Simone Sinna

Sexy Were-Devils, Ghost Vampires, Glamour, Glitz, Action and Hot Sex

Thoughtful Thursdays-Simone Sinna’s Blog on Books & Films

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MAY 2015

Check out my review of Inga Simspon’s Nest #aww2015 here

am now blogging at www.annebuist.com

Thursday 26th March

Second Life by SJ Watson

Just saw the movie (having already read the book) of Watson’s first highly successful thriller Before I Go To Sleep and thought Nicole Kidman (my nod to Aussie women seen as this author isn’t!)and Colin Firth did it justice – now time for his latest, which I have to say, reads more like a movie than the first…

Second Life is about a woman, Julia, married to Hugh with an adopted son Connor (her sister’s son) after an earlier wild life which Hugh saved her from (hence the second life reference). It is divided into five parts, told in first person from Julia’s perspective. Set mostly in London it also goes to Paris, and has flashbacks to her time in Berlin (and the “first” life). This is a lot about the risks of online hook-ups …particularly ones that end up meeting in real life. Its easy reading and fast paced, but for the first maybe half I really struggled with Julia who really isn’t very likeable (though maybe we aren’t that far from her at least in our thoughts). The premise of her going online to find her sister’s murder is frankly not plausible and it irritated me—but after she admits that was in part an excuse she was using to herself I stopped being irritated at the author, and just stayed irritated at her.

The pace picks up a lot when things go wrong with the online lover, sometimes predictably but never-the-less this caused seat of the chair tension and the twists and surprises (some I guessed some not) come fast as it rushes to the finish. The end? Mmm. Not sure I like it, but authors are being pushed to be memorable and different and its not totally unsatisfying…though I still wanted to strangle her and really felt for her husband and son.

Thursday 19th March

Can You Keep a Secret by Caroline Overington

This is the sixth novel from an award winning journalist, now associate editor at Women’s Weekly, but the first I have read.

“Why do some people decide to get married when everyone around them would seem to agree that marriage, at least for the two people in question, is a terrifically bad idea?”

This is the opening gambit on the back page, before we are told Colby and Caitlin get together and the nightmare begins. The front cover has it as the “true definition of a page turner” and in small print: How well do you know the one you love?

With this lead in, and no previous experience of the author (which may or may not have been a guide) I was expecting a Gone Girl type thriller. The prologue has us in the future with a house burning down and a missing child we are told was adopted and it “hasn’t been gong that well’, so all in keeping with the back cover. So I was somewhat surprised by what seemed much more romance/family drama—well for the first half! So much so that if Colby and Caitlin from the back cover hadn’t appeared on the pages I was reading, I might have thought it had mistakenly been given the cover of a different book.

Expectations realigned, we follow the developing relationship (third person point of view) between a naive country Queensland girl, Caitlin, who is 1999 doesn’t know there is a type of coffee other than instant Nescafe, and sophisticated New Yorker Colby. It’s made plausible by the fact that Caitlin dropped out of school and normally works in a dubious pub, but is pulled into crewing on a Whitsunday yacht for a bunch of rich New Yorkers with more money than sense. Both our protagonists have a troubled background, and youth and Caitlin’s being miles away from the stress of Wall Street make the attractive more than possible. A little harder to believe is that after the holiday romance Colby stays in touch and eventually (as we watch the calendar years in anticipation) brings her to New York for a holiday. The inevitable happens—but rather than being a major feature of the book, Overington uses historical events as a reason Caitlin can’t go home, and a spur for their precipitous marriage. If for no other reason we want Colby to go ahead, ill-suited as they may be, just to stick it up his odious mother.

We see a bit of their difficulties and Caitlin’s struggles, particularly when they can’t have children—and then they decide to adopt.

From page 197 where we now find ourselves, the novel changes completely in tone, point of view and pace. Up until almost the end (page 361) it is now told in blogs, first person Caitlin, with “online” comments from someone we come to know and another who we guess at. Up until this change I hadn’t been grabbed—but after it, yes it was a page turner and I didn’t stop until finished in the early hours of the morning. In the “blog” I started to care about Caitlin, and though aware of her being a potentially unreliable (one-sided) narrator, the deteriorating marital situation began to reveal. The blogs are about the pitfalls of adopting an older child, and we feel for her, however naïve and misguided she may have been.

I didn’t see the twist until a few pages before and am not sure if I liked it or not—endings are always so hard! But Overington certainly makes you want to keep reading through the second half, and makes you think. Don’t get too fussed about the title, or the back blurb, think of it as being in two halves and just sit back and enjoy.

Thursday 12th March

The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna

I was kindly sent this book by Allen and Unwin as I was scheduled for a panel with her at the Adelaide Writer’s festival. My initial reaction was—what was the festival thinking? Our books are so very different! Tied together by motherhood, in Medea’s Curse the mothers’ are charged with murder – in Laguna’s book the mother is trying her best under difficult circumstances to be the best mother she can be. As it happens this is picked up in my book, and domestic violence is also a common theme. But it’s a long bow…

This charming book is told from the point of view of Jimmy, starting from age six, and gives a delightfully poignant idiosyncratic view of what is going on around him. He clearly isn’t ‘neurotypical’ – I’m thinking Aspergers or Autistic spectrum—and struggles to contain his behaviours for anyone other than his mother. At times, with an alcoholic father, this becomes a serious problem.

The prose is beautiful, largely made magical by her capture of Jimmy’s voice and her ability to have us see the world as he does, a mix of feelings and sensations and images mixed up in a way not thought of (well, not by me) but which makes perfect sense: “if Dad was made of glass you would have seen the beer through the tunnels of his legs….until every part of him was flooded. What happened at the refinery that day would be drowned.’

The pace ebbs and flows, this is not a plot driven book, the magic in the words and the images they form—and the sad world Jimmy is exposed to and has to work out a way of living in it.

As it happened, the discussion Sofie and I had with Jo Case, the mediator, and the audience, was lively and interesting, all the more fun for being under the canopy at the Pioneer Gardens in Adelaide.

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Thursday 5th March

Fifty Years of Silence by Miranda Richmond Mouillot

 

It’s hard for me to separate the book from the woman—I met her at the Perth Writer’s Festival and had dinner with her along with other Text authors, and bought her book immediately and had to read it compulsively. Born and raised mostly in Asheville—a truly charming town in North Carolina where I stayed in a Yute overlooking the town and river and avoiding bears (and going to the “topless” bar she refers to in the book…)—she also had a European grandfather knock the American accent out of her English and French—she now lives in rural France and is quaintly and delightfully French. She also has a razor sharp mind inherited from both the grandparents she writes about in this non-fiction search for identity and what happened that meant her grandparents separated in 1948 and never spoke again. She cared for her grandfather, trekking between France and Switzerland as he became demented—but he saw the manuscript before he died and spoke his first coherent sentences in years on doing so. Her grandmother was a doctor who specialised in psychiatry post-war, and besides a formidable mind, seems to have also gifted her grand-daughter resilience, charm and a sense of humour.

This is a tale of hardship and pain, a revisit of Europe in World War Two and the atrocities of what happened to millions of Jews. But it is NOT a tale of misery and concentration camps; rather her grandparents hid/ escaped and the camps were postwar, and a useful reminder of how hard this was in light of our current refugee catastrophe. I have lived and have a house in rural France which possibly made this book even more real—she finds the ruined house her grandparents bought and starts to renovate it. The search for who her grandparents were takes turns and shows her rather who she is and what she can be. A charming, beautifully written memoir, uplifting—but I cried all the same.

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Thursday 26th February

Whisky, Charlie, Foxtrot by Annabel Smith

I wouldn’t normally have picked this book up—didn’t like the cover (my version has photos of two young men one upside down) and while the title is intriguing, not really my style, and it wouldn’t come up in thriller or crime. But I downloaded it because I was asked what I thought and had some reading time on my hands…and as is often the case, when I stray beyond my preferred psychological thriller genre, I was pleased I had. I’m not sure what genre you’d call it, but in a similar manner I picked up Jo-Jo Moyes (and loved Me Before You) and I’d put it in with her style: family or personal drama and growth through adversity. I then got to meet the author last week at the Perth Writers’ Festival, which is always a privilege.

Whisky and Charlie are identical twins and I guess this is primarily about exploring their relationship and where it went wrong. For a non twin there is always a bit of fascination about how one grows up with someone who looks exactly like you (and genetically is) so this is part of what makes it compelling. You read to find what went wrong and why, as well as what happened to Whisky and will he recover. There’s some really lovely scenes and reflections, great explorations of motive and reasoning not just between twins but in Charlie’s relationship with women and with his mother. I’m still undecided about the end—I think it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t. There was an inevitability about the ending in Me Before You that made the ending poignant that I think Smith could have got away with here, versus the unexpected twist in One Day in David Nichols book I haven’t forgiven him for—but also can’t forget. Anyway, read for yourself and decide!

Thursday 19th February

Back to Aussie women next week-here’s a well known one from USA worth a read if you like page turners with atmosphere…

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger

Harlan Coben is quoted on the font cover as saying “if you haven’t experienced Lisa Unger, what are you waiting for?” as well as numerous other quotes from well known authors. I had—at least four other Unger’s, if not all eight (just didn’t write reviews back then…).

The back cover suggest we are in for an addiction story with the femme fatale keeping our hero hooked. Written in first person, from the point of view of Ian, also known as his comic hero (he writes them), Fatboy, we follow his current life, with interwoven chapters about his background. Ian meets Megan and falls in love. But Priss, who he has also fictionalised as a comic character, won’t let him go. Whenever it looks like he might live happily ever after, Priss intervenes and there’s a fire—or worse.

Set in New York City and Up State New York, this story grabs you from page one. Unger is a talented story teller, and though I got the twist/premise by page 50, it is clear certainly by half way through that she expects you to. She plays around with that little, straying too far for my liking into the paranormal realm, but ‘knowing’ and even knowing what the alternative might be, and what Fatboy believed, didn’t stop me from wanting to keep reading.

In many ways this is a story about loss in childhood of a sibling (both Megan and Ian have lost a brother/sister), and in Ian’s case, when a family’s own grief and mental illness had compounded the impact rather than buffered it.

Both in current time and as we unravel Ian’s past, there is plenty of action to keep us on the edge of our seats—so tighten your seat belt and enjoy the ride!

Thursday February 12th

Okay after Gone Girl this is the book looking next most likely…I don’t personally think it will have quite the GG longetivity on the charts (movie aside) – but who knows?

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Debut British author Paula Hawkins serves up a psychological thriller in the Gone Girl style- by from the point of view of three women in dysfunctional relationships: one married to Tom, one who was married to Tom and can’t let him go, and Megan a few doors down in the same street, married to Scott but tied to the other women in more ways than one. Told in first person from these three perspectives, the tension is there from the start and doesn’t let go, though I found it to be “constant” rather than building. There are some plot point shifts but perhaps because of the shifting POV it seemed more a linear story: also because of the compelling voices I found myself committed to read without a particular need to work out “who did it”: the crime doesn’t becomes evident until I guess end of Act One, when one women goes missing (and because their stories are in different times a year apart, this can be confusing if you’re reading on a kindle and can’t flick back easily). There aren’t lots of twists and surprises, but that said, immersed in the story I didn’t really work it out until probably the start of the final act.

A good read.

Thursday February 5th

Okay to be honest I’m putting this up on Sat 7th- my book launch was on the 5th and then did a Sisters in Crime talk with this author last night! She traveled from Newcastle (got up at 4.15am!) for the event though there was the added attraction that she got to catch up with her daughter in Melbourne, who came along as support.

Already Dead by Jaye Ford

Having been saved by one of this author’s sessions at a Romance conference (she had at the time better credentials to be at said conference, as she hasn’t written e-book romance under another name but she also writes thrillers. I was writing erotic romance albeit with loads of action), I bought her first two books there and then and her third one when I saw it come out. I missed the fourth so was thrilled when I was sent a copy because she and I appeared together (with my new hat as thriller writer) at Sisters of Crime in February.

This one is keeping with her others, starts off at a cracking pace and barely slows for breath. (After her first one, my girlfriends and I may never be able to go away for a weekend…the tension was relentless!). This one starts with a carjacking which takes up the first maybe quarter or fifth of the book. We then get to catch our breath and think—what now?

If it had been me (as the heroine) I’d have just thought the carjacker was unwell and not thought too much about the content of what he talked about (as a psychiatrist in my other life I would waste a lot of time and risk my own sanity if I got sucked into my patient’s delusions) but Jax is an investigative reporter with a reason not to let go…and so we get swept along with her and into another couple of chases (including one in a car, where she has the good sense to ask herself really?). A page turning ripper: might have liked a bit more of the relationship but what was there was good! I had a pre-release version and the only thing I would have liked to have fixed might have been in the final—minor point but psychologists can’t give medication!

Thursday January 29th

Okay Tess is a woman but American. As a nod to Aussie women writers do I count? Medea’s Curse (by Anne Buist) was released yesterday with Text publishers (and on Amazon and Aussie bookshops) but I guess I can’t review my own book!

Die Again by Tess Gerristen

I approached this with a little trepidation because from the blurb she was taking her Boston characters to Africa and in my experience this is the beginning of the end (when Kay Scarpetta (Patricia Cornwell) went to France it was all over…), though to be fair Elizabeth George managed her characters in Italy well.

I needn’t have worried. Not only that, but I found I loved the African section even more than the Boston section, probably because her characters (Rizzoli and husband Gabriel) are only in Africa briefly, and the stories run parallel until they collide. I picked most of the “who did it” as soon as the crime in Africa “finished” but there were plenty of loose ends that I hadn’t worked out and it was still exciting page turning reading.

In Africa it’s a safari gone badly wrong—in Boston it’s a taxidermist given some of his own treatment…and then more bodies kept turning up. I’m not fond of serial killers but this story focuses on the hunt and our first person African heroine, Millie, as well as our Boston regulars, cop Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, which forme makes it far more compelling. Loved how it tied all up together back in Boston…but it might be a while before I book a safari…

Thursday January 22nd

It’s another one for the boys, but I have just read two Aussie women’s books so they’ll be coming soon! These two authors I met at the same festival (Brisbane) last year and did workshops with them both, so have a soft spot for them and their accents (though McBride is actually living in Scotland, whereas McKinty’s has come from Ireland via USA and now going Aussie…)

Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty

Amazon has worked out I like this writer so messages kept popping up to remind me McKinty’s new one was coming—and then there it was! I do like a book in hand, but sometimes impatience garbs me and there it is on the kindle, another Sean Duffy, ready to go.

We are of course, still in Ireland in the Troubles, and we see plenty of that up front and centre, in the every day activity of Duffy checking for a bomb under the car (this was a part of McKinty’s childhood in Ireland, he told us at a workshop) as well as circling in and around the murder-suicide (or is it murder-murder?) of a man and his two parents. Then another…

Duffy is as dysfunctional as ever and McKinty does an amazing job of getting us on side with a cop who isn’t opposed to putting aside some cocaine from a raid, for his own personal use. He doesn’t play by the rules, which works…most of the time. His love life doesn’t survive it all and I really do want to get into the book and sort it all out for him…

The writing, use of words, insight into Irish Troubles, as always is compelling: more of the latter in this one and less stand alone crime as in his previous.

Looking forward to being annoyed by Amazon again…

The Missing and the Dead by Stuart MacBride

Turn off the phone and fasten and seat belts—the latest Logan Macrae books starts at a full pelt (Macrae chasing a crim through the backyards of somewhere near Aberdeen) and rarely slows for you to take a breath. Macrae (still a sergeant after a demotion a book or so go) isn’t technically working with Steele but she keeps popping up and seems to think he is. There’s a dead girl, missing paedophiles, the dead girl’s mother, ex-girlfriend causing problems despite and in part because she is in a coma, burglars and druggies. It exhausts the cops—and as you are travelling with them all the way, expect to feel like you’re on a rollercoaster road with the on switch stuck. MacBride as usual has wonderful alive characters that jump off the page (sometimes you want to scream at them as much as the hero), great Scottish accents. A great read—just not if you have a hangover.

Thursday January 15th

The One Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

This book topped the charts for a long while in Canada (and presumably Sweden) but I haven’t really heard of it doing much elsewhere. In part this may be because of its ludicrously long name (which is really perfect for the book…) or difficulties in marketing it: I kept seeing it as a film like Fish Called Wanda, starring Bilbo Baggins, but part World According to Garp (or really any of Irving’s novels, preferably one with an elephant), The Eight (it rips through history in a highly original way!).

As a role model for how to grow old disgracefully—but with charm and style—this is a must for everyone aiming for their 100th birthday. It is ludicrous—but it’s hard not to go with the flow and turn the page to see what hilarious adventure occurs both in current time and in the parallel story of Allan Karlsson’s past. He finds himself in multiple wars across the globe (and on both sides) and often these contacts fortuitously turn up later to help him out. We could all learn something from the hero’s attitude to the world…though the police force may disagree.

A feel good read that will leave you with a smile on your face.

Thursday January 8th

NONFICTION: CRIME AND MENTAL ILLNESS

In keeping with the Aus Women Writer’s Challenge one of my reviews today is a recent release by Melbourne journalist ex-lawyer Julie Szego. The other is an older book I just read recently as part of my research for the sequel to Medea’s Curse (out January 28th!) by a Professor of Psychiatry about her own bipolar disorder. Both great reading. Enjoy!

The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama by Julie Szego

I am not much for true crime books—Helen Garner’s being the exception—and picked this up because I am a friend and colleague of the author’s sister. I am not sorry—even reading the acknowledgements at the front, where she thanks Garner for her help and support I knew I was not in for a salacious read but a thought provoking account of how badly our system can go wrong.

I had heard and read the media reports about the trial and had thought it was a (relatively) straight forward forensic science contamination stuff up. In some ways it was (though not the usual lab contamination) but this story is much more. It is about the Somali culture, about prejudices about blacks, loose women and to a lesser degree mental illness—and most chillingly, about how smart people, well intentioned people doing their job—don’t think hard or laterally and go at things as hard as they should, in part because of prejudice but also because (not explored really in the book but my own belief having been in a similar situation at times) we accept what we are told. Just like the psychology students who did what they were told even though they believed they were harming someone in the next room.

The book risked being diminished by Farah refusing early on to be involved (because he wanted to write his own story, and it was his story, until Szego made it something different, in a way that I doubt he could): like Szego I will read his account if and when it ever comes out, but that will be sure to include the time in prison when he was innocent which she can only imagine. What Szego does is takes us through our culture and how it came up against the Somali, helps us to get a little insight into their reticence to divulge and trust (having had a number of patients from this culture, her insights will be helpful in an ongoing way), and into the legal process. Perhaps because she is a lawyer there was a sense of justice prevailing and intelligence and good sense finally winning, but she was harsh enough on those who didn’t get it right—but as with the scientists, she is generous and understanding about the why and how.

A compelling story I couldn’t put down: Garner now has a protégée.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Mood and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction and that which I do, tends to be psychiatric in nature, courtesy of me being a mental health professional. Like Life of I (on narcissism) and Confessions of a Sociopath (on psychopathy, the book I get most “likes” on my Goodreads review, by a country mile). This is as the title suggests, an autobiography of the author’s mental illness. There is a lot she doesn’t tell us about I would be interested in: from Wiki she is a psychologist, with an almost unheard of (in Australia anyway) appointment as a Professor of Psychiatry. That’s actually an interesting aside in this book—psychiatrists and psychologists seem to play very similar roles in the mental health system in the USA. Both have their “own” inpatients and ask each other to consult. Not so in Australia: because all inpatient mentally ill people have medication, all are under psychiatrists. Psychologists are much more likely to be generic case managers, though in some instances will be asked for specific skills eg CBT or neuropsychology assessments. Mostly they are in the community treating neurosis and leaving psychosis to psychiatrists (a small number of who also or instead, do psychotherapy like other people from any mental health background).

Anyway, Jamison is a highly respected academic, clinician and researcher. She also has bipolar (manic depression). And let’s be very clear about it because she is—when she is unwell she is very unwell—“mad”—and when she is well, and taking lithium which she attributes to saving her life, she is very well.

This is a straightforward story that shows all the highs and lows of the disorder, the tendency to avoid medication, the desperate desire for the highs and the costs of the lows. It is poignant and brave—all the more so for the stigma of “coming out” having such an enormous stigma within our profession. To admire her goes without saying: this is a must for everyone who cares for the mentally ill, everyone who has bipolar and all the rest of you who knows someone with bipolar (it affects 1%–higher amongst artists/writers and I see a number of barristers with it, so you just may not know!).

Thursday January Ist

My NY resolution- join the Aus Women Writers (badge above) and read and review Australian Women Writers – though I will be reading and reviewing others too!

Happy New Year everyone – hope your resolutions include lots and lots of reading! Including Medea’s Curse out on January 28th (can pre-order on Amazon or at Text…)

Okay for your January reads until then – a Sophie Hannah review! She’s on the bookshelves for her writing an Agatha Christie book (which I haven’t read) – here’s some of her thrillers!

I like some more than others, all well worth a read and some really excellent (as long as you don’t mind a slightly hysterical heroine). Enjoy!

The Telling Error by Sophie Hannah

Just finished this after resenting have to put it down to sleep (or eat or doing anything else!). It’s an easy read so I did manage it over two days, and a definite page turner. As a psychological crime thriller it’s one of the better, complex plot but better still, complex characters and psychological interplays. It wasn’t perfect—as always the end section is perhaps less strong than the rest of the book, but on the other hand not as disappointing as many. It’s easier to create tension than to bring things together in a satisfying and believable way. In this there are so many complex flawed characters it is probably inevitable that some are better than others. For me, the main woman, Nicki, who is the only sections we see form first person, is the most authentic. At times we are right in her shoes and feeling her angst, even though we don’t until later quite understand why she is into self-destruction. I have had a known a number of people sadly like her; perhaps not as extreme, but the same core here makes the character totally authentic. I found the true villain and sub-villains a little less believable, but regardless, the author has put forward plausible reasons for them being as they are. The plot is wonderfully intricate and subplots and characters are woven around each other artfully.

Overall—a thrilling read that is satisfying and reminds me why I love the genre.

The Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah

Filling in the holes in this series I read this one out of order though they do well by themselves (Simon and Charlie’s relationship however, really is bordering on unbelievable-him I can just accept, but why she puts up with it isn’t at all clear). This thriller started off well, focused around a documentary on women (apparently) falsely convicted of child murder/infanticide. There was some good bits and I think she was trying to make some interesting points but it sadly got lost and went off towards a frankly unbelievable conclusion that took away any of the earlier positives. Not in the same league as some of the others though still a somewhat annoying hysterical heroine.

Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah (Culver 5)

Somehow I missed that this was a series and have read the latest and several early ones without some in between. Seems to be some overlap between characters but can’t recall her earlier ones now so not sure if they’re all (Simon and in this one, recent wife Charlie and her sister, Gibbs and Sam) are in them all but I’d certainly met them before (and they continue to be infuriating but never dull). This one like the last I read sets a cracking pace with loads of action and pathology. Her female characters (well the main heroine in this and the Telling Error and probably Little Face) have a sameness—somewhat hysterical and misguided—but they’re likeable enough mostly and the story in this engrossing if rather farfetched.

Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah (Book 7)

This, the Telling Error and The Carrier are the highlights of this series—great pathology exploration of female friends and extended families, lots of twists and a cracking pace. The weakest point for me was the hypnotherapist—narcissistic and overvalued and a little unbelievable in the end. But worth a read if you want a page turner!

The Carrier by Sophie Hannah (book8 Culver valley crime series)

Like most of Hannah’s books in this she explores what lies beneath the surface and in relationships. In this one there is plenty of pathology—right up there with Gone Girl in relationships, both the one with the dead women and with the would be new girlfriend! I enjoyed this one—a smart (but as usual slightly hysterical) woman who runs her own company and doesn’t suffer fools (no one would really say some of the things she says to Lauren (as much as we might want to) even though she is even more hysterical and annoying. But Hannah manages to pull together an unlikely killing of a terminally ill woman in with a plane delay in Germany and it’s a lot of fun getting there.

Thursday 25th December

Wondering what to download on your new Kindle? Here’s some suggestions!

Hope you have a great Christmas and if you didn’t get any books- go out and buy some!

I have an odd selection here as I’m doing the end of year trying to clear out things, so bound to be something you like.

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin

I’m a late discoverer of Rankin—good thing about books is you can always catch up!

Rebus is back—as a DS, to Siobhan’s DI status (a telling tale of why it pays to adhere to the rules…)—and so are some of his old mates from when he was a DC in a section where they called themselves the Saints of the books title. Except they weren’t…

This is Rankin at his best. Great array of flawed characters and interwoven plots from past and present. Drugs, small time crooks and bigger time business men and politicians who may not be squeaky clean—nor are their kids it seems. A fast paced engrossing read.

Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson

Reading this in France in an unusually cool August, on route to walk in Yorkshire where this is set, this was more spine chilling than warming! This is the middle of a series of novels based around DI Alan Banks—I haven’t read any others but will now look out for them. The author is very competent in pulling us in and having the pages turn; you don’t always know where he’ll take you but you sure as hell want to find out. A lot of police force friction, a wayward Chief Constable’s daughter, some dead low life criminals and things wind around each other and escalate. At times very considered and a little wordy, it still manages to keep the pace up and have you feel nervous (and cold) about walking the moors…

Death on a Galician Shore by Dominigo Villar

I was short of reading material on a recent holiday in France and thanks to previous tenants of the farmhouse I was in, got to choose from a selection I might not otherwise have found. This one was translated from Spanish and set in Northwest Spain so I could picture the region from the last section of my Camino walk three years ago. A somewhat depressed cop who can’t quite get his life in gear, watching his uncle die and father grow old, is the unlikely hero but compelling enough all the same. Definitely not Poiret but not quite Columbo either. The author brings the Spanish fishing village alive and while there aren’t many twists nor fast paced action, I enjoyed this for its evocative sense of person and place; and the story in the end was more than readable.

Killing Hope by Keith Houghton

This is written in first person by Gabe Quinn (and there are two more Gabe Quinn books after this and the author recommends reading in order. The voice hooks you in and mostly I wanted to keep reading (and did), but early on I decided that perhaps thrillers rather than cop procedural thrillers was more my thing. Then I thought maybe it was that I was just over serial killers. Always something I couldn’t quite put my finger on that didn’t quite work for me. Its fast paced, the hero interesting and there are often things he’s thinking or does that we are left up in the air about (for a while, the author comes back to it!) which mostly worked well to keep you reading but might have been problematic if you don’t read as fast as me because I don’t know if I’d have retained them. Then there’s the ending which didn’t really work for me. I think he self publishes and if so this is better than a lot but I can’t help but feel a more thorough structural edit might have helped.

Thursday 18th December

Great work from new Aussie author!

Hades by Candice Fox

I’d looked at this a few times and kept feeling it was semi-futuristic or at least quasi-Hunger Games type world (and while I liked the Hunger Games, it isn’t usually my thing) and then put it down again, but when looking at Angela Savage’s & Sue William’s list of shortlistings for the Ned Kelly I thought I needed to read a recent winner—as this did in 2014 for best debut novel.

I am glad I did! I know why I had the impression I did and I wasn’t entirely wrong – I guess more inspired perhaps by those types of worlds, but Hades is clearly contemporary, and clearly Sydney, though just where the underworld of Utulla tip is …well wherever you want to imagine it (“on the ragged edges of the Western suburbs”). Fox creates a fabulously rich and believable microcosm—a world we can see and fear and be fascinated by. She builds tension, entwines stories and has us routing for (or not…) her characters as they crash through at full pace to an exciting climax. I read it on the way to Sydney (and in bed that night) and bought the sequel Eden which I read on the way home (and undoubtedly in bed tonight!).

A very impressive book – and would be even if it wasn’t a debut.

 

Eden by Candice Fox

Okay this took me an extra night to finish, but was compelled to do so. Another page turner where we follow Eden going under cover and the story of missing girls who all stayed in a dead beat community Eden now joins. Juxtaposed with these chapters are first person account from her police partner, Frank, who as well as running the operation is recovering from his girlfriend being murdered and doing some work on the side for Hades, Eden’s crime king “father”. To add to the richness, we also follow Hades himself from young boy to disappearance of the girl he loved—the work on the side, because this is who Frank is trying to find. It sounds complicated and I guess it is, but the stories intertwine, are easy to follow and each one brings its own level of suspense and interest. I look forward to more work from this author.

Thursday December 11th

Two comfortable page turning reads as we head into the holiday season (down under anyway). On the Book Club last week (ABC television) the Summer beach reads were generally a good deal longer than either of these two books – but these fit into the wind down and don’t have to think types.

Damage by Felix Francis

Reading a Felix Francis book is like slipping on the bedroom slippers and returning to familiar comfortable territory—you know what to expect and are unlikely to be disappointed. That is I guess if like me you read all his Dad’s books and made the transition as the mantle was handed over.

We’re in the racing world (naturally) and mayhem of even greater than usual order is occurring and the racing body are being pretty inept. Our hero works under cover to save the day, with his sister having cancer/her stepson’s legal issues and the will he propose or leave Lydia all simmering in the background. Nothing startling—bedroom slippers not Manolo Blahniks. But sometimes what you need for the occasion.

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson

Okay, hated the title (presumably inspired by Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), but like the Observer said on the cover, it was hard not to read in one sitting- so I did. A solid debut novel, readable, page turning and with twists, it engages you from the start and holds onto you despite you seeing the trainwreck this slightly pathetic hero that never got over his first love is getting onto. The story if strong enough to make up for the hero who is just a little too passive and a loser for my liking (though he does pull his finger out, is honest to cops and does see the value of his on/off girlfriend, this is never quite enough for me), as well as the somewhat up in the air ending…but a worthwhile read. That said, posting this some months later, I find I can’t recall it: one of the challenges of page turners I think; if you’re too busy racing ahead you don’t retain as much.

Thursday December 4th: A Stephen White Fest!

Love this author- have reviewed all the Alan Gregory series previously and this is now it – with an added bonus extra book that stands alone- Kill Me. Loved it!

Last Lie by Stephen White

Okay I read this out of order (damn it was hard to work out!) and got to meet the neighbours from hell that were referenced in a later book…..Plenty of action (all starts out when Alan isn’t invited to his neighbour’s house warming. Big mistake though he would have worked it out too fast if he had been). All around a rape, it brings in psychotherapy supervision and what jumps off the page is that White knows what he’s talking about. Yes its fiction but he’s lived this and that helps the reader be sucked in and believe this really could happen in Boulder. Though whenever I stop I think: really? Not the Boulder I have stayed in with friends and had Thanksgiving there!

Line of Fire by Stephen White

After reading this I read it is his penultimate …. Something like 18th in the series and sadly only the 4th I’ve read because I’ve been singularly unsuccessful in getting the order right, partly because they aren’t all available on Amazon in kindle. Having read Lee Child’s Jack Reacher’s from 1 to 18 sequentially over about six weeks it’s sad not to have been able to do the same with this series… particularly as they develop the back story far more than Child does. So this one…well there is never a dull moment! Sometimes my husband complains about me having too many threads and plots…well in this White was on a roll and running! From chaos and action in one aspect of Alan Gregory’s life with lurch to the same in another. All the regulars are there with more of therapist colleague with PTSD, Diane, than I had seen before (though it’s clear she has had a big role in earlier books). Cop friend Sam’s crime comes back to haunt them…and let’s just say a lot happens everywhere and while I saw it coming it was clear White is tying things up. Now I need a drink to recover.

Compound Fracture by Stephen White

I knew this was the end and as he raced towards the climax in the Line of Fire the pace continues here, tying up loose ends and give us plenty of stuff we never saw coming. He had me wondering all sorts of things, some of which didn’t occur (thank goodness because I figured he could have done anything and just about does). Twists and turns as the Prosecutor from Hell is after him and he isn’t sure Sam can be trusted. And if his kid doesn’t have PTSD before this book they will now!

Kill Me by Stephen White

I am a White fan, having read all the Alan Gregory series that I could get on kindle and then recently sidelining into The Siege which takes Alan’s cop friend into a story of his own. I hadn’t realized this was a Gregory novel – it too is a bit of a sideline because in this Gregory had a bit part, and our hero is …well actually I don’t think we ever know his name (told in first person) and I only just realized! So as I said, I am a White fan and this isn’t going to change that – to the contrary, it takes his books to a new level. I’m still wiping the tears away.

I loved it, though I only chose it because of the author – from the blurb it didn’t sound like my type of book. The hero is the same character as the quadriplegic in Jo-Jo Moyes’s Me Before You (a complete tear jerker), but before he became disabled. How to describe? Yes it is a page turner, a thriller like nothing I’d read before. There is tension but not about who did it but when. A chase and a quest where it becomes more complicated and more tense in the last third as all good thrillers do, with twists that aren’t straight out of writing class 101 or even 909. This is one the surface superficial thriller, but really a book about relationships, love and loss. Oh wow. Don’t miss it.

Thursday 27th November

In the Morning I’ll be Gone by Adrian McKinty : Part Crime Thriller with a dash of Police Procedural and a Sprinkling of Gripping Politics

I’ve read the first two Sean Duffy police dramas set in the Troubles of Northern Ireland and really enjoyed them: this one is even better. McKinty somehow manages to wind a “locked room murder” in rural Ireland amongst M15 and a hunt for IRA escapees and what I think (it was a long time ago and I was young…) are some real factual threats that existed back then and nearly did real damage. He moves seamlessly between fact and fiction, big plot and smaller (but just as gripping in either), the pages keep turning and we are totally there with Sean Duffy who I think is part McKinty part Hunter S Thompson and who is very busy using up his nine lives…but fear not, just when you thought either the peelers (Irish police, one of the many titbits you get from the books) have had enough of Duffy or visa versa, something is going to happen to ensure they are locked together, for better and worse.

Thursday 20th November

JACK CAFFERY SERIES: MO HAYDER

Birdman by Mo Hayder

This is Hayder’s first novel is what was to become the Jack Caffery series; so this is where I started! Published in 2000 back when serial killers were the thing it was probably one of the best of this bunch. I am a bit over serial killers but wanted to start at the beginning and wasn’t sorry I did. Hayder does the relationship in the background well and this developed and is clearly going to continue to do so; DI Caffery is on the job from the first finding of the bodies, and battles another DI brought on board, but less so than his own demons of survivor guilt (not the only fictional crime character to have lost a sibling who is still an unsolved crime, but it adds to the grist and this mill is busy!). After finding the killer the police find things are more complicated than they thought and the plot weaves to bring in Caffery’s new squeeze as the tension increases and the end has a satisfying moral aspect/reflection that I suspect Hayder will return to. I’ll be looking for the series even though my preference isn’t for crime procedurals, largely because her writing is good and there is a string dose of the psyche of Caffery and his relationships, even if less about the criminal’s.

The Treatment by Mo Hayder (Jack Caffery 2)

Following on from the last book Jack is now in a relationship with Rebecca (who is struggling with dealing with what happened to her at the hands of the bad guy in the last one) and Jack continues to be obsessed with his brother who disappeared years earlier. This story has a very nasty paedophile at work which plays off and into the brother issue; and there are some very nasty developments there too. It is well written and a page turner, but not for the weak stomached or probably anyone with children! I found it hard to not really squirm—particularly with how the brother subplot develops. Slight spoiler- the end we know more than Jack and is to say the least unsettling. Don’t expect a happy ever after…

Ritual by Mo Hayder (Jack Caffery 3)

There is some masterly writing here; despite actively disliking Jack Caffery through most of this book, I still wanted to keep reading, and really liked it (best of the 3). He’s still on about his missing brother (whose demise we found out about in book 2 but he doesn’t know) but not as much, but he’s a self destruct course and it was hard not to wish he’d hurry up (using prostitutes was probably the deciding negative for me; I mean the man can’t maintain a friend let alone a relationship).

So why did I like it?

  1. Great story: both the main one with African muti (and its occasional hints of being real but nothing too much to swallow) and the subplot of Flea finding out about her parents.
  2. Flea—great heroine, troubled of course, but all the dive stuff is really engrossing.
  3. As always, fast paced and page turning
  4. Liked the Walking Man too…and Mo Hayder’s explanation at the back. Really good, rich stuff from real life.
  5. Okay Caffery slightly redeems himself…

Skin by Mo Hayder (Jack Caffery 4)

This continues on directly from the last, weaving the secret Jack is keeping for Flea in with extra help from the Walking Man and the Tolokoshe (we met in the African rituals of the last book). The new story is a psychopathic killer that ties in with another witness to what Flea did earlier, making for an intricate high paced thriller.

Gone by Mo Hayder

Have just downloaded Jack Caffery 6 & 7 (OMG I hope she’s still writing them…). Totally hooked. Hayder winds themes through the series so that things keep popping up, hinting at a possible relationship between Flea and Caffery (yeah, right…) then heads them off in wildly different directions. Car and child napping in this one…not the usual sexual sadist plot, and she had me guessing until near the end. A great depiction of grieving families, a police force barely holding it together and a cop trapped underground that keeps the pace rushing a along.

Poppet by Mo Hayder (Jack Caffery 6)

Jack and Flea are back and (thank goodness) we finally get some resolution on the long standing crime that has stood between them. Don’t get too excited though—this is the dysfunctional Jack (and Flea isn’t much better) so don’t expect candles and a HEA ending…! We have a new character, a psych nurse AJ who we follow around a fair bit, Penny who it takes a while to slot into the story, and a psychiatric hospital as the background for a number of unexplained deaths. I enjoyed this book but it was one of her least convincing—perhaps because I work in a psych hospital and it wasn’t quite right, but more that the two characters that explain all that happens were not very believable.

Wolf by Mo Hayder (Jack Caffery 7)

This is the latest in the series and I am hoping not the last though it may be- no HEA ending but she tied up the outstanding issues with Flea and Jack last book, and finally reveals to him the knowledge we have had since about book two regarding his brother. Rather brutally. This book has a nasty home invasion and a nasty killer(s) with plenty of twists. The home invasion had me feeling quite uneasy…tension is well written and though the end a little contrived/unbelievable, by and large a satisfying read. Book 3 & 4 remain my favourites. I’ll keep my fingers crossed about another but meantime the author has other books not in the series!

Thursday 13th November

Leaving Time by Jodie Picoult

I have read all of Piccoult’s and loved the poignant take on families and dynamics and important issues- sadly I can’t say that of this one. The characters were largely unbelievable (even before the twist), Thomas’s mental illness poorly researched (he had schizophrenia, not bipolar, though she intermittently suggest his mental state is all just trauma. Oh please!) and the only thing that feels real is the passion for the plight of elephants which was interesting to a point. Yes she has an easy reading style too but this without any of her usual pithy insights into human relationships (the grief discussions might be accurate for elephants, I wouldn’t know, but didn’t feel real for humans). Okay but why was I really pissed off? Can’t tell you because it’d be a spoiler, but REALLY? Didn’t do it for me: I guess it will be to some people’s taste but I felt tricked and unsatisfied.

Thursday 6th November (oops…Friday, I’m running late…)

Fall From Grace by Tim Weaver

I read the first four in one hit, so David Raker (5) was a year in the waiting. But I was back with him in an instant. This is a PI who does missing people: action, twists and a lot of relationship pathology—though not his own (brief reference to dead wife and ex-girlfriend-neighbour) though his daughter gets dragged into it (unnecessarily I think). I didn’t pick it (well I actually picked one big part but certainly not it all) and at times the plot did my head in (ok I had had a margarita as I was racing to the conclusion) but I enjoyed it. End of the day? Weaver is a good story teller.

All Day and a Night by Alafair Burke

This has two parallel stories from a cop and lawyer perspective, each told from close third (female) person. I’ll try not to do a spoiler…but it did occur to me that when we follow one character we expect them to still be alive at the end. Same rule may not apply in this format…

Set in and around New York/ NY State we have repeat murder with a strange unique style happening years after while the apparent perpetrator is still in gaol. Next thing he’s out, the cops want him back and his lawyer (the junior one) wonders if perhaps he did kill her sister after all and she should have stayed in the plush job she left. She should have and motive wise is a weak part of the story—there is no good reason for her to take on the case as soon works out.

So—did the bad guy that was put away actually do it and therefore who is the copycat, and who killed her sister if it isn’t either of them? We weave in and around past and present with some very current menace and a very irritating celebrity lawyer –when the end comes we know who did it in advance but probably not until two thirds the way through.

I didn’t enjoy it as much as an earlier Burke I read. Mostly because there were too many long pages on fairly dull dialogue and the characters weren’t quite real.

Thursday 30th October

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

I didn’t specially like the cover and hated the title. It had the ‘shortlisted for the Booker’ which can mean unreadable and stultifying or brilliant. So I opened with trepidation and only because it had been given to us.

Never judge a book by its cover…

I was captured and captivated by the first paragraph: this book is simply beautiful. It made me think (a lot), cry (if sniffles included then an amount) and laugh (quite a bit). The voice (first person narrative) is quirky and special. The family quirky and irritating and makes you full of sadness for all the things that could have been, yet survivors and fighters and you can’t miss every round with them. All her characters are rich and alive and people we really want to meet even if it meant getting swept up into their chaos. Fowler has found a very special way of shaking us and making us really feel and think, about ourselves and our families and our society. About what is really important.

It isn’t perfect—the story and momentum fell off at the end though she pulls it back for the actual end. I read some of the people who didn’t like it on Goodreads (part of me wondered whether we had read the same book) and the style perhaps doesn’t suit everyone. For me the twist was a ‘oh’ –not like the AHHHH twist in a thriller—but then gave such a deeper perspective to everything. And it worked in part for me because I had seen a somewhat upsetting documentary (she mentions it at the end in her further info) so I had some insight into how well she was portraying the story (sorry to be obtuse but important to not do a spoiler), which clearly some of those who didn’t like it, didn’t get.

For me though, at risk of being unAustralian, this deserved the Booker.

Thursday October 23rd

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid

I had tickets to go with my daughter to see the author come out to promote this book but ended up sending her with her boyfriend as it turned out it was my husband’s book launch night as well. They enjoyed her talk, even if they were younger than most (and possibly the only non-50 plus women with short grey hair) and my daughter usually enjoys her books but was disappointed this wasn’t another in the Tony/Carol story.

