical profession. I remember being in the admissions area of a public hospital and the nurse kept asking me for my personal details while I gasped for breath and tried to pass her my medicare card and driver's licence, which had all relevant details on there. For some reason, and despite me barely being able to breathe, the nurse was insistent that she "hear it from me."

As a rule, asthma attacks tend to be misunderstood by a lot of people. Usually people either run away or over-react. If you want to help me, all you need to do is let me sit down for a while, pass me my medication and ask if I'm feeling okay. If I'm turning blue, please call an ambulance.

On another note, not being able to breath is unpleasant. I really do not force myself to have an attack to get out of unwanted activities. Believe me, I'd much rather do housework and still have the ability to breathe, than be sitting and unable to breathe.

Smoking.

It's your choice if you want to smoke. You are welcome to your personal beliefs about smoking. In fact, some people with asthma smoke and claim that it does not trigger an attack. However, please understand that I do not want to be around people who are smoking, because it triggers asthma. I stick to non-smoking areas for this reason. Although many people respect non-smoking areas, you always seem to get that one person who will defiantly light up inside a bus shelter, usually while standing beside the no-smoking sign. No, you are not being cool or making a statement about how hard done by you are. You're making things harder for people who choose to smoke but stick to designated areas and you're making things uncomfortable for people who stick to non-smoking areas for a reason. 

* * * 

In conclusion, asthma sucks. Any disease sucks. But right now, I'm suffering from a bout of it and I really wish that it would go away ...

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday Funnies: Footrot Flats Theme Song




Whenever I hear this song (which, sadly, is often as it seems to be on high rotation inside every supermarket and shopping centre in Adelaide, despite being more than twenty-five years old,) the first thing that springs into my mind is Footrot Flats. Dave Dobbyn's most memorable hit comes courtesy of being the theme song for New Zealand's most popular animated film of all time, The Footrot Flats Movie. This clip has some great bits from the movie, mixed with some terrible (and by terrible, I mean great,) 1980s fashion. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Sandi Wallace

Welcome to Writers on Wednesday. This week I'm chatting with debut crime writer, Sandi Wallace.

Tell me a bit about yourself …

As a tiny kid, I was a shy bookworm with an overactive imagination – and not too much has changed. I fell in love with crime and adventure in film and print thanks to the likes of Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. At about the age of six, I penned my first book (don’t ever ask to see that one!) and invented songs in the shower too. It would be around that time that I decided I wanted to be a crime writer when I grew up.

Well, it has taken a while to develop my individual style and hone my skills but in the meantime, I’ve served my writer’s apprenticeship in a variety of jobs from banker, to paralegal, office manager, journalist and personal trainer, and that all certainly provides plenty of fodder for my stories. I still say, though, if I hadn’t become a writer, I would’ve been a police detective. In fact, I came “this close” to joining the police force several times.

But I’m glad I hung out for my real dream – to be a crime writer. And I’m ecstatic to finally be able to share Tell Me Why with readers, thanks to Clan Destine Press.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

My debut crime novel Tell Me Why was released by Clan Destine Press at the end of August 2014. It is the first book in the Rural Crime Files, a contemporary rural crime series set mainly in country Victoria, my home state.

Here’s a teaser for Tell Me Why.

Picturesque Daylesford has a darker side.
 
Melbourne writer Georgie Harvey heads to the mineral springs region of central Victoria to look for a missing farmer. There she uncovers links between the woman’s disappearance and her dangerous preoccupation with the unsolved mystery surrounding her husband.
 
Maverick cop and solo dad John Franklin is working a case that’s a step up from Daylesford’s usual soft crime; a poison-pen writer whose targets are single mothers.
 
Georgie’s investigation stirs up long buried secrets and she attracts enemies. When she reports the missing person to local cops, sparks fly between her and Franklin. Has he dismissed the writer too quickly?
 
A country cop, city writer, retired farmer and poison-pen stalker all want answers.
 
What will they risk to get them?
 
What will be the ultimate cost?

Tell us about the first time you were published?

My first published piece was an article for the local paper that I wrote while on work experience. My editor told me to “go find a story” and allocated me a photographer. So my article featured my best friend whose work placement was childcare worker at a special development school. It was good fun and great practice.

