Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Review: Allegedly by Sarah Monahan

Like many kids in Australia who grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s I was familiar with an Australian sitcom titled Hey Dad...! and would tune in every week--in fact to this day I can tell you that in Adelaide new episodes of Hey Dad...! used air on SAS 7 at 7.30pm on Wednesdays, and remember the distinctive opening credits that used real photos of each of the actors. And just like the rest of the Australian public, I had no idea of the horrific abuse that took place on the set, until the story became public. 

In fact, it was the first time in Australian history that a former child actor had come public with such a story--and, more shockingly, one that had been known on the set of Hey Dad...! for almost the whole of its eight year run, though no one would do anything about it.

Sarah Monahan played Jenny Kelly, the youngest member of the Kelly family. She was abused by Robert Hughes, the actor who played Martin Kelly, her on screen dad and the star of the series, and who now, thanks to Sarah's bravery, is serving a lengthy jail sentence. Hughes was also charged and convicted of abusing a number of other women. (Many other women came forward about their own horrific experiences with Hughes after Sarah Monahan's story became public.)

In Allegedly Sarah Monahan tells us her story--that of a child who found herself working in the adult world of television with limited supervision and how she grew up to be a strong and capable woman who not only had the guts to speak up about what had happened to her on the set, but who served with the US military (Monahan is a duel Australian/US citizen,) has worked in IT, who cared for her husband after he was attacked and who has travelled extensively. The book itself is written in a friendly, but matter-of-fact style and focuses on the importance for justice for victims of abuse. 

A very real story of bravery and resilience. Recommended. 

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Apple Paperback Review: Katie and Those Boys by Martha Tolles

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 ...

Katie and Those Boys is one of the Apple Paperbacks that I can remember very clearly from my childhood. It was bought in the usual way--ordered from the Arrow Book Club catalogue that was distributed to my school, and arrived what felt like weeks later (in reality, about a fortnight). I remember, I was very, very excited to read this title. It was about a girl who, like me, only had brothers and some of the problems and situations that arose from that. Anyway, the book arrived at school first thing in the morning and was duly handed to me. I couldn't wait to go home and read it! As it happened, I would not have to wait long, as I was struck down with some kind of virus or another in the middle of the school day and had to go home early. (The days I spent at home were followed by quite a serious bullying incident when I returned to school, the kind that more or less fucks you up for life, but that is another story.) Anyway, I remember that as soon as I was able to sit up in my sick bed and read a book, I eagerly reached for this one. Here it was, a story about a girl who was just like me. The front cover looked pretty cool too, featuring a girl in jeans and a red jumper.

And then I opened the front cover.

It turned out that Katie and Those Boys was a reprint of a book that Scholastic had published during the mid-1960s. The illustrations and language were representative of that era and some parts of the story were difficult to relate to. I persevered, because well, it was a brand new book and I was sick, but what I remember about the book most of all was how disappointed I was with the whole thing. I don't know what happened to my original copy, whether I passed it on to my younger cousins or the Salvation Army, or if it's tucked away with some of my old Babysitters Club books, it's not something that I have ever really felt nostalgic for. When I found a cheap copy at a secondhand bookshop, along with some other Apple Paperback titles, I almost contemplated leaving it there. On a whim, I decided to buy it along with the others and read it.

Funny thing. I enjoyed this one much more the second time around, when I was reading it through the
An earlier cover, though obviously a reprint,
as it notes the original title.
rose coloured glasses of nostalgia.

Katie and Those Boys is a humorous tale about a girl living in a neighbourhood full of boys. Katie is lonely--all of her friends from school live a long way away, and all seem to have one special or close friend who lives in their neighbourhood--she doesn't always get along with her brothers and she especially does not like Will, the freckled boy next door who is always playing mean tricks on her. When the house next door goes up for sale, Katie hopes that a family with a girl will buy it. And exactly that happens, though it takes almost a year for the house to be sold, and Katie has a number of adventures--usually featuring Will--between the start and end of the book, before finding a best friend in the new girl from next door, and the possibility of one day becoming Will's girlfriend.

