Friday, 20 October 2017

Friday Funnies: Peppermint Patty


Another great Peanuts moment this week, this time featuring Peppermint Patty. Schoolwork has never been her forte, she's the kind of kid who takes more of an interest in sports and the outdoors, and finds it difficult to concentrate on other things. 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Writers on Wednesday: Cher Chidzey

Welcome to another great Writers on Wednesday post. This week I am speaking with Cher Chidzey, author of Ken's Quest.




Tell me a bit about yourself …

I am the youngest of nineteen children, twelve girls and seven boys. My father Huat was born at the end of the Qing dynasty in Shantou, a fishing village.

Father and his three wives, four sons and eight daughters migrated to Singapore when the Japanese invaded China. I was born in a household of over thirty people, in a house built on stilts, in the “House of Ninety-Nine Closed Doors”. Father relocated shortly after with my mother and her two sons and six daughters to a simpler dwelling in Serangoon Gardens, the stomping ground of Australian and British military personnel.

Growing up in a household of siblings schooled in the Chinese language I learnt to appreciate Chinese poetry, Teochew opera and calligraphy. My childhood was chaotic with the comings and goings of relatives; the stepbrothers and their families also relocated to the same neighbourhood. The tribal voice, the gossip, the bickering continued but I kept my head down and studied. I was the only child educated in a missionary school run by Irish nuns. I rebelled against the family’s strict Confucian code and converted to Catholicism.

In 1974 I hatched an escape route from the chaos and ended up in Highett High school in Sandringham, Victoria. My political education began in that school under the mentorship of my classmate Harviva and continued when I studied at Monash University. I went to street marches and attended political campaigns despite feeling dreadfully scared of being spied on. The Singapore government uses the Internal Security Act to detain people indefinitely without trial. 

My journey from a strict Confucian upbringing to Catholicism to involvement in seeking social justice is something I’m proud of. I’ve lived both cultures.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Ken’s Quest is my most recently published book. Before I dive into the bowels of the novel I’d like to tell why I wrote it. I’ve observed the likes of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party lashing out at migrants, pointing fingers of blame but also the reluctance of people to speak up honestly, openly and civilly about their feelings, about the differences in cultures. Keeping silent creates undercurrents and discontent. That build up can lead to the rise of the right wing as we are witnessing now. We have many programs and initiatives to promote multi-culturalism but we could take a further step. Encouraging people to talk openly and honestly about differences is an essential step towards true multi-culturalism. 

Bravo to Betul Tuna who lives in Shepparton, one of Australia's One Nation strongholds, where Islamophobia is rampant and she's got a smoking idea to put an end to it for good. By day she's a community worker and a single mum with three kids. By night Betul and her best mate Suzan Yilmaz are transforming an old caravan into a shisha cafe on wheels. They're gearing up to travel around the country with it, parking in random streets, opening their doors to all Australians who might fear Muslims.

"Forty nine per cent of Australians don't want us here," she says.

"I'm facing my fear and I guess I'm expecting the forty nine per cent to face their fear and maybe come have that cup of coffee."

Ken’s Quest was set in the 1990s. First part of the novel focused on the Ken-Red journey. Ken’s characterisation: he was given poor spoken English. His career profile as chief engineer in Communist China made him authoritarian. His upbringing in a wealthy family made him superior. These attributes created a rigid personality, one that would not adjust to a new environment easily. 

Red was Ken’s assistant at Lucky Security Gate. His xenophobic propensity led him to clash with Ken. The turning point came when Ken saved Red’s dog Fu Manchu. They became friends.

Their conversation began with work related issues, of work procedures, of the meaning of work and the concept of career. As the friendship deepened, the conversation shifted from work place related issues to societal values – familial responsibilities. 

Red discussed his fragmented childhood experience, being passed from one step-father to another like a recycled Christmas present, his fear of displacement by migrants, his loneliness and lack of meaning in life.

Slowly Ken reassessed his assumption about Aussies having it easy and government financial aid should mean success for all. Red exposed Ken’s many flaws: his denials, his lying, his arrogance, lack of social skills. Despite the fiery verbal exchanges Red was touched by Ken’s care and affection, especially after a drug related mugging.

Their cross-cultural exchanges was possible because Red and Ken trusted each other. To get to the state of trusting we need courage to venture outside our comfort zone. And that takes us back to our intention when we speak of differences in our cultures. 

The second part of the novel focused on the Ken-Julia journey.

Julia was Ken’s communication teacher at TAFE, turned lover. The macho Ken was kept on his toes. She questioned his assumed male superiority in bed, his controlling way over his son, over her, his secretiveness, his face saving tendency and his overwhelming jealousy. The cross cultural tension was tipping Ken to the edge but for the first time he was willing to listen, to reassess his male superiority, his tribal voice, the voice of his ancestors and connect with his woman. Through her insistence and interrogation he learned to speak honestly and confess his secrets. Observing Julia made him realise some serious truth about himself. He assumed he had achieved wei-yan (gaining respect without effort) but he was wrong. As chief engineer in his company in China, Ken was able to wield his power over his co-workers. The highly stratified power structure meant workers had to pretend to respect him to get by. That behaviour was misinterpreted as wei-yan. Ken required a different place, a different context to realise that. 