McDermid clearly wants to experiment and perhaps is bored with the same old same old (even though that’s what her readers want). Northanger Abbey (rewrite/modern take) certainly suggested this—I passed on that but was prepared to give this a go. Part police procedural with a Scottish woman detective, part war memoir-love story (Balkans, the 90’s) and part spy novel (lawyer would bes working with the international war crime commission trying not to get sacked), it has different sections that end up all tying in, but makes it tricky with names and recalling who is who initially.

In the end the police procedural section was by far the most interesting and engaging—the memoir/love story was all ‘told’ and I never felt a part of it or really felt for either Maggie or Mitja. Likewise the Balkan conflict didn’t really engage me as we were too distant in time from it (I mean in the book, not in real time).

I’m hoping for more Tony and Carol, however dysfunctional—I feel for them.

Thursday October 16th : Ian Rankin: why hadn’t I read him before?

The Falls by Ian Rankin

I thought I had maybe read a Rankin years ago and thought it too gritty/male/dour Scottish but forced indoors on a supposed summer (well it was Europe) holiday and scouring the farmhouse bookshelves I can up with this and another Rankin. It wasn’t what I had thought; rather a dense story with complex characters, lots of interplay between the cops and none of the Scottish brogue or excessive male cop grittiness and blood and guts either. Okay, it was Scottish, so dour does come to mind. Rebus, Rankin’s hero is an alcoholic and I got a bit sick of Laphroiag with a drizzle of water but he’s an interesting character, as are Siobhan Clarke who in this gets embroiled in an internet quiz game that definitely added to the pace and intrigue. All in order to find a missing girl there’s an historical quest too, a fascination with body snatchers, bad family blood and a touch of witchcraft. There is a reason Rankin is a best seller; a good read.

Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin

My second of Rankin’s novels with John Rebus, and enjoyed this even more than the last. Rebus is even more difficult than usual (but does occasionally have OJ instead of Lahroiag), with a great story that keeps you thinking right up until pretty much the last page. “Resurrection Men” refers to cops on their last warning sent back to school. Only this lot aren’t keen on graduating with honours. Meantime Siobhan Clarke is working a murder and red herrings and side plots wrap around each other, involving call girls, cab companies, art works and big time crims. Oh and the odd drug bust. Amazingly, it all comes together in the last few pages. Very satisfying.

Thursday October 9th: Stephen White’s Alan Gregory series – 4 more reviewed

Love this series…Gregory is a believable likeable but flawed character, Sam his cop friend likewise, and the psychotherapy/patient angle always holds my attention, but there’s plenty of action and twists too.

Warning Signs by Stephen White

Okay this one follows The Program, and Alan has a six month old baby. Just in case you want to do a better job than I did of working out what order to read them in!

This one has us pulled in by an unlikeable patient who we can still identify with—is her son planning the next Columbine or equivalent? Because the kid’s beef is with lawyers, Lauren may be a target, and Gregory’s usual infallible sense of judgement goes a bit haywire (put in down to male postnatal depression or at least postnatal protectiveness).

Sam’s partner Lucy is under suspicion for another murder and a mother in this one is a rival for fiction’s all time worst (in my vote it’s Cathy in east of Eden, but this one is up there in the same ball park). Lots of action and a high body count, and there isn’t a dull moment.

Blinded by Stephen White

In this Alan Gregory takes on a challenging patient and is soon worried about someone listening in to his sessions. The married couple from hell (think Gone Girl with sex games…) tie him and Sam up in knots, and as usual the pace is cracking and it’s hard to put down!

Spoiler alert re back story but read on if you want to orientate/ have read out of order; Sam breaks up with his wife and meets Carmen in this one and Grace is a toddler.

The Siege by Stephen White

This book takes a step away from the Alan Gregory novels (around two thirds through I think) in Boulder, following Sam Purdy (Alan’s cop friend) on a trip to the east coast where he is meant to be at a party with his pregnant girlfriend Carmen but she’s on bed rest so he’s there alone. A little far-fetched, he gets roped into helping the hostess through hostage crisis (she has loads of money and I think she’d have picked someone other than a cop she doesn’t know who has been suspended, and Sam looks like a cop…the small town (originally from Minnesota) overweight variety which I don’t think would inspire confidence). The hostage is actually the daughter and this takes Sam to Yale, my old hunting grounds (a sabbatical) so it was great to visualize the whole thing. We follow also Poe and Dee, FBI and CIA agents who aren’t meant to be there but can’t keep away from the action, or each other.

Missing Persons by Stephen White

I read this one a while ago and realised it was missing in my reviews! In this one a local psych is found dead by Alan and practice partner Diane who is arrested. There’s also a story about girls going missing at Christmas (it snows a lot in this series…) and of course Alan (and Sam) end up to their arm pits in suspense and action. Now well into the series, White is writing with skill; we know the characters but they don’t get boring and the plot is always enough to keep us reading.

If you have to accept some bits that are unlikely, it’s worth it. The characters are well drawn and there’s plenty of action to make it readable. There are tense moments though overall not so much in the way of twists or surprises which leaves the end a little flat, but good enough writing, story telling and character development for me to continue to look for more of this writer on kindle.

Thursday October 2nd : Let Her Go by Dawn Barker

This might be my last review of Aussie books – soon to become one of those myself I don’t want to upset any of my fellow authors (though I try always to be constructive, and also try to read only books that I think I’m going to like!).

Let Her Go isn’t a psychological thriller (my preferred reading), and nor was her first- Fractured – though it was said to be by one reviewer at least. They are psychological dramas (not page turning twists), somewhat in the style of Jodie Piccoult- important issues of our times, family dramas and the impacts and ripples of decisions that have unforeseen circumstances.

Let Her Go is a thoughtful finely observed story about surrogacy – but in a family that is well intentioned (so no paedophiles leaving a twin in Asia) and how the effects of decisions went through and impacted on the next generation. Real, well developed characters that are nicely developed and a story that while it might not have twists, you don’t always know exactly where its heading.

 

Thursday 25th September

The Rosie Effect High Res Cover

The Rosie Effect launched yesterday!

I left the author Graeme Simsion in the middle of the city prior to the signing at Reader’s Feast, clutching 50 red roses wrapped in blue paper handing them to random strangers…

I was the first person to read it – honestly, while maybe not quite as funny (but then I did know all the laughs as I’d heard all the scenes whilst in the writing) I think its better. Warm, quirky, full of heart. Don is his usual alienated self trying to fit in. No I don’t think Rosie is horrible (as some early readers have suggested) – hell, how would you be in NY, no family supports, pregnant and trying to do a medical course and submit a PhD…and pregnant! Just the PhD would (and has been) enough to make me a little cranky!

Its not a romance but there are romantic bits, bits to help readers try and understand quirky nerdy guys and their mates and their struggles.

A lovely light read with depths to be plumbed. A more than a giggle … some funny scenes in planes, delivery suites …well sort of, childrens playgrounds and antenatal classes …and Sonia is a gem.

Shouldn’t be missed!

 

 

 

Thursday 18th September

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

A debut novel, this is divided into three parts (though not for an obvious reason) told alternatively by Amelia Emmet, a tenured university professor, and Nath(aniel) Barber her assistant/student. Its set is a Chicago university and revolves around why 10 months earlier a student she didn’t know shot Amelia and then killed himself.

This is not a book of especially rising tensions or detective work, though it has both elements. I was amazed at how much I had read with not much extra being found out, yet it didn’t overly worry me until perhaps towards the end of section two when we had wallowed perhaps a little too much in Amelia’s physical pain and psychological angst, as well as Nath’s feelings of inadequacy. But the author does it well and it a setting of genuine academe where tensions of both unmet lust and success do tend to be entwined. I can really picture this university on the banks of the lake and feel the menace.

In the last section things speed up and rap up; I didn’t pick it until close to the end and though it seemed a little unlikely, it was satisfying enough; overall it was a good read, with the setting the characters stronger than the plot but enough of the latter to keep you reading. Now some time later, I still remember this novel, far more than the other two reviewed today.

The Lie of You: I Will Have What if Mine by Jane Lythell

Alternating between two female protagonists, one heroine and one villain, we know from the start Heja is a stalker. What transpires is why and then where is leads her. There are some good moments in this; we easily identify with Kathy, however simple and naïve she is. Heja in being more realistic probably isn’t as creepy as she could be; certainly what she is doing is enough to make any mother’s hair stand on end, yet it doesn’t quite. More unease. Markus is suitably distant and irritating without being evil, simplistic or one dimensional. More could have been made of the havoc Heja could have caused; it’s a bit disappointing when she pulls out and goes to plan B which is an anticlimax.

Nothing ground breaking but easy reading.

I’ll Find You by Nancy Bush

Okay. If you’re a romance reader (Mills and Boon variety) and like a bit of action, you’ll like this. It has the same style of Romance novels, and yes there is a romance as Callie is chased by West Laughlin while protecting a son that isn’t hers…Essentially I found the plot too implausible and I am over cults…and the romance was all right but not enough to carry it.

 

Thursday September 11th

Life or Death by Michael Robotham

I confess to being a bit ambivalent about starting this; I like Robotham’s books and his psychologist hero, and wasn’t sure what to expect from this, given it’s a move from his usual characters (psychologist and cop) and country (UK to USA and he’s Aussie); I have also met him and liked him so I wanted to like it!

My ambivalence was still there for maybe the first quarter. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I had heard him say he’d been inspired by the idea of someone escaping bail just before he was due to be released, and he’d been to US prisons down south to research it. But beyond that?

I was hooked once I decided I liked the lead male character, Audie Palmer, though for a long time we have no real idea if he’s a good guy or what he’s up to. It slowly unfolds, and as the past moves towards present I was increasingly hooked. By halfway I still didn’t know what to expect (and Robotham does do some unexpected things….not sure I’ll forgive him for one or two…) but was glued to the page. The pace increases, the body count grows, and don’t want to do a spoiler so just says it’s a mixed ending in the happiness stakes. I’m still looking forward to the next thriller in his series, but enjoyed this as an alternative.

House of Grief by Helen Garner

I am a fan of Garner—I like her style and how she and her life are insinuated into the facts in a way that makes true life situations she writes about that are almost too impossible to be true become real. This is about the Farquarson trials—the father convicted for driving and drowning his three sons ostensibly as revenge against his wife leaving him, keeping the car and finding a new man. Sounds trite reasoning but men have done this for less.

I had followed the trails in the media and was a little disappointed that there were no ‘new’ facts revealed in this (but if you don’t know it, obviously this won’t be an issue for you). I enjoyed her writing as always, perhaps would have liked some more reflection. Her uncertainty mirrored my own ‘what abouts’ and ‘what ifs’ – ones it seemed not shared by two juries. I am not sure I could ever be totally convinced on anything where there was some doubt (beyond reasonable doubt—what does that mean?)so perhaps it’s just as well I won’t ever be on a jury more than likely (my job is deemed an essential service—not the erotic writing…). What was particularly well done was the take on the lawyers and the wife. The sheer determination and dedication of the defence attorney was worthy of Perry Mason. And the wife? Wow…no one would wish what happened to her on their worst enemy. But as Garner notes, what does grief look like? And it doesn’t look the same on different people at different times. A harrowing story. I hope justice has been done. But in a dark damn in the middle of the night? I know I would have panicked. I pray that what that panic would look like is never put to the test. And guilty or not, living with the guilt is a cruel form of punishment.

Thursday September 4th

The Secret Place by Tana French

I loved her last book and I love this one even more. Beautifully written and crafted—love the characters, story, place. Maybe a return to the bitchy teenage years if you are female won’t be to your taste but it brought up memories for me that made me rethink things, and French just does it so well (and however bad your teenage years were, probably not as bad as this, though I might be wrong!). Set over a single day, French manages to use a subtle sense of time pressure and tension of being trapped in this girl’s school to keep us on the edge of the chair. Terrific tension between the two cops that has a great twist when the third (the father of one of the girls) arrives on the scene. Don’t miss it if you have any remote interest in a murder in a girl’s boarding school that explores what it is to grow up and what friendships are all about.

No Safe House by Linwood Barclay

He’s a reliable page turning writer and in that respect this doesn’t disappoint. This appears to be a sequel—I’m sure I’ve read the earlier one but can’t recall its name. In this the Prologue takes us right into the action though it’s a little while before we work out how the elderly teachers fit in with the protagonists, Terry, Cynthia and daughter Grace. They family are already peripherally involved with Vince the bad guy, but soon get dragged in deeper whether they like it or not. Plenty of tension and uncertainty about just who is doing what and why. A solid good read.

Thursday Thursday 28th

Personal by Lee Child

I read the first 18 Jack Reacher books in sequence over six weeks, but had to wait for this to come out eight months later!

Reacher is back, this one in first person, takes us I think for the second time to the UK. When other popular novelists take us to a new territory it is mostly unsuccessful—Child however does it effortlessly, undoubtedly because he was originally English. As usual the story of farfetched and Reacher himself does note it seems unlikely International security would be relying on a retired military cop (even less likely that one would save the day), though interestingly there is a semi-plausible reason given in the twist at the end. Action as always, plenty of bad guys and bloodshed and Reacher reiterating he is a psychopath (ie without guilt) but we overlook this because unlike Star Chamber and the real world, Reacher doesn’t make mistakes…I think it must tap into a deeply primitive revenge fantasy we can’t do but enjoy watching him play out.

Apart from implausibility about Reacher being better than Russian, English and American intelligence agencies, my only gripe is that Child hasn’t done his research about antidepressants. There is a running line about the heroine popping anti-anxiety meds. The way Child describes it, the medication should be valium. Instead he uses Zoloft, an antidepressant/antianxiety disorder medication that does NOT work the way he describes; you do not get instant relief (in fact stop-starting it is likely to cause agitation) but rather have to take consistently for at least two weeks to get any relief. It also annoys me that he talks about her not needing the pills because she is competent therefore doesn’t have to worry about it. Depression and anxiety disorders (as opposed to the anxiety we all feel eg before exams) are not like this—they are there biologically and probably genetically in spite of “reality”.

Thursday August 21st

Cold Case by Stephen White (Alan Gregory)

This was the one I read first though it’s well into the series (annoyingly). That said it stands up fine alone. Alan Gregory is a clinical psychologist working in Boulder Colorado with a pregnant DA wife with MS. They both get roped into helping with a cold case in their area; two murdered girls with a connection to a politician whose wife was murdered. There’s lots of action, some brief intelligent reflection, some good characters and overall a good read.

Dead Time by Stephen White

The author was clearly experimenting – and it works. We jump between a tale in the Grand Canyon to current time between Alan and his ex, with different POV that keep out interest. As does the Canon story (I had done this walk so that really added to my enjoyment). In the background his wife’s story develops, and adds to me finding it very annoying that these aren’t all on kindle, and hard to work out what order they are in! Plenty of Alan Gregory at his best- as well as nearly being at his worst; White makes him very real.

Dry Ice by Stephen White

Plenty of therapy gone wrong, action and suspense as White has a previous killer/stalker escape and Alan Gregory’s life, family and practice are under threat. There’s plenty of dramas in his family life and tension with his wife as well. What makes these so enjoyable is the pace, how everything is interwoven and that there is never a dull moment. Any therapist planning to put a fountain in their waiting room, advice from this- don’t!

Thursday August 14th

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

I’ve been reading her since Blindsighted and continued to (despite the “letterbox incident” – I can’t recall which book and won’t do a spoiler but it took a bit of deep breathing to trust her again…actually I don’t, but then who wants to know where the thriller writer is going to take you next! I do trust her to write well!). So when Sisters in Crime had her speaking last week naturally I had to go. She’s quirky and a bit sassy in a southern Georgia style (cop style not Southern Belle) and it was a great night with a good audience. Someone else other than I commented on something I have said in my reviews about some other successful crime- thriller writers that  start to believe their own hype and go unedited and off into their own narcissism so I don’t read them any more—not so with this author. After the “letterbox” incident she moved from Grant County to a bigger city and the story got bigger than local cops (ie FBI) but still gritty Georgian USA crime.

In this book she goes back to her roots or rather cop roots in Atlanta in the 70’s (so this isn’t in her Sara/Will series) and is grittier and more real than ever. It is hard to believe any female cop would have lasted had it been as bad as it is portrayed, but she interviewed the cops from back then, so maybe…

Characters are great, story adequate to show the people and the times, which is what this one is all about. I had to debrief after or else I might have caused a domestic/road rage/ got sacked …this aggro women rub off on you!

Thursday August 7th

Life of I by Anne Manne

A thoughtful and thought provoking book, meticulously researched and with excellent case examples piecing together why some people end up as they do; cases like the Norwegian mass murderer and also chilling discussion by the young American man who raped an intellectually disabled woman and showed no remorse (and thought she should be grateful)…but whose mother had sacked every nanny he had ever tried to attach to because of her own narcissistic needs.

She analyses these cases and why there seems to be much more of this type of “me” thinking in First World, including the influence of Ayn Rand on American politics. I suggest everyone really should read this book, particularly if they have to intend to have children.

THURSDAY JULY 31ST

What Came Before by Anne George

I have to admit to some conflict of interest in reviewing this; naturally I am trying not to let any bias get in the way, but…another debut Melbourne author in my genre whose book came out before mine! Sister’s in Crime have (bless them) are wonderfully supportive of new writers but I had actually read it before I went to hear her talk last week at Readings. So my conflict of interest?   I don’t like to say negative things about anyone let alone someone I might have to face off across the room at another event (I hope)…(This doesn’t imply I want to say anything negative, just setting the scene!) and I liked her and she and another local author gave a great interview to sisters in crime interviewer!

So – she tackles an important topic (DV) and references (as I do in mine) recent relevant local cases (hers are different cases as mine isn’t about DV). Apparently she has been writing it ten years but it does read as a post Gone Girl type of story (which must have annoyed the bejeesus out of her!). It’s a “his / hers” version of events (I’ll try not to do a spoiler); after a fairly nasty and terminal type of event with moves between past and present in both him and her voices, and clear views of the friends (well her girlfriend anyway). Its competently written, and I kept wanting to read despite already knowing it wasn’t a happy ending (it wasn’t marketed as a romance!). It’s also short! No idea how many words but read it easily in a half day—I’ve a feeling it’s the 60,000 word push from editors, and maybe it’s right for this uncomplicated story (for a real thriller with twists definitely needs to be longer). So well observed psychopathology and though there’s a bit of a twist at the end I’d call it a psychological drama rather than thriller.

 

THURSDAY JULY 24TH

Three great Stephen White books – a series not to be missed if you like psychological aspects to your crime and plenty of background family stuff happening and developing

Harm’s Way by Stephen White

I’m not sure what number this one is…in the first third I think! Alan Gregory, intrepid psychologist is married to DA Lauren Crowder and Peter and Adrienne are still neighbours. Well until Peter is murdered that is; I knew this from reading later books in the series so finally got to see it play out. The highlight for this book for me was Adrienne—a bolshi Jewish urologist who calls a spade a f*ing shovel, she is a delight (even more so in what I think is the next, Remote Control). Unfortunately I know more about her too from later books than I would like (hence do read them in order!) but it didn’t stop me being delighted in her every time she’s on the page.

The story is convoluted and oscillates between serial killer versus copycat and an only just satisfying ending that pulled most of it together.

 

Remote Control by Stephen White

I have enjoyed all of the Alan Gregory series and this is one of the best. He’s a good story teller but his characters are even better. This is woven around one very cold night in Boulder (I shivered and felt oppressed by the snow storm for most of the book) and artful flashbacks that really help build the tension and turn and twist the plot. Lauren in in custody and hospital for most of the book, kept apart from husband Alan by cops and lawyers; White really makes us feel for her (she can barely see due to a flare up of her MS optic neurititis). But there is also Emma who she is trying to hide and a web of technology and Right to Lifers ominously hovering in the background. Adrienne the four foot ten urologist is again a gem, Sam proves his friendship and there isn’t a dull moment. The end is never as good as the journey but this one is less disappointing than many.

 

Manner of Death by Stephen White

Having technically finished this series (ie read the last one) once, it’s increasingly traumatic that I am feeling the same again. I had had to order a pile of all I couldn’t download as books (they aren’t in shops here in Aus) from Amazon and now the pile is looking sadly low. Worse that I know the ending…ahhhh.

Anyway this was a really good one, hence the angst about them finishing up! Still pre- becoming a father, but married to Lauren (she really should have left him…in this she only just survives) we get flashbacks to Alan Gregory’s early years in psychology and romance, with interactions with Swayer his first love, now a forensic psychiatrist. There’s plenty of action and the pace and tension builds. Throw in a wild cat, a long ago plane hijacker and a murderer(s) intent on getting rid of an entire psych team, there is plenty to keep your interest.

THURSDAY JULY 17TH

Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

This is promoted as being like Gone Girl and it is in some ways- a pathological relationship – but without the psychological developments and subtleties. That said, it’s easy reading, a definite page turner and quite tense in spots. While there are twists of sorts at the end for readers of this genre they don’t come as major surprises but in many ways providing a more satisfactory resolution for a light read. This book won’t leave you thinking like Gone Girl might have, but it’s an enjoyable read.

The Memory Child by Steena Holmes

This book was based on quite a good idea, and the writing, that is the prose, it competent and readable. But… I had two major problems with it. Firstly, there are two “twists” but the first was very obvious and that led to the second twist as likely. Which meant that the whole premise was under question from the start and became annoying. The other thing that gave me the greatest problem may not be much of an issue for most people, and I guess there is artistic license. But as an expert (in my other life) in the mental illness that is the premise of this book, that it is incorrectly and implausibly portrayed made this book unworkable for me.

 

THURSDAY JULY 10TH

Twisted by Lynda La Plante

La Plante is capable of tense thrillers with tightly drawn characters and stories; this isn’t one of them. It’s readable, light, keeps the pages turning but there’s a strong sense of ‘been here before and it was better then.’ It’s hard to make a thriller novel and psychiatric illness as so much has already been written about, but there was old ground here in Dissociative Identity Disorder and though I didn’t saw all the twists, I saw most of them, and all before well they came. We’re drawn in I guess by the anguish of the parents but even that’s hard to identify with because of Lena’s brittleness and essentially that neither she nor her husband Marcus are all that likeable.

Natural Cause by James Oswald

He is “puffed” as the new Ian Rankin and like Stuart MacBride (who is his mentor and amusingly he names a character for) but I don’t find him like either- apart from being set in Scotland! Set in Edinburgh this introduces Inspector McLean (and there are two more so far). It is less obviously Scottish than the Aberdeen based MacBride’s books and less gritty and tongue in cheek. It is also easier reading, though the head count of bodies certainly isn’t! There’s a very slight hint of occult (aside from in the murder itself), some interesting characters though McLean himself is fairly beige. Light on the romance, more on his personal life though and more undoubtedly to develop.

A solid debut without being knockout.

THURSDAY JULY 3RD

I soooo love it when I find a series I haven’t read I like; hours of pleasure ahead! Last time (okay David Raker series didn’t count, there were only four) was last year when I stopped ignoring Lee Child’s books…18 fabulous reads and now hanging out for the new one in a month!

Stephen White was my most recent find, recommended by a psychologist friend. Good thing- they are great reads, with interesting characters, plots and absolute page turners, set in Boulder Colorado where I have stayed and gone walking with friends. Bad thing- unlike the Jack Reacher (Child) series, they aren’t numbered and worse still some aren’t available for down load and I had to order from Amazon (would rather support local book shop but haven’t ever seen him in them, despite having been on NY Times best seller list). This is particularly annoying because unlike Reacher (ok there are about three where it is better to read in order, when he briefly has a relationship) there is a lot of ongoing developing of back story; his relationship, child, neighbors and cop friend Sam. I read them out of order (including the end AHHH!) and will try as best I can to review them in order…There are two in the series that go off the main character, psychologist Alan Gregory, one with Lauren his DA will become wife (this is clear form beginning so I don’t think its much of a spoiler) and the other with Sam the cop at Yale.

Enjoy! I’m on my last one (which is actually in the middle of the series) so out looking for a new series soon!

Privileged Information by Stephen White

This is the first of the Alan Gregory novels. I couldn’t get it online so had to order off Amazon. If you have a chance, start here!!! The background personal life is always there and significant, and it was so hard meeting all these people when I knew what happened to them (mostly not good!) in subsequent books. Here he has just separated from his wife, meets his next, meets Sam Purdy inauspiciously though later he (a cop) even gets a book all of his own. Oh yes, and there’s loads of gripping front story too; several patients meeting untimely ends, the villain that is referred to and reappears in later books. It’s slightly over-written compared to his later books when he settles in to the flow, but great characters, location (Boulder) and page turning story. White himself is a psychologist and it shows- he knows his stuff.

Private Practices by Stephen White

This is the second in the Alan Gregory series. I see him starting to really hit his straps here. It is probably too dense (and he settles down in later books) but is rich with character development and back story that he does so well (but also why it is better to read in order!). Here Alan makes decisions about his love life, his neighbour Adrienne provides some wonderful wry humour (how could she not as a Jewish urologist whose job description is that she deals with dicks…). The friendship with cop Sam Purdy becomes cemented and in the foreground we move through snowstorms, unethical therapists, recordkeeping, buried memories and yep, some more problems with ethics. A great read.

Higher Authority by Stephen White (3)

This was my least enjoyed of this series. We mostly follow Lauren, Alan Gregory’s fiancée rather than him which is perhaps a little of the problem (Alan and side kick cop Sam Purdy get a bit of a gig mountain biking through Utah and Colorado), but mostly because the story is thinner than usual it feels dragged out. There is a loose psychological underpinning of Lauren’s ambivalence about being tied down, again not as strong as usual, but mostly the problem is White seems to be on a soap box about Mormons. I’m not religious and know next to nothing about them (never watched Big Love either) and at first it was interesting but then got boring and repetitive.

 

THURSDAY 26TH JUNE

Song for the Dying by Stuart MacBride

I think the Aberdeen police force must have as good and dry a sense of humor as MacBride. Either that or he no longer lives there and watches his back. Of course maybe they are as incompetent as in this book (and let’s face it if there was this much crime they’d be flat out) or else secretly identifying with all the things all this lot get away with. MacBride follows up Birthdays for the Dead with another Ash Henderson book; this time he gets pulled from prison, no longer a police officer but gets let loose to act like one, ditsy psychologist in tow (literally as he has an ankle bracelet that requires her to be close by). There’s a revenge needed for all the horrible Mrs. Kerrigan has done to him (this woman is strangely believable, perhaps because Melbourne had their very own couple of crime matriarchs) and continues to do to others (Aberdeen must need a fair number of psychologists for the amount of PTSD this police force would need, though given MacBride’s treatment of them it would be a wonder if anyone would bother). Then there’s the poor missing five year old, and that’s before we get to the main plot – the serial abduction and killing/attempted killing of nurses.

So yes there’s plenty of action, plenty of dry Scottish dour humor and a satisfying end. In the middle MacBride’s style can be hard work at times; no dialogue tags (I learnt a lot from him about this in his class at Brisbane writer’s festival but I think a few tags are good…), lots done through dialogue and little in the head or description which makes it difficult at times to keep up. Not one to read with a hangover.

Under the Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Unlike Haynes’s other thrillers this is clearly going to be a series with DI Louisa Smith. The plot is about a murder in a smallish English town and the underlying tensions and issues between family and neighbors. There’s a few twists which made in compelling enough, but it is competent rather than memorable and without the tension and buildup of her other books. Nothing about the heroine jumped off the page for me; I’d read her other ones which I really enjoyed before this.

THURSDAY JUNE 19TH

Missing You by Harlan Corben

I had to do homework for a Master Class – examine a best-selling thriller against the “formula”. When I saw this I thought I’d combine pleasure and pain…and now have a detailed outline of this book, its inciting incident, plot points, dramatic questions and three act structure. Probably not an ideal way to enjoy the book, but it sure took the assignment pain away!

Corben is good at this; make no mistake, there is a reason he sells (James Patterson is the only exception and the same used to be said of him until he turned writing into a factory). And he is traditional; this isn’t a coincidence! Third person (close) with change of POV from Heroine Kat then into the “baddies” camp changes as to who as the body count goes up…) we have plot one and call to action related to a past boyfriend; is the man online really Jeff and what happened 18 years ago? Plot 2; who is killing people and why? And plot 3: who killed Kat’s dad (an old mystery not explained as people had thought)? Later we get a: who is Brandon? but this quickly becomes part of plot 2. There isn’t an obvious connection but after plot point two takes us into Act Three the pace is racing and you have to keep reading. Everything is tied up nicely and though there is some ambiguity at the end I like this; gives us something to think about (and it isn’t about who did it so don’t panic). A good read by one of the masters.

THURSDAY  JUNE 12TH

Ah for some reason this didn’t go up last week but my tweets did- oops!

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

Like many others I read and was engrossed by the Child 44 trilogy (becoming a movie I have read). This is the authors latest book and unlike the previous, is contemporary times and Sweden not behind the Iron Curtain. It has an unusual set up in that it is first person but is mostly the narrator’s mother telling him a story (at least until the very last section). Is his mother mad…or is his father trying to get her put away? It’s an interesting dilemma and written moderately convincingly; when he reaches what seems eventually an inevitable conclusion (well for me) then it sets off in another to resolve things in a somewhat unpredictable and reasonably satisfying way.

Not the gravitas of the trilogy, much lighter, but enjoyable.

Killer by Jonathan Kellerman

Another Alex Delaware I picked it through comfort in familiarity and thought the topic of parenting assessments (something close to my heart) might make for an interest topic. It does but it could have been done much better. In this Delaware is doing assessments for court in custody battles (a truly horrible part of the legal system) and gets tied up in one between sisters. There is an attempt to make the dynamics interesting but it is mostly exposition and not very satisfying. Then the plot goes off on a tangent and the end and how everything ties in and up (or doesn’t) wasn’t very satisfying.

THURSDAY JUNE 5TH

I’m falling behind again as I read madly while waiting for my edits…they are then likely to put me out of action for a little while but time has come to finish off Jack Reacher…well at least until August when number 19 is released.

Worth Dying For (15)by Lee Child

Despite the last Reacher novel tantalising us with the possibility he wasn’t indestructible this really was another stand alone novel with injuries and a destination inherited from the last. This one takes place on the desolate plains of Nebraska with a seriously unpleasant family that runs the town. Add to it a cartel with three other players in henchmen, well Reacher  is in his element. More than others (though they all are to a degree) this is The Magnificent Seven teaching the Mexicans to take control of their town. Except of course there aren’t seven good guys, there’s one. Actually Yul Byrnner would have made a great Reacher (with a wig). The secret is a particularly nasty one and though there are moments when through gratuitous violence Reacher and other note he has ruined lives, you really want the bad guys to go down in the end.

The Affair (16) by Lee Child

My first thought when I picked up this and found it went back in time (like The Enemy) is that it seems like cheating. Besides I was invested in the present and wanted to know what happened next! But the feeling didn’t last long, and this is I think the best to date. I keep thinking I wouldn’t like military police stories but if this is an example I am definitely wrong! Reacher is undercover though not for long, in a small town where there is a military base. There are a number of murders and the military is implicated-  but they want to make sure their involvement doesn’t ever surface if so. He soon teams up with the local sheriff (who is drop dead gorgeous) and work and pleasure gets very tied up. This is strong on the murders and its investigation (probably why I like it- more my genre) but also a stronger romance (well sex anyway) story again another reason to like it though I wasn’t really sure why he didn’t go back to her in the end. It would have happened if there hadn’t been another 16 books already written after it in time, to be sure! The plots twist and turn, there are a number of unexpected occurrences and yes we finally find out why he left the army.

A WANTED MAN BY LEE CHILD (17)

I near the end of my marathon (18 Reacher books back to back, in under a month) I’m already worrying about missing him! Coming off the last one which was my favourite to date A Wanted Man I have to say was somewhat of a disappointment. The first half was good; a lot of developing tension between the car occupants and Reacher who they picked up hitchhiking. There are the usual number of layers and angles but after the first issue resolves though technically it is still the same underlying problem, the tension isn’t the same and the plot largely resorts to chases and yes, you guessed it, lots of violence. Perfectly readable and a Reacher fan wouldn’t want to miss it, but not his best by a long way.

Never Go Back (18) by Lee Child

My odyssey finally comes to an end…now like all Reacher fans I will have to wait each year for the next instalment. Not my favourite- reading 18 in a row was much more fun! This one has the unlikely premise that Reacher is pulled back into the army under a fine print loop hole. Not likely. They would so not want him. Sure enough he doesn’t stay long and is on the road to work out who is behind the frameup of him and the woman he has been working towards meeting since 61hours. Child tantalises with him being a father and settling down, but not for long. The way I figure it Reacher is only going to settle down posthumously Child’s last unpublished book not to be released until his death) though more likely Child will kill him off…

Anyway loads of chases, action, romance Reacher style, perhaps less twists but good enough. And a new Sergeant to rival Neagley (Child must have been a Sergeant in the armed forces or else one saved his life…).

THURSDAY MAY 29TH

The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas

As usual Vargas’s characters are quirkily French and her crime novel bears no resemblance to the standard of the genre. In this case we have three impoverished historians (all from different time periods and dismissive of the other’s interest) plus a disgraced ex-cop uncle all living in a run down house in Paris. The inciting incident is a tree that is planted overnight in their neighbor’s garden by person(s) unknown. What transpires next is largely a long exploration of character that I found less compelling than the other two Vargas I read, and a more interesting third act when there is some (inept at times) investigating of the neighbor’s murder and things are tied up. We only are given enough information late in the book to have any hope of working it out, and Vandoosler is not as compelling as Adamsberg, her standard inspector.

The Night’s Foul Work by Fred Vargas

I was disappointed in the last Vargas I read (The Three Evangelists) but I thought I’d try another – and am grateful I did. This is the best of the four I’ve read; dense, convoluted and of course wonderfully, eccentrically French! Vargas winds Adamsberg’s private life with the estranged Camille and now young son, as well as his attraction to Adriane the pathologist in amongst some of the most unlikely crimes, including one from the past and one form the hero’s childhood (that intersects with the new recruit) that all come together which I’m sure in anyone else’s hands would be farcical. It is a hardly a surprise his team are a bit sceptical about Adamsberg’s interest in the shooting of two stags (to say nothing of chasing the quick of virgins…)—I try to picture Australian police being asked to do this and can’t imagine it would get more than a few choice expletives—but as readers her beautiful prose draws us in unquestioningly. The characters are vivid and alive (and we even see one of the men from The Three Evangelists) and all quite eccentric, the scenes in the village pub transplants me into the local French village where we have spent a lot of time and you never quite know where it is going to go. Wonderful.

THURSDAY MAY 22ND

Oops…forgot to put this up so going up on Forgetful Friday instead!

Catching up with the back load of Jack reacher now…in  my mind because Amazon keep sending me an “order now” for number 19. I haven’t, but only because its on pre-order and not available until later in the year- I’ll download it then!

Here’s number 11 & 12

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

Having got to number 11 in a row I am probably a bit overdue for wondering why this series has been so successful and what do we like about Jack Reacher. If indeed we do. In this book, as he gets together with some of his previous Army special forces team to search for the missing members and in doing so move between Vegas and LA (with a visit to Denver by the bad guy- I was in Boulder Colorado reading it, and it was ten below…the bad guy was here in summer!) As usual there is plenty of action, guns and violence. Reacher with his own special ethics gets it wrong and breaks the good guys jaw and while this is worked out his statement about no remorse and never had puts him right in the psychopath ball park. Given he has no job or long term relationships (well not maintained ones) this adds further weight and hardly makes him the usual good guy. He muses in this that he is a failure compared to his Army buddies, but as they only have jobs and no relationships (and some of the jobs not reliable) this musing doesn’t go far. Overall it’s hard to actually believe Reacher is anything close to a real human being; his lack of need for intimacy at one level (and pathological level of need to move places) but his ready comfortable use of it with a variety of women along the way and strong loyalty and long term bond with his army buddies (Neagley from the earlier book where he saves the VP returns here) don’t really gel. We get hints at depths but mostly Reacher is what we see; a big violent guy with no remorse who looks like a bum. We hear about him washing his one shirt and either hanging it out or pressing it under the mattress, we hear about him throwing out one set of clothes and buying another but he only ever carries a toothbrush and I can’t stop myself wondering about underwear… the bum picture (which is mentioned as such) is probably so close to the mark most of us would run screaming. So why do we like him? Not sure I do. Certainly not the violence and there is an emptiness in him that no amount of brute force is ever going to make up for in making him more of a “man”. Why do I read them? Child is a great storyteller. His prose is efficient and effective and he has a great sense of place (and the drifter motif means we get to go all around America). Unlike Dan Brown, interestingly, he can also do relationships; the friendships and brief liaisons are real and have heart. But Reacher? I guess there is a part of all of us that like to think we could be totally free, at least for a little while. Reacher quite simply gives us this. For the boys, and maybe me a bit too, there is also mileage in the strong smart (as a fox) survivor that does things his own way. We all want a little of that too.

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child

Number Twelve has Reacher at his most bloody minded-est in the wilderness of the plains of Colorado (as opposed to the very pretty mountains). Thrown out of Despair (who the hell would want to be there) he fights to keep going back, dragging the cop from Hope into the picture where planes in the night, military facilities where they shouldn’t be and a fanatical preacher with a ton of money are all rolled into the mix. Having picked many of the plots and wasn’t going to pick this one. Compared to other books I’d have been furious at him leaving this particular woman but I guess I’m used to it and know she’s better off without him. Cold blooded again at times, violent quite a bit of the time. But he does know how to write a page turner…

THURSDAY MAY 15TH

I’m trying to clean out the back log of unposted reviews so you get a bit of a mish mash here: action in The Innocent, wry humour crime in Stiff and a page turning thriller in Just what sort of mother are you? Enjoy reading!

The Innocent by Taylor Stevens

This is the second in what looks to become a series, based around Vanessa (Michael) Munroe, a Lisabeth Salander like vigilante. I hadn’t read the first and won this, so read it without prior knowledge. Not a book I probably would have picked up, but it got me in quickly and kept the pages turning until the end. The heroine is likeable, smart and very dangerous, but if the level of her physical competence is somewhat implausible, this is easy to overlook; I would so like to be able to say ‘touch me and I’ll have to kill you’ and be able to follow through (well not with the killing, but some sort of retribution), and if I can’t great she can! The author as a refugee of The Children of God is well placed to write about cults and kidnapping from within; it’s a fast moving enjoyable light read.

Stiff by Shane Maloney

When I was introduced to Shane Maloney at a party I did a double take. The name was incredibly familiar but…wasn’t he a fictional detective? Nope, but he is an author of crime fiction that to my shame I hadn’t read. So went home and downloaded Stiff.

Set in Melbourne (bugger, so is mine- can everyone move somewhere else? Still it is fun reading about you home city and picturing the places, though I’ve never been in the creek his hero lands in (as does his car) and nearly drowns in.

So this is a crime book with a difference. The hero has nothing to do with investigations- he’s the electoral officer for a state labour candidate! But Maloney makes this work; his hero is immensely likeable, with a good dose of Aussie droll humour. A frozen stiff in the meat works might lead to union problems and our man is up to his neck in …well it isn’t clear what, but includes Turkish-Kurd tensions, pay roll issues and maybe drugs, to say nothing of ex-wife, nits and a ceiling caving in. Oh, and the heavily tattooed man who moves into the electoral office and doesn’t want to move. I picked the main driver as soon as it happens andiIt all raps up too quickly for my liking, but the ride was a fun one!

Just What Sort of Mother Are You? By Paula Daly

This is the first novel by British physio, set in the Lake District/Cumbria (where it rained constantly when I was there, but in this book there is rain and ice). I didn’t like the title (though having finished it like it a bit better) but liked that it was playing on our maternal anxieties, sure to keep the tension going, so picked it up and resented every time I had to put it down, finishing it quickly but over three nights because I was so busy!

Our heroine runs a dog shelter and has three kids and the crazy schedule a lot of women will identify with. It is largely written in first person (some chapters moving to see things, third person, from the point of view of the female cop who needs a boob reduction) which helps us root for her. At sometimes the character is a little pathetic and frustrating the reader as much as her husband for wanting to be accepted by the upper-middle class friend and her family, but it’s necessary as it happens to make the ending work, and by and large the situations and the wanting to be liked are things we have all probably done of occasion (well maybe not what she does in the bathroom, but even that is common).

I found it a real page turner and enjoyed it, though I felt the ending was wrapped up rather too quickly. I didn’t see it coming and while the first part of this was satisfying, I’m not sure she shouldn’t have put in some more hints to make the second part of the twist a little more believable. The characters are largely good and interesting, with the exception of Kate who I think needed work. But I’ll be looking for the next one.

THURSDAY MAY 8TH

As this goes live I’ll be heading back to Australia from New York – more reading and movie time! On way here watched About Time (ok schmulz but I loved it) and Captain Phillips (good solid case for PTSD well played by Tom Hanks). Here I’m cleaning up some of the bits and pieces from different genres I read last year…From a light/dark take on drug rehab to horse racing thriller and then the Stella prize (literary) winner from last year.

Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes

After reading and enjoying Keyes’s latest book The Mystery of Mercy Close I thought I’d read another and downloaded this for a ridiculous one dollar (how are writers meant to eat? I guess she unlike many of us are earning enough to live on from writing but this was ridiculous!). It’s a story from the same family as The Mystery of Mercy Close which follows the youngest of five girls, Helen. In this one we follow the middle girl, Rachel.

I read this in two takes separated by probably six weeks where other more gripping books called me. But when I re took it up and finished it I was surprised at how quickly I remembered the plot and people and how quickly I got back into it – and then enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down until the end. I suspect this means there was a lull in the second act as my husband who studied screen writing might say- it did get a little drawn out in the middle.