I’ve had many stories and articles in print since, including my short story “Silk Versus Sierra” which won the “Best Investigative Prize” in the 2013 Scarlet Stiletto Awards. It was published in an eBook collection Scarlet Stiletto: short stories 2013. That story is also rural crime fiction, although it is set in the usually sleepy, seaside country town of Loch Sport.
But my most exciting publishing achievement to date is my debut crime novel Tell Me Why. Dreams can come true!

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

Black Saturday, the sequel to Tell Me Why, is already in-house with Clan Destine Press and due for release in early 2015. It again features John Franklin, Georgie Harvey and the Daylesford locale, although some of this story is also set around the district at the foot of Lake Mountain.
I’m currently working on the third book in the Rural Crime Files series and in this one, Georgie and Franklin step back a little, allowing other characters to develop. Daylesford still shines in book three but the action mainly occurs in a new location that shall remain a secret for a little longer.

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

For me, there will always be something magical about holding an actual book, inhaling that special scent and feeling the texture of the page. I also find that paper books are great reminders of memories of when I connected with or met the author, particularly my autographed copies, and stimulate recall of the stories. Book covers to book lovers, are as paintings on walls are to others, don’t you think?
I love my “keeper books” – those I would like to re-read, share with friends and admire on my bookcase – to be paper books. But the advent of the eBook has opened an extra dimension to book enjoyment. It makes it very easy to travel with a stack of books and when I’m impatient for a copy of a book and simply can’t wait to go to a store, an eBook is so quick to purchase and download.
So I love both, is my long answer!

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

I can’t limit it to one because there are so many wonderful books that have resonated with me for different reasons. Some of the recent reads I’ve thoroughly enjoyed (and yes, it’s a crime-dominant list because that’s my addiction) include books by Katherine Howell, Michael Robotham, Jaye Ford, Ian Rankin, Camilla Läckberg, Bronwyn Parry, Alex Hammond, Honey Brown, B Michael Radburn – and the list goes on!

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

Without readers, we don’t have books. Without books, we don’t have one of the very best elements of life. So, here’s a very warm “hi” from me to you. I am very pleased to meet you and hope you enjoy my debut novel Tell Me Why and the Rural Crime Files series. I’d love to connect with you on Facebook and hope to visit Adelaide and meet you personally in the future.

Cheers,

Sandi

Links

For links to buy my book please visit: http://www.sandiwallace.com/books/

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art


Take a stroll along the southern side of Hindley Street and odds you'll encounter this smiling chap (who, more often than not, seems to be wearing part of a McDonalds ice-cream, courtesy of the aforementioned, which is located on the opposite side of the road.) This chap has lived on the street since early 2000 and is a tribute to Adelaide born comedian Roy 'Mo' Rene who helped to popularise well known Australian ocker phrases such as "Fair suck of the sav," and "Don't come the raw prawn with me." Just to Roy's left is a small plaque that pays tribute to his history. 



Monday, 22 September 2014

Review: Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill

Irish folklore, fairies and modern day Dublin come together in this brilliant, funny debut by Irish-Australian author Ellie O'Neill. Reluctantly Charmed is a story about fairies. It's also a romance. Most importantly, it is also a great deal of fun with a loveable heroine and a lot of self-depreciating humour.  

Kate McDaid is working in an advertising agency in Dublin and believes that her career prospects are going nowhere. She is also a little, well, concerned about her love life which seems to be going about as well as her career is. Then something completely unexpected happens, in the form of an inheritance from a great aunt who died 130 years ago. This aunt, who was also named by Kate McDaid, was a witch. In order for Kate to receive her inheritance, she must publish a series of seven poems each week. The poems each contain a surprising request--that people reconnect with the fairies of Irish Folklore. Kate publishes the first letter on an obscure website. Hilarity--and calamity--ensure when the poems spark a revival of interest in fairies. From there, Kate finds her life change in a number of unexpected ways.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, Reluctantly Charmed is a lot of fun. Each of the poems changes Kate's life in surprising and unexpected ways, sometimes for the better and well, sometimes not. Author Ellie O'Neill's ability to mix folklore with a modern-day Ireland is commendable. I also loved the romantic subplot--initially, Hugh seems like an unlikely possible love interest for Kate, but as the book wore on, I found myself hoping that the two would eventually pair off. The ending is bittersweet, though fitting for the novel. 

