Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Review: Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

Quicksand had me hooked. Completely and utterly. It's a book that ticked many of the right boxes for me. An interesting premise, check. Well written, check. An impossible situation, check. An unreliable narrator, check. And a blurb that promises what it delivers? Check, check, check.

Maja Norberg has been in jail for the past nine months, awaiting trial for a shooting at her school in Sweden. Her best friend Amanda, and her boyfriend Sebastian are among the dead. So are many of her classmates. But from the outset, as Maja begins to describe the moments following the shooting, I got the feeling that something wasn't quite right. Was she guilty of what she had been accused of, innocent, or have the lines of right and wrong blurred so much that she is something in between? Is she a spoiled rich girl, a victim of an abusive boyfriend, or a bystander too weak, or perhaps complacent, to speak up when she should--not matter what the cost. 

And, come to think of it, what on earth would I have done if I had been in Maja's shoes?

As Maja drip feeds the reader information, I found my theories about what happened that day either confirmed or blown out of the water. That said, this is more than a straight out did she or didn't she situation. There is also a huge level of social commentary throughout the story. Do we treat people better or worse based upon the amount of money that they have? Are they treated better or worse because of where they live? Do we expect certain things from others based upon their education, religion, race and economic situation? Sebastian is the living example of the poor rich kid, the one who has everything and can get away with everything, yet lacks a loving family, proper supervision and respect for others. Maja is equally complex--she is sharp, has an excellent insight into human nature, and yet seems to be a product of both her environment, and her own poor choices. Then again, did she ever really have any choices? She certainly lacks support from the people that she needs most. 

Unputdownable, intelligent and full of surprises. Highly recommended. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me an ARC of Quicksand.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

This memorial in North Terrace pays respect to the brave Australians who served in the 8th Division during World War Two--such as my grandfather, Jack White.

These soldiers were involved in the fall of Singapore, found themselves in Changi and some worked on the Burmese Railway. Many died, along the way, but a few made it back to Australia. Although my grandfather was lucky enough to make it back to Australia, where he became engaged twice, married once and fathered five sons, he was plagued with health problems and died when he was still relatively young. He never met his youngest son, my uncle, or any of his grandchildren. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Review: The Golden Helmet by Carl Barks

Well, this was certainly a surprise ... I am a fan of Donald Duck comics (particularly the ones by comic genius Carl Barks,) and I had no idea until I walked inside Dymocks recently that US based publisher fantagraphics has been republishing some of the classic Donald Duck comics in a beautiful, keepsake edition. This particular volume reprinted The Golden Helmet, a Donald Duck adventure penned by Barks where Donald, accompanied by his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, travels by boat to Norway to find the Golden Helmet, thus preventing it from falling into criminal hands. This one is all good fun, with plenty of adventure, along with a bit of wordplay and comic humour (look close at some of the museum exhibits in the background.)

This one was quite pricey (possibly because it was an import,) but I enjoyed it and also the shorter comics that filled the final third of the book. (And damn I hate that Gladstone Gander!)

Highly recommended.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Literary Quotes

"Exactly. She does not shine as a wife even in her own account of what occurred. I am not a whole-souled admirer of womankind, as you are aware, Watson, but my experience of life has taught me that there are few wives having any regard for their husbands who would let any man's spoken word stand between them and that husband's dead body. Should I ever marry, Watson, I should hope to inspire my wife with some feeling which would prevent her from being walked off by a housekeeper when my corpse was lying within a few yards of her."

Friday, 21 April 2017

Friday Funnies

It is Ron ... right?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Review: The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

I purchased Maus a long time ago, back when I had grand plans to do a series of reviews on Pulitzer Prize winning novels that, sadly, never really got off the ground. It seemed like an important inclusion--after all, it is the only graphic novel to have ever won the prestigious and coveted award. Anyway, I re-read Maus recently and decided that it is certainly worth talking about.

In the 1980s Art Spiegelman, an American comic book artist, came up with the idea of interviewing his father about his experiences of the Holocaust. What transpired was a deeply personal story about a Jewish man living in Poland who suffered persecution at every turn, the loss of friends and immediate family members (including his oldest son,) and who managed to survive both by intelligence and a lot of luck. The story was then made into a graphic novel, Maus, featuring Jews as Mice, Nazis as Cats, Poles as Pigs and Americans as Dogs. This novel was eventually followed by a sequel Maus Volume II. 

The brilliance of Maus is that it tells the story of the Holocaust in a very personal way. This is one man's story. One ordinary man, who found himself in the most horrific of circumstances. Despite the odds, he managed to survive. The novel also highlights the after-effects of living through such an ordeal.

This is one of many books that I have read in the past year that I really do think should be required reading for high school students. Maus is an upfront, honest and personal account of one of the most horrific events of the twentieth century.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Aussie Author Challenge 2017: Update

Well, it's only April and this year has probably been one of my best yet for the Aussie Author Challenge. I am two thirds of the way there, toward my goal, which is:

To read twelve titles by Australian authors, fiction or non-fiction.
At least four of these titles must be by authors who are new to me.
At least four of these authors must be female. 
At least four of these authors must be male.
There must be at least three genres.

