Saturday, 28 February 2015

1980s Nostalgia: The Twits by Roald Dahl

I decided to pick up Roald Dahl's clever The Twits again and go on a bit of a nostalgia trip after reading Danny Champion of the World recently and also Dahl's autobiography, Boy. In this short, clever book for children there is a lot of humour as Dahl depicts the gross and ghastly behaviours of Mr and Mrs Twit. Dahl dislike of beards is obvious (Mr Twit has a shocker,) and the eventual revenge that both the monkeys and the birds get on this horrible pair is as perfect as it is hilarious. And so too are Quentin Blake's illustrations.

I wish that I could add more to this one, but it is what it is. Some books don't require in depth discussion and recommendations, they exist to be enjoyed. Anyway, this one is great for a nostalgia trip and also great for sharing with primary school aged children.

Highly recommended. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Friday Funnies: Seductive Banana

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

Laline Paul's debut The Bees is a cleverly imagined and executed thriller with a surprising setting and characters ... ones that may just be more like humans than we care to admit. Flora 717 has just hatched and discovered that she belongs to the lowest caste in her hive and has only narrowly escaped death for being too large, too ugly and too damn smart. To survive Flora must follow the rules.  Accept. Obey. Serve ...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. The Bees is the first book that I have read that is from the perspective of well, a bee. The subject matter is well researched and much plays as a bit of a take on humanity--particularly on how survival of the fittest does not necessarily mean survival of those who are the strongest but, rather, those who are the most cunning. It was a bit gut wrenching watching a number of sacrifices (sacrifices: a euphemism for mass murder and, in one instance, genocide, while murder is generally referred to as The Kindness) and the blind loyalty with which the hive all followed their queen, even when it leads them to a deadly end. Flora's maternal longings were bittersweet, though the ending is fitting and properly explains Flora's place in the hive. (Flora is both a saviour and a threat.)

I found The Bees to be bit like Animal Farm, but with a more general commentary on human nature, rather than being politically motivated. I disagree with a number of comparisons to The Hunger Games and I am not sure that I would label this one as dystopia as it was in this review that appeared in The Guardian

Recommended to anyone who wants to take a chance with a book with an unusual premise, though I suspect that this will not appeal to every reader. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Sally Odgers

Welcome once again to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am chatting with prolific Australian author Sally Odgers. Sally has been writing for a long time--in fact, I can remember borrowing her book Amy Amaryllis from my local library when I was in my upper years at primary school. (I think I may have owned a couple of the Blinky Bill adaptions as well.) Anyway, welcome Sally ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I was born in Tasmania and still live in the same road. I grew up on a dairy farm with one elder sister, and a lot of animals. My sister and I used to share books and pets and played a game called “quotations” in which one of us came up with a quote from one of the books we’d both read and the other had to identify it. We did this while walking, rowing, riding and feeding or grooming animals. My first story was published in 1970, and my first book in 1977. Since then, just two years have passed without a new book coming out. As well as writing, I run a small manuscript assessment and editing service called Affordable Manuscript Assessments, a tiny publishing collective called Prints Charming Books, an artist-promotion blog called Promote Me Please, and a speakers’ listing called Tassie Book Talks. My husband and I have a lot of Jack Russells, which inspired us to write three series narrated by dogs. We have two children and two grandchildren.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Three books are available this quarter. Two are books one (Farm Rescue) and two (Bush Rescue) in the Pup Patrol series I co-write with my husband. The other is Heather and Heath, a long historical novel coming from Satalyte.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

My first story came out in the NSW School Magazine when I was twelve or so. After selling more stories to that market, I wrote a farm adventure and two fantasies called The Kamarand and The Kamarand 2. I subbed The Kamarand to a publisher and the editor rejected it, but suggested I should put together a collection of short stories. This I did when I was fifteen/sixteen. The book was published in 1977.

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

Surviving, I think! My writing career has spanned six decades which isn’t too bad for a person who is still in her fifties. (It’s a strange feature of maths that this is possible.)

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

I’m working on Book #4 of the Pup Patrol series and also a little project called The Fairies of Farholt. I have several other WsiP.

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

Paper books. I find it disturbing that eBooks are so cheap. It’s as if we’re implying the paper of a book is worth hundreds of percent more than the actual story. I also prefer not to read on screen, because I do that for hours and hours a day for work. In fact, my preference is for audio books, because I can read those while walking, gardening or cooking.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Both. I am an enthusiastic supporter of both forms of publishing. Indie is more difficult to make a living from, but indie gives us some glorious books that might not have the mass-market appeal trad publishers need. I’ve read some darned good self-published books too in recent times. Self-publishers often hire me to assess and edit their work so I have a ringside seat to see what’s out there.

