Monday, 29 February 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)


This seat in Rundle Street looks unique and oddly inviting ... 
so long as one is not wearing shorts.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Apple Paperback Review: The Day the Fifth Grade Disappeared by Terri Fields

On select Sundays I will be reviewing some of the old Apple Paperback titles from my childhood. These titles were published, or republished by Scholastic during the 1980s & 1990s and were written and set in the United States. In Australia, these books were typically only available from libraries or could be ordered through catalogues that were distributed through primary schools. Most of these titles are now long out of print or have been updated and republished for later generations ...

All of class 5A has mysteriously disappeared apart from Julia, a smart girl with a keen interest in science and an active imagination. She runs to the office to tell the strict school principal, Mrs Flannery, but her journey is slowed by school rules and bureaucratic nonsense. The class returns and no one believes Julia, apart from her two best friends Lori and Jeff. Lori and Jeff help Julia solve the mystery, which they soon realise involved the mysterious new building next door that none of the children are allowed to visit. What is happening inside the building? And why does Mrs Flannery want to find out? Julia and her friends are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery ...

I can only recall this one vaguely from my childhood and it's original publication date (1992) suggests that it was probably one of the later books that I read (the books always seemed to take a while to come to Australia, and longer still before they were available for loan from the school library.) The story is fun enough, though as an adult reader it is somewhat difficult to believe that the government would set up a top-secret base next door to a school. 

All in all, good fun though.

A note on the author: Terri Fields was a school teacher and a prolific author of mass market fiction books for children. She wrote several books for the Apple Paperbacks imprint and also published a number of Sweet Dreams romances. 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

1990s Nostalgia: Jodie's Journey by Colin Thiele

Growing up in Adelaide in the 1980s and 1990s it was impossible not to have heard of Colin Thiele. The former schoolteacher had become one of the states most successful authors writing a number of iconic novels set in South Australia, including The Sun on the Stubble, Blue Finn and Storm Boy, among many, many others. Sadly, when Thiele passed away in 2006, news of his passing was largely ignored by the local media--and that interstate--as he passed away during the same week as Steve Irwin and Peter Brock, and the lack of recognition given to this marvellous South Australian author is something that still makes my blood boil today.

I first discovered Jodie's Journey when I was in year six at Morphett Vale South Primary School. Our teacher read the story to the class--a chapter every afternoon--and I soon found myself getting caught up with the story of this brave young woman.

The novel opens with the title character--Jodie Carpenter--and her horse Monarch, winning an important medal at the local showjumping championship. The next day, Jodie finds herself in a considerable amount of pain and as time goes on, her pain does not get any better, and soon she finds herself diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. For Jodie, it means a lifetime of near constant pain and never being able to ride her horse professionally again. She even needs a wheelchair.

Much of the novel is spent explaining to children Jodie's experiences of arthritis (something that the author has firsthand experience of,) her disappointment of having to give up horse riding, and the difficulty that she finds relating to kids her own age (at the beach, for example, a group of boys cannot understand why she does not want to join them.) And then, the final chapters are as exciting as they are dramatic. The reader gets of a sense of what might come, as this story is set in the Adelaide Hills in the early 1980s, but as dates and references to real life events become more frequent within the novel, until the eventual mention of the exact date, and where fires had broken out that morning, the reader is left in no doubt as what is to come. When Jodie finds herself home alone that day, barely able to walk, and in the path of one of the biggest fires to destroy the Adelaide Hills, you just know that the final part of this story is exciting.

And there is no doubt about it, Monarch is a hero.

Inspired by both real life events, and a letter from a young woman who suffered arthritis wrote to Colin Thiele, there is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the most interesting and exciting children's books that I have ever read. Even the re-read managed to keep me gripped.

Highly, highly, highly recommended.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Friday Funnies: Garfield


Just wanted to share this Garfield comic. While strip is still going, this is one of the comics from when the strip was in its golden years. It's simple, and while the humour seems a little bland or maybe childish by contemporary standards, there was once a simpler day and time, when Garfield was considered to be a bit of a bad-arse. A big part of the fun was seeing an unrepentant Garfield being yelled at by Jon. When I was a kid, I used to find these comics hilarious, mostly, I think because to me, Garfield seemed like a child and Jon an authority figure who almost always got outsmarted.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Review: Sage's Eyes by Virginia Andrews