So lets see how I'm doing so far ...

I have read nine titles:

Hot or What by Margaret Clarke (Fiction, YA.)

An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire (Literary Fiction, Author is new to me.)

Magpie by Peter Goldsworthy and Brian Matthews (Literary Fiction.)

In Two Minds by Gordon Parker (Literary Fiction, Author is new to me.)

Lochie Leonard: Human Torpedo by Tim Winton (Fiction, YA.)

Marge and the Pirate Baby by Isla Fisher (Fiction, children's.)

Paris Lights by CJ Duggan (Fiction, New Adult Romance.)

The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster (Fiction, Psyhological Thriller.)

The Case Against Fragrance by Kate Grenville (Non-Fiction.)

Eight titles are fiction. The genres represented include Literary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Children's and New Adult Romance. 

One title is non-fiction.

So far, only two authors are new to me, Emily Maguire and Gordon Parker. Technically, Brian Matthews is a new author as well, but, alas I've read titles by his co-author Peter Goldsworthy. 

Six titles have been written by women; three titles have been written by men.

This means that out of the next three titles I read for the challenge, at least two must be by authors who are new to me and at least one of these titles must be written by a male author. It's probable that I'll read other titles by Australian authors that do not fit these requirements in the meantime, but for fun, I'm hoping to link those reviews back to the challenge as well. After all, the whole reason I am doing this challenge is to share my love of Australian books and authors with the world.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Review: The Case Against Fragrance by Kate Grenville

While author Kate Grenville (best known for her novel The Secret River*,) was on a book tour, she became dogged by ill health. Her headaches seemed to have one common element--they happened every time that she was exposed to any kind of fragrance, whether it be from perfume, an air freshener or something else. She decided to investigate what was in fragrance. The result is The Case Against Fragrance a short, non-fiction work that examines what is in fragrance, how is it regulated in Australia and why are we all so hung up on something that might be bad for us?

The possibility that fragrance might pose a threat to some individuals is something that I have been aware of since I was in my teens. What I was unaware of is just how widespread that threat may be. Certainly, in The Case Against Fragrance Grenville points out some unpleasant realities--that what we find in the chemicals that are used to create fragrance are many, many times more potent than anything that we find in nature, and that some fragrances may be carcinogenic. And if the author's goal is to stop and make readers think about what they are applying to their body, then her argument is compelling. (And that something I might dab on in the morning in small quantities could cause suffering to another person made me pause. Was I as ignorant as someone who lit a cigarette in front of an asthmatic?) The prose is easy to read, and Grenville never bogs the reader down in scientific language. 

If you've ever questioned what is in that bottle of perfume or after shave (or even if you haven't,) this one poses an interesting argument.


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

*Personally, my favourite Kate Grenville novel is The Idea of Perfection. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

Friday Funnies

Love this. It's autumn in Australia, and this Peanuts comic, where Snoopy sees such joy in a falling leaf seemed appropriate.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Review: The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster

Eleanor is a lonely young Australian woman who is keen to escape the demons of her past. Living with her Uncle and his family in London, she has found a position at a prestigious publishing house. Then Arabella, a glamourous and charismatic employee is found dead in the River Thames after the work Christmas party. No one knows how she died, but Eleanor may have the answers ... if only she could remember what happened that night.

The Hidden Hours is certainly an intriguing novel. In some respects, Arabella reminded me of the title character from Daphne Du Marier's Rebecca (a novel I love,) but this is a very different story, with different outcomes. Eleanor is an interesting protagonist whose life is weighed down by some fairly traumatic events. The author weaves between the past and the present to offer readers a sympathetic portrait of a young woman whose life has been shaped by a tragic event, and her portrayal of Eleanor is commendable. That said, much like London weather in December, parts of this story left me feeling cold. (Then again, I doubt some scenes were suppose to leave readers feeling warm and fuzzy.) 

The eventual answers to the mystery are as satisfying as they are believable.

If you have enjoyed Sara Foster's previous novels then I have no doubt that you will enjoy this one.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of The Hidden Hours.

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

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Review: Paris Lights by CJ Duggan

If books were food, Paris Lights would be one of those frivolous dessert items that some may call a guilty pleasure. Or to put it another way, much like the macaroons that the heroine consumes, this is light and fluffy with some gooey sweetness in the middle.

Clair Shorten is a twenty-five year old Australian living in London, who has always dreamed of travelling to Paris. Then things start to go wrong when her more-than-just-a-little-bit-insensitive boyfriend dumps her under the Eiffel Tower. (Yep, while other men are proposing, Claire's boyfriend is such a dud that he is dumping her. What a bastard, eh?) Anyway, a surprise turn of events leads Claire to a swanky apartment and a job as a Maitre d at a hotel. Then something catches the attention of nasty celebrity chef Louis Delarue ... and it may not just be the hotel that has Louis' eye.

This is light reading, with lots of melodramatic twists, plenty of Australian vernacular and an easy narrative that allows readers to insert themselves into the story. It offered me some light reading when I desperately needed some, and I might check out other two stand alone novels in the series (set in New York and London, respectively) at some stage.

