Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Review: Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth by V.C. Andrews

Many, many readers will no doubt be familiar with Flowers in the Attic, the iconic gothic story by V.C. Andrews about the four Dollanganger children who were locked in their grandparents attic and slowly poisoned so that their mother could gain her inheritance. But what if Flowers in the Attic and its sequels never told the full story? That is the surprising premise of The Diaries a spin-off/companion series to Flowers in the Attic written by prolific pulp/horror novelist Andrew Neiderman, who in addition to releasing a large number of novels under his own name, has worked as ghostwriter releasing books under the V.C. Andrews name since the author (whose real name is Cleo Virginia Andrews, and who is usually published as Virginia Andrews in Australia*,) died of cancer in 1986. Initially, Neiderman was brought in to finish off the remaining books in the Casteel series, and Garden of Shadows, a prequel to Flowers in the Attic told from the perspective of Olivia Foxworth, the children's cruel grandmother. However, the novels proved so successful, (and the name V.C. Andrews so profitable,) that Neiderman continued to create new novels and series, inspired by V.C. Andrews genius, of which there is now more than sixty, covering a range of topics, from family sagas, to vampires, many of them varying in degrees of quality and shock value. Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth and its sequels are, perhaps, the most risky and ambitious venture to date.

Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth opens with Kristen Masterwood an attractive young women (who has, it must be noted blonde hair cerulean blue eyes--fans of Flowers in the Attic will immediately get the reference,) who is a distant relative of the Foxworth clan through her mother who died when Kristen was quite young. The novel is set in modern day, picking up several years after Seeds of Yesterday (the final sequel to Flowers in the Attic, penned by the real V.C. Andrews,) left off. Foxworth Hall has burned down a second time and its owner, Bart Foxworth, who is described as distant and eccentric and who (disappointingly for me,) does not appear as a character in the book, is keen to sell the property and rid the family of it once and for all. There is no mention of the other members of Bart's family--half brother Jory, Jory's wife Toni, and Jory's children, twins Darren and Deirdre or the child that Jory was expecting with Toni at the end of Seeds of Yesterday. Bart's hated adopted sister Cindy, with whom he found forgiveness and who, it is hinted, may have become his significant other at the end of Seeds of Yesterday is also conspicuous by her absence. As a reader and longtime fan of the series, I found this massively disappointing. (I have always been a fan of the possibility of a relationship between Bart and Cindy, but, ultimately, I suppose, I'm a fan. A reader. I'm not the one who is telling this story.) Anyway, Kristen knows that she is distantly connected to the Foxworth clan and is intrigued by this connection. The only difficulty is that her mother has long since passed away and cannot reveal any information to Kristen about the connection and that her father is unwilling to talk about it. By coincidence, however, Kristen's father works in the construction industry and is an important part of the team that has been contracted to demolish what remains of Foxworth Hall. Kristen visits the site along with her father one day and there she makes a surprise find. Inside a tin that has miraculously survived two fires is a diary that belongs to none other that Christopher Dollanganger Junior, detailing his time locked inside the attic ...

From there, the novel works in duel narratives, going between sections of Christopher's diary and detailing Kristen's day to day life--which mostly consists of her blossoming romance with Kane, a wealthy and popular boy from her school who is also a bit intrigued by Foxworth Hall. We also see the effect that the story has on Kristen, she becomes quite caught up in it and desperate to know more, which is not unlike the effect that Flowers in the Attic had on me when I first read it as a fifteen year old, after finding a cheap paperback version at Kmart during the school holidays. Unfortunately, Kristen's life story is quite underwhelming--her romance with Kane is a little dull and the reader never does learn anything more about her connection to the Foxworth clan. Christopher's diary entries are very straightforward and lacked the drama of the original narrative in Flowers in the Attic. And while, obviously, no two people remember the same event in the same way, one of the most endearing elements of Flowers in the Attic has always been that it read like a gothic fairytale. This is true of all of the works by the real V.C. Andrews--one of her gifts was that of creating a world that was just like ours, but was also just a little bit darker and a little bit different. Consequently, her stories have a certain level of timelessness about them (a theme that she played on quite a bit in My Sweet Audrina,) for example--although Seeds of Yesterday was set in the late 1990s, it was published in 1984 and its depictions of the era are more or less authentic, due to the fact that she doesn't make a lot of references to fashion, technology or celebrities. By contrast, Neiderman's work has a more real world feel to it, and it lacks a certain level of darkness and melodrama. Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth is set in the real world and brings a real life quality to the story. It also subtly tears down the fairytale elements of Flowers in the Attic with Christopher writing off most of Cathy's behaviour as melodramatic and childish. 

