Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Review: Firelight by Kristen Callihan

Firelight would have made an absolutely ripping short story or novella. There's a lot of romantic and erotic potential in this paranormal story about a poor young woman with a strange gift who is more or less forced into marrying a rich man who always wears a mask. And while there is a good lot of chemistry between the characters, and a lot of mystery, the story itself feels too long. The mystery lacks depth, as do most of the characters. 

Miranda Ellis is a young woman living in London in 1881. She is forced to marry the disfigured Lord Archer, a man who never shows his face and who has secretly been admiring Miranda from afar for the past three years. Archer makes Miranda's father an offer he can't refuse for her. The pair marry, realise that they're hot for each other, don't do anything about it for far too long, and then, one by one, a number of Archer's old friends start getting popped off. Most of the story focuses on whether or not Archer might be the killer, and it all becomes rather dull after a while. It felt very tiresome and overlong to me, and I feel that more could have been done with the paranormal element, especially Miranda's gift. 

This novel is the first in a seven book series that has garnered mostly favourable reviews, so I imagine that it has its fans, but the book and writing style really weren't for me. I also find myself wanting to weep just a little for a world that would rather read this than Jane Eyre. Then again, I also weep for a world that finds it acceptable for an author to use the word "cocksucker" in a book set in Queen Victoria's England. 

Not really recommended.  

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Literary Quotes

Above the rumbling in the chimney, and the fast pattering on the glass, was heard a wailing, rushing sound, which shook the walls as though a giant's hand were on them; then a hoarse roar as if the sea had risen; then such a whirl and tumult that the air seemed mad; and then, with a lengthened howl, the waves of wind swept on, and left a moment's interval of rest.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Friday Funnies: Cute Tips

Love this Peanuts comic

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Review: Came Back to Show You I Could Fly by Robin Klein

Arguably Klein's best work, there's a strange sense of hope in this novel about friendship and addiction. Seymour is a bored and lonely kid who has been sent to stay with a family friend in suburban Melbourne while his mother tries to sort out a bitter custody dispute with his father. Forbidden to leave the house, eleven year old Seymour sneaks out one day and soon finds himself being chased by a local gang. He stumbles through a back gate where he meets Angie, a friendly and imaginative young woman. The pair soon develop an unlikely friendship and help one another out. It's difficult to believe that someone as lovely as Angie might have a dark side, but that is exactly what Seymour discovers as he learns more about Angie and slowly puts the pieces together.

This is the first time that I have read Came Back to Show You I Could Fly in over twenty years--I can't quite remember how or when I read it the first time, only that our local KMart had a copy that I could not afford (and, consequently, never bought,) but I imagine that I must have borrowed it from either a school or public library. In any case, I was thrilled when Text decided to publish this one as a classic and bought a copy from Dymocks. I'm pleased to say that it still packed quite a punch, despite being written and set in the late 1980s, and despite the fact that I was well aware early on that Angie had a problem with addiction (instead of having to slowly put the evidence together, like I did when I was a kid.) Angie's an interesting character--it's clear from the start that she's keen to act like a big sister to Seymour and that she wants someone to look up to her. However, the life that she has led means there is a huge trail of destruction behind her, and she's done a lot that her upper middle class family find very difficult to forgive. I guess what, ultimately, Klein shows with this novel is the human side of drug addiction. Meanwhile, Seymour learns a few harsh lessons about growing up, though he gets through it okay.

Highly recommended. 

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

PS In 1993 the novel was made into a film titled Say A Little Prayer. To the best of my knowledge, the film has not been released on DVD

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Review: The Secret Pony by Elspeth Reid

If Colin Thiele had written an episode of Home and Away, the result would have been something akin to The Secret Pony, a  children's novel from the mid-1990s that I found secondhand recently. Scartlett is a good kid who is, essentially, just trying to roll with the punches. The past year hasn't been great--her parents have split up and now she and her two younger sisters are trying to get used to life in a small, beachside town in New South Wales. The local kids don't really accept Scarlett, and she feels quite lonely. She misses her Dad, and her old friends. Most of all, she misses being able to go horse riding, something that she did often back when she lived in Sydney. (There are no stables near her new home, and in any case, her family can no longer afford to pay for riding lessons.) One night, a kind of miracle happens, when a white stallion just happens to stumble into her yard. Scarlett knows that the horse, who she names Silver, has been mistreated--and instantly suspects Wendee--a spoiled girl who has just arrived in town. With the help of Adrian, the school nerd, Scarlett finds a way to hide Silver and keep him safe.

This novel was enjoyable enough, and would certainly appeal to any pre-teen girl who has ever wanted to keep her own horse. Scarlett's adventure was a little far-fetched in places, though it made for interesting reading. (Because hey, who wants to read about kids who follow the rules. Plus her and Adrian's solutions to various problems were quite innovative.) More troubling was Wendee, the spoiled rich girl who continually wanted to do "bad" stuff such as smoking, and taking her father's Mercedes without asking and using it to do burnouts. Or, at least Wendee claims that she wants to do these things! (I suspect she just wanted to look cool in front of Scarlett.). Ultimately, the novel is an inoffensive product of a bygone era, one where children's books were filled with ordinary kids having adventures and learning some valuable life lessons along the way. 