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

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Review: Margherita's Recipes For Love by Elisabetta Flumeri & Gabriella Giacometti

Some books just take you by surprise. When I picked up the copy of Margherita's Recipes For Love that I had received in the post, I intended just to have a quick look at the blurb, and maybe the first chapter. I ended up reading the first half of the book in one sitting. Cheerful, romantic and loveably over the top, this is a love story set in rural Italy, Margherita is a spirited and principled woman whose marriage has come to an abrupt end. Returning home to the country, she puts her greatest talent--cooking--to good use and soon finds herself working for a wealthy businessman who has just swept into town. Nicola is ruthless in all things related to his business, but through her cooking--and her spirit--Margherita may be the one to teach him a thing or two about good business and perhaps even love ...

There is a lot of warmth to this story, and it is an excellent choice for lovers of great cuisine and light reading. Parts of it are a bit over-the-top, but not in an offensive way. (Oh come on, how could I not laugh when a squid lands on Nicola's shoulder? It's hilarious start to a relationship that that is definitely hate at first sight.) Some of the conflict resolved a bit too easily, and I did wonder at times if something had been left out of the translation. (On the translation, the writing did feel a bit clunky in places.) Overall though, this story was a lot of fun, and provided me with a nice, easy read at a time when that was exactly what I wanted (and needed.)


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

Monday, 10 April 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

Meet Avant Garde Dog! I snapped this artistic little pooch a few weeks ago. He is located on the side wall of a dog grooming salon in the southern suburbs.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Friday Funnies: Film vs Book

Well, I think this one describes the whole film vs the book debate quite accurately. A film has about two hours to tell the same story as a book of around 400 pages. Often details are missed for reasons of timing, affordability and the fact that some things just don't translate easily or well on the screen. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Review: My Uncle Oswald Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl's only full length adult novel reads like an old man telling an extended dirty joke to a captive audience of young men. It's crude, it's sexist, it's completely over the top and it never takes itself too seriously. The novel is made up from a memoir written by Uncle Oswald, and published by his unnamed nephew some many years after his death. The novel details two thoroughly debauched money making schemes that Uncle Oswald came up with as a young man. The first was the creation of a pill that had extreme aphrodisiac qualities, and the second was to ahem, steal the semen of various rich, famous and influential men and then sell it on to any woman who fancied the idea of having a child by one of these men. 

My Uncle Oswald is not a novel for the faint of heart. It's about as politically incorrect as you can get, quite deliberately in some places, but also full of the kind of unconscious racism and sexism that perpetuated the upper middle classes in the United Kingdom (and other parts of the world,) during Dahl's lifetime. However, the greatest problem with this novel is that after a few chapters it stops being funny. The plot is repetitive, more so than Dahl's many novel's for children. The author's trademark sting in the tale, where no act of greed goes unpunished, is pleasingly present.

I'd recommend this one to adult fans of Roald Dahl. Readers who are unfamiliar with the author would probably get more from his short stories, or his books for children.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Literary Quote of the Day

"Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch."

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Review: Charisma by Jeanne Ryan

From the moment that I picked up my copy of Charisma, I knew that this book and I were going to get along very, if not extremely, well. The heroine Aislyn is an exceptionally smart and sensitive sixteen year old. She also suffers from a devastating, crippling shyness--something that had plagued me throughout my teens. I could understand only too well the problem that she faced in the opening chapter, trying to get her point across only to be let down by her fears and then watching as the prize went to another student, whose ideas may not have been as advanced as her own, but who had the ability to communicate their ideas more effectively.

Then the novel takes a sinister twist ...

Dr Sternfield, Aislyn's mentor, is a brilliant scientist. She's also been developing a new drug, Charisma, which alters the DNA of users, to make them well ... charismatic. When Aislyn gets the chance to test the drug, she takes it, despite the fact that the tests are not strictly legal. The effects are instant. But slower to develop are some serious side effects, one that could cause death. And worse still, it seems that the symptoms are contagious ...

Charisma was an interesting--and smart--page turner with more than a dash of social justice. The parallels between Aislyn and that of teenagers who were HIV positive during the 1980s were quite interesting. (In fact, the narrative mentions Ryan White at one point.) I think the author got it spot on how people are treated when they are suffering a disease that most of the general population do not understand--with suspicion and fear, which ultimately leads to discrimination and intense public scrutiny. As I stated at the beginning of this post, I felt that I could really relate to Aislyn and her difficulties with shyness.

Like the best YA novels, Charisma asks some big ethical questions and places them in a setting that is easy to understand and relate to. 


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for supplying me with a copy of Charisma. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

This week's picture is of a mural on the side of the Onkaparinga City Council Chambers at Noarlunga Centre. The artists were just putting the finishing touches on this fantastic, double storey building sized painting when I snapped the picture back in February.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Friday Funnies

I think this meme obsession is getting somewhat out of hand ...

