Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Review: The Mirror Sisters by Virginia Andrews

The latest effort released under the name of long deceased gothic novelist Virginia Andrews is a lacklustre, repetitive tale of sibling rivalry and twisted parenting that is slightly redeemed by a surprising twist at the end. Kaylee Blossom Fitzgerald and Haylee Blossom Fitzgerald are identical twins, living under the iron thumb of their obsessive, perfectionist mother. Mother will go to any length to ensure that both of her daughters are identical in every possible way, fighting against human nature and her husband's not unwarranted concerns about the way his daughters are being raised. Unsurprisingly, this causes both twins to resent one another quite deeply, especially as they are developing radically different personalities. Kaylee, our narrator is the good twin, who wants to break free of mother in a careful, mature way. Haylee, meanwhile, is the reckless twin who resents her sister's cautious nature, and just bloody well wants freedom--despite the cost, and the fact that she has to resort to some pretty damn nasty lengths to get it. The first half of the story is extremely repetitive and gets boring after a while--what would have been pleasant reading in a prologue, or a first chapter, becomes an annoying series of anecdotes about how obsessive Mother is, how weak Daddy is, and how Kaylee and Haylee desire to be different to one another. Kaylee is a good kid who sees a potential steady boyfriend in Matt, a boy from her school who seems more emotionally mature than most of the kids in their class. As for Haylee, she seems to be pre-occupied with two things--proving that she is different from Kaylee, and well, everything and anything that is even remotely associated sex. (If Haylee seems familiar to fans, it's because Kaylee isn't the first VCA heroine to have a nymphomaniac twin. Ruby Landry suffered a similar problem with her nasty twin sister Gisselle.) 

The Mirror Sisters has a few good moments (especially that ending,) but, sadly, it is let down by too much repetition, weak characters, too much repetition, a lack of depth and too much repetition. (See what I did there.) The characters don't seem to have much motivation for their actions, other than them being 'good' 'bad,' or 'obsessive.' (Look! Haylee just slept with Kaylee's boyfriend, whilst pretending to be Kaylee because she is a ba-ad girl.) A good melodrama, in my opinion, should pan out with readers discovering that there is a greater reason (no matter how absurd,) for the actions of its characters. For example in Flowers in the Attic, much of Olivia's cruelty was driven by jealousy and a need to control everyone and everything around her ... lest people find out that she is a weak woman underneath who only wants to be loved.

Another factor lets the book down and that is the sheer abundance of semi-explicit sexual content that is neither erotic, amusing or enjoyable to read. In fact, I'm going to come straight out and say it--most of it is damn uncomfortable, and not in an ooh-err I'm far too prudish to read that kind of a way. Neiderman has a reputation for grossing out readers (in Rain a minor character is forced to wear rubber underpants by his mother, and ejaculates more or less a few seconds after taking them off,) or creating scenes that are unintentionally funny (the term "Crossing the Rio Grande" became a talking point among fans after the release of Secrets of Foxworth for all the wrong reasons,) and there have been countless trashy moments where the heroine has been raped, almost raped or molested by the people who are supposed to take care of her. (Particularly Melody Logan, who, it seemed could barely leave her bedroom without someone coming on to her.) What we get in The Mirror Sisters is something that is lower than trash. Actually, it's just unnecessary. And gross. (And did I mention gross?) On page 130 there is a scene where, unprompted, the twins mother tells her twelve year old daughters about cunnilingus--and then oral sex is never mentioned again anywhere in the narrative. Later in the novel, sixteen-year-old Haylee brags of stealing "one of those vibrators" from her friends mother. (As though someone of Haylee's age who has such an apparent interest in sex would not one, simply describe it quite nonchalantly as a "vibrator", and two, know how and where she could obtain one without having to resort to theft. Not to mention the fact that she probably would have done so some time before her sixteenth birthday.) Meanwhile, Haylee's sexual behaviour itself appears to have no obvious motivation--it's a far cry from Vera Adare from My Sweet Audrina, or Fanny Casteel from the Casteel Saga, whose precocious sexual behaviour, stemmed from being sexually abused as children. (Look closely within the narrative. It's there.) Haylee, meanwhile, fucks at every opportunity and uses it as a means to bully her innocent sister for no other reason than entertainment.

The mother is a weak character--her interest in keeping her twin daughters identical in every possible way (she even claims that they have the exact number of freckles,) is never made clear. Like every wealthy female in every book ever penned by Andrew Neiderman, she is shallow, vain and possesses one, a deep seated hatred of men and two, no redeeming features whatsoever.

The ending is quite interesting, though--not only does it end on a cliffhanger, but it certainly was not what I was expecting. Let's just say that Haylee finds quite a novel way to get rid of her sister once and for good ...

My copy contained a preview to the next book in the series, which is narrated by Haylee, and appeared a little more interesting than it's predecessor, though whether it will be interesting enough for me to read it remains to be seen.

Not really recommended.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

This is another of the refugee artworks that have been posted around Adelaide during the past couple of years. (I've featured these on this blog several times now.) I spotted this one in Franklin Street--it tells the sad story of how one family escaped the Taliban.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

From Summer Bay to the Best Seller Lists ...

