Thursday, 14 December 2017

Review: Darker by EL James

And then there were five. Darker is the newest book in the Fifty Shades series, and the second to be told from the perspective of Christian Grey, the perverse and psychologically damaged billionaire whose love for the innocent and wholly good Ana Steele may just be the one thing that saves him. This novel is essentially the same story as was told in Fifty Shades Darker, but told from the male's perspective. And while Christian Grey may not have any inner goddesses or surprising conscious subconscious's to deal with, he does have his problems, chiefly that he wants to be with Ana, and a couple of women are jealous of that and go to somewhat surprising and obsessive lengths to let him know that. The whole sexual violence and control element is there, though Christian is apparently happy enough to at least pretend to himself and others that he is having a normal relationship with Ana. 

Although the author's writing has improved somewhat, the book itself was not up to much--I didn't feel that I gained anything terribly new or insightful from Christian's perspective. There are no new scenes, or adventures to be had, which seems to defeat the purpose of telling the story from another character. (For example, what if there had been more with his interactions with Leila, Elena and some of the other characters?) The whole thing came across as the author and publisher scraping the bottom of the barrel of what has been a terrible, though wholly successful, franchise. 

For fans who cannot get enough of the series. Or people who buy books because they have a very buff man on the front cover.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Literary Quotes



"Can a husband ever carry about a secret all his life and a woman who loves him have no suspicion of it? I knew it by his refusal to talk about some episodes in his American life. I knew it by certain precautions he took. I knew it by certain words he let fall. I knew it by the way he looked at unexpected strangers."

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Review: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo is one of those Literary titles. The kind that when read at the right time can be worth more than their weight in gold. The flip side to this is, of course, when read at the wrong time, reading such a book can be a painful, thankless chore. Unfortunately, I read this book at the wrong time, and for the wrong reason. I bought it because it had been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. As we now all know, Lincoln in the Bardo was chosen as the winner. I think that the buzz about the book has settled enough for me to publish my review--something that I didn't want to do when there was a lot of high excitement about the title, and when it was most likely to reach those readers who would cherish it. 

From a shred of historical fact about the death of Abraham Lincoln's ten year old son, author George Saunders creates a rich and colourful world, where the recently deceased Willie Lincoln finds himself living in a cemetery among ghosts, each one quite lively and quite different from the other. In paragraphs that often alternate between the ghostly characters, each tells their life story. Parts of the book a terribly funny, parts are very clever and there is, of course, a great insight into human nature and what life was like for people living in that era. And, obviously, there is quite a lot of magical realism cleverly done. It's not difficult to see why the book won such a prestigious prize, and why so many readers--including those whose opinions I hold in high esteem--were very taken with this book. Unfortunately, something about it didn't work quite as well for me, and I am inclined to think that I may have read it at the wrong time, and almost certainly for the wrong reason. There is little I can fault the book itself on, apart from the fact that it annoyed me occasionally, and I found myself not really wanting to go back to it.

Maybe I'll return to this one another time, and I'll enjoy it then ...


Monday, 4 December 2017

What the Babysitters Club Taught Me About Diversity

It was with great surprise--and delight--that I discovered recently that the first sixteen books in the Babysitters Club series have been reprinted. These books were a huge part of my childhood. I still remember the first BSC book I ever read, and how my reading habits changed--for the better--after I discovered a copy of Kristy and the Snobs at my school library. Before then, I was barely interested in reading. One chapter in and I realised that I had discovered something very different, and special. This was a series about a group of girls who had got together, formed a successful business and were having a lot of fun along the way. Each girl had a unique personality, whether it be Kristy, an ambitious tomboy, artsy Claudia, fashionable Stacey or shy and sensitive Mary Anne. It was totally different from the types of books that I had read up until that point--Ann M Martin had a unique way of speaking to her readers and explaining a number of otherwise complex issues, such as Stacey's illness and the bullying that she had suffered in New York as a consequence. Over the series, many of their sitting charges would experience a number of issues as well, along with various key characters. Through the BSC I was able to discover what life was like for kids who were different from me. But what really makes the series stand out--is the subtle way that the author introduced diversity to her readers. Ann M Martin may not have always got it perfect (almond shaped eyes, anyone,) but it was always a sincere effort that was never shoved down the readers throats. The characters all had unique family units, and at times the characters struggled with their own roles within those units. There was also a very cool, and very diverse range of minor adult characters--in the BSC books there were female police officers and doctors, and gender was never shown to be a barrier for anything. At one point Jessi had a boyfriend who was a male dancer, while Mary Anne's boyfriend, Logan Bruno was portrayed as a compassionate and responsible babysitter. A number of social justice issues were addressed, including racial discrimination, bullying, divorce and illness. If the Babysitters Club were being written today, I have no doubt that the author would be able to--without fanfare--introduce a family unit that had two mums, or two dads. We might even see characters who are Muslim, and the Hobart family may become slightly less stereotypical. (Another sore point--midway through the series an Australian family was introduced and their surname really was Hobart. I'm surprised the Hobart kids weren't named Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Actually they were named Ben, James, Matthew and Johnny.)  Divorce and it's implications for kids pop up on several occasions. Stacey had to cope with her parents divorcing midway through the series, while Dawn and her brother Jeff, had to suffer the consequences of their parents splitting up and their mother's assumption that they would be happy to move across the country, away from their father. 