Recommended reading for all fans of chick-lit and women's fiction. 

Reluctantly Charmed will be released on October 1 2014.

Finally, a bit shout out to Anna from Simon and Schuster Australia for my advance reading copy. 

PS Keep an eye out for my interview will Ellie O'Neill next month.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Friday Funnies: Hagar the Horrible


When it occurred that I had never created a Friday Funnies post featuring Hagar the Horrible, I could not resist hunting this little gem down and sharing it with you. Hagar the Horrible works brilliantly as a simple parody of both contemporary life and also of life in medieval Norway. 

Or perhaps it suggests that humanity has not really changed all that much over the years ...

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Pollyanna Darling

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday, that feature where I put my questions to a different writer each week. Please make welcome Pollyanna Darling ...



Tell us a bit about yourself …


I am a Nature-loving, introverted writer, living in a beautiful part of Australia with four kids (all boys), my partner and a couple of wily dogs. I have been writing stories since I was four years old, it's the only activity that really stuck. Everything else has passed with the seasons. I write because I love both the magic that happens in the creative process, and the Otherworld that I inhabit while I write. Imagination is a deliriously blissful place to hang out.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Heartwood is a story about a group of forest creatures who must work together to save the heart of their ancient forest from the Smashbasher (a silver-fanged bulldozer). It is also the story of one very ordinary foreman who finds his heart in the forest. Heartwood is a first chapter book for six to nine year olds, a book I wrote partly because so many of the books my kids brought home when they were starting to read independently were relentlessly dull and uninspired. I wanted to create a lively story with humour, adventure and a strong message. As I am passionate about the natural world and the interconnectedness of all life, Heartwood is alive with the magic of Nature. Heartwood was hand-illustrated and coloured by Victorian artist, Kirsty Chalmers. We wanted beautiful pictures that speak to the imagination, to bring a book to children that would be treasured into adulthood. I think we did a great job.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

I won a writing competition at school, judged by crime writer PD James. My story was printed in the school newsletter. I can't remember it at all now!

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

I wrote a novel for my second son for his tenth birthday. I thought it would be cool to get a novel for a present, but oh the angst I went through as he read it … pacing the floors, trying not to see how far he was into the story, refraining from asking questions etc. He loved it, which made my heart sing for weeks. My first book The Relationship Revelation won a gold medal, but the thrill only lasted one day! Getting accolades is nowhere near as delightful as making another person happy, especially when that person is your child.

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

I am editing the book I wrote for my son (truthfully I am resisting editing it). I have also been writing lots of short stories and discovering the delight of fewer words.

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

Now there's a thorny question. I wrote a blog post about it, I'm so passionate! I am a die-hard lover of printed books. I tried over and over to complete a book on my Kindle and couldn't. I believe that reading onscreen is less engaging, a theory backed up by brain scientists. Also, electronic devices require the mining of rare earths, a brutal and expensive process that has destroyed the homes of many indigenous peoples. It is a commonly held misconception that paper books are less environmentally friendly than e-books. Well managed mixed agro-forestry stores tonnes of carbon, produces oxygen, and of course gives us paper. We can never have too many trees.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

I have self-published two books and am starting to publish other writers, using a model that ensures that writers can write (instead of stuffing around with clunky back-end admin) and retain most of their profits. Having said that, I wouldn't say no to a publishing contract. Why have all your eggs on one bookshelf? I know a number of very successful authors who have a mix of both self-published and traditionally published books.

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

Anam Cara by John O'Donahue. I think it's the most beautiful book ever written in the English language. O'Donahue was a man with a lyrical poet's heart who could still write in plain English and convey the beauty of what it is to be alive.

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

Hi Adelaide! It's been a long time since I visited.

Links


Heartwood on Amazon:  http://amzn.com/0987116444
The Relationship Revelation on Amazon: http://amzn.com/B005XSQ800


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Review: Trust in Me by Sophie McKenzie

How well can you really know another person? How well do you really know your best friend? Your spouse? Can you trust them? That is the premise of Trust in Me, a new novel by British thriller writer, Sophie McKenzie.