In other words, it is painfully obvious that these two novels are written by very different authors.

I found Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth to be an entertaining exploration of how the events of Flowers in the Attic may have been experienced by Cathy's older brother, and I loved the memories that it brought up of the first time that I read Flowers in the Attic. As a strand alone novel it is enjoyable enough. However, it falls sadly short of the novel that inspired it, there are a couple of inconsistencies (Christopher Dollanganger Senior's own career ambitions are one example,)  and it asks far more questions than it answers. (Actually, I don't think it answers any questions.) Writing a sequel and getting everything right is a very tough gig, especially when the original book a very famous one and is not your own, so it is difficult for me to not like this book, especially when it stirred up so many memories. In a funny way, I did quite like it and enjoy it, and it probably is the closest that I am ever going to get to re-living the first time that I read Flowers in the Attic. So kudos to ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman for that. 

Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth is, ultimately, an unlikely spin-off of the original that is probably going to be of limited interested to anyone who is not already familiar with the book that inspired it. Recommended, but proceed with caution. 

*Some titles published between 1990-2006 credit the author as V.C. Andrews. All other titles and reissues credit the author as Virginia Andrews.  

Monday, 30 March 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

Trotman's Anchor, Moseley Square
This week's picture is of the distinctive anchor that sits in Glenelg's iconic Moseley Square. As well as providing some history and light shade, the anchor was apparently salvaged from the Glenelg foreshore many years ago. It's also a popular with kids who like to play on and around it.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Giveaway: Poison Ivy by Kathryn White

Fun. Friendship. Drama. Free books.

To celebrate the release of my latest novel, Poison Ivy, I have a couple of print copies of the book to give away to some lucky readers. For those of you who are not familiar with my book, 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. About HIV. About sexuality. Most of all it is a story about a young woman finding the courage to accept herself.

Entry is via the rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Newsflash: Book Signing Today at Collins Booksellers Edwardstown!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Friday Funnies: They Suspect Nothing

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Review: Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

If you are planning on reading Inside the O'Briens then I highly recommend stocking up on tissues and that you prepare yourself for a huge emotional investment. In her latest release, award winning novelist American Lisa Genova writes a sensitive account of one man's battle with Huntington's Disease and the affect this has on both him and his family.

As some people reading this review will already know, author Lisa Genova is also a neuroscientist and has previously authored the award winning Still Alice which is about a fifty-something university lecturer who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. The brilliance of Genova's work lies in sharing her medical knowledge in a way that is accessible via characters who are very easy to relate to. The O'Briens could be any family that we know. They live in the Irish Catholic part of their neighbourhood, are semi-religious and some members of the family are doing better than others. Joe O'Brien is heading toward middle-age, has been married to his wife Rosie for many years and has four adult children--the ratbagish and irresponsible Patrick, JJ who is married and about to start a family, Meghan has a successful career as a dancer and youngest Katie has recently found her niche as a yoga instructor. Joe's own career as a police officer has been a successful one. However, family life takes a very sudden change when Joe is diagnosed with Huntington's Disease. If that news is not enough, what follows is the discovery that there is a fifty percent chance that each one of his children will have inherited Huntington's.

Through Inside the O'Briens we read about the realities of living with Huntington's--the shock of the diagnosis, followed by Joe's slow decline that takes away his independence and the reality that each of his children face knowing that this too may easily be their future, in particular Katie who, like her siblings knows that the truth can be revealed by a simple blood test, but is uncertain whether she wants to know. Two of her siblings opt to know, while another does not, adding to her uncertainty. And then, of course, there is the reality that there is no cure for Huntington's. I found this to be a very sensitive and emotional portrayal of the realities of living with a serious illness. I also appreciated the medical information that the author placed in between sections of the novel, as prior to reading this book, I only had a basic knowledge of Huntington's.