PS Some trivia: Author Elspeth Reid is the mother of actor/author Isla Fisher. She wrote two novels with her daughter in the mid-1990s, and according to the bio in the back had some other novels and short stories accepted for publication. (I am unable to find details of any of these, so I don't know if they were published using a pseudonym, or if they were published somewhere other than Australia. If anyone has any information, feel free to let me know in the comments section below.)

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Review: Autumn by Ali Smith

Autumn left me marvelling at its brilliance and wondering how on earth this shit got published. It's the story of a little girl and her friendship with an elderly neighbour, it's a story of a grown up woman visiting a dying man in a nursing home, it's the story of how one man escaped the holocaust and lived a long life in England, it's the story a nation in political turmoil, and it's something of a modern tribute to Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. In other words, this book is everything and nothing, it's brilliant and it's stupid, it's good enough to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize but, evidently, it was not good enough to win. 

And that's really it. Everything and nothing. Yet strangely addictive.

This may well be a book that needs to be read two or even three times to be appreciated.


Saturday, 11 November 2017

Rememberance Day: What Have You Learned Charlie Brown?

Lest we forget.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Friday Funnies: Realistic Garfield

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Review: The Last Long Drop by Mike Safe

Johno Harcourt is a seasoned journalist living in Sydney. Made redundant on Christmas Eve, he finds himself a little lost--he's the wrong side of fifty and the rest of his family, wife Tess and children Jack and Kirsten, are going from strength to strength with their own careers. He spends his days surfing and hanging around with his old mates until one day, the opportunity comes up to be the ghostwriter for the biography of Australia surfer/Hollywood legend Mike Vargas. Soon, Johno finds himself on a bigger adventure that he had counted on ...

This story is, essentially, about a man who defies the odds and finds a new path after he finds himself without steady employment. It's also a rollicking adventure featuring some mad keen surfers. I think this one will appeal very much to any reader, particularly an older male reader, who has found themselves at a bit of a crossroad and want that sense of hope, that it is possible for life to begin again after a redundancy. I felt that the author rambled sometimes and it took a little while for the story to get moving, but on the whole the story was entertaining enough.


Thank you to Ventura Press for my review copy.

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

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Review: It's Yr Life by Tempany Deckert & Tristan Bancks

Sim and Milla are as different as two teenagers can be. Sim lives in Byron Bay with his foster family who spend their evenings dumpster diving for food. Milla lives in California with her rich and famous parents. When the pair are forced to email one another for a school assignment, they discover that they may have something in common--each has a dark secret, and they both just might be able to help one another ...

This was an entertaining read, told from the duel perspective of two kids who appear to be quite different on the surface. The early interactions between Milla and Sim were extremely amusing, particularly as each one was keen to assert themselves. Over time a genuinely friendship develops, so much so that Sim becomes the one person that Milla can confide in--and it turns out that her problems are pretty serious, though believable. Parts of Sim's family story are quite gross, but in a way that is more amusing than offensive. It's interesting to watch the characters grow and discover just how much they have in common. (On that, the irony of their names wasn't lost on me, Sim & Milla.)

Overall, this is an enjoyable YA read that kept me entertained and, occasionally, guessing.

Highly recommended.

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

Monday, 6 November 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

A post shared by Kathryn White (@kathrynsinbox) on

I spotted this tram mural in Adelaide recently. It pays tribute to the old H-Class trams that ran along the route for many years. New trams were purchased in 2007 when the line was extended and the H-Class trams were reduced to special historic weekend services before eventually being decommissioned.  Some of the trams now live at the St Kilda Tram museum, while another is on permanent display at Glenelg. 

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Review: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

While Rebecca, or My Cousin Rachel, or even her short story The Birds may get all the fame, Jamaica Inn is most certainly Daphne du Maurier's finest novels. A gothic romance of innocence lost, it tells the story of Mary Yellan, a young woman sent to live with her aunt and her aunt's abusive husband in Jamaica Inn. The hotel is a front for such terrible criminal activity that no one even dares speak of it. What Mary uncovers at Jamaica Inn is so terrible that she will never be the same again. 

This is a page turning novel of murder, greed and innocence lost. It is difficult not to get caught up in the flowery prose and twist upon twist as Mary uncovers murders, thefts and shipwrecks and learns some painful lessons about what makes a good man. Like many gothic novels, a theme or two is lifted out of the works of the Bronte sisters, but the story works better for it. The author has a solid understanding of male-female politics, which adds a pleasing level of depth to the plot as Mary struggles with a sense of self versus her feelings for Jem--a horse thief who though dishonourable and rude, may also be the one man who truly cares what happens to Mary. 

Overall, Jamaica Inn is an entertaining read that stands up just as well today as it did when it was published eighty years ago.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Great ...

I'll just leave this here ...

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Review: Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Imagine being a kid looking for eels and stumbling upon an ancient sword. Not only is the sword ancient, but it is enchanted and it can speak. Better yet, it turns out the one who pulls it from the water will be a knight. That's the opening premise of Have Sword, Will Travel, the first book in an exciting new series for kids, written by Aussie Authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams. (Fans of the genre might recognise these two as the authors of the Troubletwisters series.) Odo and Eleanor are out looking for eels when they discover the enchanted sword. Only trouble is, that it is Odo who pulls out the sword and it is Eleanor who wants to be a knight, just like her mother was. As for the sword, well, Biter, just won't stop shouting instructions and he wants to send these kids on a mission to slay a dragon, immediately! Lots of fun and adventure follow.