Ken’s quest of gaining wealth and status was shifted furtively. He was awakened to the simple pleasures in life. They rode bicycles in the country, sipped wines, listened to classical music, discussed literature and politics and recited poetry. 

The transformative power of love was for all to see.


Tell us about the first time you were published?

My mother told us stories, which in my mind were unsuitable for the very young Cher because they seeded mistrust. However, those stories became the material for my memoir The House of Ninety-nine Closed Doors, self-published in 2007 after ten years of tears. I had wanted to write the memoir since the age of ten. The whispers, the secrets, the victims’ laments were pleading to get out. My tribal voice reprimanded me for hanging out the dirty linen but I could not ignore the victims’ pleas. It was important for later generations to understand the complexity of such a big, dysfunctional family. 

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

Stories of how migrants struggle against all odds to get here, to seek wealth, status and freedom have been told repeatedly, it is a well-worked over field in the words of Professor Sneja Gunev. 

Ken’s Quest breaks new ground in refugee-literature by showing that migration is a two-way street. I make a timely plea for the acceptance of migrants, but I also remind newcomers to work at being welcomed wherever they go. Rather than telling migrants to fit in, I spell out how refugees, migrants and people newly posted overseas can integrate better into their new surroundings. I challenge the underemployment of professional migrants in the 1990s. I discuss issues of gender, “face” and parent-child relations from the perspective of my old and new worlds. The discrimination against homosexuals and transgenders was revealed through subplots in the novel. I’m very proud of my courage to take a different approach to multiculturalism and encourage people to speak about their differences. 

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

I’m concurrently writing a novel and a play titled Su Su. The work explores the journey of a young student Su Su, a spoilt girl from a wealthy Singaporean family, set in the 1970s in Australia. There were many hurdles awaiting Su Su in the local high school and in the university. 

She was brainwashed by her mother who fed her Confucian philosophy. Su Su was expected to live a monk like life till she graduated from university. In the local high school her sexuality was rudely awakened by her classmate, Trevor, a rebel and a clown. The censored press in Singapore meant Su Su’s political views, understanding of the machination of government and world affairs were that of the government. Eve, her classmate in the Australian high school where she studied, turned those views upside down.

Su Su’s conflict accelerated when she met political activist Freckles, who became her lover. Now she was caught between offending her parents and plunging into political activities or standing back and displeasing Freckles. The1970s saw the political upheaval in Australia, the sacking of Gough Whitlam government, the opposition to uranium mining and the flood of Vietnamese refugees. 

Su Su was warned of the danger of participating in political activities by her mother Zum who declared herself as the decision maker in Su Su’s life. She had said, ‘Parents are traffic lights, warning signs to imminent danger and disobeying them was equivalent to running the red lights.’


Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why? Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

I like the feel of paper books, the aesthetics of a book cover and that the layout enables smoother reading. Having said that eBooks are convenient because I can change the font size. You see failing eyesight comes with aging! 

After reading Katharine Hamilton’s article on Indie versus Traditional versus Self-publishing I’m warming up to Indie Publishing. Traditional publishing is difficult to get into unless you’re established. The way the wholesale-retail operation works, the return to publisher is small and that means royalties are small too. Indie publishing seems to offer the maximum flexibility and you’re boss of the operation.


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

Ba Jin’s trilogy: The Family, Spring and Autumn.

Li Yaotang (25 November 1904 – 17 October 2005), better known by his pen name Ba Jin was a Chinese author and political activist best known for his novel Family. He is considered to be one of the most important and widely read Chinese writers of the 20th century.


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

Stories told by our ancestors, historical events of wars and violence all pointed to an unsafe world. Fear and mistrust is hard wired into the human brain. I also have been influenced by my tribal voices to not trust, to not let on too much. ‘They’ll take you down.’ The voices of my parents echoed in my ears, made me jumpy and edgy, my eyes roaming on the lookout for enemies.

I disobeyed them. I wrote The House of Ninety-Nine Closed Doors to expose our dysfunctional family. I let them down, hung out the dirty linen, felt guilty for a while, felt shameful for a while but decided the truth (the truth I have perceived) was more important than anything else. I risk severing relationship with family members over it but it must be told.

I went on to ask what’s wrong with questioning about other people’s values and beliefs. I decided there was nothing wrong if my motive was to understand them better. In writing Ken’s Quest I’m questioning multi culturalism in Australia and I risk rejection from many people who like to think everything is cosy and fine. 

I’ll cite an example about the harm in holding back. I’m slow in responding. A colleague once said, ‘Why are Singaporeans so Kiasu? They have to be at the top of the queue.’

I did not reply but I was furious and remained so for the next few years. By the way Kiasu is a Singaporean term which means “afraid to lose.” A Kiasu person never misses out on anything. He/she is always grabbing and grasping selfishly. If she had coined her question differently I might have the courage to respond. I was afraid that once I opened my mouth I might lose control. If she had said, ‘I find the go go go energy of Singaporeans difficult to handle. Can you help me?’ I would have been more motivated to explain. 

Communication can be very complex, easily misunderstood so think carefully about your motive. Is it a genuine reaching out? Is it a means of belittling? Even with the best of intentions sometimes communication can go wrong given the complexity of different cultural values. So my guideline: If unclear do not assume, ask for clarification.

Read Ken’s Quest. We need to move out of our comfort zone, explore, engage and grow. Spread the word.