A big shout out and thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Jason Mosburg

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am chatting with LA based author, Jason Mosburg ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …  

I live in Los Angeles where I work as a screenwriter. I have optioned several feature screenplays to independent financiers, and hopefully I’ll have a film go into production this year. Having grown up in Delaware, I attended Wake Forest University before I lit out for the west coast. My top five TV shows of all time are The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under, and Twin Peaks.

My one vice is claw machines.

On the book side, I’m represented by Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Grift follows a crew of orphaned teenage con artists living in Las Vegas. Piper, the main character, pretends to be a high-class escort to con rich tourists. Unlike her con artist friends, she must split her time between hustling and raising her younger sister Sophie. Disaster strikes when Sophie gets kidnapped by the Las Vegas mafia, and the crew must rally to piece together the ransom money before the clock runs out.

The book is equal parts dark and fun. I call it a Neon-Noir.

It’s definitely an upper YA book, so I can’t recommend it for anyone younger than 15. If it was a movie, it would carry a PG-13 rating.

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

Definitely finishing a novel. I have written many screenplays, but I never thought I would write a novel.

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

I’m working on a spec TV pilot for my manager that represents me on the film/tv side. I’m also considering writing a sequel to Grift.

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

I prefer reading eBooks but paper books are so much more enjoyable to collect.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

I think there’s a time and place for both. I had offers from traditional publishers on Grift. I had to walk away from some deals for creative reasons and others for financial reasons. I would not be opposed to traditionally publishing in the future.

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

The best book I read last year was Beautiful Ruins. I think everyone should read The Giving Tree as an adult, not just as a kid.

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

I have always wanted to visit Australia. Maybe if my book sells well enough, I’ll see you very soon!


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Review: Yes, Chef! by Lisa Joy

Aussie author Lisa Joy's debut novel Yes, Chef! offers readers an entertaining glimpse into the life of a young woman who finds herself working as a PA to an unpleasant celebrity chef. At age twenty-nine, Becca Stone is not in a great place in her life--although she is intelligent and well-educated, she has struggled with her career and relationship choices. For many young women this is a relatable scenario--feeling that by the time they are almost thirty that they have missed out the two big things that are often held up as the benchmarks of a successful adulthood. Anyway, Becca finds herself promoted from her position of taking reservations at a restaurant to being the PA of Damien, the nasty celebrity chef who owns the business, and soon after finds herself a string of wealthy suitors, and discovers that life at the top is really not so wonderful.

Yes, Chef! contains some dark themes the heroine has flaws that make her seem more human that endearing and parts of the novel pushed me out of my comfort zone in ways that I was not expecting, for example a surprise kiss between two characters that leads nowhere (and that feels out of sync with the rest of the story,) and there are a few scenes that depict sexual harassment as being more or less ingrained in the food and hospitality industry until an event occurs that makes Becca realise that she should not have to just accept it. Although uncomfortable, it does feel quite realistic as, sadly, people will often tolerate sexual harassment or not understand the impact that it has on others, until it is too late. I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes where Becca stands up to her boss--you go girl!

Becca's growth as a character was slow at first, though as she came to understand more about her circumstances, she became quite a strong and capable woman. Although intelligent, she was initially somewhat naive and was easily led astray first by Aaron and then by Jonah, both men who had their own self-serving agendas. (Becca is unaware that Aaron is engaged to a colleague's daughter, while Jonah at least is a bit more upfront about just wanting a fling.) This is not entirely unrealistic--often intelligent women can also be the most naive when it comes to men and dating. Still, she learns her lesson in the end and Dean comes across as a wholly likeable suitor.

Although I enjoyed reading Yes, Chef! I disagree with the description that this is a romantic story. It may have a romantic ending, but Dean feels more like a side character, rather than someone who drives the plot. I think it is also a perfect example of the way books with female characters and that are aimed at a female audience are marketed--parts of this novel are dark and our narrator is flawed. There is nothing wrong with either of those things--I think it is great and I love it when fiction challenges me in unexpected ways--but the current cover suggests a much lighter and fluffier story. There are some great bits in there about food and cooking. 

