Saturday, 30 May 2015

Off Topic: Hello! Acknowledging Others and Why it Matters

Recently, I experienced a hellish train ride home. It was a cold day, I had battled rain for most of the walk down to the train station, and I was exhausted from a long and emotionally draining day at work. The train's heating/air conditioning was playing up for most of the journey, the book I had bought with me was a poorly written piece of what is not usually called such on this blog, and the person sitting next to me was one of those annoying people who treat their tablet like it's a typewriter and are constantly bumping everyone around them with their elbows and then not apologising. By the end of the journey I was tired, I was irritated and it was getting mightily close to dinner time and I was hungry. All I wanted to do was get the fuck home. And then, when the train arrived at my station, I had one of those moment. When I got to the door, there was someone who I know, albeit not terribly well, but well enough that it would be rude not to acknowledge their presence. So, swallowing my feelings of all I want to do is get off this bloody train I turned to offer a polite nod of the head and a quick hello. I'm sure you know the version, the one where basically you're acknowledging the other person's presence, letting them know that everything is cool, whilst not actively seeking any further communication. Mid-nod, however, I was cut off by an extremely sarcastic look--basically the non-verbal way of being told to fuck off. And you know what? I felt hurt about that. Snubbed. Here I was, about to make an effort to do, what I believe to be good manners, only to be cut off by someone who deemed me unworthy of the same courtesy.

The whole thing got me thinking about greetings. Why do we greet people? I've always seen it as a ritual that is done to help the other person feel at ease. The best greetings are the kind that are appropriate to the situation--for example, I would greet my eight year old niece very differently to how I would greet my boss. Still, the core message would be the same--your presence is acknowledged. When we refuse to acknowledge someone, or give them the silent treatment, we sent that person a message that they are somehow, in our estimation, unworthy of basic courtesy.

The only problem with communication is that we all give and receive messages differently, and we all have varying levels of social skills. When I say hello, or acknowledge someone, typically, all that is meant is hello. It is a sign of good will. That does not mean, however, that the message is taken as such. I find that some people can take something as simple as a hello as a sign of extreme and intrusive interest in their lives. Other people regard it as a nuisance that needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible, or in the case that I illustrated above, not at all. And then there are the people who become rude and insulting so that they then never have to worry about an awkward encounter with you again, because they can be sure then that you do not like them.

All three point to a lack of social skills.

Very few people are going to be that interested in the personal lives of a near stranger, and anyone who is will make themselves obvious in another way, sooner or later. When you regard someone as a nuisance, the trick is to send them on their way without making it look like you think they are a nuisance--this is probably why the expressions "Have a great day," or "Talk to you later," were invented. It is a way of sending someone on their way without being an arsehole about it. And, finally, if you go down the path of insulting someone when you first meet them, then maybe you have bigger issues that you need to work on and no I'm not going to give you the help that you don't want from me anyway.

On the other hand, just because someone doesn't say hello back, does not always mean that there is something wrong with them, or us, or that there is something wrong the relationship that we have with that person. Not everything is an intentional snub. Sometimes people just don't see us, hear us, or might have very valid reasons why talking to another person just isn't appropriate at that point in time. Just as it is not nice to ignore someone, it's not okay to interrupt a conversation, to force yourself on someone who is obviously busy or stressed, or someone who has made it clear that they are not interested in speaking to you. Even if their actions hurt, the appropriate response is to stop speaking with that person. If it's not an intentional snub, these things seem to have a way of resolving themselves. 

In closing, consider this. When someone says hello to you, they are acknowledging your presence and are trying to make you feel at ease in their company. Unless the person doing the greeting has a severe lack of social skills, or a poor sense of humour, it's rarely about trying to make someone else uncomfortable, to invade their personal space. By not acknowledging them, you are sending a message to that person that they are beneath you or unworthy. On the other hand, while it's polite to acknowledge someone, being ignored is not always necessarily about snubbing the other person. Before you write someone off as rude, consider the situation and take note of how they treat you next time that you see them. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Friday Funnies: We Made it!