When the series opens, there are four core characters, who have all recently started seventh grade at Stoneybrook Middle School. The narrator, Kristy has recently turned twelve. She's tomboyish, ambitious, and the one who has the idea of forming the babysitting business that will become the core part of the series. Kristy also has a great backstory. She's the third kid in a family of four and the only girl. Her mother, Elizabeth is a working single mum. Kristy's father left when her youngest brother was just a baby, and the family have scarcely heard from him since. Kristy is struggling with the fact that her mother has embarked on a serious relationship with millionaire Watson Brewer who she suspects is a bad father to his two kids, Karen and Andrew. By the end of the first book, Kristy comes to realise that she's been projecting her resentment of her absent father onto Watson and that he is a very different man. Later story arcs would focus on Kristy's adjustment to her mother's second marriage, which involves her moving to a wealthier part of Stoneybrook where she is treated with suspicion by some of the other kids in her street, though they eventually become friends, and she finds romance with a local boy, Bart. In the spin-off Friends Forever series, Kristy's dad makes an appearance and Kirsty learns another valuable life lesson. Kristy's mother and stepfather adopt Emily Michelle, an orphan from Vietnam, midway through the series. Kristy's stepsister Karen resents this. Emily has some developmental delays due to the language barrier.

The second character is Claudia Kishi, who lives across the road from Kristy. Although she is the same age as Kristy, Claudia is a bit more mature than her friend (unlike the others, she is already wearing a bra and takes an interest in boys.) Claudia lives with her parents, her beloved grandmother, Mimi, and her older sister Janine. Claudia's relationship with Janine is quite difficult. The girls are quite different from one another, and one the surface, it seems that Janine, a studious high achiever, is favoured by their parents. Claudia is a talented artist, best remembered by readers for her quirky fashion sense, and her relationship with Mimi. Claudia is described as Japanese-American, and was born in Stoneybrook.  Claudia struggles with her grades, and concentrating at school, though it is clear that she has a high degree of intelligence. Her resourcefulness comes in handy on a number of occasions.  In one story arc, Claudia is able to identify the source of Emily's learning problems--unlike a number of adults--and is able to address them.

Stacey McGill is a New Yorker. She moves to Stoneybrook after her father gets a transfer. She is an only child (her parents cannot have any more children,) and is suffering from a particularly serious form of juvenile diabetes. Starting afresh in Stoneybrook, she initially tries to keep her illness secret from her new friends, but she soon discovers that the other members of the BSC accept her just as she is. Throughout the series the other characters are careful to accomodate Stacey's diet. The Truth About Stacey focuses on her standing up to her parents are searching desperately for a miracle cure for her illness, and also to Laine, her former best friend from New York who instigated most of the bullying.

The fourth and possibly most under-appreciated character in the series is Mary Anne. The child of a strict lawyer, Mary Anne was, initially, forced to adhere to a strict dress code. She was also described as a crybaby. In Mary Anne Saves the Day, the first novel to be narrated by Mary Anne, the characters learns to stand up for herself after the members of the club have a spat that lasts several weeks. Realising that she has allowed herself to rely too heavily on the others, Mary Anne begins to branch out, first making friends with Dawn, a new girl at their school, and then taking charge when one of her babysitting charges has to be rushed to hospital. Later, she realises that life is short and finds a way to reform the babysitters club, with Dawn as the fourth member. Her newfound maturity impresses her father, who drops the dress code and repeals some of the stricter rules. Most of the series focuses on Mary Anne's relationship with Logan Bruno. Although Mary Anne likes Logan, she has no trouble standing up to him, and broke up with him at one point when he became too controlling. In the final book in the original series, Mary Anne's house burns down. The spin-off Friends Forever series focuses on Mary Anne coping with the aftermath of the fire.