Author Virginia Andrews, or V.C. Andrews as she is known in the United States is best known for her work, Flowers in the Attic, a book that has received considerable commentary worldwide, and indeed on this blog. During her lifetime, she published six novels (and completed three more,) and became famous for her ability to write a rollicking good story, often with gothic themes, that was as successful with teenage readers as it was with adults. Her novels were so successful that, after her death, a ghostwriter was brought in (in reality, Andrew Neiderman a successful author in his own right,) to complete some unfinished work, and to continue writing original stories on similar themes, inspired by Andrews' storytelling genius. In 2016, thirty years after the death of Andrews, Neiderman continues to write these stories, some of them stand-alone novels, some of them as two or three part series. (Sadly, the family sagas that were released during my adolescence have become a thing of the past.) The latest release is Sage's Eyes, a stand-alone paranormal romance, which shares some similarities with some of the previous stand-alone works, particularly Daughter of Darkness and The Unwelcomed Child. (And just like Daughter of Darkness, Sage's Eyes has been released in trade paperback in Australia, and this is the first time that I have seen a Virginia Andrews book for sale at Big W in a number of years--in fact, the only retailer who seems to stock them is QBD, though I've picked up the occasional book, usually an import from the US at Dymocks.)

The story focuses on Sage Healy, a young women who has both exceptional perception and empathy. Her insight is not always welcomed by her strict and seemingly superstitious adoptive parents, who always seem to be studying her closely, looking for traces of ... something. Consequently, Sage keeps most of her insight and visions to herself, though her Uncle Wade provides her with a loving and non-judgemental adult that she can talk to.  (Sage and Uncle Wade seem to have such a special understanding that, at the end of the book, I wondered at the possibility of a future relationship--after all, he is not a blood relative.) Much of the story discusses the harmony between yin and yang, and it is no surprise then that an early love interest for Sage is most definitely the darkness to her light. Summer Dante is a wealthy and mysterious new boy at her school who is older than her years and in some ways, felt to me to be a bit of a parody of Twilight's Edward Cullen--and on that, Summer's dad is a successful author of erotic romance novels that bare some similarity to Fifty Shades. It's an interesting commentary, given that prior to Twilight, Andrews' novels used to take up considerably more space in book stores, and thanks to the success of Twilight and Fifty Shades, that same shelf space is now typically taken up by varied works of paranormal, erotic and contemporary romance. (When I was in my teens, an entire bay, not a shelf, but an entire bay,) at the Dymocks store at Marion Shopping Centre was taken up exclusively with books by Virginia Andrews or V.C. Andrews.

Anyway, Summer is the most charismatic boy that Sage has ever met, and he seems to understand her in ways that none of the other kids (or even her parents,) ever do. But Summer also seems to have a cruel streak, and there are mysterious voices in Sage's head warning her not to get too close. And why is Summer's dad so keen to meet Sage ...

Sage's Eyes was an enjoyable read and probably one of the better Virginia Andrews releases in recent time. That said, it did have a number of faults, the biggest one being unrealistic dialogue. I would have liked to have seen some conflict between Sage's parents and Summer's father, after the big reveal, but I suppose that was not really the point of the story. Fans of the Landry saga might get a little laugh at the Easter Egg that has been left in the book for readers to discover. 

Recommended to Virginia Andrews fans.

This book was read as part of the Eclectic Reader Challenge 2016

Category: Paranormal Romance

Progress: 1/12

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

On Writing: Workshops and When They Don't Work Out

They say every writing class has that one successful student, that one who will go on to do great things. Well, here's my experiences of most definitely not being that student ...

A few months ago, I did a one-day writing course run by a well-known Australian author, one who is renowned for teaching various masterclasses, and one whom I have heard a lot of great things about. This is someone whose classes and courses have had many, many successful students, (who all have talent and are prepared to do what it takes to get to the top,) so there are no doubts in my mind about the quality and content of the course.

Unfortunately, I am not likely to be one of those successful students.

On a stinking hot day in early December, still suffering the aftermath of a nasty virus, not to mention an injury that has been ongoing for some months, I dragged myself out of bed first thing in the morning, and made what turned out to be an hour and a half long trip on public transport to a cafe in Norwood, where the author was running a Cafe Series workshop on commercial women's fiction. This was probably my first mistake, because writing commercial fiction is not my ultimate goal. I write because I love writing. I tell stories because the ideas come to me, and until I get it out on paper, rarely will these ideas leave me alone. I like playing with different concepts and formats, I like seeing how far I can push certain concepts. It's fun. What it does not always equate to is a formula that can be converted into money and lots of bright and beautiful stars on sites like amazon and goodreads. So why sign up for the class? Well, as a writer, I strive for constant growth and I felt that there were probably different elements of writing commercial fiction that could be taken back and applied to my own writing--and my other career of writing book reviews. And why knock a genre without even trying it?

It was a huge mistake on my part. The author was there to teach and, really, she was keen on teaching, and encouraging, those who were deadly serious about writing, succeeding and ultimately making money in this very specific field. 