Sorry. Just wanted to celebrate.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Review: Acting the Part by Justine Lewis

Acting the Part is a fun, lightweight romance that is perfect for a rainy day. I picked this one up, intending to read a couple of chapters over brunch, but ended up reading the whole book in one sitting. Poppy is a young woman who loves her mother and who hates the film industry. Normally, this would not be a problem, but at the moment, her mother is in trouble, Poppy needs money fast and the only person who can help her is her estranged father--who also happens to be one of the biggest names in the movie industry. George agrees to help her financially, but only on the condition that Poppy earn the money by working as a gofer on his latest film. The job is an unpleasant one and is made even less so by Max, the Australian director who, although gorgeous, has a massive chip on his shoulder and believes that Poppy has been sent to spy on him. And when the chemistry between Max and Poppy begins to build, well ... you have all the ingredients for a sizzling romance.

I enjoyed reading this one. Although there are some dark themes, the story never gets too dark and remains lighthearted and fun. Poppy and Max make for an interesting couple and Poppy's back story helps to push the story along. I am certain that many readers will find Poppy to be a likeable and relatable heroine. As always, the nature of a romance novel isn't to leave the reader guessing at the ending, but guessing to how an impossible situation will be resolved with lots of twists and chemistry along the way, and author Justine Lewis does this well. 


Thank you to Destiny Romance for my ARC via Netgalley.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Review: With My Body by Nikki Gemmell

With My Body is a beautifully written novel by one of Australia's finest female literary writers. Opening with an unnamed, married woman in her early forties, the narrative moves seamlessly back in time to tell the story of the woman's sexual awakening--one that happened far too soon--and the effect that this has on her adult life, until a surprising revelation helps her to find closure, and helps her body to find reawakening--on her own terms. 

Although many readers may be put off by--what appears to be on the surface--a taboo subject, Gemmell handles this controversial matter well, depicting a story of a young woman who has little parental supervision and guidance who is easily and willingly seduced by a man who sometimes seems conflicted about the rights and wrongs of what he is doing. The question of who Tol really is looms throughout the narrative and the answers, while not entirely comfortable, are at least answered by the end of the novel. He is also contrasted against a man whose attempts at seduction--though sadly realistic--are disgusting. The ending also offers some closure and answers to a difficult relationship between father and daughter and also that between a stepdaughter and her cruel and hated stepmother. 

Although the writing is sensual, and sex is the main topic, I would be reluctant to describe With My Body as flat out erotica (I'd be disappointed in anyone who described it as a smutty book,) and would instead define it as Literary Fiction, or possibly even Transgressive Fiction. As a story that explains what motivates some people to make the choices that they do, I found it was told well and with a considerable amount of empathy. 

Highly recommended, but not for the easily offended.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

I snapped a picture of this heavily decorated tram entering the Rundle Mall tram stop on King William Street back in March, when the Adelaide Fringe was on. Sponsored by Bank SA, this tram was an official part of the Adelaide Fringe, and helped patrons to venue hop. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

1980s Nostalgia: George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Every bit as funny as it was when it was originally published in 1981, George's Marvellous Medicine tells the story of eight year old George, who comes up with a clever way to get revenge on his horrid and selfish grandmother, and ends up causing absolute havoc with the special new medicine that he creates for his grandmother. Suddenly, Grandma's head is pushing through the roof and George's dad--a farmer--is keen to create more of the medicine and to bottle it, as he thinks that he can make a fortune by feeding it to the animals. In true Roald Dahl style, there are lots of great laugh out loud moments and everyone ends up getting exactly what they deserve.

I enjoyed reading this one, as it was a childhood favourite, though I was surprised by how little I remembered of the story. I suppose it is eclipsed a bit by some of Dahl's books that I read a bit later on--Matilda, The BFG, the Witches--and this easier to read junior novel was mostly forgotten. Anyway, this one is a worthwhile nostalgia trip for those who grew up with Dahl, and a perfect one to read out loud with kids.  

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Review: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Reminiscent of the old R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike novels that I read during my early adolescence, Becca Fitzpatrick's Black Ice is a mostly satisfying YA thriller with a number of twists and turns, some of which are more predicable than others. Britt and Kobie are planning a hiking trip, but their plans are foiled when a surprise snowstorm hits. Forced to abandon their vehicle, they take shelter in a cabin and find themselves in the company of two very dangerous men. 