Rachel is a drug addict. This on the surface sounds very unappealing and likely to be dreary and full of despair and moments of pathetic lack of self-reflection. But it’s not. Keyes ultimately writes a comedic chick lit style, but in this book does so covering a serious topic and lull in the second act aside, does so very well. Rachel is funny and irreverent and a very unreliable witness. She is totally insightless and into denial and though in the flash backs we know we are watching a train wreck, and wish in the middle act where she is in rehab and doing all she can to not be rehabilitated that she’d get on with it, she is likeable and we want her to get there. As she does, and not without problems, Keyes gives us a lot on insight into the addict and shows they don’t have to come from frankly abusive families but rather a blunt and not enough sensitive caring can be harmful for someone who is sensitive. Her older sisters get the same nonsense from their mother and let it roll over them. Rachel has to learn to do this and separate it from herself worth. From my clinical work (and as one of four girls) this book rings true- if you have an addict in the family you can’t understand, read this book. The last third will open your eyes.

Refusal by Felix Francis

Okay I am a fan. I rode horses throughout my childhood and read every one of Dick Francis’s books and loved them even though I have no affinity for horseracing bar a one off attendance at the Cup. His son (ahh, now a grandfather- makes me feel ancient) has not long ago taken over the reins after his father’s death (they co-wrote for a while) and hasn’t changed a thing. If you are on a good thing stick to it I guess.

Completely at odds with the rave review of Fred Vargas I gave for being original, there was something delightfully comfortable in this book, like putting on a pair on old slippers. No surprises, just what you want and need. Sometimes, there is a place for this. If you are new to Francis it won’t disappoint if you want an easy reading page turning simple enough story with a bit of personal and a race through the heroes paces.

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany

The positives- this book won the Stella and was short listed for the Miles Franklin. It is a book clearly that some at least of the literati like. The prose is polished and the book is ‘smart’ in that literary way that suggests a lot of time and agony went into each sentence and the drawing of a character without doing so in an obvious way. It’s set in the Australian country of the 50’s and comes across as being authentic in many ways. I like the title of the book and I like the sketches (and photo) of the birds.

There are a lot of literary novels I like, though I suspect these are the ones bordering on popular. I liked John Fowles and John Steinbeck, I loved Life of Pi long before the film. I coped with Foal’s Bread though I found it a struggle at times. But I didn’t like this one. A friend who read it on the two occasions I asked what they thought the reply was ‘hard going’. I had taken this to mean that the sexual abuse theme was going to make me want to slash my wrists like watching Beautiful Kate did. But it doesn’t have an abuse theme (thank goodness) or at least not of the obvious sort; it’s more a coming of age and man-boy father-son type thing. There is a lot of pissing in the open by women and men (really?). The writing is lovely, the author talented. But I simply like more story (The Goldfinch didn’t hold me either so this is more a comment about  my tastes than anything else).

THURSDAY MAY IST

Fatal Impact by Kathryn Fox

Anya Crichton, forensic pathologist (as the cover says, Australia’s answer to Kay Scarpetta) is back and in Tasmania for a conference and to visit her parents, or estranged mother, also a doctor, more precisely. Fox is a GP and brings her medical knowledge into the book in spades; fatal EColi infections, and relatively rare immune diseases provide a subplot of ‘which illness is it’ to medical trained readers! The main plot has more than enough to keep you thinking though; GM modified foods, unscrupulous multinationals, Greenies…all the usual things Tassie is full of. At times it feels like it needs a bit of a prune – it gets long in places – but plenty of interesting characters and action. Not much in Anya’s romantic life (ex she was thinking of reuniting with is tucked away with their son back in Sydney) but more unresolved references to the missing sister. I expect Fox will finish that one off when she runs out of other ideas!

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

I found this book at times a little long  winded and containing too much detail of the mundane but overall it was readable and had an interesting enough story to keep you wanting to read. Told from Grace’s point of view, a therapist with an (initially) over inflated opinion of herself, about to release a book called You Should Have known telling women to think carefully before picking their partner (and that they only have themselves to blame if it goes wrong), we see into her life and don’t particularly like her. But pride and falls and all that …the book is divided into Before, During and After, and we soon get to  murder and see things better than Grace herself does, as her world falls apart around her and she tries to pick up the pieces. Her own life proves the point about choosing carefully, but also shows we see what we want to see. It doesn’t show enough of why people get it wrong, but then this is fiction…

Blind Rage by Terri Persons

I picked this book up in the hotel library of books left by residents and read it while Ayer’s Rock (Uluru) was sitting in front of me. It’s the second in a series, with FBI agent Bernadette St Clair, set in Minneapolis. I enjoyed the university setting because I had stayed and studied there for two stints and recognized some of the places. The writing engages and the pace fast, keeping us interested. It becomes apparent that Bernadette has a gift of a second sight which is overplayed and the level of magic I quite like. When one of her colleagues turns out to be a ghost this was a little too much, but after I accepted this, it isn’t overplayed either and didn’t get in the way. The plot about troubled university students dying implicates their lecturer, psychiatrist and the psychiatrist’s brother and all makes sense and for plenty more action as Bernadette and her boss Tony (who she fancies; this could have been played up) draw closer to working out who did it and to try and save the latest victim.

 

THURSDAY 24TH APRIL

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Okay she just got the Pulitizer…I wrote this months ago…

The length of the book and mixed reviews meant I lagged on downloading this, but eventually succumbed. I had liked The Secret History and in general if it’s good, being long is a positive (examples: I am Pilgrim and Shantaram). However this isn’t a racing thriller so long wasn’t so positive and in the end the biggest negative. It needed a significant edit. For me it was slow even in the first section when she has set us up well in present time knowing something bad is going to happen and our hero Theo Decker is going to end up in a bad way in a hotel in Amsterdam. It then goes to his mother dying and the relationship with her and gets to the inciting incident that results in The Goldfinch (painting) being in the 13 year olds custody. This takes a while but it is well written and I was still hanging in.

We then go to the back blocks of Las Vegas for a well told and what seems authentic (I haven’t ever been an adolescent boy rearing myself and drinking myself to sleep in between drug binges) tale of adolescence. I couldn’t dislike Theo for this because of his circumstances. But by the time he is back in New York and then an adult I had lost interest in him altogether. He just isn’t a nice or interesting person, weak and rather dull and this is where I thought it went on, and on, and on.

The end in comparison (I have read “contrived” but I didn’t feel this) is fast paced and things actually happen but it seems a bit at odds to the rest of the book and then goes for pages of moralizing and with making sense of his life which he never really does.

I have friends who enjoyed it and the writing is competent and in parts evocative. If you like the world of antiques and art, with all its duplicity, then you’ll like it. For me, the central character and the story just weren’t enough to carry 771 pages.

The Engagement by Chloe Hooper

I have been studying thrillers and how to plot them; after looking at a traditional one I thought I’d try this. I didn’t expect it to be traditional, and on this I wasn’t disappointed!

Hooper lulls us into thinking it’s a three act structure by dividing the book into three parts. I guess at some level it is, with gradual increasing tension, but the plot points aren’t as obvious as say in Corben’s thrillers. She sets up the two characters well, and weaves around unease about them both: Liese who is working as a real estate agent and uses the houses for her liaisons (doesn’t make you want to rush out and sell your house!); Alexander the man who pays to do so, gawky and perhaps the sort he who might need to. Then he takes her away to his mansion in the Western district; isolated, no phones, locked in. Good ingredients for a gothic thriller.

The theme of the letters, only mentioned briefly in part one picks up in part two; just who wrote them and why? I’m not sure I ever got the answer to this, though the obvious answer is probably the most likely.

He is a creep; yet she waxes and wanes, rethinks her position, considers marrying him even when he proposes. At this point she kind of lost me. I could believe the bad guy (and the ending even makes me shiver a bit more) but her? No, wasn’t convinced. She demonstrated some of the “battered” wife characteristics but without the right background, or more to the point, lead in. This type of abuse only works over a long period of time and there just wasn’t enough about Liese that made me believe it.

Nicely written and visualized, creepy, but ultimately it didn’t quite make it for me.

The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton

I found this story reasonably solid and though at the time I thought Reeve the heroine unlikely from point of view of recovering from her trauma to the level of gutsy-ness beyond most of us who haven’t had her trauma, the author did to be fair make her six years post trauma and with lots of therapy. I then read the same day after about a similar type of victim who had risen well above her problems without apparent deeper issues so maybe Reeve isn’t so unlikely. The bad guys we don’t see much of with the exception of the main perpetrator but there is some depth here and certainly in the other victim and family there is more than enough to make you want to keep reading. The main problem for me was there were no twists or anything unexpected and not enough tension. Enjoyable enough.

 

THURSDAY 17TH APRIL

Persuader by Lee Child

We are a little perplexed, but not for long. Reacher is right in the heart of the bad guy’s camp having “saved” their son from a second kidnapping (he’d lost an ear in the first). A couple of them look to be his equals physically (one superior after a long ingestion of steroids who plays some nasty psychological games with the lady of the house) and maybe one is also smarter (except we are talking Jack Reacher here…). There’s plenty of guns and violence, the good guys don’t all make it and the romance is low key. Plenty to keep the pages turning.

The Enemy by Lee Child

Without any explanation (I guess if you are Lee Child you can do what you like) we go back in time. Sticking to his return to first person account, Reacher is an MP and we start to see why he leaves the army. I have to say he is already such a maverick I find it hard to believe he hadn’t already been court martialled because my understanding and dealings with the military (admittedly very peripheral) is that they are sticklers for rules. Reacher just makes up his own. He gets it wrong too, which for the second time in one of these books it has made me think I really wouldn’t like him in real life and heaven help us if there really were too many people like him. But the story continues to be interesting, different and compelling as Generals and Colonels are found dead, a maverick group of special forces think Reacher did it and is after him, and the whole structure of the army looks like it’s going to crumble. Heavens knows what the real US military think of this book but I enjoyed it, and given I wouldn’t ever have picked it up given its military theme, that’s an extra bit of kudos for Child. Only other military book I liked was Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy and I only read that because I am a Conroy fan.

One Shot (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child

I finally made it to the one they made the movie of (I am yet to see it). Though Tom Cruise is on the cover I don’t think of him as I’m reading, and it isn’t just the height…Not sure why they picked this one- I would have thought there are more than enough sniper movies about and some of the first eight would have been a bit more novel. But then I am not in the movie business…

This said I haven’t read too many sniper books (probably only one, the famous one about assassinating the French president) and Child managed to twist this quite quickly in the beginning and give some quite unexpected angles (hence I guess why it appealed to Hollywood). So yes there’s a sniper, previous army connections (good and bad) and a bunch of bad guys that are sprung on us a little, but what the hell. Reacher as always proves to be a master of evasion and with his own moral code; when the good guy may not be good it’s interesting to see how Child makes this work. Because I’m reading these one after another though, I’m feeling it hard to believe Reacher’s need to keep moving. He’s off again at the end. Me, after a few nights on the road in the USA (okay I’m flying) I’m looking forward to staying put a while.

The Hard Way by Lee Child

It took to book ten for me to pick the plot (I half picked an earlier one); I saw the hint and never wavered though there was a false trail. But regardless of this, it was still a good read, made me homesick for New York as Reacher traversed the streets leaving ransom money and trying to find who picked it up. There are some memorable characters (the Englishman with the bad teeth, the mercenary with no limbs), a truly evil bad guy (more one dimensional than Child usually does) and the usual tense moments, shoot outs and a burial to top all others. I’ve already started the next and haven’t picked the plot there, so I just think this was more a standard kidnap story with only limited options rather than Child losing his touch.

THURSDAY 10TH APRIL

A week away from the thrillers! Three Different Books this week – none romances per se but all with love as part of the theme…and no stalkers and murders (well only in the past in the first one)!

Lilia’s Secret by Erina Reddan

I was doing a Master Class with Erina and being writers we exchanged books rather than cards…

This is a light touching drama with a wave of Mexican magic reminiscent of Like Water for Chocolate and other South American books; the sort of magic that really works for me. No aliens or strange creatures, but rather a sort of extension of sixth sense. This is a book about moving on from the scars of our childhood, with the emphasis on moving on with understanding. Too many books on this topic wallow around in misery- not this one.

Our heroine, Maddy, has found her soul mate. Until he suggests babies, which opens up too many painful memories. So she does what she had always done before; run away. This time she runs to Mexico and into the heart of her husband’s family mystery. Did his grandmother kill off her husbands, or even more fundamentally, was she good or evil? Our heroine links in with her and this allows her to feel and deal with her own pain from the past in order to be able to contemplate the future.

Our hero is not her husband or boyfriend but rather a sub plot story played in alternating chapters. Bill is a successful American business man who finds retirement way to vast a space without distraction and positive feedback. In the far too much time he has to reflect (something he doesn’t want to do) he runs to, finding himself a project; why did his father leave him and his mother and did he get murdered in Mexico? The journey has him meeting our heroine and together finding the last clues as to just who Lilia was. Her secret is also the keeper of her memories, and there is a nice feel good ending that resolves all our questions.

Now I just have to hope she writes faster; having read a small amount of the next I want more; Reddan captures heart ache poignantly and without excess sentiment. In her new one I think she will capture the heart of Australia as in this one she has captured a piece of Mexico.

Silver Playbook Lining (and a bit of Leonard Peacock) by Matthew Quick

Haven’t seen the film and read this after his new one my husband was sent to give an opinion on (Forgive me Leonard Peacock). I didn’t expect to like it to be honest; more popularist light weight stuff I thought after reading the film blurb. But the book as always …well it offers what a book can. Don’t know still about the film.

The hero is an unreliable narrator who, as a psychiatrist, doesn’t quite ring true, but what the hell. Who needs everyone to be in a category? He’s interesting and fun, as is Tiffany (also hard to categorise), I love the therapist doing Eagles (sports team) renditions, however inappropriate, love the ending (which I only partly saw coming) and what the hell? A good read with quirky characters that should make us think, easily accessible and not so very far from real life dilemmas that confront us all. In Leonard Peacock he has a more consistent recognisable adolescent angst voice, but with good solid characters around him (and a mother I wanted to take a knife to). In both the author shows with great skill how he knows how its is to be on the margins…and survive.

POSTSCRIPT- Have now seen the film; Robert de Niro clearly had the film father changed to suit him!!! Quite liked it but liked book more.

Love and the Chance of Drowning by Terre De Roche

My husband bought this book for me because he did a presentation with the author (and liked her) and thought it might inspire out joint book which has a journey in common. Our journey was a walk which we are fictionalising – hers is a nonfiction account of her sail from US to Australia (more or less). Just to get it out of the way at the start- there are no or at least very few overlaps/similarities so I don’t feel we’re in competition.

So the story is enticing; Aussie chick falls in love with hot Argentinean who is in love with a boat…potential here for disaster. I am obviously older than she is as she doesn’t see this or admit it for some time…

She gets seasick and is scared of the ocean. I can identify with both of these (and though she has more deep seated issues with the latter, let’s get real, anyone with a brain is scared of the ocean!!!). Yet love wins out (even though she fails the sailing test) and they embark on the journey regardless.

The heroine is engaging, the hero …well he is Argentinean (read Embedded) so what can I say?

Overall I enjoyed it, it did not want me to go any closer to a sail boat than I have ever been…but what the hell. Love people with passion.

 

THURSDAY APRIL 3RD APRIL

Chasing the Dead, The Dead Tracks, Vanished, Never Coming back by Tim Weaver

I saw Never Coming Back in WHSmith at Heathrow but went home and looked it up and found it was fourth in the series and downloaded them all to read in sequence. The hero is a PI in another guise, specifically he finds people and makes a lot of this and the psychological reasons (a little over done). He’s lost his wife to cancer so easy to have sympathy, though by the third I really thought he had a wish to join his wife as without any physical training he keeps put himself into ridiculously dangerous situations. With this thought I started the last and was so pissed off (the third is left hanging in the air) I put it aside until I ran out of other reading material, but then found out I’d been taken in and all was well…

Racy, keeps our interest up with an ok hero and some quite good plots, and some reflection though nothing very deep.

First a missing man who perhaps doesn’t want to be found, with an intricate plot of baddies helping people like him, the second a missing teenager, a run in with a cop or two and an unpleasant killer.

In the third we a disgruntled cop I knew would turn up again, a husband who disappears on the tube and some killers who like the underground disused railways. This is the one with the unclear ending…just get the next one!

The fourth goes back in time and is set up deliberately in a way that confuses initially but Healy the disgruntled cop is back and an intricate plot about a family that disappears.

 

THURSDAY 27TH MARCH

I was too busy writing (and doing a five day master class in writing) to remember to put something up last week! This week reading slowed down as am reading “7 Basic Plots” – homework from the Masterclass. Probably should have done years ago- a must if you want to be a writer I’m thinking! (Well a good one anyway)

The Other Woman by Hank Phillipi Ryan

If you like intricate interwoven plots this one’s for you. Easy reading, fast paced, the background relationship that can’t be (but you really want it to be) and the heroine desperate to regain her professional cred keep things moving. The main plot is about politician’s and big business men’s private lives and what goes wrong when secrets are kept. Our intrepid heroine naturally keeps at it, even though it looks for while she might be getting it wrong (again), and politics and a potential serial killer (relax, it isn’t, and the cop is sure of this from the start though I have to say I wasn’t quite sure why). That said there are a lot of bodies and perhaps a little too much coincidence to swallow, but by and large it works. Worth a holiday or wind down read.

 

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Written in style reminiscent of Gone Girl this book follows Todd and Jodi and the demise of their marriage. At the start we are sympathetic to Jodi who had in all ways other than legally been Todd’s wife for some 20 years; they have a comfortable relationship which suits them both. That is until Todd’s mid-life crisis hits and we see the train wreck ominously ahead. The first third of the book builds this tension well and ensures we follow to the end, though the tension fades somewhat and doesn’t quite deliver. There’s a twist, some but not as much come-uppance as we might like if we were with a group of girls drinking as we plotted, but enough to provide a largely satisfying ending to a book at its heart about marriages going wrong.

 

THURSDAY 13TH MARCH

This is my new favorite thriller writer- I read the third first and then got the others and read them over the weekend!

 

Only the Innocent by Rachel Abbott

This is the first in the series with Tom Douglas as the policeman. Set in London where in the background he’s dealing with the break up of his marriage and his wife wanting him back because her relationship broke down and he’s inherited some money, the plot centres around the murder of a high profile Lord philanthropist (and his cause of rescuing Eastern European prostitutes), his wife, her friend and brother and the murdered man’s ex-wife, daughter and early childhood. While there aren’t as many twists and surprises as in the third of the series (which I read first and is as close to perfect as possible for a thriller to be), its still a gripping well written well paced thriller that I couldn’t put down.

 

The Back Road by Rachel Abbott

Second in the Tom Douglas series this takes him back to his roots in Manchester and meeting a new love interest while he has a peripheral interest in the local town’s gossip and intrigue. I found this more predictable than either one or three of the series and at times the heroine Ellie’s inability to just talk to her husband rather than continuing to misread things, a little annoying. But it’s a solid read, plenty happening and some good (or bad) characters that really spring off the page. Please may she write faster!

Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott

Damn! This has to be a close to perfect thriller – and I didn’t write it! Loved it and couldn’t put it down, more enjoyable than Gone Girl though in the same space, this is about obsession and protecting your children. In Melbourne Australia where we are still reeling from the assholes that threw a child off a bridge and another that drove his three children into a damn – all to get back at an ex, this is a chilling but very satisfying read.

 

THURSDAY 6TH MARCH

Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

I’ve read Connelly before, probably The Lincoln Lawyer because I recognised the character (who refers to his on screen persona somewhat annoyingly). He isn’t completely likeable and pushes things to the edge, but his heart is largely in the right place and Connelly shows the off side of getting it wrong, with Michael Haller’s private life a mess. In addition you get a reals sense of what being a defence lawyer is really like; a lot of time with a lot of low lives. The story is compelling, twists around and then you’re just hanging in to see it all come together in court. Finished a little rapidly from that point of view, but a page turning satisfying read.

If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

As a bit of a Fairstein fan and a lover of New York, I wasn’t sorry to see another New York ex-lawyer put pen to paper. I liked the novelty of this story; it didn’t at least at the beginning follow the usual arc, and for a long time I wasn’t sure where it was heading. Even at the end there were plenty of twists.

Heroine is an ex-lawyer now journalist/ novelist and has plenty of depth and interest.  Her husband, apparently inspired by her real husband, curiously wasn’t nearly as well drawn and for a while I wasn’t even sure if we were meant to like him or not. This may have been deliberate on the author’s part given his role (which you’ll have to read to find out) but the negative is he came across as one dimensional and not all that interesting. Now some time later I find it is part of why the book is not so memorable.

The missing women is an interesting character however (as is her sister) though I was still unsure why our heroine went to so much trouble to track her.

This aside, it’s a page turning thriller I enjoyed and now will look out for others- she has written a number and the name rings a bell so I may have come across her in the past and then she dropped off my radar. There are so many writers and it’s hard to work out why some (eg Karin Slaughter and Linda Fairstein) are constantly on the shelves while others are harder to find. Not enough shelves I guess!!!

THURSDAY 27TH FEBRUARY

Six Years by Harlen Corben

I’ve read most if not all Corben’s books. I have an ambivalent relationship with Myron and his psychopathic mate Winston, yet I keep buying them, usually because I want a reliable easy gripping read. This one is a stand-alone book, so no Myron or Winston. It is also one of the best gripping thrillers I’ve read, certainly the best Corben. It pulled me in from the first page and didn’t let me go. I sat in on a rainy afternoon to finish it. You just have to keep reading to work out why the man’s love of his life married was actually married to someone else and then got murdered.

Why did I like it? Well I like first person. We have a flawed hero, who is an academic and its set largely on uni campus, Massachusetts (I think Harvard, but he calls it Langford) and in New York, both of which I have strong soft spots for (Loved The Rule of Four set at Princeton). It’s fast paced, there’s a strong love story, loads of twists and surprises. Okay, his language is sometimes basic. Maybe it’s a tad too farfetched. But hey, this is fiction, it’s all explained, and not from too far left field. I mostly picked it (well kind of eventually, but some I definitely didn’t see coming). Satisfying and a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Watch Your Back by Karen Rose

I was pretty sure I had read some of this author and liked her but I found I couldn’t finish this one. Too much time spent telling us who everyone is and were or is married to and I can’t believe they were all that important. Some of it was possibly filling in information from previous books but I really think if it was important it needed to be shown not told. The main character annoyed me too because she was putting everyone else (quite aside from herself) at ridiculous risk and when this included her daughter I gave up. Also her antipathy to the hero was not really believable. Read like a soap opera.

 

Blood Secret by Jaye Ford

This is her third book, set north of Sydney she sets up a tense stand off with a road rage guy and then the focus of the rage goes missing. Behind this is his girlfriend (who we follow) history which unfolds as increasingly unattractive, but also some of the man’s past and where that might fit in. After the early tension it is mostly predictable but a good light read.

 

THURSDAY 20TH FEBRUARY

Blessed are Those Who Thirst by Anne Holt

I read the most recent of the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, 12222, first and then went back to the beginning (Blind Goddess) and am making my way through the series. This is the second. I am not great at recalling plot but there is one very clear difference about the heroine in 12222 and I am now waiting nervously for it to happen. It doesn’t in this one.

Hanne is an attractive introverted cop who keeps her private life (gay partner of 15 years) separate from work. That and her offsider’s (another cop) affair we delved into in Blind Goddess are there in the background as the novel jumps through the unusual heat of a Norwegian summer, between seemingly unconnected crimes and is at first a little hard to follow. As the threads become increasingly interwoven (however seemingly unlikely) it becomes easier to just go with the flow. Blood baths without an apparent victim, refugees and the horror of rape and its impact on the victim and her father are all in the mix.

I enjoyed it, but it was harder work and less tightly written than either the first or the last. I now have a few more to go to connect, still waiting for the change from this Hanne to the one I read about in 1222. Ideally, read them in order!

 

THURSDAY 13TH FEBRUARY

Blood Witness by Alex Hammond

This is a first novel by lawyer Alex Hammond, set in Melbourne (I’m starting to get paranoid that my locations in my  psych thriller, just signed with Text out next year (Medea’s Curse, under my real name are being taken, but he doesn’t go anywhere near Collingwood thank goodness). It is part legal, part gritty grimy side of crime, set in the legal end of Melbourne and around little known (to locals like me) West Melbourne. Given it’s also got a “Will Harris novel” over the title, we can presume we’ll see more, though towards the end Will’s legal career and life look in doubt of any future at all.

There’s some nice taut tension between Harris, returning to the fold after the death of his fiancée, a successful and slightly greasy barrister (looking I think to return as his partner in later books) and boss who is s senior partner in the law firm who is only prepared to indulge him so much. There’s a love interest, and a well drawn gay couple, one of whom has visions, including of the murder around which this story revolves.

There’s plenty of action, page turning prose and more than enough to keep you interested. I was a bit disappointed that the opening information really didn’t tie into anything else rather than the fiancée’s sister being involved (I’m a diver and I was at least pleased he did acknowledge that she shouldn’t have died; they missed lesson 101 of diving) but I did like the alternate possibility for the vision. I’ll be looking out for the next one.

 

THURSDAY 6TH FEBRUARY

I haven’t reviewed The Book Thief here as I read it some time ago; I recall liking it and it is one of my friend’s favorites. I heard the movie wasn’t anything like it but I saw it a couple of nights ago and though there is porbably a lot of the book I have forgotten, I still think it captures the main essence and bis scenes. Isn’t it amazing what you recall? The only clear memory I had of the book was snow train and a graveyard (opening scene) and a river, two boys and a kiss (also in it); there is a MUCH bigger issue (I did recall it was in Nazi Germany and for those who feel they have read/seen enough, I do think this has a slightly different take, largely from an ordinary decent German family point of view) which I forgot until moments before. This (won’t do a spoiler) is done better in the book but I still shed a tear…

So while we’re on the war:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

The style took a little getting used to (somewhat Enid Blytonish for want of a better description) with its capitals and things in red and 1940’s jolly hockey stick language. It is a tale of friendship though and taps into some interesting aspects of the French- English resistance and SOE (I had just been to the international spy museum in Washington so it fitted in well with that) and it is probably true that there are some haunting aspects. I have to say I was a little disappointed though. A nice enough read but the hype suggested a degree of sophistication that wasn’t there. Worth a read but more light and touching than deep.

 

On a different conflict, this Bilal is the second in this series and he has a new one out I need to get!

Dogstar Rising by Parker Bilal

The beauty of ebooks- having heard the author speak about his new book I could download The Golden Scales and read that first. I went onto this one directly after.

Dogstar rising continues  to follow Makana, a Sudanese refugee in Egypt who was a police officer in Sudan and now works essentially as a private investigator. In this book his past comes back to haunt him and we learn more about the atrocities in the Sudan (the book’s strength) and religious tensions.

Like the first in the series it is well written prose, but I found it a little less gripping than the last, perhaps because the world wasn’t as new to me. It still held my interest and I’ll look for the next, though I have to say it is the background that interests me more than the up front stor

 

 

THURSDAY 30TH JANUARY

TWO LISAS- AND TWO BOOKS EACH!

Fragile by Lisa Unger

I’ve read most if not all of Unger’s books and this is another in the same vein. I got it at a discount book shop where it had “Stellar read” on the cover, and this about covers it. Part Jodie Picoult family tensions, part crime thriller, it provides quick engagement and is easy reading. There are father-son tensions across a couple of families and generations, teenage angst and a dose of mother-son idealism and mother-daughter tension. Set in upstate New York (or maybe Connecticut) in a small town there’s a missing girl and in the process of trying to find out what happened to her, another missing girl story from a generation earlier surfaces with all its secrets. You don’t want to put it down, but it also ultimately won’t be one I remember. 

In the Blood by Lisa Unger

A first person take I was expecting a nasty end than I got, (a feel better way to go!), with a diary take which I didn’t pick right. Family psychopathology of War of the Roses level (the film, not the historical time) and a kid that is enough to put anyone off having children. Yes- a good read, however more like fiction than real life with the ends all tied up. Why fiction is so much more satisfying I suspect!

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

DD Warren is back. But interspersed between a first person take of …doctor or psychopath? Family pathology seems to be flavor of the month (also just read Lisa Unger’s In the Blood). A killer I didn’t pick, an ending I did but not until in the last third. Compelling readable as well as being an interesting aside on pain and its management.

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner 

Gardner is one of the authors that when I see she has a new book out, I buy it barely looking at what it is about. I know my daughter will also read it after me (and a sister as well). This one has led me to thinking about changing this routine. A good solid reliable author who writes character and plot well. A page turner with enough interest to keep you wondering (though I did get the main twist though I was well into the book by then).

The book alternates chapters: one about real time investigation of the kidnapping of a husband, wife and fifteen year old daughter and the other from the first person point of view of the kidnapped wife, largely in real time but with flashbacks to earlier in her marriage.

The characters are compelling and interesting- particularly the kidnappers, but also the family. Less so the investigators but good enough to keep us reading.

I don’t tend to remember much about her books months down the track- but this one it won’t take much to remind me. I felt and saw this one and it had enough differences to make it stand out. Keep writing Lisa!

 

THURSDAY 23D JANUARY

Stuart MacBride has a new one out so I’d better get these reviews out!!! Really like this guy; the Scottish wit oozes out once you get the hang of it!

Shatter the Bones by Stuart MacBride

This was(I thought!)  the only book of the Logan McRae series I hadn’t read and is now the only one I have in a paper copy (the rest being on the iPad) but after doing a Masterclass with the author I felt I needed a signed copy. The Master class was on research for crime fiction, a topic he had been given and was unimpressed by: he answered it with typical Scottish dour tongue in cheek in one sentence: talk to a cop. But then (after a cop in the audience looked a little taken aback) he proceeded to fill three hours with lots of information and exercises so we got our money worth! I also grew to appreciate the Logan McRae even more. Firstly, I hadn’t noticed but in the last three books the author has used NO dialogue tags. Promptly reedited my work of genius (haha) and though I still have some, I was amazed at how many I could get rid of.

I have to say I find it a little hard work at times- much of the book is told in conversation and MacBride doesn’t mince his words when saying he’s only interested in improving his writing and writing for an intelligent audience. The second thing about having met him is I realised how much humour I was missing. Logan is a train wreck and if something bad can happen to him (or in this case his girlfriend) it probably will. Low lifes mix in with well, other low lifes in the guise of reality TV and Logan is up to his armpits in shit. An intelligent and drowly amusing cop yarn. God knows whether the Aberdeen police are still talking to the author….

Close to the Bone by Stuart MacBride

I was pleased to find that though I thought I had read all the Logan McCrae series, I hadn’t and the latest was sitting there waiting!

Since meeting the author I find the words just jump off the page and ring with such clarity and humour that I just want more! The Aberdeen police department are somewhat of a train wreck (I hope the real ones have a sense of humor) and the previously retired DI turns up in this one as a film director of ex-porn come magic-vampire type cult stuff, Steele continues to be as much a sexist pig as her male counterparts and poor Logan… well he’s still struggling. There’s plenty of action, and on one front in his life (don’t want to put in a spoiler) MacBride hit me for a six. Love the characters, so vivid I feel I know them, and the story? Well it races along and what else can you do but go with it?

 

THTHURSDAY 16TH JANUARY

A couple of thrillers from not so well known authors, worth thinking about…

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

When I read what it was about I didn’t think I could read it, but apart from the problem (my own as a mother) with the main premise of the adolescent child dying, possibly suicide, it sounded so much like my type of book I downloaded it anyway. I was right on all fronts, though it was easier than I expected reading about the teenage girl’s death. Trouble was, no matter what the mother found out, her daughter was still going to be dead; and as we read her voice it makes it harder and harder. I think it’s a tribute to the author’s skill that it is never-the-less a page turner; we route for Kate and I guess hope that at least it isn’t her bad parenting (you know, the stuff we all do no matter how hard we try) that caused the end result. I cried anyway, but at least not all the way through. The underlying “who is Amelia’s father” theme is a bit contrived and unrealistic (but then all thrillers are to varying degrees) but her portrayal of cyber bullying, bitchy teenage girls and a mother’s angst are all spot on.

Scared Yet? By Jaye Ford

Following after Beyond Fear  which I reviewed last year and thought was very tension filled  this story (new characters) has more twists and less tension, but taps into enough of thinks that make us anxious (like our children, ex-husbands and the wives they think can replace their mother…) and thus a compelling read.

This stalker really has it in for our heroine. Murderously so. Not her (well, don’t be too sure) but boy anywhere close to her is a scary and dangerous place. Having already lost her marriage and having to share access, our heroines job gets pushed to the edge, as well as her friendships. And really, can she trust anyone? The cops have doubts about those she wants to, and her isolation and desperation increase.

End is a little disappointing but everything does get tied up and it’s an enjoyable journey.

 

THURSDAY 9TH JANUARY

The best selling book list (Australia) is out! Of the top ten, four are kids books (there may be hope for the next generation). After excluding Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals there are only five fiction, four by Aussie writers, these being The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, reviewed by me through the year (scroll down!). I also reviewed Inferno. (The two I haven’t read are Matthew Reilly’s Tournament and Tim Winton’s Eyrie)

 

Here are another two that were on the best seller lists (Independent book shops anyway) for a while during the year I only read recently.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

I have read the two prior Hosseini books, liking the first better than the second and was a little reluctant to take this up thinking it would be disappointing. But while Hosseini tackles big issues I needed to remind myself that not all books on big issues need to change the world or be perfect. This is one of those; some nice stories woven around each other over fifty years, through Afghanistan, France and the USA, with the primary theme of family ties and responsibilities and what we sacrifice for those ties. I personally think he tried too hard to do too much, that ultimately you were led to an important moment, deep and part of the core of humanity and then were moved on without enough time to pause and reflect. This seemed inevitable by the book jumping times and points of view and meant a lot of being told the missing bits rather than being shown. But I enjoyed it never-the-less, and the ache of a lost land was conveyed strongly.

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

This is a very Australian book, located in both place and time by geography and language, back in the twenties post WWI on the coast of WA. The language of the geography is at times evocative, of the times also but I found the “struths” and “blimey’s” however appropriate to the time a little grating. The story is relatively simple, but the emotions underlying the desire and love for a baby and child less so, and the author encapsulates the pain of love and loss into a nicely told story.

 

THURSDAY 2ND JANUARY

Broken Harbor by Tana French

I am so far behind in posting reviews because I am reading so much so fast it is usually more than a month after I finish reading before I post. This has the advantage of helping me decide how really good it was- ie how much do I remember?

This book I just finished. It’s long and dense (maybe 170,000 words but you won’t want to lose even one), one of the few I have read as a paperback recently, given to me by the good people of King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City where my husband was giving a talk. I had read her prior books and had good memories of them though I don’t recall them as exceptional. This one is. Hence why I am not waiting. And you do not need to have read her earlier ones.

This book is quite simply stunning. The writing is beautiful- definitely literature and some poetry but it pretends it isn’t, pretends it is a crime procedural (okay it is that too) and sucks you in until the words and the people are swirling around you and under your skin.  This is a story of people, complex and difficult, the twists are there but not in the way you expect, and all about relationships and how life isn’t always the way you want it to be. It’s about lost hope, right from the Irish recession to perfect marriage and families that aren’t and can never be. Three dead, one alive from a family unit, and you never quite know about it or the complexities of being a cop, until French decides to show you otherwise. A truly brilliant crime thriller.

THURSDAY 26TH DECEMBER

Here in New York I’m among the last to get to Boxing day…but for all of you who got kindles then whether 26th or 27th you may still want inspiration for what to down load for the holiday read (if you’re in the southern hemisphere) or just what to head into the New Year with. Here are a collection of some of my or the NY best seller list favorites I have read this year and didn’t get around to putting up yet!

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

I tend to the thriller and psychological crime stories but I do read Jodie Piccoult and when this book kept coming up (and was one of the few Aussie writer’s to make the NY Times best seller list) and I do write romance (albeit it erotic) I thought I had better read it.

It is more Piccoult than romance, a wonderfully wound story of families and people and the complex layers of our lives. While the “secret” is a little outside the realm of most people’s lives the butterfly domino effect it has, and the very human reactions and responses to our heroes and heroines are very real and close to home. The characters are well drawn and I like that Moriarty doesn’t shy away from the two sides of guilt, particularly in the “affair” subplot. Its page turning, maybe a little slow at first but the pace soon picks up, easy reading and it’ll make you think and maybe shed a tear too.

 

I Hear the Sirens by Adrian McKinty

I’m not sure if it was because the first book in this series got me into the swing (and meant I didn’t have to rush to goggle to find out what the Irish organisational acronyms were) or because I had met the author, or that I read this straight after reading Stuart MacBride’s latest (had met him at same conference, they were on a panel) and he has a very lean dialogue driven writing style, but…. Well I found this immensely easy to read and it was fast paced, kept the interest up and has me hanging out for the next one. Sean Duffy (who looks like the author in my mind) is smart and stupid all at once and comes across as very real and you can’t help but root for him (ok except with women- he’s a disaster again in this and after what McKinty does to the latest love interest well, I hope for his wife’s sake Sean only looks like the author). Again there is a strong theme of The Troubles but less intrusive (I think I got used to it from the last book) and it makes the book interesting and stand out. A good read.

Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham

I heard Robotham do a radio interview last year where he recounted a story about an American who took exception to something one of his character’s said about the President (a Republican one, I think we were talking Texas or at least Midwest, and looked what happened to the Dixie Chicks when they did the same) and then the guy stalked him. Recognisable by the size of his cowboy hat. Anyway it ended well (though he’s still waiting for an insult to a Democrat) but I wonder if that’s why the Joe O’Loughlin books are set in UK. Robotham is an Aussie and a country one and out cowboys might have smaller hats but less likely to have guns but are in to king-hits. Whereas one can’t imagine the British are quite there yet.

In this book O’Loughlin has moved back to London, still separated and juggling a moody teenager, his Parkinsons and sex life. Most of the book is at Christmas time in Oxford and snow (this is probably really why the setting is UK; we colonials really like the notion of a white Christmas while sipping beer/white wine/gin &tonic after a swim). There is less illness and family than the last book (previously reviewed here) which I think is good. There is less Ruiz the side kick and I’d have liked more. More victim(s) and background (good). Overall enjoyable and suitably fast paced but thought it fell off towards the end and I liked the second last twist more than the final (re who did it) which didn’t quite gel for me. But I’ll read the next. This was his eight novel and he’s still writing a basic yarn I want to read, unlike say Patterson and Cornwall who I lost interest in some time ago.

THURSDAY 19TH DECEMBER

JACK REACHER BOOKS 3-6

I have read the series from one to now 18, back to back in the last month…

 

Tripwire by Lee Child (Jack Reacher 3)

This book starts with Jack working as a labourer in Florida but soon has him in New York meeting a childhood flame and thinking about settling (don’t panic, only thinking…). The new girlfriend is from the past and looks like she’s here to stay, daughter of a Colonel we met in the last book, and given book one and two had nice self-contained romances I predicted how this was going to end …and was wrong. She’s a lawyer though, and gets caught up in a nasty scam trying to nab Reacher before he puts it together. The pace as usual is fast and page turning. As this is my third Reacher in a row my husband just rolls his eyes and mutter about me being in bed with Jack…It’s violent, brings in Vietnam in a very accessible way for those of us who don’t like war movies and still shudder when we here helicopters after the ‘Nam movie starring a barely coherent Marlon Brando. And yes I reached for number four.

 

The Visitor by Lee Child (Jack Reacher 4)

This starts off in New York where the last finished off. Jack has been trying the home in the burbs (well almost country) but is restless. It isn’t that that sends him off all around the country- the FBI do, pulling him as an unwilling consultant under dire threats I truly hope our forces wouldn’t ever resort to. I may be naive. Either way it was totally believable and the reader is soon engrossed in a hunt for a serial killer. There is an army association (hence Jack’s involvement) and a gun scam as well, to say nothing of the New York thugs. It was written prior to 911 so references to the twin towers are unsettling. I figured it was also set pre 911 but I kept excepting them to be caught in the massacre.

The serial killer hunt, Jack’s fights with the FBI and the difference in how he thinks compared to them is compelling (though I don’t always agree with his logic). Interestingly, perhaps because this is the fourth, I picked the end or at least two out of three- who and why, just wasn’t sure how. The “how” I have to say is highly implausible in real life (I work in the area) but neither guessing nor this detracted for me from my enjoyment of the book. The romance is dealt with beautifully too; Jack isn’t anything like anyone I know, but he feels very real, as do his relationships. Okay, the violent tough guy stuff is for the movies, and the ripping story isn’t that real, but you sure as hell don’t want to stop reading. Going for number five now…

Echo Burning by Lee Child (5)

Five books in and he is still surprising me. After I picked a lot of the “answer” in the last one I had thought I was going to settle into comfortable (but maybe boring) predictability. Well I might before no. 18 but I sure didn’t in this one. Having dispensed with “the romance” that lasted two books this one didn’t just churn out another neatly contained one. It did give us a female protagonist who could have been but I didn’t like: Child very artfully maintained the balance of whether she was good or bad until the end. There is an unlikely tie up of two stories (only unlikely in that Jack picked it with minimal evidence, but what the hell he’s Jack Reacher I guess, they fitted just fine), a background tension as he played ranch hand to a racist family that needed their butts kicked (and its reassuring to know Jack will kick them), a shoot out and a nice satisfying everything’s tied up ending. Best to date.

 

Without Fail by Lee Child (6)

The premise didn’t grab me, dragging in one of his brother’s old girlfriends (guess is that if Child knew Reacher was going to be this successful and he was going to write so many books he might have given him some extra siblings…) and the FBI which is way too stuffy to bring a loner like Reacher on board. But it pulled me in. An extra army buddy from the past, a politician caught by the past and FBI technicalities resulting in the demise of one person I had predicted for another three books ago…A  lot of action shooting and guns, the stuff I’m not that big into, but enough story and people stuff to hold me. I’m downloading number seven…

 

THURSDAY 12TH DECEMBER

TWO OUT OF THE ORDINARY CRIME/THRILLER BOOKS

The Chalk Circle by Fred Vargas

What a delicious book! After reading so many main stream psych-thriller and crime books, many of which I have enjoyed immensely, this book hit me with what started as a slowly encircling scent in the air, worked up to a delicious ten course meal and finished with a glass of centuries old Cognac. No, it didn’t have anything to do with food, but it was so deliciously French I felt a food and wine metaphor was apt! It is unpredictable, not like any other crime novel  (perhaps with the exception of the other Vargas I read). There isn’t the same structure, Adamsburg the hero is unusual to say the least, two mysteries entwined of murder and odd circle drawing, and best of all, I had no clue about the ending, yet it worked and it was I guess all there. It reminded me of some French films I have seen (eg Ma Soeur) which is infused with a different mindset and sensibility. We have too much of a tendency to go for the mainstream US/Brit led style in everything. How refreshing to have something that isn’t!