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Review: Lockie Leonard Human Torpedo

Last week marked the first week that I had officially read Lockie Leonard Human Torpedo from cover to cover, despite the fact that I was assigned to read it in my year nine English class. The first time around, I was fourteen years old, and resentful of the fact that the class had to one, read a book that had a boy as its main character (oh, how dreadful,) and two, that it was a realistic read set in contemporary Australia, rather than well, anywhere else during any other point in history. (Not bad for someone whose later academic career focused exclusively on Australian Literature ... and who included Tim Winton in their English Honours thesis.) Plus the feminist in me was annoyed that some of the other kids in my class kept calling Vicki Streeton a slut, when I felt that she was just as confused about things as Lockie, only in a different way. Consequently, I ended up skipping lots of bits and got a B for my assignment on the book.

I found a copy of Lockie Leonard Human Torpedo at my local secondhand bookstore recently and I decided to read it, properly, this time, and to see what I could make of it. The truth is, it's not a bad book for teens. And I still think it was unfair of the kids in my English class to label Vicki a slut. 

Lockie Leonard is almost thirteen years old, is the oldest of three kids and has just moved to a small town in Western Australia, where his dad will be working as the local Sergeant. A bullying incident on his first day of school sees his nether regions covered in Vegemite, and it also leads him to Vicki Streeton, the streetwise daughter of the local used car salesman, who becomes Lockie's first girlfriend. Lockie likes Vicki, a lot, but she's also a bit too keen to grow up, and continually pushes the boundaries of their relationship. The moral to the story is a good one--about letting kids be kids, and the way that Lockie treats Vicki is commendable. There are also a lot of amusing glimpses into surf culture and life in a small town.

I enjoyed this one a lot more than I expected to and will probably hunt down the sequels.

PS Random trivia: Although the specific year is never given, there are several hints that the story is set in 1988--for example the death of a key character on Neighbours is mentioned. 

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

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

What Might Happen if the Sorting Hat Vistied Kathryn's Inbox?

Every now and again, I like to ponder the unimportant things in life. Like why Cadbury eliminated the coconut ice piece in their 55g Snack bars. (Lucky for me, Cadbury were kind enough to answer.) Anyway, earlier today I started pondering what would happen if the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter novels made a surprise visit to this blog, and decided to story the characters into some of my novels into the four Hogwarts Houses. Here is what I think the Sorting Hat would choose ...

Cats, Scarves and Liars

Peppa Grove ... HUFFLEPUFF!

A good Hufflepuff is hard-working, loyal and friendly. Peppa is all of these, or at least she is when she's not grieving for her recently murdered husband. This is probably best demonstrated first through her attempts to save her failing marriage, and later through her choice to speak at her father's funeral, despite all of the terrible things that he had done.

Behind the Scenes

Catlin Ryan ... SYLTHERIN!

Syltherins tend to be ambitious and resourceful, and Catlin Ryan has both of these qualities in bucket-loads, whether she is pursuing her childhood dream of becoming a famous actor, or, her grown up ambition of becoming a psychologist. In Behind the Scenes we see eighteen year old Catlin rise to the top of her field in a relatively short space of time, while in my upcoming novella One Afternoon* twenty-seven year old Catlin is the head of Psychology at a well respected institution.

Kimberley "Kimmy" Ryan ... HUFFLEPUFF!

This was a difficult choice. Kimmy has more than enough ambition to make it in Slytherin, but if she were given the choice between ambition and loyalty, Kimmy would choose loyalty in a heartbeat. Seemingly prickly on the outside, Kimmy is fiercely loyal to the people that she cares about--she risked her life to look after her sister after she was taken hostage, and she was one of the only people to stand by Tom Arbuckle after her was arrested, risking her reputation and career in the process.

Being Abigail & Everybody Hates Abigail

Samuel Andrews ... GRYFFINDOR!

Samuel is an accomplished journalist, he is intelligent and he is something of a loner, though he certainly knows how to charm people when the need arises. He sometimes allows his career to get in the way of his relationships, and he can be a little arrogant. Samuel could make it in Slytherin, if it wasn't for the fact that he believes wholeheartedly in the causes that he champions through his work. Samuel often works to get an exclusive so that he can report the truth as fairly and as honestly as possible, as he believes that the public deserve nothing less.

Abigail Carter ... 

Of all my characters, Abigail is the one most likely to give the sorting hat a headache. Abigail lacks the cunning and ambition required for Slytherin, she doesn't work nearly hard enough to make it in Hufflepuff (and her loyalty is a bit questionable as well, just as her ex-boyfriend Jason McAllister.) The question is therefore, does Abigail have the smarts to make it in Ravenclaw, or perhaps, the bravery to make it in Gryffindor?

In both novels, Abigail is shown as being academic, but lacking in common sense. In Everybody Hates Abigail, her Grandfather always adds "Academically, anyway," after describing her as intelligent. We also know that she later pursued an academic career, studying for a PhD in English Literature. Despite this, Abigail seemed to have a limited ability to drive a vehicle, or to understand the difference between taking a medically prescribed sedative and drinking a mug of hot chocolate.

Abigail also stood up what she believed in, and lived her life based upon the causes she supported (for example, she refuses to buy a dishwasher even though she could afford to buy one because she feels that they use too much water and, consequently, are bad for the environment.) She was also brave enough to stand up to Samuel on several occasions, despite the fact that he rarely understood her point of view.