I suspect that she was worried that I was going to turn in to the class clown at every turn (so not my style,) as there were a couple of instances during the day when I was shut down, or ignored. And, frankly, I could have done without the bitchiness--I really did not appreciate some comments made by her about my day job, or about a certain food allergy of mine. To be fair about it, she said nothing unkind about my actual writing, and pointed out what genres I might have potential as an author, and this was quite helpful. While the other students (all of whom were really nice people and I wish them the best with their careers,) appeared to have got a lot out of the day, and seemed to leave on a high note, I left feeling depressed. This was not my thing, these were nice people, good people, and probably soon to be extremely successful people, but not my people. 

I was, essentially, a fiction workshop failure. 

The following day I declined an invitation to join the secret facebook group for the members of the course, I asked the author to remove me from her mailing list and I tried to put the whole damn mess behind me.

The experience itself rattled my confidence as not only a writer, but as a person. Was I less worthy than the other students in the class? A lesser writer? Or was I just flat out undeserving of a spot in the class?

Or was I just different? A different person, with different goals.

I had failed the course, but I had accomplished something else. I had discovered who I was, and consolidated within myself what my goals were. 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Review: I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

Chris Kraus' feminist novel with the unintentionally (or not) kinky title is an honest, hilarious and ultimately depressing study of infatuation and how women (and their feelings) are often cruelly dismissed by men. Part fiction, part autobiography, this story is slightly reminiscent of Anais Nin's Henry and June (though, as I said, only slightly,) as it chronicles the married authors infatuation for an academic named Dick. Although Kraus and her husband, Sylvére Lotringer, barely know Dick, after an evening out together ends with bad weather, they take up his offer to sleep on his sofabed. In the morning, when they wake, the couple discovers that Dick is gone. Chris decides that Dick has just offered them a "conceptual fuck" and is instantly smitten. From there, an infatuation is developed, during which Sylvére (a willing participant,) and Chris write love letters to Dick. Barely knowing who Dick is, Chris is able to project anything and everything on to her target, a game which, ultimately, ends badly. Interwoven within the text are Chris' thoughts on what it means to be female in the academic world and the brutal way she is treated by the men around her, including Sylvére. She is blissfully oblivious to the fact that Dick is one, not interested and two, not good for her (at one point he sleeps with her and then brands her a psychopath, clearly, he considers her good for a fuck, but not good enough for much else.) In the early stages of the novel Chris and Sylvére come across as a pair of perverse, middle-aged stalkers, later Sylvére seems to give the game up completely and Chris comes across as infatuated to the point where she is unable to obverse proper or healthy boundaries. Finally, writing to Dick seems less about sex and attraction, and more of a means of Kraus being able to express her feelings honestly.

Dick's ultimate end to the game (by which time he has, understandably, become a very unwilling participant,) is to send her a photocopy of a letter that he wrote to Sylvére, in which he deliberately misspells her name.

Although I found the novel to be uncomfortable at times, it's also the ultimate story of unrequited love and how grown adults, rather than teenagers, cope with infatuation. There is very little that Kraus does not lay bare, and it is telling of the way that women are often left (willingly) to suffer for the men that they love. Ultimately though, it's clear that her experiences help Kraus get to a point of self-realisation and she asks herself some important questions about her marriage, one that never seemed truly equal. 

Recommended.

Random trivia: Dick was later revealed to be Dick Hebdige a US based academic from the UK. He was not a fan of the book or its publication and threatened legal action.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)


There may be more than one way to decorate a fuse box, but I thought that this one in Rundle Street was pretty damn awesome!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

1990s Nostalgia: Scholastic Apple Paperbacks

Remember those books? The ones that always had a picture of a red apple on the front, a bright cover and a picture of a gaggle of preteen girls on the front, who were nearly always up to no good? I do! There was a time in my life, when I was between the ages of nine and twelve that I would have read anything that had that apple on the cover and rarely, if ever, was I disappointed.

Apple Paperback was an imprint of Scholastic and an important one, as it was designed specifically for preteen kids. The books were (at the time,) contemporary and the situations were ones that I could relate to--friendships, school and family. A number of series were published under the imprint, most notably The Babysitters Club, a series that sold 172 million books worldwide during its thirteen year run. (Source: Wikipedia) There were plenty of other series as well--The Gymnasts, Sleepover Friends, Animal Inn and Dear Diary. Back then, series, especially ones aimed at girls were a big, fat, massive deal and practically every publisher and imprint had one, though many (including some of the Apple paperback ones,) did not last very long. (For example, Cousins by Colleen O'Shaunghnessy McKenna, published in 1993 lasted for just two books, though the design of the cover suggests they were intended to last a lot longer.) The books could be ordered from a catalogue that was distributed to my primary school and I spent many happy days reading these 150 page (or thereabouts,) books with titles like Ten Kids, No Pets and Too Many Murphys. 

Then, one day I grew up.

I don't think that I ever really thought about, or even looked at, another Apple Paperback once I started high school. And that's no surprise--they're not really for high school kids, it's kind of hard to care about a group of fifth grade kids whose teacher won't let them participate in a Christmas parade once you hit the realities of high school and discover that most problems in life don't get resolved as easily or as nicely as they do in an Apple Paperback. 