 

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

 

This book is Dan Brown meets Stephen King. Or at least I think it is – I don’t read Stephen King (once a long time ago) but I did just read Inferno. So this hero takes us to Venice too, but with Paradise Lost rather than Dante. I am not a scholar of either so it’s hard to assess this part of the story (there are lots of quotes to help), either in Venice or the romp around the US. But compared to Dan Brown’s protagonist this one is far more human and while more understandably driven. He is more real, emotion, and as well, in contrast to my criticism of both Da Vince Code and Inferno, has a sub plot relationship- several in fact. On the other hand, the Stephen King bit comes in and we are stretched beyond what is believable unless you want to put metaphors for grief in here as we are probably meant to.

At the end of the day it is a hero’s journey, a father who has daughter has died and marriage failed, trying to make sense of it all. Does he- yes. Do we? Well maybe. I enjoyed his writing style, liked the development of relationships and the use of Milton’s text. But I suspect I didn’t quite get what he was trying to say.

 

THURSDAY 5TH DECEMBER

A JACK REACHER DOUBLE- STARTING FROM THE BEGINNING!

The Killing Floor by Lee Child (1)

I haven’t ever been drawn to Child’s books in the stores; just looked like boys books to me. Too much action and not enough brains. But he is consistently there in the best seller lists and I quite like action movies so will probably end up watching Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher on some plane trip so I thought I should try one. I’m not Cruise fan so I needed a point of reference to know he was a bad choice (mixed reviews I’ve read on this- main criticism seems to be height).

So this is written in first person by Jack himself. Important because the next one, and I am guessing future ones (18 according to Amazon), aren’t. As a writer this interested me- particularly that he changed from one style to another. I liked this being in first person, and yes there is a lot of action but there was plenty of story character and place too. A nice romance that was self contained (figured no woman was going to last 18 books). Writing is lean mean and Hemingwayesque. Hard to fault and it was good enough for me to download the second.

And on the Tom Cruise issue? Well I think Reacher’s laconic ease and smarts might have been better conveyed by Paul Newman (as he was in The Sting- there might have been a height issue here too, only Gary Cooper or Jimmy Stewart would have come close to six five but they wouldn’t have been bad picks had the movie been made long ago!), but my guess is Cruise is fine for the brawn basic action figure.

 

Die Trying by Lee Child (2)

First surprise as I am reading these in order, was that this wasn’t written in first person like Killing Floor. But he’s still the same Jack Reacher and the advantage is we can get to see situations he’s not in. Much more action and a little less story, and Child is way too fond and knowledgeable about guns for my liking (bound to belong to the Gun lobby the way he speaks of them and that doesn’t endear him to me), but couldn’t fault the writing, again the self contained love story, some good characters.

The beauty about his character, Reacher, being a drifter, is that you get to do a tour of the USA. This is set in the wilds of Montana, with a crazy religious militia group (who like guns and explosives). I am here currently in Arizona and heading to Colorado tomorrow…hope Reacher gets there sometime.

And yes, I am about to download the third.

 

THURSDAY 21ST NOVEMBER

A Ballantyne and a Barclay- two good thrillers one from a new author, other an established one

The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne

It’s always great finding a new author you like- though you just hope she writes fast and has more good ideas!

This is Ballantyne’s first novel and deemed a psychological thriller. It follows Daniel as a child in foster care (and we know something went wrong but not what) and then him as an adult lawyer defending an 11 year old boy charged with murder. The latter brings up feelings from his own childhood and we see what the boy was and what he became. In this in particular it is masterful, more so than in any twists or surprises (which more or less there weren’t or at least not ones I didn’t pick). This makes it all the more surprising how much I enjoyed it. The author brings Daniel and his foster mother jumping off the page, so much so I feel like I know them. It’s a touching and heartbreaking story, simple but beautifully executed. I look forward to her next (though some twists would be good too…).

A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay

Another fast paced thriller from Barclay that grabs you and doesn’t let go. Small town New York State, a hero who has made mistakes (and is still making them) and a story that had plenty of twists and turns. Two themes – the girl  swop goes wrong where one girl is  missing, and the dead son − wrap around each other pulling in the police department mayor and police chief, with the intriguing chapters in italics where for a long while I had no idea what they were. A light ripping read that is totally satisfying.

 

THURSDAY NOVEMBER 14TH

Cross and Burn by Val McDermid

Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are back; after the last book I had wondered. I think McDermid is one of those writers who gets to the end of the chapter and says: what’s the worst thing that could happen next? It seemed to have in the last book, but she’s back at it in this one, and I couldn’t put it down…

One of the things I like about these books is there is a lot for relationship sub plot (or non-relationship in Carol and Tony’s case- their degree of personal and joint pathology can be a bit hard to take at times, but the characters are so good you go with it). The interpersonal tension between the police is great though and reads authentic though I wouldn’t know, not being a police officer!

The plot is enough of a page turner to string all the rest together, and though no big surprises (and not much HEA…I can see why people like romance to cheer them up is this is real life…), it’s a book of its genre that doesn’t disappoint.

 

THURSDAY NOVEMBER 7.11.13

Just One Act of Evil by Elizabeth George

I picked this book up as soon as I saw it: had already looked at Amazon where I had to pre-order and thought I’d wait- didn’t have to wait long and there it was a day later (one for the independent book shops). I have read the series and am an addict…but given how much I have been reading (and writing and having my writing critiqued) I tried to think about what worked and what didn’t. I already knew that George’s novels don’t fit the usual prototype, if for no other reason than as this one is, they are long- 711 pages. It took me four consecutive nights and one full day, which given I can read four novels a week, this was a call well beyond the average!

For George fans, you’ll love it. I was pulled in, couldn’t stop turning the pages and couldn’t stop until I finished (compare to my review of Jo Nesbo’s latest, The Redbreast!).

The winners?

The story. A kidnapping (with sleazy IT guys and PI’s) and then at the end of act two, something entirely else. It reminded me of the film Australia that was like two films combined and I groaned when the second started. But here there was a compelling link and it was unexpected and more interesting than the original crime.

Italy as a back drop. I often don’t like the travel theme of so many successful novelists who are getting bored and want to move their characters. But this worked. Salvatore and his boss are fabulous; she brings them alive and makes them alive. I think George does this best: professional issues and a side line of an estranged relationship, all in the delicious context of Italian police politics. I have no idea how accurate she is, but on the back of the Perugia disaster (British girl murdered, American and Italian convicted, overturned then retried…! Only in Italy) it hits exactly the right spot.

We have Thomas and Isabella again and it works because its professional with underlying overtones that if you’ve read early books you get, or else you will pick from the sufficient info you are given.

The losers?

For me Thomas and his romances don’t work. I never liked Helen and more to the point their relationship was so strained and constipated I wanted to scream. I was happy to put it down to upper British class upbringing. But in this one the relationship is just as painful though ostensibly for her traumatic past and because she isn’t from his background, but I didn’t find it either compelling or believable.

Barbara Havers. God, where do I begin. I’ve never been a great fan (overweight, ugly , badly dressed and poor diet has never really done it for me- you can’t help how you were born but you can help what you do about it), but in the past her passion has won out. Well it’s in full force again here, but without giving anything away, as far as I am concerned she crossed over the line twice in this book and is totally unforgiveable on both counts (and it is impossible to believe that New Scotland Yard, and Lynley, wouldn’t have thought likewise, though George artfully brings us around on this at the end, though I still think really??? And would Salvatore really admire her??? Come on!).

Will I pick up the next one, even with Barbara in it? Yes, but I am on the edge of tolerance…

 

THURSDAY OCTOBER 31ST TWO GILLIAN FLYNN BOOKS- PRECURSORS TO GONE GIRL

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Probably like most people I read this after reading the phenomenally successful Gone Girl; but Sharp Objects was her debut novel and I have her second reviewed below(Gone Girl was her third). I am a fan on Nicci French (the husband and wife team) but if this (and Gone Girl) are representative, I think Flynn is taking the crown for disturbed protagonists. It is possibly a dubious crown; French’s heroines are largely likeable and easier to identify with. In Sharp Objects Flynn treads the fine line, mostly successfully, of keeping us rooting for her heroine who for most of us (even I working with some disturbed people) is well and truly two standard deviations away from what we consider “okay”.  It is first person narrative by Camille, a journalist chasing a nasty story in her home town. In doing so she has to confront her own demons.

Despite the reviews saying the ending was totally unexpected, as a veteran of psych thrillers, I picked the main “twist” and there was always two or three other variations of which she took some but not all. It isn’t a HEA but there is hope and realism amongst all the psychopathology. She depicts small town pathology in intricate nasty detail and it is compelling; the family pathology has its own enthral and I was hooked, even if I did by and large know what was coming. A good read.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

This is the book prior to the success of her third, Gone Girl, and well worth a read if you like disturbed heroines and families and aren’t expecting too much of a HEA ending. The first person narrative of four foot ten Libby Day, alternates with her brother and mother’s perspectives,  and all are very compelling. Flynn takes it right up to you on the first page, daring you to dislike Libby, and oddly, though she lacks many of the usual characteristics of the traditional heroine, we can’t help but root for her. Okay, she steals and she’s lazy, not good starts. Then she’s motivated by less than noble reasons. But maybe we stick with it through fascination; not many of us have survived a massacre of our family. Given she was only seven at the time, I gave her quite a bit of rope, but ultimately she proved herself more or less worthy of it. This is poor Midwest and all the unfashionable things associated with poverty, Nuevo Riche, broken families and bad parenting (dog turds left in the plush pile and covered up with spray…ugh). This is a page turner that takes some unexpected turns; I didn’t pick this yet it was all there. Well done!

THURSDAY OCTOBER 24TH

Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

This writer somehow manages to write one book a year (has done for the last sixteen, starting in a bid to put her children through College), work as her heroine does, as a Forensics Anthropologist across two countries/counties AND  do 22 episodes a year as part of the writer’s group for the Bones series (based on her books). Wow. I thought I did a lot but not after this!

Bones of the Lost takes in one of the author’s recent experiences of going to Afghanistan (in real life to increase morale) where Temp Brennan is asked for an opinion on two civilians killed by US troops. Unlike when Scarpetta (Patricia Cornwell’s character) jaunted around the world, I found this far more plausible because the job she does calls for rare skills that not many people have (and more specialised than Scarpetta- though in the latest Stuart MacBride novel, some what tongue in cheek, he suggests there is so little work for forensic anthropologists that now everyone wants to be a temp Brennan after the Bones series, they have to fight for every job) . That said, as it went into a completely different section, separate it seemed from the main story, I thought it was the author merely wanting to include Afghanistan and thought it was  bit disjointed. But fear not! Reichs is the master of twisting plots around and all comes together in a satisfying end.

Oh by the way, unlike her character, you can offer Reichs a drink!

 

THURSDAY OCTOBER 17TH

TWO JO NESBO’S!

The Bat by Jo Nesbo

This is the first Harry Hole mystery, I think published into English after the success of later books. I went back to this having read and enjoyed The Snowman, and if I recall rightly, the events of this book were mentioned in the later one (certainly that it was in Australia).

This was an easy and enjoyable enough read but was not as tight in either plot or writing style as the later one. I had to get over the use of ‘mate’ several times in the first pages which as an Australian makes me cringe, particularly as it was in Sydney, not the outback. That’s not to say city Australians don’t say mate, I’m sure they do, but it is just a tad irritating to be so stereotyped. We hear a lot more about Harry’s past and his problems, probably a bit too much tell rather than show, and it wasn’t always clear why the story was going where it did as Harry went off on several wrong tangents.

I enjoyed it, if you like the series, read it, but as an author it’s great to know your writing improves…Nesbo’s has.

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

I’ve read most of the Harry Hole series and found them interesting and well written but at times uneven and unexpected. The first (ABOVE) set in Australia was I think when the author was still finding his feet; less polished and dense, easier to access and forget. I read The Snowmen first which was solid and kept your interest, somewhat of a page turner. Now this one, which is different again.

Firstly it is long, dense and complicated. This brings with it positives and negatives. It took me a long time to finish and in the interim I read maybe six other books that were easier. Getting back into this one each time didn’t do me or it any favours. Getting my head around the names each time was hard enough, but there is also the switches in time. For the first and last section of the book we go back to the war, and while this works well at the end I found it hard going in the beginning when they were on the front lines, easier when they were in hospital and not at the front. Then there is another section where Harry is leaving messages on his offsider’s phone which feels totally different again.

The plot is mainly about revenge, murder, traitors, but with a good dose of  post war neurosis (or psychosis), love and some psychological  theories. There’s also some police corruption and gun running, and a romance for Harry as well as the previous generation that is relived. Does this sound all over the place? Probably but Nesbo does bring it all together, just my brain is still trying to sort it out…

 

THURSDAY OCTOBER 10TH

TWO ANGELA SAVAGE BOOKS!

Behind the Night Bazaar by Angela Savage

So I meet the author at a party, am booked in to hear her interview Kathy Reichs and her sessions at Brisbane Writer’s festival…and I really liked her. Well I clearly needed to buy one of her books!

The author worked and lived in Thailand so that’s where she puts her PI Jayne Keeney (a heroine who looks rather like the author me thinks!). I struggled initially with the Thai names and of destinations Asia isn’t my favourite but the writing and the heroine won me over (and she’s rather tough on the hero, kind of like what my heroine does; what is it with Aussie women?). There is an unresolved gay friendship, several murders, police corruption, Aussies behaving badly and under aged sex rings. Plenty to keep the interest up and a cracking pace. A GOOD READ!

The Dying Beach by Angela Savage

It’s possible that Jayne Keeney, the PI we met in Behind the Night Bazaar, is a little more relaxed and fun in this book, but it may because having met the author I am merging the two… The opening is however on a Thai beach better known for holidays than dead bodies so this may help…but dead body there is, and more to come. Jayne has a new boyfriend/business partner, the younger Rajiv (wish fulfilment? Mmm), her usual run ins with Thai police, and more than ever she is wonderful at picking the cultural nuances at the Australian- Thai interface. There’s fun and action, and a slightly unusual structure with the plot seeming to be over by the end of the second act but then the third takes us off in a new direction solving the original problem! You don’t need to have read the first one to read this, but read both!

 

THURSDAY OCTOBER 3RD

This is How by M.J.Hyland

In the first instance let me be clear- I agree with virtually everything the reviewers are quoted as saying about this book (the exception being Helen Garner’s comment about your heart breaking for the character, and I didn’t find it thrilling). Yes it is a masterful study in claustrophobia and loneliness, yes it got under my skin, and it was merciless stunning psychological portrayal. The book is in two parts, the first leading up to and including the crime, the second in gaol. It is written in first person so you are in Patrick’s head. It is not, I have to say, a comfortable place to be.

Long before the crime I was feeling an ominous sense of dread and felt myself being sucked into a dark hole. I then came back to it determined to keep more distance, which I did and this helped. It reminded me of how Crime and Punishment made me feel in the summer holidays before I started my last year of school; but then I was thrilled to be uncovering literature I never knew existed. Thirty years later I was less excited about revisiting the same spot.

I think this is an important book, because it helps us conceive the unconceivable, to visualise from the perpetrator’s point of view, and with that can come prevention and perhaps compassion. But did I enjoy it? No. Would I read her again? Probably not if it was in a similar vein. I saw her speak at the Byron Bay writer’s festival and she’s an interesting woman who calls it as it is and has an interesting back story of her own.

 

Thursday September 26th

Reading four books a week at the moment so two quick reviews here to get through the backlog!

Assassin by Tara Moss

I won this (and nine other books) courtesy of Sister’s in Crime at Brisbane writer’s festival. I thought I had already read it (have read the earlier ones) but hadn’t. Like the others, starting with Fetish I think about the Stiletto murders this has Makedde and Andy in it and a stiletto murderer wanna be. It traverses Spain and Australia, with parallel tales of Mak being pursued by assassins (and turning into one herself) while Andy is back home sorting out the latest Sydney serial killer. I found it interesting to see how Moss changed her heroine in response to what was happening to her, making her a tough survivor who had to kill or be killed. Not sure it was terribly realistic, but a lot of fun, fast paced and easy reading.

After the Darkness by Honey Brown

I won this book too but thought it sounded the sort of thriller I liked and jumped into it. Easy to read, first person narrative that sucks you in, I never-the-less took a little while to not want to put it down. Then I wished I could put it down (but didn’t want to)because it went from train wreck to train wreck (and yes, showing how easily the wrong decision can lead to yet another) and it was hard (but compelling) to watch.

Overall I liked the story and enjoyed the read until the last couple of chapters, then felt a bit, really?

 

Thursday September 19th

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I picked this book up at the Brisbane writer’s festival after I heard the author on a panel. He was a tad verbose (and hard to keep in line- though the moderator was clearly in awe so didn’t try hard) but very interesting in person…and he mentioned he liked the less restrictive environment of novel compared to screenplay. Mostly Hollywood don’t read scripts over 120 pages … and the novel is well beyond this equivalent!

To say the least it is a fascinating novel- a gripping yarn, a page turner and a novel I never wanted to finish. It starts as a murder mystery (and ends on this) but in the middle follows the life of Saracen, the man he has to find (to save the world, yep it’s one of those type of BIG books) from Saudi Arabia through Afghanistan to Turkey. The book is written in first person (Pilgrim’s POV) yet in the Saracen sections its third close person POV while still in ‘I’ from Pilgrim. He assumes the knowledge from his research and puts us in the other guys head. Never seen it done before! Found it a little strange but was so absorbed, it didn’t worry me.

We also have a strong 9/11 theme, the murder mystery ends up with a highly unlikely connection geographically and has some fun, but need to suspend belief at times, investigative  techniques. There are some great characters, missing in the love affair stakes, and he does a lot of foreshadowing that works mostly (and he does tie everything up) though the bit he holds onto longest re his adoptive father was a bit disappointing and not as ‘neat’ as most of the book.

Overall there are probably lots of things that could be criticised but I loved it. If you are up for a fab yarn (way more satisfying than Inferno and at least as good if not better than Da Vinci Code), you like mystery, spies and jaunts across the Middle East this is for you.

 

Thursday September 12th

The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty

I was prompted to download this after booking into a session at the Brisbane Writer’s festival in which he was presenting last weekend. Thought it would be a good idea to read him; I tend to do psych thrillers and this is more procedural, but it distinctive for its setting in Ireland during the Troubles. As my hero in my new novel (well love interest) was born in Ireland and spent his primary school years (and is same age and looks a little like this author…and I soon found out had both done a Law degree!) I thought it would be good to familiarise myself with some of the background (and I was hoping from reading his work to find one word he says to the heroine that would fit, but alas didn’t succeed so I thought I’d ask the author in person for any ideas!).

The book is first person Catholic policeman Sean Duffy. He has a tough job and no one seems to like the peelers let alone a Catholic one (McKinty has great stories from his background, women hiding bareetas under their negligees when he was 8. Incidentally he is protestant). The IRA appear (ok I know who they are) and Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein), yep know him too. But had to rush for google (where were we before it?) to make sense/remind myself of the couple of others that popped up- decided if it starts with U that’s Ulster, protestant and nasty.

The character and setting is definitely the books strong point, but the crime (two dead gay men with severed hands) is gripping too. A low key romance (and a one off in the midst, to say nothing of a gay encounter) kept it real, messy and a great read.

Oh, and Adrian doesn’t have a strong Irish accent (get him to say ‘Fantastic’ though…) courtesy of UK, NY and Boulder Colerado, but he did give me my word: Honey. Look out for it if my book ever comes out!

 

Thursday September 5th

 

Beyond Fear by Jaye Ford

This was an unexpected positive find from the Romance Writer’s Australia conference- Jaye did a workshop (on writing action, which I attended), and of course this book and Scared Yet, her second were available and I bought them both. If you aren’t a romance reader don’t be put off – this isn’t a romance! (Okay, for those who like a romance there is a subplot one, but it definitely isn’t the main driver of the book).

This is tense! Ford builds up the tension so artfully I thought I was on the verge of needing a valium. Four female friends go away for a weekend. I have three girlfriends and we occasionally do this – I was very pleased I wasn’t reading this on one such weekend! It goes from bad to worse (I could believe she got to the end of each chapter and thought ‘ah what can I have happen now…’). And then gets worse.  Just when you think you can’t bear it any longer you get a change POV…and then the tension builds because we know what he’s about to end up in the middle of.

This isn’t a plot of twists but it is a great one for tension and action. Try to read in one hit or you won’t sleep!

Thursday August 29th

Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell

This another Kay Scarpetta novel and on plot Cornwell is thankfully back in the USA and not doing implausible things with her heroine overseas. There is more edge to her character now though, an unease and unhappiness under the shadow of the dreaded aging and becoming invisible guise, but I have to wonder if Cornwell’s wrestles through the legal system aren’t showing. She’s no longer in Virginia having moved North to Boston which is kind of nice to get to know another region of USA though I am more familiar with this one than the previous. The pace keeps up, and it’s enjoyable enough but either I have grown out of these a little or maybe they have lost their edge compared to other newer authors I read, but I found it less satisfying and engrossing than the early Scarpetta novels. Still a bit of fun.

Thursday August 22nd

Unseen by Karin Slaughter

 

I have been to so many writer’s festivals lately it feels strange reviewing a book from an author I haven’t met! Maybe this pleasure is ahead of me!

I’ve read all of Slaughter’s books following Sara Linton, a doctor with the unusually-to-combine specialties of paediatrics and pathology, who was married to a cop in a small town and is now developing a stronger relationship with an FBI agent we’ve also seen quite a bit of (and a a writer it’s interesting to see what ‘flaw’ the hero/heroine has- Will has dyslexia which is interesting. Sara’s of course is attached to one of the earlier books so I won’t do a spoiler- you’ll have to read them).  Lena makes a reappearance (too many flaws to list…), with no love lost between the two lead women as the action propels us forward to fast to think of anything but what’s on the next page!

Slaughter writes well, the characters are good, this story winds us through drugs, paedophilia and throws in some moral dilemmas about choices. An enjoyable read.

Thursday August 15th

Watching You by Michael Robotham

It’s possible that I think this is Robotham’s best book because I bought and started it in the sunshine of the Bryon Bay Writer’s festival (good weather has this effect on me) and because we were staying at the same hotel as the Robotham’s and spoke to them on the bus as well as enjoying his panels. But I don’t think so.

This book grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go until the very last line. Marnie is a likeable character and we agonise for her as the situation she is in gets worse and worse- and the questions we have get more and more! Joe(the psychologist) is back, with less about his family in this one; I usually like his family issues but didn’t miss it at all here (his daughter makes an appearance). There were plenty of other things to keep me occupied; what happened to Marnie’s husband, who is watching her (and why),  and then who is responsible for the rising body count. The pace is fast, there are plenty of twists, and just when I thought the author was going to give in to popular gobbled gook he doesn’t (or does he…) and we leap into an almost second story as it hurtles towards the climax. Very satisfying!

Thursday August 8th

The Last to Die by Tess Gerristen

I heard the author speak a couple of years ago at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival and was already a fan; she was a good speaker too, though left me astounded that she just got her characters and ran with them. I did like the idea of getting to the end of each chapter and then (as the author) thinking : what’s the worst that could happen next? It doesn’t work for me (as an author) but as a reader…well there’s plenty of that happening in this book! It’s always interesting seeing where authors take the heroes we have come to know. Cornwall crossed the line as far as I’m concerned (though she returned), taking Scarpetta internationally and onto somewhat ludicrous plots. Gerristen is on the border of doing that here, but just stays short of the line thank goodness. Though the plot is international, medical examiner Maura Isles and cop Jane Rizzoli stay safely in Maine. Well not all that safely; this is a thriller/crime book after all!

Much of the book is set in an ‘alternative’ school in the wilds of Maine, and I quite liked this. Belief has to be suspended a little, but not too much, about its origins, and it makes a good background. The pages turn, you don’t want to put it down, and though it wasn’t hard to work out the main plot, there are still some twists and unexpected eventualities, and it makes a satisfying read.

 

Thursday August 1st

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

I quite liked Human Remains though I thought it had problems, so I went back to try Haynes first book. This got her quite a lot of attention and prizes, a story of obsession in more ways than one. Lee’s obsession with Catherine weaves chillingly through the book, told chronologically going forward, in parallel with Catherine’s story four years later. The later story is also about obsession- her OCD and PTSD symptoms that have resulted from the trauma we work our way up to, which happened at the end of the relationship with Lee. Lee’s release from prison adds to the tension as we wait for him to invade the ‘current’ section as well as pervading the past.

This book has everything that a good psychological thriller should have. Gutsy heroine, chillingly plausible obsessive dangerous man, a cast of great other characters, her girlfriends, and loads of tension and suspense. While I kept thinking my girlfriends would never have been sucked in like hers, I took a look at my daughter’s girlfriends more in the age range, and then thought back to my twenties, and no longer doubted she got it right (well I don’t think I’ve ever had a Sylvia like friend but it all works). The love interest and ending of this thread is probably unlikely and a bit cheesy but we’ve chewed our nails down to the quick by this stage so we needed a reward for survival…will look for her second book now!

Thursday July 25th

The Ghost Riders of the Ordebec by Fred Vargas

My reading of this book is a testimony to the importance of the independent bookseller. I was on a five day break in Noosa and the bookseller got to know us because he was selling my husband’s book at a Long Weekend function, and because I kept going in buying books! He slipped this one to me and said “I think you’ll like it” and I briefly assessed and ran with it (I’d bought The Demonologist and a Harlen Corben from him at this stage).

I am so pleased he put it in my hand because I might otherwise have passed it over. He said “it has a spiritual/ mystic theme in all of them” which grabbed me, and having read it, how she (and Fred is presumably Frederique) does this is perfect for me- The Demonologist went over the line, Vargas keeps within it. History has the legend, real life has an explanation – but the two can be linked.

She is French and it is set in France, with all the French quirkiness that when you live there, as I have, is hard to pinpoint as an outsider. Her characters are great, the stories complex and interwoven. From the moment of meeting the hero Commissaire Adamsberg (not exactly an obvious name for a French man) we are pulled into his team of interesting misfits, a statuesque woman to be reckoned with, a bulimic, one with a sleep disorder, two rivals, and as well into the new relationship with a recently discovered son. Into this we have a woman with visions of the Ghost Riders, heralding deaths, a man blown up in his car and a small time hood who has been framed that Adamsberg saves…as well as saving a near dead pigeon. Believe or not, these all tie into together in a beautifully paced story that is never dull. And yes, I will be reading everything else she has written.

Thanks Ross at Noosa’s Mary Ryans.

Thursday July 18th

Boomer and Me by Jo Case

This was given to my husband (who had given a copy to Jo of his book) in a sharing of Asperger’s- fiction, The Rosie Project,  in my husband’s case albeit inspired by a friend, and in Jo’s case nonfiction, about herself and her son.

It’s a somewhat long and rambling at times book, but all the warmer and more real for it. She is a keen observer at many levels, and even for a non-Asperger mother (either self or child) there is still a lot to identify with in her dealing with schools and other parents. If you have an Asperger’s child this is a must- it’s about difference not disability and the sheer raw heartfelt love for the boy overcomes all else.

Having now been to a number of my husband’s book talks, there is a lot of people who are affected by Aspergers, either because they are perhaps wired a little like that themselves (think IT, engineers, maths departments…) or have friends and family. Even if you don’t, the book is a nice read.

 

Thursday July 11th

The Golden Scales by Parker Bilal

I heard Jamal Mahjoub (the real name of Parker Bilal) present at the Perth Writer’s festival and picked up this book and the sequel because he was a good speaker (albeit a little serious) and this series seemed an ideal way to understand a bit about the political situation in the middle east from someone who knew a good deal more about it than me, while doing what I enjoy most in reading- taking in a crime/thriller.

The hero, Makana, like the author, is a foreigner to Egypt where the book is set, a refugee from a neighbouring African state, Sudan. I have been to Egypt and the book captures the feel of a more modern city than the one I saw – but then I was a tourist! It’s a good story, I can’t testify to how authentic it is regarding the corruption, but it reads real. A missing child from long ago, a murder, a missing soccer player-son all entwine through this ancient city that is also very much at the heart of the Arab unrest. A crime and corruption novel without the usual westernized background; intriguing and enjoyable, solidly written.

Thursday 4th July

Waiting For Wednesdays by Nicci French

As a hope to be writer of thrillers I try to ask myself when I’m reading a good one, what is it that makes it stand out? Why do I keep wanting to turn the pages? Not sure I have the answer, but as I sat and read this in one day (resenting the break for dinner) there was no doubt why this couple are so successful−I did want to keep reading and interrupted another book without hesitation to do so. So why did I want to read this and not the other in quite the same way (the other is quite good and I’ll get back to it, but it isn’t a MUST like this was from the start)?

This is the third book with the same psychotherapist character (with Thursday and Friday presumably planned). I’m not entirely sure I like her, some things she does are downright stupid and unrealistic (I have worked for many years as a psychotherapist as one of my hats – we don’t run round looking after very tenuous leads to an uncertain destination, possibly why we also don’t generally get knifed as this character did in her previous book…but this is fiction!), but she’s interesting and at times you are just compelled to watch the train wreck.

There’s a long running background light story that made me giggle- the unasked for renovations from hell, a not very convincing love story (very minor) and two stories, one that gets stronger as the other resolves. Oh, and the background psychopath that is always there to add the odd creepy moment. There’s lots of soap opera both in her niece’s life and the investigation of the dead woman’s as two families disintegrate, and on top of that the one I enjoyed the most, however slightly predictable, the battle with the psychologist from hell who is trying to discredit her.

So why did I want to turn the pages? Twists, turns (I did pick these but it really didn’t matter), good characters and LOTS happening. No wonder I couldn’t sleep when I finally did put it down. Bring on Thursday guys

 

Thursday 27th June

Dying Light and Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride

 

As an author I should know better than reviewing two books at once but they’ll never get on my blog at all at the pace I am currently reading so better one review than none. I read them one after another, hence the blurring a little in my mind, because it is the same team of cops (give or take) and we are still in a somewhat grim Aberdeen (I have a picture of some grim looking Scottish ancestors on my wall and I can see why they left…).

These books are gritty police drama. There’s a good sense of place, and solid characters though I’m not sure there is any gay woman quite as tough as DI Steele but I don’t have that much experience with gay women or cops and she is fun. Poor old Logan keeps getting things wrong (including with his partner in Broken Skin…I’m glad this is written by a bloke. Don’t think I could get away with it as a woman, but his reluctance to tell one woman the truth and the jumping of conclusions…well this is totally authentic. Hope MacBride’s wife forgave him….).

The crimes are grim and real, there’s plenty of them, and Aberdeen’s best and finest out there in their own time to solve it (I am so glad I didn’t marry a cop if this is what their lives are truly like…probably just ones in Aberdeen where the other options are limited). I prefer thrillers but these are good reads for police drama lovers.

Thursday 20th June

Night Games by Anna Krein

Me? Read a footie book?  You’ve got to be joking…but I flicked through it in the book shop because of the culture it was about and the end of the prologue grabbed me and dragged me to the counter. This spoke of a smart women trying to be objective and struggling; I identified with her. Very Helen Garner whose books the First Stone and Jo Cinque’s Consolation I found fascinating. This topic wasn’t quite as interesting but it still kept me engrossed and while it could have been a bit shorter, this is an important journalistic on football and its culture as related to attitudes to women,, including of course rape, a trial which it follows.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I am not a football fan. Soccer is probably the only team game that holds any interest to me because it is about being smart not just brawn (I believe cricket is too, but I fall asleep before I can see anything more than a man and a ball). I have been at functions with Sam Newman and seen bits of the footie show. I don’t like him either, nor all the “negative” side of the game that seems to reside in him. He comes across as a misogynist and displays no respect for women.

This book is a lot about that, but Krein doesn’t heap rubbish on either men or the game per se (and I do like men in general!). She tries to look at the game, the clubs, the hierarchy and from interviews with numerous people and reference to rape trials other than the main one presented, gives I think an interesting overview and raises lots of questions. She doesn’t answer them – how can she – but if we can ask ourselves these questions and get the clubs and boards to, then we can move forward. We certainly need to.

Thursday 13th June

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

This book received a lot of hype with a big USA up-front payment unusual in itself, let alone to a first time novelist. It took me a while to get around to buying it; every time I looked at it I was reminded that perhaps my tastes are out of keeping with mainstream because historical fiction really doesn’t do it for me (I continue to walk past Hilary Mantel but I dare say I’ll give in there sooner or later). Add to that that this book is about the last woman executed in Iceland in 1830, it all sounded well a bit dreary. That said I did enjoy a recent Tudor novel about Katherine Parr (admittedly she did escape the axe).

So as I knew I was likely to meet the author (and did) at the Sydney Writer’s festival (she’s very sweet) I thought the time had come.

Firstly, it is beautifully written. But written in an easy style that doesn’t feel like she slaved over every sentence (she may well have) that you feel with some “literary” writers. This is easy reading and the prose is evocative; I feel and see the dark coldness of Iceland, the hovering around the dung fed fire, the hardness of life as it most surely would have been pre-electricity. Part of this is the prose, part comes from well-drawn characters, about which we do not know everything but come to see and feel them too as we become part of their lives.

There are no real surprises here; we do find out what “really” happened (in Kent’s mind anyway) and there is a satisfaction in this, but the story unfolds in the way you expect and while the characters attitudes change (and this is nicely observed) what is good about the book is not the plot, but rather the fate of an interesting person told well. It hasn’t convinced me to like historical fiction in general, but if you do, or just like easy flowing well written evocative prose, then this is probably for you.

 

Thursday 6th June

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

 

What is it about so many good thriller writers that never get on the best seller list? Read about this one in the Age review last weekend; they clearly liked her first book better, described the dialogues in this one as something like mundane to excruciating and described by the publisher as “easy to read” but concluded the end was worth the read.

So I walked into a book store (yes they still exist and I want to support them, though am being sucked in by the practicalities of Amazon, and am about to get my I-pad and download Secrets of the Tides) and asked for the first book (the one I am about to download) which they didn’t have, but they did have this one. Read it in two sittings.

I obviously like easy to read, and didn’t find the conversation anything except authentic (sadly I realised that the era of one of the “half” of the story was mine). I picked the ending (unusual that I don’t though if you scroll through my reviews on my website I think there was an Elizabeth Hayne’s I didn’t) so wasn’t as excited by that, but still thought it an enjoyable read.

We have two women thirty years apart telling the story of the same cottage. Both are troubled. We know they have to connect (unless you’ve never read a thriller in your life). Interesting stories, and I was more engrossed by Kat’s than I thought I would be; despite the age issue, I have never wanted to live in a commune or drop out of the world. Not sure I really believe Simon did either, but there is some real people and emotions amongst these troubles souls and a bit of escapism in joining them.

Thursday 30th May

Confessions of a Sociopath: A life living in plain sight. By M.E.Thomas

As a psychotherapist/health professional working with mental illness, this book fascinated me when I read excerpts in the newspaper and when I saw at in the airport bookshop, I grabbed it. A memoir, written under a pseudonym (though she invites you to find out who she is), it is highly unusual because psychopaths/sociopaths/ people with antisocial personality disorders are usually not insightful, do not think that they have a problem, just that they cause other people grief. I put these three different terms together (and she talks about them) because they are largely the same. We are not talking about people with a psychotic illness; sufferers are rational and can be charming and successful (as this woman is). They just have no empathy and unlike people with Asperger’s and Autism spectrum, have a disregard for authority and rules, learn to use their charms and fine tune their social skills, to manipulate and get their own way. They usually have run ins with the law as well.

We are more used to these characters being men, and in novels, serial killers. This one (or so she says) chooses to play by the rules. Given they lie…well that brings us to this book. How much to believe? What is her real goals and intentions? She believes herself smarter than the rest of us but she also likes to prove her superiority and “ruin” people. Or is she just making the whole thing up?

I am first to admit I am fairly gullible- I like to believe my patients. That aside, I’m not stupid. Evaluating this book, my sense is that she is for real. Her discussion of fluid sexuality and their lack of sense of self rings true of those I have known, and is not in DSM IV (the psychiatrist’s bible). She feels cold and you (well I didn’t) don’t feel sympathetic, there is always a layer between you and her. But fascinating? Oh yes.

I think the book could have been shorter, I think she is not as insightful as she thinks (but then given she is lacking the empathy gene this is probably to be expected). She does I believe have good insights into herself though, and the mix of genes and upbringing contributing. I’d be a little harder on her parents and their influence, and wish she would read We Must Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver before she has children. The neediness and cries of her child are likely to inflame her anger, because her own cries were never heard and dealt with. The church on the other hand seems to have had a very positive containing influence (that said it is hard to reconcile her adherence (supposedly) to no premarital sex, and the exploits in Brazil).

She says there are lots out there like her and she’s probably right. I know at least two, and they aren’t patients, though one nearly died by his own hands. It is interesting to hear their voice.

Thursday 23rd May

Inferno by Dan Brown

I have had people who can’t mention Dan Brown’s name without looking like they’ve sucked on a lemon. Personally I think they’re precious and literary snobs. So he isn’t for everyone and who is? He’s successful where as “literary” writers aren’t at this level: one only has to look at Fox TV to understand why. The masses aren’t that bright. If they are reading anything at all I think that’s brilliant!

The truth is he isn’t going to get a Booker, but Da Vinci Code was a fun page turning romp. I’ve read his others too but like the whole genre (I’ve stopped reading Steve Berry and the others…they all read like they are desperate to be a Hollywood movie, though I get this!) it loses some of its shine after the first few.

Inferno is a fast forward through Italian Art History, with a focus on Dante; primarily the The Divine Comedy but also the spinoffs such as Botticelli’s painting. Having just returned from Italy (though alas not Florence) it certainly made me want to rush back and if some of the art works described really exist (and I think they do) the museums better put on extra security to stop the public trying to wrestle them down to get to the secret passages or lay on them to hear the water…

The strengths? It’s fun and fast. Yes there are twists at the end. It might be enough to start its own panic because the graphs are real and terrifying. The man has a good point or two about religion and population explosion. But he also makes the point that we are pretty good at denial.

Weaknesses? High brow literature it isn’t, but give me this over James Joyce because at least I finished it and understood it without getting a headache. While the plot is fine for what it is, the characters are superficial despite his best attempts- maybe it’s just too hard to make people real when what they are doing isn’t (we don’t complain about James Bond being superficial one dimensional, though to be fair one of the strengths of Daniel Craig’s bond is that he has more depth). I like books with a stronger (well actually any) interaction between hero and heroine and I thought this was a weakness of the Da Vinci Code too and is even more so in this one. Will I forget it be tomorrow? Yep. But I might dredge it up (beauty of ebook) when I am next in Florence. But I promise not to try and wrestle art works off the wall…I’ll just try looking behind it surreptitiously.

 

Thursday 16th May

Thought I’d follow last review (Revenge of the Tides by E Haynes) with this one, as in both the heroines worked in shall we say the seedier side of life and are/have tried to get get out of it. Similarities end there though…

Stay Close by Harlan Corben

Meagan had a previous life that calls; and one mistake brings the past hurtling back. This is a competent quick read that I won’t remember too much about but was enjoyable enough at the time.

There are a lot of bodies over many years but the serial killer angle isn’t too eye rolling (I am a bit over serial killers) and the strength is the characters and their strengths and weaknesses. There is a bit of a superficial feel to some of them, but the cop that can’t let go and the drunk who never got over the woman he loved have enough authenticity to keep it real. The two psychopaths in the secondary story overall were probably unnecessary and more work on the main plot and characters probably time better spent. But hell, it’s hard to resist (and Corben must have been wryly giggling to himself) the perfect couple called Ken and Barbie who list torturing for God as a hobby.

 

Thursday 9th May

 

Revenge of the Tide by Elizabeth Haynes

This book grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. I’m not even sure why, but somehow the unlikely mix a houseboat and a past life as a pole dancer, neither obvious attractions to an avid thriller reader, had me into Genevieve’s world and not wanting to leave it.

Doing up an old houseboat does have a sort of romantic appeal; Haynes starts emerging us in there and it’s only because of the back cover blurb we know a body is going to turn up, but I wanted to keep reading anyway. The body does turn up, so does a cute cop and all the time in the background we know there is something about Dylan and a package.

Haynes takes us back to Genevieve’s earlier life, an uneasy brief mix of a normal London sales job and another life as Viva getting tips for pole dancing. I have never been in one of these clubs and know from people (girls) who have just how seedy the life is. But Haynes manages to take us beyond the seediness and open it up and make it fascinating. She also makes us want to know more about Dylan the bouncer and what happened between him and Genevieve and Fitz the boss.

In the end it finishes in somewhat of a romp and perhaps here is the only clue that the original version was written in a month. The rest is a polished wind through sleaze and to hopes of a new life for those who can keep a hold of who they are. I didn’t pick the ending, and who if anyone she was going to end up with was always up for grabs; but it was satisfying enough and all in all a great read.

 

Thursday 2nd May

 

Me Before You by Jo-Jo Moyes

What is there to say that hasn’t been already said about this book? Glowing reviews, one of the publishing people whispering to me “Oh that’s wonderful” and Jo-Jo Moyes herself being a complete delight. World Book Night ensuring another few thousand rush for the tissue box.

It grabbed me from the first page when I picked it off the table in the Artists area at World book night. While my husband was being photographed and sound tested, I was getting right into it and on the plane next day (despite three hours sleep) was back into it. Even Rome had to wait while I finished it.