Britt makes for an interesting heroine. She's smart, resourceful and comes with a whole lot of baggage including a failed relationship with Kobie's older brother, Calvin. The attraction between her and bad boy Mason is obvious from the beginning and the pair fit beautifully together on the page. There is also a subplot about the friendship between Britt and Kobie that is never explored in a great deal of detail. More interesting is the relationship between Britt and Calvin and Fitzpatrick does a commendable job of writing about a manipulative and self-centred, but also extremely damaged, young man. Most of the plot twists occur in the first half of the novel, in the second half I found myself more interested in knowing how the situation would resolve and if Britt would get out of there alive. 

Good YA reading that should appeal to a broader audience.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday Funnies: That's Good Advice

I think so too ...

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Review: Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice

Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire is a brilliantly imagined and written horror novel that has not only stood the test of time, but inspired the author to create a whole world and series of novels based within its universe. Despite this, there is something wonderfully humbling about the tale of Louis, the reluctant vampire who tells a young, unnamed journalist his life story--of how he was changed from human to vampire by the needy and spoiled Lestat, the creation of child vampire Claudia and his eventual relationship with the vampire Armand. Rice does not go easy on the horror and there are occasional touches of erotica and metaphors for sexual identity and frustration. It is a also a sympathetic portrait of somebody who was turned--against their will--into something that they despise.

Although thirty-nine years have passed since Interview With the Vampire was first published in 1976, the novel still has a very modern feel about it. I enjoyed reading this one, despite the gorishness, for its brilliant prose and sympathetic characterisation. Most definitely not for children, Interview With the Vampire is a chilling and sometimes sensual read. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Writers on Wednesday: Samantha Napier

Welcome to another great Writers on Wednesday interview. This week I'm chatting with debut author Samantha Napier, whose romantic comedy Dating the Alphabet was recently published by HarperCollins ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I’m not a very good sleeper which is handy when you’re trying to juggle a few realities at the same time.   My three beautiful boys keep me on my toes,  my wonderful husband , also a writer helps me bounce ideas around and my job as a flight attendant allows me these occasional overnights where I get to indulge in reading and watching movies.

Like most writers I eat way too much chocolate in the name of art but even when the sugar slump has set in I still enjoy putting a story together.  I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to write for stage, screen and now book and look forward to many other exciting opportunities.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Dating the Alphabet is a romcom about a woman who wants to make dating fun again so she comes up with a plan to date guys based on the first letter of their name.  That’s obviously the driving factor but there is also a lot about friendship and being true to the person you are.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

This is the first time I’ve been published in anything so I’m pretty chuffed that my first time is in the form of a book.  I’ve been writing a blog, Ramblings of a Quickwit, for a couple of years, had short plays performed and a short film made but this is my first book.

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

Not giving up on this project, I started writing it as a sitcom and got to develop it with some great people but it became obvious the chance of it getting up was slim so I started writing it as a book.  When I hit a bit of a wall I decided to pull one of the chapters out and write it as a short play which got selected for a short play festival.  The positive response I got for that really reinvigorated my desire to keep writing the book.  It wasn’t really a traditional way but it was one that helped me.

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

Of course I’m writing the sequel to Dating but right now I’ve put my producer hat on and am starting to shoot a comedy web-series next month and then mid year a play I wrote about Flight Attending is going to be produced. 

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

Being the author of an eBook I’m going to have to say eBook.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Well I’m lucky enough to be with HarperCollins but I would say however you can get an audience for your story is the way to go.

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?
I really enjoyed a quirky little book called Lost and Found by Australian author Brooke Davis, I laughed out loud a few times, which I always find is a good sign.  Apart from being funny though, it’s really touching, I’d highly recommend it.

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

You have a wonderful author and person in your midst, Fiona McIntosh.  I can honestly say that if I hadn’t come to you’re your beautiful city and attended her masterclass I would not have a published book.  She is inspiring, supportive and wonderful and right on your doorstep, lucky you.


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

British based author Paula Hawkins novel The Girl on the Train is a thriller with a number of surprising and unsavoury twists. Told through the eyes of three women--Rachel, Megan and Anne--we read of the mysterious disappearance of Megan and the connection that all three women have to one charismatic, but manipulative and unscrupulous man.