Anyway, today I was browsing through a secondhand bookstore and I found a number of Apple Paperback titles there. I had a laugh at some of the covers, and plots, before deciding that they would make for some perfect nostalgia posts on this blog. I bought a few, and may hunt down some more (depending on how interesting the books are,) and hope to read and review them all. This of course, will be in addition to my usual review schedule and the reviews will run on selected Sundays, starting next week, and will probably consist of one or two book reviews per month.


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Locked Out for Phishing: When Blogger Security Goes Overboard

For those of you who tried to visit my blog on the evening of Thursday 18 February, you might have been in for a surprise. I know that I certainly was. After an afternoon spent idling around my local area, and a relaxing evening curled up with a good book (complete with some beautiful Haighs hot chocolate,) I was a little surprised to receive a message on my phone from blogger, telling me:

Hello,  Your blog at http://kathrynwhiteauthor.blogspot.com/ has been reviewed and confirmed as in violation of our Terms of Service for: PHISHING. In accordance to these terms, we've removed the blog and the URL is no longer accessible.  For more information, please review the following resources:  Terms of Service: https://www.blogger.com/go/terms Blogger Content Policy: https://blogger.com/go/contentpolicy  -The Blogger Team

Assuming that the email was probably a scam, I put my phone down and switched my MacBook on, expecting to see my blog appear. But, nope. When I typed in my blog address, a note came up, telling me that the blog at http://kathrynwhiteauthor.blogspot.com had been removed and that the address was not available for new blogs. A little nervous, I logged in to blog.

And yep, I was locked out. One supposed report to google that I was phishing and with no investigation whatsoever, I had ben locked out of my own blog. Four years of hard work, not to mention a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears and I was locked out. And on what basis? One stupid report. And the timing could not have been worse. On Sunday, I have an announcement for a new blog segment, there are a number of writing festivals on in days to come in Perth and then Adelaide, which might bring with them exciting writing news, and I have committed to another couple of blog tours in the next few months.

Needless to say, I was furious.

Actually, I was also crying, vomiting and wondering where I could find a lawyer who would be willing to sue google in the middle of the night so that I could at least have my intellectual property back.

There is an option to appeal, so I took it. It turns out that on blogger, after they so kindly lock their users out based upon hearsay, users can click on a button to appeal their case, and then, and only then, will the case be looked at by an actual human who works at google. There is no option to add specific details about the individual case, and it took me a while to find any feedback form at all, on which I could give google a piece of my mind about their heavy handed policy. 

After a further search, I found a blogger forum, where there were a surprising number of other blogger users complaining about the same thing. This suggests to me that there were one of two likely problems--either a software glitch, or a virus, had hit blogger. A third (and less likely,) possibility was that someone knew the policy and was reporting every blog they could, as some kind of a sick joke. But with no official statement from google, it's impossible to know for sure what went wrong.

At about two-thirty, I received the following email from blogger, assuring me that my blog had now been reinstated:


Hello,  We have received your appeal regarding your blog http://kathrynwhiteauthor.blogspot.com/. Upon further review, we have determined that your blog was mistakenly marked as a TOS violator by our automated system and, as such, we have reinstated your blog. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused in the meantime and thank you for your patience as we completed our review process.  Thank you for understanding.  Your sincerely,  The Blogger Team

Cheers. Now how about reimbursing me for all the lost sleep?

Friday, 19 February 2016

Friday Funnies



Tee-hee!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

1980s Nostalgia: Boss of the Pool by Robin Klein

I bought an old, former school library copy of Boss of the Pool from the Salvation Army Op Shop at Christies Beach for 25 cents recently, thinking that it would make a nice nostalgia post. After all, it is a book that I can remember quite clearly from my primary school years, and is by a renowned Australian author. What I was not expecting was to be quite so moved by it when I revisited the book as an adult. 

The novel opens with Shelley, a tough talking and bratty girl who is somewhat reminiscent of some of Klein's other female leads--think Penny Pollard from Penny Pollard's Diary, or Erica "Yuk" Yurken from Hating Alison Ashley. Klein talent is that she writes about kids, especially girls, who are believable. The stars of her novels are never nice, well behaved private school girls. Her characters are ordinary girls from the suburbs (usually Melbourne,) who have hang ups, bad habits and speak back to their parents. In the case of Shelley, she cannot understand why her mother wants to work as an occupational aid at a hostel for intellectually handicapped kids. Shelley is a bit scared of the kids who live there, and she resents the fact that she is made to stay there in the evenings while her mother works. After all, why can't Shelley's mum have a cool job in a record store like the mother of one of Shelley's friends, and why can't they go on holidays to the Gold Coast like some of the other families that Shelley knows? The questions might seem a bit bratty for some adult readers (especially those who like to monitor their children's reading for political correctness,) but they're not unreasonable for an eleven year old kid who grew up in a time and place where people with disabilities were often hidden away from the rest of the community in so-called hostels. 