As the series continued, more members of the club were added, beginning with Dawn, who along with her brother is suffering the after effects of her parents divorce and being relocated to the other side of the country. Dawn eventually makes the decision to return to California, and a number of books in the series are told about her adventures over there. She eventually gets her own, series that focuses on topics that are a bit too dark for the core BSC series, and was aimed at a slightly older audience. The California Diaries later ties in with the Friends Forever series.  

Mallory and Jessi were a bit younger than the other club members. Mallory was initially a babysitting charge, but as the series continued and the characters aged, Mallory became a member of the club, along with Jessi, who had just moved to town. Jessi was the only black character in the club, and indeed, her family were the only black family in Stoneybrook. She suffers some discrimination from this. Jessi is one of the most compassionate members of the club, and most of her stories focus on Jessi helping others--whether it be a fellow dancer from her ballet school who has developed anorexia, learning sign language so that she can communicate better with one of her sitting charges, or her unsuccessful attempts at trying to convince the other kids not to bully a substitute teacher at their school. 

Throughout the series, there was a number of quite believable departures and arrivals at the club. The first member to leave was Stacey, who returned to New York when her father was offered a promotion. Stacey later returned to Stoneybrook with her mother after her parents divorce. By the time that Stacey returned to Stoneybrook, Mallory and Jessi had joined the club. The seven member club continued from book 28 to book 67. Later, Dawn departs for California, and a new character, Wendy joins the club. Wendy finds the club too restrictive and soon leaves. Shannon, a minor character from the series then joins the club in a full time capacity. Only one book--a special non-cannon readers request--is told from Shannon's perspective and tells of her struggles with her overly-attentive mother. Unlike the other characters, Shannon attends an upmarket private school. She initially comes across as quite snobbish. 

Peer group pressure occasionally exists between the characters. In book 12 the other members of the BSC become jealous when Claudia makes a new friend at her art classes. Ashley herself is quite controlling of Claudia, while the other girls become bullies. Later, Mary Anne falls out with the other members of the club after she gets a new haircut. Mary Anne stands up for herself and eventually, it is revealed that the others, particularly Dawn, are jealous.

And then came what was perhaps the BSC's most controversial moment. In book 83 Stacey quits the club just as Kristy is about to fire her. The story itself deals with conflicts of interest and maturity. Stacey has found a boyfriend and some new friends, and is enjoying taking part in normal teenage activities. This leads her to resent her duties with the BSC and their seemingly constant neighbourhood activities. In short, Stacey is enjoying having a life outside of the club, and feels as though she has outgrown it. She starts neglecting her duties and doesn't invite all of the BSC members to a party that she and Robert is hosting. Things come to a head and Stacey decides that it's time for her to leave the club. The timing of the release of this one is quite interesting--it happened just at the point when the generation of girls (and, I suspect, a few boys,) who grew up with the books had outgrown them. In fact, this was the last BSC release that I took much notice of. 
 
Later, a more mature Stacey rejoins the club--after discovering that some of her newfound friends have been using her. By then, other characters have had a chance to grow and mature as well. Soon after Stacey's return, the club gains another new member. Abby is Jewish, asthmatic and has a twin sister who would rather play the violin than babysit. Along with Shannon, she lives in Kirsty's neighbourhood. Abby's father died some years earlier in an accident. Despite having a solid backstory, Abby has never been terrible well remembered by fans, probably because she arrived so late in the series. 

I think the diversity works so well in the BSC universe because it is so subtle. It's just there. Claudia happens to be Japanese American. Abby is Jewish. Stacey has diabetes. A professionally employed person that the girls get advice from just happens to be female. It's never pushed on the reader, which allows them to simply accept it. And I think that's great.  

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Goodreads to Charge Authors to List Giveaways

Running a giveaway or two for their book has always been an essential part of marketing for any indie author and for small publishers. Goodreads giveaways allow authors and publishers to go straight to their target audience--readers--who are then able to pick and choose which giveaways they enter, which books they shelves and that small but vital group of readers who are interested enough in a particular book to go out and buy it if they don't win the competition. Goodreads would also create widgets linking to the giveaway that an author could list on their site. The site itself is impossible for authors to ignore, full of a community of passionate book lovers who can speak, largely uncensored, on all of the books they loved and loathed.