I absolutely enjoyed reading this one for its clever humour, adventure and the sage lessons that Odo and Eleanor learn along the way. There are a lot of twists and turns (oh that Sir Saskia ...) and each one is well written and the world building is quite thorough. 

This one has a lot to offer readers of all ages. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Sean Williams for my copy of Have Sword, Will Travel.

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

Friday, 27 October 2017

Friday Funnies: Harry Potter Meme

Well, I can't argue with that logic.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Literary Quotes

"I love them," said Dorothy. "They are so nice and selfish. Dogs are too good and unselfish. They make me feel uncomfortable. But cats are gloriously human."

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

The latest Literary YA offering from John Green starts off strong, and ends on a depressingly real note. Aza Holmes is sixteen years old and is basically a good kid. She tries hard at school, gets along well with her best friend Daisy and loves her Mum, who also happens to be a teacher at her school. (Aza's Dad died a few years earlier.) Aza also happens to have anxiety. Aza and Daisy get caught up in a missing person's investigation--the father of Aza's childhood friend Davis has gone missing--and she learns a few important lessons about life, and managing her mental illness along the way.

This is a difficult book for me to review as I very much enjoyed the opening chapters, and the realistic depictions of what it is like to be living with a mental illness. The reader travels with Aza through her obsessions, thought spirals and how she navigates her first relationship when her illness threatens to get in the way. I also liked how the author showed the impact that Aza's illness had on Daisy, and how their friendship can suffer for it. (And Daisy certainly had an interesting outlet for her feelings.) Less strong was Aza's relationship with Davis--there wasn't a lot of chemistry there and at times, it seemed that Davis really only put up with her for lack of somebody else. Then again, Davis was also a kid who had not been raised in a loving household, so maybe it was difficult for him to accurately depict his feelings, hence why his secret blog contained so many metaphors. Overall, though, the Davis/Russell Pickett story felt somewhat hollow to me. And, as is the case with much of Green's work, there is a lot of intelligent teenage philosophy in there as well. 

Green's strong point is his depiction of mental illness and his depiction of Daisy as a strong and likeable character.


Saturday, 21 October 2017

Love, Unrequited by Kathryn White

Exciting news! I have a new (very) short story available for download on Smashwords. Love, Unrequited is a Literary short story about a young woman who develops a crush on an older man. She starts to lose her mind a bit, as you'll see as the narrative goes on. I wrote this one a long time ago (back in 2012) but I've only plucked up enough courage to publish it now. Anyway, the link if you'd like to read it is: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/754531

Hopefully the story will be available on iTunes, Kobo, B&N etc. soon.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Friday Funnies: Peppermint Patty

Another great Peanuts moment this week, this time featuring Peppermint Patty. Schoolwork has never been her forte, she's the kind of kid who takes more of an interest in sports and the outdoors, and finds it difficult to concentrate on other things. 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Writers on Wednesday: Cher Chidzey

Welcome to another great Writers on Wednesday post. This week I am speaking with Cher Chidzey, author of Ken's Quest.

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I am the youngest of nineteen children, twelve girls and seven boys. My father Huat was born at the end of the Qing dynasty in Shantou, a fishing village.

Father and his three wives, four sons and eight daughters migrated to Singapore when the Japanese invaded China. I was born in a household of over thirty people, in a house built on stilts, in the “House of Ninety-Nine Closed Doors”. Father relocated shortly after with my mother and her two sons and six daughters to a simpler dwelling in Serangoon Gardens, the stomping ground of Australian and British military personnel.

Growing up in a household of siblings schooled in the Chinese language I learnt to appreciate Chinese poetry, Teochew opera and calligraphy. My childhood was chaotic with the comings and goings of relatives; the stepbrothers and their families also relocated to the same neighbourhood. The tribal voice, the gossip, the bickering continued but I kept my head down and studied. I was the only child educated in a missionary school run by Irish nuns. I rebelled against the family’s strict Confucian code and converted to Catholicism.

In 1974 I hatched an escape route from the chaos and ended up in Highett High school in Sandringham, Victoria. My political education began in that school under the mentorship of my classmate Harviva and continued when I studied at Monash University. I went to street marches and attended political campaigns despite feeling dreadfully scared of being spied on. The Singapore government uses the Internal Security Act to detain people indefinitely without trial. 

My journey from a strict Confucian upbringing to Catholicism to involvement in seeking social justice is something I’m proud of. I’ve lived both cultures.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Ken’s Quest is my most recently published book. Before I dive into the bowels of the novel I’d like to tell why I wrote it. I’ve observed the likes of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party lashing out at migrants, pointing fingers of blame but also the reluctance of people to speak up honestly, openly and civilly about their feelings, about the differences in cultures. Keeping silent creates undercurrents and discontent. That build up can lead to the rise of the right wing as we are witnessing now. We have many programs and initiatives to promote multi-culturalism but we could take a further step. Encouraging people to talk openly and honestly about differences is an essential step towards true multi-culturalism. 

Bravo to Betul Tuna who lives in Shepparton, one of Australia's One Nation strongholds, where Islamophobia is rampant and she's got a smoking idea to put an end to it for good. By day she's a community worker and a single mum with three kids. By night Betul and her best mate Suzan Yilmaz are transforming an old caravan into a shisha cafe on wheels. They're gearing up to travel around the country with it, parking in random streets, opening their doors to all Australians who might fear Muslims.