The illustrations in the book have come straight out of the 1960s, and the story definitely belongs in that era. Some of the activities that the kids participate in seem very dated--a small section notes a fight that Katie and Will had at Sunday School. (As religion is never mentioned, and neither Katie's nor Will's families are shown to be particularly religious, it suggests that this was just a normal activity for kids in that part of the world, in that era.) Katie's older brother is named Dick, and he buys a car for eighty dollars. Katie enjoys gardening, though her garden is regarded as "little" and of no particular interest to the others. Also, the story ends with all of the neighbourhood kids being sent to a dance class so that they can learn how to dance, and proper social etiquette at dances. Friends come over to "play." The exact age of the kids is unclear, though at one stage Katie and Will are said to be in the "Fifth Form", in another part of the book they are said to have entered "Sixth Grade." Which brings me to another point ...

But what is really odd about my edition is how some of the spellings, and words, change between British and American English. At one stage Katie wears plimsols, in another stage of the novel, she wears sneakers. On the copyright pages, there is a note stating that this is a Commonwealth Edition, so I wonder if perhaps whomever edited the Commonwealth Edition missed a few things. In any case, it really doesn't spoil the story greatly.

Although very dated, this one made for a fun distraction. 

About the author: Martha Tolls wrote a number of Apple Paperbacks including Darcy in Cabin 13.

Fun Trivia: Martha Tolls went on to write two more books about Katie. Katie for President was published during the 1970s and also republished as an Apple Paperback. Katie's Babysitting Job was published in 1984 and proved to be so popular that Scholastic decided to create an entire series about girls who liked babysitting--The Babysitters Club. (Note: Katie's Babysitting Job is wrongfully referenced as Ginny's Babysitting Job on wikipedia and at a number of other sources.)

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Mini Review: Joy Ride by MB Austin

Joy Ride is a charming YA short story about two girls, Maji and Bubbles, who are trying to be good ... or at least trying not to get caught when they go on their adventures stealing cars and trying to return them to the spot where they found them. I picked it up because I was in the mood for something different and it did not disappoint.

Joy Ride is the first instalment in a series that features Maji and is available free at Smashwords.

Recommended.


Friday, 25 March 2016

Friday Funnies: Sparkle


It's comforting to know that ten, almost eleven years after Stephenie Meyer published Twilight that we still have these memes to remind us that real vampires do not sparkle ...

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Review: Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement

Prayers for the Stolen is a vivid and gut-wrenching tale of a reality that is all too real for many women who live in Mexico--the fear of being stolen. For these women, and especially girls and young women, the threat of being stolen and then trafficked and sold is all too real. They come up with innovative ways to keep safe--dressing their girls as boys, altering their appearance so that they may be considered too ugly to be stolen, and digging holes where the girls may hide when they hear the SUVs coming. 


Set in the mountains of Mexico, the novel beings with a truly haunting sentence, Now we make you ugly, my mother said. From there, the story focuses on the protagonist Ladydi, mother and their friends and neighbours as they suffer all kinds of hardships that the authorities care nothing about. There is Paula, who is stolen but eventually escapes, Ruth who was found in a garbage bin and grows up to become a beautician, Maria who is born with a hare lip and Estafani whose mother contracts HIV which, due to a lack of medical intervention develops into full blown AIDS. The women are so poor, and so cut off that no one really cares for them--teachers often don't show up at their village and more shockingly, poisons that the military are supposed to dump on opium crops often end up sprayed dumped on their village instead.

Ladydi's own path includes a stint in jail and her struggles show the sheer love and loyalty that these women ultimately have for one another. 

At times bleak, and at times filled magic realism and a little dark humour, Prayers for the Stolen is an unflinchingly real look at the lives of women in a time and a place where anything can happen for them and the authorities rarely care.

For anyone who gives a damn about human rights.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Review: The Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney

The Reluctant Jillaroo is fun story about a young woman persuaded to swap places with her identical twin sister. Heidi Gage is a surfer girl from Sydney who loves the beach and the water. Her identical twin sister Harper loves the land and dreams of getting a scholarship to an exclusive agricultural school. To get the scholarship, she must spend a week at a Jillaroo/Jackroo camp for teens in outback New South Wales, but on the night before she is due to go, Harper breaks her leg, and persuades Heidi that she must go in her place. Feeling guilty for causing Harper's accident in the first place, Heidi agrees and finds herself on an unpredictable adventure at a camp she is completely unprepared for. She is, quite literally, a surfer girl out of water.