The novel opens with Rachel, a thirty-something woman whose life is in tatters following the end of her marriage to Tom. She believes the divorce is her fault and is told frequently so by her husband. An alcoholic, Rachel has been fired from her job and spends her days travelling back and forward on the train, which takes her past the home of a lovely couple who she dubs Jess and Jason. Rachel projects any number of wonderful qualities on the pair and experiences a type of wish fulfilment through what she imagines their life to be like. Rachel's life takes a surprise turn when she discovers through the media that Jess is actually named Megan and that she has just been reported missing by her husband. On the night before Megan disappeared, Rachel saw her from the train embracing another man that was not her husband. Having evidence that she can give to the police and to Megan's husband, Scott, gives Rachel a sense of importance that she has not experienced for some time, but how can she explain the cuts and bruises on her body and the fact that she was in the area at the time when Megan disappeared? The story is further complicated by those of Megan (told in flashback,) and that of Anne, a woman who is blinded by her love for her husband and child, and fearful of her husband's ex-wife who always seems to be hanging around. 

Reading a high profile thriller months after its release is always a bit risky. There is always the fear that something so hyped is not going to live up to expectations. And, honestly, what really makes this book brilliant is not so much the discovery of who the real killer is. The brilliance does not the twists and turns, or in the ending. The real brilliance lies in Hawkins sensitive and clever portrayal of Rachel.

Rachel is a mess. Rachel is not easy to like. Rachel needs to keep her nose out of other peoples' business. Rachel is uncomfortable to read about. But learning about her life, discovering how she got to that point and developing not so much empathy as understanding about her, was a wonderful journey to undertake as a reader. Rachel may be a victim of her own bad choices, but she is also the victim of a vile and manipulative man as, indeed, all three women in this story are. We also get a small glimpse of Scott, who is a victim of a vile and manipulative woman. 

The Girl on the Train offers an unflinching view of human nature and how humans can hurt one another and delude themselves. Recommended.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

The above and following pictures are just random shots I took around Elder Park back when the Adelaide Fringe was on. One of the fringe events was directly at the back of the Hyatt Regency Hotel and featured some evocative artwork, including an "Abbott Proof Fence." Most of these pictures were taken in Mid-March, just as the Fringe was starting to draw to a close.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles is a clever coming-of-age novel set against a surprising backdrop--the end of the world. On a Saturday morning, eleven year old Julia wakes up and discovers that the earth is slowing down. The earth no longer spins as quickly as it used to and is becoming slower with every turn. The inhabitants of planet earth are on borrowed time and no one knows when earth will finally stop. Interwoven between disastrous efforts by the human race to cope (including the controversial 'clock time' which no longer reflects the length of actual days, and attempts to flee, but with nowhere to go,) is Julia's own coming of age which includes a betrayal by a supposed best friend, her first love and an unsavoury discovery about her father. Much like the slowing of the earth, the narrative is slow and thoughtful.

I enjoyed reading this one, despite its depressing premise, for its meditations on human nature and the (often flawed) way that people try to cope in the face of adversity. The prose itself is very clever and a pleasure to read. This is clever, complex, literary YA that should be compulsory reading for anyone who wants to discover the fragility of the human race.

Highly recommended.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Friday Funnies: It's Been One of Those Days All Week


Thursday, 14 May 2015

Penguin Little Black Classics

Penguin Little Black Classics

Penguin / RRP $1.99 Publication date: 25 February 2015

To celebrate the 80th birthday of Penguin Books, Penguin will be publishing
80 Little Black Classics, putting the spotlight on publishing’s most famous
series, Penguin Classics. At 64 pages and $1.99 each, the Little Black
Classics are beautifully designed, complete mini-books to be collected, shared
and enjoyed.

Showcasing the enormous range and diversity of the world-renowned Penguin Classics list, these are texts that reach out across continents, eras and genres, ranging from the streets of Victorian London in Henry Mayhew’s Of Street Piemen, to 13th-century Japanese blossom gardens in Kenko’s A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees.

Here are unfamiliar works from very familiar authors such as The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens’s The Great Winglebury Duel, alongside texts from more surprising writers such as My Dearest Father by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
By publishing the greatest works in Persian, Chinese, Greek, Russian, Arabic and more, the series celebrates the generations of translators whose works allow the reader to visit everywhere from Tang Dynasty China to Renaissance Florence, and enjoy authors as peculiar and charming as Shen Fu, Nashe, Hebel or Leskov.