"Forty nine per cent of Australians don't want us here," she says.

"I'm facing my fear and I guess I'm expecting the forty nine per cent to face their fear and maybe come have that cup of coffee."

Ken’s Quest was set in the 1990s. First part of the novel focused on the Ken-Red journey. Ken’s characterisation: he was given poor spoken English. His career profile as chief engineer in Communist China made him authoritarian. His upbringing in a wealthy family made him superior. These attributes created a rigid personality, one that would not adjust to a new environment easily. 

Red was Ken’s assistant at Lucky Security Gate. His xenophobic propensity led him to clash with Ken. The turning point came when Ken saved Red’s dog Fu Manchu. They became friends.

Their conversation began with work related issues, of work procedures, of the meaning of work and the concept of career. As the friendship deepened, the conversation shifted from work place related issues to societal values – familial responsibilities. 

Red discussed his fragmented childhood experience, being passed from one step-father to another like a recycled Christmas present, his fear of displacement by migrants, his loneliness and lack of meaning in life.

Slowly Ken reassessed his assumption about Aussies having it easy and government financial aid should mean success for all. Red exposed Ken’s many flaws: his denials, his lying, his arrogance, lack of social skills. Despite the fiery verbal exchanges Red was touched by Ken’s care and affection, especially after a drug related mugging.

Their cross-cultural exchanges was possible because Red and Ken trusted each other. To get to the state of trusting we need courage to venture outside our comfort zone. And that takes us back to our intention when we speak of differences in our cultures. 

The second part of the novel focused on the Ken-Julia journey.

Julia was Ken’s communication teacher at TAFE, turned lover. The macho Ken was kept on his toes. She questioned his assumed male superiority in bed, his controlling way over his son, over her, his secretiveness, his face saving tendency and his overwhelming jealousy. The cross cultural tension was tipping Ken to the edge but for the first time he was willing to listen, to reassess his male superiority, his tribal voice, the voice of his ancestors and connect with his woman. Through her insistence and interrogation he learned to speak honestly and confess his secrets. Observing Julia made him realise some serious truth about himself. He assumed he had achieved wei-yan (gaining respect without effort) but he was wrong. As chief engineer in his company in China, Ken was able to wield his power over his co-workers. The highly stratified power structure meant workers had to pretend to respect him to get by. That behaviour was misinterpreted as wei-yan. Ken required a different place, a different context to realise that. 

Ken’s quest of gaining wealth and status was shifted furtively. He was awakened to the simple pleasures in life. They rode bicycles in the country, sipped wines, listened to classical music, discussed literature and politics and recited poetry. 

The transformative power of love was for all to see.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

My mother told us stories, which in my mind were unsuitable for the very young Cher because they seeded mistrust. However, those stories became the material for my memoir The House of Ninety-nine Closed Doors, self-published in 2007 after ten years of tears. I had wanted to write the memoir since the age of ten. The whispers, the secrets, the victims’ laments were pleading to get out. My tribal voice reprimanded me for hanging out the dirty linen but I could not ignore the victims’ pleas. It was important for later generations to understand the complexity of such a big, dysfunctional family. 

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

Stories of how migrants struggle against all odds to get here, to seek wealth, status and freedom have been told repeatedly, it is a well-worked over field in the words of Professor Sneja Gunev. 

Ken’s Quest breaks new ground in refugee-literature by showing that migration is a two-way street. I make a timely plea for the acceptance of migrants, but I also remind newcomers to work at being welcomed wherever they go. Rather than telling migrants to fit in, I spell out how refugees, migrants and people newly posted overseas can integrate better into their new surroundings. I challenge the underemployment of professional migrants in the 1990s. I discuss issues of gender, “face” and parent-child relations from the perspective of my old and new worlds. The discrimination against homosexuals and transgenders was revealed through subplots in the novel. I’m very proud of my courage to take a different approach to multiculturalism and encourage people to speak about their differences. 

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

I’m concurrently writing a novel and a play titled Su Su. The work explores the journey of a young student Su Su, a spoilt girl from a wealthy Singaporean family, set in the 1970s in Australia. There were many hurdles awaiting Su Su in the local high school and in the university. 

She was brainwashed by her mother who fed her Confucian philosophy. Su Su was expected to live a monk like life till she graduated from university. In the local high school her sexuality was rudely awakened by her classmate, Trevor, a rebel and a clown. The censored press in Singapore meant Su Su’s political views, understanding of the machination of government and world affairs were that of the government. Eve, her classmate in the Australian high school where she studied, turned those views upside down.

Su Su’s conflict accelerated when she met political activist Freckles, who became her lover. Now she was caught between offending her parents and plunging into political activities or standing back and displeasing Freckles. The1970s saw the political upheaval in Australia, the sacking of Gough Whitlam government, the opposition to uranium mining and the flood of Vietnamese refugees. 

Su Su was warned of the danger of participating in political activities by her mother Zum who declared herself as the decision maker in Su Su’s life. She had said, ‘Parents are traffic lights, warning signs to imminent danger and disobeying them was equivalent to running the red lights.’