Thank you to Penguin Books Australia and Netgalley for my review copy.

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

Catagory: Fiction for Foodies

Progress 3/13

Monday, 23 March 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

I snapped this cute, inflatable cow at the front of a cafe and kiosk at Port Noarlunga a few weeks ago. Despite the thirty-seven degree heat, she seemed to be coping okay. Maybe the fine view, sea breeze and selection of drinks and ice creams were enough to keep her cool?

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Literary Quotes

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

~ J.R.R. Tolkin

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ten years after the release of Never Let Me Go, Booker Prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro is back with The Buried Giant a thoughtful and literary fantasy novel, set in the years just following the reign of King Arthur. A strange mist flows through the land, robbing people of their memories. One day, an older couple--Beatrice and Axl--decide to set out on a journey to visit their son who they can barely remember. During their journey they have a surprising number of adventures, meeting callous and spiteful (perhaps) boatman, a Saxon child who has been bitten by a monster and none other than Sir Gawain, who turns out to be integral to the story. But what will happen to the dragon who is causing the mist to fall over the land? And what will happen when people start to remember all the things that they have forgotten? Will their memories make them any happier?

I enjoyed reading The Buried Giant though it's prose, while beautiful, felt very slow to me in places. Ishiguro's musings on whether remembering makes us any happier, or if it is sometimes better to forget were certainly thought provoking. In some ways, the ending feels a bit flat and left me wondering if I had perhaps missed something? Or maybe that was he point ...

Thank you to Allen and Unwin and the Reading Room for my ARC. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Friday Funnies: A Real Hero Type

Sounds good to me.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Review: Wild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evans

The Scottish borders is the ideal backdrop for Posie Graeme-Evans sixth novel Wild Wood, which contains a beautiful blend of history and myth. The story opens in June 1981 (in the weeks just prior to Prince Charles wedding to Diana Spencer,) with Jesse Marley, a young, Australian woman who has just discovered that she is adopted and has travelled to Scotland to discover more about her birth. Meanwhile, another narrative tells of the same place in a different time in history. Bayard Dieudonne is a young man fighting for both family honour and to understand his new sister-in-law, a young mute woman who is despised by many. As Bayard's story goes deeper and deeper, we learn more about the history and a haunting local legend--which may just be brought to life right in front of Bayard's eyes. 

A twist of fate, in the form of a motorcycle accident, leaves Jesse in hospital and with some strange new abilities--such as her being able to draw with her left hand people and places that she has never seen before. Neurologist Rory Brandon is intrigued, particularly when Jesse starts drawing pictures of a castle that he knows quite well. But what does the castle, and a certain local legend have to do with Jesse? 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Wild Wood from start to finish and watching as the duel narratives of Bayard and Jesse unfolded. Poor Bayard has his hands full with defending his family homestead (and putting up with an idiotic older brother,) while the mystery of Jesse's behaviour is quite interesting. Is she going insane? Is there something deeper at work? And does Alicia, the owner of the castle have the right to be suspicious?

It was interesting to see how the duel stories connected--and they do eventually in quite a pleasing way. I loved seeing the history of The Borders being brought to life in such way and blended with a legend that was totally appropriate to the story. Maybe it is my family history--my ancestors are from the Borders--but I felt a real connection, or perhaps a pull, toward this story. I think that the author has a real knack for slowly drawing readers in and causing them to feel very involved with the story.

I highly recommend this one to readers who want something historical ... with a twist. 

Thank you to Anna O'Grady from Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC.

PS Keep an eye out for the Wild Wood blog tour which starts next week. Details are below:

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis

Time once again for Writers on Wednesday. This week, I am chatting with Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis, cousins and co-authors of Lingering Doubts a book that goes well behind the scenes of Brisbane's arcade murder ...

Tell me a bit about yourselves …

DEB – Married – to Ray for 40 years – blessed with a son and a daughter and 3 beautiful grandchildren. I love moving house, have a varied work history which includes jillaroo, school bus driver, various managerial roles and owner of a real estate office. Queensland has always been my home and I now live just north of Brisbane. Before the book became my ‘life’ I owned horses and competed in dressage.