At the hostel, Shelley is befriended by Ben, a lonely teenager with a severe intellectual disability. Shelley loves to swim in the pool, and Ben likes to watch her. He'll never come in the water for fear of drowning. But through a bit of trickery, and a bit of friendship, Shelley convinces Ben that not only is she the boss of the pool and she won't let him drown, but to get in the water. Soon, all of the prejudices that Shelley has about disabilities begin to fade and she learns some valuable life lesson.

Although very dated--this one uses language that wouldn't be publishable in a children's book today, though the terms were common and considered acceptable at the time, this one is a well-written and moving tale about acceptance for children and one that a lot of adults could probably benefit from reading. The thing about Shelley is that she's not perfect, and some of the tricks she plays on Ben aren't very nice, but ultimately, she is able to reach him in a way that no one who works at the home can. And it's debatable whether Ben really believes all the lies that Shelley tells (at one stage, she tells him that all of the players on his favourite football team have been in this pool,) or if it's really just the push that he badly needs. There is also an undercurrent through the book about how we treat children who are disabled--apparently Ben's parents rarely visit.

Recommended.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Review: Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves

Family, guilt and trying to find a sense of self are the major themes of this beautiful but occasionally morally complex debut novel by American author Virginia Reeves. Roscoe T Martin is a qualified electrician, living in Alabama in the 1920s, who loves his work. Things change when he and his wife inherit a farm from his wife's parents. The farm isn't going so well; Roscoe hates the long and difficult work, but he has a plan--one that is not strictly legal--to modernise the farm so that it can use electricity. While his plans initially do what he intended--to save the farm and his marriage--they soon come at a huge personal cost and Roscoe's life is thrown into disarray, with each turn more miserable than the next when he is arrested and convicted for manslaughter and sent to prison. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. The story was complex in a number of ways--it was not just the story of how one man went to prison, but also the story of the breakdown of an already failing marriage, of the way prisoners were treated differently depending on their race (while Roscoe goes to prison, Wilson his somewhat unwilling accomplice who worked on the farm is sentence to work as what essentially slave labour in a coal mine and thereafter no one in the government seems to have a record of his whereabouts.) Most of the story, but for a few chapters, are told from the perspective of Roscoe, and I found it hard to get much of an understanding of Marie. While her reasons for not being able to forgive Roscoe are clear and understandable, and certainly her treatment of Wilson and Moa is commendable, I found it difficult to retain any sympathy for her once a certain deception was made clear to the reader, and felt that her actions moved from seeking justice to vindictiveness. But then again as a reader, I've spent so much time watching Roscoe suffer and grow that my viewpoint is probably biased. Or maybe it does raise the question--how much punishment is enough?

Overall an enjoyable and thought provoking read. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC.

Virginia Reeves will be appearing at Adelaide Writers' Week on Sunday 28 February at 12pm on the West Stage and again on Tuesday 1 March at 12pm on the East Stage, as part of a national tour. 


Monday, 15 February 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)


I snapped this colourful and yarn bombed pole down at Moseley Square on a Friday evening a few weeks ago. Despite Glenelg suffering the brunt of a sudden, summer storm just a few hours earlier, this bit of knitting seemed to survive quite well. Ahh, the power of wool ...

Sunday, 14 February 2016

All That is Lost Between Us Blog Tour -- Writing Nail Biting Suspense by Sara Foster

Welcome. Today I have Sara Foster, author of the brilliant new release All That is Lost Between Us, stopping by one her last stop of what has been a phenomenal blog tour. As an expert on writing great works of suspense, Sara is here today to share a few tips.





Writing Nail Biting Suspense by Sara Foster



1. Read and learn from the masters. Daphne du Maurier and Susan Hill are two great suspense storytellers that immediately spring to mind. If I get stuck with writing I’ll often think of a book I admire and have a quick read for inspiration.


2. In suspense, every chapter should add in some new point of tension. Feed your reader interesting and exciting tidbits, and hopefully they will follow the trail all the way to the end. 

3. Description should be kept relevant and succinct, so the pace doesn’t slow down too much. 

4. Don’t let your characters do too many everyday things for too long – sleep, eat, etc. – unless they are integral to the scene.

5. When you want lots of tension, play with short choppy sentences. They can give a breathless quality to the story, which is exciting. Just don’t overdo it. 

6. Read over and re-edit your first chapter about 100 times more than any other chapter. It’s your foundation; it’s got to be the strongest it can be. If readers aren’t gripped in this chapter they may not carry on, no matter how exciting things get later. 