With a chic, iconic design that plays on Penguin’s heritage, the Little Black Classics celebrate some of the best world literature and the rich, varied authors published by Penguin Classics. So slip on a Little Black Classic and enjoy the celebrations – for only $1.99 a book!

PS Keep your eye out for some reviews and a giveaway very soon!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Beautifully imagined, written and translated The Shadow of the Wind is a novel that will stay with me for a long time. It opens in Barcelona in 1945 with a boy being taken to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where he is tasked with 'adopting' one of the books. He chooses The Shadow of the Wind, an obscure and long forgotten novel by Julian Carax a controversial Spanish author. Over the next few years, as Daniel moves through adolescence, his position as the caretaker of the book leads him through a surprising number of adventures as he discovers the history of the book and struggles to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, all whilst living in a country that is still struggling in the aftermath of civil war.

The Shadow of the Wind is the perfect read for those who love books. I had never heard of this one until a friend pointed it out whilst we were searching through some titles at a well-known Adelaide secondhand bookshop. Once I opened the cover, I found myself mesmerised by the prologue and the concept of there being a cemetery of forgotten books. From there, I was enchanted by the story and the depictions of Barcelona, the latter of which stirred up an odd sense of nostalgia. (As a child, I learned to speak Spanish at school and our neighbours were Spanish speakers, and in many ways, reading a novel set in Spain brought back many forgotten things from my childhood.) 

Highly recommended.

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

Category: Set in a country that starts with 'S' 

Progress 7/12

Monday, 11 May 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

At Semaphore, you don't have to leave the beach to work out. Walking along the track that follows the beach (and the tourist train that I definitely would have gone on, had I had a kid with me,) a friend and I were surprised to discover a number of pieces of work out equipment. It's a great way, I think, to encourage people to be healthy and active, without them having to spend a lot of money, and with the benefit of a great view.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Why Positive Book Reviews Are Important

The idea for this blog post came to me after a recent discussion with another blogger who was arguing the case for rating books five stars. (Check it out here.) Positive book reviews are important. You know why? I love books. I love reading books, I love talking about books and I love hearing about the books that other readers love. 

And I also love encouraging others to read. 

When we share the books that we love we are more likely to talk them up and write posts that actively encourage people to get out there and give that book a chance. We could very well inspire someone who has not picked up a book in years to read that title. And that can only be a good thing.

What, then, of credibility? If a blogger gives every book a glowing review, do we lose our credibility? Not if that review is written honestly and sincerely. 

I will admit, I do write negative reviews from time to time. At times it can feel a little like an occupational hazard. After all, it happens from time to time that I will read a book that I just do not like and when I'm writing 2-3 book reviews a week, it can be difficult to find a replacement read in enough time. And fair enough, I cannot enjoy everything that I read. What I don't understand is why, as a book blogger, I should act as an almighty gatekeeper who must write negative book reviews so that I can warn other readers not to read this book. My reviews, even at their most negative, are not warning labels. They're personal recommendations. Also, reading can be a highly subjective thing. You know what my most hated book is? Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. My most hated book also just happens to have sold millions of copies over a number of decades, was made into a film and spawned five sequels. It has a 3.98 rating over at goodreads. Who the fuck am I to start warning people not to read a book that has obviously touched many readers, just because I personally did not enjoy it?

As a blogger, I will probably always invest more time and energy into the books that I loved. Those are the posts that are going to get the tweets and shares, those are the books that I am going to actively recommend to other readers. 

After all, why bother with a book blog if I do not use it recommend good books?

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Q&A With Jenn J McLeod Author of Season of Shadow and Light

Welcome all to my stop on the Season of Shadow and Light Blog Tour, which kicked off a little while ago and is stopping by a number of wonderful Australian book blogs. The purpose of the tour is to promote Australian author Jenn J McLeod's latest release Season of Shadow and Light which I read and reviewed recently. (Read my review here.) Anyway, as part of the tour today I am lucky enough to be interviewing Jenn J McLeod. I loved her answers to my (somewhat difficult) questions and I think that you will too ...