Livy has enjoyed a comfortable life as a wife and mother of two and has a great friendship with Julia. Her happy life has only been tainted just a little with two events--the brutal of her sister, Kara, eighteen years ago and when her husband had a brief fling with one of his work colleagues. Julia has been the friend that Livy has depended on during these hard times. Through Livy's eyes we see Julia as a strong and capable woman. So when Julia dies in an apparent suicide, Livy is certain that Julia's death was not self inflicted. She starts to investigate ... and discovers just how little she knew her supposed best friend and some of the other people around her.

Trust in Me is a novel that is unpredictable and sometimes impossible to put down. The author carefully plots a setting that contrasts family and relationship drama with, questions of trust, and a cat and mouse game between a killer and his ultimate prey. But who is this violent psychopath? What does he want from Livy? And how far is he prepared to take his games? And what will become of the safe life that Livy has always known? Wanting to find out the answers kept me reading well into the evening. The strongest parts of the novel, I felt, were those written from the perspective of the killer, though Livy makes for an interesting heroine--an ordinary woman, who by her knowledge of right and wrong, and by her belief in others, is thrown into an extraordinary situation. Some of the family drama weighed the novel down a little, though the family problems that Livy experienced--such as trust issues and her fears about motherhood--felt very believable.

An enjoyable novel. Recommended for those looking for a thriller with a likeable and unlikely heroine.

Finally, a bit shout out to Simon and Schuster Australia for my free review copy. Thank you. 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Review: Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

Picking up where The Fiery Heart left off, Silver Shadows, the fifth novel in Mead's Bloodlines series tells about Sydney Sage's horrific time spend in an alchemist rehabilitation centre while her forbidden love, Adrian, fights to find and free her. 

Although entertaining and a fun distraction, Silver Shadows is the eleventh novel that Mead has set in this universe (the first six novels make up the Vampire Academy series, while Bloodlines serves as a spin-off) and the series as a whole is starting to feel a little tired. That said, there is still a lot to like within the narrative. Fans of Sydney and Adrian's romance are in for a treat. The novel ends of a (not entirely unexpected,) cliffhanger that will lead perfectly into the sixth and final novel of the series. 

Strictly for fans or for those eager to know what happens next. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Friday Funnies: Daria Reads


I am sharing this one for no good reason. Seriously.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Review: Luna Tango by Alli Sinclair

Luna Tango is the first novel I have read to be set almost entirely in Argentina and I loved author Alli Sinclair's depiction of Argentina and, more importantly, the famous Argentinian/Uruguayan dance, the tango. The novel opens with Dani, an Australian journalist, based in New York but sent to Argentina to do a piece researching the history of the tango. Dani's personal life is a bit of a mess--her fiance has just ditched her for his ex-wife and her connection with Argentina is unpleasant in a very personal way--when she was a small child, Dani's mother abandoned her and moved to Argentina where she became an exceptionally famous dancer. Add to the mix the fact that Dani's grandmother (who raised her) is staunchly refusing to speak to Dani until she leaves Argentina and that her interview subject, Carlos is quite an eccentric man who refuses to answer any of Dani's questions until she learns some dance steps and we have quite a colourful story. As the story progresses, we learn of a murder that happened many years ago in Argentina and that Dani may have a very personal connection to it all ...

This one was a fun, entertaining and often page turning read that kept me up well into the evening as I tried to sort through Dani's family life and its possible connections to Argentina. Carlos made for an interesting love interest. The flashbacks and family secrets kept me engrossed as did the real sense of history and culture that moves through the narrative. My only real complaint is that the ending felt a little too abrupt, though it is fitting given the possible/probable fates of two very important and likeable characters. 

Luna Tango is the first book in the Dance Card series, with two more books to follow--Flamenco Fire and Turning Pointe in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Recommended.

Finally, a big shout out to Harlequin and The Reading Room for my free copy. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Tony Berry

Time once again for Writers on Wednesday. This week I am chatting with Australian journalist, author and editor Tony Berry. 



