Sunday, 30 September 2018

Friday, 28 September 2018

Review: Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Reason to Breathe is one of those books that is very much a product of its time. Originally self-published shortly after the release of Fifty Shades of Grey the novel and its sequels enjoyed such success that they were eventually picked up by Penguin Books and distributed to an even wider, and overwhelmingly enthusiastic audience, ones who were hungry for an emotionally charged romance.

Other than that, this novel is completely unremarkable.

Emma lives in a small town, the unwanted ward of her Aunt and Uncle. Her Aunt is abusive to the point where she is clearly psychotic, punishing Emma violently for imagined slights and keeping unfair rules. Emma's only solace is her best friend Sara and school, where she keeps up a high grade average and is on a number of teams and committees. She pushes the other kids away at school as she doesn't want them to know about her family situation. However, that all begins to unravel when Evan a new student, takes an interest in finding out more about Emma. Emma finds herself attracted to Evan but if he discovers the truth about her family situation, she could be in serious danger ...

This one is an emotionally charged page turner, fitting for readers looking for a romance with a fairly unlikely setting and with a heroine who is determined to fight against the odds. It suffers a little from cliched characters and, in many respects, the abuse Emma suffers seems like a dressing to complicate her relationship with Evan, rather than an examination of a serious issue. Emma's reasons for not reporting Carol are sketchy at best, which may set a poor example for younger or impressionable readers. Still, Emma's history which is given to readers in dribs and drabs makes for interesting reading. The novel ends on a heck of cliffhanger.

Recommended for readers looking for an emotionally charged romance. 

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Review: Donald and Mickey: Quest For the Faceplant by Disney Comics

This delightful Disney graphic novel is a compilation of some previous Walt Disney Comics and Stories issues, and stars a my favourite Disney characters--the titular Donald and Mickey, along with Uncle Scrooge, Goofy, Daisy and many other who I haven't seen in a Disney comic for years like Clarabelle Cow. Along the way there are many adventures to be had, such as Donald's trip to Africa in a quest for a rare plant, Mickey inadvertently getting caught up in an adventure while he and Goofy paint Minnie's fence, and Donald's nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie have fun aboard a riverboat with Garvey Gull, an adventure loving orphan. 

Most of the comics and stories were originally penned in Europe, where the Disney characters remain steadfastly popular, and have been translated into English. Consequently, (as is often the case with translations,) there are moments where the humour doesn't work quite as well as it should--the comic where Donald and Daisy are actors on a TV soap falls a bit flat. However, it was great to meet some new (to me) Disney writers and artists, the people who are continuing the fine legacy of Disney comic book artists Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson. 

Recommended

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Review: The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

Nova is in her early thirties. She possesses extreme intelligence, an ability to speak many different languages and she has a good job with the police force. She also happens to be visually impaired. When she undergoes surgery to correct her eyesight, Nova suddenly finds herself in a world where the things that she knew no longer make sense. There is one beacon of hope, though, her friendship with Kate. However, there is one thing that may threaten to end their new friendship, for good.

I purchased my copy of The Rules of Seeing after seeing it advertised on facebook by it's Australian publisher, the local division of HarperCollins. I was intrigued by the premise of an extremely intelligent woman in her early thirties learning to see for the first time, and, quite honestly, parts of that story are delivered well--Nova's confusion with depth perception, every day objects and wanting to go back to the way things were before her operation all seemed very plausible. The rules of seeing that she created as she went along were quite interesting to read. What was handled less well, and (unfortunately) turned this novel from a competent, well told story into mass market trash was Kate. Or maybe I'm being a bit harsh here. Kate was quite a sympathetic character. She's an architect stuck in an abusive relationship that she doesn't want to admit is abusive thanks to her partner's gaslighting, and has support from no one until Nova unexpectedly comes along and the pair find their relationship developing into something more. And it would have been compelling if Tony's antics had of been handled well. Tony plays out like the stereotypical abuser, absent when the plot requires him to be, and there and ready to pounce just as Nova and Kate's relationship seems to be going well. I also found it a little surprising that Kate was able to slip so easily into a same sex relationship despite there being no foreshadowing that she may be bisexual and with little thought to her sexual identity. 