Hi Jenn! Thank you very much for stopping by. Although we have chatted many times on social media, this is your first visit to my blog. Congratulations on the publication of Season of Shadow and Light, which I found to be quite the page turner… Would you like to tell us a little about Season of Shadow and Light?

Ha, ha! Thanks for that intro, Kathryn! *wink*. Speaking of laughs . . .

Readers should prepare to laugh, to cry, and to cheer as Paige, her six year old daughter, Matilda, and Nana Alice, find themselves stranded amid rising floodwaters and detoured to the tiny town of Coolabah Tree Gully.

There’s a publican with an uncanny resemblance to Mr Magoo, a cranky cook battling a broken heart, and someone who knows that truth can wash away the darkest shadows, but the question is…

Are some secrets best kept for the sake of others?

Paige is a mother on a personal mission. Aiden, once a sought after executive chef, is now executive chip fryer at his uncle’s small town pub, and Alice is charged with a dead woman's secret and a promise to never tell—even when the truth might help the living.

This is story of betrayal, of tragedy, of family loyalty and of trust—the kind of trust that takes years to build but only seconds to wash away and what Paige discovers in Coolabah Tree Gully is that the greatest betrayal of all happened there twenty years earlier.

As I read Season of Shadow and Light I found myself drawn to Alice. She silently suffers throughout the course of the novel, but I found the way that she resolved the situation to be admirable. Was she a difficult character to write about?

Interesting you should feel that, Kathryn. I refer to Alice as my ‘hijack character’. She started out as a secondary character—the one who is supposed to lend a supporting role to the leading lady—only I found myself getting involved in Alice’s backstory and she would not be reined in. For this reason I found her incredibly easy to write. Perhaps it helped that there is so much of me in this book. When I say ‘me’ I mean things I am passionate about; often Alice was that voice. The more I dug down, peeling Alice’s tough layer away to discover a fragility (and the reasons behind it) I found myself wanting her to have her own character arc and growth with Paige, while opposing her daughter in every way. Alice put her trust in me to tell her very special love story.

The name ‘Alice’ holds a lot of significance and although the real life Alice has nothing in common with the fictional Alice, I still felt a strong connection, which helped me with some of the more emotional scenes. Perhaps that’s why you found yourself drawn to her character, Kathryn? And I’m glad you liked the way Alice resolved things. I believe she has the most devastating conflict: Is she obligated to protect the deceptions of the dead when the truth might somehow help the living?

What a great premise for a story! Are some secrets best buried forever? I loved this conundrum and because of it I think readers will have different views about Alice, about how the relationship she had with her parents shaped her life, and whether her reasons for keeping the secret are enough to warrant such deception.
So, yes, while Paige and Aiden (with their impossible relationship) are fabulous, I admit to Alice hijacking me along the way. But I enjoyed creating Aiden (love a damaged man) and I think Sharni is such an unexpected joy. Then, of course, there’s Rory . . . Talk about turning someone around. Rory needed help. I loved delivering on that.
How did the title for Season of Shadow and Light originate?

Firstly, I love the word shadow. I love that a single word can represent both the serene (like the soft early morning light and a dark) and the scary (like those ominous shapes that creep over the bedroom walls at night!); all depending on your perspective and your life experiences, of course.

Shadow and light immediately says contrast to me. Contrast creates conflict and all good fiction requires its share. So I purposely created two people who conflicted in different ways: in appearance, in attitude, in upbringing. And due to circumstances became “perfect opposites”. That allowed me to explore the nature vs. nurture concept that has always interested me. Are we a product of our environment or our genes? This was also a subject I could draw on from personal experience.
I grew up in a loving home in the affluent Sydney northern beaches. I was secure, happy, supported and encouraged—the halo effect in full force. In my early twenties (when I was pretty full of myself, my future set) I met someone who was the opposite of me.

In this novel I make references to yin and yang philosophies as ‘the perfect union of opposites’. My ‘perfect opposite’ changed my life in the most profound and lasting ways, with the experience providing me with ample “There but for the grace of God go I” moments early on in life. I used to ask myself: What if I’d been the one born into a working class family, having grown up in an old terrace where my backyard was the skinny street of a tough Sydney suburb in the sixties and seventies? How would I have coped with the loss of a mother before I turned thirty, an abusive stepfather, or being pulled from school early so I could get a job to pay the family bills (in doing so, giving up the training that would see my Olympic dream come true—just one year short of team selection)?