JANICE - I am married – to John for 42 years -  with 5 sons, 5 daughters in law and 15 grandchildren who are all the lights of my life.  I currently live in a small country Qld town which I really enjoy, but have also lived in the USA for about 6 years which opened my parochial eyes somewhat. 

Tell us about your most recently published book?

DEB – Most recently published book? This is our only published book! And what a journey it’s been! Personally I’ve grown so much during the process…and drink more red wine.  Lingering Doubts – Going inside Brisbane’s Arcade Murder is predominantly a search for answers – my cousin Janice and I knew very little about our grandfather apart from the fact he was convicted of murder in 1947 and died soon after in Boggo Road Gaol. Our book shines a spotlight on the police investigation and a justice system that can take only 2 months from the day of arrest to a life sentence being handed down.

JANICE - Lingering Doubts is no doubt, my sixth child – coproduced with my dear cousin, Deb Drummond. Hmmm, I don’t really know how this metaphor stands up, but you understand it was a labour of love!    We were published a year ago, and while it was a blessed relief after many years of research, writing and editing, it surely was exciting.  I am extremely proud of the book – primarily because I believe we achieved a clarity and veracity which no other writers have been able to do with this story. 
Tell us about the first time you were published?

DEB - This is it although in 2012 I compiled a booklet titled The Cocks Family Tree for the Toowong & District Historical Society. Our family were pioneers in Toowong, a suburb in Brisbane’s west.

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

DEB AND JANICE –  One book –  many proud moments. Hard to rate one above the other. Firstly, let’s see, our amazing and insightful reader reviews which can be read on our website. Also, to have Lingering Doubts recognised and promoted by people like veteran investigative reporter and author Bob Bottom, Matthew Condon (Three Crooked Kings), Evan Whitton and Dr Robert Moles who both work tirelessly to improve our justice system. Then, lastly but not least, our unexpected nomination for the shortlist of 2014 People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year.

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

DEB – Promotional material for Lingering Doubts – this journey isn’t over yet. New evidence has come forward and one day we hope to have our grandfather’s case re-examined. Janice and I continue to present our book and our grandfather’s story to the public.

JANICE - I am currently attempting to finish a BA (sociology/Australian Studies) which I started 10 years ago and had to abandon so that I could work on the book. 

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

DEB – I love to curl up and get cosy with a real book – can’t imagine feeling that way with a tablet or a Kindle (are they the right names?)

JANICE - I love to take a book into the bath with me, so a paper version is the safest.  However, I’d be really happy to see our publication as an Ebook as it is definitely the future trend.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

DEB AND JANICE – Somewhere in between for us. We would best describe our publishing arrangement as a joint venture. It worked for us as we love to personally tell our story and promote the book. The proceeds from our book sales come directly to us. If our publisher sells from his stock we receive a commission.
Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

DEB – There are, in fact, 3 books everyone should read: Evan Whitton’s Our Corrupt Justice System, Trial by Voodoo – why the law defeats justice and democracy, The Cartel – Lawyers and their Nine Magic Tricks (one day in the future I might allow myself to read a novel) J

JANICE - Other than the Bible?  Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my perennial favourites, and I currently love our early Australian women writers like Miles Franklin and Kylie Tennant. 

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

DEB AND JANICE – Yes! You have the most amazing man in your midst. Dr Robert Moles, Networked Knowledge miscarriages of justice website (Netk). Dr Moles (Bob) has devoted years to the Henry Keogh case and has very recently changed the appeal law in South Australia. Bob is heading a campaign to establish a National Criminal Cases Review Commission similar to the one in the UK.

Also Adelaide or more specifically Gouger Street forms part of our story.

If the opportunity arises we are always open to visiting Adelaide to speak about our book and show our powerpoint presentation – and perhaps sell some books.


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a surprisingly complex young adult novel, offering readers an interesting and inventive take on sexism, social climbing and peer pressure. Frankie Landau-Banks is the youngest child in her family (known to the other family members as 'bunny-rabbit,) and is a mildly geeky girl, who suddenly becomes popular when she hits puberty, develops an attractive figure and gains the attention of an older and very popular boy at their highly competitive American boarding school. But popularity and being allowed to play with the popular kids is not nearly as fun as it might seem. As Frankie grows increasingly bored and frustrated with a boyfriend who seems unable to see her as anything other than a cute, sweet girl, she develops a cunning plan to play on everyone around her and, she hopes, to eventually gain some respect from Matthew.