As I said at the beginning of the review, this one is a fun story. There are some funny bits and a touch of romance--I really enjoyed the love triangle between Heidi, Chaz and Trent ... and the outcome. The plot about the thief was done well and I liked reading about how the friendship developed between Heidi and Vee. Heidi herself is a gutsy and loyal character and this really holds the story together.

Overall, this one is an entertaining read. Recommended.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Review: No Hiding Place by Alex Clermont

No Hiding Place is a well-written short story about Francis and Estefani, new parents who are holding their child for the first time and wondering at the life he will lead. As they stare at their new son, each recount their lives--being born in a place where poverty and political turmoil are the norm, and only just managing to escape to the United States with their lives. The United States, supposedly politically stable, initially offers their son a better life until the family finds that here they will suffer all kinds of prejudices--those of race, and that of wealth.

I found this story to be quite an interesting, in-depth look at the problems that real people face when moving--essentially against their will--to a different and supposedly safe country. The author has a real gift with his observations of humanity and human nature. The story felt unflinchingly real to me.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)


Loving this funky bus/taxi shelter that I spotted down at the Bay.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Soul Inferno by Aprille Legacy

Soul Inferno is the gripping conclusion to Adelaide author Aprille Legacy's Soul Trilogy. We open with Lotheria now divided into two--the south ruled by our heroine, Queen Sky and the north ruled by her soul mate and former fiance, King Phoenix. War is imminent and the two sides are prepared to go to battle--and for an ancient curse to be lifted, Sky must kill Phoenix ... or he must kill her first.

This one was action packed and had quite a few surprises and twists along the way. Many loyalties were revealed and it was surprising to see who were Sky's friends ... and who were her enemies. What really stood out for me was how Ilsa, the pirate queen's story panned out. The ending is fitting for the story, though it includes a huge betrayal. I felt very sad for Sky's mother, who, in a funny way, is the character who suffers most. (Not that I can say much about it without giving away some major spoilers.) And one thing I loved is that although she is queen. Sky's speech and language remain very Australian.

If you enjoyed the first two books of the Soul Trilogy, then you will find it almost impossible to be disappointed by Soul Inferno.

Recommended.

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

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Happy St Patricks Day!


Happy St Patricks Day ...

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Review: Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

Eric Lindstrom's debut novel is a clever YA read featuring a protagonist who is just trying to survive high school, the loss of her parents and heartbreak the best way she knows how. Parker is funny, clever, a skilled runner who wants to try out for the track team and she and her best friend Sarah offer relationship advice to other students at the beginning of each day. Parker also happens to be blind, and she has a list of rules that she would like you to follow.

The most important rule is this:

There are no second chances. Violate my trust and I'll never trust you again. Betrayal is unforgivable. (Page 39.)

This is not the first book that I have read that features a teenager with a disability, however, what makes this book stand out from the crowd, is that Parker isn't this perfect kid who we are all supposed to feel sorry for. Parker has her flaws. She's bitchy and arrogant, occasionally rule, plays on her disability at times, and can often be self-centred. It is also clear that she's had a tough time--losing her mother and her eyesight at age seven after a drink driving incident, and now she has lost her father to an accidental overdose. And it should be clear to readers that, underneath all that, Parker might just have a heart of gold.

Most of this book centres on the first few weeks of Parker's junior year at high school--a few months have passed since her father died, and her high school has recently merged with another, meaning that there is a host of new kids for her to become familiar with, including Molly, who is paired with her as part of a buddy system, and Scott, a boy who went to her middle school ... and who was responsible for a massive betrayal and is the reason that the no second chances rule exists. Over these weeks, various events help Parker to grow and mature, and to discover that sometimes there can be more than one side of the story and that her rules may occasionally be broken.

I enjoyed reading this one, and think that it made for a great and original YA novel. It was also a lot of fun working out what the braille on the front cover meant--and when I found out, it felt that it was entirely appropriate for the story. Don't expect long descriptions, filled with sensory detail, the writing itself is short, fast and tends to concentrate on events and Parker's emotional reactions to them.

Recommended.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Review: Running Against the Tide by Amanda Ortlepp

Amanda Ortlepp's second novel offers readers a glimpse into small town life in the Eyre Peninsula ... against a very sinister backdrop. Erin Travers has escaped an unhappy life in Sydney with her two teenage sons in tow and is looking forward to making a new life in the small, South Australian town that she remembers from her childhood. Her new neighbours are decent, a new lover may be on the horizon and most importantly she has returned to her childhood dreams of being an artist, and it would seem that she has real talent. But not everything about the move is happy, and something--or someone--from Erin's past is about to catch up with her ...