Sure there are a few challenges associated with running a goodreads giveaway--stumping up for postage if the winning reader, or readers, live overseas, or competition winners listing their books for sale on Goodreads, but the benefit of the giveaways usually outweighed the cost. Until now. Starting in January, Goodreads plans to start charging authors to run a giveaway. A standard package will cost US$119 and will allow authors to give away up to 100 Kindle versions of their books, while a premium package will cost US$599, and lists the giveaway on a more highly trafficked page. Initially Goodreads plans to only charge this for giveaways to the US, but it is only a matter of time before the charges become a global thing. 

As a small, indie author, I think this is a very bad thing.

Okay. I get that Goodreads is a business and the bottom line is that they are there to make money. In the past, revenue has been gained through advertising--via a small advertisement on the screen, usually tailor made to fit the user's browsing history. Goodreads also discovered a way to create additional advertising revenue--by allowing authors and publishers to advertise their book on the site. Those with an advertising account select a daily budget and bid per click. The higher the bid, the more times that Goodreads will run the ad. Initially, this was a relatively cheap way to advertise--for ten cents, an author could encourage more clicks and views on their book. In fact, I had some success when this first began with Being Abigail. By the time I released Behind the Scenes in 2013, however, this form of advertising was being used by publishers and other people with much bigger marketing budgets, which meant that it was no longer a financially viable option. I could either stick with my ten cents per click and wait a long, long time for my ad to even run, or I could pay more in advertising fees that what I would receive in royalties if that person who clicked decided to buy my book. Plus, I was getting a lot more clicks, reviews and actual purchases every time I ran a goodreads giveaway. Even so, I'd be lucky to recoup US$119 dollars in royalties, especially when you consider that my royalties still have to cover other associated costs such as editing and cover design. The actual profit (after costs) than an indie author can expect to make is extremely small.

In other words, I simply cannot afford to list my book as a Goodreads giveaway.

The question is, can I afford not to list my book as a Goodreads giveaway? 

Certainly, listing a book as a giveaway on Goodreads creates a significant amount of buzz and taps in to new readers--ones who aren't already following me on Goodreads. Certainly, I can--and do--give away books on this blog or on Facebook or anywhere else where readers may be, but I don't get anywhere near the same amount of coverage. Listing a book on Netgalley costs upwards of $500 and there is no guarantee that anyone will even download it. And if I list books for free anywhere else on the web, anywhere that I have the book for sale will usually price match, listing the book for free, meaning that I miss out on sales. 

Goodreads are still allowing me, as an author to do other things for free, such as having an account, and creating widgets for my blog that link to where my book is listed on Goodreads, which provide small, but vital, bits of publicity.
Goodreads giveaways were always a vital lifeline for indie authors seeking free--and fair--publicity. Soon they'll be gone from the US. In the meantime, I can still list a giveaway for free in Australia, but the question is, for how long? 


Friday, 1 December 2017

Friday Funnies


At least Peppermint Patty meant well. Actually, this one is a great reminder of how the advice of adults can be so easily misconstrued by children.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Review: Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein

Imagine a time when children and teenagers are taken and forced to perform gymnastics for the amusement of aliens. That is the premise of this now-classic Australian YA novel by Gillian Rubinstein. As the novel opens, Joella informs us that she and her siblings Peter and Liane are on the run. The trio have experienced a terrible ordeal. Abducted by a human talent scout, the trio are taken and held captive in an arena. Peter and Liane are forced to be performers along with a group of other kids, while Joella (an unsuccessful gymnast,) is taken away to become a pet for one of the aliens. Joella has to use her will--and her wit--to survive, but who can she turn to? More importantly, who can she trust? And what is the terrible secret behind the Galax-Arena?

I first read this novel when I was in my early teens, and I was surprised by how much I had forgotten when I picked it up again. Possibly, I was a little too young when I read it and much of it went over my head. In any case, I was rather impressed by it all the second time around. Although the setting is fantastic, the deceptions and allegiances and other awful bits of human nature ring true. And one thing that I was really impressed by is the way the author presented a truth that is rarely spoken about in young adult fiction, but one that is certainly worthy of discussion--that older people can be quite jealous of young people because of their youth, and are all too eager to exploit them for that exact reason. (I wish I could elaborate on this point further, but it would be quite difficult without giving spoilers.) Joella is quite a mature and resourceful character, the opposite of her older brother, the supposed golden child of the family. The other children in the book, or pebs as they call one another, make for quite an interesting and motley bunch, who are surviving as best they can in an environment where they are forced to both trust and dislike each other. And, of course, Bro Rabbit makes for quite an interesting plot device.