In many ways it’s a simple, easy read. There aren’t twists or real surprises (though at one stage I thought the author was going to cheat and take the easy way out, but she doesn’t), mostly seen through Louisa Clark’s eyes (occasional chapter from her sister or Will the hero’s helper and father that helped convey some things that couldn’t be otherwise, but I didn’t think were all that necessary) it moves towards the inevitable with the tissue pile mounting.

So why was it so good? Simply two great characters (and Louisa’s family are really done well, and so in Running Man her boyfriend) and a great premise. A premise with heart, topical and important. Yet somehow Moyes manages to make Euthanasia gripping and uplifting; this is the real brilliance of the novel. Despite the tissues, and the topic, Louisa is zany, quirky and fun and there are plenty of wonderful light moments. I loved it, even if it does still bring tears to my eyes.

Thursday  25th April

One Day by David Nichols

This book takes a novel idea – each chapter is the same day a year apart, for twenty years. On the day we follow Dexter and Emma who really really like each other but can’t quite manage to get together. Dexter seriously loses the plot for a while, selling himself to the superficial life of the media, while Emma loses herself as she doesn’t quite fulfil all she had anticipated when she got a double first in English lit but at least isn’t as obnoxious.

Nichols follows the couple who aren’t (mostly) as they and their friends go through all the trials and tribulations of relationships, marriages, children and divorces on the background of the changing times (good heavens they don’t have mobiles back in 1988 when it starts!). It is wonderfully done, weaving its magic around the reader. It isn’t the sort of book I usually read but was because someone had said my husband’s book The Rosie Project was like One Day meets A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night. Neither I nor he had read either, now I’ve read both. Yes Don is a grown up version of the child in Curious Dog but apart from Dex and Em seeming for some of the book (but not all, and they have a great friendship) an unlikely couple, I don’t see much similarity.

One reviewer suggested it’s a romantic comedy. The Rosie Project is- One Day is not. It is light and amusing at times and yes it is romantic, but a love story with grit and reality. Much more it is touching and moving.

I met the author at World Book Night in London two nights ago- a lovely person, I could see where the heart came from.

Warning – Spoiler alert coming so stop reading! I won’t say what the ending is but I find it hard to review this book without saying that I burst into tears, didn’t see the end coming and found it rather unsettling to say the least. Beautiful but well …I’m wishing it hadn’t ended as it had but maybe it had to.

Thursday April 18th

The Sacrificial Man by Ruth Dugdall

This is the second Cate Austin novel, the said Cate being a parole officer in this book preparing a presentence assessment for a court. As in her first book, The Woman Before Me, this book also follows another character, who is really the protagonist even if she is also the criminal. In this book Alice has helped her ‘boyfriend’ die, but all is not as it seems and as the book sucks us into this page turner, we aren’t sure who to like or feel sorry for.

Alice is a complex and largely unlikeable character but we believe her, and Dugdall takes us back to her childhood to show us how she became who she is. The twist in this one I didn’t pick, actually either of the two main ones, which is pretty unusual. One was more believable than the other but even then we are carried along and don’t question that as much as the consequences.

This is a well written interesting book, worth reading, but to be honest, Alice and the story in the end didn’t exactly leave me feeling great about anything. The book leaves a definite distaste behind…but then maybe this is because it has achieved what it set out to.

 

Thursday April 11th

Murder with the Lot by Sue Williams

I went to a Sister in Crime night to hear Katherine Howell (of whom I had read) speak, and the other speaker was a first time author Sue Williams. She was dryly sweet and I put her on my ‘to read’ list, but as comedy crime isn’t really my thing (prefer thrillers) I lingered a bit. Then I won a copy of her book which rather spurred me on to read her, and what a good thing!

Murder with the Lot …is well rather like the title (which she said in the talk was a problem initially because she had her man ordering fish’n’chips and it took the editor to suggest that he could order a hamburger after all…). It has a bit of everything; murder, missing bodies, villains, disbelieving sons, a love story of sorts. Most of all though it has a totally absorbing heroine, who a little like my brief impression of the author, is dry and quirky and lots of fun. There were times I laughed out loud (not common for me in books) at some of the ridiculous things Cass does, but even more so at her one liner takes. While she’s worrying about her son her elderly friend is carrying on in the background about how he kept all the women away from her (dead) husband by telling them he had VD. This is just a snippet of the type or wry humour that the book is bursting with. I have read other crime comedy, but none as funny as this. Right to the end, this is a heroine who should never be let loose with a gun, but be sure when she is, you’ll need to duck while you’re reading on.

Thursday April 4th

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

After being disappointed by the last book (really an extended novella) I read by this author, it was good to sink back into a more vintage Barclay. He’s taken a great idea, just waiting to be written about and turned into an intricate weaving of two very different story lines that come together through mishap. It makes for easy ‘can’t wait to turn the next page’ reading.

Thomas and Ray are brothers whose father has just died. Thomas has a mental illness (described as schizophrenia but a lot more like aspergers) and a photographic memory for maps of google, or rather whirlpool or something like that. One of the pictures happens to be taken during a murder. Given how many Thomas looks at this is less implausible than it may sound. Anyway it kicks off a series of events, connecting him and his brother to the bad guys. We have aspiring politicians, suicidal wives, Olympic gymnasts turned psychopath and a strong message that once you start down the path of evil it can rapidly escalate! That said the guy that says no (appropriately) doesn’t do all that well. Better than the others though.

There isn’t a dull moment, a bit of a romance too, and surprises right until the end. Bit of a romp I guess like the last one but with much better story, tension and twists.

Thursday 28th March

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall

This is the first of (so far) two “Cate Austin” crime thrillers. The author is or was a parole officer, as is the heroine Cate, which actually makes for a novel take on crime, a different angle that is well done. I like the name of the novel too- I took it to mean one thing when in fact it means another, or maybe actually, both meanings are pertinent.

There is, besides Cate Austin, another main character, actually the main character. I am used to crime books where we are in the criminals head but always remain with the heroine crime fighter. In this book the ‘criminal’ is the protagonist in many ways and Cate Austin the moral centre. The story is compelling, well written and a definite page turner. There were twists though I mostly picked them, including the “shocking climax” but then I read  LOT of thrillers, am writing one, and work in this particular area in my other life, so it doesn’t mean it was obvious, and it didn’t honestly change the enjoyment.

This is a book about the desperate need for a child, and the horror of a child’s death at one level, but at another it is much more about who one is and what makes us.

Thursday 21st March

The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid

I read somewhere that this authors early books were being re-released and when I read this my first thought was this must have been one of them but the book they were referring to had Christmas in the title so I guess not. The reason I thought this was The Vanishing Point is so different to her other psychological crime thrillers I wouldn’t ever have picked it being from the same author. It’s more adventure and romp …or rather this is how it seems and perhaps more like the author I know, things are not always as they seem!

The story follows a ghost writer and her relationship with the reality celebrity she writes about  and the relationship that develops. It’s told in parallel with one thread current, where a kidnapped child is involved, and the other the story she is telling the FBI in the airport, going back in time and moving forward. There doesn’t seem like there is going to be any real twists or surprises, right up until she all but tells you who the kidnapper is (no surprises) and then….!!!

I wasn’t particularly enamoured of the reality TV world though her heroine reality star is complex and interesting and kept me reading even if I didn’t like the world she lived in. I’m still not sure about the ending. Needless to say I didn’t pick it but then I wasn’t expecting I had to. Perhaps a feat in itself.

Thursday 14th March

The Storyteller by Jodi Piccoult

I would have bought this anyway, because I read all Jodi Piccoult but I have to admit if it had been another author and the back page had mentioned what a good portion of the book is about, I may not have. And this would have been a mistake. The book is Piccoult at her glorious best, making us think and cry (but not really laugh though the idea of Jesus being baked in the bread was amusing).

The protagonist is Sage, a 25 year old from New Hampshire who is asked by a ninety five year old friend to help him kill himself. Sage herself has a number of issues she feels guilty about and this weaves into a story of guilt, lies and half-truths and the search for redemption.

I won’t put in any spoilers re twists but I am going to talk about what wasn’t on the back cover- so you may want to stop here.

The story is seen from Sage’s point of view, her grandmother during her time in Nazi Germany, as well as excerpts of a story she wrote back then-a wonderful allegory to her real world- and the agent who is attracted to Sage while searching for the ninety year olds identity as well as input from the elderly man. There are twists which I picked (I usually do) but nothing that stopped me enjoying the book (apart from wondering briefly why I was reading yet another account of the Holocaust during the grandmother’s flashback). It is beautifully written and brings into question about whether some things can never be forgiven. According to Piccoult (I’m not Jewish so I can’t verify), in Judaism murder and tarnishing a reputation are the two unforgiveable sins because neither can be regained, murder being literally unforgiveable as the victim is the only person who can forgive and they are dead, no one can do it on their part.

Though a long term tragic of every holocaust movie and book I have got to the point I don’t really want to read any more. We do need to ensure no one forgets, but this doesn’t seem to have stopped any number of other atrocities from one man to another since (Rwanda, Cambodia, Yugolsavia). Maybe it’s because these places haven’t seen all the movies and read the books I have. In any event, I think this book does add an extra dimension. I felt distinctly uncomfortable, interestingly, with the fact that Sage was fooling the man, guilty or not. I like honesty and it didn’t seem…fair. Because I live in a nice clean mostly fair world? Does the end justify the means? Should we forgive and forget? I don’t know and it isn’t my family it happened to (though I felt it was when I visited Anne Frank’s house, cried in everything from the Exodus to Schindler’s List, and when I cried for five solid hours in the DC Holocaust museum). But we do need to face some of these uncomfortable realities.

 

Thursday 7th March

Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

This is an interesting book that overall I enjoyed and certainly wanted to keep reading. But it broke some rules, and that at times led it to seem a little long and slow around the middle.

Firstly though a clear psychological thriller, there are few surprises or twists. We know a third into the book who did it (and is continuing to do it!) and have a damn good idea who the next at least attempted victim is going to be.

There is where the second biggest rule gets broken−the heroine is not feisty, strong or decisive. She’s passive, asocial and nerdy and at times I wanted to give her a good shaking. There is a clear reason why Haynes has made her like this, and the whole theme of the book is in many ways about personality and choices and how much we let others influence us. To the extent Haynes wants us to believe we can be influenced (well some people at certain times) is a little hard to swallow but she manages to pull it off, just, as well as having the heroine win us over.

Another new idea Haynes plays with is we hear from the dead people. Novels often have people we hear from before they die, but these we hear from afterwards. It jars a bit at times and there are a few which disrupts the flow a little, but some are quite engaging and overall I decided I didn’t mind this.

With most things having been done before, Haynes gives us something a little new and she is an author I will be reading more of.

Thursday 28th February

Web of Deceit by Katherine Howell

I need to review this quickly- my husband has already sat next to her (at his own book launch) and liked her and there was a great review in The Age on the weekend. And I’ll meet her tomorrow at a Sisters in Crime night…must not be influenced, must not let envy, female bitchiness or nepotism come into play!

This is labelled an “Ella Marconi” novel. I have read some but not all of the previous ones.

It traces a number of intersecting stories, one of which in the twist I didn’t pick (well the intersection actually). Initially this is confusing. There seems to be too many heroes! Alex and Jane the paramedics (which she does well and really brings alive) and Ella and her partner – ok, I have already forgotten his name but that’s because we only found he had a girlfriend and not much else. The other three have major family complications however, particularly the paramedics.

There’s a dead possible suicide or was he pushed with a pregnant wife, a stalker, an ex-con wanting retribution and then a missing child, an affair and ex-wives on the warpath…kind of makes you want to do a sea change…

It’s fast paced and plenty to keep you reading. I finished it at 1am after getting back on the later flight from Perth…but will I remember it? No, rather think not. Neither character nor plot grabbed me at a deeper level. But then thrillers (and this probably just creeps into the genre rather than straight crime) are probably only meant to have us turn the page and enjoy it while we are. She achieves that.

 

Thursday 21st February

Never Saw It Coming by Linwood Barclay

Keisha is a psychic. Actually, intuitive maybe, psychic, no. Except her intuition doesn’t help when picking her boyfriend, Kirk, who is a loser. She does work out that there is something wrong with the new mark, which shows off her survivor skills. Enter twist one, and then another shortly after. We know who dies and find out pretty quickly who did it, so this isn’t a who did it as much as it is a ‘what is going to happen next?”

I have to confess that though I didn’t mind this, it was a bit disappointing compared to previous ones and when I got to the end the author’s note kind of explained why. It started as a novella, and still reads like a short story, one of those that’s fast moving and a bit farcical and somehow easier to manage in a short story but not so gripping when it’s longer (though this is still relatively short). It also read less ‘worked’. I didn’t really like any of the characters (10 year old whom we don’t see much of, aside). It’s very light reading and I guess would be good for a young adult that was ambivalent about reading and into crime. I like more character and story development rather than a romp and more tension.

Thursday 14th February

Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham

This is vintage Robotham. Child Abuse, race murders, and Joe O’Loughlin even though he’s meant to be lecturing and looking after his Parkinson’s is doing neither and embroils his family yet again in danger.

Like much of the current crime thrillers there is a strong back story about the protagonist, psychologist O’Loughlin, including the separation, difficult teenager (who stared in an earlier book and led to the marital breakdown) and his illness. He’s likeable but not always sensible, irritating at times but we root for him. I like his friend Ruiz even more (also a star of an earlier novel).

The bad guys are bad and those at the periphery one dimensional and the real bad guy hard to believe at times but truth is stranger than fiction and in the end there are enough ‘real’crime stories that have us accept him probably more than another I won’t say more about in order to avoid putting in a spoiler!

It’s an easy read and keeps you wanting to turn the pages and has me looking out for the next book.

Thursday 7th February

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

Genre: Mystery? Yes and with a PI. But it’s pure delicious comedy and character!

I hadn’t read any Marian Keyes though I’ve seen her name around often enough in book shops. I kind of had a vague idea she was chick lit and none of the titles appealed so they were never picked up.

Then she read and gave a great review to my husband’s book, The Risoe Project (reviewed last week, scroll down!) and her latest book had a title that appealed and if it was chick lit at least it was crime related. So I picked it up (all 505 pages) and thought I’d give it a go.

First off, it’s not chick lit as I think of chick lit being anyway. Not sure of the exact definition, but this isn’t about babies, periods or menopause. It does however have a sassy feisty and very unusual interesting female protagonist and it’s one of the few books that I have laughed out loud reading. And when I wasn’t laughing there was a lot of smiling. Which is pretty remarkable given that Helen Walsh, the PI heroine, has a bad attitude and is suicidally depressed.

Keyes is easy to read but I struggled to get engaged in the first few chapters. The main story line is where is Wayne Diffney (I feel he might have been in a previous novel but I’m not sure). He’s an ex- Boy’s band singer gone AWOL prior to a reunion gig a lot of money is hanging on, and I didn’t really care all that much.

But then Helen Walsh got her claws into me and wouldn’t let go. Keyes does her beautifully. I had a psychotherapy patient for many years who was suicidally depressed and had a very black sense of humour. She used to scour the internet for novel ways to kill yourself and send them to me. Once it was in cartoon format and very funny. I would have liked to have used it in a presentation but only patients and authors I think can joke about suicide, and to be fair Keyes does this I think well and sensitively also. Anyway, Helen Walsh is a pretty Irish version of this woman, and with lots of wonderful quirks and complexities.

Where does one start with the beautiful quirkiness of character and book? One of the best mother –daughter relationships on paper. Or worst, but it’s priceless. Then there’s the colour scheme of Wayne’s house- gangrene is one colour but you must read it to find the others! And the wonderful relationships that unfold; Jay (her ex) the hot current squeeze Artie, his precocious nine year old matchmaking daughter Bella, teenage gay horror son and ex-wife who won’t quite let go. Picture the boy band (think One Direction in twenty years) flying onto the stage in bird outfits and you’ve got the idea. And she does a really nice rounding up and tying up of loose ends. I will be out to get another from this author.

 

Thursday 31st January

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This is a book review with a difference- I was there right from the start with this one, though I didn’t write it. Just happen to be married to the author. Out yesterday in Australia (available on order at therosieproject.com.au where there’s a cute trailer and two questionnaires, one to find out if you are compatible with the hero-not neccessarily a good thing-and the other to find which character you are most like). There is a lot of hype re this book which won the Premier’s unpublished literary award and then sold in 32 countries. There are already a number of reviews on Goodreads (including one by me, not this one though) and it’s interesting to get peoples takes.

Firstly, its a romantic comedy (for most people) about a socially challenged genetics professor who sets out to find a wife scientificallly.

Secondly, I and a number of people find it very laugh out loud funny but of course not everyone does. One reason not to is because Aspergers (which Don the hero probably has though it is never said) is tough for those who have it and thos around them. My cousin’s son tragically did and suicided. But while we might laugh at Don we are also laughing at ourselves and the times we muck up, and we are simultanously cheering him on and delighting in his successes. I work with depressed people and a sense of humour, even black humour, can sometimes help get you through the dark times. Perspective is important. Don is ridiculous at times but so can we all be and if this book endears us to someone who is a bit different, then how wonderful is that?

Thirdly, the voice. I know a number of people with Aspergers and they aren’t all the same, but this voice is spot on. One of our friends with Aspergers thought Don was fabulous (rational like we all shoudl be!) but wasn’t sure anyone would ‘get’ him.

Fourth- the ending. Okay maybe it is a bit schmultzy but we girls tend to like that! And as opposed to some reviewers who thought it unbelievable that Don changed, I don’t think he changes much at all. Rosie changes more than he does…

It’s a romp, a lot of fun, and has some great characters (for those of you who don’t like Gene, Don’s Professor friend who is a tad sleazy, and who I so see as being played by Alec Baldwin, one of my husband’s writing teachers thought it would be good if he killed himself…)

 

Thursday 24th January

The Thirty Day Gamble by Jill Blair

Contemporary Romance, western/cowboys 56,154 words (available at Bookstrand)

I thought it important to give the book style details to orientate you. Since writing erotica I’ve become aware of the many different types of romance books from sweet to Xtreme, and that in reviewing them one needs to do so mindful of the genre and its rules. I don’t read much straight romance, though I have to say this had some steamy scenes and plenty of sex!

Blair has written a classic feel good romance. It’s easy reading and I read it in one sitting (actually laying as I have sciatica and am only allowed to stand or lie so this was a great excuse to spend some time reading and not feel guilty!). I’m not American (and when I did live there it was New York) so cowboys aren’t my area of expertise but who doesn’t like to fantasize about a hunky man on a horse?

This Simone is young, attractive and needs money. She lands on the door step of Brent, a North Dakotan landowner, hoping to convince him to sign over oil rights and is literally bowled over. He isn’t interested in oil- but is happy to string her along to keep her around. Their attraction is immediate and mutual and there is an attempt to hold each other off- but not for long!

The writing is competent, the pages turn effortlessly (even without a subplot which I usually like, driving it), the characters and story believable and likeable (okay you have to believe in love/lust at first sight but it has happened to me, so I do!). Their romance is full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes, with an odd hiccup, but not enough to cause too much anxiety about where it’s all heading. Want to feel good about love and have a few hours to fill in? Curl up with this!

 

Thursday 17th January

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

As implied by the title and two authors, this is a book about two different main characters both called Will Grayson, in alternating chapters (presumably written by the different authors).

It took me a little while to get into it, not because it’s hard to read (it isn’t) but because unless you are an adolescent (17 year old) boy, this way of thinking and talking was usually (blessedly) restricted to interpretations of grunts from my son on walking in from school and at the dinner table where food was usually being inhaled and thus preventing meaningful discourse (not that there would have been any).

They do it well; the friendship and romance angsts, both gay and heterosexual, as well as the parental interactions. Throw in a larger than life best friend of one WG who befriends the other WG and there is plenty of room for fun. Particularly as the gay friend called Tiny (and who isn’t) writes a musical about being gay. It is so over the top it’s hard not to just enjoy the ride. The ending is kind of cute too (as well as the acknowledgements).

If you’re under 30 with a sense of humour this is definitely for you, or if your 17 year old is grunting rather than communicating. Everyone else – get into your teenage head space and you’ll have fun.

 

Thursday 10th January

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

A psychological thriller

If the key to a successful psychological thriller is gripping to the last page and not wanting to stop until you get there, then this has the master key. It’s Josephine Hart’s Damage and Sin, Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and a bit of East of Eden rolled into one and delivered by Catherine Medici.

Written in first person alternating chapters of husband and wife we follow early diary entries (hers) and post-her disappearance occurrences (his). For the first of the three sections. To say more risks a spoiler, though it was clear what the main twist was from the early on. That said, there are wonderful plot point turns to make us like, hate then like Nick again and much the same with Amy, though at the end it is hard to know who to like. The ugly long suffering cop perhaps.

Nick and Amy are wonderfully complex, alive and gritty real characters, though Amy ends up bigger than life (and I’ve know quite a few serious personality disordered people) and there is a degree of War of the Roses impossible! about it at times, particularly towards the end. But relationships are complex and often some of the most successful the most bizarre or unbelievable (think the Clintons, Jeffrey Archer and his infinitely complex wife…).

But the whole subplot of her Amy’s Amazing Amy childhood, living out her psychologist parents books, rings so possible that it is hard not to wonder at her complexity and how smart people survive childhoods either frankly abusive or more subtly so like this one. And why people stay in abusive situations.

A good read- but guys, not of you are about to get married to a pretty, cool, girl…

 

Thursday 3rd January

Love is a Canoe by Ben Schrank

This book follows author Peter Herman who published a one, one hit wonder a half century earlier.  It’s a cutesy book called Marriage is a canoe and talks about a summer he spent with his grandparents and the lessons he learnt from them about love and marriage. Excerpts of this are throughout the book and break themain story set in present time nicely.

The publishers decide to do a new edition and run a competition. The winners, Eli and Emily get to spend the weekend with Peter who is now widowed and ambivalent about his relationship with a woman who wants him to move states to be closer to her daughter.

Schrank brings alive his characters, who are all real and flawed and want to live happily ever after but don’t seem to have the right ingredients in their relationship or personality to do so. Having been a marriage counsellor I cringed at the thought that the publisher and author thought he could effortlessly do this job with some home spun old fashioned wisdom and was relieved that what actually happens is indeed what may well have!

The biggest criticism of the book is that the first third is far too slow. Many people may have given up before the pace picks up and becomes well-paced and interesting. The ending has two components one of which is more realistic than the other but is ultimately satisfying. Some of the old fashioned advice isn’t so bad and worth the read too.

 

Thursday 27th December

Black Mountain by Greig Beck

This isn’t my usual sort of book but I was interested in it because of the mystical side and that it was set (in part) in North Carolina and in particular Asheville which I have a very soft spot for. A lovely place to holiday incidentally, and there are wonderful ‘Yutes’ to stay in above the town, with fabulous views along the river. But I digress…

This is in fact like two book styles woven into one and of what I have read is most like Matthew Reilly of whom my soon is a fan and the book will now go to him (if he can drag himself out of Game of Thrones).

One story line with its own hero and heroine (don’t get excited, no romance worth talking about) is about the creature (think Yeti) that returns to the modern world and the archaeologists/ historians that are trying to make sense of it. They work in with the police who need all the help they can get.

The other story line is the continuation it would appear f previous books, with the return of Alex Hunter, think sci-fi in the sense that man has been modified and has extra capabilities. In this he has lost his memory but senses the abduction of his mother from the other side of the world and goes to save her. Here we have US secret service and Mossad at loggerheads, another hero (Alex) and heroine but again no real romance.

There is lot’s of action, I enjoyed reliving the North Carolina mountains (though no Yeti’s when I was there), it has a cracking pace, is easy to read and a bit of fun. I suspect my son will enjoy it more.

Thursday 20th December

Citadel by Kate Mosse

Mosse has established herself as a writer of page turning quests.

Just trying to find a good spot to read Were-Devils’ Revenge…

This one is probably even thicker than the previous (a definite long holiday pick for slow readers) and deviates a little from previous with the main part of the story being set in World War II south west France following a fictitious group of female resistance fighters. In keeping with her previous taste for history we also follow the original keeper of the religious manuscript which has come to help the people of the Midi in the past and then gets called upon again finally by the resistance fighters.

I have lived intermittently in central France in another area where the resistance was strong so I found it easy to identify with her theme and Mosse creates believable characters and makes us feel we are in 1940 France. So many of the issues of loyalty and fighting for ones beliefs are still so current if not in France then certainly in the middle east.

There is a touch of religion but not too heavy, made more magical, a love story, courage and friendship. I enjoyed it but though the time is brought alive the story is not strong. I wanted to keep reading and it is light easy reading even if long, but there was nothing in the end to make it particularly memorable. Still worthwhile holiday read!

 

Thursday 13th December

Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

This is a book I read a long time ago, before the movie, and the one that made me a Pat Conroy fan (I’ve read them all). It is I think a pity that it was made into a film- not because I disliked the film, on the contrary, I loved it despite the appalling breach of confidentiality and professionalism displayed by Lowenstein (a psychiatrist played by Barbra Streisland very ably, and with the best office any psychiatrist ever had. We’d all see one if we could lie down in a room like this, complete with leather chairs, French desk and bookshelves lined with probably Freud’s original first editions). But the pity is that the current generation will think it’s old and not worth reading or why read it if you can see the movie?

I re-read this weekend, a break from cocktails and wine and fabulous food of a gourmet weekend when you are so replete even conversation is beyond you. Then I kept reading until it was finished, drinking in and savouring every word, the images of South Carolina jumping off the page, the pain of the Wingo family in all its unique magnificence (as per Tolstoy’s comment re all happy families being the same but unhappy ones…) weaving itself into my heart and soul and I wondered why it hadn’t been in my top five books of all time?

I have them there in my mind, all things: The Fountainhead for all it did and didn’t say about women and stereotypes and politics (I was very young), The Magus because it was the first Serious book I had ever read and it opened up an extraordinary possibility of language and story that excited me even if the last section was disappointing, East of Eden for all it said about mothers, childhoods and the choices we have once we are adults to choose who we are despite our pasts (and the choice, the Bible interpretation, still sends shivers down my spine, A Prayer for Owen Meany for no other reason than it made me laugh and cry and then think as I felt my spirit soar, pleased inordinately to be for a fraction of time a member of the human race that can at times be so truly incredible, and…My mind went blank. The fifth disappeared and so I think truly I must put Prince of Tides in this place.

So why is Prince of Tides so special? Firstly, the language. It is so wonderfully evocative it takes my breath away, but not in the Literary way that some Booker prize winners do, where you feel the pain of each sentence etched on the writer’s soul. These words may well be carved into Conroy but they flow like this is how he breaths, that language for him is like it is his food and water and air. It is for this reason if no other that the book transcends far above the movie no matter how good Streisland and Nick Nolte were (and they were very well chosen).

The narrator, Tom Wingo, is an unreliable witness, but he comes to New York to help his twin sister who has been institutionalised after a suicide attempt, in an attempt to face his own demons and past as much as hers. Current New Yorkers would find the length of her hospital stay unlikely in the current world of insurance driven health care, and as a health carer in my other life, some of the professional transgressions are cringe worthy and (sadly) the degree of dedication to understanding the patient by her psychiatrist as opposed to trying a new drug, bordering on unbelievable. But it gives us a wonderful setting for Tom to tell us the Wingo story, fall in love with Lowenstein and in the midst of this save them all. It is a story that most definitely makes you laugh and cry and think. The voice of the hurting Tom, that covers his pain with black humour and sarcasm, is achingly perfect. So perfect it is hard to believe that much of Conroy isn’t in him or that somewhere he found time to study psychiatry and Freud and all the nuances of the essence of an ambivalent mother-child relationship and the pain and ongoing scars it creates unless healed.

There is much pain in his childhood but while you feel it, there is no true self-pity here, and the pain does not make you want to slit your own wrists and wish you had never started the journey (as the movie Beautiful Kate did- not even the wonderful photography and good acting could save it as far as I was concerned) but rather, I wanted to cheer him and Savannah his sister and even his mother and father on, I  moved with his forgiveness, the only way to ultimately move on from such a background, and I celebrated with him his capacity to do so.

But what it left me with was the whisper of the South, of a love of language, a triumph of human spirit and of love. The book and the movie end the same. I remembered it from all the years ago, and when I stared in my own movie (one that never saw the light of day beyond one wonderful showing at the Kino on my birthday where I fulfilled an unrequited dream to walk the red carpet) I did the same thing at the end as I drove my convertible over the bridge. It was just a different city in the background and different words on my lips, but the sentiment was the same. As I came to the end of this wonderful book for a second time I was terrified it had only been the movie that had ended this way. But when I turned to the final page it was there and I celebrated and cried as I closed the book, once more.

Thursday 6th December

Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd

I picked this book up (one click on Amazon) after reading an article in the Age about how women were expecting too much of men in bed. The article cited a woman divorcing her husband for being too boring; the journalist presumed she’d taken 50 Shades of Grey a little too far and hoped that Thursdays in the Park, more moderate by any standards but aimed at the grey haired audience wouldn’t lead to a rush to the divorce courts.

There is already, prior to either of these books a rush to the divorce courts, but I take the journalists point. If one believes in fiction, particularly over the top fiction like 50 Shades (and I put my books in the same category for this discussion) then we are set to be disappointed. But romance, erotica or otherwise has always been about fantasy. In my were-devils series there are two devoted men to one woman. The rules of the genre say they aren’t allowed to look elsewhere and the rules came about because the publishers want to give the readers something predictable. I cried at the ending of Bridges of Maddsion country (which is a love story, not a romance) and presumably women reading romances want to drift off to sleep happy.

Which brings us on a Thursday, to Thursdays in the Park. If you are searching for a second Christian Grey don’t look here. I wouldn’t have mentioned the two books in the same article if the journalist hadn’t. This is a love story, not a romance, but don’t panic, you’ll still be able to drift off to sleep happily.

While we are comparing, this one is not great literature but it is better edited, readable, but ultimately forgettable. It is much more realistic than 50 Shades, particularly the analysis of the marriage breakdown, the not talking and drifting apart after thirty years, the niggling irritations and the bigger elephants in the room. The heroine is turning 60 and most certainly does not want to be referred to as the ‘Old Girl’. She doesn’t feel it, is still active and enjoying her job. Her husband on the other hand has retired too early and is aging too fast.

The attraction to the other grandfather in the park is believable and develops in the same way it would have had she been younger (and as conservative) and I like this. Fifty and sixty year old still enjoy intimacy, need physical contact and affection. Being taken for granted doesn’t cut it- marriages have to be worked at. She develops some good characters (though the hero is the weakest), relatively complex three dimensional people with mixed motives, particularly her daughter and son-in-law (though at times he was hard to believe).

The resolution, the overly easy ends being tied up, is too trite and heads this back to being a romance. In fact the only reason it isn’t, is that the heroine is unfaithful (a taboo of romance genre). I was pleased that the characters were more realistic and older than the traditional, but it lacks in story (I tend to be story driven in my own work) and though the main characters are not bad, there isn’t enough in the end to make it as gripping and interesting say as a Joanna Trollope.

Thursday 29th November

Foal’s Bread by Gillian Meares

I knew this was a Literary book when I bought it. I was at the Premier’s literary awards and it won. It had Helen Garner on the cover saying it was “glorious” and the person who took the award on her behalf talking about her in hushed tones that along with the comments from the author at the end (which I read first) and the article in the paper, I knew this was a long time coming, a special book from a special person who among other things is well qualified to write about a chronic insidious illness. It was also about horses and I thought if nothing else this would speak to me, as I was brought up with them and though an eventer not show jumper, I still get a tear in my eye when I watch International Velvet.

So I was surprised at how much I struggled (but keep reading, the struggle was worth it). Because I read a lot of popular easily digested fiction, often the first chapter of  Literary book is hard going. All those meaningful sentences that have been agonised over. But this struggle took me until half way through the book, not because of the obvious effort of literary genius (its very nicely written and not painfully Literary), but because of the Australian vernacular that she “effortlessly creates” and is lauded for but which just makes me cringe. I’m obviously a cultural snob but I have very little in common with people that sprinkle “fair dinkum” in their prose and I don’t like Kerry Greenwood’s Phyrne Fisher books for the same reason. It’s not just Aussie slang I don’t like, I disliked Grapes of Wrath as well.

Then there were the horses. This is about pre and postwar Jumping circuit and I struggled to believe it or make sense of it in the light of my own much more recent experience, including following serious eventers around. They were more like Jilly Cooper’s riders than this salt of the earth working class rural family.

But then about half way through what is a dense book, the transformation happened. I had been pulled in by Meares’s characters and they had woven their magic about me. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish. Her true genius I think is not in the sentences individually but how each reflection however brief, each thought of each character, are woven together to create a patchwork of complexity that have these characters jumping off the page (and over the jumps). Nothing is heavy handed, but with each look and regret you feel their pain and you long to fix it. But you also know their strengths and soar with them when they overcome and even when they give in, because it somehow seems right.

It is a story of pain, love and tragedy, of abuse and recovery, of damnation and redemption. I saw some of the ending coming but not all, and even then it didn’t matter. I wanted to ride the last jump and have the last final triumph and failure. A beautiful book and one that will be remembered in images but even more in the memory of feelings, and one that is certainly worth the struggle.

Thursday 22nd November

Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This is the third and unlikely to be the last (it leaves you with a definite more is to come ending) of the Cemetery of Books series (this is my name for them) starting with the best known, Shadow of the Wind, and followed by The Angels’ Game. It is in mood the same−highly evocative of Europe of the past for all its at least partly contemporary setting. Cobblestoned streets, dark lanes, mysterious strangers, and of course the library of lost books, sure to pull in every avid reader with its nostalgic charms.

He does character well, the wonderful Fermin who I would say was totally implausible in his manner of speaking if I didn’t know someone similar. Fabulously wordy and grand, where each sentence is half swallowed dictionary and half love poem. It would be too much if they all spoke like this- the contrast in wonderful with the more ‘ordinary’ characters, though they are only ordinary in their manner of speaking, and perhaps a little in the obviousness of their emotional reactions. But the circumstances are never ordinary so we are whisked along for the ride.

I read this pretty much in one sitting. It’s light, fun, and keeps you turning the page. Will I remember much in a few months? Probably not- but I will remember the feeling and just have too close my eyes and be in the old lanes of Barcelona.

Thursday 15th November

War and Peace and Sonya by Judith Armstrong

This is an interesting book in the manner of Wolfhall that is currently trendy- the fictionalisation of real people and events. Purists don’t like the idea but to me, as long as well researched, it helps bring alive people and time that adds to the enjoyment and understanding of their books. My days of reading Tolstoy are long gone- I loved Anna Karenina but I have to confess that I only read the ‘Peace” chapters of War and Peace and all those Russian names did my head in.

Armstrong’s book took me a while to finish (though not as long as War and Peace) but I did get there and I found it easy to pick up from where I had dropped off (and another more compelling book jumped into my hands). She follows Sonya, mother to Tolstoy’s 13 (7 surviving) children and famously the person who hand wrote War and Peace out multiple times. Love hath no limits…well it did ultimately in this tumultuous relationship. I’d have left her too but then I wouldn’t have stayed with him! I admire Armstrong’s ability to stay with them both. Sure they were off the times and their culture, but neither likeable.

I still struggled with Russian names, nicknames and all the damn children. Tolstoy in this version is moody and irritating, the genius refusing to take responsibility for anything pretty much and whose religion, morals and ethics were at best lacking perspective and were most surely key to the ongoing difficulties with Sonya who was long suffering but also excessively romantic and dependent (though very capable at the same time). Complex characters and lives- well written and interesting though I had to take it in chunks.

 

Thursday 8th November

Nine Days by Toni Jordan

This book moves away from her first two (Addition previously reviewed here, and Fall Girl which I believe is in a similar style but I haven’t read it yet). It was inspired by the photo that features on the cover, of a woman being hoisted on someone’s shoulders in order to be able to kiss a uniformed man hanging out of a departing train. We don’t know exactly the connection until near the end: Ms Jordan has developed a complex family and circumstances that finally come together in current time but harking back to the war (WWII) era of the photograph.

I wasn’t sure in the first chapter that the book was going to work for me. First chapter, beautifully created, is the world of a 14 year old boy (Kip) circa 1939, complete with Australian slang, working class Catholic ideology and a strong sense of place in the grimy surrounds of central Melbourne. It was well done, just not my thing. I nearly didn’t continue, but cast my eye over the next chapter as I closed the book and realized that she jumps into the future, current time, with a narrative from the first character’s daughter. This character is pure Jordan; funny, quirky and troubled. Luckily she decides being a counsellor is not for her. Many equally troubled soldier on…

Each chapter is from a different point of view, both Kip’s daughters, a grandson, his brother, his sister, his wife. It jumps between people and time but the thread is strong and easily followed. There are the triumphs and tragedies, a little predictable but nicely done without too much schmaltz and enough left to the imagination. Some characters I thought were stronger than others, but overall it’s a wonderfully woven tale of Melbourne from the last war until now, all inspired by a photo of unknown people whose real history has been lost in time.

Thursday 1st November

“Crime” and “Guilt” by Ferdinand von Schirach

These are two books, both by a German barrister relating fictionalised versions of cases he has been involved with over a long career. There are excerpts of lives, more longitudinal takes, snippets and short stories. They are beautifully written and I assume translated, though I have a Rumanian friend who reads things in German and says they are usually much more magical in a language that is poetic on paper if not to the ears. If so reading this in German would be wonderful, but alas beyond my capacity.

Given the author’s background the focus revolves to some extent around the crime, but the beauty of the books are the author’s perspective, balance and insights. These do not extend to deep psychological insights but there is always the sense that von Schirach intuitively understands the human condition, and is mindful of where the law does not always get it right. His balance, humour (one of the stories is laugh out loud funny) and sensitivity makes these stories touching and informative and should be compulsory reading for all future lawyers and criminal psychologists, but perhaps even more so, those who are quick to blame and think the world is black and white.

 

Thursday 25th October

Addition by Toni Jordan

Grace has a problem. Or at least some of us would think she has- she isn’t so sure. She likes numbers and numbers rule her life. Numbers of steps to get to places, how many times she chews her food. There aren’t too many places numbers haven’t taken over. She’s 38, living alone and no longer working as a teacher because the Education Dept want her to do more than count children…

Enter Seamus, an Irish-Australian who works in a cinema. He likes Grace for who she is but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to help her. An antidepressant and several group therapy sessions later she’s mostly rid of her OCD (a simplification in the real world but I can buy this) but just where does this leave her?

This is a really nice book at two levels. Just reading it as it is, a flawed heroine and a hero who means well and gets it wrong- and who wouldn’t-means this is a feel good novel for the troubled. He does also get it so right sometimes and I’d like to bottle him for some of my patients! It does end happily (well you could argue this one).

Then at the other level is the one that therapists should read. In my other life I treat women with OCD, with drugs and with therapy. What I like about this book is that it accepts and outlines current evidence based treatment but then counters it with the reality of the experience that most therapists don’t like to acknowledge. The treatment is not perfect. It has side effects. And patients, those that are the sufferers, make choices that we as the therapists don’t always like or agree with. The antidepressants put on weight, take away her libido and worse, they take away from Grace the feeling of who she is. From the outside the benefits of not counting, that she can get to her nieces concerts, outweighs the negatives. But we are not her and Jordan helps us briefly understand the dilemma from within. A nice observation that makes you think Well done.

Thursday 18th October

Backlash by Lynda La Plante

I heard Ms La Plante talk at the Melbourne writer’s festival last year and was impressed. She is a wonderful speaker, perhaps courtesy of her actress background. She’s had a colourful life and her early experiences in acting has enabled her to grasp personality from her research and transfer it to the screen – and to her books. I have read most if not all and found them enjoyable, as well as gritty, with tight plots and excellent characters. Think Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect.

As writers get older and start churning out serials there is a tendency to rely on their established characters (not such a bad thing) and stick to formulas. The latter is less of a success and the former variable depending on how well they were set up in the first place. I’ve stopped buying James Patterson, stopped buying Ludlum’s before he died and got franchised for these problems as well as perhaps being a bit lazy. Or burnt out. It must be hard to keep feeling inspired and come up with fresh or new ideas. Also I wonder if when you become famous and guaranteed of sales you either ignore editors or they get lazy. I haven’t read JKRowlings latest but just from weight I wonder about this!

So to Lynda La Plante’s. Mmm. Some if not all of the above problems. There are two good characters well developed in previous books- Anna Travis and James Langton. Trouble is, apart from the latter being grumpy and in pain as usual (okay a knee op but just more of the same), and Anna grieving over her murdered fiancée, there is no further development in their lives or relationship. Then there’s the plot. It reads like following a police operation. A high level case maybe but otherwise business as usual. No real twists (you can barely say the end is even a surprise). Writing is competent but from someone this successful I expect more.

Thursday 11th October

 Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope

One of the many delights of having a holiday house that people occasionally rent and relatives drop into is that they leave books. One of the first things we did when we got the house in France was to buy a bookshelf, after converting one of the three pieces of furniture bought with the house into one. Even then we’re getting short of space.

I love books in a way that E-books will never replace. The touch, feel, the rearranging in the book shelf, the search for old favourites. For reasons that completely escape me I have to get out The Rule of Four every time I am here. After I had revisted Princeton where it was set I could understand this, but why there ever after? Princeton is USA after all, our house is resoundingly French. Perhaps because one of the delights of that book (that I may review another time) is that it is about books, their mystery and their power.

But on this occasion I pulled out Joanne Trollope’s Daughter-in-Laws, left by whom knows? I know her name well, but for whatever reason, had never read her. Given I like Jodie Piccoult, I wonder why. Of the authors I read that is the one this book at least was most like.

It could also been entitled Mothers. I don’t yet have a daughter-in-law but am at that stage of life where my children’s partners are important people in our lives, so maybe this was why the book resonated. As someone who deals with women who have postnatal depression and one of the frequent issues for them is their husband’s apparent difficulties moving to be loyal to wife over mother, I may start handing the book out routinely. There are many sage observations beautifully, occasionally a little heavily handedly, that course the pages of this novel as Rachel comes to terms with growing older and letting her three boys go, her sons come to terms with being men and husbands rather than sons, and the women, mothers and daughters, realise as they become mothers, the compromises life entails.