It's no secret that a number of former actors from early evening soap Home and Away have gone on to to bigger and better things. Chris Hemsworth, Melissa George, Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts and Ryan Kwanten are just a few actors who found international fame after their characters departed Summer Bay. But did you know that a surprising number of former actors are also best selling authors? Here are four of the most famous ...

Isla Fisher

I'll kick this one off with Isla Fisher for no other reason than I've featured her books a couple of times on my blog already. At age 19, while starring on Home and Away as Shannon, Isla Fisher penned two teen romance novels with the help of her mother, Elspeth Reid (who is also a novelist in her own right.) More recently, (and after making it in Hollywood,) Isla Fisher published Marge in Charge, the first book in a new series for kids. (Read my review here.) Marge and the Pirate Baby, the second book in the series has just been released in the UK and according to Allen & Unwin's website will be available in Australia in February. 

Tristan Bancks

Since Tug disappeared from the screen, actor Tristan Bancks has penned several novels for children and young adults, including the brilliant, award winning   Two Wolves which I reviewed on this blog back in 2014. Some of his novels are semi-autobiographical such as the books in the My Life Series. According to his Australian publisher, Penguin Random Housee, the next book in the My Life series, My Life and Other Weaponised Muffins will be released on 27 February 2017. Bancks is now far more famous in Australia for his work as an author than his past as an actor.

Bancks also co-authored a book with one of his fellow Home and Away alumni, which leads me to...

Tempany Deckert

A few years after Selina Roberts left Summer Bay, Tempany Deckert penned Shooting Stars, a children's book series about some young, aspiring actors. Since then she has written several books for children, including a YA novel with her former Home and Away co-star Tristan Bancks, titled It's YR Life, which was published in 2009 and according to the publisher's website is still in print and is also available as an eBook. These days Deckert teaches creative writing classes at UCLA.

Judy Nunn

Arguably, Judy Nunn is equally famous as an author as she is forher work as an actor. In fact, Nunn was a published author before she starred in Home and Away, having published two children's books using a pseudonym during the 1980s. While still starring on the series, she published three glitzy, Jackie Collins style novels set in the world of television, theatre and film. In the years follow Ailsa Stewart's death on Home and Away, Judy Nunn has turned her hand to writing multiple novels about Australian people and places using simple and accessible prose, thus bringing to life Australian history, people and places to a broad readership. She is also a prolific scriptwriter and has written scripts for a number of Australian television series. Her most recent novel, The Spirit of the Ghan was released in 2015.

In 2015 Judy Nunn was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to performing arts and literature.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Friday Funnies: The Weak Coffee

This Garfield Quickie is worth sharing as it is one of those rare moments where Garfield gets exactly what he deserves after acting like an arsehole.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Review: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

I was completely unaware of the story of Bob the Big Issue Cat and his fellow Musketeer James Bowen, until my mother loaned me a copy of a biography that she had recently purchased titled A Street Cat Named Bob. I'm a bit of a sucker for a good cat story and this one is absolutely brilliant. Bowen is a %100 bona fide cat person and it shows. Anyway, it the story itself is how Bowen, a recovering heroin addict, discovers Bob--an injured stray cat, and the pair form a friendship that transforms each of their lives for the better.

There are a number of moments that will have cat lovers nodding their heads and saying 'yep.' The story of Bob, and how he clearly felt safe enough with James to be on the streets of London with him, busking and later selling copies of The Big Issue is nothing short of amazing. There is no denying that this is an uplifting read. It's also a good reminder that sometimes, we cannot know another person's story and the full extent of what they have been through. Bowen is honest about his life on the streets, his addiction and the many opportunities that he has missed. He is also honest about the way that people in his situation are often unfairly judged.

The writing style itself is very accessible--enough that readers from a variety of ages and backgrounds should be able to read this one with ease.

Highly Recommended.

PS--A Street Cat Named Bob has recently been made into a film. You can also see some videos of James and Bob while they were still working on the streets here and here

Friday, 6 January 2017

Friday Funnies: Kermit Reports News On Elmo's Idea

Another Sesame Street clip this week. This one features Kermit in his reporter persona, and Elmo in his early Sesame Street persona, where he was not quite as cute and cuddly as we know him today, and a bit wilder, crazier and generally like a real life three year old. Perhaps not the funniest Sesame Street clip out there, but it really highlights the evolution of Elmo's character on the show.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Aussie Author Challenge 2017

Well, it's 2017 and that means its time to sign up for some more great reading challenges. This year, I'm kicking off with one of my favourite challenges, the Aussie Author Challenge, which is put together and hosted by brilliant book blog Booklover Book Reviews. Even though I fell down a bit in 2016, I'm determined to do a bit better this time around. I will be aiming for Kangaroo, which is the top level of participation--Kangaroos will need to read twelve books by Aussie authors, at least four of them female, four of them male, and four of them must be new to you.

I hope to discover some great books, offer some worthy reviews and most of all to discover some excellent books along the way. If you'd like to participate too follow the link below:

Bonus question: Who is your favourite Aussie author and why?