This was meant to be the first book in a trilogy. The second novel, Terra-Farma was published in about the mid-1990s, while the third book in the trilogy to have been titled Universrcus remains unpublished.

Random trivia: Wikipedia lists the initial publication date of this one as 1995, while Goodreads lists it as 2001. Galax-Arena was, in fact, initially published in 1992 by Hyland House and was an Honour Book in the Children's Book Council Awards 1993.

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

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Review: The Burden of Lies by Richard Beasley

The underbelly of Sydney's corporate world--one full of cocaine and corruption--is the setting for this entertaining and well written legal thriller. Peter Tanner is a maverick barrister with a distaste for many of the people that he represents. When he is called in to defend Tina Leonard, a woman accused of murder, Tanner finds himself delving deep into the corporate worlds of banking and construction, where everyone has an agenda and where everyone will do anything to save their reputation. Nothing about this case is straightforward, least of all Tina. 

This is the first novel by Richard Beasley that I have read. The genre is a world away from the things that I usually read, but when the authors' Australian publisher, Simon and Schuster, offered me the opportunity to review this one, I decided to take a bit of a chance. I found myself thoroughly entertained by Tanners thoughts about corporate world and the people that he represents (a cricket bat scene early on is quite memorable,) and caught up in the case. I admit, I wondered a bit about Tina and what she might not be telling her lawyer, but the author ties all of this into the story in a satisfactory manner.

A solid story set in a corrupt world. Recommended. 

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

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Review: My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg

Candice Phee is twelve years old, beautifully honest and just a tiny bit different from the other kids in her class. When she is asked to write an autobiography for a school project, she takes the task very seriously, documenting her life from A to Z. And what a life it has been. Candice might be a bit unusual, but she certainly cares about her family--her mum, her dad and her rich uncle Brian, and her friend/boyfriend Douglas from another dimension--and she does her best to make them happy, with some hilarious results.

This was a wonderful and fun read about a young woman who doesn't always fit in, but who manages to come up trumps despite the odds. Candice doesn't really get along with the rest of the kids in her grade, who have dubbed her S.N. or Essen (short for special needs,) but she rejects that, and other labels that adults try to give her (such as being autistic, or on the spectrum.) She tells people, "I'm me," and I think that is all readers really need to know about Candice. She's accepting of other kids, to the point where she believes wholeheartedly in Douglas's story that he's actually from another dimension and came to this world after he fell out of a tree, and where she wants to help Jen Mashall, a bully who struggles with her schoolwork. But she also tries the patience of her parents, both of whom are still grieving for the loss of Candice's baby sister. Candice grieves for her sister in a very different way, which her mother who is not only a cancer survivor, but who also has depression, finds very difficult to deal with. But the family unit is at its best when the Phee's allow Candice to be herself, though the parents do find themselves on the receiving end of a number of Candice's strange, but well meaning, plans.

Entertaining and endearing, I think this is a YA novel that will be enjoyed by adults as much as teens.

Highly recommended. 

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

PS My Life as an Alphabet is published as The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee outside of Australia. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Friday Funnies: Bert and Ernie Come Out as Asexual Puppets



Found this online recently and nearly died laughing. Diversity and role models are a great thing. But we should never one, take ourselves too seriously and two, speculate about other people's lives just to prove a point.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Review: The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch by Nicki Greenberg

The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch has something for everyone--witches, a class full of crazy kids and one very sulky and badly behaved cat. Zelda Stitch is not exactly what you would call a terribly good witch. Actually, she's rather bad at it, and has decided to try her hand at something else--being a primary school teacher. Through her diary entries, we laugh and cry with her as she navigates her first term as a primary school teacher. Not only does she have naughty children to contend with, but there is MM the uptight Vice Principal and she must keep her witchcraft under control, or else her career as a teacher is finished. And then there are all the problems that are caused by her cat/companion Banarby. A rather discontented and disagreeable puss, Barnarby would much rather be the companion of someone who was a proud and capable witch--basically the opposite of Zelda. But through her first term at the school, Zelda learns some valuable lessons about working with others, and some valuable lessons about herself.

Although this one is pitched at middle grade readers, I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions, and rather enjoying all of the illustrations, especially the ones that featured Barnarby. (And what a grumpy thing he was too!) Zelda herself is a lovely character, one who readers of all ages will be able to identify with and cheer for. This one is a lot of fun, with plenty of madness and mayhem. 

Recommended. 