Links

For purchase from publisher please go to

https://goo.gl/hoKrky



For private sale ($26 including postage) please email Cher Chidzey, go to cchidzey@gmail.com

To view author’s talks and posts please go to

https://www.facebook.com/KensQuestbook










Monday, 16 October 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)


Saturday, 14 October 2017

Literary Quotes



The sky aft was dark as pitch, but the moon still shone brightly ahead of us and lit up the blackness. Beneath its sheen a huge white-topped breaker, twenty feet high or more, was rushing on to us. It was on the break--the moon shone on its crest and tipped its foam with light. On it rushed beneath the inky sky, driven by the awful squall behind it.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Friday Funnies


Poor Sally. Often the Peanuts character who has both the most and conversely, the least, amount of imagination, she just doesn't get what is so fun about holding a balloon. (She's obviously not keen to start playing with it.) Oh well, at least we don't have to worry about any Peanuts/It crossovers anytime soon. 



Thursday, 12 October 2017

Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

If V.C. Andrews and Gillian Flynn had ever co-authored a novel the result would be something akin to The Roanoke Girls, a sinful tale of murder and incest. The Roanoke girls are rich, beautiful, mysterious, and cursed. All of the girls either run away from the family home in Kansas, or they die.

Lane is a survivor. She fled Roanoke a long time ago, but when her beloved cousin Allegra goes missing, she feels that she has no choice but to return--and hopefully to expose the wicked truth about what it means to be a Roanoke girl.

Despite the ugly subject matter, this novel was captivating. In duel narratives author Amy Engel skilfully moves between the past and the present to tell Lane's story. The first story is that of a fifteen year old girl from New York who finds herself living with her family that she has never met before, following the suicide of her mother. From the outset, it is clear that not one of the Roanoke family is quite sane or normal, not her cold grandmother, her charismatic grandfather, or her crazy cousin Allegra. In the present narrative we read of Lane as a twenty-something who is bitter, and who has every reason to hate her grandparents. The big questions are what happened to Allegra, and whether or not Lane can escape the curse of the Roanoke Girls. And while I won't reveal any spoilers here, I will say that the ending is expertly handled by the author and should satisfy even the most fussy of readers.

This one was an enjoyable read--the subject matter is heavy going, but the author handles difficult topics and nightmarish, quietly menacing situations with class, in the same way that V.C. Andrews did with Flowers in the Attic and Heaven. 

Recommended. 


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Review: The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews

A fascinating setting and a ripping (and often hilarious,) plot make The World of Tomorrow a winning read. In 1939, the World Fair opened in New York. For America, at least, it was a time of hope, optimism and unity with other nations. (Of course, as history cruelly reminds us, what lay in the immediate future was the Second World War.) In the middle of all this is Francis Dempsey an escapee from an Irish Prison, who after a misadventure involving an accidental explosion is now wanted by the IRA. In tow is his younger brother Michael, an escaped trainee priest, who had his eardrums blown to bits in the explosion, but who can now see and speak with none other than William Yeats. Francis also has a suitcase full of cash that he has stolen from the IRA and he's using this to fund his and Michael's escape to America, where they pose as a pair of wealthy Scotsmen and live it up in high society as they search for their older brother Martin who is a poor but talented jazz musician. Amongst this are other characters who do much to broaden out the story Cronin an ex IRA man who has found a better life as a farmer, but finds himself obligated to do one last job, and Lily, a photographer from Prague, whose tragic story reminds us of the atrocities that were already happening in Europe and how ignorant, or perhaps complacent, the rest of the world were to these events. Inevitably, the characters end up at the World Fair, in a storyline that is one, utterly entertaining and two, best left for the reader to discover. (I'll just say that it might have something to do with a royal visit.) 

Although long (551 pages,) and packed with characters and various tangents, this one makes for entertaining reading. I found the exploits of Francis and his alter ego Angus to be quite amusing (and I like that he remained a gentleman to the vulnerable Anisette,) and I loved the many musical references. The author does not shy away from the fact that there was a lot of inequality in the time and place where the story is set, and the story is better for it. The plot itself is a very clever play on real events. 

Highly recommended.  

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

Monday, 9 October 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)


A post shared by Kathryn White (@kathrynsinbox) on

Friday, 6 October 2017

Friday Funnies: Snoopy


Just another Peanuts comic. Poor Snoopy!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Review: Broken Glass by V.C. Andrews

An evil twin, a psychotic mother, a fraught family relationship and a shocking abduction are the themes of Broken Glass, the twisted second instalment in the Mirror Sisters trilogy. And it all goes downhill from there, really. The novel opens from the perspective of the supposedly evil twin, Haylee Blossom Fitzgerald. Haylee has just arranged for her identical twin sister Kaylee to be abducted by a crazy redneck who has marriage--and a honeymoon in a basement--on his mind. Never mind the obvious hell that her sister is about to endure, Haylee is looking forward to the prospect of being an only child. Maybe now her domineering mother will allow her to be her own person, instead of parading her and Kaylee around like a pair of purebred puppies. And no longer does Haylee have to be constantly good like her well-behaved sister.