Tell us a bit about yourself …

Known variously as an old curmudgeon, the marathon man and dedicated pedant. Started in journalism way back when as an apprentice reporter whose Wednesday night duty was to read and check galleys under the beady eyes of the paper’s proofreaders. Since then I’ve travelled the world as reporter and feature writer and spent more than 40 years in Australia as feature writer and editor with a broad mix of daily newspapers, trade journals and magazines, much of the time as a freelance. a dozen years or so ago I eventually got around to indulging in a lifelong wish to write a book rather than report on events. These days more time seems to be spent on editing other writers’ books than on writing my own. But I love it.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

This is The Devil Deals in Diamonds, the third in a series of crime novels built around my main character, sleuth Bromo Perkins.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

A real buzz to hold my book. My baby! My first born! Even if I did publish it myself rather than be blessed by a mainstream publisher.

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

Acknowledgement by the Australian Society of Authors with a mentorship (under Sophie Masson) for my second crime novel, Washed Up.

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

Some 35,000 words of the third Bromo Perkins book have been fed into the computer and it’s flowing along nicely. I’m itching also to get back to do a complete update and revision of my memoir From Paupers to iPads, which blends fact and fiction to tell my family history based on extensive worldwide research.

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

No argument. A book is a book; an e-book is a gadget. I detest gadgets and have an unloving relationship with technology.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Again, no argument. Traditional publishing means acceptance even if we might argue vociferously about the quality of much that is published; indie publishing has no judgement – anyone can do it and Amazon is awash with books with little merit. People are churning out books with no assessment as to their quality. Sadly people are reading them and lavishing excessive praise where so often none is due and all critical judgement seems to have been thrown overboard. Everything seems to be “awesome”, “stunning”, “amazing”, “superb” and the like when it is nothing of the sort. It is the excessive phrases of the X Factor being applied to books. Stop it!

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

There’s no answer to that. Everybody should read the books that works for them, be it fact or fiction, for laughs or thrills, for help or inspiration, for escapism or instruction.

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

Do as I did: move to Melbourne as soon as you can.

~ No. I refuse to live in a city without frog cakes. Kathryn. 


Links

Books by Tony Berry on Amazon:
From Paupers to iPads (memoir): http://tinyurl.com/d44zq2n
Washed Up (crime fiction):  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007V3CYEE
Done Deal (crime fiction): http://tinyurl.com/cznho52

The Devil Deals in Diamonds: http://tinyurl.com/q8qgz6k

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review: A Place For Us by Harriet Evans

The day that Martha Winter decided to tear her family apart started out like any other day ... Or so begins the haunting first sentence of A Place For Us, a haunting new novel by British author, Harriet Evans. I found this novel somewhat reminiscent of Maeve Binchy with its cast of colourful characters and multi-layered storytelling set in a rural town ... but with a bit of a sinister twist--one that I was not prepared for or expecting, despite many of the clues that the author lays through the narrative.

Martha Winter and her husband David have enjoyed a good life in a small English village. Martha has enjoyed her role as a wife, mother and as a hostess to many parties that the family has become famous for. David is a successful cartoonist with his own daily comic strip. They have three children--Bill, a doctor who lives nearby and who has recently remarried the much younger Karen (a woman who just does not 'get' people); Florence who is currently studying in the city after which she was named and Daisy the middle child who no one talks about and who is said to be abroad--and who we meet in flashback and soon learn may not be the nicest of people. Rounding out the family are Bill's daughter, Lucy--an aspiring fashion writer--and Daisy's daughter Cat who was raised by Martha and David and who now has a child of her own. The bulk of the novel tells the story of each of these characters, along with that of local baker, Joe, as they make their plans to attend Martha's birthday celebration. There, a surprising revelation is made and we get to see how the family copes with that.

In many ways, this novel felt very long and filled with a few too many characters. I struggled a little with the Daisy storyline and found many of the other sup-plots--such as a possible romance between Cat and Joe and some of the other family secrets to be far more interesting. Though endearing and with a lot of positive points, I felt that this was not perhaps Evans strongest novel.

One for fans or for those looking for something a bit different.  

Random Trivia--this novel was originally released in serial format and will not be available in some countries until next year. The Australia release date is September 9. 