Alice has a line in Season of Shadow and Light that refers to yin-and-yang being the perfect union of opposites.
‘Yin-and-yang manifests itself physically all around us: fire and water, hot and cold, nightmare and dream, even life and death. Then there’s shadow and light.’ Alice paused before saying through her tears, ‘You know shadow does not exist without light.’
Not only do I love that last line, it is integral to the story. In many ways it’s about perspective. If we learn to view the world through others’ eyes, consider different viewpoints, greater understanding will follow and there’ll be less need to worry about nature versus nurture. In the end, we are who we are and love is love.

As a reader, I very much enjoyed your depictions of rural Australia. As a friend and follower of your Facebook page, I have also enjoyed following your adventures as you travel through Australia, battling everything from severe storms to cranky supermarket employees. What do you like most about rural Australia?

Oh, yes, give me a fierce storm any day! :-) But let me clarify for the record (as determined by my random Facebook poll that day, Kathryn) my cavalier carry basket behaviour in the supermarket checkout did perhaps contribute to Miss Cranky Pants’ extreme attitude. I think I needed to see life through her eyes before passing judgement.

Which is exactly why I want to travel. Besides running out of friends and family to ficitonalise I am keen to experience the extremes of rural life. Once we get into our travel groove we want to get involved and there are websites (like this one that connects volunteers with families in regional areas who need help. Sometimes all that’s needed is a week away from the property to attend a medical appointment. Something I would not have thought about once. Talk about seeing life through different eyes!

Do you have any favourite or special small Australian towns?

Not yet! But discovering new places to inspire new small town stories is what life on the road in my caravan is all about. I did find inspiration for this novel in Boonah, one of the many towns scattered across an area called The Scenic Rim—a spectacular volcanic escarpment located in Queensland’s south-east region. The quaint country atmosphere of Boonah, and neighbouring Kalbar, belies the towns’ closeness to Brisbane and I plan on returning as I saw very little of the area when I was there overnight for a book launch a couple of years back. Only after leaving town did I found out there’s a Scenic Rim Historic Pub Trail. What’s not to love about that?

The pub you will read about in Season of Shadow and Light is based on the one I stayed in, crooked floors and all. If you ever find yourself in Boonah, visit The Story Tree—a beaut little bookshop. Why? Because it has books AND serves coffee!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

First I'd say writing for publication is not the same as writing for pleasure. Being a published author turns a hobby on its head, frustrates the family, and tests your patience. My advice is threefold …
  •   It's never too early to start thinking like a published author. 
  •  Develop a head for business and learn to plan – sometimes the marketing, accounting and time management parts of this gig are more small business operator than writer.
  •  Give those closest to you the opportunity to share your journey. Don't assume they already know. Don't assume they don't want to understand. With involvement comes support – and you will need that in bucket-loads
Outside the Port Broughton pub.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

What a great question, Kathryn. The first thing I’d say is “See you soon!” because I can’t wait to make my way back. And when I say back . . . I love SA. As a child I enjoyed many family trips with all five of us in the Ford Falcon, the old Viscount caravan crawling along behind. I still have relatives scattered from the Adelaide Hills to Port Lincoln. There’s even a family plot in Payneham Cemetery. (Helps that my ancestor, John Monk—who sailed out on HMAS Buffalo in 1836—was the grave planner.) 

Passenger list for the HMS Buffalo

My grandmother opted to be buried there, with her sisters, one of whom is Joy Richardson, founder of the SA Animal Welfare League. (Must be where I get my love of rescue animals.) So you see, I have more than a little bit of SA flowing through my veins (and often quite a nice drop of Barossa wine as well!)


Thank you for stopping by Jenn! Season of Shadow and Light is now available from all good bookstores and online retailers. You can find out more about Jenn J McLeod and Season of Shadow of Light at Simon and Schuster Australia's website and don't forget to stop by all of the other great blogs that are participating in the tour. (I've read all of their posts so far and every single one is brilliant. Kudos to Jenn and all of the bloggers who are taking part.)