As a reader from South Australia, Running Against the Tide had one huge selling point for me and that was its sense of location. Even though Mallee Bay was fictitious it felt like this really could be a small South Australian town, and one that I would like to visit or at least read about. The story itself has a number of threads--Erin's past, the oyster thefts, Ryan the unhappy teenage boy and a stalker--and the story did not end quite as I expected it to. Overall, it was an entertaining enough read.

Recommended, especially to fans of Jodi Picoult.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my reading copy.

PS Readers in country South Australian may be interested to know that Amanda Ortlepp is touring and visiting a number of towns this week--see the tour schedule below.


Monday, 14 March 2016

Cover Reveal: Behind the Scenes by Kathryn White







Well, well, guess who is back and has a brand new look. Recently, I decided to republish Behind the Scenes and thought that it was only fitting that the book got a bit of a makeover, so here it is! I'm loving the new, Virginia Andrews inspired cover, that gives the story a bit of a gothic feel. (Lets face it, any book that features abductions and dark family secrets isn't exactly going to light and fluffy.)

The new eBook version should be available this week from most retailers (depending how often that the update their lists,) and a paper version should follow soon.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Not Another Teen Book Review: Girl Talk by L.E. Blair

Not another teen book review is a semi-regular feature on this blog that comments on mass market fiction from the 1980s & 1990s that featured teenage characters and teenage themes ... and was lapped up by eleven year olds. This time around I am talking about Girl Talk, a series from the early 1990s.

Published by Golden, the same company responsible for the Little Golden Books Girl Talk was a chatty, gossipy series of books pitched at girls that was, surprisingly, inspired by a board game of the same name. These short books (all with similar pink covers,) featured a short 'meet the characters' at the front, a summery of what each character thought of the topic that was being explored in the book, and a chapter that was devoted to a telephone conversation between all (or occasionally, only some,) of the characters. At the end of each book, readers were invited to fill out a survey on what they thought about the series that, for the cost of a stamp, could then be posted back to the publisher. The books examined issues that were relevant to kids, such as caring for the environment, sexism, blended families and--who can forget--puppy love. The writing style itself kept the books very simple, and the competitions at the back of the book were open only to kids aged between seven and fifteen, suggesting that the publisher was aiming for a very broad audience. (Consider, The Babysitters Club was pitched firmly at kids aged between nine and twelve as was Sweet Valley Twins and The Saddle Club.) In other words, Girl Talk was pitched more at emerging readers, rather than established ones.

The main characters were Sabrina, an extroverted and occasionally funny girl who wants to be an actress when she grows up and her quiet but determined best friend Katie. Completing the group was wacky, just-moved-from New York, Randy, who rode a skateboard and wore outrageous clothes and Allison, a quiet girl of Native American ancestry who became a supermodel at one point in the series. Anyway, I found a couple of these for 25 cents each at my local op shop and I thought that it would be fun to bring them home and review them. The short reviews are below ...

It's All in the Stars (Girl Talk #5)


Sabrina reads in her horoscope that romance is in the air. When she starts receiving anonymous love letters at school, it seems that her horoscope is coming true, and she jumps to the conclusion that they are being sent to her by Mr Grey, her "cute" social studies teacher. But it all turns out to be a prank played by her twin brother Sam, with the help of Winslow, a nerdy boy from her class. Sabrina gets sweet revenge on her brother ... with Winslow's help!

Earth Alert! (Girl Talk #14)

Narrated by Allison, this one features a bit of an aggressive cover and is probably one of the more topical books in the series. It begins with a popular trope, a new and very cute boy moves to town and starts at Bradley Junior High. Arizonna is a surfer from California and speaks like what one might get if they successfully crossed Keanu Reeves with one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Gnarly.) All the girls like him, but he seems to be completely besotted with Allison. Anyway, in a surprise but endearing twist, Allison finds Arizonna and his attention at bit annoying (she does not like the way that he always addresses her by her first name and her surname, Allison Cloud, and I cannot say that I blame her,) and in any case, she is already dating Billy and wants to stay faithful to him. At the same time, Allison is co-chairperson of Earth Alert, an upcoming school environmental awareness fair, that soon gets hijacked and ruined by Stacey and her friends. Allison and the others soon realise that their cause is more important than a fair, and rally together to make the school do more to help the environment (such as not using styrofoam trays in the cafeteria.) This earns the gang detention, though the principal agrees to review some of the school policies.