Thank you to Hatchette Australia and to the Reading Room for my review copy. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art


Game of hopscotch, anyone? While walking along the Esplanade at Glenelg, I was amused to discover this painted on the shared footpath/cycle track. It's a part of the South Australian Government's Be Active promotion, which encourages residents to think outside the square and do fun, little things to be more active in their every day life.  

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Review: Mothers Grimm by Dannielle Wood

Mothers Grimm is a deliciously wicked, modern-day take on fairytales and motherhood. Popular fairytales, such as Hansel and Gretel are retold from the perspective of modern day, Australian mothers who are struggling to reconcile the differences between what they were told motherhood would be and the reality of what motherhood truly is. 

Wood's prose is funny and often wicked and the retellings quite inventive. Lettuce is set in a group of mother-to-be where the supposedly perfect mother turns out to be anything but perfect. (She's the kind of mother who may just exchange her child for some leafy greens.) Sleep is a twist on Sleeping Beauty with references to sleep depravation, Cottage examines the guilt mothers feel for leaving their children in child care and Nag talks about mother/daughter relationships. 

As a woman in her thirties who is childless and will very probably remain so, I suspect that I could not relate to this book in the way that many other women will no doubt be able to. I could, however, relate to the ideas of expectations not meeting reality. 

An interesting and dark take on some age old stories, juxtaposed with a look modern-day parenting.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin and to The Reading Room for my advance reading copy. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Review: Real by Katy Evans

Real by Katy Evans is another self-published works of erotic fiction that found itself picked up by a mainstream publisher and propelled to the New York Times bestseller list. It plays out like a kind of porn fantasy, set in the world of underground fighting with a real hard, fast and now edge to the narrative that does not tie itself down with either sentiment or sensuality. Evans writing has a kind of urgency to it that is rare for erotic novels aimed at a predominantly female audience. 

Real tells the story of Brooke, a once hopeful Olympic athlete who has her dreams smashed after an injury. She finds herself work as a sports therapist and one evening encounters fighter Remington Tate. The pair immediately become infatuated with one another and Brooke finds herself propelled into a world of luxury and alpha males. The first half of the novel works up to some rough, steamy scenes and there is a bit of a gut wrenching sub-plot involving Brooke's sister.

Real is very much a guilty pleasure read. It comes with a number of flaws--chiefly in its portrayal of bi-polar disorder--and there is quite a bit of hyperbole within the narrative which will undoubtably divide readers. I suspect some readers will Evans' descriptions, while other readers may them off-putting or even amusing. (My own feelings are a mix of all three.) A tantalising read, though not for all tastes.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Friday Funnies: Life is Like a Bracelet

Source: Go Comics

Another of my favourite Peanuts comics has Peppermint Patty throwing out a not-so-subtle hint, one that could only be totally misheard (and misunderstood,) by Charlie Brown. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Writers on Wednesday: M. R. Cosby

Welcome to Writers on Wednesday. This week I have with me M. R. Cosby a fellow Aussie and author of the recently released Dying Embers ...


Tell me a bit about yourself …

I write short, dark fiction – mostly interpreting my own experience, and from my dreams. I try to find the strangeness in the everyday, and to expose the gaps that people unwittingly find themselves slipping through.

I started writing in order to capture something of myself, to set it down and to make it permanent. My father died when I was young, and I know almost nothing about him. I don’t even have an example of his handwriting, and I often wonder at how so little of him lives on. I didn’t want to risk the same thing happening with my own children, hence an attempt to write my memoirs. From this effort came some rather autobiographical tales which, collectively, became Dying Embers.

Tell us about your most recently published book ...

Dying Embers is a collection of ten short stories, published by Satalyte Publishing. These are tales of Aickmanesque urban strangeness, exploring what is heard around the dying embers of the fire, once the heat has almost gone:


An historic building holds the key to a terrible secret from Letherby's youth. A passenger on an international flight finds out that he is not master of his own destiny – finding out who is, though, is quite another matter. Rural Australia proves less welcoming than Preston had hoped, forcing him to confront the guilt from his past. Pocock witnesses something calamitous on the river bank which changes the course of his life. The alien landscape of a network of warehouses provides the background to a remarkable transformation. An ill-fated property search leads first to admission, then to a strange form of retribution, and ultimately to a terrifying reunion.