7. Try to end each chapter with something surprising, or an interesting hint of what might happen next. Think about what will make it really hard for a reader to put your book down?

8. Know more about your characters than you put in your story. Write lots about them, even if it doesn’t all end up in your final draft. It will help you to flesh them out and get to know them.

9. Use everything in the landscape and surroundings of your story to add tension. If you want comfortable, the sun is enjoyable. If you want tension, the sun will burn. 

10. Be unpredictable. Don’t always go for your first idea when you’re thinking about plotting, ask yourself what you can do to make it better or add more of a twist. One of the great joys of reading suspense fiction is being genuinely surprised when something unexpected happens.


Thank you Sara for some great tips. If you liked this post, don't forget to swing by the other stops in this blog tour. 




                                                                                                                   All That is Lost Between Us is published by Simon and Schuster Australia. Read my review here.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Review: The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen

The Beautifull Cassandra [sic] is a small volume of short stories that were written by Jane Austen when she was in her teens for the amusement of her family, ones that were later discovered after her death and published because well, readers never seem to be able to get enough of Jane Austen. These stories were republished last year as part of the Penguin Little Black Classics series and for me, provided an entertaining distraction on an otherwise boring evening. Though a little bit childish in places, the stories are written in the authors trademark style, with a lot of social commentary in there and a genuine disdain for the boorish upper middle classes. Despite its silliness (and the fact that the twelve chapters are rather short,) I loved the title story The Beautifull Cassandra, which tells the story of a wicked young woman who spends the afternoon doing well, wicked things ...

A treat for Austen fans that should be taken lovingly and not at all seriously. Recommended.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Friday Funnies: In a Life Threatening Situation ...



Just a bit of Whovian inspired humour this week. 
Now, who wants a jelly baby?

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

How much courage does it take for someone to do what is right? That is the question at the heart of Aaron Hartzler's provocative new YA novel, What We Saw. Kate Weston is a good kid. She's smart, loves science and plays on her school soccer team. Romance is blossoming between her, and her old childhood friend, Ben. Technology isn't a terribly big part of her life and she's not really very interested in what goes on on facebook, twitter and instagram. 

Oh, and Kate was at a party last Saturday night, where she and another girl got very drunk. Kate made it home okay, thanks to Ben. But something happened to Stacey and now there is a very unsavoury video being circulated on the internet. And when the police, and the media, get involved, the local close ranks. No one believes that the video exists, and those who do think that what happened is Stacey's fault. After all, she's a girl, a bit trashy and she got drunk at a party. These boys are heroes, the stars of the local basketball team. And the girls think they know the rules--don't act trashy or do anything to provoke the boys.

Most of the novel centres around Kate trying to make sense of what happened, and the way the boys are automatically considered innocent--and Stacey demonised--by the members of the local community. Its amazing how much the local community will tolerate from the boys--whilst pointing the finger squarely at the victim. (After all, the school isn't reliant on Stacey for funding.) Meanwhile, the school and community are demonised by the local media, including one reporter who is determined to use the case to make a name for herself. And Kate ... Kate has her own suspicions about what happened that night, and slowly realises that she needs to be the one who speaks up ... even if doing so comes at a huge personal cost.

Possibly the most shocking thing about this novel is the fact that it is based on real events. This kind of thing can--and does--happen. It is interesting to, the double standards that apply to men and women, and the prevailing attitude that "boys will be boys" while it is up to the girls to protect themselves from the boys, by not doing anything that might "provoke" them, because the boys are surely not responsible for their own actions and decisions. The novel shows, conclusively, that the boys are indeed responsible and there is quite a brilliant argument that takes place between a student and a teacher in Kate's geology class in Chapter 37, which reads:

"Words have meanings. When we call something a theory in science it means something. Reggie, when you say you 'can't help yourself' if a girl is wasted, that means something, too. You're saying that our natural state as men is 'rapist.'"
Mr Johnson leans toward us in the lectern in the front of the room. "That's not okay with me Reggie." [...] "That's not okay with the rest of the class, either."

 Overall, this one is very well done. I found Kate to be a realistic and believable character, and one who has a lot of guts.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Writers on Wednesday: Alli Sinclair

Welcome to another great Writers on Wednesday interview. This week, I am lucky enough to be chatting with Australian author Alli Sinclair, whose second novel Under the Spanish Stars has just been released. 





Tell me a bit about yourself …

I’m an adventurer at heart and have been lucky enough to visit and live in some amazing parts of the world. I worked as a mountain climbing guide for a few seasons in the Andes and have always had a fascination for exotic destinations, cultures, and languages. My next adventure is never far from my mind, and these days I get to share them with my partner and two children.

Tell me about your most recently published book?

Under the Spanish Stars (published by Harlequin MIRA)

When Charlotte Kavanagh travels to Spain, the land of her ancestors, to discover the mystery behind her grandmother’s painting, she uncovers decades of lies and deception that lead her to question the true meaning of heritage, family, and love.