However, many Ravenclaws tend to be quirky, and Abigail certainly has her fair share of quirks, whether it be her bright and colourful clothing, her reaction when her book was voted number twelve in an online poll, or her choice of vehicle.

It's a tough choice, but ... let's face it, if Abigail were given the choice between solving a riddle to enter a common room, or having to remember a password, she'd choose the riddle. Much more fun.

Abigail Carter, you belong in ... RAVENCLAW!

Thanks for reading and playing along. Do you have a favourite character from one of my books? If so, which Hogwarts House would you place them in?

*One Afternoon will be published in late 2017.

** This post is purely for entertainment purposes. 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Review: In Two Minds by Gordon Parker

In Two Minds is a detailed and sympathetic account of one man's journey through mental illness, written by renowned psychiatrist Gordon Parker. Martin Homer, known as Sunny to his friends, has a naturally cheerful disposition, despite suffering two great losses during his childhood. He has a good life. Martin is a medical practitioner working and living in Sydney's north shore. His marriage to Sarah is a happy one, though they are childless after a number of failed IVF attempts. However, the death of Martin's mother sends him into a deep depression, which then turns into a period of mania. During this period, Martin encounters Bella, a hurt woman with some pretty serious issues of her own. What happens next has far reaching consequences for them both ...

Although this novel was a little slow in places, there is no doubt that it was written by someone who was an expert in treating mental illness. The author creates a sympathetic picture of Martin, even in the passages when his mania caused him to behave quite badly. Bella was a far more difficult character to digest--she is portrayed as someone who is manipulative and behaves without conscience, yet it is also clear that she has been damaged by her past and has a desperate need to be loved by someone. The description "borderline" is thrown around quite a bit, and other bits and pieces in the narrative point toward Borderline Personality Disorder. I did find parts of the novel quite sexist (the chapter featuring the Trophettes, a support/empowerment group for trophy wives, for example.) That said, the novel is commendable for it's portrayal of Martin. He's 100% human, with a real sense of right and wrong, who behaves the way he does because he is ill, and not because he had any intention to hurt Bella or his wife.

A compelling read for anyone interested in reading about the human side of mental illness. Recommended. 

Thank you to Ventura Press for my review copy. 

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

Monday, 27 March 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

Welcome to a slightly revised format of Around Adelaide. As my Instagram Account seems to be getting bigger and better by the day, I thought that it would be fun to start sharing the best images on here. There will still be lots and lots of street art, and the pictures will remain proudly Adelaide centric, but the changes also mean that I can share some other great pictures here too.

First up is a snap of this gorgeous coffee cup that I got from the food tent at Adelaide Writers' Week. Such a beautiful design and such a great idea to feature work by a local artist, instead of serving coffee from a plain cup, or one covered in advertising. 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Friday Funnies: I am not Buying Any More Books ...

Gulp. I am so guilty of this.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella's latest novel offers a fun--and frivolous--take on the difficulties that many women in their early twenties face when trying to start out in the corporate world. Katie Brenner feels a bit insecure about the way her life has worked out. Sure, she's living in London and has a job at a prestigious marketing firm, but the commute to work is hell every day and she makes very little money for the hard work that she puts in. Worse still, her boss, Demeter, is a total nightmare. Demeter is cool, selfish and rarely recognises anyone else's efforts. Katie is eventually sacked (through no fault of her own,) and finds herself returning to her family home in the UK, where her father and stepmother have turned the old family farm into a successful camping business. And when Demeter arrives at the farm as a guest and does not even recognise her former employee, Katie seizes the opportunity to get revenge. But not everything is as it seems ...

This one was a fun read, though it did not stack up to the high standard set by some of Kinsella's previous works (The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, Finding Audrey.) The romance with Alex felt a little tacked on in a number of ways. The best part of the novel in my opinion was the authors portrayal of Demeter--slowly, we readers get to learn that yes she is someone with a heart, and a lot of depth, someone who makes mistakes and who perhaps does not speak up when she should. And Demeter certainly faces her own challenges in the workplace. Katie's revenge and eventual growth as a character was fun to read.

A fun read for fans of Sophie Kinsella.

PS Big shout out to my friend Kylie for gifting me with a copy of My Not So Perfect Life!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Friday Funnies: Clarabelle Cow Memes

I am sharing this one for to express my complete and udder, sorry, utter amazement that anyone would create a meme that features Clarabelle Cow. As far as Disney characters go, Clarabelle Cow is a fairly minor character. She was created by Walt Disney in 1928 and is friends with Mickey and Minnie, and is the occasional love interest of Horace Horsecollar, and less often the love interest of Goofy, thus proving that interspecies dating is not a big deal in the Disney universe. Clarabelle appeared as a minor character in a number of animated shorts during the 1930s, and these days appears as Goofy's love interest in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series. Surprisingly, Clarabelle is an extremely popular character in parts of Europe and appears regularly in the Italian Disney comics. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Review: South of Forgiveness by Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger

When I sat down to watch Q&A one evening recently, I found myself utterly bewildered by the choice of one of the panellists. The thought that immediately ran through my mind was, she's written a book about, WHAT? This was followed by other thoughts such as: Is this woman anywhere near as empowered as she thinks? What man put her up to this? Is this a sick joke? Is it even for real? After all, there is something that is immediately confronting about the idea of a survivor of sexual violence collaborating on a book about forgiveness with the perpetrator of that very crime.