This book was read for the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Review: Firelight by Kristen Callihan

Firelight would have made an absolutely ripping short story or novella. There's a lot of romantic and erotic potential in this paranormal story about a poor young woman with a strange gift who is more or less forced into marrying a rich man who always wears a mask. And while there is a good lot of chemistry between the characters, and a lot of mystery, the story itself feels too long. The mystery lacks depth, as do most of the characters. 

Miranda Ellis is a young woman living in London in 1881. She is forced to marry the disfigured Lord Archer, a man who never shows his face and who has secretly been admiring Miranda from afar for the past three years. Archer makes Miranda's father an offer he can't refuse for her. The pair marry, realise that they're hot for each other, don't do anything about it for far too long, and then, one by one, a number of Archer's old friends start getting popped off. Most of the story focuses on whether or not Archer might be the killer, and it all becomes rather dull after a while. It felt very tiresome and overlong to me, and I feel that more could have been done with the paranormal element, especially Miranda's gift. 

This novel is the first in a seven book series that has garnered mostly favourable reviews, so I imagine that it has its fans, but the book and writing style really weren't for me. I also find myself wanting to weep just a little for a world that would rather read this than Jane Eyre. Then again, I also weep for a world that finds it acceptable for an author to use the word "cocksucker" in a book set in Queen Victoria's England. 

Not really recommended.  

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Literary Quotes


Above the rumbling in the chimney, and the fast pattering on the glass, was heard a wailing, rushing sound, which shook the walls as though a giant's hand were on them; then a hoarse roar as if the sea had risen; then such a whirl and tumult that the air seemed mad; and then, with a lengthened howl, the waves of wind swept on, and left a moment's interval of rest.



Friday, 17 November 2017

Friday Funnies: Cute Tips


Love this Peanuts comic

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Review: Came Back to Show You I Could Fly by Robin Klein

Arguably Klein's best work, there's a strange sense of hope in this novel about friendship and addiction. Seymour is a bored and lonely kid who has been sent to stay with a family friend in suburban Melbourne while his mother tries to sort out a bitter custody dispute with his father. Forbidden to leave the house, eleven year old Seymour sneaks out one day and soon finds himself being chased by a local gang. He stumbles through a back gate where he meets Angie, a friendly and imaginative young woman. The pair soon develop an unlikely friendship and help one another out. It's difficult to believe that someone as lovely as Angie might have a dark side, but that is exactly what Seymour discovers as he learns more about Angie and slowly puts the pieces together.

This is the first time that I have read Came Back to Show You I Could Fly in over twenty years--I can't quite remember how or when I read it the first time, only that our local KMart had a copy that I could not afford (and, consequently, never bought,) but I imagine that I must have borrowed it from either a school or public library. In any case, I was thrilled when Text decided to publish this one as a classic and bought a copy from Dymocks. I'm pleased to say that it still packed quite a punch, despite being written and set in the late 1980s, and despite the fact that I was well aware early on that Angie had a problem with addiction (instead of having to slowly put the evidence together, like I did when I was a kid.) Angie's an interesting character--it's clear from the start that she's keen to act like a big sister to Seymour and that she wants someone to look up to her. However, the life that she has led means there is a huge trail of destruction behind her, and she's done a lot that her upper middle class family find very difficult to forgive. I guess what, ultimately, Klein shows with this novel is the human side of drug addiction. Meanwhile, Seymour learns a few harsh lessons about growing up, though he gets through it okay.

Highly recommended. 

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

PS In 1993 the novel was made into a film titled Say A Little Prayer. To the best of my knowledge, the film has not been released on DVD

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Review: The Secret Pony by Elspeth Reid

If Colin Thiele had written an episode of Home and Away, the result would have been something akin to The Secret Pony, a  children's novel from the mid-1990s that I found secondhand recently. Scartlett is a good kid who is, essentially, just trying to roll with the punches. The past year hasn't been great--her parents have split up and now she and her two younger sisters are trying to get used to life in a small, beachside town in New South Wales. The local kids don't really accept Scarlett, and she feels quite lonely. She misses her Dad, and her old friends. Most of all, she misses being able to go horse riding, something that she did often back when she lived in Sydney. (There are no stables near her new home, and in any case, her family can no longer afford to pay for riding lessons.) One night, a kind of miracle happens, when a white stallion just happens to stumble into her yard. Scarlett knows that the horse, who she names Silver, has been mistreated--and instantly suspects Wendee--a spoiled girl who has just arrived in town. With the help of Adrian, the school nerd, Scarlett finds a way to hide Silver and keep him safe.