Meanwhile, Kaylee is coming to terms with one, a massive betrayal from her sister and two, the fact that she's basically trapped inside a rape camp and needs to outwit her captor, Anthony Cabot whose resemblance to Norman Bates so close that he does indeed keep his dead mother in the house. Back at home, Mommy dearest has suffered a breakdown, the girls father is able to assert himself for the first time and everyone is too dumb to realise that Haylee has set the whole thing up. The ending is predictable enough, and the writing itself is quite trashy. 

I went into this one with fairly low expectations and had them confirmed with every twist. At least this time around there was no glorification of rape or sexual abuse, which has been an all too constant theme of many of the V.C. Andrews novels that have been penned by ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman. There was also far less repetition than the first novel. It staggers belief that Haylee could keep up her deception as long as she did, especially when it was obvious that the police, and Mrs Lofter, the no nonsense nurse brought in to care for the twins mother, was suspicious. Some parts of the story, such as Haylee's relationship with Ryan felt totally superfluous to the plot. As I said in the previous paragraph, the writing is trashy. This is all too common with the ghostwriter novels, of which there are now more than seventy titles. (It's debatable which titles were penned by Neiderman and which were penned by V.C. Andrews herself in the year or so following V.C. Andrews death.)

One of the most twisted parts of this novel comes not from the story itself, but for its possible similarities to the the disappearance of Tara Calico. It is believed that Calico was abducted and held against her will. Several months after Calico disappeared, a photograph of the young woman surfaced. In the picture, she was bound and gagged--and beside her was a copy of her favourite book, which just happened to be My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews. 

Not really for me, but fans of the series will probably enjoy this instalment.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Friday Funnies: Charlie Brown & Snoopy


Just sharing this Peanuts comic for fun. I love the fact that Charlie Brown is being well, a bit of a wanker, and then Snoopy gives him exactly what he deserves. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Review: The Tenth Doctor Archives, Volume 1

Although I have long been a fan of Doctor Who, I have never read any of the comics. When I found this beautifully presented collection in Dymocks, I decided to change all that and give it a go. I'm glad that I did. The Doctor's adventures translate beautifully in comic book form. 

This book features two full length stories, Agent Provocateur and The Forgotten. In Agent Provocateur, we meet the Tenth Doctor and Martha who are going out for a quiet milkshake ... and end up embroiled in a fun but almost nonsensical story featuring an alien who is hell bent on killing off entire alien races and starting a war. The Forgotten is a slower and probably the better story of the two for a reader such as myself who is a bit unfamiliar with the Doctor Who comics. In this adventure, the Tenth Doctor and Martha find themselves in a museum dedicated to the first nine doctors. Meanwhile, the Tenth Doctor is losing his memories and Martha has to help him remember all of the previous versions of himself so that he can survive. Of course, there are a few other sinister things afoot, but to talk about them would give away spoilers. I loved the flashback scenes featuring the other doctors. It was also oddly cool to see Martha again, and with it, a story arc that didn't follow her unrequited love for the Doctor, something which always annoyed me about the character. (She was such a strong, smart woman. Why was she so bent on having a boyfriend?)

Overall, this one is a great addition to the bookshelf of anyone who loves both Doctor Who and reading comic books. Recommended.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Literary Quotes



"What is life but a series of inspired follies?"



Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Review: On the Beach by Neville Shute

Neville Shute's classic novel about a group of people in Melbourne slowly awaiting their deaths from radiation poisoning following a nuclear war in the Northern Hemisphere is as chillingly real now as it was when it was first published in 1957. Set in the early 1960s it tells the story of three people, Peter Holmes of the Royal Australian Navy, who is married with a small child, Dwight Towers, an American naval officer who made his way to Australia by chance and refuses to accept that his wife and children are dead, and Moira, a spirited young woman who knows that she has nothing left and that her own death is inevitable. 

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this novel is its sense of inevitability. The human race has, essentially, stuffed things up for themselves. There is no one left in the Northern Hemisphere, and the radiation sickness (as it is known in the novel,) is slowly travelling further and further south. The characters know that they only have a few months left. They live their lives from day to day, trying to solider on as best they can, though each character deludes themselves in various ways. Peter and his wife, for example, plant a garden that won't flourish until the following year. Then something odd happens. The navy begins to pick up morse code signals from America. Is it possible that someone may be alive in the Northern Hemisphere, and what could it mean for the people in Melbourne? An expedition, and a lesson on the way that false hope can be given follows.

Well written, realistic and morbid, this is a novel that is memorable for all of the right reasons. While not a ripping page turner, it is an interesting account of a group of people who are facing their inevitable fate and how they cope with knowing that in a few months they, and everyone they care about, will be gone. 

Highly recommended.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challege 2017

Monday, 25 September 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)



I spotted Wally recently in a side street just off Rundle Mall. I hope he's having a good time in Adelaide! (Nah, not really. This is a traffic signal box on King William Street.)

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Advice For Authors: Coping With Negative Reviews

As an author, there is nothing worse than reading negative reviews of my work. It's bad enough knowing that someone hated my book enough to dedicate an entire post to it, let alone the fact that they took the time to search for gifs and then decided to post the review everywhere and now other people are liking that review. It's the kind of crushing, soul destroying feeling that makes me want to lock myself in a darkened room and never, ever come out, let alone write anything again. Well, I would, except for the fact that I can be a rather vengeful person in a lot of ways. I figure if anyone goes to that much trouble to write a negative review then they would probably enjoy the fact that they have just completely ruined a lifelong hobby for me and the best way to get revenge is to keep on writing seeing as they would probably hate that. Jokes aside, it is unpleasant being on the receiving end of a negative review. Over the years, I've found some different ways to cope with them, and thought that it might be helpful to share them here. So here are a few tips:

Don't read them

If you're really feeling the weight of negative reviews, then stop reading them. You're not obligated to read reviews of your work. If you really want to read reviews, then the time to do it is well after your book has been released and you're looking for feedback on how to improve your craft or to make your books more marketable. 