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why? Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

I like the feel of paper books, the aesthetics of a book cover and that the layout enables smoother reading. Having said that eBooks are convenient because I can change the font size. You see failing eyesight comes with aging! 

After reading Katharine Hamilton’s article on Indie versus Traditional versus Self-publishing I’m warming up to Indie Publishing. Traditional publishing is difficult to get into unless you’re established. The way the wholesale-retail operation works, the return to publisher is small and that means royalties are small too. Indie publishing seems to offer the maximum flexibility and you’re boss of the operation.

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

Ba Jin’s trilogy: The Family, Spring and Autumn.

Li Yaotang (25 November 1904 – 17 October 2005), better known by his pen name Ba Jin was a Chinese author and political activist best known for his novel Family. He is considered to be one of the most important and widely read Chinese writers of the 20th century.

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

Stories told by our ancestors, historical events of wars and violence all pointed to an unsafe world. Fear and mistrust is hard wired into the human brain. I also have been influenced by my tribal voices to not trust, to not let on too much. ‘They’ll take you down.’ The voices of my parents echoed in my ears, made me jumpy and edgy, my eyes roaming on the lookout for enemies.

I disobeyed them. I wrote The House of Ninety-Nine Closed Doors to expose our dysfunctional family. I let them down, hung out the dirty linen, felt guilty for a while, felt shameful for a while but decided the truth (the truth I have perceived) was more important than anything else. I risk severing relationship with family members over it but it must be told.

I went on to ask what’s wrong with questioning about other people’s values and beliefs. I decided there was nothing wrong if my motive was to understand them better. In writing Ken’s Quest I’m questioning multi culturalism in Australia and I risk rejection from many people who like to think everything is cosy and fine. 

I’ll cite an example about the harm in holding back. I’m slow in responding. A colleague once said, ‘Why are Singaporeans so Kiasu? They have to be at the top of the queue.’

I did not reply but I was furious and remained so for the next few years. By the way Kiasu is a Singaporean term which means “afraid to lose.” A Kiasu person never misses out on anything. He/she is always grabbing and grasping selfishly. If she had coined her question differently I might have the courage to respond. I was afraid that once I opened my mouth I might lose control. If she had said, ‘I find the go go go energy of Singaporeans difficult to handle. Can you help me?’ I would have been more motivated to explain. 

Communication can be very complex, easily misunderstood so think carefully about your motive. Is it a genuine reaching out? Is it a means of belittling? Even with the best of intentions sometimes communication can go wrong given the complexity of different cultural values. So my guideline: If unclear do not assume, ask for clarification.

Read Ken’s Quest. We need to move out of our comfort zone, explore, engage and grow. Spread the word.


For purchase from publisher please go to


For private sale ($26 including postage) please email Cher Chidzey, go to cchidzey@gmail.com

To view author’s talks and posts please go to


Monday, 16 October 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Literary Quotes

The sky aft was dark as pitch, but the moon still shone brightly ahead of us and lit up the blackness. Beneath its sheen a huge white-topped breaker, twenty feet high or more, was rushing on to us. It was on the break--the moon shone on its crest and tipped its foam with light. On it rushed beneath the inky sky, driven by the awful squall behind it.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Friday Funnies

Poor Sally. Often the Peanuts character who has both the most and conversely, the least, amount of imagination, she just doesn't get what is so fun about holding a balloon. (She's obviously not keen to start playing with it.) Oh well, at least we don't have to worry about any Peanuts/It crossovers anytime soon. 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

If V.C. Andrews and Gillian Flynn had ever co-authored a novel the result would be something akin to The Roanoke Girls, a sinful tale of murder and incest. The Roanoke girls are rich, beautiful, mysterious, and cursed. All of the girls either run away from the family home in Kansas, or they die.

Lane is a survivor. She fled Roanoke a long time ago, but when her beloved cousin Allegra goes missing, she feels that she has no choice but to return--and hopefully to expose the wicked truth about what it means to be a Roanoke girl.

Despite the ugly subject matter, this novel was captivating. In duel narratives author Amy Engel skilfully moves between the past and the present to tell Lane's story. The first story is that of a fifteen year old girl from New York who finds herself living with her family that she has never met before, following the suicide of her mother. From the outset, it is clear that not one of the Roanoke family is quite sane or normal, not her cold grandmother, her charismatic grandfather, or her crazy cousin Allegra. In the present narrative we read of Lane as a twenty-something who is bitter, and who has every reason to hate her grandparents. The big questions are what happened to Allegra, and whether or not Lane can escape the curse of the Roanoke Girls. And while I won't reveal any spoilers here, I will say that the ending is expertly handled by the author and should satisfy even the most fussy of readers.

This one was an enjoyable read--the subject matter is heavy going, but the author handles difficult topics and nightmarish, quietly menacing situations with class, in the same way that V.C. Andrews did with Flowers in the Attic and Heaven. 