Best of all I love the candid observation that the doctor mother of spoilt Charlotte makes:

‘You can change your situation, but it (the next situation) will be the same if you don’t change yourself.’

Change is hard, but it is what life is all about. The most to the point quote on the internet I could find about this was from, of all people, Oprah. Well she should know. You can’t be a success like her without this understanding.

Thursday 4th October

Birthday’s for the Dead by Stuart MacBride

I read a lot of crime and psychological thrillers−there are a lot out there! These days most have flawed characters, and I’m referring to the heroes not just the criminals. This is no expectation, but it is different to the others I’ve read. It took a little while for me to get into it. The hero, DC Ash Henderson is to be blunt, a brut. I do wonder at what real cops think about this sort of representation of solving problems with fist first, ask questions later (a real issue as he often beats up the wrong person. We do forgive him because the ‘wrong’ person usually deserves it). There is also a lot of cover up by the other cops too, but by the time I got about a quarter of the way in, I just accepted this world as it was.

The character that initially rubbed me the wrong way was the psychologist, Alice, who is to say the least dysfunctional. But bear with her−the interactions with Ash are priceless and probably what makes the book a real winner. That and the pace, which is fast, and the gritty underground world that is portrayed. The ending left me somewhat shattered so don’t expect a happy ever after, but its real and oddly makes sense even if its not how I wanted the world to be. There’s a serial killer (which I am so over) that isn’t really particularly believable, but the underworld psychopathic Mrs Kerrigan is much more fun, the stripper (no dancer)girlfriend, the ex-wife and daughters caught up in the web, make us keep wanting to read.

Thursday 27th September

The Fell Walker by Michael Woods

I bought this book at a Pub in Cumbria because it was set in the Fells of the Lake District where I was walking the Coast to Coast. Unlike the Camino I was having my bags carried so the extra weight was not an issue!

This is another serial killer story and I had sworn off them, but I quite enjoyed this, possibly because of the references to the walk I was doing. It did make me a little nervous as I was walking the crags in mist and gale force winds though, as the victims are thrown from the cliff. Our hero is a small town journalist who really isn’t after a big story but it comes to find him in more ways than one. The writing is competent and the story gripping enough to keep you wanting to turn the page. The villain is not quite believable but by and large this doesn’t get too much in the way of a good yarn.

There is a threat woven in to the heroes relationship which isn’t paid off as well as it could be and the demise of one character is a bit unsatisfactory in this regard, but it’s an enjoyable holiday read.

Thursday 20th September

All That I Am by Anna Funder

People far more eloquent than I have reviewed this book, and given it has already won prizes and is likely to win more, probably many more eloquent people will continue to review it. Given the range I read and write, it’s hard to give ‘numbers’ to books that are meaningful. If I was comparing this to similar books I would give it 4.5 out of 5, but that doesn’t mean I think it is less or indeed in any way comparable to ones in the romance genre I have given 5 out of 5.

I was reluctant to buy it initially when I saw it was about the Nazis. I was an avid reader and film watcher of all WWII spy thrillers and holocaust books but I have to say I am little tired of them. So I was pleasantly surprised that I was wrong about what it was about in the first instance. Yes it is about Germany and the Nazis, but in the 1920’s and 30’s – pre-war, of which I am far less familiar.

The second pleasant surprise was that it was a fictionalisation of a real story, including one character that the author had met and knew. I am an avid fan of ‘real’ stories, and like many ‘real’ stories, after googling, this one is stranger than fiction, and most certainly needed to be told.

I wasn’t surprised by the quality of writing. This is a literary book, not fast paced, page turning populist. But the characters are wonderful, the story slowly compelling and working its way under your skin, a story of love and friendship between girlfriends (not sexual), passion for a cause, people’s ability to rise above the circumstances and fight and fall, of betrayal and weakness as much as of strength.

Be uplifted, and reminded. We shouldn’t ever forget and it is wonderful that authors like Funder find new ways to keep us reading and remembering.

Thursday 13th September

Hemmingway and Gellhorn

Bigger than life characters, love, infidelity, war and tragedy. It has all the components of not just a good but a great story, one better than Hemmingway himself could have written.

Except that it isn’t. Perhaps because Hemmingway didn’t write it. It’s hard to know just where to lay the blame for what is at best a lack lustre film that would pass time while eating a pizza. Certainly the screenplay is a large part of it. I should hesitate here because Hemmingway (in the film) assaults the critic who dared to suggest he had lost it (and worse, couched it in terms of loss of masculinity, an issue which the war, booze, bullfighting and big game hunting obsessed Hemmingway certainly battled with). But the film perhaps attempted to do too much and in doing so did too little.

We see quite a bit of Spain where Martha Gellhorn first becomes a war correspondent, something she continues into old age. Kidman as an aged Gellhorn starts as the narrator (the one academy award this film should get is for the makeup. An amazing job of aging her that close up you would swear was real) and we finish with her. In between she goes to Finland, takes him to China and they live in Cuba, the boredom getting to her while Hemmingway is playing and drinking.

The camera work is good but again I wonder if they tried to do too much. It was something I was very conscious of. Lots of tricks like the reflection in the bird’s eye, the blurring into black and white so you think it is authentic war film until suddenly Kidman and Owen are there.

The war scenes should have made us feel what they did and they didn’t. Perhaps because as beautiful as Kidman is she still to me is an ice queen.

Their love, set up as Hemmingway’s greatest (which I was left wondering about), may suffer for similar reasons, but Clive Owen, an actor I find very sexy and appealing (usually) is equally to blame. I was left feeling they were both difficult people, which I’m sure they were, but liking neither, perhaps also because they weren’t very likeable people.

In essence, Hemmingway’s greatness will remain on the page. He didn’t like the movie version of his book either.

Thursday 6th September

The Sapphires

It was a fun film I might not have seen had the film club not chosen it. Over a dozen of us turned up and the consensus I think was good to great, from 3.5 to 5 out of 5.

It’s based on a true story and I believe the screen play was co-written by the son of one of the four Indigenous singers the story is about. Resolutely Australian, complete with a few cringe worthy moments and over acting in the unfortunately probably realistic racist scene when in 1958 the girl sang in a talent contest at a local pub, it tells of four young women who gor to sing to the troops in Vietnam. After they came home they were probably unhappily unaccepted, but went on to do great things for their community.

The actresses are brilliant, all wonderful characters and the songs, singing and Jessica Mauboy’s voice- wow! It’s light, funny, uplifting and makes for a good night- I recommend it.

Thursday 30th August

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

When I read that this was coming out as a movie in a couple of months I was surprised (see preview on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9Hjrs6WQ8M). Then I thought- read it quick if you haven’t already!

This book was apparently rejected by five publishers (take note and hope fellow authors!) before being published in 2001 and getting the Booker prize in 2002. I read it in 2002 and it’s one of those incredibly powerful stories that never leaves you. It’s true to say too I guess it is a ‘twist’ and ‘gimmick’ that makes it truly powerful (though it is very well written) hence why read it before the movie, but I guess the movie experience will be very different between those who know the ending and those who don’t.  I’ve only seen the trailer so I don’t know how they manage it but it’s a well known director s I’m optimistic (though surprised).

It is called a fantasy adventure I think but it wasn’t like that to me so don’t let this title put you off. There is one main character and a lot of animals (one of the reasons it didn’t seem an obvious film choice) but this may well have been played with a bit- the youtube clips have references back to India.

The book is remarkable, highly memorable and very uplifting. Hopefully the film will be also.

Thursday 23rd August

Breaking Dawn Part One

I’m referring to the movie here, not the book though I have read this.

My son (22) got this out – he’s into vampires, Buffy and alternative worlds and he had read the Twilight series though he wasn’t exactly fond of the heroine and the lack of action was disappointing (in contrast he loved The Hunger Game Series except the end).

My daughter (20) who hadn’t read the books but had seen the earlier films wanted to watch so she and her boyfriend joined us.

We wanted to fast forward through the wedding scene to stop the guys vomiting but instead watched the train wreck. Well her dress looked nice from the back.

There wasn’t much story to begin with so to divide into two didn’t help the pace, level of interest or tension. Of all the movies this was by far the weakest. I mainly watch it for Jacob though being the reminded in this how the author resolves him being unmatched didn’t enhance my enjoyment.

All three of the younger people watching (whom it was aimed for I presumed) found more so than me that Bella was completely wimpy and unlikeable. My children find her frankly unbelievable. I wonder how much this then is a Midwest/American thing, because the same style heroine has been incredibly popular in Fifty Shades. I prefer my heroines to be gutsy and heroes not to have a powder job. Jacob really looked healthier if nothing else than Edwin!

My son was time sharing with reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Someone had told him it had a story but he got bored in the sex scene which says more about the book than him and half way through the movie threw the book at the TV- a comment on both film and BD part one.

Thursday 16th August

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

I read this book a long time ago but it is one of the few books I have ever read that has stayed with me visually and viscerally. I was reminded of it again recently because another friend of mine read it around the same time and had had a long animated conversation about how great it was and my husband who had also read it couldn’t see what we saw in it. That friend died suddenly-while reading-when still far too young. I hope his teenage boys have inherited his love of books- as their mother also does I suppose they will. I hope this is one they one day enjoy.

I can see the snow melting on the court room window, I can see the lovers in the carved out tree trunk and smell the pine. I feel the anguish of the Japanese who were ostracised during world war two on this little American island somewhere off the west coast. This is a must read. A mystery, a court room drama (in a small island court) and a love story it is ll so story of tolerance and intolerance, a story for all time. If you read his other books and didn’t like them don’t be put off. This book is by far his best.

Thursday 9th August

Cold Grave by Kathryn Fox

I’ve followed the progress of this novelist and her character Anya Crichton with interest, partly because she’s another Aussie health professional and partly because she seems to have at least partly cracked into the same league as Patricia Cornwell and a number of other authors (eg Tess Gerristen) who combine medicine and crime. Cold Grave is the latest in the series, and as with the others also has an ongoing romance/social complications in the background.

For me this book had a slow start. The romance/social side of things was more compelling (sadly) when she had her ex were at each other’s throats and initially their playing happy families on board a cruise ship was hard to believe. The crime side of things was also disjointed and there really seemed to be no connection between two vastly different crimes and nothing much to make us care all that much.

Then about halfway the pace and interest picks up. The main theme−date rape on a cruise chip−was clearly inspired by a real life story that played out in the courts in Australia. In this case the offenders are American but Fox grasps the subculture well and is suitably appalled. In the second half Fox brings the victim and her family to life, probably more believably than the other half of the picture involving big business and money.

In the second half the relationship between Anya and Martin is also more believable and compelling and leaves us wondering where to from here.

In the end I enjoyed it but wished the first half was tighter.

Thursday 2nd August

Bloodline by Felix Francis

It’s an interesting notion that fiction writing can be a family business. I’m used to Smith and son plumbers of Jones and Daughter lawyers even, but fiction didn’t seem to be in the same mould. But having read every Dick Francis book (and there are lots) including the biography of a jockey (I think it was Lester Piggett but don’t hold me to that!) there was a definite formula that was kind of like returning to a familiar friend, putting on your slippers and dipping into something mostly forgettable but a bloody good ride in the moment. Despite there being some definite similarities between characters and stories- well they do all revolve around horseracing- there are actually a few of the heroes and the stories that stand out. He wasn’t going to get the Pulitzer but I enjoyed him more than many prize winners I’ve read.

So along comes his youngest son Felix, first co-writing. This is the first one on his own, and yes he has the hang of the family story structure and characters and he hasn’t at least not yet made the romance hotter. Bloodline is …well the family business continuing. I’ve never been into racing but rode and evented as a teenager (LOVE the three day event at the Olympics and the current coverage is driving me nuts. We lost Sam Griffith, who went to pony club with my sister, somewhere on the cross country, then see his horse dashing off riderless and never got to see what happened despite cameras in trees, helicopters and just about everywhere else. Not happy.). It probably helps to have some interest in horses. That said, there is a story, bad guys, tension and in this one a death (not sure one his Dad would have done and it certainly surprised me but good to be kept on my toes). Definitely light and relaxing, take it on your holiday.

Thursday 26th July

Mists of Avalon by Marion Bradley

Since my teenage years, long before I became entranced with the Lord of the Rings trilogy I was captivated by the magic of the Arthurian trilogy by Mary Stewart, an easily accessible journey in first person into the magic and times of Arthur and Merlin. When I went in person to the ruins of Tintagel, the castle where Arthur was conceived with the help of Merlin ensuring the right man was in the Queen’s chambers, I let the afternoon drift away as the sea crashed on rocks below and relived every moment as if I was there.

The lure of Camelot- either the movie or the romance between Arthur and Gwenhwfar (many spellings and versions, this is Marion Bradley’s) had never had the same pull as Merlin, the magic and evil Morgaine set to destroy Merlin in much the same way as Delilah does Samson. In the lord of the Rings it was the magic of the ring that kept me reading, not the wars and strange creatures.

So years after reading these I came across what is probably the quintessential tale of Arthurian times, The Mists of Avalon.

It’s a big book-over a thousand pages in my version. But Mary Stewart took three thick books so compared to that perhaps it isn’t so overwhelming, thought the writing is dense and more consciously literate than the easy to read Stewart.

But it is equally as captivating, a tale with a different spin that enhances the role and characters of the women Gwenhwfar, Morgaine, and Viviane, lady of the lake, who isn’t prominent in other versions. The prose is wonderfully evocative and it is easy to slip into a different time and accept the magic of the mists, and indeed be desperate for such a time to have existed.

But even without the magic, Bradley’s book would still soar. Her characters, their depths and motivations jump off the page and ensure you will turn the next. The passion and enchantment wind together to create a true epic that anyone interested in these times must surely read.

 

Thursday 19th July

Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George

 

This is the latest in George’s series following Thomas Lynley, English aristocrat and police Inspector. I’ve read them all and continue to look in the new bestseller’s section at Heathrow whenever I am there hoping to get the next early.

It is best to read them in order because her characters are wonderful and complicated and she builds on them. That said you could still pick this up and enjoy it without ever having read another. She is a master because at every level- plot, character, place and language- she weaves a spell.

Lynley is complex and troubled, never more so than after the death of his wife and unborn child and his relationship with another Inspector with an alcohol problem never looked like it would go well (she’s a long way off the dead wife but then that’s the problem. No one will ever match her). Throw into the mix at the other social end, Barbara, the cop doing it hard, they are an interesting couple of work mates.

As always we are taken to a part of England George brings alive for us. The plot set in the upper classes where Lynley is more comfortable than your average cop, means there’s less of the grimy end of crime in this book, and Debra (a long complicated relationship to Lynley including through her paraplegic husband where a drunk Lynley was driving) reappears with the ongoing fertility saga.

George writes at the border of literati and popular fiction, beautiful but accessible. I’m looking forward to the next.

Thursday 12th July

A Scandalous Proposition by Wendy Soliman

What a delicious title for an historical romance! Titillates our twenty first century minds and then firmly plants us back in 1809. Right from the first line when we meet Major Lord Adam Fitzroy (so wonderfully British, do people still have titles like this? Probably…) we are swept up by events that keep us wanting to read. It might be 77,000 words but everyone of them races along.

So the heroine? Florentina, a feisty Spanish woman involved in intrigue who is (of course) beautiful but also smart and with integrity. She tries to fool Adam who quickly sees through her pretence and seeks to both help her and win her over. These two characters, plus the conniving sister-in-law, Philippa, are well drawn and jump off the page. The romance is up front and central, and then the subplots involving Philippa’s pregnancy, a range of cads and a plot involving Spain, ensure there is never a dull moment.

For me who loves clothes, one of the great things about historical romances is the clothes and there’s plenty to enjoy here in literally bodice ripping scenes. We get to enjoy the bodices and voluminous skirts without the inconvenience of actually having to wear them! Adam strutting around in army dress uniform also paints quite a picture.

So download it, settle in a comfy chair and allow yourself to go back two hundred years. This book makes the journey effortless. You just may not want to come back to 2012.

 

Thursday 5th July

Film – Haywire

This week I’ve been too busy catching up on everything that had happened and been waiting while I was away for four weeks to get around to reading a book. Though I now have two fellow Siren writers books, ‘A Scandalous Proposition’ (Wendy Soliman) and ‘Trouble in Sugar Creek’ (Donna Cooper) on my IPad and have started the former. On the plane home on Monday though I watched Haywire.

Because I have been involved on a few short films in varying roles, and done a film course, I have a lot of respect for filmmakers. It takes a lot of time money and heartache. The actors get it easy – it’s the editors that have the hard task. Probably the Directors too though being a Producer in Australia and finding money is perhaps the most impossible task.

Haywire is about a woman (Gina Carano, I didn’t know her from anything) who works for a private company (boss Ewan Mc Gregor) who does dirty stuff the government (Michael Douglas with Antonio Bandera) can’t. Our heroine is channelling Elisabeth Salander (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) but doesn’t quite make it. She kicks butt, you get the idea. But she gets double crossed and goes in search of the bad guy.

Despite good stars (heroine is the weakest but okay) and a reasonable story, there are some real weaknesses and the thing that maddened me most was the editing. Long chase scenes with limited action just to annoying music.

If you’ve got a pizza and a cheap red and nothing better to do, get it out when it’s on DVD.

Thursday 28th June

Maine by J.Courtney Sullivan

When I am away for work or holiday I read even more than normal and like wherever possible to read something from the place I am in. This is a lot more meaningful if you’re somewhere exotic or even just culturally different (eg Coetzee’s Disgrace when I was in South Africa) and doesn’t seem quite as meaningful when you’re in the USA given there are so many American authors and it’s not like they often couldn’t be British or Australian in many ways. Pat Conroy evoking South Carolina would be an obvious exception. This trip to USA I found another, from a State I have crossed the border to but little else; Maine.

This was definitely a book written by a woman. It’s quite long (509 pages) and is about Relationships. Emotions and Families. My husband’s writing class was full of mostly middle aged women doing just this and never getting published. This author is younger and writes well, not too “literarty” but closer to Literary than popular. I enjoyed it, I kept reading it, but I suspect it will disappear into the recesses of my mind to never be retrieved, without the vivid images of the State that Conroy does.

The characters are good, sympathetic and believable. Real people (primarily women) with flaws, the mother (there’s always a flawed mother because well yes that is real life no matter how hard they try sometimes and however unfashionable it may be to blame the mother) but no real surprises but we feel for them all – life is difficult and they do their best. The plot is thin or rather there isn’t one, just a family in their misery and the difficulty of trying to work it out. If you like family sagas of the literary kind, with plenty of feeling, this is for you. If you want things to Happen, then it probably isn’t.

Thursday 21st June

Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L.James :  Technical Evaluation.

There are over 500 reviews of the first, Fifty Shades of Grey, at least, on Amazon. Most are good, hence the best seller list. An article I read last week said it was selling 100,000 copies a week. I “took a peek” as Amazon allows you to, weeks ago when the hype first happened and the “craps” and holy craps” drove me crazy and I had too much writing to do so I didn’t bother. Then I had plane flights Australia to Europe, Europe to USA, across USA and finally back to Australia. Amazon, one click. Well actually three because after the first which leaves you up in the air I bought the next two, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. A brilliant marketing technique from both ELJames and Amazon- you don’t have to think hard about one click. And it sold me two books I didn’t enjoy all that much.

Let’s just get the nitty gritty out of the way. Yes there is a lot of sex, but it isn’t as explicit as the “scorching” rating of mine and my Siren fellow writers. Nor is the BDSM anywhere near as interesting from an informative point of view or as beautifully written as “Bound by Accident” by Jennifer Willows. I found it quite erotic never-the-less: in the first book. By the third I was bored.

The success of the book besides whatever component of good luck and good marketing there is, is simple. It’s very accessible (read simply written), the heroine is easily identifiable with/ likeable. Being a little older than the current generation of reviewers I found it perfectly believable that she was a virgin at 21 (and I think there are still a few left- for some young girls its scary and bound up with religion/morals/fear of family disgrace and pregnancy) though I would have expected her to have fooled around more. And like it or not, the classic rich cool distant powerful (like my heroes Gabriel and Jeffrey to say nothing of Darcy) sell.

The first book kept me involved because the technical problems were trumped by the characters, the sex was interesting and she left you needing to know what happened. I was able to overlook the holy craps, the lip biting (one of the reviewers on Amazon has counted how many there are, as well as the other annoying repetitive things) and all the things a good editor would have fixed. My husband edits my books before they go to Siren (who then edit again) and he gets rid of the excessive ‘sighs’ and ‘savouring’ I have! Siren then highlights anything that is repetitive I or my husband haven’t noted.

But in the next books the technical problems dominate. The characters were no longer fresh enough to keep my attention and the lack of normal story arc and rules started to irritate me. I have only done two brief writing courses given by main stream novelists who aren’t particularly successful (not by EL James standards) but I read a LOT and my husband has done two highly regarded writing courses. What I know instinctively from reading he can put names to. On both counts the books are full of plot problems that under normal circumstances would never have got close to publication.

For non-readers who pick up these books it’s sad that they won’t get this. I am not saying people should read more literary fiction for their development or anything. I’m talking about things like the plot of who is after the hero/heroine being poorly developed and executed. About writing ‘beyond the tag’ – this is a technical term learnt from my husband. That is, I didn’t think the damn book would ever finish. Did we really need to go through both pregnancies, the Caesarian section and then get the entire first chapter from book one from the heroes point of view???

On sex and characters, first book might even get a 4/5 but on everything else, and the two subsequent books there are sooooooo much better things written by my Siren colleagues. Plot and character with romance (not sex) – try Wendy Soliman (or Amber Easton). Lovely writing with sex and vampires? Try Lydia Michaels. Plenty of action and plot with a similar hero, try my Expose or coming out soon Exclusive.

Hopefully if ELJames writes anything more (and she has talent) she will think more about plot and get a decent editorial team.

Thursday 14th June

Pat Conroy – Author of Prince of Tides, Beach Music,  South of Broad, Lord’s of Discipline

 

Rather than talk about any one of these books I thought I would talk more generally about the style of this books and what makes them standout. Once I find a book I like I tend to make my way through the authors books and Conroy is no exception though there was a big gap between the first, Prince of Tides (which I read before I saw the movie with Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisland) and the other three which I read one after another when I was living in New York in 2010.

I found them in the book shop in Yale and thought they’d help with the two hour each way daily commute (though I was working on the train trip too). I was looking for a taste of America and we had a weekend trip to North Carolina and thought South Carolina as a setting was close enough to get me in the mood.

I was wrong about this. Loved North Carolina, particularly Asheville and the Smokies, but these places bore no resemblance to Conroy’s evocative pictures of South Carolina. It did make me want to keep driving South, but we just didn’t have the time, so it’s on the must go to list.

Conroy writes beautifully, but not so literary that you feel stifled. Rather he is like an artist, painting the picture of place and then drawing you in so that the characters become part of your life. His books are always touching and meaningful, emotions and desires that we can identify with but seem so much grander and more tragic in his hands. From Beach Music’s exploration of racism and Judaism, as well sa the tragedy of suicide, to the immense pressures of growing up as and finding out what it is to be a man in Lord’s of Discipline, he has us spellbound. Of the four I enjoyed probably South of Broad the least, but it still had great characters, and of course, his beloved South Carolina.

Thursday 6th June

Joanne Harris- Blackberry Wine

Joanne Harris is best known for Chocolat – the movie with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche, with its less well known sequel The Lollipop Shoes. But she has written a number of other books, many with a tendency to quaintness and charm, some historical and French. This doesn’t include the Rune books which I haven’t read – I think these are more children’s books and though I did all the Harry Potters and Hunger Games, I’m not rushing to them. Gentlemen and Players and Blueyed Boy I would put in a different category too, particularly the latter which is more psychological thriller.

Sitting in a farmhouse in France, Blackberry Wine is far more suitable reading. What a lovely idea- telling the story from a wine bottles point of view! It sounds like one of those ideas that when you sobered up it wouldn’t actually work, but Harris makes it work well. It’s a romance, a story of rural France, a nicely written feel good book to take on holiday. You’’ probably forget most of the details, but the idea – that wine bottle and its final demise in the way all good wine should meet its end – will stay with you.

Thursday 31st May

Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I previously reviewed Hunger Games, the first of this trilogy (see April 19th) and had these two lined up on my ipad. I only just read them though because I was waiting for the long flight and trains of my current trip. I’m going to review them together because the trilogy really is one book broken into three…and Catching Fire leaves you very much still up in the air and desperate for the next, more so than Hunger Games that did have an ending.

If you have to pick one out though, it was the middle one, Catching Fire I probably enjoyed best. You knew the characters (who are strong, interesting and surrounded by other colourful secondary characters with wild clothes, hairstyles and names), you knew the crux of the issue (the 12 Districts versus the evil Capitol with snakelike President Snow) and you get straight into the action that never stops. In fact you are still panting at the end, take a breath and dive into the final book.

The last book is a bit like the last Harry Potter book (more so than the last of the Twilight series). A lot is at stake both at a personal and societal level. There has to really, be some fall out. Given there are two men (well, young men) and one girl(young woman), this has to be resolved, but so does the fall of the Capitol, responsible for the evil Hunger Games. There isn’t any way I think of ending it to keep everyone happy. My two young adult/teen children loved the series and warned me that the last quarter of the last book was awful. As I kept checking how far there was to go, I kept waiting for it to become execrable and it never did.

My daughter didn’t like the death of a particular character. To me the manner of the death helped resolve who she ended up with. My son didn’t like the resolution because it was too wishy washy, not the decisive Katniss who survived so many other horrors. But I think it was realistic, believable, how real life is but in a good way without sugar coating. I cried (but then I often do…) and surely if a book can make you think – and this does – and cry, to say nothing of not wanting to stop until the last page was turned (I was in Lyon train station and made my husband stand around as I sat on a railing, tears streaming down my cheeks), then my hats off to the author. She deserves the success for a great idea, well crafted, that will grab a generation of new readers.

Thursday 24th May

Promise by Tony Cavanaugh

Okay I picked this up because it was a new Australian author doing crime. I’m Australian, only published in the USA, and in a different genre. This book is closer to the genre my book in progress is, so I guess I was checking out the competition. It’s different enough that it’s not too intimidating.

Firstly it’s set in Melbourne (briefly) and Noosa. I know both places very well. He makes Noosa surrounds seem a bit like Florida which will probably work with the American audience. It should. It’s every bit as good as the mainstream American authors in this genre. Way better than anything James Patterson had turned out in years.

I have to say I really am over serial killers so this is the weak part for me. Particularly seeing the world from the perp’s perspective. Maybe there really are people this evil. I just don’t think I want to know.

So why did I like it? The characters. Darian the burnt out rogue ex-cop and Maria (not his girlfriend) the current cop turning rogue-ish really work. Casey her boyfriend and Isosceles and even Angie aren’t bad as next level characters either. They are real, gritty and interesting, complex and unpredictable. The action keeps coming with twists and turns but it is Darian and Maria that make it work. I hope they are going to return.

If you’re a crime reader, buy it.

Thursday 17th May

Alice’s Sexual Discovery in a Wonderland: An Erotic Fairytale by Liz Adams

http://www.amazon.com/Alices-Discovery-Wonderful-Erotica-ebook/product-reviews/B007VQABJ6/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

I have to confess I always thought Alice in Wonderland was a bit stupid. It didn’t quite captivate me and I figured my imagination just wasn’t that obscure. The same however can’t be said for Liz Adam’s wonderfully creative erotic rewrite. Right from the moment Alice falls down the hole we realize this is a very different – yet similar – wonderland. It helps to have read the original because it’s just wonderful to see how Adam’s has re-imagined the characters and events. A rabbit? Sure, but it’s the name of a deliciously cute naked man. Off with their heads? Absolutely…but not the heads the original queen was after.

This is book to immerse yourself whilst belief is suspended. Get ready for a ride and enjoy the very sexy sensual wild ride where just about anything could happen and probably will. I was surprised, given the bizarreness of some of the events and my dislike of the original, how much this not only grabbed me (in more ways than one…) but how very erotic it is.

Overall? This is deliciously wicked. Have a man or a vibrator with you when you read it.

Thursday 10th May

A Class Apart by Wendy Soliman

Romance, 76,972 words www.wendysoliman.com available at www.bookstrand.com/wendy-soliman

Let’s face it. The romance novel started in England (Austin, Bronte’s) and we’re all just itching for it to get back there. The country might be stuck in the past and have its current issues, but if you’re just reading about manor houses, family feuds and horse riding, what’s not to like?

Wendy Soliman started life as British (I hope I am right here and the Isle of Wight is British. I know the Scots are a bit dark if you call them English…) and has a childhood to tap into for her writing as she does in A Class Apart. She also, as the name suggests, touches on the class issues at the upper levels, but with the eminent sense that has probably coming with her years out of the UK.

A Class Apart puts Octavia, heir to Radleigh, on a collision course with Jake Bentley (the name incidentally of the author’s dog!). She has the title and background, he has the money and they both want the house. She’s feisty (and rides a motor bike) and is still dealing with a childhood that wasn’t quite as privileged as it seems at first glance. He’s had his own tough childhood and made good and doesn’t suffer fools. Enter a cast of characters including the Interior designers that Octavia works for who have agendas they aren’t letting on about, locals who have their own plans for the area that don’t include Radleigh and a few skeletons in the closet, you have a fast paced story that never leaves you bored and is always giving more. With Soliman you are always in good hands so you can just sit back and enjoy.

The setting is of course, very English, and its lovely to just sit back and let it roll over you and be part of it, not having to worry about death duties and things that the owners are dogged by in the real world!

The romance is beautifully woven throughout, the chemistry obvious but things keep getting in the way until the last third where their compatibility becomes obvious and they join together to solve their mutual and separate problems.

 

May 2nd DON’T FORGET ROSES & CHOCOLATES BLOG HOP AND GIVEAWAY STARTING FRIDAY NIGHT – SEE COMPETITIONS IN MAIN MENU

Salmon Fishing in Yemen

With Ewen McGregor and Emily Blunt … and the fabulous Kristin Scott Thomas

I kind of saw this by mistake, though as the film club chose it I probably would have gone any way. But I had read some time ago about a deep and meaningful women’s film in the Middle East and thought it was that. It wasn’t.

What it was, was Feel Good, easy watching, enjoyable, entertaining and probably ultimately, completely forgettable film. The story took a stretch of the imagination but then the characters made it clear it was for them as well! If a Sheikh with more money than sense wants to have Salmon in his river in Yemen, well maybe anything is possible! The screenplay was largely well written and there were some good funny bits- the send up of the British Public service (and Scott Thomas’s sensational performance) are enough reason alone to watch the film.

The stereotyping is however laid on thick (Arabs in kilts was a nice twists though) and the inclusion of the war hero given Afghanistan’s conflict is very much alive and threatening, was the low point and ultimately in real life Emily wouldn’t have gone off with Ewen’s character, though he plays it well.

Nice scenery though I’d be rushing to holiday in Scotland before Yemen, and some nice aerial photography of Ewen “swimming against the tide” like his pressure fish when he doesn’t go into work as usual one day.

Nice Friday night movie with a date or sitting anywhere if you’re wanting a cosy feel good film.

April 26th

She’s Never Coming Back by Hans Koppel

This is another book that has been gathered in the post-Steig Larsson/Lisbeth Salander sweep of Scandinavian authors “who can do no wrong and we can’t get enough of them”. Hans Koppel is Swedish and that is where the book is set but the setting really could be in any town anywhere and doesn’t bring with it any particular Swedish cultural moments or (as in both Larsson’s and Anne Holt’s 1222) times when the cold seeps through to your bones.

This doesn’t mean however that it doesn’t have merit for what it is – a crime novel with some psychological suspense. Given we know where the protagonist is being kept and there aren’t many reveals, it is surprisingly gripping and enjoyable. It isn’t however the “most terrifying crime novel I have ever read” as is quoted from Lyssnarklubben (whoever or whatever that is) on the front cover. I obviously read more, though I have to say serial killers stopped being scary in books after I watched Wolf Creek- now that is terrifying. As for keeping people in the cellar, you really can’t go past “The Collector” by John Fowles for terrifying. I was at a conference once where FBI profilers made the point that virtually every serial killer has a copy of the latter on their shelves…

The plot is essentially a kidnapping and being kept as a sex slave in retribution (for what we discover as things progress). That she is being held over the road from her husband, that he meets the kidnapper unknowingly, adds to the tension. That there were real issues between the woman kidnapped and her husband make it all the more real, as does the police response which is not exactly Prime Suspect and I think quite likely to be how it really would be.

As the husband (who had been unhappy) find happiness it becomes increasingly hard to think how the book is going to end, but the author probably picks a reasonable solution.

Overall? A much easier read than Larssen but not as complicated or as satisfying either. One for the holiday by the pool.

April 19th

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Everyone else is talking about so figured I would too. Where did this come from? Out of nowhere comes three books and a movie. The power of a well thought through marketing campaign I guess (I’m envious but realistic. Somehow erotica doesn’t quite lead itself to this, even if Sinnaman does have someone to make a short film of one of my short stories to help draw attention to his screenplays and my books)!

So Hunger Games. Catching Fire and Mockingjay the sequels are lined up on the iPad already purchased and read by my children.

It’s definitely young adult fiction. More adult concepts up front than Harry Potter (though arguably this series also had deeper and darker messages) it’s just as easy reading. I started reading that and another e-book about the same time (one I decided to test out from my Twitter authors) and it’s interesting that having got to chapter three I couldn’t put Hunger Games down, whereas the other I’m still only a third through.

The difference? Collins essentially follows every rule in the book on ‘how to’. No head hopping (there is so much head hopping in the other one it’s hard to identify with anyone and I keep forgetting who is who). It’s first person and we follow Katniss’s journey and feel for her throughout. It takes a bit, but not much of a leap to accept her world of the future, and the author is consistent.

Other rules? She’s a bit different, gutsy, but saves her sister. She then has a quest. There is a love interest, played lightly but well. There are enough twists and turns, however predictable, to keep our interest enough. In the end you have to read to work out how the author ensures (SPOILER COMING UP BUT IT’S NO SURPRSIE!) that both hero and heroine survive. At first you think it’s too easy but then there’s another twist.

So it might not win a Pulitzer but she’ll be laughing all the way to the bank and good on her. My hats off to Ms Collins and her publicity team. I’m off to read Catching Fire now…

April 12th

Lone Wolf by Jodie Piccoult

This is the latest from this very popular author – I’ve read them all. What’s the attraction? Well, she writes well, it’s an easy read but it’s also thought provoking . She does a lot of head hopping- this as in many (possibly all) of her books follows several characters in alternating chapters. This means that we really get inside her characters heads and understand as the book progresses their usually quite complex motives.

Piccoult tackles complex family dramas where there are emotional and moral quandaries and nothing is every as it seems. Most know her book that was made into a movie with Cameron Diaz (Her Sister’s Keeper) about a couple who engineer a second child to provide bone marrow for the older child who had leukaemia. As always the book is more complex (and with a different ending) to the film.

In Lone Wolf Piccoult tackles two children (one a minor, one older but estranged) and their decision to turn off the life support machine that is keeping their father alive. It is about grief, guilt, how no one is perfect and how one of the tasks of adolescence is to learn to accept your parents for what they are, imperfections and all. That in doing so you can also accept your own imperfections.

It also brings in a lot of information about wolves. It seems Piccoult did a lot of research and if her tribute is true, there really was a man that did what the father in this book did – lived with a wild wolf pack. Though some of the motives and thoughts she attributes to the wolves must be at least in part conjecture, I found it fascinating, and the parallels she draws between the wolf pack and the family a useful way to rethink about relationships.

The ending (and I mean beyond the epilogue to what I thought was an excerpt of her next book, but isn’t) maybe a little overdone, but I’m a soft touch and I have a son. I cried. If reading this book makes just one more person in the world be an organ donor, then she deserves every cent she makes from this book (well, she does anyway).

5th April

The Eight by Katherine Neville (www.katherineneville.com)

Along with Shantaram, reviewed previously, this is a book that spoke to me. Grabbed me and wound its magic around me, seeping into my soul. I have probably read it at least ten times and several sections more than that.

Is it literary genius? No. Is it well written and engrossing? Yes. Fast paced, can’t be put down? Yes. Is it perfect? No. The concept is so good though it had me wanting to rewrite and re-imagine parts of it, trying to think of ways of making the chess game metaphor stronger. And a great romp through history.

In brief – and it’s a longish book – the story is in two halves, woven together throughout. There is a current time section where the protagonist is a sassy 23 year old female computer whizz who from the first page I just totally became, entering into her world as though it was mine (I should add I am technologically challenged in real life). Reading about the author she has clearly borrowed a lot from her own life for this character. Including some of the less likely things the character does (like working in Algiers) which KN actually did.

The other section is historical, weaving just about everyone in history from Charlemange to Napoleon into the narrative. Farfetched? At times, but it’s too interesting to spend too much time agonising over. Part of the beauty of the book is it takes you to a different place and you really don’t want to leave.

I read years after first reading this book that Katherine Neville had written it in a tree-house on the Californian coast. She described the house – think mansion wrapped around a huge tree trunk and on a cliff with miles of ocean before you – and it made me think how important where you write can be. I know ‘Power of One’ author Bryce Courtney ties himself to a chair for hours in the evening to write, but me, put me in that tree-house and I think I could write a best seller too…

She has written, years later, a sequel, The Fire. Same voice but this time it’s the daughter of the original heroine. We get a glimpse of the mother and I longed somewhat nostalgically to see ore of her, but the pace picks up and you’re away again. Both books you need a week free with a glass of wine and a fire – or a view of the Californian coast ­– and it will be as if you’ve been to all the exotic places and times without having to pay for the airfare (or time travel).

29th March

Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

Most people have heard of or seen the movie of this name directed by Ron Howard, starring Russell Crowe that got four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Screenplay.

Fewer will have bothered to read the book, which is a pity. It’s quite thick and dense which is daunting, but it’s beautifully written, engaging and real story even more fascinating than the Hollywood version. It was rightly nominated for a Pulitzer. To be fair to Howard’s interpretation I think it helped schizophrenia get on the map, be less stigmatised and reduce irrational fear. But a lot of the pain was glossed over and ignored, and it is this that makes John Nash’s biography richer and fuller and more real.

John Nash was a mathematician who got a Nobel prize using those maths skills but actually in economics. Don’t ask me what he did, it made no sense to me, but this in some ways is what helps us understand his illness better. He and his colleagues were all a bit odd (I’ve read some accounts of famous mathematicians who couldn’t get their own breakfast). But his genius, the solutions to complex problems, came as inexplicably to him as did the psychosis.

He was sadly very affected by his illness and his private life was a good deal messier and less savoury than Hollywood would have as think. Yet his wife still took him back to care for him when unmedicated he was picking out food from bins. And despite the severity of illness, ultimately he was able to use rational thinking to draw a distinction between what was real and what wasn’t.

I heard him speak at a conference reasonably recently, long after the movie and the prize. He may well be a genius still or he may be thought disordered as part of his illness because he was pretty tough to follow. But he survived and his story – the written one – is truly inspirational.

22nd March

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

I heard a rumour a couple of years ago that this was going to be made into a movie with Johnny Depp. Sadly there has been no more word. If it is ever made, I’ll be there on opening night and probably several subsequent ones.

Sometimes a book just grabs you and won’t let you go. I read this some years ago when it first came out but it still hasn’t let me go. Many books I read and instantly forget. This has left vivid images and feelings. It was largely responsible for me choosing India for my last birthday escape. Sinnaman I have to say didn’t feel the same (I don’t mean about India- the book). He felt that he saw through the facade of the author and what was reality based and what wasn’t. ME? The author, of whom one has to believe did put a lot of himself into the fictional hero, is undoubtedly a flawed human (well aren’t we all). He, like the character in his book is an ex-drug addict who has escaped from prison and is on the run in India and Afghanistan. A lot of the other things may well be based on things that happened to him or others. But it is meant to be fiction.

In short it’s a ripping great yarn. The pace is fast, the writing good for both character and place (the author was an English lit major before drugs sent him in a different direction) and the story and romance is sensational. It brings India alive, full of vibrancy and colour, it makes sense of how they live in poor communities and yet still smile. It makes you feel you’re there and then want to go when you get to the end. It’s a thick book and lots happens and the Afghanistan section is probably the weakest, but given the Western worlds tentative involvement in the country I think reading anything about it is helpful (though I’m not about to rush off there to visit). Take it on your next holiday. But don’t expect to do anything except sit by the pool with it.

15th March

Dream House

I have to confess I am a Daniel Craig fan. If there’s a film and he’s in it, I

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Fashion Fridays

 

 

 

IN 2014 THIS BLOG WILL BE…WELL WHEN I GET AROUND TO IT…

FRIDAY OCTOBER 24TH

Couldn’t resist this – and nor should you if you have the opportunity to see JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER’S exhibition, currently on in Melbourne at the NGV.

I am lucky enough to own a couple of his ready to wears (cheap on sale at New York’s Century Twenty One) and they are actually wearable…unlike some of these, but those on display truly are works of art…

You even get to have your very own Anna Wintour moment in the front row of a pretend fashion show. Can I tick that off my bucket list now?

Despite looking totally authentic, no animals died (well I don’t think so) in the making of the leopard skin number…up close they are tiny beads/sequins. Absolutely stunning!

Oh, and the mannequins have faces beamed onto them that move the man himself talks to you…

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FRIDAY 17TH JANUARY

Shopping in Paris

I had to complete the set. Rome in April last year, New York pre-Christmas, London in the Christmas- New Year hiatus and now as our vacation (so called in the USA and I have been practising my French here and vacances is more like the Americans than out holiday) ends…Paris.

 

I have shopped in Paris before, many times, but I have to confess I have yet to get a handle on it. The excuse used to be that they didn’t speak English or understand my bad, Australian accented French. But now all the Parisians speak English and while I would like to (and need) the practice, I can’t put them through the agony. So no excuses as to not knowing the price, where to get the forms for the tax return (if you can bear the queues at the airport) and I have been coming here too long to say I don’t know where to go. But truly I don’t.