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

The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

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

Several things! Don’t lend, recommend. Don’t read a book just because you think you should. Have confidence in your own opinion. Read books you love. If you enjoyed a book, why not let the author and/or publisher know? If you write to an author, please don’t just say, “I love your book(s).” Tell us what you loved, specifically, and why. Finally, if you are an author, aspiring, novice, seasoned, mainstream, midlist or whatever else, improve your own chances by buying new recently-and-locally-published books in your own genre. If possible, buy them from your local book shop. Our local industry depends on sales.


Any of these will find me.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review: Stone Castles by Trish Morey

When I read in The Advertiser that South Australian author Trish Morey had penned a novel set in one of my favourite parts of the state, I knew that I just had to wander down to my local bookstore and purchase a copy. Although I do not read a lot of rural romance, I had a gut feeling that I would very much enjoy Stone Castles and I am pleased to report that gut feeling was spot-on about that one. 

Stone Castles tells the story of Pip Martin, a girl born and raised in Kadina, South Australia. The combination of a tragic loss and a lie left Pip questioning everything she knew when she was just eighteen years old. She left Kadina for Sydney, and then New York and has enjoyed a successful career in the finance industry. Now in her thirties, Pip has returned to Kadina to say good-bye to her grandmother and soon finds her past catching up with her ...

As I said before, I enjoyed reading this one. I loved the level of research and accuracy that the author put into her work, depicting the small Yorke Peninsula town. (It was also very eerie reading the depiction of the Moonta cemetery, as I visited there recently.) I loved the completely appropriate mention in there of Not Only in Stone Phyllis Somerville's brilliant historical novel that is set in the region. And then, of course, there is the fact that at its heart, the novel is a well-written and emotionally charged romance. I liked Pip, Luke and the funny coincidences that brought them together at the beginning of the novel. I wanted to know more about their pasts and found myself becoming more and more emotionally invested in the characters as the story continued. 

A thoroughly likeable rural romance, set in one of my favourite parts of South Australia. Recommended.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author challenge 2015. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

Grilled cheese sandwich anyone? This business has a very innovative way of gaining the attention of their customers. Most days, you can find this awesome Kombi Van parked somewhere along Rundle Mall, serving their delicious grilled cheese sandwiches to a grateful public. Sometimes restaurants don't have to be expensive to be awesome.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Book Blast: Twice Upon a Time

Blurb: Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares. What if waking Sleeping Beauty was the worse thing the Prince could have done? What if Rapunzel wasn't in that tower for her own protection—but for everyone else’s? Assembled by The Bearded Scribe Press, Twice Upon A Time combines classics and modern lore in peculiar and spectacular ways. From Rapunzel to Rumpelstiltskin, this unique collection showcases childhood favorites unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Both traditionally-published and independent authors will take you on a whirlwind ride through fairytale and folklore, myth and majick. Cherished stories are revisited and remastered into newly-treasured tales of hope and heartache, of adversity and adventure. This collection features 43 short stories ranging in length from 2K-12K words from the following cast of talented writers: Bo Balder, AJ Bauers, Carina Bissett, Rose Blackthorn, S.M. Blooding, Rick Chiantaretto, Richard Chizmar, Liz DeJesus, Court Ellyn, S.Q. Eries, Steven Anthony George, Dale W. Glaser, Jax Goss, K.R. Green, Kelly Hale, Tonia Marie Harris, Brian T. Hodges, Tarran Jones, Jason Kimble, Shari L. Klase, Alethea Kontis, Hannah Lesniak, Wayne Ligon, RS McCoy, Joshua Allen Mercier, Robert D. Moores, Diana Murdock, Nick Nafpliotis, Elizabeth J. Norton, Bobbie Palmer, William Petersen, Rebekah Phillips, Asa Powers, Joe Powers, Brian Rathbone, Julianne Snow, Tracy Arthur Soldan, C.L. Stegall, Brian W. Taylor, Kenechi Udogu, Onser von Fullon, Deborah Walker, Angela Wallace, and Cynthia Ward. Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier. Cover art by Luke Spooner.