I turned my thoughts off and listened Thordis Elva told her story--I believe that all stories of sexual violence should be listened to without judgement. Two days later, I was in the audience when Thordis and Tom spoke about their book at Adelaide Writers' Week. There was still much that I wanted to understand, so I did what I felt was the most honest thing that I could do--I walked to the bookshop tent, and I purchased a copy of South of Forgiveness. 

South of Forgiveness, I discovered, was not a misery memoir, a real life crime novel or an instruction manuel for survivors and/or perpetrators of sexual violence. It was the story of two human beings whose lives were changed by a cruel and violent act and who, some years later, reconcile with themselves and each other about what happened that night, and who should have the burden of responsibility. It opens a discourse on sexual violence and responsibility, as does the TED talk that the authors did in November 2016. 

That a perpetrator of sexual violence has the right to speak about his actions is something that, personally, I found quite troubling. In one sense, I understood the logic of speaking out--its a dramatic demonstration that seemingly ordinary people are capable of committing disgusting acts and that, perhaps, if we have those conversations it might pave a way forward to helping others make different choices. Tom's name appears in much smaller lettering on the front, and the FAQ page of the South of Forgiveness website notes that his share of the profits will go to a Women's shelter in Reykjavic.

This book was confronting for me to read, and I was left with a number of questions, most of which are not appropriate to share in this post. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Literary Quotes

"I see that a man cannot give himself up to drinking without being miserable one-half his days and mad the other."

Friday, 10 March 2017

Friday Funnies

Here's to that one friend ...

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Phrases: Sold Down the River

Sold Down the River: 
To be Cheated or Betrayed

Sold down the River is a phrase that means to be cheated, and/or betrayed. Many people know and use the phrase on a regular basis, however lesser known is the sad history behind the phrase. It originated in the United States during the days of the slave trade. To be sold down the river meant that a slave was sold from one of the northern slave states to a cotton plantation anywhere along the Mississippi River, where conditions were particularly brutal. Being sold down the river was akin to a death sentence.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

I snapped this beautifully decorated Stobie pole some time ago, somewhere in Christie Downs, possibly near Morton Road, a little while back. (Too much time has passed for me to remember the exact location, and it's not really an area that I visit often.) Anyway, I love the many varieties of toadstools in the painting and cannot help but wonder if there is a Smurf or two lurking around anywhere ...

Friday, 3 March 2017

Friday Funnies: Morty & Ferdie Visit Australia

This never fails to crack me up--it's from a Mickey Mouse comic originally printed in the 1970s that tells the story of how Mickey travelled to Australia with his nephews Morty and Ferdie to visit some of their relatives down under. Apparently in Australia, it's easy to get lost (true) and the local mouse population ride uses kangaroos as their main mode of transportation (also true ... kidding!)

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Literary Quote of the Day

"He that is strucken blind cannot forget
The precious treasure of his eyesight lost."

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Review: Magpie by Peter Goldsworthy & Brian Matthews

Odd, irreverent and filled with black humour is very much of product of the time and place where it was written and published. Set in Adelaide, this one is Literary fiction, pitched at a fairly limited market. To give it a bit of a broad description, it gets away with a lot of shit that authors could get away with back in the days before the internet, goodreads and book blogs like this one became a thing. (Actually, I can almost hear the authors snort with disdain at my use of the phrase 'a thing.' Or that a graduate of Christies Beach High School would actually dare to read--and discuss--Literary fiction in any kind of public forum. I'm pretty sure that all of my opinions forthwith are now redundant.) Anyway, to give this book a bit of context it is set in 1992, an era when the academic sphere in Australia was changing quite a bit. Universities were merging, becoming less exclusive and spread across a number of campuses. Consequently, many academics found themselves shafted into newer and less prestigious teaching positions. In roughly the same era, there were a number of works of Literary fiction released in Australia which used magical realism to parody the Australian way of life, the most memorable and notable of which is Holden's Performance by Murray Bail.  The authors themselves belong very much in the sphere of old school academia, Brian Matthews is a Doctor of Philosophy, while Peter Goldsworthy studied Medicine at the University of Adelaide, and divides his time equally between general practice and writing. A number of visitors to this blog may already be familiar with another of Goldsworthy's novels, Maestro, which often finds its way on to high school reading lists. 

Magpie is certainly an oddity. It tells of Bennett, a dissatisfied, middle-aged academic who finds himself caught in an nonsensical, ever changing world that works only because this novel is a parody. His story starts easily enough--he's a man facing a big career transfer in a world that seems a bit more darker and a bit more comical than the one we live in. Between chapters, however, letters exchanged back and forth between an author, publisher (and eventually typesetters and lawyers,) make it clear that there is a bit more going on. Bennett's chapters are a story within a story and the authors appear to have great fun fleshing this out as the novel progresses, making each twist and turn sillier and more nonsensical than the last. At one point Bennett gets screwed--in more ways that one--in the back of a taxi, later he finds himself auditioning at the Malley and Daughters Literary Character Agency. (Yes, Malley, I think we can all see what the authors did there.) The novel is clever, unnerving and very deliberately lacks any kind of mass market appeal, which probably made it groundbreaking back in its day. Twenty five years later however, the novel is well ... it's an oddity. Or let me put it this way. I found it in pristine condition at a secondhand book shop and I paid twenty cents for it.