The author of Girl Talk was L.E. Blair, a pseudonym for children's fantasy author Katherine Applegate. 

Girl Talk ended after a respectable 45 novels.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Friday Funnies: Time Lord Confessions


River Song was never my cup of tea. Even so, I thought this meme was pretty funny.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Off Topic: Online Shaming and Ridicule


As a writer and a blogger, I spend far more time online that what I should. One thing I love the opportunities that it has provided to connect with many different people from across the globe, people who I may not necessarily have been able to meet and talk to in real life. Unfortunately, there is also a down side to all of this. Places that should be open to free discourse are often the haven for trolls, bullies, keyboard warriors and people who just flat out have nothing better to do at that particular point in time than to run someone else's opinion down, usually by means of heckling, pointing out any spelling or grammatical errors, or just saying, well, anything really, to make that person look foolish. 


And you know what?

I don't find it clever. I don't find it funny. I don't get why a conversation on the internet should go something like this:

Person One: Great article! I support marraige equality.
Person Two: Do you? Do you really support marriage EQUALITY. That means that you also support adult men marrying child brides, because that is EQUALITY.
Person Three: *marriage. Learn how to spell.
Person Four: I support marriage equality. I want to be able to marry my hedgehog.
Person Three: Go right ahead and fuck your hedgehog.
Person Two: Won't somebody think of all the people who want to marry hedgehogs?

In my opinion, it is just stupid and childish behaviour, and it takes the focus away from whatever issue is being discussed. It means that people who do have something valid, and important to say, are less likely to voice it through fear of ridicule, or being used as fodder for someone else's entertainment. At its heart, it is a type of censorship--speak up and you'll be ridiculed.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Review: Young Widows Club by Alexandra Coutts

Young Widows Club is a story of a seventeen-year-old girl who find herself in an unusual situation. Tam Baird dropped out of school to marry her boyfriend Noah, who is an up and coming rock and roll star. Six weeks later, Noah is dead from heart failure and circumstance forced Tam to return to the home of her father and stepmother, so that she can start over. Caught in a world where she is no longer a child, but expected to return to school and to obey her parents, Tam struggles with grief and loneliness by finds answers in the most surprising of places.

Set almost entirely on an island--Martha's Vineyard, where the author also lives--this novel had a real sense of location, and paradoxically, isolation, given the protagonists unusual circumstances. There were a few themes that I think could have been fleshed out--for example Tam's Dad did not approve of her marriage (at the beginning of the novel it is noted that he was not there, later, it says explicitly that he did not approve of the situation,) but much of that is never discussed, though other aspects of this occasionally dysfunctional father-daughter relationship are handled with sensitivity by the author. I liked the open (or perhaps not,) ending with Colin, and what Tam did with her wedding ring--while hugely symbolic--annoyed me on a personal and highly subjective level, though it works well enough within the context of the story. The plot is quite unusual, and what I think was done really well, is that the character does not necessarily assimilate back into teenage life (i.e. she doesn't start dating a "cute" boy from school,) and she slowly begins to plan her future.

A good read, especially for anyone who finds themselves at a time in their life when they have to start over. Recommended.

This one is (currently) only available as an eBook in Australia.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Blog Tour Review: All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford

Conflicting evidence, an unreliable narrator and a morally ambigious story make All These Perfect Strangers one of the most intriguing novels that I have encountered so far in 2016. Pen Sheppard is an unwelcome resident in her small town, and has recently left university under a dark cloud. The novel opens with Pen visiting her psychiatrist, before moving between the past and the present to tell of Pen's unusual--and traumatic--experiences at university, while also addressing the reason that Pen is hated by nearly everyone in her small town.