Under the Spanish Stars is set in beautiful and historic Granada in southern Spain. It gives a taste of flamenco and the gypsy culture, while delving into the turbulent history of Spain in the 1930s and 40s. This book will appeal to anyone who enjoys multi-generational stories that explores the relationships between family, lovers, and self as well readers who enjoy reading stories set in foreign destinations, romance, adventure and a twist of mystery.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

My first novel, Luna Tango, came out in 2014 and I will never forget the day I walked into the local bookstore and saw it on the shelves for the first time. I stared at my book baby in the New Releases section and got all teary. The lovely staff at the book shop thought I was upset and asked if I was okay but when I explained the reason for my tears (of happiness!) they offered to take lots of photos and congratulated me and made a big fuss. After ten years of dreaming about seeing my book on shelves it was lovely to celebrate with such wonderful people (who are now good friends).

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

Holding a book I’ve written in my hands! It was a surreal moment and one I’ll never forget.

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?
I’m writing an Australian historical at the moment which is quite the departure from my first two books. But there’s that lovely international flavour with a very gorgeous Italian immigrant, so my love for other cultures will be woven into this storyline.

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

I actually like both. I love the fact I can load multiple books on my iPad when I travel (instead of lugging books that take up valuable suitcase space), but I also like the tactile rush of turning paper pages. So, really, I have a foot in both camps!

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

There is definitely room for both Indie and Traditional publishing. If someone has a story to tell, it doesn’t matter how they get it out there, the important thing is people get a chance to experience the worlds and characters a writer creates.

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

Oooh, that is tough! I believe that books are subjective so I don’t think there is any one book for everybody. My personal favourite is A SUITABLE BOY by Vikram Seth. It’s set in India and has an amazing cast of characters, some amazing conflict, a tragic love story or two, and lots of rich culture. Given it is almost 1500 pages (in soft cover), it’s a major undertaking but totally worth the investment of time and effort.

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

Hello from Geelong! My dad is from Adelaide and I still have family in gorgeous Adelaide. We used to travel there nearly every school holidays to hang with my dad’s side of the family and I’ve lost track of how many times I have been there! These days I take my own family over for regular visits. I’m very much looking forward to see Adelaide readers in August when I will be there for the Australian Romance Readers Association book signing (keep an eye out for details! http://www.australianromancereaders.com.au).

Links

BUY LINKS:
Published by Harlequin MIRA (Australia) http://www.harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781760374181

Under the Spanish Stars is available in print and e-book.
PRINT:






EBOOK:







Ebooks.com - http://www.ebooks.com/2508954/under-the-spanish-stars/sinclair-alli/



WEBSITE/BLOG: www.allisinclair.com                                               

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

Instagram: alli_sinclair
Google +: Alli Sinclair


Alli has a FREE prequel to Under the Spanish Stars available. Links are here: http://www.harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781489205575

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Review: Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

Author Becca Fitzpatrick's latest release is an intriguing, page turning tale about a young woman who is one part spoiled, one part neglected, who finds herself in witness protection. Stella Gordon (as she becomes known,) is the star witness of a terrible crime and to keep her safe, the police have sent her to stay in a small town in Nebraska to live with Carmina, a no-nonsense retired former cop. In Thunder Basin, trouble comes in all kinds of forms--from Stella's feelings for the gorgeous boy next door, to the local bully, who may be a part of her undoing. But the most dangerous lie of all--well, that's for the reader to discover.

For me, Dangerous Lies was, initially, one of those books the kind that I pass on by because it didn't look like the sort of book that would appeal. Anyway, I later picked it up cheap from a bookshop that was having a closing down sale, and I ended up compulsively gobbling the whole thing up in the course of an evening. There were a number of twists and turns that kept me guessing. As for Stella, while she was far from perfect, she was most definitely interesting to read about. 

Recommended. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)


This clever mural lives on Halifax Street, about midway between Pulteney Street and King William Street. It looks out onto a lane way and is the kind of thing that you could easily miss if you blinked. If you look more closely, however ...

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Kathryn's Inbox Exclusive: Customer Outrage At Supermarket Opening Times

NOWHERESVILLE, AUSTRALIA--Sam Sharman, a local resident and former shopper at the Nowheresville Independent Supermarket was outraged when he was refused service one hour after the store had closed. "I knew that the doors were locked, but I could see that there were people inside," he told our reporter. "So I did what any normal person who required bread, milk and smokes at ten o'clock on a weekday evening would do, and started banging on the door. The staff very rudely ignored me. I thought that it was bloody disgusting! I mean don't they want my money?"