  Excerpt from Fire & Ash by Joshua Allen Mercier, a dark fantasy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood:
THE cold, autumn gusts ripped across Salem’s port, stirring the angry waters, stirring the angry spectators gathered before the gallows—gallows which had not, until this day, been used since the Trials several years back. Men, women, children—all bore hateful eyes and twisted faces. All bore a deep-seeded fear of the woman before them; they watched and seethed, anger building like fire fed by the winds, waiting for answers, for closure, for justice—for the devil’s death. Constance Archer stared at the sea of faces; she despised all of them, save two—two faces that weren’t supposed to be there. Her daughters, Rhiannon and Rowan, hid in the small grove of trees, but she could still see their watery, green eyes piercing through the shadows, their stares stabbing their fear and pain and confusion into her. They weren’t supposed to see her like this. With the gag still tightly secured about her mouth, however, her muffled pleas for them to leave went unheard. Where was their grandmother? Constance’s fiery locks were drenched with tears. Her heart ached. For them, for herself, for her husband, Jacob. She shouldn’t have let the rage overtake her; she knew that now, now that it was too late. “For the crimes of witchcraft, how do you plea?” Even though the thick rope around her neck made it difficult to escape it—to forget—the reverend’s voice jolted her back to reality. “Not guilty,” Constance replied through the gag, unsure if her plea was understood. “Executioner, please remove the gag from the accused.” The reverend’s statement was cold. They had known each other since they were children, but he was but a stranger now as he stood before her. He was once so compassionate, so caring—what had changed? The executioner approached Constance with apprehension; she soon understood why. Despite the black hood covering his face, his scent—sweet, woody, musky, like freshly-sawn wood mixed with perfume and sweat—immediately revealed his identity: William Black. He removed the gag with haste and stepped across the gallows with a speed she hadn’t witnessed him have in years. How fitting that the town adulterer would be the one to hang her. She wondered who the woman had been, the one whose scent lingered on his clothing and skin. Surely it wasn’t his wife, Catherine. It couldn’t be. She had killed her, in a way, the memory of the act flooding back to her nearly causing her to faint. Seems Catherine and her husband didn’t understand the meaning of marriage; then again, neither did Jacob (apparently). Catching him with Catherine was the most heart-breaking of all. Wyatt Thatcher cleared his throat. “Mrs. Archer—your plea, now that we can hear you.” Constance stared at her old friend, pain and tears welling in her eyes. “Not guilty.” “If not for witchcraft, how do account for the brutal way you murdered Catherine Black? Surely, you were possessed,” countered Reverend Thatcher. “I didn’t murder Catherine Black. As I told you all before, she was attacked by a beast.” She wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t telling the whole truth. The truth wouldn’t save her, and she couldn’t have her daughters hearing it. They weren’t supposed to be here, but calling attention to them now would only make matters worse. “You’re the beast!” a woman’s voice sounded from the throng. “Witch!” said another, followed by her husband’s jibe, “You’re Satan’s whore!” Reverend Thatcher held his hand to the crowd; without a word, they fell silent. It wasn’t their first execution; it probably wouldn’t be their last. His attention turned to the defendant, but his eyes remained downcast, staring at the rough wood of the gallows as if it were the most interesting sight he had ever beheld. Constance knew why Wyatt Thatcher wouldn’t look at her, knew he couldn’t show a hint of weakness or compassion for her lest he be hanged, too, for sympathizing with the Devil. Satan was in Salem Village that day—no doubt about that. But it wasn’t Constance or Reverend Thatcher. The Devil stood in the crowd, reflected in the eyes of every spectator. His hunger bellowed in their calls, their taunts, their glares, and it wouldn’t be satisfied until her limp, lifeless body waved in the autumn winds like a banner for their tainted justice, a flag of their blood-stained victory over evil. Wyatt’s hardness broke, even if for just a second, Constance the only witness to the silent tear soaking its fleshy path across his regretful face. “And please explain to us why you were covered in her blood.” “I’ve told you all this before, Wyatt...” Using the reverend’s first name stirred a wave of gasps from the crowd, forcing her to pause. “I carried Catherine into my house to try to stop her bleeding, to prevent her death.” That was a lie; it was what she wanted everyone to believe, but it had been all for naught. It had only sealed her fate. “And what of your husband’s disappearance?” An icy gust of wind blew through Constance’s locks of red hair; with it, Thatcher’s own coldness returned. “Did you use witchcraft to dispose of his body?” “My husband was attacked, too, his body dragged into the orchard by the beast.” That was a lie, too. She couldn’t tell them the truth—that she had, in a fit of rage after seeing Jacob and Catherine naked in the orchard, cursed her husband’s appetite for flesh. The curse had gone horribly wrong...
"Brilliant change-up on the new flood of "Fairy Tale Twists". If you're looking for something that can suck you in right away, this book is definitely it. The collection of short stories makes sure you never get bored with the story or writing style." ~Jett Murdock / Amazon review
  About the Publisher: The Bearded Scribe Press, LLC is an independent publisher of quality Speculative Fiction. They aim to become a platform for emerging writers to get discovered by the mainstream and inversely, through becoming a staple in the literary community, becoming the source for readers to discover emerging talent in the Speculative Fiction realm.
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  Watch the [Extended] Book Trailer:

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Poison Ivy Now Available For Pre-order!

Great news! Poison Ivy is now available for pre-order from the Amazon Kindle Store ahead of its release next week on February 28. Poison Ivy is my seventh novel and my first release for 2015. The blurb reads:

Don't get me wrong. I wanted to tell you a nice story. But the truth is, life is not like that...
Ivy Brett-Masters has always been a bit of a prankster. But when an act of revenge goes wrong, fashion model Ivy finds herself in a lot of trouble. She might even go to jail.
Poison Ivy is not just a story about that. This is a story about family. About friendship. About loyalty. Most of all it is a story about a young woman finding the courage to accept herself.  
Poison Ivy by Kathryn White $2.99 from the Amazon Kindle Store. Pre-order your copy here. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Friday Funnies: Peanuts and Boredom

Quite possibly the most boring Peanuts comic ever?

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Camille Preaker is returning home and her welcome could not be any less warm. The illegitimate daughter of a wealthy and controlling, but oddly distant, mother, Camille has found some sense of self in her job as a newspaper reporter in Chicago. Sent back to the small town where she grew up to cover an investigation into the murder of two young girls, Camille ends up uncovering more than she bargained for ...

Many readers will already be familiar with Gillian Flynn who is the author of the brilliant thriller Gone Girl, which has recently been made into a feature film. I read Sharp Objects after a recommendation from my cousin April who assured me that this one is even better than Gone Girl and she was spot on there. Sharp Objects is a surprising and often eerie psychological thriller and sometimes it is difficult to know what is worse--what is going through some of the characters heads, or the harm that they cause others. 

Camille's estranged family--controlling mother Adora, idiotic and snobbish stepfather Alan, long dead half-sister Marian and her two-faced delinquent sister Amma-- make for quite a toxic bunch and it is obvious that Camille has quite a few problems of her own, mainly in the form of self-harm. 

The murders of the two girls is quite horrific. Both appear to be ritualistic killings by a serial killer--the teeth of each of the girls is missing. Is it somebody in the town who is responsible, an outsider or is the truth much closer than what Camille thinks? Certainly there is something quite odd about Amma, who never loved her oldest daughter, and the fact that both of her half sisters seem to suffer from a strange, never-ending string of illnesses (which eventually killed Marian,) that has never been questioned. There is also some quite interesting scenes where we see what makes both Adora and Amma tick when they think that no one else is watching. (In this sense they are Camille's opposite.)

When the eventual murderer is revealed the novel poses questions about how women are stereotyped and how it may be easy for some women to play on these stereotypes in order to get away with some quite horrific crimes. Then there is the question of nurture--how easy is it to love and to allow oneself to be loved in return?

While I was eventually able to understand most of the characters and their motivations, one remained a total mystery to me, that of Alan, Camille's very distant stepfather. Was he really so much under Adora's thumb? Or was he just totally oblivious and unconcerned about the workings of his own household? Then again, Camille describes him as "the opposite of moist" and maybe that description fits the character well. 

A challenging and eerie psychological thriller. Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Kellie Wallace

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I'm a Sydney based author with five books traditionally published. I've been writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first 'novel' when I was 12 and decided it was something I wanted to do in my life.

I love to write. It transports me to another time and place and  it allows me to be someone else for a little while. I'm always thinking about writing, my brain doesn't stop with possible characters, ideas, titles, themes. It can be exhausting!

I'm currently submitting my next historical fiction and writing my first science fiction.

I live with my husband and two budgies.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

My next release is my first dystopian Edge of Tomorrow in April. I wrote it during a difficult time and it sapped all my energy and passion. Its partially inspire by the Hunger Games and the Maze Runner.