Much has been said about how the novel addresses sexism already, so it seems rather pointless for me to offer a detailed description of that here. For the benefit of anyone who has not read the novel, in the social hierarchy at the boarding school, the boys are top, the girls want to hang around with them but can only do so when it is on the boys terms. The only girls who can become popular are the ones who the top boys deem suitable. Some of the boys belong to a secret society--the secret order of the basset hounds--and girls are not allowed to join. And, of course, there is the utter disdain that Frankie is treated with after she is discovered to be responsible for the pranks, and the fact that she does not earn the respect that she so desperately desires. 

Obviously, this is all very unfair and there are numerous passages within the book that address this. However, there are a number of themes that run through the book alongside that. The most important one, I feel, is that it highlights the utter frustration that is so often experienced by highly intelligent teenagers such as Frankie. She might be clever, but rather than being recognised for her intelligence, it is often overlooked--Matthew and his friends, particularly Alpha--could not care less about what she has to say, in part because they cannot understand it and in part because they do not want their positions challenged. We also see some of Frankie's pranks fall a little bit flat (such as the swimming pool prank,) as her peers are unable to see any kind of deeper meaning or social commentary within them. The Secret Order of the Bassett Hounds, Frankie eventually becomes to discover isn't a great movement where students can challenge authority. Rather, it's an exclusive club, where a few members can enjoy a few predictable stunts (such as drinking alcohol on a golf course,) and pretend to themselves that they are rebels. And, of course, the boys involved are subject to their own kinds of peer pressure as well and demands that they behave a certain way in order to gain respect and fit in--there is a reason why Alpha is happy to take the credit for all of the pranks that Frankie did, he has a reputation to keep and does not want to lose the respect of his peers. Some of the boys date girls, not because they like them, but because the other members of the group think that he should be dating that particular girl. And we see at the end that perhaps Alpha is the one person who might actually have some kind of respect for Frankie, though he will be unlikely to admit it. Meanwhile, Matthew has a reputation to keep up as a peacekeeper and a popular boy, and consequently, seems unable to develop and maintain any real and honest friendships. So, while Frankie suffers, so too do the boys who are supposedly at the top of the order. I think many of the characters, not just Frankie struggle with the idea of being true to themselves versus wanting to fit in. 

The novels ending is fitting, with Frankie deciding that it is better to be alone than surrounded by people who cannot see her. We also see that she did not gain the recognition or notoriety that she hoped through her pranks, that Matthew can see her now but that he also despises her, and that although she may have shown a number of people up, it all amounts to very little. And much like Lord of the Flies, Watership Down or Animal Farm, the whole thing is a clever metaphor about human behaviour written in a way that can be understood by teenagers and the wider reading public.

Anyway, this one is an enjoyable read that I suspect will probably mean many different things to different readers. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

The Glenelg Town hall greets its visitors with a little bit of (almost) life size history. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Kathryn's Inbox Exclusive: Old Lady Arrested For Harassing Teens on Bus

NOWHERESVILLE, AUSTRALIA--Mrs Edith Sparkles, age 73, was arrested and charged yesterday after harassing a group of teenagers on board a public bus. "I couldn't quite believe it," the bus driver, who works for Nowheresville Transit told one of our reporters. "The run started out just like any other. My first stop was just outside the local church, where I picked up a group of teenagers who all attend the church youth group and were on an outing together. My next stop was the retirement village to pick up Edith and that's when all hell broke loose."

"Mrs Sparkles has something of a reputation for criticising the behaviour of others on board the bus," a source who would rather remain anonymous told us. "Anyone who didn't purchase a ticket, who sat in the wheelchair access seat without just cause, who didn't stand up for the elderly or who put their feet up on the seats was always giving a sound telling off. We used to call her the Bus Nazi behind her back."