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

Monday, 27 February 2017

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

This beautiful artwork is a small part of a mural that fills one of the walls of the Central Market. I think it looks pretty good, don't you?

Friday, 24 February 2017

Friday Funnies: Quaq Quao

Quaq Qauo was a stop motion TV series from Italy that was made totally out of origami. During the 1980s and 1990s, it used to air in Australia on Channel 2 (now better known as the ABC,) in random slots between shows, and was not dubbed into English, meaning that anyone who did not speak Italian had no bloody idea what was going on with that crazy paper duck who seemed able to morph into anything and everything at will.

Quaq Qauo was quite a star in parts of Europe, however, and did particularly well in Norway.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Review: An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire

Not since I read Janet Turner Hospital's Oyster back in university has a novel ever left me feeling quite so depressed. And there is no doubt about it, An Isolated Incident is not an uplifting book. It also was not intended to be. This is a proudly feminist novel about sexism, violence, small town prejudice and the media circus that always follows the violent (and unnecessary) death of a young, beautiful woman.

An Isolated Incident follows Chris, a street smart thirty-something, living in a small town halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, whose younger sister is abducted and murdered on her way home from work. It also follows May, a journalist from a start up digital press who is keen to get a lucrative exclusive.  

And mostly it follows both women as they navigate a world where they are both secondary to a sense of male entitlement, and the impact that this particular crime has on them both.

An Isolated Incident has been longlisted for the Stella Prize and it is not difficult to see why. Maguire has a track record as a talented Australian author. And there are no doubts about it--this is an exceptionally well written novel. I found Chris' voice utterly believable, as a woman who has learned to survive in a world that is, quite frankly, hostile to her gender. I found myself feeling sorry for her at times, and angry with her at others, and that's testimony to the fact that this novel is well written. It's also not terribly cheerful and that's something of a challenge for an artsy and vaguely intellectual optimist such as myself. 

Plus I got angry that the book made me feel so damn angry in places.

My final verdict? An Isolated Incident is an important novel, even if it does not make for comfortable reading.

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

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Review: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

Armando Lucas Correa's first novel is a well written tale that weaves between the past and present to tell the story of Hannah, a young and beautiful German girl of Jewish descent who--through no fault of her own--finds herself unwelcome in a changing Berlin. Twelve year old Hannah understands her situation in the way that only a child can, with fear, anger and, surprisingly, optimism. Along with her friend Leo, they travel the streets of Berlin, but danger and prejudice is all around them, and their parents are desperate to find a safer place to life. Soon Hannah's family find themselves as first class passengers on the SS Saint Louis, and a new adventure begins. Hannah's days exploring the ship with Leo are happy ones, but a darker reality--politics and broken promises--await as the ship nears Cuba. Hannah and her mother are among the few people permitted to alight the ship and make a new life in Cuba. Meanwhile, in 2014, eleven year old Anna, is living in New York, when she receives a mysterious parcel from her Great Aunt Hannah whom she has never met, and she begins to unravel a family history stained by disappointment, revolution and survivor's guilt ...

I have been interested in the story of the SS St Louis for a long time, and often point to it as an example of how humanity does not always learn lessons from the past, and consequently, I was thrilled when the opportunity arose for me to read and review The German Girl. In some ways, reading this was tough-going. Anna's story makes it clear that Hannah was one of the few who made it to Cuba, and I found myself wondering what kind of woman she had become in her old age. Had life been good to her? Well, the answer to that one is certainly subjective, and, I think left up to the reader to decide. Unlike many she and her mother were allowed to stay in Cuba. This also meant being separated from a father who later suffers the same horrific fate as the majority of the 900 passengers who eventually found refuge in Europe. (Only the 287 passengers who were given refuge by Great Britain survived the war.) Hannah and Leo are separated and Hannah needs no one to tell her Leo's fate. In Cuba, she remains a stranger in a strange land, though her brother, who is born shortly after their arrival, has a very different perspective. There are some interesting parallels between Nazi Germany and the Cuban revolution. Even in her old age, Hannah seems to be something of a stranger in the country where she has spent most of her life.

The writing is beautiful, and the story is certainly tragic. At times this one was painful to read, but it was also an education and a reminder of the real people and situations that lie behind headlines and some of our lowest points in history. 

It's also a timely reminder to think about the way we treat people who are forced to flee their homes--many of them younger than Hannah and Leo--and what little we know of their suffering, both internal and external.


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of The German Girl.