I've always had an interest in 'end of the world', 'post apocalyptic' ideologies and decided to put my writing to the test. It took 6 months and many more months in editing and submitting. It will be published by Soul Mate Publishing.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

I self published for the first time in 2007. A colleague at the time suggested a Queensland based publishing house her sister had used. Back then, I didn't know paying to have your books published (through a vanity publisher) wasn't the norm. I had to convince my family it was what all authors did.
 It cost me $2200 but it was a steep learning curve and opened a whole new world to me. I didn't sell any copies but I was proud to have my first book published by 22 years old.

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

To have my books in print.

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

I'm currently writing my first science fiction called Fluency (name pending) and I'm writing bits and pieces of another crime/drama novel called Belcourt which I started penning in January 2014.

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

I like the convenience and freedom of ebooks but I love paper books, especially for an author. Nothing beats having all your hard work in your hands.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

I've only self published once so I can't really compare. I like traditional publishing because you have the backing and support of a publisher. I can never go back to self pubbing. I don't like relying on my own decisions. Traditional publishing all the way.

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

That's easy. Cry Wolf by Tami Hoag. I first read it in 2005 and fell deeply in love. I've read it probably 100 times in the past ten years.

It resonated with me and I think it stemmed my love for the South in America. Her characters, settings, descriptions are so real you think you're there in the pages.

A few years ago I was seriously thinking of writing a screenplay based on her book because it has great movie potential.

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

I hope you enjoy reading my books!


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Review: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Maud may be having a little difficulty with her memory of late, but she knows one thing. Her friend Elizabeth is missing and that she needs to find her. Elizabeth is Missing is a surprising novel and an intriguing mystery, told from the perspective of an elderly woman who is suffering from dementia and one that reaches a surprising conclusion--though much like Maud's memory, the pieces of the puzzle are all there, it is just a matter of looking and putting the right things together.

Elizabeth is Missing has been available for a while now and has been on my to-read list for some time after I read positive reviews from other bloggers. When I saw that the novel was being rereleased and was available on netgalley, I snapped up the opportunity to read it. I am glad that I did. I found myself challenged in all the right ways--to think what it must be like to be old, losing ones memory and to be treated rather condescendingly by carers and by family. Add to the mix that Maud has something very important that she needs to communicate but cannot find the right words, and does not always do things in a way that is easily understood by others, and it makes quite a powerful story. 

Much of the novel is told in flashbacks to an era that Maud can still remember well (her long term memory is unaffected, which is often the case with dementia patients,) and to a terrible family mystery that shaped her youth. I was intrigued to see if and how the present day story and flashbacks would eventually link and I was blown away by the outcome. Healey is a talented writer and combines an intriguing mystery with a heartbreakingly honest meditation on ageing and memory loss.

Highly recommended.

Big shout out and thank you to Penguin Books Australia and Netgalley for my review copy. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

The Three Rivers fountain sits proudly at the southern tip of Victoria Square. The three pronged fountain was designed by John Dowie represents the three main rivers in South Australia--the Murray, the Onkaparinga and the Torrens. It was switched on in 1968 by the Duke of Edinburgh after many years of planning, and formed an integral part of the redevelopment of Victoria Square during the 1960s. In 2013, Victoria Square was redeveloped again and the fountain was moved further south. 

The fountain has also been subject to a popular urban myth, regarding how the penis on one of the statues was broken. Practically everybody who lives in Adelaide, it seems when they witnessed a classmate, a friend of a friend, or some random kid, fire a rock at the rock at the fountain. (Where anyone would even find a rock in Victoria Square is, of course, questionable, as is the extreme force and precision that would be required for such a hit to occur.)

This photograph was taken from the eastern side of the fountain. The Sir Samuel Way building, the Adelaide Hilton and a small section of the tour down under village can be seen in the background.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Friday the Thirteenth Funnies

Couldn't resist. Sorry.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Off Topic: Meet James.

Guess what ladies! Adelaide's most eligible bachelor is looking for a girlfriend. Or not.

Actually, I've been tempted to write a post on this for a long time, about two years in fact. I keep seeing ads popping up all over the internet, inviting me to meet a man called James who is 32 (and has been for at least the last eighteen months,) is a very rich businessman and who is looking for a girlfriend. The link, if you're dumb enough to click on it like I was, takes you to a site about James that is backed by a well known Adelaide dating agency. The whole thing is about as suspicious as it comes, for reasons that should be fairly obvious (if not this hilarious YouTube video describes it fairly well, as does this Meet James forum on reddit.) My guess is that the whole thing is a scam to encourage people from the desired demographic (i.e. young, wanting love and naive,) to sign up to the agency. 