On the day in question, Mrs Sparkles climbed aboard the bus and immediately became distressed when she discovered that the group of teens were all seated toward the back of the bus and were quietly chatting among themselves. All wheelchair access seats were available, all tickets had been duly paid for and no one had their feet on the seats. At least three teenagers even offered Mrs Sparkles their seat, although there were still many seats available. "We all thought that she would be pleased," our source said. "But instead of basking in the utopia that she had fought so hard for, Mrs Sparkles seemed to become increasingly agitated and distressed. She began marching up and down the aisle, seemingly with a determination to find something wrong with at least one of her fellow passengers. She even began checking each of their shoelaces to see if they were tied properly."

The situation finally came to a head when the leader of the church youth group, Joshua Carpenter age 23, restrained Mrs Sparkles, thus preventing her from checking as to whether or not the members of the youth group were wearing singlets and if so, that they were tucked inside their underwear. "I find it disgusting that any member of the public would even attempt to interfere with one of the children who were under my supervision," Mr Carpenter explained. "The youngest ones are only twelve years old and were terrified."

Mrs Sparkles appeared gleeful as she began yelling at Mr Carpenter, telling him that he was a rude and disrespectful boy and that he ought to wash his mouth out with soap. At this point, the bus had pulled over to the side of the road and police were boarding, ready to arrest Mrs Sparkles. "This is an outrage," Mrs Sparkles was allegedly heard shouting, as police pulled her away. "An old lady cannot even travel alone on public transport anymore without someone trying to cause trouble ..."

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Review: The Ex-Factor by Laura Greaves

If you love dogs and hunky movie stars and you're in the mood for a likeable, lightweight romance then The Ex-Factor is probably for you. Kitty Hayden is a Sydney-based dog trainer who prefers the company of animals to humans. At age thirty, she has a good life--a beautiful home left to her by her mother, her dream job as a dog handler on film sets and a whole host of loveable dogs of her own. Her bratty sister Frankie is a bit less loveable, but it is clear that the sisters really do care about one another. There is also a sexy vet called Adam waiting in the wings, but is Kitty the right woman for him, or does his heart really lie somewhere a bit less predictable? Anyway, Kitty had just scored a new gig as a dog trainer on a major international production that is being shot in Sydney, which puts her in close proximity to Mitchell Pyke, a hunky Hollywood actor who has publicly vowed never to date again, after his partner, actress Vida Torres left him for his best mate, and who seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Mitchell and Kitty's first meeting ends in disaster (Kitty is fired after slapping the actor,) but when the actor arrives at Kitty's home to apologise, some very different sparks begin to fly ...

This one was enjoyable light reading. It may not be the most original plot for a romance novel, but that does not make the book any less enjoyable--actually, it's a lot of fun. It was interesting seeing two people with two such different lives come together, suffering a few misunderstandings along the way. My only quibbles are silly and subjective things that really aren't going to put off other readers such as Kitty disliking her full name, Kathryn. (How could she? I reckon Kathryn is a great name.) The ending is beautifully sweet and fitting.

A good choice for lovers of Australian romance.

Thank you to Penguin Books/Destiny Romance for providing me with an ARC via Netgalley.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Tarran Jones

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am chatting with Adelaide's own Tarran Jones. Tarran and I have known each other for a long time now, through Collins Booksellers at Edwardstown, where Tarran works and I have been a loyal customer for some time. I was absolutely thrilled when I learned that Tarran's novel has been picked up by Satalyte Publishers. Anyway, welcome Tarran ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I am a bookseller at Collins Booksellers Edwardstown and I have been in the book industry for 14 years now. I was originally with Angus & Robertson but then they dissolved and we went indy for awhile then went with Collins Booksellers. I have a wonderful daughter and my dream has always been to write.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

My most recent published book is an anthology of re-mastered fairytales, myths and legends called ‘Twice Upon a Time’ I have a story called ‘All That Glitters’ in it which is a re-telling of the Brother’s Grimm tale ‘The Girl with No Hands’

Tell us about the first time you were published?

The Twice Upon a Time Anthology is my first offical publication but I have had short stories published online at Australian Literature Review.

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

Finding my novel a home with Satalyte Publishing after many years of searching for one.

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

I am working on book 2 of my Demon Chronicles series.

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

I prefer paper books as I love the feel of the book and most importantly, the smell. 

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

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

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. That book shaped my world view when I was younger. Introduced me to concepts and feelings about life and books. A fantastic book!