The story is so complex that I found my feelings toward Pen ebb back and forth several times throughout the narrative. On the surface, it is a story about a young woman who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, suffers a trauma, is ostracised by the people in her home town and then lucky enough to win the perfect escape a scholarship to a university ... where she is unlucky enough to find herself in the middle of a situation that is as difficult as it is dangerous. But once I started looking a little more closely, and re-reading key passages it became obvious that much like all of the other characters Pen is not entirely innocent--often lying to her psychiatrist--and that (if Pen's version of events are reliable,) there is a lot more to her former school friend Tracey and also the people whom she meets at university--many of whom have their own hang ups, insecurities and their own shocking motives. Reading this one made me feel as if the question of "who is responsible and for what" were somewhat secondary to the exploration of the darker side of human nature. There is also the question of whether or not Pen's own real worst enemy is herself--it certainly seems that she wants other people to think so.
Set in 1990, this story takes place well before the widespread intrusion of mobile phones and the internet and the story is all better for it. The locations are barely described at all, the small town where Pen lives could be located in any state of Australia, so too could her university. And this all adds to the feel of the novel, which can be dark and claustrophobic at times.

A solid debut novel from an Australian writer. Recommended.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my beautiful ARC.

Don't forget to stop by and read the many other wonderful reviews for this book that will be appearing this week as part of the All These Perfect Strangers Blog Tour.




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




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

Category: A Debut Novel in 2016

Progress 2/12

Monday, 7 March 2016

Around Adelaide (Street Art)


Salty Dog is a new addition to the Bay and sits, well ... just outside of where the old public conveniences used to be. There have been some big changes around that part of Glenelg in recent times, and the area feels a lot more open than it used to be.  Anyway, this pup is a friendly and fun, and it even doubles as a bench. 

Friday, 4 March 2016

Friday Funnies: Free Advertising



Sharing this one, because it is quite possibly the only time that I have ever seen the "Kermit drinking tea/but that's none of my business" meme and found it even remotely funny. This is one is usually reserved for stupid passive-aggressive arguments on facebook, pointing out the hypocritical behaviour of others.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Review: Lullaby by Bernard Beckett

Although Lullaby is classified as YA there is plenty in this short novel to hook and, ultimately, challenge adult readers as well. Set in New Zealand, sometime in the near future, it opens with eighteen year old Rene, who is one of identical twins, at a hospital, speaking with a young psychologist who is tasked with checking if he is capable of making a decision to allow the hospital to undertake a procedure that is risky, unethical and of no value to his twin brother who is already classified as brain dead, though it might help him to gain a 'new life.'

Most of the first half of the novel focuses on Rene's conversation with psychologist Maggie, as he reflects on his childhood and his relationship with Theo. Although identical twins, the pair have stark differences, and the novel has much to say on themes of duality and ego. Rene is not the nicest of teenagers, but then again, neither was Theo, though it is obvious that they care about one another. Despite the tough façade, we can see that Rene is hurting and we can also see that he is not taking his decision lightly. Maggie is a professional who is stretched by the boundaries of inexperience, a lack of time, and ultimately, her own ethics (which do not necessarily align with those of her employer.) The only other player in the story is Rene's girlfriend Emily, whose cunning has clever, but catastrophic consequences toward the end of the novel. The ending itself is left quite open and one can only ponder at Rene's future.

I enjoyed reading this one, and it left me pondering a bit at notions of self--is memory and circumstance what makes us what we are, or is it something entirely different?

Although complex, the book is just as long as it needs to be (and no more) to tell the story. I bought Lullaby from the book tent at Writers' Week and read most of it on the train journey home.

Recommended.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Review: A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin

Actor Gillian Anderson, who is best known for her role as Special Agent Dana Scully in the X-Files and as Miss Havisham in the BBC adaption of Great Expectations, returns to her sci-fi/paranormal roots to write her first novel A Vision of Fire. With the help of prolific author Jeff Rovin, the novel is both page turning and unnerving, but it also has a unique sense of human compassion, one that immediately had me drawing comparisons with J.K. Rowling, though their writing styles are, of course, quite different. 

Caitlin O'Hara is a renowned child psychologist is called in to help when the daughter of India's ambassador to the United Nations starts exhibiting strange--and dangerous--behaviours after witnessing an assassination attempt on her father. Meanwhile, there are young people in Haiti and Tehran who are both exhibiting similar behaviours. Is there a link? What Caitlin discovers is something far more complex and dangerous than she expected.

I enjoyed reading this one, partly for its fast storytelling and sci-fi themes set against a realistic backdrop, and partly because the novel had a very global feel to it, despite the New York setting. I loved the glimpses into life in Haiti and Tehran and the respectful way that the people in both countries were treated as equals, rather than a mysterious other. 

A Vision of Fire is the first instalment of The Earthend Saga, and, naturally ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. 

Recommended.