Has anyone else seen these ads? What is your opinion?

Update 9 January 2016--the Meet James site has now disappeared from the web, and this new and somewhat similar, but slightly less creepy site has appeared in its place.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Review: Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

The combination of sparky father, pheasants and a top secret adventure makes Danny Champion of the World a winning read for children (and adults) who love Roald Dahl's quirky novels. Danny is a nine year old boy who lives in a tiny gypsy caravan with his single dad. Danny's mum died when he was still a baby and consequently, Danny and his dad are very close. Together, Danny and his dad run the local service station and enjoy a quiet, easy existence. But when local businessman Mr Hazell begins to make their life difficult, the pair plot a clever revenge to poach Mr Hazell's prized pheasants, that leads to some unexpected surprised ...

Like all of Dahl's work, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Danny Champion of the World. I never read this one when I was a kid--during my primary school years, my oldest brother Ben would buy me one of Dahl's books every year on my birthday and eventually, I suppose, there came a year when the dreaded word 'teen' was tacked on to the end of my age and that was the end of it. I know that my eldest niece, Lauren, now loves Dahl's books too. My younger niece, Sophie is named after the little girl from The BFG. Dahl's books really are family books, I suppose ...

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Danny Champion of the World. It had the right mix of adventure--Danny carefully driving a car through the woods to find his missing dad--and Dahl's clever humour. (Just you wait and see how they manage to poach more than one hundred pheasants.) There is also a bit of morality in there--the way each of the neighbours help one another and the way in which Mr Hazell gets his just desserts. I also smiled a bit, noticing that the BFG makes a bit of a cameo in there--as this one was published first, it is likely that Dahl later decided to expand on the idea.

An absolutely enjoyable middle grade adventure. Highly recommended.

This book was read as part of the Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015.

Category: Middle Grade Adventure

Progress 1/12

Monday, 9 February 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

This somewhat neglected painting sits on the side of the Hopgood Theatre at Noarlunga Centre. Created by local artist Jimmy C it depicts the experience of watching live theatre. Considering the blandness of the surrounding wall and the amount of work that went in to the painting, it is a shame that this one has not been better cared for and is lightly decorated with graffiti. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Off Topic: Unrequited Love and Clear Communication

I was on the bus earlier this week, a little weary, and perhaps, a little bored, as I travelled home from a popular precinct. Seated almost directly in front of me were a guy and a girl, probably in their late teens. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the pair and I was not very interested in them, just as they were probably not very interested in me. Anyway, the pair probably would have escaped my attention completely, had the girl not suddenly pressed the next stop button, sprang up from her chair, and performed what all of us have learned at some point or another through bitter experience is a dud move.

"Thank you so much!" The girl squealed, her voice high and excited. "Thank you so much for coming out with me today!"

With about as much enthusiasm as your average lump of wood, the guy nodded and muttered a brief, "Yeah." It was at this point that I started to feel for the poor girl. Poor thing, I decided. She's going to be feeling a bit sore and a bit disappointed for the rest of the evening. 

I could not help but watch as the girl persisted. "I'm so glad you found the movie you wanted," she told the guy, whilst nodding at a small, plastic shopping bag.

She got a grunt for her efforts. Back off, I thought. Give him what he wants and save yourself a lot of heartache. 

The bus slowed down for the girl's stop. She stares at her companion. "Text me when you get home," she says. "Let me know you got there safely."

"Nah," the guy says. By now it should have been blindingly obvious that he was not interested. The girl continues to persist. Stop it, I thought. You're gorgeous and obviously a kind, caring person. You deserve a partner who will appreciate that. This guy isn't right for you, and you're not right for him. 

"Then I'll text you," she says.

The guy shrugs. "Don't be upset if I don't reply."

"I won't!" 