I have walked the streets where you have to push a bell to enter the hallowed halls of the Couture houses, even plucked the nerve to push them, enter, and pretend that three costumes only on the rack are going to be enough for me to drool over and get the cheque book out for. These items don’t have price tags and Madame and I both know I would pass out if she told me. It’s not that I don’t have genuine Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Galliano and Versace (though I have more of their perfume than their clothes) but I have their ready to wear variety. I am, like most of the world, not on the list to sit next to the current Vogue editor or Anna Wintour , Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paultrow at the Season’s show.

 

I have on previous trips (the times when the sales are not on; there are regimented times for these and probably rules about how much they are allowed to discount. France is the country of red tape and maximum benefit for the shop stewards rather than the shopper) decided Galleries Layfette has been too expensive and searched for something else. I have found shopping centres, one at least which was positively basic and ordinaire and not selling anything that the Parisienne women I saw were wearing. I also found somewhere underground (Les Halles) where I might find things my children would wear (and that I could afford).

But today I thought I would return to Galleries Layfette. I mean the map has them all over it, the only thing I can locate without reading glasses though I am familiar enough with Paris that this is where me feet lead me, no matter which new arrondissment my husband thinks we need to try out a new hotel in. Me, I’d choose Esmeralda opposite Notre Dame on the left bank. Quaint, poet sized over priced rooms but what the hell. It’s Paris. I’ve yet to have a room I could swing a cat in. Not that I would but I often end up with cat pictures, clocks, and ornaments from the one shop for cute things I would highly recommend, in fact several shops in one street, the only street really, on the island you get to from Notre Dame, near also the bridge with all the locks on it left my lovers. Another overpriced too small hotel there I adore too; Deux Isles.

So Galeries Layfayette. On par size wise with Bloomingdales, smaller than Macy’s and larger than Liberty, and glitzier than any of these, at sales time it’s akin to feeling like you are in the middle of a herd of bison at mating time. Not pretty. I say bison because you can hear the Americans shouting directions over each other, but I have been away from Australia long enough that it is their accents that I pick out and that grate. Do I really sound like that? And they are hopping around a plenty. One rather imagines that the French know better, that there is somewhere else they go and get the real the real bargains.

It is day four of the sales (soldes). Everything is open on Sunday for this very reason. My husband has decided a hotel (called L’Hotel) new street in the sixth, and I have to waste several moments in it. However small it is exquisite in leopard skin (matches my hat, gloves and lingerie…) and they are incredibly accommodating. They have just the restaurant for us and send us off with a map. We are distant enough from the tourist hub that when we have oysters (the only thing on the menu and in a shop the size of a postage stamp) we are surrounded by locals (including a young group who had perhaps started the day in Amsterdam if you get my meaning…) and the oysters are excellent and the Chablis crisp and big the way I like it. But GF is looking a long way away…

Then I happen on some streets off Bvld St Germaine, all with Soldes signs and excited French women. I go in. I could take virtually anything. Exactly the stuff I like, one size it seems- mine. The prices are…bloody brilliant. I arrived in New York on carry-on and left that way because the kids took the extra suitcase home. London wasn’t a problem because we were on the Eurostar. Tomorrow returning? Okay I will have to check luggage and it’s time for another Camino (planning the next one to Rome) to remind me I don’t need so many clothes.

 

FRIDAY JANUARY 10TH

Shopping in London

It’s January 3rd and the Christmas decorations are still up and it’s grey, a bit dreary and raining. It is London after all. But I have to be honest, it was a crisp clear sky yesterday and I was just in New York and though there was a heat wave there for a few days, when it was cold it was colder than London currently is. The subway is a lot cheaper than the underground though, so if you can’t walk because of the weather then the pounds start disappearing (the paper ones, not the ones from too much plum pudding…eve the Indian restaurant here had plum pudding for dessert, albeit with yoghurt!). Sadly the Aussie dollar isn’t as strong as when I was last here so the 1400€ (two and a half thousand dollars, maybe two thousand American) camel cashmere coat in Harrods was just going to have to stay there for someone else. Wasn’t it?

 

I have had a bit of a hankering for a camel cashmere for a couple of years. In New York I bought a bargain Tommy Hilfinger dress and then had to buy the faun boots, and the longing for the camel cashmere returned. The bargain dress was about to cost a lot more…I couldn’t find anything I liked in New York so I thought London would solve my problem, a camel cashmere is after all one of those British classics. And had I wanted to mortgage the house and sell the car Harrods would have solved it. I thought about this. After all, who would need the house? I could just curl up and sleep in the perfect coat. It would also have been worth it to slam the credit card and see the look on the snooty woman server who almost wrestled the coat off me when I said I wouldn’t take it if it wasn’t on sale (the other side of the rack had 40% off). My husband (bless him) said go for it…my compensation for his book (which would be paying for it) doing better than mine.

So today I resolved to scour Regent St and Liberty and if I couldn’t find an alternative, the 1400€ would be mine. With regards Liberty, there is something kind of quaint about rickety store floors in a Tudor mansion when you are browsing Stella McCartney and Vintage. Even if you have to have elbows out and be a sumo wrestler to make it inside. Maybe there is another entrance rather than the notebook shop but neither I nor half the population of London (and a million tourists) could find it.

I eventually found one that had I not been to Harrods, would have been fine. In Hugo Boss (I hadn’t even known they had a women’s section) and half price sale. Fitted beautifully, the only negative was a belt and the loops it went through that I would have to remove. A quarter of the price. But the Harrods’ coat was calling. So onto the tube I go, battle rain, and then wander lost in Harrods. Where had that coat been only yesterday? There was a panic it had gone (there had only been one my size, but as it was new season I figured there would be more). Finally, after retracing the exact steps, there it was. Only it wasn’t nearly as good as I had remembered it. Not now compared to the Boss one at a quarter of the price.

So back on the tube (another ten dollars but in a good cause…Australians who have been to London can never complain again about Melbourne’s Myki card), through the rain (it had got worse, naturally) and there it was. The Boss camel cashmere coat. Fitting perfectly but…minus a clasp. I wasn’t sure I needed it, and another 10% less later it was mine. So was the top in the shop I had passed, and I was still 900€ in front. Now that is a shopping success ( I love the coat too, better still, and it is perfect with the Tommy Hilfinger bargain…)

 

FRIDAY DECEMBER 27TH

Shopping in New York

New York isn’t the fashion capital of the world. Let’s just get that straight from the start. Far too many international tourists in reeboks and jeans (and denim with denim). And American tourists confused that you can’t wear shorts in New York in December even if you can all year in Florida. But it may be the shopping capital of the world. What the hell, IS the shopping capital of the world.

It was looking bad (or good, depending on perspective) for a while. My 21 year old daughter milling around Century 21 looking like she’d rather be wearing the tutu I had to bribe her to stay in for the photo when she was three, rather than wear anything in this store. This is saying something. Like there are racks and racks of designer label. UK, USA, European. Okay, its true they don’t look great piled on the racks and true also that the really good stuff never makes it here because it gets bought on the first round. But still.

Things got worse when we meandered down 34th (having emerged empty handed from Macys… really??? It’s the biggest department store in the world!) and the only store she got excited about was one which had UGG boots. OMG. They are Australian and considered bogan. We CANNOT come all the way to New York to buy a product from home that we wouldn’t wear there. We did. Okay, not UGG UGG exactly, and it was very cold and we did need something in the snow I suppose.

But then Christmas was pending and I said I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU CAN’T FIND ANYTHING TO WEAR IN ALL OF NEW YORK. NOONE IS GOING TO BE SYMPATHETIC.

This was probably the wrong thing to say. My son announced that their return tickets allowed two items of luggage (they had been allowed only one of the way) and my daughter’s eyes lit up. It was all down hill from there.

Did you know we have Victoria’s Secret in Sydney but not Melbourne? And about two hundred outlets in New York. As there are of Sephora (how did that woman convince me to buy that eyeliner??? I’m not 21 any more….). then there were the clothes. Suddenly everything fitted. Looked good and we couldn’t live without them. But given it was winter here they were also bulky. Like two pairs of full length boots (hell, one were the exact red of my favourite leather coat I got in Rome….), and the sale on the wool dress was amazing.

Now I just have to decide what’s going back to Aus with the kids and what I will need in the UK and France. It’s still cold there…and I am on carry on…

FRIDAY AUGUST 16TH

Ingredients for a Perfect Fancy Dress Party

I have long agonised over this. The right theme, the cocktail recipes, the invitation list. But there always seems to be lots of people who don’t turn up dressed up, only drink water or should be drinking water because they are driving and don’t. To say nothing of the mess after which leaves me thinking was it all worth it?

My daughter’s 21st got close (but I should have drunk more water), but there was still the mess, and though the Tarzans and Janes were gorgeous they froze, and I just can’t get my head around onesies (the all in one outfits that I used to put the kids in to sleep when they were babies. Ok, they were jungle themed but kind of floppy and didn’t do anyone justice.

But then last night (Friday in Perth where I am currently) I went to the perfect cocktail party. Well, only champagne and wine, but really with my alcohol tolerance just as well.

Ingredients?

  1. Not in my home- non mess!
  2. Away at a conference so no one driving!
  3. Theme turned out not important at all. I had been uninspired by ‘Nautical’ and boy, was I shown up! Didn’t think I’d ever go to a fancy dress party where I was underdressed. Pirates, wenches with off the shoulder blouses, corsets and lush feathers and lace, sea witches, bathing beauties from several centuries (worn with Chutzpah!)
  4. I barely knew anyone but hell that didn’t matter. Fun group of friendly people … what else could you wish for?

This was my first Romance Writer’s of Australia Fancy Dress party but I hope it won’t be my last. Next year…well as soon as the theme is announced, I’ll be on it!

And any conference that gives way this many books as well as chocolates, and serves tons of champagne, has my vote!

 

FRIDAY JUNE 14TH

Winter Wardrobes

One of the things I most love about winter (right after snuggling up in a front of a roaring log fire with a good book while the rain is pelting down outside) are the clothes. Coats, hats, scarves gloves: all of these wonderful extras that have no place in the sticky humid summer months. And boots; particularly boots. I have had to move to flats since January because of a back problem and have been through so many of the wretched things, one after another giving me blisters, and while being very “in” still making me moan every time I saw myself in the mirror. They make my feet double in size (I am a standard seven and a half), emphasize my bunions and worse- they just aren’t chic. Maybe Audrey Hepburn (or Carrie Mulligan in current terms, aka Daisy in The Great Gatsby) can look elegant in them, but it doesn’t work for me. Didn’t help my back any either; had the operation anyway after months of suffering.

So−boots. Glorious boots, some of which to my relief, have flat or close to no heels. I suddenly have choice again. The elegant black ankle boots I bought in Scotland, of even the heavy funky faun ones also purchased in the far north of the planet (with a climate like Scotland’s it isn’t a surprise they know something about dressing for the cold. I can only put the kilt down as a female plot to use the breeze to lessen their men’s ardour).

And coats. I am in love with the red trench coat above I bought in a tiny boutique in a Rome street two months ago. It’s warm, classy and even water proof. What’s not to like? On the weekends with the heavy Scottish boots I drag out the clunky brown sheepskin from New York and fantasize about picking my way over new snow in the big apple and jumping over the puddles at the intersections- what I was doing a couple of years ago and plan to be doing again this Christmas.

And gloves. While I get chilblains I seem to have accumulated a vast array of different coloured fingerless gloves. Hot pink and red ones from the Hobart market, dusky yellow a gift from a Woodend girlfriend, black ones that regularly get lost and are replaced and of course the ones that do have a bit that goes over the fingers, bought in Peru, that saw me along the 2000km of the Camino de Santiago.

Right now? There’s a fire and a book so all else is irrelevant. But the sheepskin and boots are there if I need to wander across the misty moors (in my mind) or tackle the more practical bog of Lancefield carefully missing the cowpats. Won’t be any time soon…

FRIDAY APRIL 26TH

Milano & Roma fashion… Yes the Italians Really do Know How to Dress

There is a certain something about clothes shopping in the glitz of Fifth Avenue, and the excitement of finding amongst the stacks of leftovers from the sales, just the perfect fitting Gucci or  Dolce & Gabbano or Versace at a perfect price, in Century Twenty One in New York. Cruising London the excitement is more about the quirkiness of some of their stores (particularly if it isn’t clothes you are after), but now a lot of them have made it around the world, with the exception of the elegance of Liberty and the flash of Harrods (once is enough), there are just too many all familiar chains. Or clothes that are very well English. Tweed isn’t my thing. Paris? Well all those minimalist stores and the prices are rather daunting…

But Italy…?

When I was invited to the Milan and Rome book launches of The Rosie Project (L’amore é un difetto meraviglioso) I was a little worried about my lack of Italian (Italian men are so dark and gorgeous, maybe even as hot as Argentinean men – see Embedded for more details!) – though they are more forgiving of accents compared to the French and in the past waving hands and adding ‘o’s to the end of the French or English equivalent has usually worked eventually( I probably just wore them down). But then I got really worried. Whatever was I going to wear?

Lucky I had just the right number (well several) because even at the train station in Milano (not usually the most salubrious of places) I noticed all the women had perfect eyebrows and I had to run for the tweezers (possibly less of an issue for a blonde but still…). Then as I fell over the line of scooters that everyone seems to ride to work, the stick thin women getting off them in skirts, stockings and high heels, well looked like they’d come to work via the beautician.

Ambling down Manzoni towards the Duomo (I mean how can you shop seriously when you turn around and are dazzled by this amazing bit of architecture?) every shop window just oozed effortless style. The only negative (and so Italian) was that all the women in the street wearing it as effortlessly also had cigarette in hand. Someone seems to have forgotten to tell them it’s so not chic (the French have heard the message, but then maybe the Italians take religion more seriously given the Popes proximity and think it will giving them some protection).

It is raining, which encourages time in the shops. Shame about that. Finding the New York Century Twenty One equivalent makes my day. Unlike New York though it seems my size is not the one left over (the Italians are chic and half-starved despite the pasta & gelato). Anyone for a Large?

But I do find a few Jean Paul Gaultiers and an Italian label I don’t know in brilliant orange and celebrating shoes (how can I say no…and to the pair of shoes too?).

Then we arrive in Rome for five delicious days, all but one holiday. I had vague ideas about a day trip to Florence (it’s only an hour in the train) but our hotel is right next to Pantheon, and well…there are all these amazing shops. Day one I got lost wandering through a maze of cobblestone streets and piazza’s …all full of elegant, yes you guessed it – clothes shops. Amazing number of them for men, the most elegant jackets that I could search for in Melbourne and maybe find one I’d get my husband- here I could take just about them all.

Then Day Two, an amble down the Via Del Corso…magico!!! (Okay this word might be Spanish or a make-up but it really was!). In a long stretch only two chain stores (chain stores are just soooo dispiriting to shop in), one being Zara which had taken over a block (and the world). But everywhere else? Wonderful stores, tiny shops, leather jackets, fabulous window displays … today I take the visa card. I’d better buy a new bag too!

 

FRIDAY APRIL 12TH

The British have a reputation for being a little eccentric. There were the Grouse hunters looking a little like Sherlock Holmes when I was here last year in Yorkshire and now in London…a lobster suit? Okay it was in aid of a book launch (The Rosie Project where hero Don Tillman has a very poor dress sense but does look like Gregory Peck and eats the lobster, not dresses as one). At least the after party was a tad more elegant at the trendy and bustling Wolseley…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 22ND

Writers and Fashion – an Oxymoron?

 

The day hasn’t started well. Or rather it has just started far too early. Arrived in Perth at what seemed like a perfectly reasonable time (time for a cocktail) but things went downhill from there. Cocktails have a habit of that. Really though I blame the time difference. Who would ever have thought a three hour time difference from one side of the country to the other could create such havoc?

I’m a bit disorientated anyway. I am here as an aspiring writer rather than a journalist covering the Perth Writers’ Festival, a gig I may well have got in a former life working for  Coco. In the bar I looked wistfully over at the media camp. You can pick them immediately. Unlike the authors and would be authors who have thin arms and pasty expressions and who enter blinking in the light and looking more disorientated than a three hour time difference would account for, the media have taken over the corner and attracting moths to the flame.

This lot are a mix of TV and print journalists. Remembering now that February is a short month and that therefore my fashion blog is due today (another reason the day hasn’t started well) my mind turns to them. There are the trim elegantly understated self aware ones (the TV journalists) like Jennifer Byrne from First Tuesday Book Club and then the shaggy statement making would be authors who write beautifully and at time scathingly. The authors walk around them carefully. But it’s safe currently, they are in regroup and the pack isn’t going to swarm. Yet. I like shaggy I decided. One of them…well in another life I would have enjoyed his company!

Honestly writers as a group don’t inspire as fashionistas. There are some obvious exceptions. Tara Moss (ex-model) who was photographed with a python around her neck (can’t remember what if anything else she was wearing). Or possibly Lynda La Plante (ex-actress). And Jackie Collins is Joan Collins’s sister so that has to count for something.

But in general? Think middle aged men and women at their typewriters not Hemmingway. In the documentary of romance writers I saw they wore cardigans and slippers. It’s possible that some of them here still are.

I’m being unfair. Anna Funder is here somewhere (she’s doing the closing address). I’m sure she’s sitting in an elegant cocktail bar looking gorgeous (yes you are picking up a small amount of jealousy). Jared Diamond is probably still on the plane but if he is here he’ll have a do not disturb on his door (more than a three hour time to the USA).  He doesn’t need to dress well; he’s an anthropologist. Toni Jordan (writer of Addition) is at the bar and looking decidedly smart and bright eyed with a double gin and Graeme Simsion (new author, of The Rosie Project) with a margarita (features in the questionnaire about his main character at www.therosieproject.com.au – I took the answer to me preferred drink as my second margarita) and ordering martinis is trying to marry business man (previous life) with author. The Tshirt is top range Armani.

So what am I going to wear to the festival today as I plough my way through comedy with Simsion and thrillers with LA Larkin (who I haven’t met but I’m fancying in a trench coat and hat)? Probably the leopard skin number. After all I’m more Tara Moss at heart than any of the others…

FRIDAY JANUARY 25TH

The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor …

I had a friend who relate a story to me once. A woman had come into her antique shop and commented on the (very large) diamond on her finger.

“I was always taught it was crass not wear large jewellery before evening,” the woman reportedly said.

My friend, an angelic faced woman who married well and often (but to be fair earned a good deal in her own right) replied “Oh yes I used to say that before I could afford them too.”

I think she would have got on well with the Duchess of Windsor who reportedly said ‘You can’t be too thin or too rich.”

But when it comes to large (and lot of) jewellery it would be hard to rival the late Duchess of Windsor whose husband gave up the crown for her (but arguably not the jewels). It sounds terribly romantic and I gather Edward was besotted by Mrs Wallis Simpson. But other literature I’ve read (this book here but one) doesn’t necessarily paint this picture and after giving up a kingdom maybe he didn’t have anything else to do but be besotted (other than swan around with Hitler for a while).

Regardless of personal feelings towards either of them (and as I never met them I don’t have any) her jewellery collection was rather stunning. Not much of an emerald fan myself but the engagement ring pictures here was HUGE. Took up most of the distance from knuckle to first joint.  I’m having to supress the urge to say the crass line…but then when this little (well not THAT little, its just in the background in this photo!) number in blue arrived for Christmas, styled as a smaller (more elegant!) version I might have to just hold my tongue…You’re going to have to read Exclusive to find out if it was Jeffrey or Gabriel who gave it to me…

Jewellery is meant to be romantic but finding a man who gets that! I have a girlfriend whose partner once gave her a toilet seat for her birthday (okay it had shells embedded in it BUT really!)

Maybe a Liz Taylor necklace next year??? A girl can dream but in keeping with my antique shop owning friend, I might keep writing in hope to pay a little towards it at least.

 

Jewellery in this blog includes that supplied by Imogene at Roy’s Antiques in Cliftoon Hill and Gillian Hilman design

The Book pictured is by Culme and Rayner

 

 

Friday December 28th

Friday- What to Wear to a New Year’s Eve Party

This may be particularly relevant if your partner fails to get instructions about dress code. Jeffrey and Gabriel don’t consider it important. They always look so God damn gorgeous somewhere just short of black tie and a little more than smart casual, that every woman can’t keep their eyes off them. They don’t seem to understand that we mere mortals need some direction. Naturally I want to be well dressed, but only slightly overdressed. It’s very bad form to go somewhere in a ball gown where everyone else is in jeans and t-shirt (or visa versa) even if they are designer jeans.

Last year it was a private party at people I had never met. We were in Sydney. I’m thinking hot, Harbor views. Except this was indoors and I needed treatment for chilblains afterwards. I think the hostess (a Brit) was trying to recreate London at this time of year.

Many years ago I brought in the New Year in a field in France with our own fire crackers. It was an even greater chilblain moment but at least I was in full ski gear, only a problem when holding the champagne glass. A lot of champagne was wasted on that field. Another evening in Paris was much the same only no champagne on the street after an exorbitant meal on the Champs Elysee (the price doubled this night) and alas no fireworks. Hundreds lined the streets and the Paris government in their infinite wisdom decided no fireworks and not to bother telling anyone.

New Hampshire deep in snow at Mt Washington – cold (we were driving back to New York in the ongoing snowstorm later ) with horse drawn sleighs singing “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” is also there in the memory but it really limits what you can wear because there has to be so many layers if you are traveling between places.

Read about the hotter versions in the Were-devils of Tasmania series!

It has an advantage of being warmer. French friends in a pool after a BBQ of seafood in true Australian style has to be a favorite looking back. Limits what you wear because there’s less required, but there are so many fun flimsy dresses to choose from….and the bikini…

Friday December 21st

Wardrobe Cleanout

It is probably something to do at the end of every season but somehow as the weather is getting warmer here in Aus, it seems a clean out is more in order. I am much less likely to hang on to the coat or winter dress I didn’t wear last season when it makes me hot just looking at it. Trouble is though, when you juggle a life between the two hemispheres you have to remind yourself it really does get cold in New York even if the last winter in Aus did not require brushing the dust off the fur coat (fake of course…).

The rule from the fashionistas is if you didn’t wear it last season, you won’t next. Put in the donate pile.

If the buy was a mistake, a hedonistic loss of reason, a dive into the latest completely mad idea (I am thinking all platform shoes may fit this after nearly breaking an ankle), then this is relatively easy to do. There are other things so much harder to let go of…the first little black handbag dress, the Manolos (which will be enshrined if they become unwearable because I have broken my ankles on the platform shoes), the white denim Sass & Bide jacket I got for a song…

There are positives to keeping everything. Sometime raiding my mother’s wardrobe (she is a hoarder) can be extremely rewarding. It helps being the same size. For retro seventies and eighties parties her wardrobe is better than the local retro shop, largely because she spent so much and quality holds it lines. You still do have to get over the idea of being psychedelic (whoever thought this was a good idea?), “flowing” (hippy really isn’t me) and not so sure about crochet.

So I look at my wardrobe. No crochet or flowing. There is a lot of overflowing however. It looks rather crammed. I have to thin it somehow. Or maybe…I just need a bigger wardrobe. I’ll ask for one for Christmas…

Friday December 14th

Christmas Shopping

What was I thinking?

Firstly it was 32 degrees Celsius (ninety five or so Fahrenheit) in the shade. So I decided to drive into the air-conditioned car park. Fool proof plan. Except the air-conditioning in the car wasn’t working, it had a black roof and though soft top, it is currently stuck on waiting for the part from Germany. First time the Germans have shown considerable inefficiency. Maybe they are snowed in.

Then there are the Christmas road works and the fact that everyone else like me is making a mad dash for the shops before the schools break up (probably the same in New York except for my mother who has ordered everything from Saks and Bloomingdales and will have them all delivered).

Why is it that suddenly no one can drive close to Christmas? Or at least not park?

Having finally made it into the shopping center I immediately want to do all this on-line. On any line anywhere but here. There are wall to wall people. In one shop, one of those that looks like it should be an under two dollar shop and has lots of not much that is of any use, they are three people deep around each shelf. Next door they are lining up for shoulder massages. I can understand why.

I suddenly realize I have no idea what to buy anyone. My girlfriend with the boyfriend in soaps has broken up with him but this might be too much of a reminder. The big book stores are all closed.

Why didn’t I write a list? Okay I probably would have forgotten to bring it, but  I might have remembered something off it…

Then of course most will have to be mailed. How did I forget this minor point? Postal expenses are exhorbitant here and unreliable at the other end any time of year, let alone Christmas. FedEx I guess…

Then I get the vision. It’s a goat and a chicken. Oxfam send them to needy people and a card to the person I have nominated it as their present. Great for all the friends who have everything and more money than me anyway and we can all feel a bit better about the incredible Christmas indulgence.

And for the rest? Amazon! Direct to them. So many great books to choose from!

I start to relax. I sit down and order a wine and start to make out next year’s list of what to do and not do.

1. Do not shop in December under any circumstances (The Boxing Day special may be an exception but I doubt it). If you really have to remember an air conditioend car and don’t wear high heels – my feet are killing me already).

2. Ask your mother if she can shop for you.

3. Consider becoming Jewish/living somewhere Christmas isn’t celebrated.

4. Ask your sister if she can shop for you.

5. Give everyone a cat (Pirate as you can see was less than impressed with being given away but there are lots of animals in shelters who need good homes. But then that was how they ended there- Animals aren’t just for Christmas!

6. Tell everyone in Aus you’re in New York or UK and visa versa. Might decrease the Christmas Day family traumas too…

 

I notice how many (80% I calculated) of the stores are aimed at 15-35 year old women and most of them are clothes. Excellent. I’m set for the afternoon. Just a little indulgence…

 

Friday December 7th

Slipping in to Something More Comfortable…

From Simone:

It evokes such wonderful images but there are so few opportunities to use the line…even if you’re an erotic romance writer it is a tad cliché. But to use it in real life (and writing erotic romance real life and the stories do sometimes blur) you need to be sure to actually have something to slip in to!

In my latest book, a mainstream love story, the heroine is 45 so when she slips into something more comfortable she has to ensure she puts her hands over her head (she washes her hair to help believability) to get gravity to aid her cause. But luckily in the erotic romance Stephanie (of the Stephanie Beauman series) is 28-30 and doesn’t have the gravity problem yet which is probably just as well because she has quite a few encounters! She slips into bodices and stocking (cover of Embedded), down to her underwear (Exposé) and a little black number (Exclusive).

In Were-Devils’ Curse Becc isn’t really a slip into something more comfortable person (and besides Tassie is cold, though Jesse and Jarrod warm her up in front of a fire) and in Were-Devils’ Revenge Gabriella is on a tropical resort island so a bikini…or swimming naked…seems more appropriate.

But for me (okay and Stephanie in Exclusive when sharing the penthouse with Jeffrey, really is thinking of Barbara Stanwyck and something long white and silky…oh she so had class!

Friday November 30th

The Language of Jewellery

Jewellery, and I’m talking special items here, not the plastic earrings from the market, is one of those intensely personal things. It says something about you, but it also says if you’re listening, something to you. There is of course the meanings assigned to some stones- pearls I was told meant tears (and yes the relationship with the man who bought me my one and only long since lost set of pearls ended in tears). There is also the months of the year and their assigned stone and the wedding anniversaries.

I have a friend who was convinced that jewellery took something on from the owner, and I confess I have a couple of items which seem to emit a vibe. But the medallion was one I was told the Czar gave to his troops and we all know how well that ended so I’m certain it’s all psychological on my part! The other item is a heavy snake ring and it’s probably the sheer weight of it that makes me so aware of it! But my friend “reads” rings­−she read my engagement ring (see below, and if you want to know whether it was from Jeffrey of Gabriel you’ll have to read Exclusive to find out!) and said I was destined for happiness and success, so when she offered to read another friends who was having a bad time I thought whatever the good oil was would cheer her up.

Beware of ring readers! She said this ring was a ring from a really unhappy marriage (okay, she was right but it seemed a little harsh). My friend left their partner the next day!!! I’m not sure what happened to the ring…

Friday November 23rd

Sydney Fashion Statements

It’s Sydney and summer is coming. Which means it’s mild and pleasant and you want to soak in the sun (not too hot, so you don’t get too many concerned stares or frank glares from those slip slop slap people crusading against melanomas) and get those Vitamin D levels up. In Brisbane you’re already dashing for shade and freezing indoors and in Melbourne, well you need ready access to all of the wardrobe at all times, with plenty of layers.

I have a cocktail party –everyone seems to have one, something to do with getting in before Christmas but it’s not even December−but one of those ones that I have to go straight to from dinner after, so decisions decisions…really I think there is somewhat of the New York edginess to Sydney which probably accounts for why I feel so comfortable here. So I’ll probably wear the orange number I got in the Time Warner center when I was there in June. Orange is the color everywhere (even in black focused Melbourne it can be spotted). The trouble with travelling so much is that the orange swatch watch that goes so well with it is…well somewhere else.

We eat at Flying Fish, a restaurant down the end of a wharf facing the Harbor Bridge with the reputation for great food at ridiculous prices. Actually the seafood tasting menu wasn’t that expensive and it was fabulous. The waiters were remarkably casual and pleasant. Maybe not New York after all.

But what were people wearing? Well it was hard to get excited about any fashion statements being made here. The cocktail party was elegant and understated, but once out in the real world, even an expensive restaurant (that did divine blackberry and lemongrass margaritas incidentally) then Aussie casual prevailed.

The table by the window had a short dark haired woman that looked straight out of the 1950’s with her wide belt and flared skirt. Must have been watching Mad Men. But she did look neat. On the other hand the large woman in the shortest baby doll dress I had ever seen needed to take stock. The man behind her certainly did when she bent over. He looked like he was going to pass out.

 

 

Friday November 16th

Book Covers-What Should the Heroine Wear?

Or not wear…

I have now five book cover posters of Simone Sinna’s erotica on my wall. Surrounding a large poster of Rudolph Valentino dressed as a sheik staring into the eyes of his heroine. This heroine is wearing a good deal more than “Stephanie” in the three Stephanie Beauman covers (Embedded, Exposé & Exclusive. Becc in Were-Devils’ Curse is a little over dressed in a long sleeved white shirt (but the two bare chested men make up for this). In Were-Devils’ Revenge Gabriella is more in keeping with the Beauman series.

So how do they decide what the cover girl wears? This is a job I could get into (imagine putting it down on your entry visa coming into the USA. Job: dresser for the sexy cover girls and guys on erotica).

The author certainly puts in their ideas and are allowed to have a “definitely do not want” specification. You get to describe the heroine and hero(es). This seems to be loosely adhered to (though Gabriella in the book has dark red hair and on the cover she’s brunette). They are meant to be romance and erotica, so this heads the attire towards the light on. Negligees (Were-Devils’ Revenge and Exclusive) or underwear (Embedded, Exposé). I have this fantasy that there is a studio attached to Siren where they do the photos and attached to it is an ENORMOUS wardrobe with every combination and possibility of every negligee, corset and stocking pair ever designed, with a few historical variations for the period books. In this fantasy I get lost there. Drift through aisles of  black lace, flimsy red fluff and white satin. Though none of the heroines seemed to have shoes (we can’t see their feet) in my fantasy there is a shoe section as well. Lots of Manolo Blaniks and Jimmy Choos. Killer heels, strappy numbers and over the knee boots.

The men’s section? Pretty small. But looking at Valentino maybe they do have the sheiks head gear and I’m a sucker for long black boots and a long black coat…

Friday November 9th

What to Wear−A Cocktail Party at the Zoo

It was to raise money for a good cause, and we got to hear the very charming and amusing Michael Palin speak about fish (as in one called Wanda), elephants and Brazil, the latter the topic of his latest book and BBC series. We also got to buy fluffy soft toys, and participate in the auction. Gabriel (Embedded & Exclusive) didn’t buy the most entertaining item- dinner (at a top restaurant) with two zoo keepers, both 30ish and 6ft 3in. And very cute…actually given there was a very impassioned talk about the pending extinction of the Tasmanian Devil by the Zoo’s CEO then I rather think it should have been Simone buying the night out…

It was hard not to look at these two hunks and think of Lincoln and Kael, the heroes in the third of the Were-Devils of Tasmania series… Mac and Mitch who are in Were-Devils’ Revenge out on December 3rd at Siren are more physical and very well built…these two were bright and cute and hunky with a definite sense of humour. Maybe I should have let Gabriel…oh well too late now.

So back to the question- what to wear? I wasn’t given a dress code and hadn’t ever been to a cocktail party in the zoo grounds (surrounded initially by Meerkats, they are soooo cute). The weather in true Melbourne style was variable. Not a night for a strapless number unless you had layers and then, what’s the point? Then there’s always the possibility of being outrageous. Going as Jane for instance (of Tarzan fame).

The crew seemed to have outrageous under wraps. The band with the python around the bassoon and safari outfits (possibly the only good use of a Safari outfit) and Tarzan and Jane with sprayed on outfits (this is an exaggeration) at least didn’t use much paint or much to the imagination. The celebrity chefs at least looked like chefs and Michael Palin was neat casual.

We did have one dinner suit, half the men in open necks and half with ties. The women? Ranged from the frock from Target (ugh) to elegant and understated. No ball gowns- the zoo doesn’t really lend itself to that. Despite being Melbourne Cup week, no hats either.

That’s me in the little black number…

Myself? Little black numbers (and black is Melbourne’s colour) come into their own on an occasion like this. A little white blouse underneath to pick the colour up, an elegant gold line in the tapering to the shin and some gold Victorian earrings (thanks to Katherine at Roys’Antiques in Clifton Hill) and the only other thing a girl needs is a glass of champagne…

 

 

(Okay it isn’t really me I’m a blonde. Simone maybe??? It’s out December 3rd at Siren!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday November 2nd

Halloween Costumes, Cakes and G-strings  from Simone

Okay I was thinking I would miss not being in New York this year for their fabulous Halloween parade (though I nearly got crushed in the last one) but given Sandy I have reassessed and while Australians Halloween is pretty tame, probably better under the circumstances. Actually Halloween doesn’t exist. We did get a couple of kids asking for chocolate but it was because they watch too much TV and forgot where they lived.

However, it doesn’t mean that one can’t be inspired in some ways. Goth? I have the right hair and there are some great black outfits (such a Melbourne colour) but it’s starting to make me look old. Or maybe that’s my husband’s writing class. He read an excerpt out of a work in progress, about middle aged (40’s) couple who had a wild affair in their twenties and reconnect. She is a 45 year old slim attractive ex actress. The class, including an older woman and a 45ish year old female teacher refused to believe that any woman over 40 would wear a G string.

I am only just able to write about it- still speechless. What do they do/think women over 40 do? Just give up and wear granny pants and start knitting? I think I started wearing a G string well into my thirties. There are still some very sexy older women including a lot of actresses (hence making this 45 year old G string negligee wearing actress even more plausible) and the rest of us who still get occasional whistles and appreciation from men in our age range who don’t feel the need to pretend they are 23. I go to the gym. There are women there with G strings, all ages.  Research shows that even well into their fifties, women enjoy sex and being sexy (and doing all the associated things) when they have a new relationship, and it is the 40 and 50 year olds (if not 60’s) that keep the swingers clubs alive. I checked one out (purely research). They really do exist.

Okay I’m feeling a lot better now. So now, no Goth. I’m currently writing the final of the Were-Devils of Tasmania series and the heroine is a female were-devil (I’ve had the males up to now).  So I’m tempted. But okay I’m getting old, instead of going out dressed up I had much more fun making green icing and helping my daughter with Halloween cakes…check ‘em out! Note in particular the top central one – a were-devil not were-wolf as it has white steaks and yellow-brown eyes! Check out Were-Devil’s curse on www.bookstrand.com/simone-sinna or more details and reviews under books on this website

 

 

Friday October 26th

Swimsuits- To Be or Not to Bikini…

With spring has come some wonderful warm weather and like people everywhere anxious to cast off the memory of winter, any sunshine and off comes the tops and the parks and beaches start to fill with people trying to tan up before summer. Or for those who have heard the Slip Slop Slap message, a quick top up of their vitamin D levels. Australia might have higher skin cancer rates than Iceland and Scandinavia but they have lower depression rates.

So what does one wear to the beach or sit by the pool in? Hat and long sleeves? A swim suit and block out?

My observation suggests that the desire to be a color other than white heads people to the latter with a careful (or not so careful in the French and Italian Riviera) juggling of thirty plus alternating with five plus and the occasional coconut oil fry up. Girls – well just want to be girls. In France I went swimming in the Riviera with Jean-Luc (read Exclusive – he’s a hot French Formula One driver) and the women with me were golden brown (from frying, not natural pigment alone) and were wearing the itsy bitsy bikinis that their stick thin bodies did more than justice to.

But what if you’re white or/and let’s say don’t have a BMI under 25?

In the States, and probably Australia, I don’t think anyone looks in the mirror. Or they do through rose colored glasses. Brits worry about their butts, Aussies look at their abdomens and Americans? Well like everything else, love me as I am. Earlier this week a New York student’s video of her generous proportions went viral and led to a debate on body image. It’s a tough one- we need to accept who we are and shouldn’t discriminate on the basis of weight or judge on body shape, but we also have to be realistic and try to eat healthily and be a BMI 18-25 (very low is not better than very high health wise!). Otherwise our health and the health dollar will suffer.

Me? Well right now I’m too busy to go to the beach and I don’t really like sand. A quick dip in the pool and at the moment it’s too cool to hang around wet. Saves worrying. But I am quite certain wine has less calories than beer…

Friday October19th

How to Manage When Overdressed

This sadly happens more often than it should. We’re meant to learn from our mistakes, right? You’d reckon wouldn’t you?

The first time was at a friend’s wedding. I was maybe twenty, she was nineteen. No, she wasn’t pregnant. I was probably behaving badly. Her parents had this picture of me as trouble. You know, you get labelled and you move to fit it? Well when you’re old or mature enough not to I guess you don’t but I was neither. So trouble arrived. My friend was cool though I have to say her husband has forever looked at me as though I might burst out into a Lambada at any moment. For those of you who remember the Lambada, no, I wasn’t in a very short skirt. More Mortisha Adams or actually Barbie in the tight dress that flared at the bottom and you could only shuffle in.

Next time? Well they blur. I was mostly with a gay (male) friend and it didn’t matter. I mean someone gives you a bright yellow Versace, you have to find somewhere to wear it, right? So I picked a gay bar where a Mel Gibson (of thirty years ago) look alike was doing a strip tease on the bar. To say nothing of the tearooms the following weekend. Okay. The eighty something year old proprietor nearly ran into the wall after being blinded.

The most recent? Mmm well it would be good to say hasn’t happened in years but…well we were going to a cocktail party in London and Jeffrey said his ex might be there. It’s not as if I think he’s going to run off with her or anything, it must be just something about the word ‘ex’ that induces bad behaviour. I forgot the British are well, shall we say, understated? I’m sure they were just muttering “well what do expect from someone from New York” or maybe in the eye roll was the implicit American of course.

What the hell. Jeffrey and I are all over the pages of the papers not the ex. And if there wasn’t much material in this little sensation, well they charged by what was missing rather than what was there. My friend said it best when someone said to her that it was so uncultured to wear big diamonds in the morning. My friend replied:

“That’s what I used to say before I could afford them.”

Stephanie appears in the Stephanie Beauman series, Embedded, Expose and Exclusive as an undercover reporter. Available at Bookstrand and Amazon.

Friday October 12th

Simone and Socks

It’s very hard to get excited about socks. Despite stores devoted almost entirely to them, a colorful array, the diversity of short, very short, long, over the knee, bushwalking, boot or shoe socks and the possibilities of stocking, wool, cotton or polyester, at the end of the day, a sock is a sock. It goes on your feet and the only people that get excited about feet are masseurs and podiatrists and usually in a negative way. The rest of us ignore them until they give us problems. The only time I’ve ever paid them much attention was walking the Camino de Santiago (see Exposé) and I had to wash socks every night in order to avoid blisters (it worked). The outdoor walking socks were great too, though hard to dry if there wasn’t a heater at night and it rained all day. This was common on the recent Coast to Coast walk in England.

Despite all these sock varieties and possibilities and shops devoted to the humble foot, there is yet to be a sock that is fashionable for women. Over the knee? I don’t think so. I don’t think Stephanie (Embedded, Exposé &Exclusive) ever admits to wearing them but as she wears jeans I guess she wears those stocking-boot socks. Not wearing them is not cool either. I had a boss once who wore Italian suits and shoes without socks because he thought it made him appear European. It did, but not in the way he was aiming for. Peasants (I’m thinking southern Italy) probably have smelly feet too after a day of picking olives.

Becc on the other hand (Were-Devils’ Curse) almost certainly does. Sensible ones for field work in the wilds of Tasmania. Though with two hot men to herself she doesn’t have them on often…

And my socks? Well the one thing you can guarantee about socks is that they’ll go missing. One only. Washing machines eat them with a frightening veracity (someone needs to write a story called the Abominable Washing Machine or Revenge of the Sock). Dryers accept them demurely and perform magic tricks defying science. No matter how many you buy the same you won’t end up with two that match. And just as you give up and throw the one out, its partner will turn up. Most recently carefully attached to a new top that had so much static all the ones of each pair were lined along it. Unfortunately it was new because I had bought it in the Northern hemisphere and by the time the temperature was right to wear it down south…I’d thrown the other halves out. It’s not even that the excuse to go sock buying is one I can greet with joy. Maybe I need to do sock buying online. In bulk.

Friday October 5th

Paris Fashion

Fashion just can’t be ignored in Paris. I’m not talking about the shows, which certainly ensure fashion is forefront, whether you are at them in the front row or seeing the latest Jean Paul Gaultier splashed across the newspapers, but rather the streets, the cafes and restaurants. We need to separate first the locals however from the tourists, and in September while the July onslaught of Americans has died down there are enough hints of good weather for the diehards to still be here. Tourists never dress well, or at least tourists with a capital T do not. Those who are here on business or whose familiarity with Paris is such that they drop the visit into conversation without thinking, dress well enough, sometimes too well, thinking that the true Parsiennes are elegant and that they must wear Labels.