Don't take it personally

Very few reviews are written with the intention of hurting the author. A decent, honest review sticks to discussing the book. And if they say they don't like your book, that's very different from saying that they know you personally and don't like you.

That said, very occasionally, someone will write a review out of pure spite. The best thing to do in this situation is to ignore it. 

Don't contact the reviewer

Seriously. It doesn't matter how inaccurate their review is, the best thing you can do is ignore it. The reviewer is entitled to their opinion. Writing to them and pointing out everything that is wrong with their review isn't going to change their mind. If anything, it's only going to annoy them.

Don't fret about potential lost sales

A single review isn't going to garner enough interest from the entire reading public to ruin your book. Sure it looks a little shitty if the only review on amazon or goodreads is a one star, but who knows, the next reviwer could give it five stars. 

Understand that you cannot please everyone

It would be a boring world if we all liked the same books. Sometimes your book finds the wrong reader or reviewer. The people who don't like your book may not necessarily be the people that you are writing for. 

Realise that reviewing is a subjective business

If you don't believe me, visit Amazon or Goodreads and read through some of the one star reviews of Harry Potter. Actually, read through the one star review of any best selling novel, and you'll see that there are plenty of reviewers out there who didn't love it. In fact, just to prove how subjective reading is, here is a list of best selling novels that I can't stand:

  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCulloch 
  • Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel
  • Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  • No Greater Love by Danielle Steele
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James 

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you take your writing seriously. Listen to feedback, but don't allow a negative review to end your career.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Review: The Fall by Tristan Bancks

What if you were a twelve year old boy, on crutches, staying an a small apartment with the father that you barely knew, and, in the middle of the night, you witnessed a murder? That's the premise of The Fall, a brilliant, suspense filled novel for middle-grade readers. Sam is a pretty smart and resourceful kid, but he is taken by surprise when he sees a body fall from the apartment above his. He knows that the body must have been pushed, but when it disappears and his dad, crime reporter Harry doesn't believe him and then goes missing, Sam finds himself without much evidence and no support to help him prove that there has been a crime. And someone may now be after him ...

I thought that the novel was cleverly written and had enough to keep readers of any age entertained. Sam, I think, is a great character for boys to identify with--he's smart and resourceful, but most important of all, he's human. It's mentioned that he's had issues with bullying at school, anger management and also some possible behavioural issues. He sometimes resents the long hours his single mum works, and feels rejected by his dad. 

Overall a great read. Recommended. 

PS Bancks is also the author of the brilliant middle-grade novel Two Wolves, which I reviewed on here a couple of years ago.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Monday, 18 September 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)



I snapped this chap on Pirie Street recently, just near theAdelaide City Council chambers. For some crazy reason, he reminds me a bit of the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Review: We Ate the Road Like Vultures by Lynnette Lounsbury

A little bit mad, a little bit frivolous, full of shit, irreverent and completely entertaining--that sums We Ate the Road Like Vultures the first adult novel by Australian author Lynnette Lousbury. In February 2001, sixteen year old Lulu runs away from her family's cattle farm in Australia. She travels to Mexico, where Jack Kerouac is alive and well, and enjoying a suitably fitting retirement. Joined by Christian backpacker Adolph, Lulu finds herself on a crazy and unpredictable series of adventures.

This one was a short, though entertaining read. I thought it was a fitting tribute to Kerouac and On the Road. It's the kind of read that is perfect for when you're in the mood for something different.

Recommended.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Review: Billy and the Minpins by Roald Dahl

The prospect of a new Roald Dahl book is a very exciting thing. Billy and the Minpins is a re-imagining of The Minpins, one of Dahl's last stories, presented in an exciting new junior novel format and with new illustrations by Quentin Blake (who is, of course, the most famous and best remembered of all of the illustrators who worked with Dahl.) I do not remember The Minpins from my childhood at all--presumably the school library either didn't have a copy, or the book proved so popular that it was constantly checked out. Or maybe by the time it was published Australia I had reached that awful and foolish age where I believed that I was too old for certain things. Anyway, I was quite excited for the release of Billy and the Minpins, and happy bought a hardcover edition from Dymocks. I read the novel in the space of an hour, pausing constantly to enjoy the illustrations.

Billy is a small boy who lives on the edge of a very dangerous forest. He is warned by his mother not to go near the forest, due to all of the frightening, Dahlesque creatures that live there. He spends his time assuring his busy mother that he is being good, but one day curiosity gets the better of him and he travels to the forest ... where he meets a very dangerous creature indeed, along with the lovely Minpins. Together, Billy and the Minpins conspire to rid the forrest of the terrible Gruncher for good.

Overall this is a lovely  tale, fitting of its author. There is a lot of Dahl's humour, and the narrative is wonderfully, and beautifully, imaginative.