This novel was enjoyable enough, and would certainly appeal to any pre-teen girl who has ever wanted to keep her own horse. Scarlett's adventure was a little far-fetched in places, though it made for interesting reading. (Because hey, who wants to read about kids who follow the rules. Plus her and Adrian's solutions to various problems were quite innovative.) More troubling was Wendee, the spoiled rich girl who continually wanted to do "bad" stuff such as smoking, and taking her father's Mercedes without asking and using it to do burnouts. Or, at least Wendee claims that she wants to do these things! (I suspect she just wanted to look cool in front of Scarlett.). Ultimately, the novel is an inoffensive product of a bygone era, one where children's books were filled with ordinary kids having adventures and learning some valuable life lessons along the way. 

Recommended.

PS Some trivia: Author Elspeth Reid is the mother of actor/author Isla Fisher. She wrote two novels with her daughter in the mid-1990s, and according to the bio in the back had some other novels and short stories accepted for publication. (I am unable to find details of any of these, so I don't know if they were published using a pseudonym, or if they were published somewhere other than Australia. If anyone has any information, feel free to let me know in the comments section below.)

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Review: Autumn by Ali Smith

Autumn left me marvelling at its brilliance and wondering how on earth this shit got published. It's the story of a little girl and her friendship with an elderly neighbour, it's a story of a grown up woman visiting a dying man in a nursing home, it's the story of how one man escaped the holocaust and lived a long life in England, it's the story a nation in political turmoil, and it's something of a modern tribute to Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. In other words, this book is everything and nothing, it's brilliant and it's stupid, it's good enough to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize but, evidently, it was not good enough to win. 

And that's really it. Everything and nothing. Yet strangely addictive.

This may well be a book that needs to be read two or even three times to be appreciated.

Recommended. 

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Rememberance Day: What Have You Learned Charlie Brown?



Lest we forget.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Friday Funnies: Realistic Garfield


Thursday, 9 November 2017

Review: The Last Long Drop by Mike Safe

Johno Harcourt is a seasoned journalist living in Sydney. Made redundant on Christmas Eve, he finds himself a little lost--he's the wrong side of fifty and the rest of his family, wife Tess and children Jack and Kirsten, are going from strength to strength with their own careers. He spends his days surfing and hanging around with his old mates until one day, the opportunity comes up to be the ghostwriter for the biography of Australia surfer/Hollywood legend Mike Vargas. Soon, Johno finds himself on a bigger adventure that he had counted on ...

This story is, essentially, about a man who defies the odds and finds a new path after he finds himself without steady employment. It's also a rollicking adventure featuring some mad keen surfers. I think this one will appeal very much to any reader, particularly an older male reader, who has found themselves at a bit of a crossroad and want that sense of hope, that it is possible for life to begin again after a redundancy. I felt that the author rambled sometimes and it took a little while for the story to get moving, but on the whole the story was entertaining enough.

Recommended.

Thank you to Ventura Press for my review copy.

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

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Review: It's Yr Life by Tempany Deckert & Tristan Bancks

Sim and Milla are as different as two teenagers can be. Sim lives in Byron Bay with his foster family who spend their evenings dumpster diving for food. Milla lives in California with her rich and famous parents. When the pair are forced to email one another for a school assignment, they discover that they may have something in common--each has a dark secret, and they both just might be able to help one another ...

This was an entertaining read, told from the duel perspective of two kids who appear to be quite different on the surface. The early interactions between Milla and Sim were extremely amusing, particularly as each one was keen to assert themselves. Over time a genuinely friendship develops, so much so that Sim becomes the one person that Milla can confide in--and it turns out that her problems are pretty serious, though believable. Parts of Sim's family story are quite gross, but in a way that is more amusing than offensive. It's interesting to watch the characters grow and discover just how much they have in common. (On that, the irony of their names wasn't lost on me, Sim & Milla.)

Overall, this is an enjoyable YA read that kept me entertained and, occasionally, guessing.

Highly recommended.

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

Monday, 6 November 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)



A post shared by Kathryn White (@kathrynsinbox) on

I spotted this tram mural in Adelaide recently. It pays tribute to the old H-Class trams that ran along the route for many years. New trams were purchased in 2007 when the line was extended and the H-Class trams were reduced to special historic weekend services before eventually being decommissioned.  Some of the trams now live at the St Kilda Tram museum, while another is on permanent display at Glenelg. 