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

I would like to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who supports local businesses and I hope you will support me by coming along to my author event at Collins Booksellers Edwardstown on the 21st March.

Twice Upon a Time is now available from Collins Booksellers Edwardstown. 


Tales From The Scribe (Offical Website for Tarran)

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Review: Cartel by Lili St. Germain

This one is what it is. 

Readers either be attracted to this trashy, pulp fiction style tale for its dark themes, sheer brutality and the love story that exists within the frames of easy-to-read, addictive prose, or they will be turned off for exactly the same reasons. This is not a book that has a lot of middle ground, and nor will be destined for a wide readership. What it may very well do, however, is become a hit within its target readership. 

By now, many readers both in Australia and abroad will be familiar with Australian author Lili St. Germain for her scorching and violent self-published Gypsy Brothers serial that became a instant hit online. Cartel is the first of a prequel series (which can be read as a stand-alone,) and is being published by HarperCollins Australia. It tells the story of Mariana, a young, Columbian woman who is gifted to a motorcycle club to pay off the debts of her father. Surprisingly, love blossoms between Mariana and the brutal leader of the club, Dornan Ross. 

In all honesty, I was not a fan of this one. I understand that a huge part of the appeal is the cheap, trashy brutality, a glimpse into what it might be like to see the inner workings of an organised crime group, where women are treated as property, used and disposed of with a bullet when they are no longer required, and the possibility of love blossoming in such unlikely circumstances. As a heroine, Mariana is quite the survivor, which makes her appealing in a way. After all, books like Cartel are guilty pleasure reads--they are read and enjoyed for their shock value, soap like plot twists and fast, easy to read pace. As erotica, such works are about the fantasy element and is not necessarily a reflection of what the reader may be interested in doing in real life. But all that said, there was still a big part of me who felt disgusted at some of the scenes and further disgust at myself for being interested in reading something like this in the first place. As I said at the beginning of this review this one is what it is. Some readers are going to love it. Some readers will hate it. 

Recommendations? This time around, you'll have to make up your own mind.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

Visitors to the iconic Port Noarlunga Beach (a beach that with its jetty, reefs, estuary and sand hills probably makes it one of South Australia's best secrets,) will have noticed these poles that sprang up a few years ago when the foreshore was redeveloped. I'm not 100% certain what they are supposed to represent, but they look great anyway. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Kathryn's Inbox Exclusive: Teen Boy Shocked to Learn No One Cares About His Opinion

NOWHERESVILLE, AUSTRALIA--Kai Clemmens, age 15, was left shattered yesterday when he discovered that no one actually cares about his opinion. Clemmens who acts as a self-appointed member of the fashion police, has spent the last two and a half months gathering outside the local service station with his crew, where they would loudly share their opinions on the appearance of any female who happened to be walking by. "What da fuck?" Clemmens responded, when questioned by one of our reporters. "I thought I was offering a valuable community service by letting people know they were ugly and shit."

Clemmens was further shocked by the critique our fashion reporter gave his outfit--a blue hoodie, cheap black t-shirt that advertised beverages that he is too young to purchase legally, and a pair of shorts that were at least two sizes to large for his skinny frame. His outfit was identical to that of the other five members of his crew. "Youse know nothing about fashion," Clemmens said, before sipping on a slurpie. In his other hand was a thin, white lolly, which is known locally as a "fad" and is said to have the appearance of a fake cigarette. Several times throughout our interview, Clemmens attempted to light the fad, but remained unaware that his Bic lighter was empty. "Your fashion reporter is hell ugly anyway," Clemmens added, before making several vomit-like sounds. "She looks like the troll who lives under the bridge. I'd never fuck her, no way."

Upon further examination, Clemmens seemed surprised to learn that no one had, in fact, asked him if he wanted to fuck our reporter. He seemed further confused to learn that the fashion reporter actually enjoyed being single and lived in an apartment that had been purchased from the money she earned at her job. His confusion reached a climax, however, when he learned that she considered his comments to be unnecessary and offensive. "Fucking bitch," Clemmens called after the reporter as she walked away. "You can't say that to me. I'm gonna tell my mum all about you harassing me and shit ..."

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net