Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Off Topic: Why Weird Al Pisses Me Off

Actually, I just lied in the title. Weird Al doesn't piss me off. I find his parodies clever and entertaining. But you know what does piss me off? Having those same lyrics pushed at me by his fans. You know the deal. The radio is on, you're humming along to a classic rock song like Another One Bites the Dust by Queen, or maybe you're just nodding your head to the music, listening or otherwise appreciating their musical genius and the whole mood of the song. Maybe it even brings up memories of some great day or experience that you've had. Or you know, it just puts you in a good mood. And then some fuckwit comes running in the room and starts shouting, "Another one rides the bus!" over the top of Queen's lyrics because Weird Al's version is just. So. Much. Better. 

Except that it's not better. It's parody and there is a time and place for it. And that time and place is when you're listening to a Weird Al song or album and not when you've just decided to ruin my listening experience with your enthusiasm for novelty songs. See, here's the thing. If I went out to JB HI FI and bought a Pearl Jam CD, I'd be pretty damn annoyed if, when I played it, Weird Al's song My Wife is in Love With Eddie Vedder started playing instead. I don't care how funny that song is, I was in the mood for Pearl Jam. And to get a parody version instead is just poisoning my ears.


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Review: The Delinquents by Criena Rohan

Reading The Delinquents was a lovely reminder of just way I take part in the Aussie Author Challenge every year. This book shook me well out of my comfort zone and took me to a part of Australian history that I knew little about Brisbane in the years following the Second World War. This was a Brisbane that I knew little of, where trams rolled through its main streets, where the locals were still reeling from the American soldiers that had occupied their city during the war, where the currency was still the pound and where the hardest and edgiest youths aspired to be bodgies and widgies. In the middle of all of this are Brownie and Lola, two kids from Bundaburg whose only crime was to fall in love too young. Kept apart by their mothers, and by the state, the pair eventually find one another again and do their best to stay together and survive a tough life in Brisbane, fending off police officers, nasty landlords and a host of other colourful characters.

Before purchasing this book, I was familiar with The Delinquents only because when I eight years old someone made a film of the book. That film became something of a hit at my local primary school (despite it being completely inappropriate for kids,) due to the casting of Kylie Minogue as a surprisingly white incarnation of Lola. (In the book, Lola is of mixed Asian and British heritage, and it is hinted at that she receives greater brutality from police and welfare for this reason.) The book isn't terribly well-known in Australia. After its initial publication in the UK in 1962 it remained out of print until Penguin Books Australia acquired the rights in 1986 (a film tie-in edition was later published in 1989,) and in 2015 it was republished as a Text Classic, along with a number of other forgotten Australian novels. 

I found the book itself to be a well-written and at times, a brutal melodrama. Parts of the novel seemed quite rushed, though the reason for this is utterly forgivable. Author Criena Rohan (whose real name is Deirdre Cash,) wrote it from her sick bed at a specialist TB hospital. Sadly, the author had been misdiagnosed, and the underlying cause of her illness--cancer--was not detected until it was too late. She lived just long enough to see The Delinquents published.

While not my favourite Australian novel, this novel certainly shed some light on a part of Brisbane's history that I was unfamiliar with. 

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

Monday, 24 July 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)




Following on from last week's Furby find, this week I am sharing another find--the wicked Odlaw from Where's Wally (known as Where's Waldo in some parts of the world.) Where's Wally in Adelaide is a fun game that a number of people have been playing in recent times. Most of the stickers are on the sides of cafes and other fun places. 

Friday, 21 July 2017

Friday Funnies: Garfield vs Grumpy Cat



Ha! Now that's telling Grumpy Cat!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Review: Too Late by C Hoover (aka Colleen Hoover)

When bestselling American author Colleen Hoover decided to self-publish Too Late online chapter by chapter as a side project, she had no idea just how she would enjoy writing it, or how popular the story would become with fans. Inevitably, the came demand for a paperback version. Lucky for her fans, Colleen Hoover is no stranger (or no snob) to print-on-demand and produced a paperback version, publishing under a slightly different name. Too Late is a little bit darker, and perhaps a bit less polished that some of her other work, but it makes for fast and addictive reading.

Too Late tells the story of Sloan, a young woman caught in an abusive relationship with Asa. At first, one might think that Asa is simply a jerk, then it becomes apparent that Asa is a criminal, then we learn that he is a narcissist and then, finally, Hoover delivers the final shocking revelation--Asa is a paranoid schizophrenic. Sloan, meanwhile, is a young college student who has grown up without a great deal of parental guidance and wants only to have enough money to care for her severely disabled brother--money that Asa can provide. A problem arises however, when Sloan falls in love with undercover cop Carter, untangles a whole web of lies and tries to escape. And Asa will do anything to keep her ...

Too Late is a fast paced melodrama with a bit of gore, plenty of dark themes and some surprising twists. It's not perfect by a long shot--it's pretty unrealistic. There are two epilogues that make up an entire third of the novel and they drag on a bit--I suspect that the author was reluctant to say good-bye to Sloan and Carter/Luke. As pure entertainment, it works well and I found myself greedily snatching a few extra pages whenever I had the opportunity. 

This one is entertaining, though it is probably more for fans of the author than for a wider audience.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)



I spotted this Furby outside Her Majesty's Theatre during the week and just had to share it! Over the past few months, the Find a Furby movement has been quite popular and these little Furby shaped stickers have been popping up everywhere around Adelaide and the inner-suburbs, with people sharing their finds on social media.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Review: Before You Forget by Julia Lawrinson

Sweet and sad is the flavour of the day in this tale of a young woman who is coming of age just as her life is falling apart. Amelia is in year twelve at a visual arts school in Perth. She loves art, but her teacher hates everything she does. Her best friend has stopped talking to her, and it soon becomes obvious that Gemma is suffering from a serious illness. At home, her parents marriage is strained and her father is acting peculiarly--and he seems to be forgetting a lot of things, including Amelia. The year will prove to be a challenging one for Amelia, and she learns some valuable life lessons along the way ...

Though this novel was quite sad, and a bit depressing, I found myself lapping it up. The author perfectly captures something that a lot of novels and authors have missed--just how lonely year twelve can be. The author offers a sympathetic look at a year in the life of a young woman who is expected to behave like an adult, yet treated like a kid, just as her life is falling apart. Amelia's growth as a person--and as an artist--was pleasing to read, as was the subtle backstory about her disagreeable teacher. Surprisingly, I found Poppy to be an interesting side character, someone who drifts through life and is able to succeed because of, rather than in spite of, a complete lack of depth. (The ending of Poppy and Amelia's friendship is bittersweet, as it becomes obvious that while Poppy has a perfect right to do things on her terms, she lacks the depth to understand Amelia's deeper motives.)

Overall, this is an enjoyable YA novel. Recommended.

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

Sunday, 16 July 2017

On Writing: Wrong Way Go Back ... How My Career As a Writer Died

Some of you may have noticed that I was a bit quiet on here last week.

That happened for a number of reasons, the most relevant of which was that I was preparing my short story Searching For Audrina for publication. It may have been a 7000 word short story, but it was a heck of a big deal for me. It is the first thing that I have released since 2015, apart from anthology inclusions, most of which I had already written and signed contracts for back in 2015. One of these experiences was quite unpleasant, which is why I do not promote or mention the anthology on this blog. 

As far as writing and self-confidence goes, the past eighteen months of so have not been easy for me. There is no logical reason for this, I've had very few rejections or negative reviews during this period, in fact I've had some great reviews coming in for my books from around the world, particularly for Best Forgotten which has struck a chord with a diverse cross-section of people, far more than what I had ever anticipated. Cats, Scarves and Liars and Being Abigail are still selling in respectable quantities for an independently published book by a relatively unknown author.

My reasoning, I think, is based on emotion.

When I started writing, I did it for one reason. Because I loved to write. Inevitably, their came a moment when I decided that I wanted to write professionally. I was fifteen. Fortunately, I didn't have long to wait--I had my first article published when I was seventeen years old and still in high school. At nineteen, I had my first short-story published and by the time I was twenty my work had appeared in an anthology that was put together by a well-respected publishing house.

And then ... nothing. After uni, I missed out on a cadetship at The Advertiser and a number of other opportunities to work in the media. I found work at a major supermarket, went back and did more study and ended up with the job I have today, at a major Australian corporation. It wasn't until a few years ago that I started blogging and independently publishing my work. And I'm fairly confident that the opportunities that I've had since never would have happened if I had not forced the issue and put my work out there for the world to see. 

The only problem with all of this is that in a lot of ways, it feels as though I have settled for second best. Gone are the days when I used to dream that one day, maybe not today but one day, one of my novels would be picked up by a publishing house. (I don't even bother sending my work to anyone anymore.) Gone are the days when I used to dream of seeing a quote from this blog on the back cover of someone's book. Gone are the days when I used to hope that once, maybe just once, someone would talk about this blog and actually say something nice about it. 

The reality is, my career is a farce, this blog is little more than a joke and ... fuck, now they're playing Runaway Train on the radio and it describes pretty accurately how I'm feeling right now. I think in recent times, some part of me is either sleeping or dead, and it's not a nice place to be. I don't have any answers, either, apart from the fact that I'm trying to push on as best as I can. 

Literary Quotes



The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea.


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Searching For Audrina by Kathryn White


Exciting news! This week I published a brand new short story, titled Searching For Audrina and it is now available for sale from most online book retailers, including Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, Kobo etc. Searching For Audrina is a story that's dear to me, as it features some of the characters from a manuscript that I have been working on for some time now. (The working title of that one is The Other Side of the Story is Already Taken and I hope to have some news about it soon.) Excluding anthologies and various publications that I have been contracted to, this is my first release in a long time--can you believe that it has been almost two years since I released Of Frogs and Lovers and more than three years since I released Cats, Scarves and Liars which is still my most popular book? (Being Abigail comes a close second, just in case you are wondering ... and even that celebrated its seventh anniversary a few months ago.)

Anyway, a bit about Searching For Audrina ...


Adam knows what it means to lose everything.

When he was seventeen he lost his home, and his family, in one clean sweep. Now an adult, he has two goals. To live a good life, and to be reunited with the only other person who survived the fire—his stepsister, Audrina. But when Adam encounters Audrina on campus the last thing he expects is to fall in love …

I hope that you all will love Searching For Audrina as much as I do. It's a light, contemporary romance, but it's still fairly gritty, and contains most of my trademark humour. 

Friday, 14 July 2017

Friday Funnies


Giggle. I must get myself one of those 101 Dalmatians colouring books.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Review: When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett

Short, deceptively simple and unforgettable are the first words that spring to mind as I think about When the Night Comes. Set in both in Tasmania and onboard the Nella Dan, the novel tells the story of two people--Isla, a girl on the cusp of adolescence who moves to Tasmania with her mother and brother following the divorce of her parents, and Bo, a cook aboard the Nella Dan, a Danish ship that is en route to the Australian Antarctic Territory. During a stopover in Hobart, Bo, meets Isla's mother, and he becomes a source of support for the lonely Isla. In a funny way, each gives help and comfort to the other when they need it the most.

When the Night Comes tells two very different stories. The first is that of the final two seasons of the Nella Dan before it ran aground on Macquarie Island, and what life was like aboard the ship. The second is that of a girl who finds herself in an entirely new and different part of Australia in the wake of her parent's divorce. Both stories are well told, though short and often skipping between various life altering and occasionally, life affirming, events. I enjoyed this one, though I felt it could have been a bit longer and a bit more detailed in places.

Recommended.

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

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Literary Quotes



He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Review: Rain Reign by Ann M Martin

Readers of a certain generation, or should I say, generations would immediately associate Ann M Martin with her beloved best-selling series The Babysitters Club. However it was the work that Martin did after the series (and its many spin-offs,) came to an end in the very early twenty-first century that defines her as one of the best writers of her generation. First came the Newberry Award winning A Corner of the Universe and more recently she penned the brilliant Rain Reign (which is also published as How to Look For a Lost Dog in some parts of the world.)

Rose Howard is twelve years old, in fifth grade at her local school. She is obsessed with homonyms and has purposely given her beloved dog Rain a name that has two homonyms, something that she believes is very special (For the record, the homonyms are Rein and Reign.) Not everything is going so well in Rose's life though. The other kids at school don't understand her, and neither does her Dad, who appears to be somewhat ignorant on how to care for a child who has additional needs. Fortunately, she has her Uncle Weldon to look out for her, and a solid friendship with Rain. When a Hurricane hits and Rain goes missing, though, Rose finds herself facing some pretty big challenges ...

Brilliant and well written do not even begin to describe this book. The author show genuine insight into the life of a child who is different and unappreciated by the person who is supposed to care about her the most. Weldon, Rose's ever patient uncle is a shining beacon of light, and Rose grows in a beautiful and heartwarming way, despite--or perhaps because of--her experiences losing Rain and all that happens afterwards. I also loved that the kids at her school weren't all portrayed as mean, they were just ordinary kids who didn't understand, who sometimes were annoyed with her, and who sometimes made an effort.

A book to warm your heart.

Highly recommended. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Review: Awful Auntie by David Walliams

If you ever thought that your relatives were bad, then be thankful that you're not twelve year old Stella Saxby, the rightful heir to Saxby Hall. Not only does Stella have the most disgusting, despicable aunt on the planet, but Aunt Alberta will stop at nothing to make sure that she gets hold of Saxby Hall, even murder ...

This is the first book that I had ever read by David Walliams. I've seen him on television, of course, and I've heard great things about his books--in fact the staff member at Dymocks who sold me the book was absolutely raving about it. I was pretty sure that I would like this one, so it wasn't that much of a surprise when I found myself giggling at all the jokes and savouring the illustrations. There really is nothing quite as enjoyable as reading the occasional children's book. The rules are different, the plotting is often more outrageous, and, of course, there is a greater sense of fun and playfulness. Aunt Alberta truly is the most disgusting woman I've ever read about and the author goes to outrageous lengths to prove her horribleness. Stella is a lovely protagonist and the ghostly Soot provides some much needed help. There are a lot of gross out moments, and the whole thing is a lot of fun.

Recommended.


Friday, 30 June 2017

Friday Funnies: Smart Car Problems


Well, where else would you expect a smart car to drive to?

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Review: Under the Cat's Eye by Gillian Rubinstein

I remember Under the Cat's Eye for one reason. In my year 10 English class, our teacher along with one of the school librarians was giving us a lesson on publishing trends. At the time, children's books were dominated by one particular trend--horror--and had been for a few years mostly thanks to the almighty popularity of RL Stine's Goosebumps series. I remember the teacher holding up a copy of Under the Cat's Eye and asking the librarian how much longer she expected books like this to be around. "A year at best," was her reply. She was right. The year was 1997 and the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was just a few months away, though none of us knew that, or the impact that Harry Potter would eventually have on readers across the globe. So, I suppose for me, Under the Cat's Eye has become almost symbolic of a genre that was about to well, die. It's an unfair tag to give any book, especially one that was reasonably well-written so when I found a copy in a secondhand shop this year, I decided to bring it home and give it a go.

Gillian Rubenstein is best remembered by readers for her children's/teen sci-fi novels Space Demons and Galax-Arena. Under the Cat's Eye is gothic horror, telling the story of a boy who, due to administrative problems is sent away to boarding school while his parents try to get their Australian Visas sorted out. Jai is a sensitive, pre-pubescent boy who notices almost immediately that there is something very wrong at his school, something that involves the principal Mr Drake. What comes next isn't completely expected ... 

This book is well written, a little dated, but, ultimately, a lot of fun. Jai's an interesting character--he's more of a person for the reader to identify with, rather than being the hero, or a special chosen one. There is a little bit of sci-fi in there, but that element is best left to be discovered by readers. 

Recommended.

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

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Review: The Do-Gooder by Jessie L Star

The Do-Gooder is a sassy, sizzling romance almost certain to delight fans of Abbi Glines. Lara Montgomery is a girl on a guilt trip. She knows that what she and Fletch did was wrong and she is determined to make up for it by doing good deeds for her fellow uni students and well, anyone else who needs her. She also knows that she needs to stay the hell away from the ridiculously sexy Fletch but that, it seems is easier said than done ...

Told from duel perspectives (Lara and Fletch,) this one was a sizzling read that is all the better for the fact that it never takes itself too seriously. Lara is entertaining as the reformed bad girl with a disproportionate sense of guilt, while Fletch's attempts to rekindle his romance with Lara make for fun reading. There is also a great crew of supporting characters--Livvy who is just blossoming into womanhood; Saskia, Fletch's bad girl baby sister; Merry, the closest thing that Lara has to a best friend; and gay Italian student Stefano. The backstory about Lara's brother tugs at the heartstrings while it adds to her sense of guilt.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one, and how much I got caught up in the lives of all of the characters--this book certainly proved itself to be the perfect antidote for a cool winter evening. It's even more enjoyable knowing that the author is an Australian who started out on fiction press. Overall, an enjoyable read.

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

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

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Review: My Life as a Hashtag by Gabrielle Williams

My Life as a Hashtag is a realistic read about how one mistake can lead to a whole lot of hurt, heartache and humiliation. MC (otherwise known as Marie-Claude,) is sixteen years old and is in the midst of a pretty stressful time. Her parents are divorcing and her father is already in a relationship with another woman. Her brother has become withdrawn, while her mother is busy trying to meet men on tinder. To add to the mix, MC is a scholarship kid at a top Melbourne private school. The girls she hangs around with are probably better described as frenemies than her besties, particularly Anouck who treats MC more like a rival and a potential threat than a friend ... because that is precisely what MC is to Anouck, though MC is most ignorant about how her behaviour affects others, rather than being an outright bitch. It's a fairly realistic take on female friendships at that age, where one's closest friends can also be their worst enemies, and where someone can genuinely be ignorant of the hurt that their actions can cause. And, of course, where that hurt can be taken completely out of proportion. Anyway, things come to a head between MC and Anouck first over a boy, and then over MC not being invited to a party that is being hosted by Anouck. MC gets her revenge in what she thinks is a clever but anonymous post online. The post goes viral and both MC and Anouck find their lives being invaded in a way that neither girl thought possible ...

While the possibility of such a post going viral seems very remote, and the fallout is quite harsh, what this story has in bucketloads is a very realistic take on female rivarly, and teenage culpability. MC is portrayed as someone who is genuinely ignorant of her actions--she's not necessarily a bully who set out with an intent to hurt someone. She's a kid who is hurting, who has few people she can lean on for support, and who vents the only way she knows how, using the resources that she has available. Her actions are those of someone who doesn't know any better, and her experiences lead to some pretty harsh life lessons. As for Anouck, she's no angel either, though the way she stands up to her mother in the end--and the way that she listens to MC's apology--certainly suggest some newfound maturity on her part. 

This is an enjoyable realistic read. My only complaint is that the book is going to date very quickly due to its reliance on technology--a pity considering how well-drawn the characters and situations were.

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


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Kathryn's Inbox Exclusive: Man Discovers He Was Not Inspiration For Carly Simon Song

NOWHERESVILLE, AUSTRALIA--Nineteen-year-old Edward Sorrento had his illusions shattered yesterday when he discovered that he was not, in fact, the subject of Carly Simon's hit song, You're So Vain. "I truly thought that she was singing about me," Sorrento told our reporter. "I mean there is even this bit in there that says something about how she bets that I know the song is about me. "I just thought it was about me, because you know, I'm vain and stuff," he added with a whistful sigh. 

Sorrento's illusions were shattered when he discovered that the hit song was first released in 1972, twenty-six years before he was born. The subject of the song has been a closely guarded secret, though an article on wikipedia claims that three different men helped to inspire the song. 

Sorrento has now deleted the song from his iPod.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Review: Dr. Fourth originated by Roger Hargraves

The moment that I saw this clever Mr Men--Doctor Who mash up for sale in Dymocks I knew that I just had to buy it and take it home. There has always been something delightful about the simplicity of the Mr Men universe (after all, the books are aimed at schoolchildren,) from the characters to the chatty narratives. And the worms. (Because one cannot talk about the Mr Men books without mentioning those worms.) In contrast, the Doctor Who universe is complicated and ever changing. What a delight it is, then, to see the Doctor placed inside this simple universe. All of the trademark features of the fourth doctor have been included, his scarf, his love of jelly babies and, of course, Sarah Jane is in the thick of the action. 

In this adventure (which will be one of the twelve volume set,) the Doctor and Sarah Jane use their skills as time travellers to outrun and outwit the Daleks. The Mr Men version of the daleks is a hilarious parody, in this one we see a Dalek exterminate a tennis ball rather than play with it, chase a poor worm, and we encounter Dale a Dalek who isn't quite as good at exterminating things as the others. Dale doesn't quite sync in with the traditional kind of Dalek, but that seems all right because it adds a bit of humour and this story is a bit simpler than your usual Doctor Who adventure.

Anyway, I thought this one was a lot of fun and hope to explore some of the other titles in the series soon.

Recommended.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Best of Kathryn's Instagram




In honour of Garfield's birthday, my Instagram post for this week has a Garfield theme. I love this mug, my brother bought it for me when I was nine, and I still have it all these years later.

Happy 39th Birthday Garfield. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

There has been no rain in Kiewarra--a small town in Victoria inhabited with people with equally small minds--for two years. The town is also home to a shocking murder, three members of the Hadler family have been shot dead, with baby Charlotte the only survivor. Luke Hadler is the main suspect in this apparent murder-suicide, but when his former best mate Aaron Falk returns town for the funeral, it soon becomes obvious that there is more to the situation than what meets the eye ...

The Dry is an intriguing novel that goes between the present--telling the story of the search for the real killer--and the past--telling the story of the tragic events that led Falk to leave town in the first place. His return is not a welcome one, and the twists of who might be responsible for what, and who Luke Hadler really was, lead the reader on a journey full of twists, read herrings and, eventually, answers.

This one is extremely well written and may be well worth a read for the writing alone. It's not the kindest depiction of life in small town Australia, but it is certainly intriguing. Fan's of Joy Dettman's Mallawindy will love this one.

Recommended.

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

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Review: Why I am Not a Feminist by Jessa Crispin

In many ways Jessa Crispin's manifesto Why I am Not a Feminist is a breath of fresh air. While I don't necessarily agree with everything she says, this is a book that is unashamed, unafraid and actually contributes something new to the discussion. Crispin challenges what modern feminism really is, how it works and whether it is truly effective. She argues that modern feminism has been dumbed down, popularised and seeks to appeal to the masses, rather than getting on with what first and second wave feminists fought for. Even if I didn't agree with everything she said, her writing forced me to stop, listen and most important of all, to think.

This review is going to be short, because I think that readers should be allowed the luxury of picking the book up without being too bogged down or bothered by what reviewers such as myself think of it, but I will say this. Open it, keep an open mind and see what you think.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Review: Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Pearlman

Seven Types of Ambiguity is a novel that is long, wordy and oddly addictive. Set in Melbourne, it opens with an account by a renowned psychologist about a recent incident in which his patient--a young man who is obsessed by his ex--abducted her son. No harm came to the child, but Simon's fragile mental state and his relationship with his ex are the springboard for this story, which is told from seven different perspectives. Each and every one of these perspectives is a little bit different. The lines between right and wrong--and who is telling the truth--blur until a small, final chapter inserts a very clever but heartbreaking twist. (On that, I wondered if history was doomed to repeat itself with Rachel and Sam.)

I heard of this novel thanks to the recent ABC television series and although I didn't see much of the show, I can see how this one would translate very well on the screen. The author has a lot to say about how lives can be tainted in the pursuit of wealth, sex and a notion of being a person who has it all. The female characters don't have it easy, whether we're talking about Angelique, the prostitute with a heart of gold or Anna, whose choices led her to a loveless marriage. Simon himself is a tragic character--intelligent, charismatic but defined first by the end of his supposedly perfect relationship, then by random incident that lead to the loss of his job, and by a decline in his mental health. It is more difficult to feel sorry for Joe and Mitch, Alex is a character best discovered by the reader, and a big part of Rachel's character is to let us know where the others are some years later, and to ponder, perhaps, if she does not have an obsession of her own.

Unsurprisingly, there are a number of references in the text to its namesake, William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity. 

At more than 600 pages, this one may take a while to read, and the story and characters may become infuriating on more than one occasion, but the journey is well worth it. 

Recommended.

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

Monday, 19 June 2017

Happy birthday Garfield!


Well, it's June 19 once again and as is tradition on this blog, I'm taking time out to wish Garfield the cat a very happy birthday. (Family and friends will get the inside joke, and yes, there is one.)

This year, my favourite comic character celebrates his 39th birthday. The strip debuted on the 19th of June 1978 and is still going strong. Every year on its anniversary a comic is devoted to wishing Garfield a happy birthday. In some instances, Jim Davis will devote an entire week to birthday themed comics, most of which usually involve cake in one form or another.

PS Other famous people enjoying a birthday today include author Salmon Rushdie, musician Paula Abdul and uh ...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Review: The Great Gatenby by John Marsden

Years after it was first published, The Great Gatenby still packs a punch. It tells the story of Erle Gatenby, a headstrong ratbag with a heart of gold. Gatenby has been getting into a bit of trouble at school, and although he loves his parents, and they love him, he has reached an age where the difference between them are becoming more and more obvious and it is becoming harder for them to live together under one roof. The solution is for Gatenby to go away to boarding school. Linley isn't exactly paradise (his lodgings is known as Crapp House,) and Gatenby doesn't always toe the line, but through his experiences breaking the rules and discovering just how good he is at competitive swimming, Gatenby develops a greater sense of self and for the first time starts planning for his future.

The Great Gatenby was amusing and just as honest as all of Marsden's works. Gatenby's exploits, along with his rule breaking girlfriend Melanie, are hilarious. One of the more interesting take-home messages is that you don't have to be a model student to be a good person, and that some exploits are a natural part of the teenage experience. Gatenby's growth as a person happens on his terms, though he is touched in a positive way by some of his experiences at school. (For example, he gives up smoking because he thinks it will be a good idea to do so, and not because of his teachers hassling him to give up.)

The novel is very short and written in a way that many readers, particularly teenage boys, will find engaging. 

Recommended.

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

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Literary Quotes



Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Friday Funnies: Shakespeare & Austen Spoilers


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Review: The Many Ways of Seeing by Nick Gleeson with Peter Bishop

Nick Gleeson has scaled Everest, been captain of a cricket team, explored the Simpson Desert and is an experienced athlete. He also happens to be blind. After losing his sight in an accident at the age of seven, Nick learned a different way of 'seeing.' In The Many Ways of Seeing Nick shares his experiences with the world. The text, however, is more than that. It also tells the story of how this unique book came to be. Peter Bishop, an experienced editor and publisher shares his insights of the writing and editing process, the challenges that he faced while working on this book, and the many discoveries that he made during the creative process thanks to Nick's unique insight.

I enjoyed reading this one. It was an autobiography with a twist. In many ways, Nick struck me as a natural writer--he has a real talent with words and shares his experiences quite beautifully. I found myself drawn in to several of his stories, in particular the one about his first trip to the shops alone at age eleven. I also enjoyed the account of his trip to the Simpson Desert.

This book is honest, insightful and refreshing. Recommended.

Thank you to Ventura Press for my review copy of The Many Ways of Seeing.

Note: In July 2017, a companion book Back to Broady written by Nick's friend and childhood neighbour will be released. Both books will launch Peter Bishop books, a new and exciting imprint by Ventura Press that will help to foster new and emerging talent based on their literary merit. 

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

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner

There is no getting around this. The content of The Diary of a Teenage Girl is shocking, and even more so due to the fact that it is a fictionalised memoir. But perhaps it is important to put the book into historical context. The story is set in San Francisco in 1976. This is a time and a place where young people had a greater amount of sexual freedoms than previous generations. Contraceptives were available, removing the fear and stigma of an unwanted pregnancy, while HIV and AIDS would not be heard of for a good five years. This is also an era where sexual abuse and adolescent mental illness were not discussed as freely as they are today--Minnie would not have been able to turn to a friend, the internet or anywhere else for answers.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is made up of a combination of diary entries, comics and illustrations that tell the story of Minnie, a fifteen year old whose life is not unlike that of the author. Minnie has just returned home from boarding school and is living with her mother and her younger sister. The story opens with her being groomed by her mother's boyfriend whose intent is pretty clear. And the truly frightening thing about this story is that Minnie isn't frightened--in fact she welcomes the beginning of their sexual relationship. A combination of elements, most notably being neglected by her parents, has led her to believe that she isn't good enough and that no one else would ever want to have sex with her. So if she doesn't sleep with Monroe, she will never get to experience sex. (This is adolescent logic at it's worst--self depreciating, self destructive and ultimately vulnerable.) From there, the reader experiences an utterly tragic year in the life of a young woman whose combination of vulnerability and poor choices leads to her being taken advantage of by a number of different people, which further sets of a course of self-destructive behaviour. (At one point, she tries to start a relationship with a young man who has been institutionalised because he has urges to kill people.) Eventually, Minnie finds some salvation when she realises that she has some very real artistic talent. 

The novel captures how easily young people can confuse sex for everything that it isn't, and why good people can make bad choices. 

I found this book extremely heartbreaking and difficult to read. 

Friday, 9 June 2017

Friday Funnies: Garfield Meets Garfield


The first time that I saw this one, I thought that someone has uploaded it to the internet as a joke--after all, cyberspace isn't exactly short of fake Garfield strips, and some of them are in better taste than others. It turns out that this one is a real comic strip from April 21, 2008. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Review: Tilly and the Time Machine by Adrian Edmondson

In Australia more people than not would associate Adrian "Ade" Edmondson with his hilarious comedic roles as Vyvyan Basterd in The Young Ones or as Eddie Hitler in the as politically incorrect as you can get Bottom. However, if anyone so much as scratches the surface of his career, they will soon discover that he has enjoyed a wide variety of serious and comic roles on stage and screen, he formed a folk band called The Bad Shepherds (who toured Australia a few years back,) that he works extensively as a scriptwriter and released his first novel in 1995. Consequently, it is unsurprising that his first (and hopefully not his last,) children's novel Tilly and the Time Machine is a real winner.

The novel opens with Tilly, who is aged seven and a half, discovering that her dad, an eccentric but kind and loving scientist has just built a time machine. Dad says that they can go anywhere in time that Tilly wants to go, but there is only one place she wants to be--at home on her sixth birthday, back when her mum was still alive. Anyway, something goes a bit wrong with the time machine, and Dad ends up stuck in time. Tilly soon finds herself on one heck of an adventure, as she outwits some crooks, and then moves through time in an effort to save her Dad. And be prepared, this journey is a lot of fun, with some genuine laugh out loud moments and loads of clever plotting. Don't write this one off as the efforts of yet another celebrity writing a children's novel. Adrian Edmondson is the real deal--clever, funny and entertaining. I love the illustrations as well.

Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Literary Quotes



"Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes."

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Review: Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler

Read Me Like a Book is a sensitive portrayal of a young woman who lacks a sense of self and whose journey of self-discovery happens in the most unexpected of ways. Ashleigh Walker is seventeen years old and studying for her A-levels. She has three friends at her local college--the slight wild Cat, straight-laced Robyn, and Luke who sits somewhere between the other two. She has a boyfriend, Dylan, but the reader soon gets the feeling that she isn't really interested in him, and is only dating him because it is what she thinks that Dylan and others expect from her. It's a dilemma that is easy enough for many teenagers to identify with, that sometimes relationships or even hook ups happen not because the pair are truly interested in one another, but because they feel that they should be dating someone. And then, something unexpected happens as Ashleigh gets to know her new English teacher. For the first time, she starts to develop the symptoms of a crush. The only thing is, her teacher is female...

This was an interesting account of a young woman who doesn't have a lot of parental guidance trying to navigate the murky waters of adolescence, her final year of schooling and an understanding of her sexuality--and that the latter is something that belongs to her and cannot be determined by trends or peer group pressure. The response from her parents was quite interesting, one treats her with love and understanding, while the other doesn't. Overall, I found the novel to be quite realistic in its dealings with adolescence--it doesn't romanticise certain things, or shy away from the fact that adolescence can be an icky, awkward time and we know that Ashleigh's problems aren't magically going to go away when she experiences her first relationship. I think this one will be relatable to many teenagers, regardless of who they are attracted to, because the themes of discovering yourself are so strong.

Also, I really, really liked this passage and I think other readers will too:

It's all very well going round with two fingers stuck up at the world. but what happens when the world turns round and sticks them back up at you? The world's a lot bigger than I am. (p227)

Recommended. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)


Friday, 2 June 2017

Friday Funnies


Too funny not to share. (Sorry bird lovers!)

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Review: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

The Museum of Modern Love is one of those books. You know the ones. They come with a precedent. Glowing reviews from a wide range of trusted sources. Award wins and nominations, including the Stella Prize. And no matter which bookshop I went to, every last copy was sold out. Eventually, I found a copy at Big W (of all places,) brought it home and felt a little too scared to read it. What were the odds of it living up to all of the hype. What if I didn't enjoy it? Was I even buying and reading this book for the right reasons, or was I reading it just to be a part of the in-crowd? Eventually, I picked my copy up and started to read ...

It turns out that The Museum of Modern love is one of those books that works on a couple of levels. On the one hand, it is the story of Arky Levin, a middle-aged composer living in New York whose wife has become seriously ill, and how he becomes fascinated by The Artist is Present, a performance art piece at the Museum of Modern Art, and how this performance helps him to heal and make the right choices for his wife. It is a novel about the commitment that Arky makes to his wife and what that really means. We can also say that it is the story of several other loosely related characters and how, they too, are they are affected by The Artist is Present. On the other hand, it's also a fictionalised account of performance artist Marina Abramovic and offers a biography of the woman whose performance art is often dramatic, controversial and often misunderstood.

At it's core, however, The Museum of Modern Love is a demonstration of the sheer power that art has on our every day lives. Through watching Abramovic, each of the characters are forced to look inside themselves--for Arky, it becomes a question of whether he should obey his wife's wishes, or override them if he knows that deep down, the latter might be what she truly wants. 

I enjoyed this one immensely, in particular, the meditations on the healing power of art. I think that it is a bit of a subjective book, and different readers may come away having learned a different lesson, even if they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Recommended.

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

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Review: London Bound by CJ Duggan

I have been loving Australian author CJ Duggin's Heart of the City series, so I was absolutely thrilled when I was gifted a copy of the third book London Bound by the publisher, Hachette Australia after I won a competition on twitter. In this standalone story, we met Kate, an Aussie with a passion for fashion and blogging and dreams of making big as a blogger in London. The only problem with all of this is that living in London means living with her bitter and miserable old grandmother who demands most of her time ... and if that wasn't bad enough, living in the house next door is the arrogant but ridiculously good looking Jack Baker. Kate knows that she shouldn't be falling for Jack but ...

This one was a fun adventure with plenty of romance and some colourful characters. Nana Joy lives up to her reputation as a nasty old lady, though as the story goes on, we learn that she has a reason for being so bitter. Jack surprised me on several occasions (I'm not sure how he managed to keep that secret from Kate,) and it was lovely to watch Kate grow as a person. (And I loved her passion for blogging!)

Overall this one is a great romantic read and a fitting third volume in a lovely series of novels that can be enjoyed individually, or as part of a series. 

Thank you to Hachette Australia for my copy of London Bound.

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

Stop press: Earlier this week, I saw on twitter that there will be two new books in the Heart of the City series ... and readers can vote for their favourite city. Head to author CJ Duggan's website for details. 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Review: The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins

Something very sinister is afoot in this novel about an author and her research assistant ... and the ending very nearly blew me away. Olivia Sweetman is a historian, professor, TV star and a newly published author of a historical fiction novel that is tipped to hit the bestseller lists. Behind the scenes is her research assistant, Vivian, an intense and friendless woman who pounces on the project--and Olivia--with a little too much enthusiasm. As the novel shifts between narratives of the two women, it becomes increasingly clear that Vivian is far from well and that Olivia may be in serious danger.

2017 has been a great year for books and The Night Visitor is another title that I can proudly add to an already long list of my favourite new releases. I loved the gothic feel of this one--the duel settings of rural England and France add to the unsettling atmosphere. Olivia is an easy character to identify with, while Vivian is interesting to read about. At first, I wondered if she was simply lonely and treated badly, then I wondered if perhaps she was just a little bit intense and misunderstood and then I found myself wondering more and more about her motives and her relationship with Olivia. As I said, the ending nearly blew me away ... and that beetles deserves its place on the cover. (Whoever thought of it is a genius.)

Highly recommended.

I received my copy of The Night Visitor from Hachette Australia after winning a competition on twitter. Thank you!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)



This week I snapped a picture of some autumn leaves decorating one of the main streets of Adelaide. Autumn is such a beautiful time of year in the city ...

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Kathryn's Inbox Exclusive: Motorist Discovers His Vehicle is Fitted With an Indicator

NOWHERESVILLE, AUSTRALIA--Motorist Dwayne Phillis was amazed to discover this week that his vehicle was fitted with a small device that allows him to signal his intention to turn left or right to other motorists. "I had no idea this device existed," Dwayne told our reporter. "I'd seen blinking orange lights on other vehicles from time-to-time, but until today I had no idea what they meant or why cars were fitted with them. But after a talk with the local police, who helpfully showed me what that stick near my steering wheel was for, and the meaning of the blinking orange lights, it has all become clear. I'll never need to worry about someone shaking their fist at me again and shouting abuse when I change lanes agains."

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Review: Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wonder received much acclaim when it was initially published back in 2012, which inevitably led to a number of shorter sequels/companion novels being published and possibly some other tie-in merchandise, so it is a bit of a mystery how I managed to not hear of this one at all, until a few weeks ago when I was in Big W and found it on one of those Kids Top 50 Books shelves. Intrigued, I brought it home and then I found myself charmed and occasionally unsettled by this story of Auggie a boy who was born with a severe facial disfigurement. It's also the story of a number of other young people--some kids, some teenagers--who are touched by Auggie in some way. All of the characters have their own problems in one way or another, whether it be a parent's divorce, a first love, feeling unnoticed by their parents or peer group pressure. The narrative is honest, occasionally unnerving and sometimes it made me feel sad. And sometimes I felt that the whole thing was a little bit condescending.

The main plot is about Auggie and how he attends school for the first time. He's ten and in fifth grade, which in his school district signals the beginning of middle school. (This surprised me. I had believed that in the United States kids usually started middle school in sixth or seventh grade, depending on their school district.) Anyway, the school principal is sympathetic to the difficulties that Auggie may encounter transitioning into the school system, and enlists some kids to help him. But not every kid is nice and the transition is tougher than Auggie and, perhaps anyone else, expects, though he comes out okay in the end.

The other plots are shorter. The narrative gives a few chapters each to some of the other characters, Auggie's sister Via who is just starting high school, Via's boyfriend Justin and Via's former best friend Miranda. Auggie's friends Jack Will and Summer also narrate a few chapters. Each has their own problems and story, but this is Auggie's book, so their stories also include him in some capacity.

This one is an enjoyable read, though it is sad in places. 

Recommended. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Review: The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

I'll be brave and admit, what first drew me to this book was the idea that it was about three astronauts who were to be sent to Mars. Mars. Imagine, three ordinary human beings spending months and months together in a tiny craft, travelling to a whole other planet. There is something intriguing about that. Except that this isn't quite what The Wanderers is about. It tells the story of three experienced and highly skilled astronauts who take part in a seventeen month simulation test, designed to mimic a trip to Mars and back. The Wanderers is, at its heart, a story about human resilience even in the most highly unusual circumstances. The storytelling is detailed and a little slow, and the chapters about Helen, Yoshi and Sergei are interspaced with chapters about the loved ones that they have left behind, and how their relationships are altered. There is a rather ambiguous twist along the way--one that I never did work out, but perhaps that is crucial part of the storytelling.

The difficulty of this one is even a day after I closed the cover for the last time, I am still not sure what I thought about it, or whether I enjoyed reading this one or not. There are certainly some interesting parallels with Mars One and asks some big questions about the human cost of such an ambitious project. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of The Wanderers

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong

Darren Keefe is a former international cricketer who has just found himself in a lot of trouble. More specifically, he's found himself bundled in the boot of a car that is travelling down a Melbourne highway and it seems that years of risks and hard living have finally caught up with him. Knowing that he's probably not going to survive, Darren goes about trying to leave some forensic evidence in the vehicle, before going back in time to tell his story--he is the younger of two brothers, born to a plucky, courageous mother who only wants the best for her boys. While Darren grows up to be a larrikin with seemingly few morals who is loved by the press, his older brother Wally is serious about all things, particularly his career as a cricketer. Most of the novel details the difference between the brothers and the careers that may appear quite similar on the surface, and the events and decisions that eventually lead to Darren's fate ... 

This was an enjoyable read, and provided a great observation of what can happen when young sportspeople are transformed into celebrities. (And it says much, perhaps, about our national obsession with sports.) While Darren lives a carefree life, getting away with many things that others his own age never could, Wally is cool and calculating, cleverly manipulating those around him--though he is unable to handle it when things do not go his way. I don't know if it because of my gender, but the character I liked best was their mother, a truly loving and courageous women who did everything she could to further her son's careers. I was fairly confident that I knew who was responsible for Darren's abduction, but that did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel at all. The whole thing is a bit ambiguous about the precise years that the Keefe brothers played for Australia, (though only Wally goes on to play test cricket,) one can deduce that they played sometime in the 1990s, which was, of course, a very successful era for Australian cricket. 

Recommended. 

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

Friday, 19 May 2017

Friday Funnies: Meme Colouring Book


When I saw this one, I thought that it must be a joke. Turns out that this is an actual product, which you can purchase from Amazon.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Review: Bastard by J.L. Perry

Bastard is one of those self-published success stories, where it was initially self-published as an eBook and then became so popular that it was eventually picked up by a major publishing house, and then went on to have even more success. Even better, the author is Australian, and the book is set in New South Wales. Bastard is a trashy romance, the kind that is unashamed of and perhaps even revels in its own trashiness, with plenty of swearing, explicit sex, sexism disguised as romance. In fact, there is probably something in there to offend practically everybody. The writing itself sets a fairly low benchmark, though it has an easy to read and, dare I say it, a slightly addictive quality about it. And, let's face it, people don't pick up a book like this because they are expecting an eloquently written, chaste read with a realistic storyline. It seems almost ridiculous that I am making a judgement about it at all. (I actually picked up my copy after I spied a couple of uni students reading sections out loud at my local bookstore and having a good chuckle. I guess that I am a bit of a well, bastard, because I wanted to know what the joke was. Plus I always think it's good to get out of my reading comfort zone every now and again and try something new, and this one didn't seem particularly difficult or intimidating.)

The novel tells the story of Carter, who was born to a nineteen year old single mother, whose wealthy parents had kicked her out of home. His mother, Elizabeth, is a kind and loving woman who only wants the best for her son, but Carter's life is scarred forever when he encounters his grandfather for the first (and only) time and the old man rejects him on the basis that he was born out of wedlock. Fast forward to 2010 and Carter is seventeen and a half years old. He's a teen who enjoys acting mean, and he's having plenty of run-ins with his mother's new husband, a man who appears to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever and what Elizabeth saw in him remains one of the novel's greatest mysteries. Anyway, a new husband for Elizabeth means a new house for Carter, and he finds himself unwelcome in his new home in the Sydney suburbs. Fortunately, just next door is Indi, a lovely sixteen year old girl and her father, Ross, who is the local policeman and is also quick to see the good in Carter, and to treat him like his own son. (And he certainly calls Cater "son" often enough within the narrative.) Unfortunately Indi doesn't like Carter much at first and the two spend much time trying to stir one another up until, inevitably, romance blooms. But it might just take a few years, a tragedy and some steamy hot sex for this pair to get together ...

Bastard is an addictive and slightly over the top romantic read that delivers everything that it promises on the cover. My grumbles about this one are that parts of the story did not much depth to them, and some of the plot devices were a little too obvious. Despite the novel being set in Sydney and Newcastle, much of this story seemed to have an American quality about it--for example, Indi is said to have gone to College instead of uni, and early on there is a scene at the high school, where they all seem to be eating lunch at in cafeteria like arrangement. And, as is often the case with books in this genre, Carter proves how much he cares by controlling as much of Indi's life as he can. However, I did enjoy the ending (it was nice to see two other deserving characters get married,) and parts of this story read like a lovely, escapist fantasy.

If you like books with bad boys and hot sex then you'll like this one.

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

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Review: How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is a sad, funny and touching memoir about a young Jewish American woman who undertakes a birthright tour of Israel. Told in the form of a graphic novel, Sarah perfectly expresses her internal conflicts as she tours a place that she is both in awe of and despises. The author is sensitive, politically aware and nobody's fool, which makes a tour of a place that she disapproves of to be a difficult and, at times, lonely experience. She can see through most of the propaganda that she is presented with on the the tour. Also she is not afraid to ask big questions about the Israel-Palestine conflict, even if sometimes the answers are not things that she wants to hear, and she ends up learning that sometimes solutions to the conflict may not be as easy as they appear on the surface.

This was an interesting read and one that was certainly thoughtfully read and illustrated. What came through over and over again, is that the author is a good person, who genuinely feels a lot of compassion for others. She is also honest about her feelings, her own prejudices and what she has learned through the tour, which makes for interesting--and enlightening--reading. 

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, done in watercolour.

Highly recommended.