Overall, this is a book with a great premise and some great moments that is let down by some clumsy handling of the subject matter.

Not really recommended.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Friday Funnies: Garfield and Moon Unit Zappa



Grody to the max. Gag me with a spoon. Like, no way. This Garfield and Friends short from Season 7 tells a mildly entertaining story of how Jon has to babysit his bratty niece Shannon for the day. Preteen Shannon uses Valleyspeak, which, for the viewers amusement, is translated by Dr Moonunit. Within the context of Garfield and Friends, it's fairly standard cartoon fodder, there's a joke, a set up and Garfield eventually saves the day through a mix of his rebellious streak and his cynical (but accurate,) take on human nature. And all in just over eight minutes.

However, there is some deeper satire at work here. Dr Moonunit's name is more than just an amusing joke. It's a tribute to Moon Unit Zappa, who is credited with inventing the term Valley Girl thanks to the song of the same name that she worked on with her father, Frank Zappa. But dig a little deeper into the Garfield universe and you'll also find this strip from the early 1980s:



Coincidence? Perhaps. There's also speculation among fans that Garfield creator Jim Davis used a line from a Frank Zappa album in a comic strip in 2008. It's entirely possible that Davis is a fan. 

PS Shannon has never appeared in the Garfield comic strip, and nor has she appeared in any other Garfield media. It's is unknown whether or not she is the daughter of Jon's younger brother Doc Boy.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Review: Letters to My Yesterday by Karyn Sepulveda

Three seemingly different women form a beautiful friendship in this lovely tale by debut novelist Karyn Sepulveda. Marie is 92 years old and runs a cafe at the front of the house that her windowed mother Rosie built during the 1920s. Dee is a frequent patron at the cafe, and the principal of a local public school that is undergoing some radical changes with the adding of an interfaith curriculum. Isla is a marketing guru, hired by Dee to help with the marketing and PR side of the changes at the high school. As the three women meet and bond at the cafe, the story weaves between the past and the present to tell the story of the challenges that each of these women faced. Dee came to Australia in the 1970s as a Lebanese Muslim and has faced many challenges since. Isla is a woman who has suffered a great loss, one that she blames herself for. Marie is the older and wiser woman who has seen it all--as we readers discover through the flashbacks of her life.

This is an enjoyable read. Marie, Dee and Isla all make for sympathetic characters and it would be difficult not to get caught up in each of their stories. Dee's experiences in particular gave me an appreciation of just how hard it would be to move halfway across the world to a strange new land where not everyone is welcoming and where even as a adult she is exposed to ignorance on a daily basis.

The novel is absorbing and tells the story of three very different women living in Sydney. It's very much a story of how people connect and the positive aspects of female friendship.

Recommended.  

Thank you to Ventura Press for my review copy.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2018

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Review: Carrie by Stephen King

What a joy--and a revelation--it was to re-read Carrie twenty years after I first picked it up as a slightly angry teenager. There's a reason why Stephen King is so well respected as a writer and his talent is obvious, despite this being his a novel and relatively short. 

Told from two perspectives--from books and articles written after the big event, and also in short blocks that form the story of what led up to the big event, we know that Carrie White, an unpopular high school student with supernatural powers destroyed not just the school, but an entire town on prom night. From there, King delves deeper and deeper, not only tells us what happened, but the crucial factor, the why. And it's entertaining stuff. It's difficult not to feel sympathy for Carrie, the misfit who has endured years of ostracism from her peers and suffered all kinds of abuse at home from her mother a supposed Christian fundamentalist. We also discover the bit players who made this tragedy occur. There is Sue Snell--a young woman so desperate to atone for her treatment of Carrie in the locker that her desperation borders on obsession, and she'll pay a heavy price, becoming one of the few survivors. Next comes Tommy Ross, the boy who gets caught up in Sue's plan, but finds himself a sacrificial lamb in more ways that one. Finally, there is Chris Hargensen, a spoiled and sadistic young woman, out for revenge, but who has no idea just how bloody her revenge will truly be. And somehow, the added element of telekenesis weaves itself into the plot perfectly, and believably. 

It's been a long time since I read anything by Stephen King, and re-reading Carrie gave me a new appreciation for his skill as a writer. This is an author who knows how to write a ripping, page-turning read, even while letting readers know early on how the story ends.

High recommended.  

Note: I previously read and reviewed Carrie for this blog in 2013. As the review was short and went off on an odd tangent, I have opted to archive it. No deception is intended. I have also read Carrie more than three times. 

Monday, 17 September 2018

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Review: Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan

Jane Doe isn't exactly welcome on the island of Bluehaven. In fact, the locals consider Jane to be cursed and have a special day each year where they burn effigies of Jane and her father. Shunned to live in a rat-infested basement with her father who is in a coma of sorts, Jane lives under the watchful eye of Mr and Mrs Hollow, an abusive couple who resent the task they've been given. At least their daughter, pyromaniac Violet, is nice. 

Jane's adventure begins, however, when her father disappears. Sent into a realm that leads to all other worlds she must fight to navigate this strange new world as she searches for her father, and discovers some surprising truths about herself and her abilities.

This one is a little bit Harry Potter, but with humour that is a little dark and, occasionally, a little bit off. I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped to, though it had some entertaining twists and some great moments--in particular I enjoyed Violet's return. Actually, Violet is a great character all around. 

The novel is the first instalment in the series, and comes complete with little in the way of closure and the obligatory cliffhanger ending. This book will probably appeal to readers in their upper years of primary school and lower years of high school (think grade 6 to grade 8.) 

Recommended to kids, but adults may find the whole thing rather tiresome.

I received a review copy of this novel from the Dymocks Booklover programme.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Review: Deceit by Richard Evans

Former federal politician Richard Evans offers readers a thrilling, twisty ride in his debut novel Deceit. Set in Canberra, it tells the story of Gordon O'Brien, a soon to be retired clerk of parliament who, along with investigative journalist Anita Devin uncovers a scandal that could shake the nation to its core.

Prime Minister Andrew Gerrard has a dodgy deal taking place with the President of Indonesia to fund an offshore immigration detention centre. The legislation should have passed quickly, and without suspicion, but Parliament is thrown into chaos when eight MPs are killed in a plane crash. As Gerrard tries to rush the legislation through, Gordon and Anita are busy uncovering the scandal and finding ways to foil the Prime Minister before he can get the bill through.

The author has inside knowledge of the workings of Parliament and it shows, as does his talent for being able to work it into a story that is at entertaining and larger than life, while still being utterly believable. The plane crash is an interesting scenario in itself and had me pondering how it would play out if such a tragedy occurred in real life.

Gordon and Anita make for sympathetic characters who only want to do the right thing by the Australian people, while Gerrard's come uppence is pretty sweet. The novel is the first part of a trilogy, so I'm keen to see what will happen once Gerrard starts his quest for revenge. 

A refreshing political thriller with authentic insider knowledge.

Recommended.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2018

Monday, 10 September 2018

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Interview: Andy Briggs Hollywood Script Writer and Author of Drone Racer

Hi everyone! Today I'm chatting with author and scriptwriter Andy Briggs, whose latest novel Drone Racer is released today by Scholastic UK.  This is an absolutely brilliant and insightful interview in which we discuss books, drones and film ...

Hi Andy, thank you for stopping by Kathryn’s Inbox. First of all, congratulations on the publication of Drone Racer. I was quite excited to discover that this is the first children’s novel to be published about drones. Do you think that it is important for children to embrace new forms of technology? If so, why?

It’s lovely to be here! I’ve always been a fan of new technology, especially when it emerges into the world and nobody is quite sure of how it will ultimately benefit our lives. A great example of that is the internet, without which we wouldn’t be having this interview!
            I believe people of all ages should embrace technology, but in particular children. After all, that is what will be shaping their lives. I remember the day I received a Commodore 64 home computer for Christmas. I was thrilled to play countless games (Manic Miner and Hunchback!), and had no inkling that it would lead to me, not only to writing Drone Racer, but sitting in my garden on a MacBook, connected wirelessly to the internet, answering your questions.
            Drones are a particular fascination because I have always wanted to be a pilot – but have been both too broke and lazy to learn (I have had both helicopter and aircraft lessons since, but they’re a cautionary tale). Now, with their onboard camera systems, I can soar over the countryside in relative safety. Moving this technology into new sports is even more exciting. Esports – playing video games in championship leagues – and even Formula E (racing robot cars) is coming. Even now, in the Middle East, they have robot jockeys for camel racing. Technology is altering everything around us – it’s vital we keep up to date!

Can you tell us a little about Drone Racer? How do the lives of Carson and his friends change after the discovery at the Air Force Scrapyard?

One of my passions are those (mostly 80s and 90s) films that embrace high adventure in ordinary suburbia. ET, Goonies, Batteries Not Included, Explorers – to name just a few. When I was younger they were the adventures I always longed would happened to me. With Drone Racer I saw the opportunity to bring that magic to three ordinary children.
            They soon discover that the drone they find is not all that it seems. She is Artificially Intelligent and goes by the name of Vanta. With her superior performance, Carson, Eddie and their team engineer Tracy (or Trix, as she prefers), see the opportunity to enter the drone racing league to earn a little cash. Of course, things start going awry as Vanta begins to garner attention, and her secret is revealed.
            Having a piece of technology as a lead is tough, so Vanta is every bit a fully-fledged character with feelings and attitude. She also becomes a confidante for Carson, who is struggling with the loss of his mother. The core of the story is one we all share – the need to be accepted and loved, even if we are very different.

You’ve had a long and varied career as a writer, working on scripts for film and television (including the script for Freddy Vs Jason,) graphic novels and, of course, a number of novels for children. For you, what have been some career highlights?

At the top of that list is a movie called Foreverman, which may never get made – but it gave me the opportunity to work with the legendary Spiderman creator, Stan Lee. Stan keeps in touch and gave me a lovely quote for my first superhero novels, the Hero. com and Villain. net series.
            I have had the opportunity to work with many fantastic people (including Tom Berenger, on a new film (Supervised) which is out towards the end of the year or the start of the next). But the most unexpected moment came this year with the critical success of my last feature film, Crowhurst. It’s a true story I had always found fascinating and our movie was in competition against the bigger Colin Firth version of the story which came out at the same time… and didn’t do so well. For our plucky little movie to garner such critical praise is a huge and humbling surprise.

Finally, is there anything that you’d like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?


Aside from the fact that Australia and Antarctica are the only continents I have yet to visits (and I plan to rectify this soon!), thank you for reading my books, written in a tiny country on the other side of the world. That in itself typifies the power of books – no matter who we are and where we are from, they bind us all together.

Thank you for stopping by Andy. Readers can order a copy of Drone Racer here

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Review: Paradox by Catherine Coulter

Prolific American author Catherine Coulter is back with her twenty-second FBI thriller. It opens with a twisty scene in which the young son of FBI agents Savich and Sherlock is almost abducted. Meanwhile, Ty Christie witnesses a murder on a lake--but when the divers find the body, they also discover a number of bones and a unique belt buckle. Naturally, there are plenty of twists, surprising connections and red herrings along the way in this explosive thriller.

While I have no doubt that this one will please fans of the genre, this one was not so much of a hit for me. There's nothing technically wrong with the book--it's well plotted and does everything that is promised on the back cover. 

This book was sent to me to review from Simon and Schuster Australia and I thank them for it, and for their generosity over the years sending me many wonderful book and exposing me to many new authors and, occasionally, even new genres. 

Monday, 3 September 2018

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)


A post shared by Kathryn White (@kathrynsinbox) on

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door is a sweet, fluffy teen romance with some sad bits, the kind of book that is suitable to pass on to tweens who are looking to read something a bit grown up, without the worry of the narrative being too, cough, cough, grown up. The plot isn't terribly original--Samantha Reed, a spoiled but often neglected rich girl, falls for the working class boy from next door and their romance is almost torn apart by tragedy--but the telling is light and breezy, and the leading characters likeable enough.

There really isn't much that I can say about this one, but if you're looking for a light and safe romance, this one ticks all the right boxes.