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Review: The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews

A fascinating setting and a ripping (and often hilarious,) plot make The World of Tomorrow a winning read. In 1939, the World Fair opened in New York. For America, at least, it was a time of hope, optimism and unity with other nations. (Of course, as history cruelly reminds us, what lay in the immediate future was the Second World War.) In the middle of all this is Francis Dempsey an escapee from an Irish Prison, who after a misadventure involving an accidental explosion is now wanted by the IRA. In tow is his younger brother Michael, an escaped trainee priest, who had his eardrums blown to bits in the explosion, but who can now see and speak with none other than William Yeats. Francis also has a suitcase full of cash that he has stolen from the IRA and he's using this to fund his and Michael's escape to America, where they pose as a pair of wealthy Scotsmen and live it up in high society as they search for their older brother Martin who is a poor but talented jazz musician. Amongst this are other characters who do much to broaden out the story Cronin an ex IRA man who has found a better life as a farmer, but finds himself obligated to do one last job, and Lily, a photographer from Prague, whose tragic story reminds us of the atrocities that were already happening in Europe and how ignorant, or perhaps complacent, the rest of the world were to these events. Inevitably, the characters end up at the World Fair, in a storyline that is one, utterly entertaining and two, best left for the reader to discover. (I'll just say that it might have something to do with a royal visit.) 

Although long (551 pages,) and packed with characters and various tangents, this one makes for entertaining reading. I found the exploits of Francis and his alter ego Angus to be quite amusing (and I like that he remained a gentleman to the vulnerable Anisette,) and I loved the many musical references. The author does not shy away from the fact that there was a lot of inequality in the time and place where the story is set, and the story is better for it. The plot itself is a very clever play on real events. 

Highly recommended.  

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

Monday, 9 October 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

A post shared by Kathryn White (@kathrynsinbox) on

Friday, 6 October 2017

Friday Funnies: Snoopy

Just another Peanuts comic. Poor Snoopy!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Review: Broken Glass by V.C. Andrews

An evil twin, a psychotic mother, a fraught family relationship and a shocking abduction are the themes of Broken Glass, the twisted second instalment in the Mirror Sisters trilogy. And it all goes downhill from there, really. The novel opens from the perspective of the supposedly evil twin, Haylee Blossom Fitzgerald. Haylee has just arranged for her identical twin sister Kaylee to be abducted by a crazy redneck who has marriage--and a honeymoon in a basement--on his mind. Never mind the obvious hell that her sister is about to endure, Haylee is looking forward to the prospect of being an only child. Maybe now her domineering mother will allow her to be her own person, instead of parading her and Kaylee around like a pair of purebred puppies. And no longer does Haylee have to be constantly good like her well-behaved sister.

Meanwhile, Kaylee is coming to terms with one, a massive betrayal from her sister and two, the fact that she's basically trapped inside a rape camp and needs to outwit her captor, Anthony Cabot whose resemblance to Norman Bates so close that he does indeed keep his dead mother in the house. Back at home, Mommy dearest has suffered a breakdown, the girls father is able to assert himself for the first time and everyone is too dumb to realise that Haylee has set the whole thing up. The ending is predictable enough, and the writing itself is quite trashy. 

I went into this one with fairly low expectations and had them confirmed with every twist. At least this time around there was no glorification of rape or sexual abuse, which has been an all too constant theme of many of the V.C. Andrews novels that have been penned by ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman. There was also far less repetition than the first novel. It staggers belief that Haylee could keep up her deception as long as she did, especially when it was obvious that the police, and Mrs Lofter, the no nonsense nurse brought in to care for the twins mother, was suspicious. Some parts of the story, such as Haylee's relationship with Ryan felt totally superfluous to the plot. As I said in the previous paragraph, the writing is trashy. This is all too common with the ghostwriter novels, of which there are now more than seventy titles. (It's debatable which titles were penned by Neiderman and which were penned by V.C. Andrews herself in the year or so following V.C. Andrews death.)

One of the most twisted parts of this novel comes not from the story itself, but for its possible similarities to the the disappearance of Tara Calico. It is believed that Calico was abducted and held against her will. Several months after Calico disappeared, a photograph of the young woman surfaced. In the picture, she was bound and gagged--and beside her was a copy of her favourite book, which just happened to be My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews. 

Not really for me, but fans of the series will probably enjoy this instalment.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Friday Funnies: Charlie Brown & Snoopy

Just sharing this Peanuts comic for fun. I love the fact that Charlie Brown is being well, a bit of a wanker, and then Snoopy gives him exactly what he deserves. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Review: The Tenth Doctor Archives, Volume 1

Although I have long been a fan of Doctor Who, I have never read any of the comics. When I found this beautifully presented collection in Dymocks, I decided to change all that and give it a go. I'm glad that I did. The Doctor's adventures translate beautifully in comic book form. 

This book features two full length stories, Agent Provocateur and The Forgotten. In Agent Provocateur, we meet the Tenth Doctor and Martha who are going out for a quiet milkshake ... and end up embroiled in a fun but almost nonsensical story featuring an alien who is hell bent on killing off entire alien races and starting a war. The Forgotten is a slower and probably the better story of the two for a reader such as myself who is a bit unfamiliar with the Doctor Who comics. In this adventure, the Tenth Doctor and Martha find themselves in a museum dedicated to the first nine doctors. Meanwhile, the Tenth Doctor is losing his memories and Martha has to help him remember all of the previous versions of himself so that he can survive. Of course, there are a few other sinister things afoot, but to talk about them would give away spoilers. I loved the flashback scenes featuring the other doctors. It was also oddly cool to see Martha again, and with it, a story arc that didn't follow her unrequited love for the Doctor, something which always annoyed me about the character. (She was such a strong, smart woman. Why was she so bent on having a boyfriend?)