By now, the bus has stopped. Giggling the girl climbed off the bus and waved good-bye to her companion, still seemingly oblivious to his total disinterest. I wonder how she would have felt if she had known that for the rest of the journey, the guy spent a remarkable amount of time checking out a number of women who climbed on and off the bus. The whole thing got me thinking about communication. Despite the fact that this guy was trying to brush her off, the girl just did not seem to be able to interpret his signals or if she did, she did not know what to do about it. Or maybe she thought that if she persisted long enough, she might change his mind. The other side of the coin is that her companion's communication skills really weren't that great either. Why was it that he was willing to demonstrate disinterest in every possible way short of (gasp!) actually coming out and saying so? All right, the girl should have picked up on the hint and the way that she was bugging him is a little creepy. But it is also equally creepy, in my opinion, to not give someone an honest and direct answer when it was clear that all previous messages were not getting through. Sometimes people just need the obvious to be spelled out to them. 

Of course, it could be argued that his indifference was an honest and direct answer, that he does not owe her any more than that. That argument is perfectly valid. Yes, she was being creepy. Yes, she should have taken the hint. Yes, she should leave him alone. No, he was not giving her any signs of encouragement. And no, he owes her nothing more than respecting her as a human being. But you know something? None of that makes the guy involved any less of a coward. This was not a situation where there was an imbalance of power, no one's physical safety was at risk and she had nowhere near enough of a hold over the guy to cause him emotional harm. I would classify her behaviour as annoying, not intentional harassment. He skirted around the issue because he was either too cowardly to say some variation of "Let's just be friends," or, more likely, because he didn't know how. In any case, this is not the first case of unrequited love that the world has ever seen and I sincerely doubt that it will be the last. 

Communication between the sexes can sometimes be weird. There are some guys and girls out there who can read the opposite sex perfectly and understand their message. There are plenty of others who cannot. I have never understood why we do not put more emphasis on teaching high school students about clear communication--about how to recognise and respect boundaries, and how to effectively make ones own boundaries clear. Then again, some things can only be learned through experience and there is much that I know only through the gift of hindsight. I just wish that, sometimes, there was a way that I could pass on all that I have learned to the next generation. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Friday Funnies: The Muppets Sing Bohemian Rhapsody

Found this YouTube clip recently. It's a sort-of funny and clever take on Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, but parts of it also got on my nerves a bit as it felt a little bit over done. Still its all in the spirit of the Muppets and they one an award for this, so it has some magic and some value there.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Review: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

No One Else Can Have You the debut novel from American author Kathleen Hale is a quirky black comedy set in a small town in Wisconsin. Sixteen year old Kippy Bushman is determined to find out who murdered her best friend Ruth. Unfortunately, she is having a hard time convincing the local police that they have arrested the wrong man ...

From the moment that I picked up No One Else Can Have You, it was very obvious that this was going to be a book that would divide readers. It's quirky, dark moments are the kind of thing that you will either love or it will end up being one of those things that gets on your nerves completely. Pretty much every character in this book has an annoying, exaggerated personality trait and Kippy herself is far from a sweet, avenging angel. Most of the adults are complete morons. From reading extracts of her diary, we can see that Ruth is a spoiled brat and, perhaps, a borderline psychopath. And, you know what? I thought that all of it was brilliant. I found myself roaring with laughter as Kippy's friends with a fetish for violence helped her escape from the local mental hospital, cringing any time Dom said or did anything (seriously, who gives their child 'chocolate butt' as a nickname,) and cheering for Davey. The book isn't terribly realistic, though the author nails the icky, uncomfortable nature of adolescence.

Highly recommended to readers who enjoy black comedy or who are willing to try something a little bit different. Excellent, but not suitable for all tastes.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Jane Routley

Welcome to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am interviewing another great Australian author, Jane Routley ...

Tell me a bit about yourself … 

My main ambition at the moment is to see a live volcano. I write Historical Fantasy with a chick lit twist. (Girls just want to have fun and agency as well.) I also do customer service for the railways.  I enjoy working with the public.  They are so quirky.  I’ve started writing about my experiences in my Blog. In my spare time I love to garden, read and bushwalk. Apart from ten years living in Copenhagen and Frankfurt, I’ve lived in Melbourne all my life.

 Tell us about your most recently published book?

My fourth fantasy novel the Three Sisters is coming out from Clandestine Press in December. Two sisters, a powerful warrior and a mage who refuses to grow up, seek to rescue their kidnapped sister from a ruthless colonizing power but the forces arrayed against them are darker than they think. My books were originally published by Harper Collins but are now being republished in ebook from Clandestine Press and in hard copy by Ticonderoga Press.

Tell us about the first time you were published? 

I plied a New York agent with chocolate ice-cream and free accommodation when I was living in Frankfurt and he agree to read my novel, Mage Heart.  In a couple of months he had sold it to Harper Collins books.