Friday, 8 May 2015

Friday Funnies

Just for fun. Feel free to share in the comments section. (Or not, if it's too embarrassing!)

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things is a brilliantly imagined meditation on human nature and relationships set in a surprising, but beautiful, new world. Peter Leigh is a pastor on a surprising mission--he has been sent from Earth to Oasis, a far away planet where the locals are desperate to learn about the bible, or The Book of Strange New Things as they call it. Welcomed into this strange new land and treated like royalty, Peter has a wonderful time. Meanwhile, things are not going so well for his wife, Bea, back on Earth. The distance between them, and their radically different experiences, is putting a strain on their relationship. Can their relationship last the distance and just what is Peter willing to sacrifice for the people that he loves?

I first discovered The Book of Strange New things earlier this year when I attended Adelaide Writers' Week and listened to the author speak. For one reason or another, I never got around to buying a copy until a couple of weeks ago, but once I had the book in my hand, I was glad that I did. The story was not quite what I was expecting--after all, I've met many supposedly 'perfect' Christian couples like Peter and Bea--and I was glad to get a closer glimpse into their relationship and see that it was, in fact, real, and not a matter of convenience, or even self-delusion as proven by the novel's brilliant ending. I was also fascinated by Peter's discovery of the Oasians, and the lessons that he learns about gender and stereotypes. The Book of Strange New Things is quietly intelligent with its ponderings and meditations. 

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Review: Confess by Colleen Hoover

American author Colleen Hoover knows not only her strength as an author, but how to satisfy her readers and proves it yet again with Confess, another winning contemporary romance. As is often the case with Hoover's work, she cleverly incorporates another medium into her work, this time turning her attention to paintings that were inspired by real confessions that were sent to her from her readers and weaving in a beautiful romance.

Auburn Reed is trying to rebuild her life. Shortly after the death of her boyfriend when they were both fifteen she discovered that she was pregnant. Cruelly deceived by Lydia, her boyfriend's selfish mother, she is doing her best to win custody of her now four-year-old son, but that is not easy when she is living in a strange new city, has no money and a job that she does not like. Fate brings her one day to an art studio where she meets Owen, who has a past and secrets of his own and who lives out his day painting pictures of the things that people have confessed to him. While circumstance and some cruel manipulations by Lydia and her older son Trey, conspire to keep Auburn and Owen apart, the pair fight to stay together and prove that true love cannot be broken.

For a lightweight romance, this one is an absolute winner. There is a bit of melodrama, likeable characters and a couple that I just wanted to cheer for. Sure, parts of this novel were a bit over-the-top, supporting characters lacked depth and I read it in a single sitting, but as far as telling the story of how two likeable protagonists met, feel in love and managed to overcome a number of obstacles Confess is a wholly satisfying read. I also loved the way that artwork was incorporated into the story and the colour inserts that feature the paintings.

Highly recommended.

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

Category: Contemporary Romance

Progress 6/12

Monday, 4 May 2015

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

H-Class Tram, Wigley Reserve
How is this for street art? (Or street car art, perhaps.) At Wigley reserve, Glenelg, a small section of the park is now home to one of Adelaide's famous H-class trams. The H-class trams were a stalwart of Adelaide's public transportation system, servicing the city-to-Glenelg (or city to the Bay if you're a local,) until 2006 when the newer Flexity classic trams were brought in and the tram line was extended to West Terrace. H-class trams were slowly phased out after the introduction of the newer trams, eventually narrowed down to weekend historic/tourist services until the tram line was extended to Hindmarsh in 2010. One of the trams, number 361, now sits proudly under a canopy, just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Patawalonga River where the replica of the HMS Buffalo is moored.  

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Newsflash: Twins by Kathryn White Now Free From Smashwords

Twins an uncomfortable short story about sibling rivalry and betrayal and written by me is now available as a FREE download from Smashwords with other excellent online retailers to follow. 

The blurb reads:

Isla is the quiet, submissive twin but that all changes one day when she catches her boyfriend and twin sister in bed together. She flees the small Australian town that she calls home and makes a new life for herself in the city, until tragedy forces her to return home to Verona Beach where she confronts her sister and the ghosts of her past. 

Thoughtfully written and with a number of surprising twists, Twins is a short story from Australian author Kathryn White.