Overall, this one is a great addition to the bookshelf of anyone who loves both Doctor Who and reading comic books. Recommended.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Literary Quotes

"What is life but a series of inspired follies?"

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Review: On the Beach by Neville Shute

Neville Shute's classic novel about a group of people in Melbourne slowly awaiting their deaths from radiation poisoning following a nuclear war in the Northern Hemisphere is as chillingly real now as it was when it was first published in 1957. Set in the early 1960s it tells the story of three people, Peter Holmes of the Royal Australian Navy, who is married with a small child, Dwight Towers, an American naval officer who made his way to Australia by chance and refuses to accept that his wife and children are dead, and Moira, a spirited young woman who knows that she has nothing left and that her own death is inevitable. 

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this novel is its sense of inevitability. The human race has, essentially, stuffed things up for themselves. There is no one left in the Northern Hemisphere, and the radiation sickness (as it is known in the novel,) is slowly travelling further and further south. The characters know that they only have a few months left. They live their lives from day to day, trying to solider on as best they can, though each character deludes themselves in various ways. Peter and his wife, for example, plant a garden that won't flourish until the following year. Then something odd happens. The navy begins to pick up morse code signals from America. Is it possible that someone may be alive in the Northern Hemisphere, and what could it mean for the people in Melbourne? An expedition, and a lesson on the way that false hope can be given follows.

Well written, realistic and morbid, this is a novel that is memorable for all of the right reasons. While not a ripping page turner, it is an interesting account of a group of people who are facing their inevitable fate and how they cope with knowing that in a few months they, and everyone they care about, will be gone. 

Highly recommended.

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

Monday, 25 September 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

I spotted Wally recently in a side street just off Rundle Mall. I hope he's having a good time in Adelaide! (Nah, not really. This is a traffic signal box on King William Street.)

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Advice For Authors: Coping With Negative Reviews

As an author, there is nothing worse than reading negative reviews of my work. It's bad enough knowing that someone hated my book enough to dedicate an entire post to it, let alone the fact that they took the time to search for gifs and then decided to post the review everywhere and now other people are liking that review. It's the kind of crushing, soul destroying feeling that makes me want to lock myself in a darkened room and never, ever come out, let alone write anything again. Well, I would, except for the fact that I can be a rather vengeful person in a lot of ways. I figure if anyone goes to that much trouble to write a negative review then they would probably enjoy the fact that they have just completely ruined a lifelong hobby for me and the best way to get revenge is to keep on writing seeing as they would probably hate that. Jokes aside, it is unpleasant being on the receiving end of a negative review. Over the years, I've found some different ways to cope with them, and thought that it might be helpful to share them here. So here are a few tips:

Don't read them

If you're really feeling the weight of negative reviews, then stop reading them. You're not obligated to read reviews of your work. If you really want to read reviews, then the time to do it is well after your book has been released and you're looking for feedback on how to improve your craft or to make your books more marketable. 

Don't take it personally

Very few reviews are written with the intention of hurting the author. A decent, honest review sticks to discussing the book. And if they say they don't like your book, that's very different from saying that they know you personally and don't like you.

That said, very occasionally, someone will write a review out of pure spite. The best thing to do in this situation is to ignore it. 

Don't contact the reviewer

Seriously. It doesn't matter how inaccurate their review is, the best thing you can do is ignore it. The reviewer is entitled to their opinion. Writing to them and pointing out everything that is wrong with their review isn't going to change their mind. If anything, it's only going to annoy them.

Don't fret about potential lost sales

A single review isn't going to garner enough interest from the entire reading public to ruin your book. Sure it looks a little shitty if the only review on amazon or goodreads is a one star, but who knows, the next reviwer could give it five stars. 

Understand that you cannot please everyone

It would be a boring world if we all liked the same books. Sometimes your book finds the wrong reader or reviewer. The people who don't like your book may not necessarily be the people that you are writing for. 

Realise that reviewing is a subjective business

If you don't believe me, visit Amazon or Goodreads and read through some of the one star reviews of Harry Potter. Actually, read through the one star review of any best selling novel, and you'll see that there are plenty of reviewers out there who didn't love it. In fact, just to prove how subjective reading is, here is a list of best selling novels that I can't stand:

  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCulloch 
  • Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel
  • Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  • No Greater Love by Danielle Steele
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James 

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you take your writing seriously. Listen to feedback, but don't allow a negative review to end your career.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Review: The Fall by Tristan Bancks

What if you were a twelve year old boy, on crutches, staying an a small apartment with the father that you barely knew, and, in the middle of the night, you witnessed a murder? That's the premise of The Fall, a brilliant, suspense filled novel for middle-grade readers. Sam is a pretty smart and resourceful kid, but he is taken by surprise when he sees a body fall from the apartment above his. He knows that the body must have been pushed, but when it disappears and his dad, crime reporter Harry doesn't believe him and then goes missing, Sam finds himself without much evidence and no support to help him prove that there has been a crime. And someone may now be after him ...

I thought that the novel was cleverly written and had enough to keep readers of any age entertained. Sam, I think, is a great character for boys to identify with--he's smart and resourceful, but most important of all, he's human. It's mentioned that he's had issues with bullying at school, anger management and also some possible behavioural issues. He sometimes resents the long hours his single mum works, and feels rejected by his dad. 

