Thursday, 29 August 2019

Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

It is a crazy world, and the poor little rich girl at the centre of this novel would like to escape from it. No, not in that way, she just does not wish to do anything for a little while. With the aid of an extremely questionable physiologist, she doses herself up on pills that hinder her from having to interact with anyone. The plan is to do this for a year. The reality is something much darker.

This one is a black comedy about how a person can have all the material things in the world, but it will not make them happy. Through the unnamed narrator, we learn of the events that led her to this point--her parents who never truly saw or understood her, the self-centred older boyfriend who is in love with himself, not her, and Reva, the best friend who, though she envies her, is probably the nicest one of the lot and could probably do a lot better as far as friends go. 

I cannot say I enjoyed this one, but much like the pills that are narrator takes, something about the novel is quite addictive. Maybe its some of the darker moments, and the showcasing of the worst of human behaviour. Maybe it is the fact that, despite everything, I held on to some hope that the narrator's situation would improve. Whatever it is, it certainly was addictive.

This is one of those novels that will ultimately divide readers--you'll either love it or you'll loathe it.

Random trivia: Author Ottessa Moshfegh was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2016 for her previous novel, Eileen. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Review: After We Collided by Anna Todd

Poor, suffering innocent Tessa Young and her bad boy ex Hardin are back in After We Collided, the sequel to Anna Todd's fan fiction turned bestseller After

After discovering the sordid secret that Hardin and his posse of so-called friends have been keeping from her, Tess knows that she has to get away from him, and fast. What follows is a huge emotional rollercoaster as both Tess and Hardin struggle with the sudden collapse of their relationship and the weight of his actions. There is a lot of splitting up and getting back together, along with a love triangle that ends up pushing Hardin to the edge. Meanwhile, we get to meet his mother and learn a little bit more about his tragic history.

I'm not going to pretend that this one is hardcore literature, because it isn't and it was never intended to be. What it does, and does well, is offers readers an entertaining and occasional sexy story that is very much driven by the emotions of the two lead characters. Hardin is not a nice person, he's a terrible boyfriend and Tess would be better off without him, but the author never pretends or wants readers to think that he is an ideal man. 

The 600+ page novel ends on a cliffhanger--and it's not just Tess and Hardin's relationship that is hanging in the balance this time.

If you loved After, then no doubt you will enjoy this one too.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Corella Press Blog Tour

Hi Everyone, today I am absolutely delighted to be a part of the Corella Press Blog Tour. Corella Press is an exciting new not for profit imprint from the University of Queensland. In this post, Despina Kalatzis gives us an interesting behind the scenes glimpse of her journey into the publishing industry through Corella Press. I loved her story and I hope that you do too ~ Kathryn.


Corella PressTM

BLOG TOUR

My experience with Corella PressTM has given me a keen insight into how the writing, editing and publishing industry operates. Corella PressTM instilled in me the professionalism and self- confidence to partake in various facets of the publishing industry—from acquisitions, to transcription and editing of a nineteenth century manuscript, to marketing and launch preparation. This internship fostered my ability to balance a leadership role, as well as a peer role. Corella PressTM reinforced the importance of working within a highly collaborative team that had a bee-hive mentality, but also one that bolstered independence and responsibility when required.

At the beginning of this year, I was a recipient of an email that Kim Wilkins sent out notifying students of internship positions at Corella PressTM. As having already been a Corella PressTM intern last year, I emailed Kim to see if I could re-join the team. With a joyful, encouraging and supportive reply, both Kim and Meg said they would be more than happy to have me back on board. So, in the induction internship interview with Meg, I expressed my keenness to partake in an editorial or proofing role. Meg suggested that I take on the role of editorial leader, which meant that I would primarily manage the editorial schedule, be in charge of liaising with the whole team from transcription right to the onset of proofing, as well as streamlining any concerns that may arise. This was a lot of responsibility and I was quite nervous but more than ready to take on the challenge.

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For our first production meeting, Meg explained the working schedule for the upcoming semester and where we aimed to be at the end: a book launch (or two). As a returning team member, I felt that I was more confident and prepared to showcase my skills and knowledge than the previous year. At first, I almost took my previous experience as advantageous in that I was more prepared than the other interns coming in with fresh eyes. I soon realised that my previous experience with Corella PressTM in fact put more of a burden on my shoulders as I was the figure looked towards for guidance when Meg was unavailable. It was a daunting yet exciting pseudo-role to step into, one where I was relied upon and confided in for crosschecking tasks that ranged from minor upkeep of documents to major editorial decisions. While I later took on the significant role as head editorial leader, it was extremely important to me that I delicately navigate the lines of being a leader, but also an equal team member and peer. This was a first-hand opportunity to learn how to develop my work ethic, particularly in professional practices towards in-house relationships.

The first weeks at Corella PressTM were oriented towards learning the necessary procedures attached to the book production process. As we only had one production meeting each week, it was vital that we maintain a strong work ethic to ensure all tasks were completed. One of the major goals at the beginning of the internship was to gather a short-list that would then contribute to our acquisitions proposal. The production meeting for that week exclusively focused on learning how to write, present and participate in an acquisitions pitch and how this functioned as a vital stage in the publishing industry. The following week, we were to showcase and present our findings to Dr Richard Newsome (Acting Director of WEP).

I avidly avoid any form of public speaking. Through Corella PressTM, I have learnt that presentation skills are essential in confident communication with all stakeholders in the publishing industry—I was unaware that even an editorial role involved presenting, such as pitching a short list in an acquisitions meeting. Naturally, I was confronted by the idea of presenting not only to my peers, but an authoritative figure. When the acquisitions pitch came, it was a personal challenge that I overcome my lack of confidence to present and play my part as a team member. I was in charge of writing and presenting the ‘Negatives’ section on The Millwood Mystery and how a press would navigate issues of sensitive content and price bracketing. After my pitch, Richard asked questions as to the contemporary marketplace and how Corella PressTM might address the underlying content of our crime story. I felt confident in my replies and his eager nodding affirmed that I was an equally important voice in the room. On recalling the experience, I know that it was not the smoothest of performances, but exposure to a mock-pitch scenario underlined my lack of ability to assertively communicate. Through Corella PressTM, I have partaken in real publishing practices and been given a supportive platform in which to refine my presentational skills.

One of the most rewarding experiences during my internship was the ability to lead the editorial process for The Millwood Mystery. This role included liaising with each intern in the group, delegating edits and employing a systematic work ethic that ensured editorial requirements were met as per the schedule. This role relied upon my ability to ensure time-management and open communication networks. It was essential that I be able to concisely synthesise ideas to then pass on to the team. During the whole editorial process, two central issues arose. Firstly, edits were completed digitally on Word, using review notes and track changes. It was clear, by the second copy edit, that some interns were not versed in how to use track changes, which created several formatting and editorial issues that I had to then resolve. Secondly, at times I felt rapport with my peers was difficult to maintain as each intern had their own individual way of approaching editing. As a team, we needed to sustain press-wide cohesiveness to ensure consistency and precision with our manuscript. In order to address this, in the production meetings during this time I would present an oral editorial report/debrief as to where the manuscript sat. This gave me an opportunity to collectively advise on the editorial approach and ensure that as a press we were maintaining the authorial voice of Lockett, as opposed to inadvertently imposing our own individual writing and editing styles. This experience not only helped me to foster professional and personal rapport with my peers, but was an empowering role for me: I am proud of how I conducted myself in effectively getting my team through each week’s new goal in terms of the editorial requirements and creating a whole manuscript that was ready to enter the proofing phase.

During the internship, I identified an opportunity to streamline a workplace practice that I felt a personal drive to take on as an independent challenge. Simultaneously, our first assessment for our internship was a Case Study in which we were to target a workplace concern and recommend an opportunity for improvement. The area I chose to write about, was to streamline the digital editorial process by implementing workshops specifically related to the use of track changes. I thought I would transfer my theoretical findings and implement them directly to my Corella PressTM experience. An area that I targeted for improvement was the Corella PressTMStyle Guide. Until then, the Style Guide was largely on the GANTT spreadsheet, as summarised guidelines and dot points. However, this was not a comprehensive overview of all aspects of the editorial and proofing process, particularly how to approach track changes. I took this as an opportunity to showcase and present my professional writing abilities.

I created an entirely fresh Style Guide that used the skeleton provided by the first editorial team. Yet, this Style Guide collated all Corella-related editorial requirements, including sections on both Mary Helena Fortune and Jeannie Lockett. I also added a separate section that was dedicated to the digital editing process—how to use Word’s review panel and how to operate track changes. I am thoroughly proud with the Style Guide I created and the encouragement of my peers and Meg re-affirmed that my hard work was benefiting the team. On recalling the experience, I was able to demonstrate my ability to critically identify a workplace weakness and to effectively transfer theoretical frameworks into a real workplace situation.

I have grown so much from that first nervous day. Over the course of the semester, I have felt encouraged, empowered and supported by the Corella PressTM Team. This opportunity has been pivotal in my development as a publishing industry professional, allowing me to implement my theoretical knowledge and practices into a real press scenario. The inclusivity of the team and my superiors has given me a supportive environment to showcase my professional and personal commitment to the intricacy attached to the book production process. Corella PressTM has been an equally comforting yet challenging internship. I am now a self- assured and devoted emerging industry professional who is more than ready to begin my journey into the writing, editing and publishing industry.


BY DESPINA KALATZIS
(Masters of Writing, Editing and Publishing at UQ)

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory is one of the most beloved authors of historical fiction today and it is not at all difficult to see why. Many of her novels are set during some of the most controversial points in British history, and feature strong heroines who often find themselves victims of circumstances. Take, for example, her Tudor novels which detail the lives of King Henry the eighth's six wives (and one mistress,) in a manner that is both historically accurate and delivered with a whole lot of empathy. Without Gregory's novels, I probably never would have heard of Mary Boleyn, discovered that Kateryn Parr published two books, or found myself wanting to learn more about the Tudors and reading novels by other authors.

And now, with Tidelands, the first book in the Fairmile saga, Gregory moves to a different point in history. The year is 1648. There is a civil war raging in England between the King and the Parliament. That should have very little effect on Alinor, a twenty-seven year old woman living in the remote Tidelines, but fate has other plans. When Alinor visits a cemetery on Midsummers Eve in the hope of meeting her husband's ghost (though not for the reasons one may think,) she meets James, a Priest who is on the run. Realising that he needs her help, she does what she can, but this, coupled with Alinor's interest in herbs and the politics of the day, has terrible consequences. After all, in an era where women, especially those who are living in poverty, have little power, and where these is so much fear of the supernatural, it is all too easy to make accusations and Alinor can do very little to stop them.

Tidelands is rich in history and features the characters and the level of detail I have come to expect from Gregory's work. It is an enjoyable read and, I feel, will appeal equally to fans of historical novels as it will to fans of gothic romance. The only disappointing part of this novel is that much of the action is squashed in at the end. The ending hints at what may come in the next book in the series, which looks rather interesting.

Recommended.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC of Tidelands.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Review: The Silhouette Girl by V.C. Andrews

The unreliable narrator genre gets the V.C. Andrews treatment in The Silhouette Girl, a lacklustre and slightly crude tale of a nurse who is being stalked by someone who identifies herself only as Scarletta. Pru Dunning is, a successful nurse who is living and working in LA. The future looks bright--Pru is good at her job and well-liked by her patients. She is forming a serious relationship with a lawyer whom she met on the job and has no reason to be unhappy ... but for the fact that she keeps receiving creepy answering machine messages from someone called Scarletta who seems to know far too many of Pru's secrets.

Turn to the second chapter and we meet stalker Scarletta as a teen, a poor little rich girl, with a domineering mother whose boorish ways make Scarletta and her father a laughingstock around town. Scarletta's story mostly revolves around her mother's sudden departure and her father's creepy behaviour. The story arc is typical VCA ghostwriter fodder, with long and dull depictions of a smothering, upper middle-class parent whose sole purpose is to make life harder for the main character and to make herself and everyone around her look, quite frankly, like complete fucking morons. Thanks to her mother, Scarletta is unnecessarily humiliated at school. (And what the fuck is it with VCA characters being unpopular and teased at school. Sure it worked in Dark Angel, and it made for a very creepy subplot in Petals on the Wind, but everything after that has just felt like the events of Dark Angel being regurgitated and without Heaven's infamous act of revenge.) I get that as readers, we're supposed to feel sorry for Scarletta, but honestly, I'd have a lot more sympathy for a character who actually stood up to her smother, I mean mother. Take for example, in the writings of the actual VCA, where four year old Carrie kicked and bit her domineering grandmother. Or to go further afield, take for example in Roald Dahl's Matilda the tricks the titular character plays on the adults who make her life a misery. Those moments satisfy the reader's appetite for justice, while encouraging them to read on. After all, it's far more fun to read about a character who stands up for herself, and is cunning enough to set traps for those who hurt her. 

Meanwhile, Pru has problems of her own, first with her stalker and then with a creepy ex patient who does creepy things to her. Creepy things that she just sort of brushes aside, as though date rape is something that happens and she just has to deal with on her own. Meanwhile, her relationship with lawyer Chandler is becoming more and more serious, which is fortunate for her, seeing as she is going to need him to help clean up when all the shit that has been stirring eventually hits the fan. Which it does ... in a fairly underwhelming way.

There is also very little in the way of closure at the end of the novel, and if not for a note in the back explaining about certain medical issues, I probably would have been left guessing as to what was going on. There is also a little swearing within the narrative, which I was not offended by, but I did find surprising, given that the novels are usually fairly clean in that respect.

As for the writing itself, most of it feels as though it is full of padding and offers what is, quite frankly, an extremely unrealistic portrayal of what it means to be either a young woman living and working in a big city, or a teenager growing up in the early twenty-first century. Parts of the novel are unnecessarily crude, which, unfortunately seems to be a recurring theme in the ghostwriters work. I've noticed this many times before in previous V.C. Andrews titles that are written by the ghostwriter--teenage sexual development is never handled with any kind of sensitivity or tact, and is often used as a vehicle for shock or gross out value. In this instance, we have Scarletta being pestered by a girl in her class to come to a private party, where the intent is for the two girls to hook up with two boys from their class. The party never eventuates, but much of the narrative is spent depicting Jackie's crude sexual comments, ones which are neither amusing nor realistic. Running alongside this is the subplot about Scarletta's father and his crazy pedophile fetish that involves nightgowns, one which echo that of Tony Tatterton in the Casteel saga. Or at least the ghostwriter version of Tony Tatterton. VCA never mentioned a nightgown in Dark Angel and it is hinted at that Heaven Casteel was conceived in Tatterton's study.

At this point in time, I think the real mystery is why I keep reading these novels. Certainly, the magic of V.C. Andrews work, gothic romances set in the second half of the twentieth century that always somehow featured strong and resourceful adolescents who were in dire circumstances, disappeared long ago, at about the point in time when the name of the author (who passed away from breast cancer in 1986,) became a franchise, with novels written by a ghostwriter and their plots adapted to suit whatever happened to be current trend. When Twilight was popular, we got a Vampire themed VCA novel. When mini-series were popular, we got three mini-series.  When a series of TV movies were made based on the Dollanganger Saga, we got a series of spin-off Dollanganger novels. It's a far cry from the days when V.C. Andrews was considered to be the leading writer of contemporary gothic novels.

And with a new series of prequels to Flowers in the Attic to be released later this month, I have no idea when or how this is going to end. Certainly, the preview to Beneath the Attic that is currently available on Amazon does not look promising, and nor do a number of the early reviews.

Considering the poor writing, it is doubtful that The Silhouette Girl would have even been published if it were not for the name on the front cover--a name that belongs to a woman who died more than thirty years ago but whose legacy has been spoiled by a market saturated with second rate and trashy novels.

Not recommended.


Saturday, 3 August 2019

Review: After by Anna Todd

Sometimes, it can be the strangest ideas that have the biggest impact.

Some years ago, One Direction fan, Anna Todd, became intrigued by a particular type of One Direction fan art that started popping up on the internet, art which, bizarrely, gave the mostly clean cut band members a punk makeover. Todd decided to take the concept a step further, and turned to Wattpad, where she began to publish a One Direction Fan Fiction that starred Harry Styles as a tattooed bad boy who was attending college in the United States, where he encounters Tessa, a sweet and innocent young woman who is away from home for the first time.

The result? Todd's story racked up more than a billion hits, making it the most successful story to ever appear on Wattpad. An offer of publication--with the names of the band members changed--was made by Simon and Schuster. 

The result of that?

A five book series, a two-book spin off and plenty of weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. And, of course, a movie deal. (After was released in the United States earlier this year, and in Australia in July.)

A few years ago, I read after and reviewed it on this blog, dismissing it as more rubbish that had been published in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey. And, fair enough, its faults are many. The writing is a long, long way from perfect. And Hardin, as the male lead is now known, is a complete arsehole, Tessa is a fool to be with him and that twist at the end is just cruel. For a long time now, I've wondered why on earth this book was so popular.

And so, when I found a film-tie edition going cheap, I decided to revisit it. 

This is what I discovered.

After isn't a perfect book. However, there is something strangely addictive about this story, about sweet and innocent Tessa who wants so desperately to break free from her controlling mother, only to find herself at the whims of a bad boy. The relationship is toxic. Hardin is an emotional abuser. But there is something about the main character's innocence that feels a little bit relatable. The narrative doesn't require much thought--most of the characters are pretty flat, from bad girls Steph and Molly to nice guy Landon and Noah, the clean cut boyfriend from home that Tessa doesn't really love. But the story is also entertaining, easy to follow and it takes readers on one hell of an emotional roller-coaster as we wonder what is in store for this unlikely and toxic relationship. It's one of those things that I would hate to see played out in real life, but as far as a book with cliffhanger chapters goes, it's bloody entertaining. And that scene at the lake is smoking hot.

After was a story made up of many things that I should have objected to. But, as I said at the beginning of this review, sometimes it can be the strangest ideas that have the most impact. And that theory certainly holds true when it comes to this book.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Friday Funnies (Providing You With the Worst and Occasionally the Best Memes and Comics From the Web)


Title of post says all.