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

Winning two Aurealis awards for Best Fantasy novel of the Year in 1998 and 1999

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

I’m just finishing up my fantasy novel Shadow in the Empire of Light. An orphan without magical gift in a family full of mages finds herself sorting out all sorts of problems when the family visit the estate she lives on. Its being considered by a number of publishers.

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

I prefer to read paper books, basically because I’m a Luddite and anything to do with computers makes me grouchy and head achy.  Although I have to say I love Blogging.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Despite my previous remarks, I’m so very grateful to the internet for the ease with which you can talk to readers and other writers and get your books out there.  Thank you Internet! I’ve tried traditional publishing.  It can be very heart-breaking and you have no control at all unless you’re a bestseller.

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

That’s such a hard question.  I guess Tolkien is a must for fantasy readers but I’m a big Jane Austen fan.  She is such a good describer of character and has such elegant prose.

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

What a beautiful city you have.  All those wonderful parks and the Adelaide Hills.  I stayed in South Terrace this year and was impressed by how many good restaurants were within walking distance and how suitable the centre was for biking.  Oh and the sustainable housing.


Clan Destine Press
Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Review: The Two of Us by Andy Jones

From the moment that I read the first two sentences for blurb for The Two of Us by Andy Jones I was completely and utterly intrigued. To explain, the first two sentences read:
Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most is what happens next...
The premise of the novel is this. William, who prefers to be known by his surname, Fisher, and Ivy have been an item for nineteen days and just know that they are meant to be together. From there, Fisher and Ivy's relationship develops in a number of unexpected ways. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Two of Us. Fisher and Ivy's relationship really did take a number of unexpected twists and turns, none of which were unrealistic and many that will be easily identifiable by a number of readers. (And, no, I'm not going to reveal what they are.) The twists are like precious secrets, best slowly learned and discovered by the reader. It is also a novel of how their adapt to the changes that take place, and the importance of clear communication in a relationship, something that Fisher and Ivy so often get muddled or wrong. Had I known more about what was in store for Fisher and Ivy, I may not have necessarily have been so keen to pick this one up, but as the story went on, I found myself becoming emotionally invested, laughing and crying along with the characters. The side characters and subplots were all well written, particularly the subplot featuring Fisher's best mate who is suffering a terminal illness. 

Recommended. (And don't let anyone dare tell you what happens next.)

Finally, a big shout out to Simon and Schuster Australia for providing me with a review copy.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a people park! I discovered this little gem recently, which is located on Bank Street, a small but busy side street that connects the staid and sensible North Terrace with the deliciously ratbaggish Hindley Street. It runs for a good one hundred metres and seems like a nice spot to stop and sit for a while on a warm summer evening. (It also has the advantage of being situated just near a couple of cafes and a certain global takeaway franchise that specialises in hamburgers and what nice, Adelaide girls call chips.)

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Review: Boy by Roald Dahl

British author Roald Dahl's autobiography about his childhood may have been intended for middle-grade readers and contains the occasional tall tale (or possibly some light exaggerations,) but it is also an enjoyable, short read for adults. I picked this one up from a secondhand book store when I was feeling a bit down recently, and soon found myself laughing and smiling as the author recounted an event in his childhood where he and his chums got their revenge on the particularly vile old woman who worked at the sweet store in his town. The story reads very much like Roald Dahl's children's novels, which makes me think that there was more than more than the occasional exaggeration in there. Still, it's funny to think of their being such a vile woman, and running a sweet shop no less, and the inventive way that a group of boys who had not yet reached their tenth birthday got their revenge. There are sad moments--Dahl lost his sister to a childhood illness and then his father passed away from grief, along with amusing anecdotes about family holidays to Norway (where Dahl's grandparents lived,) and how at Dahl's boarding school the boys were often asked to taste test new types of chocolate bars for the nearby Cadbury factory. A little uncomfortable to read is Dahl's accounts of the many beatings that he and his fellow students were forced to endure, at possible pleasure of various teachers, headmasters and other adults. One headmaster who seemed to enjoy particularly brutal beatings later became the Archbishop of Canterbury, which leaves the adult Dahl questioning why such brutal people could also claim to be messengers of God. Finally, the autobiography ends with Dahl finding employment with Shell and being sent away to work in Africa. (Much to his pleasure.) 

I enjoyed reading this one, though it is what it is, a slightly embellished series of stories from an old man, designed to entertain children and anyone else that cares to join in. 

Highly recommended.