Recommended.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)



This city bank likes to keep their bank safe ... and sparkly! Love the lock!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Friday Funnies: Inappropriate Peanuts Memes


One of the weirdest things about the internet--and the shitty way that we now communicate with each other on a daily basis--is our reliance on memes. With a meme you can take basically, any person, photograph or pop culture icon and alter its meaning to suit whatever you would like to say. The results are funny (except when they're not, which is often) and may or may not be used to emphasise a point. Peanuts is, of course, an iconic comic strip and it gets used for various memes often. The memes can be clean: 


A bit inappropriate: 


Or downright vulgar:



And the worst ones take Peanuts so far out of its original context that, sometimes, I'd really like to shake the person who came up with them. The thing about memes is that they're art, but they are not necessarily good art. When you take something like Peanuts out of its context, you're also taking away the very element that made the strip so successful--that it was about seeing the world through a child's eyes. But then again, memes aren't supposed to be good art and nor are they intended to last longer than it takes to scroll past one on facebook. So is it worth caring about? Probably not.


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Literary Quotes



Surprises, like misfortunes, seldom come alone.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Review: The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

Shaped by three different narratives, set in three different continents during three different eras, The History of Bees is a beautifully written novel that is equally a story of parents and their relationships with their children as it is a dystopian that ponders our future. William is a biologist living in England in 1852, who after a bout of depression decides to work toward something more. Wishing to work with his beloved son Edmund, instead he discovers just how intelligent--and plucky--his daughter Charlotte is. In 2007 in the United States, George comes from a long line of beekeepers and is keen to pass his family heritage on to his only child, Tom, who has other talents and other ideas about his future. In China in 2098 Tao works to pollinate trees by hand--a job that she is massively overqualified for--and hopes to spare her son Wei-Wen from the same fate. Then something very unexpected happens ...

In recent months I've had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a number of excellent titles. The History of Bees is another title that I can proudly add to an ever-growing list of best reads of 2017. Each of the three stories was unique in their own way, though clever formed so that each worked perfectly together to tell the bigger story of the fragile relationship that humans have with nature, especially when we try to control it. There is also the not entirely dissimilar meditation on the relationship that parents have with their children--the hopes that parents have and the eventual realisation that their child is not just like their and their futures cannot be planned or controlled. Maybe it's my gender talking here, but I found the story of Tao and Wei-Wen the easiest to identify with. That said, both William and George (oh, how I hated him in the beginning,) challenged me, and helped me to see the world through a different perspective. I'd really like to talk about the bees more, but there is little that I can say on the subject without offering plot spoilers, and as I really enjoyed the experience of coming in to this book without knowing what to expect, I'd love for other readers to have that same experience.

Overall, an excellent read. Highly recommended.

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

PS I understand that author Maja Lunde will be touring Australia and New Zealand in February & March 2018 and expect to hear more news about this in time.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)



This is what happens when you walk through Rundle Mall in the rain and decide to photograph a local icon. Magic.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Friday Funnies: Book Harry vs Movie Harry


Saw this meme doing the rounds and it really made me laugh. The first time I read Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone, the movie was well, a bit of a way off still, yet I pictured Snape almost exactly as he appeared in the film. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Review: Spirits of the Ghan by Judy Nunn

For anyone who has read this novel, there is no denying one simple truth. Judy Nunn is genuinely passionate about the things she writes about--Australian history, people and politics--and she isn't afraid to give readers a genuinely strong female lead. Spirits of the Ghan tells about a small moment in Australian history--the construction of the Adelaide-Darwin Railway line--and brings with it a story of spirituality and a tiny dash of romance. Jess Manning is a young woman of mixed Aboriginal and Irish decent who has been hired as a negotiator to work with the local elders to ensure that all sacred sites are protected. Matt Witherton is a surveyor working on the line. Nunn avoids all the usual tropes and brings the pair together in a very different way--through a shared connection with the land and its people.

The story moves between the past and present to tell the story of a past wrong that Jess and Matt have to work together to put right. At times, the story felt rather fanciful and melodramatic, and there are many parts where the story lacks depth (Matt's relationship with Angie is one classic example, as is the turn of events that ends it.) There is no denying that Nunn re-tells Australian history in a way that makes it accessible to a wider audience. I suspect many who would rather pick up a Mills & Boon than a textbook would be pleasantly surprised by Nunn's writing style.

Overall, an easy read.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Review: Neon Pilgrim by Lisa Dempster

At age twenty-eight, Lisa Dempster undertook something that anyone would find daunting--walking the henro michi, an 88 temple pilgrimage through the mountains of Japan. At the time, Lisa was depressed and unemployed. It was also the middle of summer in Japan. Regardless, she makes the pilgrimage and tells her remarkable story in Neon Pilgrim.

This isn't a story of depression, or of the things that led Lisa to Japan. Instead, it's a story of someone who undertook a daunting task, succeeded and had a number of remarkable experiences along the way. Bit by bit, the author tells the story of her walking journey--of the temples, the traditions, and the people that she encounters--from new friends to people who well, seem to have their own issues.

The author speaks with a lot of warmth and a dash of humour. I enjoyed the gentle storytelling and it was easy to picture her journey through Shikoku.

Highly recommended.