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Review: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

While Rebecca, or My Cousin Rachel, or even her short story The Birds may get all the fame, Jamaica Inn is most certainly Daphne du Maurier's finest novels. A gothic romance of innocence lost, it tells the story of Mary Yellan, a young woman sent to live with her aunt and her aunt's abusive husband in Jamaica Inn. The hotel is a front for such terrible criminal activity that no one even dares speak of it. What Mary uncovers at Jamaica Inn is so terrible that she will never be the same again. 

This is a page turning novel of murder, greed and innocence lost. It is difficult not to get caught up in the flowery prose and twist upon twist as Mary uncovers murders, thefts and shipwrecks and learns some painful lessons about what makes a good man. Like many gothic novels, a theme or two is lifted out of the works of the Bronte sisters, but the story works better for it. The author has a solid understanding of male-female politics, which adds a pleasing level of depth to the plot as Mary struggles with a sense of self versus her feelings for Jem--a horse thief who though dishonourable and rude, may also be the one man who truly cares what happens to Mary. 

Overall, Jamaica Inn is an entertaining read that stands up just as well today as it did when it was published eighty years ago.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Great ...


I'll just leave this here ...

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Review: Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Imagine being a kid looking for eels and stumbling upon an ancient sword. Not only is the sword ancient, but it is enchanted and it can speak. Better yet, it turns out the one who pulls it from the water will be a knight. That's the opening premise of Have Sword, Will Travel, the first book in an exciting new series for kids, written by Aussie Authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams. (Fans of the genre might recognise these two as the authors of the Troubletwisters series.) Odo and Eleanor are out looking for eels when they discover the enchanted sword. Only trouble is, that it is Odo who pulls out the sword and it is Eleanor who wants to be a knight, just like her mother was. As for the sword, well, Biter, just won't stop shouting instructions and he wants to send these kids on a mission to slay a dragon, immediately! Lots of fun and adventure follow.

I absolutely enjoyed reading this one for its clever humour, adventure and the sage lessons that Odo and Eleanor learn along the way. There are a lot of twists and turns (oh that Sir Saskia ...) and each one is well written and the world building is quite thorough. 

This one has a lot to offer readers of all ages. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Sean Williams for my copy of Have Sword, Will Travel.

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

Friday, 27 October 2017

Friday Funnies: Harry Potter Meme


Well, I can't argue with that logic.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Literary Quotes



"I love them," said Dorothy. "They are so nice and selfish. Dogs are too good and unselfish. They make me feel uncomfortable. But cats are gloriously human."


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

The latest Literary YA offering from John Green starts off strong, and ends on a depressingly real note. Aza Holmes is sixteen years old and is basically a good kid. She tries hard at school, gets along well with her best friend Daisy and loves her Mum, who also happens to be a teacher at her school. (Aza's Dad died a few years earlier.) Aza also happens to have anxiety. Aza and Daisy get caught up in a missing person's investigation--the father of Aza's childhood friend Davis has gone missing--and she learns a few important lessons about life, and managing her mental illness along the way.

This is a difficult book for me to review as I very much enjoyed the opening chapters, and the realistic depictions of what it is like to be living with a mental illness. The reader travels with Aza through her obsessions, thought spirals and how she navigates her first relationship when her illness threatens to get in the way. I also liked how the author showed the impact that Aza's illness had on Daisy, and how their friendship can suffer for it. (And Daisy certainly had an interesting outlet for her feelings.) Less strong was Aza's relationship with Davis--there wasn't a lot of chemistry there and at times, it seemed that Davis really only put up with her for lack of somebody else. Then again, Davis was also a kid who had not been raised in a loving household, so maybe it was difficult for him to accurately depict his feelings, hence why his secret blog contained so many metaphors. Overall, though, the Davis/Russell Pickett story felt somewhat hollow to me. And, as is the case with much of Green's work, there is a lot of intelligent teenage philosophy in there as well. 

Green's strong point is his depiction of mental illness and his depiction of Daisy as a strong and likeable character.

Recommended.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Love, Unrequited by Kathryn White



Exciting news! I have a new (very) short story available for download on Smashwords. Love, Unrequited is a Literary short story about a young woman who develops a crush on an older man. She starts to lose her mind a bit, as you'll see as the narrative goes on. I wrote this one a long time ago (back in 2012) but I've only plucked up enough courage to publish it now. Anyway, the link if you'd like to read it is: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/754531

Hopefully the story will be available on iTunes, Kobo, B&N etc. soon.

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