Armando Lucas Correa will be appearing at Adelaide Writers' Week to talk about the German Girl. Catch him at 1:15pm on Saturday March 4 on the East Stage or at 10:45am on Sunday March 5 on the East Stage.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

It seems that this tree just outside Colonnades Shopping Centre has been bombed with a variety of artwork. I am not sure what it it advertising, but it certainly looks colourful.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Friday Funnies: Ernie And Bert Meet The Martians

Another classic Sesame Street clip. This one is worth watching until the end--Bert's response is completely fitting for his character. (And I, for one, think that he actually believes Ernie!)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Writers on Wednesday: Sandy Vaile

Hello, and welcome to another brilliant Writers on Wednesday Post. This week South Australian author Sandy Vaile is stopping by as part of her Combatting Fear blog tour to chat about her new book and her busy writing career ...

Tell me a bit about yourself ...

Hi, I’m Sandy Vaile, and I’m a motorbike riding daredevil who isn’t content with a book unless there’s a courageous heroine and a dead body.
I’m lucky enough to live amongst the McLaren Vale vineyards, where I can indulge my passion for devising horrible things to do to fictional characters, all in the name of fun, of course.
In my spare time, I run a critiquing group for novelists, judge romance writing competitions, present literary craft workshops, and occasionally write articles and short stories. When I’m not writing for fun, I compose procedures for high-risk industrial processes. (Yep, a word nerd through and through.)

Tell me about your most recently published book?

My books are published by Simon & Schuster in the US, and my latest novel, “Combatting Fear”, will be released on the 20th February 2017.

How far would you go to save a child that wasn’t yours? 
Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher, Neve Botticelli, leads a double life. At home with her paranoid father, she is a combat trained survivalist who lives off-the-grid.
When self-made billionaire, Micah Kincaid, storms into town in search of his four-year-old son, Rowan, he’s pushy, entitled, and stands for everything Neve despises. 
But something far more sinister is lurking in rural Turners Gully, and it has its sights set on little Rowan’s inheritance. It turns out there is one thing Micah and Neve can agree on, and that’s keeping Rowan safe. 
As they work together to free Rowan, they glimpse beneath one another’s guises, and realise that falling in love might be even more dangerous than hunting deadly criminals.
Tell me about the first time you were published?

By the time an offer was made for my first book, “Inheriting Fear”, I had been writing for four years and completed two manuscripts. Naturally there were a bunch of short stories and unfinished manuscripts lying around too, but it had taken me this long to feel confident that I had a saleable story.

I’d like to say the acquisitions editor saw a master piece and just had to have it, but the truth was I was in the right place at the right time. Crimson Romance (a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster) was looking for stories with gritty non-traditional heroines, and I just happened to have a very boisterous heroine called Mya, who rode a motorbike and kick-boxed well enough to put most men on their tails. A match made in heaven!

Being an e-first publisher, the turn-around time was fast (less than 3 months). First my editor marked up structural edits, then another editor did minor copy edits, and just when I thought I couldn’t stand to see the book again, I got the galley proofs to proof read.

Before I knew it the eBook was available on Amazon, followed by print copies, guest blogs and author talks. The best part has been meeting loads of wonderful new people!

As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?

Honestly, I like to celebrate even small milestones, to remind myself how lucky I am. My family has a “happiness jar”, and we write things that make us happy on coloured squares of paper, and leave them in the jar all year. On New Year’s Day we pour them onto the dining table and enjoy reading each one. It’s a great time to reminisce and be thankful for the joy and achievements, no matter how small.

In literary terms, I thought that first book contract would be impossible to beat, but I can tell you that I was equally excited about the second contract. :-)

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?

I subscribe to Sir Richard Branson’s theory of biting off more than I can chew, and then chewing like hell. This year I have five workshops to develop and present, I’m attending the Salt Festival in Port Lincoln, am spending a blissful week on a secluded writing retreat where I’ll be writing the first in an erotic novella series called “Coastal Connection”, and hoping I make a start on the next romantic suspense, “Guarding Fear”.

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?

I love the convenience of being able to carry a library of books with me on a slim Kindle, as well as being able to read hands-free while I’m eating. However, paper books will never die. They are sensual and exotic and look amazing spilling out of my bookshelves. These days I save paperback purchases for my favourite authors, or when I go to an author talk/book signing.

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

This is the trickiest question ever. I find it impossible to play favourites, because I have a new favourite every month, and book preferences are very personal. “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) is a story I keep going back to, because Rowling has a gift for layering vivid characters. Although I don’t often have the patience for literary fiction, I couldn’t put this book down. Definitely a worthwhile study in how to write crime.

Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

Gidday fellow South Aussies! I have a special treat for you, because both of my books are set on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula, because it’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet (and I’m not biased at all!).

Although I do change the names of some landmarks and town names, to avoid offending locals (of which I am one), I’m sure you’ll recognise a few. Even a couple of bottles of d’Arenberg Money Spider Roussanne made it into “Combatting Fear”. Worth a tasting if you’re down this neck of the woods one weekend.

Stay in touch with Sandy via her website, Facebook or Twitter.

Buy “Inheriting Fear” here…

Thank you Sandy for stopping by my blog. As part of the Combatting Fear blog tour, Sandy is giving away a copy of Combatting Fear. Enter via the widget below (entries close 27th of February.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway