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!

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.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Friday Funnies: Book Harry vs Movie Harry

Saw this meme doing the rounds and it really made me laugh. The first time I read Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone, the movie was well, a bit of a way off still, yet I pictured Snape almost exactly as he appeared in the film. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Review: Spirits of the Ghan by Judy Nunn

For anyone who has read this novel, there is no denying one simple truth. Judy Nunn is genuinely passionate about the things she writes about--Australian history, people and politics--and she isn't afraid to give readers a genuinely strong female lead. Spirits of the Ghan tells about a small moment in Australian history--the construction of the Adelaide-Darwin Railway line--and brings with it a story of spirituality and a tiny dash of romance. Jess Manning is a young woman of mixed Aboriginal and Irish decent who has been hired as a negotiator to work with the local elders to ensure that all sacred sites are protected. Matt Witherton is a surveyor working on the line. Nunn avoids all the usual tropes and brings the pair together in a very different way--through a shared connection with the land and its people.

The story moves between the past and present to tell the story of a past wrong that Jess and Matt have to work together to put right. At times, the story felt rather fanciful and melodramatic, and there are many parts where the story lacks depth (Matt's relationship with Angie is one classic example, as is the turn of events that ends it.) There is no denying that Nunn re-tells Australian history in a way that makes it accessible to a wider audience. I suspect many who would rather pick up a Mills & Boon than a textbook would be pleasantly surprised by Nunn's writing style.

Overall, an easy read.

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

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Review: Neon Pilgrim by Lisa Dempster

At age twenty-eight, Lisa Dempster undertook something that anyone would find daunting--walking the henro michi, an 88 temple pilgrimage through the mountains of Japan. At the time, Lisa was depressed and unemployed. It was also the middle of summer in Japan. Regardless, she makes the pilgrimage and tells her remarkable story in Neon Pilgrim.

This isn't a story of depression, or of the things that led Lisa to Japan. Instead, it's a story of someone who undertook a daunting task, succeeded and had a number of remarkable experiences along the way. Bit by bit, the author tells the story of her walking journey--of the temples, the traditions, and the people that she encounters--from new friends to people who well, seem to have their own issues.

The author speaks with a lot of warmth and a dash of humour. I enjoyed the gentle storytelling and it was easy to picture her journey through Shikoku.

Highly recommended.

Thank you to Ventura Press for my copy of Neon Pilgrim.

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

Monday, 28 August 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

A post shared by Kathryn White (@kathrynsinbox) on

Furbies, furbies everywhere! Lately, it seems that wherever I go around Adelaide I encounter some of these cute and colourful stickers. Apparently, they're being made by a local artist who is doing it all for fun. Anyway, I saw these lovely furbies on the side of a flowerpot in Gawler Place, just adjacent to Rundle Mall and City Cross Arcade.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Review: Dr First originated by Roger Hargreaves

I enjoyed reading Dr Fourth so much that I just had to go back and read another title in this great mash up series that places the Doctor in his various regenerations inside the Mr Men universe. In Doctor First, a very grumpy doctor travels to his most hated planet--earth--along with his granddaughter Susan. Arriving there in the 1960s (of course!) calamity abounds as Susan disappears and the doctor goes in search of her, find a number of foes along the way, from hippies to pop music and, finally, the most irritating enemy of all, Cybermen.

This one was an enjoyable read that doesn't take itself too seriously. I loved the Doctors method for defeating the Cybermen, and I found that the Mr Men incarnations of both the First Doctor and Susan to be quite apt. (I love the inclusion of Susan's hat.) The 1960s setting is quite appropriate and leads to a bit of humour.

Highly recommended! 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Literary Quotes

But with the morning cool repentance came.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Review: Marge and the Great Train Rescue by Isla Fisher

Marge the zany babysitter with rainbow hair and a penchant for fun is back in three new stories that are just the right length for reading out loud. On the menu this time around is a lost tooth, a train ride and a trip to the zoo. But as Jemima Button and her little brother Jake know, when Marge is with them, their adventures will be anything but ordinary. How will Jake recover his lost tooth and ensure that it gets delivered to the tooth fairy? Later the three come to the rescue when the train gets stuck (much to the ire of an uptight conductor,) and some well, unexpected hilarity ensures when the trio visit the zoo.

Marge and the Great Train Rescue was an enjoyable instalment in a now well-established series, one that thrives on fun and imagination. All three stories were light and funny, making them perfect for kids to read on their own. There's also enough to keep adult readers entertained when reading the stories out loud. Eglantine Ceulemans' illustrations add to the light and fun feel of this novel. I understand that this is to be the final book in the series--which makes me wonder if Isla Fisher will be putting her pen down, or if she will continue to write in addition to acting? Time will tell, I guess.

Lots of fun, especially for kids. Recommended. 

Friday, 18 August 2017

Friday Funnies: Garfield Comic

Just wanted to share this Garfield comic, one that hails from the early days of the strip when Garfield was larger and, arguably, behaved more like a cat and less like a human ... 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Review: Everyday Ethics by Dr Simon Longstaff

How do we live an ethical life in an ever-changing world? In Everyday Ethics Dr Simon Longstaff offers readers a practical guide on how to life a more ethical life. The book covers many, many topics, from Global Warming to Marriage to Making Ethical Purchases to Gender and the Workplace. Gently, Dr Longstaff presents each issue, along with a number of questions for the reader to ponder. 

I found this to be an interesting read--certainly a starting point on understanding the difference between doing what is good and what is right. (And yes, you guessed it, often the two can be a long way from each other.) And obviously, it's a sound reminder on how the decisions that each of us make can help to shape the world--so lets make them good ones.

The author is the Executive Director of the Ethics Centre.


Thank you to Ventura Press for my review copy of Everyday Ethics.

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

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

I spotted this big nose recently while I was walking through the Central Markets. It's a fun, quirky piece of art ... but I really want to be standing nearby if it should suddenly sneeze!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Review: PS I Like You by Kasie West

PS I Like You is a sweet YA read about first loves and discovering that, sometimes, there is more to others than we may realise. Lily is the second kid in a loving, working class family that has a bit of an artistic vibe--her father is a freelance furniture designer, her mother creates jewellery and sells it at markets. Lily herself has an interest in music, plays the guitar and is keen to enter a songwriting contest that is happening in her area. She's not popular at school--especially with the spoiled, BMW driving Cade Jennings--so it is a bit of a surprise when someone discovers that she's been scribbling song lyrics on a desk in her Chemistry class, and starts leaving her notes. Soon, Lily and the unnamed person are exchanging notes back and forth ... but bigger problems ensue when Lily discovers that the author of the notes is none other than Cade.

This was a light and entertaining story that I read in the space of an evening. It's sweet, cute and a little cliched, but the journey is a fun one. Lily's family were a lot of fun to read about, and the poor rich kid trope made for an entertaining contrast. There is really not much else I can say about this one, apart from the fact that it has some truly funny moments (poor Bugs Rabbit,) and anyone who goes into it not expecting Shakespeare will probably have a great time.

A little young and immature at times, but the fun more than makes up for it. Recommended. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Guest Review: Woodstock on "A Boy Named Charlie Brown"

Welcome readers. Today I am thrilled to present to you an awesome guest post, written by none other than Woodstock from the brilliant Peanuts comic. (Or, at least the person who emailed it to me assured me that their name was Woodstock.) Anyway, Woodstock has very kindly provided this review of the first ever Peanuts film, A Boy Named Charlie Brown ...

||||| ||| || | ||| |||. ||| |||| || |||| || ||| |||? |||| | ||||| |||| ||| |||||||| ||| |||||||. | ||| ||||| || ||| ||||||| ||||| || ||| ||||| |||| ||||. | ||||| |||||| ||| ||| |||| ||| |||| ||| | ||||| |||||||. |||| ||| | |||||||| ||||| || |||||||||||. ||| ||| || |||. |||||? ||||| ||||| | | ||| |! ||| ||||| ||||||| ||||| |||||||| | |||| |||| ||||||? | |||| ||||, ||| || |||| ||| |||||. | ||||| |||| |||| ||| | || ||||| ||||. || ||||| || | ||| |||| ||||| |||| || ||| |||| || ||||| || |||. | || ||||| ||||| |||||. |||| ||||| |||||| |||||| || ||||| ||||||||||. | |||||||| |||||| |||| |||:

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Thanks Woodstock for a great review!

Friday, 11 August 2017

Friday Funnies: World's Most Lazy Cat

Well, some of us ...

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Review: Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Sometime during the twelve years since Does My Head Look Big in This? was first published Randa Abdel-Fattah's YA novel about religion, high school and adolescence has become something of a modern Australian classic, remaining popular with adolescents alongside the far broader audience of adults who read young adult fiction. And the reason is no surprise--although religion lies at the heart of this novel, it also nails the difficulties faced by teenagers, whether their parents are kind and supporting, like Amal's or whether they are strict like Leila's mother. The central characters in this novel are Muslim, and the characters often find themselves in situations were they are faced with ignorance and many different stereotypes.

Set in Melbourne in 2002 the novel opens with Amal making the decision to be a full-timer. That is, to wear her hijab full time, instead of on special occasions. It is clear from the outset that this decision is hers and hers alone, but it does not come without some opposition--her parents, who feel that perhaps she is making this decision too soon or too hastily, and the principal at her private school, which is, a Christian school. Fortunately, both Amal's parents and the strict Mrs Walsh realise that Amal has chosen to wear the hijab for herself, and agree to support her. Over the next few months, Amal grows older and wiser as she faces a number of difficult situations--bullying from the school resident mean girl, a relationship that can never happen with a boy from her class, and the struggles of her best friend Leila, a young woman who hopes to study law, which is against the wishes of her strict and poorly educated mother, who keeps trying to marry Leila off, because she thinks that it is the proper religious thing to do. (For the record it isn't.) 

This was an enjoyable read. My only criticism is that occasionally, the author appeared to try a little too hard to make Amal come across as friendly and likeable. Other than that, it's a realistic novel about adolescents that I think readers from a variety of backgrounds will be able to relate to and enjoy. 


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

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Review: The Twentieth Man by Tony Jones

The Twentieth Man shines a light on a long forgotten terrorist attack--on 16 September 1972 two bombs were detonated outside at Yugoslav travel agencies. (Read more here.) Written and meticulously researched by ABC journalist Tony Jones (who readers of this blog might know best as host of Q&A,) the novel blends fact with fiction to tell a ripping story of Anna Rosen, a young radio journalist who might just have a very personal connection with the events, and Martin Katich, a reluctant revolutionary. 

Given that the author is a journalist, it should come as no surprise to readers that this book is extremely well researched--the author evokes a very sense of the politics and attitudes of the time, i.e. a change in government, blatant sexism and the possibility that there was more going on behind the scenes at Canberra than what the public knew about. Fictionalised versions of real people make an appearance, including then Prime Minister Billy McMahon, Jones' colleague from the ABC George Negus and, in a surprising bit of comic relief, Paul Hogan. Although suspenseful at times, much of this novel feels very technical--sometimes the storytelling felt a bit lost in favour of getting facts and details absolutely spot on.  

An interesting political thriller set against the backdrop of an almost forgotten event in Australian history. Recommended. 

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

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Literary Quotes

They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue is a rarity, a young adult novel that dares to suggest that sexuality may be more fluid than what most people know or understand. Ramona, nicknamed Ramona Blue because of her blue hair, lives in a trailer with her dad and older sister in a beachside tourist trap in Mississippi. To suggest that the family has not had much luck might be a bit of an understatement. They lost their home in Hurricane Katrina, and were subsequently ripped off by their insurance company, Ramona's mother left them because she didn't want to live in a trailer (and is now an alcoholic who works at a casino,) and Ramona's sister Hattie is pregnant to a guy who may as well be a leech. Still, Ramona loves her Dad and sister and works hard to make life more pleasant for them. The novel opens with Ramona saying a sad good-bye to her girlfriend, who is a tourist that was visiting town for the summer. It's a sad day, but one that is made better by Ramona encountering Freddie, her childhood friend, who has just moved to town permanently with his grandmother and his grandmother's new husband. The pair bond over their childhood friendship, the fact that they are both now in long distance relationships (and both eventually have their hearts broken,) and a love of swimming. And then, something surprising happens. They fall in love. This wouldn't be a big deal, if it weren't for the fact that until then, Ramona had been certain of one thing--that she was attracted to women. As she navigates this new relationship, she knows that she is still attracted to women, but she also knows that she is attracted to at least one man--Freddie. Ramona struggles with telling her family and friends (all of whom have been cool with her sexuality,) and her identity, but she eventually comes to a place of understanding. The novel ends on an optimistic note and I think that the whole thing was very well done.

I enjoyed reading this one, and enjoyed having my views on sexuality challenged. This isn't a novel where bam, suddenly the main character isn't gay anymore, but rather a story where someone discovers that attraction can be a very complex thing. In Ramona's case, being attracted to Freddie and being in an exclusive relationship with him does not invalidate her previous relationships or her identity. 

Ramona Blue is not available in Australia yet, but I was so keen to read this one that I ordered a copy from the US. (This led to the further benefit of me being able to buy a hardcover copy. Hardcovers are few and far between in Australia--due to high manufacturing and transport costs only the biggest and most important releases have a hardcover edition.) I'll be happy to mention a local publisher if or when that information becomes available--I know that Penguin Books Australia has published some of Julie Murphy's novels in the past, but I cannot see anything on their website to suggest that they will be adding Ramona Blue to their list any time soon. 

Anyway, this one is well worth a read if you feel like having your views challenged. Recommended.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Around Adelaide (Best of Kathryn's Instagram)

This week I am sharing a photograph I took recently of a stylish but unusual lamppost that lives down at the Glenelg end of Anzac Highway.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Friday Funnies: Nicholas Sparks

Ha! This one is funny because it's true. I've never really thought about it before, but all of Nicholas Sparks' novels do look rather similar ...

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 were 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.


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.


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. 


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