A spokesperson from the Nowheresville Independent Supermarket explained that the store was already open the maximum number of hours allowed for a store of their size in South Australia. "We are not allowed to continue trading after nine pm, it is as simple as that," the spokesperson explained. "State legislation requires us to close at nine pm and we are not permitted to open our doors again until midnight. Despite Mr Sharman's claims, we do not have some kind of a personal vendetta against him, or his money, however, we cannot lawfully serve him if he bangs on the doors an hour after closing time. And even if we had opened the doors, I doubt that it would have done much good, as the tills were all locked away at that point, and the only staff on hand were the cleaners."

"That's bullshit!" Mr Sharman told our reporters. "I'm a paying customer, so therefore I should get what I want, when I want it, no matter how absurd or illegal my request may be. If I go into a hardware shop and ask someone to make me a hotdog, then they can make me a fucking hotdog, none of this, 'we only sell nails here, Sir,' shit which is what I have to put up with every time I walk inside the Nowheresville Hardware Centre. And don't get me started on what happened when I walked inside the Nowheresville Library and asked if I could use some of the books and magazines from their history collection as toilet paper."

At this point, Mr Sharman stopped the interview to demand that our reporter make him a sandwich. He was promptly told to fuck off, and the interview was terminated. Mr Sharman is now seeking damages after suffering such a traumatic experience ...

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, 5 February 2016

Friday Funnies: A Frog in my Throat


Okay. I'm not sure that any of us need to know what Miss Piggy and got up to last night. Actually, I have no idea what she got up to last night, but clearly it didn't involve going to the supermarket to buy a packet of butter menthols ...

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Review: Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

Newt's Emerald by Australian author, Garth Nix, is a clever tribute to those old Georgette Heyer regency romances ... with a very magical twist. Lady Truthful Newington has just come of age when tragedy strikes--the Newington Emerald has been stolen! To get it back, Truthful comes up with a clever ploy. Whilst in London for her first 'season' she will carry a disguise--that of a man, so that she can look search for the emerald. Lady Truthful soon finds herself balancing duel roles and in all sorts of dangerous situations. Can she rescue the emerald back from the clutches of an evil sorceress and save all of England? And more importantly, is there romance in the air?

Newt's Emerald can be summed up in a couple of words, terrific fun. There may not be a lot of depth to this story, but there does not need to be, instead it is better just to let the story carry you away. There are numerous convenient plot twists, dastardly villains, banter between the heroine and her love interest and a fitting end. And the whole thing works, simply because it never takes itself too seriously, nor makes fun of the genre. 

Highly recommended.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2016

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Review: Suite Française by Irene Némirovsky

Written by a woman of Russain Jewish origin who was living (and later, hiding,) in France during German occupation, Suite Française remained undiscovered and unpublished until the early twentieth century--sixty years after Némirovsky suffered a terrible fate inside Auschwitz. The book comprises of two nearly-finished novels that were intended as part of a five part series. The first book, Storm in June tells the interwoven stories of four different groups as they flee Paris as German forces invade and some of the cruel realities of war and their situation--at one point Madame Péricand literally forgets her ill and ailing father-in-law and leaves him behind in her attempts to find a safe place for herself and her children. The main players in this feature are the Péricand family, Madame Péricand, her father-in-law and her children including seventeen year old Hector who is desperate to join the armed forces and fight for his country. A parallel story features oldest son, Father Péricand who is a priest and lands the job of transporting a group of orphan boys to safety, a task that has an ending that is as tragic as it is gruesome. Meanwhile, an older couple, the Michards travel through France not knowing whether their son, Jean-Marie is dead or alive, and suffer a gross betrayal at the hands of their employer. Charles Langlet tricks people as he fights to survive and arrogant author Gabriel Courte manages to get the best of everything. And most (not all) make it back to France and life goes on, though perhaps not so nicely or as happily as before.

The second part of the book Dolice is set in the French countryside and is a love story of sorts, with a young, married Frenchwoman falling in love (against her wishes,) with the German officer who is billeted to her home. Initially the pair would seem to have little in common, then, it seems they have everything in common until circumstance proves that they can never truly see eye to eye. The film version of the book is mostly concerned with this part of the novel, though the ending is slightly different, as the was intended to lead on to a third volume that never eventuated.

As is often the case books that are translated, I struggled in places and found the language to be a bit limited and boring. The first part of the book had some great moments, some gory moments and some dull moments, though I think that it truly captured the reality of war and what humans will sometimes do to one another in their desperation to find a safe place. The second part poses the question of whether enemies can ever really be friends, or even lovers, and it also examines the reality that love cannot always conquer all.

I enjoyed reading this one, though it took me a while to get through (the print in my copy was painfully small, leaving me to wish that I had bought it as an eBook instead.)

Filled with painful, and often deep, questions and observations.

Recommended. 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)


This is one of many murals that decorates Adelaide's Central Markets. 
This one is located at the Grote Street end of the markets.