Thank you to Ventura Press for my copy of Neon Pilgrim.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017


Monday, 28 August 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)


A post shared by Kathryn White (@kathrynsinbox) on

Furbies, furbies everywhere! Lately, it seems that wherever I go around Adelaide I encounter some of these cute and colourful stickers. Apparently, they're being made by a local artist who is doing it all for fun. Anyway, I saw these lovely furbies on the side of a flowerpot in Gawler Place, just adjacent to Rundle Mall and City Cross Arcade.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Review: Dr First originated by Roger Hargreaves

I enjoyed reading Dr Fourth so much that I just had to go back and read another title in this great mash up series that places the Doctor in his various regenerations inside the Mr Men universe. In Doctor First, a very grumpy doctor travels to his most hated planet--earth--along with his granddaughter Susan. Arriving there in the 1960s (of course!) calamity abounds as Susan disappears and the doctor goes in search of her, find a number of foes along the way, from hippies to pop music and, finally, the most irritating enemy of all, Cybermen.

This one was an enjoyable read that doesn't take itself too seriously. I loved the Doctors method for defeating the Cybermen, and I found that the Mr Men incarnations of both the First Doctor and Susan to be quite apt. (I love the inclusion of Susan's hat.) The 1960s setting is quite appropriate and leads to a bit of humour.

Highly recommended! 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Literary Quotes



But with the morning cool repentance came.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Review: Marge and the Great Train Rescue by Isla Fisher

Marge the zany babysitter with rainbow hair and a penchant for fun is back in three new stories that are just the right length for reading out loud. On the menu this time around is a lost tooth, a train ride and a trip to the zoo. But as Jemima Button and her little brother Jake know, when Marge is with them, their adventures will be anything but ordinary. How will Jake recover his lost tooth and ensure that it gets delivered to the tooth fairy? Later the three come to the rescue when the train gets stuck (much to the ire of an uptight conductor,) and some well, unexpected hilarity ensures when the trio visit the zoo.

Marge and the Great Train Rescue was an enjoyable instalment in a now well-established series, one that thrives on fun and imagination. All three stories were light and funny, making them perfect for kids to read on their own. There's also enough to keep adult readers entertained when reading the stories out loud. Eglantine Ceulemans' illustrations add to the light and fun feel of this novel. I understand that this is to be the final book in the series--which makes me wonder if Isla Fisher will be putting her pen down, or if she will continue to write in addition to acting? Time will tell, I guess.

Lots of fun, especially for kids. Recommended. 

Friday, 18 August 2017

Friday Funnies: Garfield Comic


Just wanted to share this Garfield comic, one that hails from the early days of the strip when Garfield was larger and, arguably, behaved more like a cat and less like a human ... 



Thursday, 17 August 2017

Review: Everyday Ethics by Dr Simon Longstaff

How do we live an ethical life in an ever-changing world? In Everyday Ethics Dr Simon Longstaff offers readers a practical guide on how to life a more ethical life. The book covers many, many topics, from Global Warming to Marriage to Making Ethical Purchases to Gender and the Workplace. Gently, Dr Longstaff presents each issue, along with a number of questions for the reader to ponder. 

I found this to be an interesting read--certainly a starting point on understanding the difference between doing what is good and what is right. (And yes, you guessed it, often the two can be a long way from each other.) And obviously, it's a sound reminder on how the decisions that each of us make can help to shape the world--so lets make them good ones.

The author is the Executive Director of the Ethics Centre.

Recommended.

Thank you to Ventura Press for my review copy of Everyday Ethics.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)




I spotted this big nose recently while I was walking through the Central Markets. It's a fun, quirky piece of art ... but I really want to be standing nearby if it should suddenly sneeze!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Review: PS I Like You by Kasie West

PS I Like You is a sweet YA read about first loves and discovering that, sometimes, there is more to others than we may realise. Lily is the second kid in a loving, working class family that has a bit of an artistic vibe--her father is a freelance furniture designer, her mother creates jewellery and sells it at markets. Lily herself has an interest in music, plays the guitar and is keen to enter a songwriting contest that is happening in her area. She's not popular at school--especially with the spoiled, BMW driving Cade Jennings--so it is a bit of a surprise when someone discovers that she's been scribbling song lyrics on a desk in her Chemistry class, and starts leaving her notes. Soon, Lily and the unnamed person are exchanging notes back and forth ... but bigger problems ensue when Lily discovers that the author of the notes is none other than Cade.

This was a light and entertaining story that I read in the space of an evening. It's sweet, cute and a little cliched, but the journey is a fun one. Lily's family were a lot of fun to read about, and the poor rich kid trope made for an entertaining contrast. There is really not much else I can say about this one, apart from the fact that it has some truly funny moments (poor Bugs Rabbit,) and anyone who goes into it not expecting Shakespeare will probably have a great time.

A little young and immature at times, but the fun more than makes up for it. Recommended. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Guest Review: Woodstock on "A Boy Named Charlie Brown"

Welcome readers. Today I am thrilled to present to you an awesome guest post, written by none other than Woodstock from the brilliant Peanuts comic. (Or, at least the person who emailed it to me assured me that their name was Woodstock.) Anyway, Woodstock has very kindly provided this review of the first ever Peanuts film, A Boy Named Charlie Brown ...


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Thanks Woodstock for a great review!


Friday, 11 August 2017

Friday Funnies: World's Most Lazy Cat


Well, some of us ...