Overall a great read. Recommended. 

PS Bancks is also the author of the brilliant middle-grade novel Two Wolves, which I reviewed on here a couple of years ago.

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

Monday, 18 September 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

I snapped this chap on Pirie Street recently, just near theAdelaide City Council chambers. For some crazy reason, he reminds me a bit of the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Review: We Ate the Road Like Vultures by Lynnette Lounsbury

A little bit mad, a little bit frivolous, full of shit, irreverent and completely entertaining--that sums We Ate the Road Like Vultures the first adult novel by Australian author Lynnette Lousbury. In February 2001, sixteen year old Lulu runs away from her family's cattle farm in Australia. She travels to Mexico, where Jack Kerouac is alive and well, and enjoying a suitably fitting retirement. Joined by Christian backpacker Adolph, Lulu finds herself on a crazy and unpredictable series of adventures.

This one was a short, though entertaining read. I thought it was a fitting tribute to Kerouac and On the Road. It's the kind of read that is perfect for when you're in the mood for something different.


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

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Review: Billy and the Minpins by Roald Dahl

The prospect of a new Roald Dahl book is a very exciting thing. Billy and the Minpins is a re-imagining of The Minpins, one of Dahl's last stories, presented in an exciting new junior novel format and with new illustrations by Quentin Blake (who is, of course, the most famous and best remembered of all of the illustrators who worked with Dahl.) I do not remember The Minpins from my childhood at all--presumably the school library either didn't have a copy, or the book proved so popular that it was constantly checked out. Or maybe by the time it was published Australia I had reached that awful and foolish age where I believed that I was too old for certain things. Anyway, I was quite excited for the release of Billy and the Minpins, and happy bought a hardcover edition from Dymocks. I read the novel in the space of an hour, pausing constantly to enjoy the illustrations.

Billy is a small boy who lives on the edge of a very dangerous forest. He is warned by his mother not to go near the forest, due to all of the frightening, Dahlesque creatures that live there. He spends his time assuring his busy mother that he is being good, but one day curiosity gets the better of him and he travels to the forest ... where he meets a very dangerous creature indeed, along with the lovely Minpins. Together, Billy and the Minpins conspire to rid the forrest of the terrible Gruncher for good.

Overall this is a lovely  tale, fitting of its author. There is a lot of Dahl's humour, and the narrative is wonderfully, and beautifully, imaginative.


Monday, 11 September 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

This city bank likes to keep their bank safe ... and sparkly! Love the lock!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Friday Funnies: Inappropriate Peanuts Memes

One of the weirdest things about the internet--and the shitty way that we now communicate with each other on a daily basis--is our reliance on memes. With a meme you can take basically, any person, photograph or pop culture icon and alter its meaning to suit whatever you would like to say. The results are funny (except when they're not, which is often) and may or may not be used to emphasise a point. Peanuts is, of course, an iconic comic strip and it gets used for various memes often. The memes can be clean: 

A bit inappropriate: 

Or downright vulgar:

And the worst ones take Peanuts so far out of its original context that, sometimes, I'd really like to shake the person who came up with them. The thing about memes is that they're art, but they are not necessarily good art. When you take something like Peanuts out of its context, you're also taking away the very element that made the strip so successful--that it was about seeing the world through a child's eyes. But then again, memes aren't supposed to be good art and nor are they intended to last longer than it takes to scroll past one on facebook. So is it worth caring about? Probably not.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Literary Quotes

Surprises, like misfortunes, seldom come alone.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Review: The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

Shaped by three different narratives, set in three different continents during three different eras, The History of Bees is a beautifully written novel that is equally a story of parents and their relationships with their children as it is a dystopian that ponders our future. William is a biologist living in England in 1852, who after a bout of depression decides to work toward something more. Wishing to work with his beloved son Edmund, instead he discovers just how intelligent--and plucky--his daughter Charlotte is. In 2007 in the United States, George comes from a long line of beekeepers and is keen to pass his family heritage on to his only child, Tom, who has other talents and other ideas about his future. In China in 2098 Tao works to pollinate trees by hand--a job that she is massively overqualified for--and hopes to spare her son Wei-Wen from the same fate. Then something very unexpected happens ...

In recent months I've had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a number of excellent titles. The History of Bees is another title that I can proudly add to an ever-growing list of best reads of 2017. Each of the three stories was unique in their own way, though clever formed so that each worked perfectly together to tell the bigger story of the fragile relationship that humans have with nature, especially when we try to control it. There is also the not entirely dissimilar meditation on the relationship that parents have with their children--the hopes that parents have and the eventual realisation that their child is not just like their and their futures cannot be planned or controlled. Maybe it's my gender talking here, but I found the story of Tao and Wei-Wen the easiest to identify with. That said, both William and George (oh, how I hated him in the beginning,) challenged me, and helped me to see the world through a different perspective. I'd really like to talk about the bees more, but there is little that I can say on the subject without offering plot spoilers, and as I really enjoyed the experience of coming in to this book without knowing what to expect, I'd love for other readers to have that same experience.

Overall, an excellent read. Highly recommended.

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

PS I understand that author Maja Lunde will be touring Australia and New Zealand in February & March 2018 and expect to hear more news about this in time.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

This is what happens when you walk through Rundle Mall in the rain and decide to photograph a local icon. Magic.