Saturday, 28 December 2019

Aussie Author Challenge 2020

Exciting news! The Aussie Author Challenge is back in 2020. Hosted by Booklover Book Reviews, this challenge is now in its 11th year and remains my favourite reading challenge.

Once again, I will be taking part and am looking forward to discovering some great new Australian books and authors. 

One of the best things about this challenge is the flexibility--there are many different ways to participate and there are many different levels, based on what is right for you. You don't even have to be a blogger, you can link straight to your Goodreads reviews. On a more personal note, I will be aiming for Emu, which is a new level that has been introduced to the challenge this year. 

During 2019 I read and reviewed 26 books for the Aussie Author Challenge and, for the first time, had the privilege of reading and reviewing a book written by a family member. (Lucky for me I genuinely enjoyed it and had no trouble at all writing an honest review.) I also discovered many new authors, and was reacquainted with some old favourites. Sadly, though, this was less books than in previous years as I have been quite busy with a number of other projects, from podcasting to polishing a couple of manuscripts in the hope that they may be good enough to submit to publishers in 2020.

Friday, 27 December 2019

Friday Funnies: Meet Della Duck

Sharing, because, seriously, is there anything more touching than the moment that Huey, Dewey and Louie were reunited with their mother, Della Duck? The makers of DuckTales put considerable thought and effort into the introduction of Della Duck into the series, a character who has previously only made fleeting appearances, with her sons usually in the custody of Donald Duck or, occasionally, Uncle Scrooge. The new DuckTales builds a convincing backstory, with Della being alone in space, unable to return until she had rebuilt her space ship. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Review: Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is back in Christmas Shopaholic, the ninth instalment in what has become a beloved series. Following on from their adventures in the United States, Becky, Luke and Minnie are back in England. Living in the country, Becky is helping her best friend Suze run a gift shop at her vast family estate and things are looking up. Christmas is coming, Jess and Tom will be returning from Chile and it seems that the whole family will be together to celebrate the holiday. Then Becky's parents drop a bombshell. They're renting a tiny apartment in a trendy part of London, and would Becky mind hosting Christmas this year?

And that, it seems, is only the beginning of Becky's troubles. Soon she and Luke are being pursued by one of Becky's ex-boyfriends (and his very ruthless girlfriend,) it looks as though Jess and Tom have split up and Jess doesn't want to tell anyone, and Becky's parents are acting like a couple of teenagers. Add to that the fact that Becky will do anything to get her hands on a perfect, one of a kind gift for Luke and there is a whole lot of fun and misadventures to be had in this light and fluffy read.

This one would make a perfect Christmas gift for any fan of the series. That said, this is the ninth instalment of the series and some of the jokes and adventures are starting to wear a little thin. (The reader knows that Craig is going to be trouble in some unexpected way, and there is going to be a rather odd but triumphant outcome to Becky's adventures with billiards.) Fortunately, Becky is quite an endearing character and there is always something warm and fuzzy at the very heart of these books, which will keep readers turning pages and wanting just a little bit more. There is no reason why this series could not continue for a few more volumes yet, should the author find inspiration.


Monday, 23 December 2019

Bah Humbug!

Sharing, because who hasn't felt like this at least once at Christmas time? For anyone who really isn't feeling the Christmas spirit, I hope you're doing okay amidst all the mass commercialism. 

Friday, 20 December 2019

Friday Funnies: Merry Christmas Mr Bean

Sharing, because somehow, it just isn't Christmas if someone doesn't make at least one reference to that episode of Mr Bean where he got a turkey stuck on his head. It is probably one of the best remembered episodes of the show.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Friday Funnies: Make A Daft Noise For Christmas

I've shared this one in Christmases past, but there is just something delightful about this very 1970s song by the Goodies (who as many of you will know, were also a music group, though they were better known for their television series.) It's fun, it's a little daggy and, after all, it's Christmas!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Friday Funnies

This week, just a short and funny clip from Merry Christmas Mr Bean, in which he encounters a pick pocket and helps out a Salvation Army band!

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Review: Beneath the Attic by V.C. Andrews

For fans of Flowers in the Attic of the many mysteries of the novel and its sequels is who was the first Corrine, the mysterious woman who slept in the swan bed, who gave birth to the formidable Malcolm Foxworth and whose granddaughter would be named after her and eventually persuaded to lock her children away in an attic and slowly poison them. Was Corrine the evil monster that Malcolm portrayed her to be? Or was she really the smartest Foxworth woman of them all, the one who was able to escape and leave every trace of Foxworth Hall behind?

Beneath the Attic, the first volume in a three part spin-off prequel series written by V.C. Andrews ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman seeks to answer that question. The novel opens in the late 19th century with Corrine a spoiled and sexually precocious young woman who finds herself in a bit too deep when she makes the acquaintance of Garland Foxworth, an ultra rich twenty-something. Garland wastes no time in taking advantage of Corrine, grooming, seducing and date-raping the young woman. What follows is an irate father, a shotgun wedding and a very foolish decision by a young woman too naive to know what is good for her, with parents who are easily seduced by the promise of money and a good family and business reputation. 

While this novel certainly seeks to answer a question that has been debated by fans of the original series for almost forty years, what it lacks is depth and authenticity. In many respects, Corrine speaks and behaves like a modern teenager, rather than a young woman brought up in a respectable middle class family. There are also other problems--the speech used feels too modern. (I found myself raising my eyebrow just a little when a British maid used the term "loo" to describe a toilet, a word which was not commonly used in Great Britain until the 1940s.) As is often the case with the modern V.C. Andrews titles, there was a fair bit of uncomfortable sexual content that felt as though it was there for shock value, rather than adding anything to the story. (Yes, okay, V.C. Andrews herself was the queen of adding bizarre sexual content for shock value, but she had a unique way of weaving it into the story in such a way that the plot rarely worked without it.) Garland Foxworth is portrayed as a very different man to the happy, charismatic man who (lets face it) got away with marrying a woman forty years his junior in Garden of Shadows (also penned by Neiderman, and possibly based upon notes made by V.C. Andrews and VCA editor Ann Patty.) This Garland is controlling, calculating and a little cruel. Then again, he is also younger. And the Garden of Shadows version was a man seen through the eyes of Olivia Foxworth, a VCA character who would probably make anyone seem jolly and downright nice by comparison. 

But perhaps the biggest failing of this book is the fact that very little actually happens. Yes, Corrine is pregnant with whom the reader supposes is Malcolm, but the whole thing could have been told in a short story, or perhaps even the first part of a longer novel.