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Review: Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Sometime during the twelve years since Does My Head Look Big in This? was first published Randa Abdel-Fattah's YA novel about religion, high school and adolescence has become something of a modern Australian classic, remaining popular with adolescents alongside the far broader audience of adults who read young adult fiction. And the reason is no surprise--although religion lies at the heart of this novel, it also nails the difficulties faced by teenagers, whether their parents are kind and supporting, like Amal's or whether they are strict like Leila's mother. The central characters in this novel are Muslim, and the characters often find themselves in situations were they are faced with ignorance and many different stereotypes.

Set in Melbourne in 2002 the novel opens with Amal making the decision to be a full-timer. That is, to wear her hijab full time, instead of on special occasions. It is clear from the outset that this decision is hers and hers alone, but it does not come without some opposition--her parents, who feel that perhaps she is making this decision too soon or too hastily, and the principal at her private school, which is, a Christian school. Fortunately, both Amal's parents and the strict Mrs Walsh realise that Amal has chosen to wear the hijab for herself, and agree to support her. Over the next few months, Amal grows older and wiser as she faces a number of difficult situations--bullying from the school resident mean girl, a relationship that can never happen with a boy from her class, and the struggles of her best friend Leila, a young woman who hopes to study law, which is against the wishes of her strict and poorly educated mother, who keeps trying to marry Leila off, because she thinks that it is the proper religious thing to do. (For the record it isn't.) 

This was an enjoyable read. My only criticism is that occasionally, the author appeared to try a little too hard to make Amal come across as friendly and likeable. Other than that, it's a realistic novel about adolescents that I think readers from a variety of backgrounds will be able to relate to and enjoy. 

Recommended. 

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Review: The Twentieth Man by Tony Jones

The Twentieth Man shines a light on a long forgotten terrorist attack--on 16 September 1972 two bombs were detonated outside at Yugoslav travel agencies. (Read more here.) Written and meticulously researched by ABC journalist Tony Jones (who readers of this blog might know best as host of Q&A,) the novel blends fact with fiction to tell a ripping story of Anna Rosen, a young radio journalist who might just have a very personal connection with the events, and Martin Katich, a reluctant revolutionary. 

Given that the author is a journalist, it should come as no surprise to readers that this book is extremely well researched--the author evokes a very sense of the politics and attitudes of the time, i.e. a change in government, blatant sexism and the possibility that there was more going on behind the scenes at Canberra than what the public knew about. Fictionalised versions of real people make an appearance, including then Prime Minister Billy McMahon, Jones' colleague from the ABC George Negus and, in a surprising bit of comic relief, Paul Hogan. Although suspenseful at times, much of this novel feels very technical--sometimes the storytelling felt a bit lost in favour of getting facts and details absolutely spot on.  

An interesting political thriller set against the backdrop of an almost forgotten event in Australian history. Recommended. 

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Literary Quotes



They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue is a rarity, a young adult novel that dares to suggest that sexuality may be more fluid than what most people know or understand. Ramona, nicknamed Ramona Blue because of her blue hair, lives in a trailer with her dad and older sister in a beachside tourist trap in Mississippi. To suggest that the family has not had much luck might be a bit of an understatement. They lost their home in Hurricane Katrina, and were subsequently ripped off by their insurance company, Ramona's mother left them because she didn't want to live in a trailer (and is now an alcoholic who works at a casino,) and Ramona's sister Hattie is pregnant to a guy who may as well be a leech. Still, Ramona loves her Dad and sister and works hard to make life more pleasant for them. The novel opens with Ramona saying a sad good-bye to her girlfriend, who is a tourist that was visiting town for the summer. It's a sad day, but one that is made better by Ramona encountering Freddie, her childhood friend, who has just moved to town permanently with his grandmother and his grandmother's new husband. The pair bond over their childhood friendship, the fact that they are both now in long distance relationships (and both eventually have their hearts broken,) and a love of swimming. And then, something surprising happens. They fall in love. This wouldn't be a big deal, if it weren't for the fact that until then, Ramona had been certain of one thing--that she was attracted to women. As she navigates this new relationship, she knows that she is still attracted to women, but she also knows that she is attracted to at least one man--Freddie. Ramona struggles with telling her family and friends (all of whom have been cool with her sexuality,) and her identity, but she eventually comes to a place of understanding. The novel ends on an optimistic note and I think that the whole thing was very well done.

I enjoyed reading this one, and enjoyed having my views on sexuality challenged. This isn't a novel where bam, suddenly the main character isn't gay anymore, but rather a story where someone discovers that attraction can be a very complex thing. In Ramona's case, being attracted to Freddie and being in an exclusive relationship with him does not invalidate her previous relationships or her identity. 

Ramona Blue is not available in Australia yet, but I was so keen to read this one that I ordered a copy from the US. (This led to the further benefit of me being able to buy a hardcover copy. Hardcovers are few and far between in Australia--due to high manufacturing and transport costs only the biggest and most important releases have a hardcover edition.) I'll be happy to mention a local publisher if or when that information becomes available--I know that Penguin Books Australia has published some of Julie Murphy's novels in the past, but I cannot see anything on their website to suggest that they will be adding Ramona Blue to their list any time soon. 

Anyway, this one is well worth a read if you feel like having your views challenged. Recommended.