“A fascinating and eclectic collection of strange adventures…” James Everington, author of Falling Over.

“These are powerful, energetically written tales that are some of the finest I’ve read in the genre of dark fiction. The language is wonderfully imaginative and instantly thrusts the reader into the realms of slowly revealed decay. A must-read!” Paul Hodge, Freaky Folk Tales

Tell us about the first time you were published ...

Jessica Grace Coleman was kind enough to include some of my early short stories in her Darker Times anthologies. I think I was in the first one, back in 2012, and also the third one. It was an important moment for me, seeing my work in print for the first time. It suggested there might be an audience for my stories beyond interested friends and family members!

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

Without doubt the publication of Dying Embers. I feel very proud to have my first collection of short stories “out there”. Ever since I read my first copy of the Pan horror collections (number 7 I seem to remember) back when I was ten years old, I’ve wanted to write short stories. It’s been a long journey but I’ve got there in the end!

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

I’m trying to finish a short story for inclusion in an upcoming anthology of “psychological” horror stories, and I’m some way through what may end up being a novel. Or perhaps a collection of short stories, all linked together to form a whole… I’m not sure yet.

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

Both. I love collecting books (I have thousands, including all of Robert Aickman’s first editions, some of them signed) but I also love my Kindle. Being able to have hundreds of books instantly available, especially when travelling, has changed my life. Interestingly, I don’t find I buy fewer “real” books despite reading so many e-books. In the long term, there’s room for both.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Once again, there’s room for both. Some of the best books I have read recently were self-published (The Other Room, by James Everington, for example, or The Side Effects of the Medication by Lauren James). Of course there are more hits than misses with traditionally published books, but that’s only to be expected. I think indie publishing is very important and should be encouraged. Some form of it must surely be the way of the future.

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

The Collected Strange Stories by Robert Aickman. Or indeed, any of his short story collections, such as Dark Entries or Cold Hand in Mine. Quite superb, and nothing else like them anywhere.

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

Well, I would like to say thanks very much for buying Dying Embers and I hope you enjoyed reading it!

Links

Here are the links to buy Dying Embers;

Amazon AU;

Amazon UK;

Amazon US;


Please visit my website; www.martincosby.com
Follow me on Twitter; https://twitter.com/M_RCosby

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Review: Lyrebird Hill by Anna Romer

Australian author Anna Romer's second novel Lyrebird Hill is a fascinating tale of amnesia, family secrets and loss. On the surface, Ruby Cardel would appear to have a happy life. She runs a successful business and a loving and supportive boyfriend. Soon, her life begins to unravel--first by the discovery of lingerie in her boyfriend's pocket and then by the discover that the death of her older sister was far from accidental. Ruby returns to her childhood home, where she discovers more than she thought possible--including the diary of Brenna, a woman imprisoned for murder in the late nineteenth century. Running parallel to Ruby's own story is that of Brenna--a young woman also brought up at Lyrebird Hill and eventually trapped in an unhappy marriage. 

The duel narratives of Lyrebird Hill work well, and I found Brenna and Ruby's stories to be quite interesting. With Brenna I knew, (or at least thought that I knew,) what would happen, though the questions of how she went from a young and unhappy bride to a woman jailed for murder, kept me reading. (Along with the hope that her husband would get what was coming to him.) Ruby's story was a little more complex, as it relied upon a number of flashbacks as she regained her memories of the terrible day that her sister died. There are a couple of plot twists toward the end of the novel that I felt did not make quite the impact that may have been intended and credibility was stretched quite a bit. I felt Rob and Pete were perhaps not developed as fully as they had the potential to be.

There is much within this book to be enjoyed--Australian history, family secrets and a real sense of place. I loved the beautiful descriptions of the Australian landscape. (And if I ever find myself living on a property like Lyrebird Hill, I want a heated, outdoor bath just like the one that Esther had installed.) 

A uniquely Australian tale. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for my review copy. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art

Bus shelter, Christies Beach
I love the unique and original design on the side of this bus shelter--given that it is located just a few metres back from the Esplanade, the seahorse theme is quite appropriate.