Parisiennes are elegant, but in an understated way that is hard to emulate. They don’t wear Labels. They don’t dress to look chic – they just are! While there may be a Label involved, they will be certain that the label doesn’t show (and remove it if it does). Men can get away with loafers and a casually flung scarf and not be gay. They will have one expensive item paired with the tried and true from last seasons. They will have found the Bargain that looks just like the real thing and smile whimsically when you ask if it is.

Even the older lady that nearly knocked me over on her bicycle looked impeccable. The orange stripes on her bag, on her shoulder, matched the bars of the bike.

 

In a top Paris restaurant you are just as likely to find the men in T-shirts as you are a suit. There isn’t the stuffiness found elsewhere in the world, certainly not that which I found in England, where the level of stuffiness of the clubs is ‘please don’t come if you don’t have a Rolex’ (see Exclusive for my run in with one particular club. Jeffrey I have to say though, perhaps because he didn’t come from money, has pretty much perfected the understated elegance. He does have a Rolex though).

Friday 28th September

Fashion for Grouse Shooters

I’d like to start off by making it very clear. I’m a New Yorker. We don’t have Grouse so I don’t shoot them. Despite many Americans affair with fire arms, I am not one of them. However I happened to be in North Yorkshire and was invited to a Grouse shoot. I immediately imagined standing on the lawn of a fine establishment probably built before the Puritans arrived in the USA, sipping sherry (probably horribly sweet) and talking about the weather and the mess the House of Lords was in, while the men wandered around in the next meadow peering into bushes and shaking their heads ruefully. I was wrong.

Firstly it starts off far too early to be having sherry. It involves SUV’s bumping down old railway lines, dogs, muddy paths between heather with the last blush of pink and then a lot of banging. There is a local hatchery that churns out 20,000 birds a year for this ‘sport’. As there were a lot of slow birds (who have a wonderful warble) I was glad they weren’t in danger of becoming extinct but also in danger of needing that sherry regardless of time of day. I don’t think Hemmingway and I would have got on. This is not for me.

So I turned my attention to the fashion, because there was most definitely one associated with this activity. In jeans and a tweed jacket and sweater I got by, but only just. The fashion rules seemed to be more for the men however, of which the party primarily consisted. So English. Fawn and brown, cap (one was wearing a Sherlock Holmes number but I think this was a mistake), and shirts with dark brown pads presumably to rest the rifles against. I felt like I was in an episode of Downton Abbey.

I suppose I should try a day at the cricket and a hunt next to complete the English sporting experience…

Friday 21st September

Fashion for Walkers- a comment from Simone on the Coast to Coast Walk

This is an oxymoron. Enough said…

It really is very hard to maintain any sense of looking anything other than, well, wet. Muddy is a variation, which when rinsing out the plastic over pants that make me look like a beginner skier, extends to the entire bathroom and any other clothes that may be around.

You can get light boots that don’t make your feet look enormous. If it was sunny maybe in designer shorts (do they dry easily on a heater?) and shirt you might look fetching. If you are young it’d be that gangly all leg look that might even attract positive attention.They tried this in Martin Sheen’s film on the Camino, but that was Spain and it was warm!  This is not the situation however on the Coast to Coast in Yorkshire. Rugged up in thermals, fleeces, and gore-tex you coudl be 20 or 80 and it’d be hard to tell. I have to face it, this is why I wrote about Stephanie as being on the film crew on the Camino De Santiago rather than as a walker.

I would also like to add that there is no such thing as water proof boots, coats, gloves. Enough rain and I promise you, they all leak. I’ve tested it out. Wet socks are the norm. My goretex jacket to be fair has kept my body warm and dry but the rain goes down the arms and ensures that even if the water doesn’t go into your glove, they will eventually succumb to the torrent.

 

 

Friday 14th September

Fashion in English Pubs

I’m currently at the White Lion Pub in Paterdale. This is in the Lakes District of England. Let me clarify, it is called the Lakes District because of the lakes. I had had this vague idea that lakes got their water from snow melting somewhere else. Wrong. It gets its water because it rains, constantly. The only fashion issue really is how to stay dry if one needs to leave the safe confines of the ancient pub one finds oneself in. Like this one, where Wordsworth was apparently here when told Nelson died. You know, the one that was warring with Napoleon, the short Frenchman who couldn’t find a sling.

I am in the corner of the pub under the TV. This is the only place that wifi works. It’s great it has wifi at all because mostly in the area their is no mobile phone service. If putting in the service requires outdoor activity then all is explained. It rains too much to do anything. Above me Judi Dench is learning to cook and entering a competition for ale pie. This is a regualr at all pubs I haven’t tried yet. Given I don’t like ale it’s well down the list but given the South Afrcan wine doesn’t arrive until tomorrow and the Chliean is rubbish and I don’t want Aussie, the list is bare….

There are a lot of walkers here. This presumably explains the fashion sense. Or lack of it. Okay, if they’re straight off the Coast to Coast walk they’ll be in soaking walking gear. But as many have their luggage carried, can’t they slip into something a little more…fashionable?

Then again a lot of the accents around me are English, and they aren’t all walkers. We have men in loafers, white socks and cardigans. Ooop the winner woman just walked in. Older female, long floral skirt, green shirt about to burst open over her ample cleavage and the ubiquitious cardie.

The owner is waiting for the busload and we get thrown out. I imagine the dress sense will deteriorate…

 

 

Friday 7th September

Dressing for Cocktails

There was once a time when a cocktail party meant an after five number with a small hat and gloves, and cocktails were actually served. Now days, or at least in Australia a cocktail party means champagne (occasionally with a dash of peach and more recently a sugared hibiscus but regrettably usually neither, which would be fine if it was French but it’s usually Aussie sparkling, just not quite the same) and as for dress, well anything goes. In Melbourne mostly this means something black. Sydney at least has sunshine and color.

But right now I’m in Hong Kong staying at the Upper House. Dinner at the China Club (members and friends only and more than a dash of colonial feel) and then cocktails (real cocktails) at Café Gray Deluxe. Been there since 2009 so not a reference to Christian Gray (as in Fifty Shades).

One thing about Hong Kong is that it is glamorous. Women waft past me in in designer label and I want to rush back to my room and hope if I look long enough in my luggage a Versace will materialize. I’m thinking Versace because women are thin, elegant and color looks wonderful against jet black hair. Given I’m blond and no Versace packed I’ll make do with the understated black and white number I’m wearing. But if we go to the races, a hat is I think a must. Meantime I’ll concentrate on the view and the wasabi martini…

Friday 31st August

Leopard Print

I’m thinking 1980’s. Big hair and probably a porn star. Must have been the boots I saw once in a second hand shop. Platforms and lots of leopard print and the model had on leopard skin hot pants. 1970’s I guess. Not good.

My stepsister went to a party where the theme was ‘It shouldn’t have been put together.” Anything leopard skin probably would have got the point across, but as usual she invaded my wardrobe and sadly managed to find things I had forgotten about. They really did need to be forgotten about. Then she put them all on together. I am glad I’m not still working at Coco. If anyone found out we were related I’d have lost all credibility. Not for her wearing them, for having owned them.

I think I’ll stick to leopard print underwear…

Friday 24th August

Aging Gracefully or Disgracefully?

 Or How short can your skirt be and does it matter how old you are?

by SIMONE SINNA

With the death of Helen Gurley Brown in the last week (editor/founder of Cosmo), and the ongoing debate about Fifty Shades of Grey the paper has been full of varying opinions about whether these influences helped or hinder women. Are we all at the mercy of the cosmetic companies, is this all a plot to have us pleasing men, is it our own inherent insecurities and is all we need a good man (or not so good, just as long as they’re rich?).

Darcy, Grey and rich dark brooding men (Gabriel de Romanos and Jeffrey Carroway in my Stephanie Beauman trilogy) in romance fiction still fare well in some quarters. In Grey’s taste he had the taste on clothes so not only didn’t Anastasia Steel have to worry about her bedroom performance (one reviewer suggested this as a reason for the attraction of her virginal status though I’m inclined to think many Americans like this view of women in general as if fits in with the Puritanical origins of the country) she didn’t have to oworry about which designer label to choose. Of course she was only 23 and the wear was for the bedroom so aging and length of her skirt wasn’t an issue.

Helen Gurley Brown reached a ripe old age and did so like Catherine Deneuve and the aging French female TV weather and news reporters that are highly regarded. Phyllis Diller on the other hand took to growing old in the disgraceful camp when last on TV and while it was part of the comedian act, so was the fact she was a woman and she had no intention of becoming ‘invisible’ as she went over the magic ‘45’ into that ‘certain age’ category. Both women ulitmately were their own people and if they chose to have plastic surgery or not, use cosemtics or not- well I think they had the right to do so. How do you ensure though that younger more vulnerable women aren’t adversely influenced?

I am currently writing a novel where the heroine is 45. It’s a romance (not erotica) among other things. It was being discussed in my husband’s writing class – and one guy piped up that she couldn’t possibly be wearing tight jeans and heels because that’d be gross. He was 21. I guess his Mum is 45. But really?I think we may need to work on men too! I read somewhere that mini-skirts were the prerogative of the under 30’s (in case the guy whistling got a shock when his eyes hit the face and found it wasn’t some ‘chick’).   My daughter borrows my tight jeans and heels so I guess I’m going to be there with Phyllis. If I get to 95 guess I can do what I damn well please…

Friday 17th August

Gloves

Winter is wonderful for fashion and as much as I like warm climates, living in somewhere like Queensland, you really miss the wonderful extras of winter clothing- hats (see last week), scarves (nest week maybe) and gloves.

Gloves can be annoying but they can be equally as essential and a definite fashion statement. Think of the Queen and hers. Okay, maybe don’t think too hard but they are a statement. Michael Jackson and his one. Grace Kelly and those divine long elegant ones. I have several pairs like this and so few places to wear them! Also you have to think about whether you put the rings on top or underneath. If the former you’re stuck with them on all night and they invariably end up covered in champagne and some sort of cocktail sauce. Therefore they need to be black (as in Simone’s AVI!)

But winter gloves have a lot more versatility. There’s usually an attached coat that must have pockets or else the gloves won’t last long. And when you think you’ve lost them next season this is the first place to check- all the pockets of your coats. You may find a lot of other interesting things as well if you’re anything like me…

I had a brief period of interest in fingerless gloves which overcome the sauce, juggling keys etc problem but alas it’s my fingers that need them. Particularly in New York! Alright I still wear the fluffy pink ones that go with the matching hat (last weeks photo).

Current favourites? Can’t go past red gloves…though I like the fluffy ones too… (no animal was harmed in the making of these gloves!)

Friday 10th August

Gym Bunnies …

It has been said that when I hit the ski slopes I look more ski bunny (you know, head to foot white fluff) than well shall we say serious skier? The mulled wine is actually one on the day’s highlights (and significantly improves my skiing).

But when it comes to the gym I mean business. This is investment in future health and there’s the whole routine the personal trainer set out for me… (I don’t think they meant me to do the routines more than once, do you?). I go to the city gym though and while not exactly elite I am mixing with the Director of the Australian Ballet (who is seriously fit) and I want to look serious. So the question is- what to wear?

There’s no bunnies here let me tell you. No fluff and I seem to be the only person colour coordinated. Pink, okay. Most people look like they are trying not to be noticed even the ones with well-toned bodies and who seem fit.  Is it like the back pack thing- that the cool kids only use one strap? The better you look the more you pretend you don’t (the French take the badges off their expensive cars to down play things but I’ve never thought this was an Aussie thing). There’s men that wear leggings under their shorts, men who wear very little and should and those who wear very little and are as wide as they are tall but it’s all muscle.

Still better than what I saw one of my colleagues goes running in. Like jogging, not just late to the office, but he was in a business shirt and baggy shorts. He doesn’t see the need to buy a special outfit- but then he doesn’t see the need for jacket either…

Myself? Well the right attire is needed to put you in the mood and as the Olympics come to an end, seeing their outfits- well let’s just hope it helped with speed because by and large they weren’t beautiful (particularly beach volley ball outfits!). Me? I get too have a pink, yellow, purple…well anything that encourages exercise, right?

Friday 3rd

Winter Hats – let’s try again!

Okay last week got a little out of control. But it’s still cold and I’m still wearing hats! They’ve even made it into a book shop in Gertrude St (Fitzroy, Vic, Aus) but these are warm fuzzy and fun.

Probably the place you see the most fun ones (and warm) is on the ski-fields though some of the wild jester hats are at best impractical of maybe they ski better than I do! Have managed to get a photo of the fun fluffy pink number- they’re in front. It gets hot indoors though.

When I was on the Camino de Santiago (Martin Sheen’s movie covers the 800km haul across Spain), this one was 2000km from central France, through (not just over!) the Pyrenees and then the coastal route we started in winter and it was cold. (You can read about this on Simone’s blog on Tuesdays when there isn’t a Grand Prix, or as fiction via a making of a film in Exposé). Winter in Europe or Northern Us is seriously cold and the hat is not just needed it’s essential! Think Dr Zhivago and the icicles in the ‘summer’ home…

In Europe I had a thick sheepskin coat and matching brown hat and scarf (over the door and to the left of same photo). And I needed it! Opinion about fur coats and animals aside, you can see why people appreciate their warmth and everything that evolution has contributed! In Australia it just isn’t that cold. Not the biting to the centre of one’s being type cold. Occasional exceptions!

 

August Friday 27th July

Winter Hats

When I was living in New York, a hat was a given in winter, for men and women. It wasn’t necessarily a fashion statement (okay, it was for me) but rather an essential part of the wardrobe to prevent heat loss. In Melbourne it’s cold, but not so cold that you can’t make do with a scarf or a turned up coat collar if you have to. So a hat has to be a conscious decision- and what a fun one!

Berets- my favorite is pink and fluffy and has matching fingerless gloves and I’d show a picture but having a computer meltdown (ahhhh brand new one) and having to do this from someone else’s after a margarita as I am off interstate tomorrow. Will try for next week with hats from great Gertude St hat shop!

Men wore hats in New York too, here only my psychiatrist friend wears one and he’s Irish so the beret looks right!

Friday 20th July

Victorian Garb

While it’s true I wouldn’t like the corsets, nor the bustle, there is something rather majestic about Victorian outfits that are of the modern variety. I’m thinking Bellatrix Lestrange, the bad mad woman from Harry Potter. If you’re in any doubt because the mad is putting you off the outfit, watch the episode, I think the last one, where Hermione is still is Bellatrix’s clothes when she returns to herself after one of those spells (the one she got wrong in an earlier episode and ended as a cat).

I was reminded of this when my younger stepsister went out to a recent fancy dress party with a Harry Potter theme. She rummaged around in my wardrobe and decided Bellatrix was it. Amazing what you can do with contemporary clothes. The boots were easy- see last weeks post as I have boots for all occasions. These boots are oldies but goodies, black mid calf length lace ups. When they were new (and I was wearing them) a woman at a party came up and told me she loved them. She was looking at th man I was with at the time so this might not be entirely reliable. But they do look very Bellatrix and surprisingly Victorian.

Next my stepsister found the bodice. What wardrobe doesn’t have one? This was bought to wear as the strapless top to a skirt that flared, but combined with a long black skirt, and a Thierry Mugler black jacket that comes in at the waist with long laces, all that was needed was a good hair teasing! Though see earlier post, the cape could have been added  too. I have got a great photo of Victorian goths in capes stalking the streets of Whitby at Halloween.

Simone did a blog on Wednesday on hoarding. Okay, I confess I hoard clothes. I may never have thrown anything out unless it was full of holes, ripped and faded beyond recognition. It makes for easy fancy dress options….

 

Friday 13th July

Boots: almost enough for you to want it to stay winter

I love boots. Firstly they seem to fit me and be comfortable, something I can’t say for any number of stilettos strappy things in my shoe cupboard (Manolos excepted). They’re warm and dry. They last. And there are plenty of varieties. Here are some of the wilder ones in the range after the daily wear brown and blacks. The pale pink ones (bought in Oxford) with the lace up the back you wouldn’t want to walk in puddles in but elegant!

The Bloomingdales over the knee ones from last season, okay they slip in the snow but back in Australia not so much of a problem. The cowboy boots do make me feel a bit fancy dress but though I got these ones in Canada, they are a bit like the stars and stripes pair I wear to the Texan ball in the finale of Exclusive (now out at Siren). The final pair? German of course…and definitely inspire a bit of Goth….most appropriate maybe for Friday 13th?

6th July

Fashion though the Ages

I still swoon slightly when I watch Gone with the Wind. Partly at Rhett Butler (not Clark Gable please note) but also at Scarlett O’Hara’s wardrobe. That white dress she opens the movie in…is divine. To be fair it is made clear even in the movie how impractical clothes in that era were. The corsets, not being able to eat and breath, the skirt tipping up 180 degrees with the wire frame underneath to how the frilly underwear. But they were beautiful. But loads of petticoats would also have impeded progress- look at how they had to ride horses! (I wonder what the stats are re deaths and injuries second to being sidesaddle?)

Move forward a hundred and fifty years and we’re all in jeans. Practical, comfortable and I’d like shares. But they don’t give you that swooning moment. Even on the catwalk of the couture shows the ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ are for show stagemanship and outrage, not beauty. Christian Dior probably had it with the ‘new’ look of the fifties but that was because women were desperate for beauty after years of war deprivation. I hope we don’t need another war to get us to the same stage.

It is true though that you can get away with a lot in 2012. No you couldn’t wear a Scarlett O’Hara hoop dress and pantaloons (though you’d get away with the pantaloons as a fashion statement) except to a fancy dress but twenties? Yep, have in my cupboard such a dress complete with long frills. All you have to do is add the band around your head.

Thirites and forties? I have a long sleek black silk skirt circa 1940. Noone had ever thought it out of place. Many of my hats, though modern, could also be circa same time. Even the 1820’s Josephine style (hanging from just below the breast line) has been in fashion, albeit shorter (never took this one up, makes you look pregnant which is okay if you are but not otherwise).

So it seems I’ll have to whisk back to Venezia for carnival to wear the big ballroom number and in the meantime rejoice in our choices. The modern Western women is undoubtedly the luckiest in history.

 

29th June

Pop Fashion

Lady Gaga is currently in Melbourne doing five concerts, more than anywhere else in Australia, including Sydney which of course is bigger. Does this say something about Melburnians? Possibly. Though I’m not a particular Lady Gaga fan I was in Hartford Connecticut a couple of years ago when she was doing a concert, and her fans brought life to somewhere (and it may have just been where I was eating) that otherwise I wouldn’t really have bothered with.

Likewise the fans here have been on TV and in the paper, as of more wildly dressed than her, though probably not as wild as her concert. Can you really sing with someone trying to simulate sex with you? Mmm…

But getting the joy de vie from dressing up- well that I can identify with! I went through a Madonna phase at one stage. Around the time of the Lady Gaga concert in Connecticut I was living in New York and there was a 25 year anniversary playing of Desperately Seeking Susan that the stars – Rosanna Arquette and Aidan Quinn, not Madonna- turned up to (looking hot given the passing of a quarter century) and did Q&A. Okay the film wasn’t Academy award stuff and a lot of people deride Madonna’s acting ability (I thought she should have got an Academy award for Evita– she was sensational). But there was something quite magic about it and when I first saw it was fun being inspired by the zany fashion sense. I did it with chunky jewellery, hats and a leather jacket, but the phase was short- this really wasn’t me, even in high school.

So go for it guys- even if I don’t like what you’re wearing, it’s bright interesting anf un. The world is way too serious and we need something to lighten us all up!

22nd June

Academic Couture: Is there such a thing?

My lecturers were never exactly well dressed. Most were quite young or quite old. The younger ones were supporting themselves through a PhD and thus poor, so jeans and shirt were about it. The older ones, particularly the tenured ones, made an art form out of shabby. Those jackets with patches on the elbows? Well that’s because they needed them. Cuffs also looked worse for wear.

So with this in mind perhaps seeing the freshman arriving on campus for the first time at University of Minnesota shouldn’t have been a surprise. Well apart from making me feel old. Or maybe being led around wit name tags on is a guaranteed way of taking years off you. They seemed to have decided that they’d blend in with the lecturers (the young ones). Or maybe it was in that desperate effort that only freshmen can feel, to manage looking totally like everyone else. I’m sure the guys put on their jeans, look in the mirror and try to work out just how far down their butt their jeans should be. And then work the belt accordingly. If I was to yell out and say “Hey why don’t you tighten the belt” I’d be greeted with a “you are so not cool” look and a brief moment (freshman only) about whether I was right or maybe I was being sarcastic and they should go lower?

Easier, this day only, for women. Hard to go wrong with low rider jeans and a Tshirt. Shoes – well the low risk option is runners, but you can tell who will join the elite women’s cappa right here. Some women (okay I confess) just can’t be seen out in anything but heels. Not that this is guarantee of anything of course (apart from bunions). I managed to fall over spectacularly in my first lecture in front of the Dean, and second level down below the Plastic set is fine by me. I was in California as a freshman so I suspect there were different rules – maybe everyone in runners is fine in Minnesota.

The rest of my undergrad degree I recall as being a little like Mean Girls meets Legally Blonde. There were definitely some (women) who dressed to be remembered. Then there were some who didn’t but will be remembered never-the-less. I suspect at our reunion, nothing will have changed. The Queenbee when I last saw her, still looks incredibly hot (and unlike mean girls, was actually smart and friendly). The dag is still trying to save the world and doesn’t pay much attention. And the academic? Well she’s post PhD but isn’t tenured so she’s busy fading into the background. No high heels in sight.

15th June

Shopping In New York: Platforms, Ugh boots, gumboots and new stores

The negative- wall to wall people. God NY is busy in June!

The positives – everything else! Okay Aussie dollar not doing as well as it was last time I was here, but prices aren’t too bad, though I haven’t been anywhere near the Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo shop it’s true. And I didn’t look at the price on the Fendi handbags (but aren’t they to die for?).

Actually I’m a bit over shoes at the moment. Or rather the shoes that are in the shops. They look great – in fact these ‘American’ ones (below left) would go brilliantly with an outfit I wore to a ball in Texas (see Exclusive – the Texas GP finale- hopefully coming out in a month or so). But…who can walk in them? And I needed to do a Tango…

All shoes seem to currently have an inch or two of padding under the sole. I feel I am floating or rather tottering over life rather than being in touch. I value my ankles too much…

Then there’s the gum boots (English call them wellingtons I think). You know, plastic or rubber boots for mucking out stables? Playing in puddles as a kid? Well they are the rage here. I get it in winter, though you’d have to wear thermal socks to stop your feet freezing (and then they’d bake indoors). But in June? Even if it is wet. What are these people thinking?

Better I guess than the Ugh boots. Seeing they are a fashion statement in New York I have to say is a little funny. In Australia only Bogans wear them. Think Kath and Kim (the Brits) or trailer trash (Americans).

Oni and Joe Fresh (started selling clothes in a green grocer shop hence the name) are the newest shops since I was last here. Oniqlo is Japanese on the corner of 5th and 53rd, downstairs your average 5th Ave modern aiming for the 20’s year old market. Then you take the very long escalators and the store goes on and on forever. Cheap T-shirts? This is the place to go.

7th June

Walking: Can you still be fashionable?

Common sense would of course say no. This is why the automobile was invented. To get us – and our wardrobes– from point A to point B. Walking is good for us, yes, but a stroll into and around town is about all I’d personally consider necessary. Spending a few days post Monaco Grand Prix in France, it would seem that French women agree. They are racing to get their baguettes from the bakery and probably don’t eat very much of them, but they are racing back to their cars. I note in the little town we are having lunch in that they are also racing to the green grocer. There are a lot of myths about why French women don’t get fat – having spent quite a bit of time in the country I am certain it’s because they eat well and moderately. If they buy tarts at the bakery it’s not for them, or if they do indulge at a dinner party they have a mere sliver. And they don’t ‘walk’ distances that require them to be anything less than fashionable.

Now the Germans are different. A group of 50’s plus German women walk past us with back packs and their scallop shells attached (I am in a village along the Camino de Santiago de Compostella, see Exposé for the story of how we filmed the walk). They look sensible, practical. They’ve read the books about light trousers, layers, good shoes and socks. Nut fashionable they are not. If they bump into Mr Right they just aren’t going to be prepared. At least decent underwear is light, small and dries easily (and must always match– as every French woman knows… see Two Lipsticks and a Lover by Helen Firth).

Now this is the possibility of wearing shorts and a top if the weather is hot enough that you might be able to get away with. Shoes are a problem though, so you need to take a pair for the evening. Even the most ordinary clothes can be overlooked if you’re in high heels. When Simone walked the Camino (2038 km) her husband carried them all the way to San Sebastian so she could go to Arzak (which also features in Exposé). She carried the dress though– and this really is where women’s clothes come into their own. Everyone needs a little black or red number that weighs nothing and hangs out perfectly after being squashed in luggage or a back pack. The only way to walk….

1st June

Clothes for Travel

 

I like clothes. A lot. I also like to travel. But after losing one bag to the black pit also known as Heathrow and another with LLIAT (Luggage Left In Another Town…), to say nothing of the trials of travel, I have been convinced of the merits of travelling on hand luggage.

Which creates a quandary. How does one pack enough clothes for a 3-4 week trip that covers casual walking to elegant dining?

One option: buy and cast off as you go.

Okay, can’t do that one as my budget won’t allow it, and besides I grow very attached to some of the clothes I have queued for, found for a song, been given or just plain fallen in love with.

It helps travelling in Summer. Clothes are lighter, no coats needed (though you can carry one of these separately). It’s worse if you travel from Europe in Winter to an island in the Southern hemisphere all in one go.

It also helps being a woman, because all of the clothes I chose to travel with can be squashed into a ball and still hang out as wearable without an iron. G-strings also take up no space though if tucked in a round everything else, they tend to fly out everywhere, always a problem if customs decide to go through the case.

The best advice though is to decide on a compatible colour theme. You can’t take too many jackets so the one(s) you do have need to go with everything. Black jackets always good for this.

Shoes are the biggest problem – generally I have the ones I wear on the plane and a very light pair of Reebox for walking and exercise. Resist the temptation for more!

Remember also – you can always buy another bag and return with checked luggage….

25th May

The Romance of a Cape

There is something about a Cape.

When I put this cape on in a tiny shop in Venice in February at the time of Carnivale I was transported back to another time. The sheer weight and warmth of the fabric encloses and hides you, protecting you from the world. In the dimly light foggy Venice nights with narrow laneways and masked revellers, there seems to be much to be protected from.

Venice at Carnivale must be the Mecca for historical romance writers. The city if so weighed down with history it’s sinking, and in Winter (Carnivale being an exception) there are fewer tourists and the pollution less obvious. This is the city of Casanova and the Bridge of Sighs, as well as other amazing oddities such as the Peggy Guggenheim museum that I discocered by accident while winding around back streets. After a European tour of Madonna’s and Child paintings (I will be happy never to see another ever again) the sudden burst of modern art was an inspiring breath of fresh air. In the setting of Carnivale though some paintings took on a more sinister air.

Max Ernst who was Guggenheim’s lover painted his other secret lover into his paintings and the sexual tension and at times confronting images seem to fit well into the highly charged atmosphere. I have never been but I believe there is some events (invitation only and not cheap) which border on recreation of a time long past where sexual predilections are catered for and where beneath the cape men and women are not as they seem.

I wander the dark streets protected by my cape, rugged up against the cold, and walk past high walls with occasional glances into courtyards and homes beyond. If only those walls could talk.

18th May

Fancy Dress

Why is it that guys don’t like dressing up? At best they grumbling take the opt out option of black tie with varying degrees of grace, depending on whether they own the required attire.

I once attended a ball where the dress code was Wild West theme, with the opt out option available, theoretically for both genders. The women all dressed up. Who hasn’t secretly wanted to be the Bar maid with the heart of gold or better still one of the dancing girls doing the can-can? Okay there is a bit of getting your head around this. My girlfriend’s son (aged eight) visiting Disneyland in Paris knew the can-can was French so that was okay. That everyone was speaking French kind of made sense too – in France, French dance after all. What was harder to fathom was why this was called the (American) Wild West. I think my friend explained via way of French pirates in New Orleans (had to fit in with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride after all) and that they kept heading inland…

Anyway, there we were all dressed up in frills and feather boas but the men? Dinner suits. Didn’t they all play Cowboys and Indians as kids?

It was worse at another ball, jungle theme. Given  that the waiters and waitresses were dressed up as Tarzan and Jane. Okay I confess I did too (and won the best dressed prize for the night, given to me by one of the very hot Tarzans – pity I don’t drink beer). Most women went for jungle flavour rather than skimpy, it was a ball after all. My poor father though had been pressured to enter the spirit of things (its tough for politicians) and he and my stepmother were both decked out in safari outfits. Mmmm….

My younger sister frequently attends fancy dress – I’ve seen a selection of young women with long legs in cop, teacher and French maid outfits that I think were meant for another occasion entirely. Last week she went as mini mouse and I think her mother sighed in relief. Her partner went as a SWAT team member (ie normal clothes, with a plastic gun and handcuffs that were confiscated at the door).

The one fancy dress scenario I have seen enter into with gusto is the hookers and deviates balls – the men with flare are generally gay though. I guess the dress up gene is linked with the feminine side and as I like my men macho, what the hell. Black Tie is pretty damn good.

11th May

Male Fashion

 

Anyone who has read anything about Stephanie Beauman will know she likes her men well dressed and polished. I have a particular fondness for men in Black Tie (it can make the most ordinary man attractive). But part of liking men dressed up is the contrast to how they are the rest of the time. Which is mostly not good.

I wrote an article once on schizophrenia and the psychiatrist I was interviewing said that when they first started in psychiatry in the 80’s lipstick half way up the chin on a woman and trousers with the crutch at the knees in men (as well as shaved heads in either gender) was almost diagnostic of the disorder.

I would suggest no more – or if it is half the male population under the age of 25 has schizophrenia (to keep things accurate I should point out that the rate is 1% of the population has schizophrenia, same in both genders).

So fashion has for the last few years made a positive out of men not having hips and being too lazy/forgetful/cheap to buy belts. And it’s been a huge bonus for underwear manufacturers – they no longer have to pay so much to advertise as the population is doing it for them, Bonds, Calvin Klein, and Rio there on the streets like a walking billboard.

As for the shaved head- well between it being ‘in’ to be bald rather than thin in patches (unless you’re Shane Warne) or to shave your head for charity, to say nothing of the effects of chemo, no one can really make an intelligent comment about male hair so I’ll leave it alone (except to say Shane Warne’s hair is okay but OMG what makes him think a plastic face is attractive? For the Americans he’s an ex-cricketer who’s had a mid life crisis. Seems we’re stuck with him and actress/celebrity girlfriend Liz Hurley as they just bought a property in Melbourne).

Men in suits seem to continue to head the best dressed look, however stupid and uncomfortable ties may be (and it’s not that we girls don’t suffer).  I think men just need the discipline – like the work protocol takes over from where their mother’s left off. Whatever it takes- at least I haven’t seen suit trousers with the crutch at the knees…yet….

4th May

Roses and Chocolate Blog Hop and Giveaway STARTS TONIGHT! Not exactly fashion but what every fashionable woman wants to be seen with….

THIS ALL STARTED WITH LEA but all below involved!

1.  Lea Barrymire

2. Michele Hart

3. Rose Leigh Woods

4. Carolyn Rosewood

5. Rita Bay

6. JoAnne Kendrick

7. Becca Simone

8. Siobhan Muir

9. Camile Carson

10. Wendy Soliman

11. Kasey Dean

12. Alicia White

13. Lynn Tyler

14. Hennesee Andrews

15. Christi Bart 16. Nicole Morgan 17. Missy Lyons 18. Jan Graham 19. Casey Crow 20. Simone Sinna 21. Lea Kinkade

 

Starting at one min after midnight today, it’s up and running until one minute before midnight on the 9th May! Try and read all the blogs, there’ll be some great giveaways and who doesn’t like Roses, chocolates and pressies!!!

For a chance at a copy of one of two short erotic story collections (print) published by Stringybark, Between the Sheets or Heat Wave of ’76 (Australia only) or a copy of Embedded (erotic romance suspense, ePub or lit version) then just leave a comment on my website saying why you like or don’t like roses and chocolates! Winners notified by email/tweet/facebook (and asked for address via email for books to be sent) on May 10th.

You can also enter by tweeting @simonesinna with chocolates and roses in the message or via facebook, but maximum of three entries per person!

Be sure to see Monday’s blog on this topic- a Romantic Short Story Called the Language of Roses

From Stephanie Beauman on this topic:

What’s not to like???

Roses are the flower of romance and look beautiful and the better ones, smell even better. They add a special flavour to the night out with a special man and then fill the apartment with fragrance for (if you’re lucky) a couple of weeks afterwards to remind you.

Chocolates? Well in my mind I get stuck in that chocolate shop in the film/book Chocolat. One of the highlights of France, and when I was in Cluny filming (see Exposé, recently released sequel to Embedded) they have a shop there that didn’t have Johnny Depp dropping in but otherwise captured the tone well. To say nothing of the flavor of the chocolates!!! The chocolate fountain in the window, the wonderful white and dark chocolate slabs with dried fruit (they must be healthy, right?) and then there are the desserts as well…

27th April

Stockings

Okay just to clarify from the outset, when I say stockings I also mean pantyhose. But how erotic is it to title something Pantyhose? Makes me think of bank robbers rather than shadows of the bedroom where garter belts are slowly being unfastened. True, pantyhose have to be edged or ripped off rather than sexily undone and dropped, but as there are some fabulously sexy stockings of the pantyhose variety on the market, I prefer to put this group (those pictured for instance) together rather than with the more utilitarian ‘tights’ that one wears to keep warm if in a dress.

What is it about this type of stocking? Women in the 50’s and post-war saved up for a pair and repaired and re-repaired them, such a desirable thing that they were. They feel good, make no mistake. The feeling of silk even if it is cotton or nylon, the sheerness as they pull over flesh and help make the worst looking legs half respectable. The naughtiness of them. Well of mine- some with “garters” in the design, or tight look low down giving away to hints of flesh further up the leg. The designers are thinking sex, make no mistake.

In true 50’s style the price remains high, just to make as truly appreciate them- and die when they get a ladder as we put them on for the first time. How many dollars have been waste in moments like this? Like last night’s ones, sheer black with flames up the legs. Alas now also with ladders accompanying them. Too painful to think about.

As the Grand Prix circuit edges closer to Paris I guess I’ll just have to drop into Gallerie Layfayette to replace them…

20th April

The Wonder of Jewellery

I had to buy a present for my girlfriend last week (see Ball Gowns and Major Birthdays below) and what better way to find one that go and see another girlfriend who has a jewellery business? Of course I love the antique jewellery I have (see the earlier Faberge red drops!) from Katherine and Roy’s Antiques but modern jewellery can be quite fantastic and Gillian (gillianhillmandesign.com) has a great array of earrings, rings and necklaces, using gold and white gold, emeralds, rubies, pearls (some great Aussie ones) and a lot more unusual things.

For my friend I ended up with an onyx necklace with a beautiful black Tahitian pearl. But I couldn’t leave with out these earrings… One is from art clay which gets baked and then painted with gold, the other is gold and white gold and dangles daintily….

13th April

Ball Gowns and Birthdays

Tomorrow night is a friend’s birthday. A major birthday. Big enough that it requires an ‘occasion’. Not that it isn’t always nice to have someone making a fuss of you. My 29th? With Gabriel, champagne, dinner with white table clothes and silver service – but in the open air with the sunset behind Uluru also known as Ayer’s rock, an amazing monolith standing alone in the middle of the Australian desert. My 30th (see Exposé which was released as an ebook on April 10th www.bookstrand.com/simone-sinna ) was at Arzak restaurant in San Sebastián in Spain (amazing- the chef’s daughter had just got an award the day we went) with one of Hollywood’s heart throbs.

Other Major birthdays I’ve been to? Simone’s after one of her (nonerotic) books was turned into a full length screen play and filmed over six months and then shown at a proper cinema complete with limo, red carpet and photographers. And awards presented to the actors (and they weren’t all bad though Simone needs to stick to writing…) presented by the Actor’s guild. While the movie had a serious theme (the book had got to the last phase at Random house) the bloopers didn’t … and the out-takes did include some, well, M rated moments.

Simone’s husband was taken by helicopter to a rural getaway one year and another a surprise party in a three star French restaurant. One year they went to El Bulli when it was the best restaurant in the world and now sadly doesn’t exist.

Probably all topped by the party my girlfriend who is a fire dancer and acrobat got paid to entertain at. Located on an island for a 40th where about 500 guests were served constant top level champagne and sent home with Rolex watches.

Okay so tomorrow night it’s my girlfriends and it’s black tie and ball gowns. So what to wear? I’m usually overdressed compared to everyone else (okay so I like to dress up, practically live at Century 21 when in NY and my mother indulges me. What’s a girl to say?). I’d like to wear the dress I wore to the Grand Prix ball (in Exclusive, just accepted by Siren) but unfortunately I couldn’t afford it and had to give it back to Tiara.

Women just so don’t do ball gowns these days. And then as it’s someone else’s birthday, you have to be sure you aren’t going to upstage them. Bit like not wearing white to a weddings (though originally that is exactly what the bridesmaids did wear in order to distract evil spirits away from the bride). Being in Melbourne everyone is bound to wear black. It’s a Melbourne thing. No, not Goth, just traditional conservative. Me? I’d rather like some colour. Maybe this?

6th April Easter- Good Friday

On Play Boy Bunnies …and other fluff and feathers

Great. High Heffernan finds another way of exploiting women by selling us all night attire with bunnies on them. He must be having a real giggle. Trouble is they … well the bunny is rather cute. I was in a aerobics competition once wearing a bunny outfit and it was great for ease of movement. If my tail hadn’t fallen off I might have even won. Well maybe not. I have a feeling I was considered frivolous by one of the judges who had that “we’re serious about exercise” look.

So I don’t have a bunny costume anymore. Or a playboy towel, purse, key ring, underwear or night wear. Let’s face it. There are classier alternatives.

The teddy, basque, bodice with garters and stockings, negligee… the things your boyfriend or husband gives you when you really want a new iPhone or coffee machine. Particularly when they bought a size 6 and you’re a 16. (When my size 18 girlfriend was out on the town she gave me all her presents. They really don’t stretch that far).

…other fluff and feathers

So don’t wait for them to buy the sexy lingerie – surprise them and buy it for yourself. Take a girlfriend, it’s fun. Fluff, feathers and fancy dress for the bedroom. One girlfriend bought me this amazing see through blue flimsy negligee that makes me feel like I’m Marlene Dietrich. The men who have seen me in it weren’t carrying guns either…Cops and nurses are a bit passé but better than bunnies. At my half-sister’s recent 15th birthday all the girls were in variations of this theme. With legs that go on forever and looking years older. Wow, watch out men of the future from this lot!

 

3oth March

Pants Suits

Living away from home (New York) in a country where there is a female prime minister (Australia) has got me thinking about women in politics and what they wear.

Firstly it’s an issue. It is something that comes up. Julia Gillard is constantly being derided (she does her best but she does need guidance about how to minimise rather than maximise her ample hips) and made fun of in a recent TV series. Before her it was Joan Kirner (a previous State premier) and her polka dots and leader of the democrats red chiffon number of the front page of the woman’s weekly. Why? Because they really are bad dressers (jury is out on this)? Because Vogue hasn’t made it out here (no)? Because they’re female (yes)? I have to say I rather like the Governor General’s numbers (even if she does have a man’s name, Quentin, she is defintiely female and very colourful).

Aside from anything else, this country is culturally well, ocker. Lay back, deriding of most things, a bit cynical, a bit anti-establishment. They did after all come from the convicts. Women were Sheilas and in the outback they still are. But then we’ve got cowboys in the States…

So are we any better in the States? Not really- just different. I don’t think I have seen any US female politician in anything other than a pant’s suit. The male politician’s wives wear skirts and jackets on the campaign trail but the female politicians never show their legs. Neither do female academics. There is a almost unbreakable rule – women if they want power must show no sexuality. Not be men, but be devoid of anything that – good heavens, might distract the fellow male politicians or remind people they are women. It’s as if there is something terrifying about femininity. That the power of the mother and seductress might somehow be released in the halls of power.

UK didn’t do much better with Maggie. Whatever else you say about her, the fact that you got to see her in a dress made you think more Dame Edna Everage…

The Italians had a politician who went to the other extreme and campaigned topless. Probably don’t need to go there.

Why can’t we follow France’s model? No not with respect to the men (Dominique Strauss-Kahn is perhaps a great model for everything we don’t want male politicians to be). I’m thinking Christine Legarde. She’s obviously very capable, didn’t sleep her way into power but she’s clearly woman and hasn’t compromised this. Elegant, smart and yes you do get to see her legs.

23rd March

Russian Earrings

Now these are my type of earrings. They look simple but once probably had the signature of Fabergé. Enamel and they look as they look like new. Faberge

I found Roy’s Antiques in Clifton Hill (Melbourne)  and he’s a Russophile. Russian icons, silver – and these earrings. Or rather he had them until they came into my possession… Better still they came with a story, apparently the property of a Russian countess who escaped to the US, but not until after a childhood where she hung out with the royal family. The ones that didn’t make it out. Better still, Roy (the quintessential antique shop owner, slightly starchy, impeccably dressed and spoken and a fountain of knowledge) found a book the good Countess Olga Woronoff  had written and got me a copy- circa 1932. Essentially an early biography complete with photos. Not of the earrings sadly but a gorgeous photo of her at about ten with her father, and her family with the Russian royal children.

Wearing the earrings I can close my eyes and pretend just for a moment (a moment with no Bolsheviks around) I am a continent away in another time.

16th March

Grand Prix Couture

What does a girl wear to the Grand Prix?

Okay there are those among you who will reply nothing (…meaning don’t go). Not everyone gets excited by the first rev of the engine. It’s probably more of a mystery to women in particular. I’m inclined to think from my own experience that if you don’t get bitten early you never will. There has to be someone back in your formative (er sexually formative) history that you link with the sound. Then forever after when you hear the rev, it just goes straight to your groin. Well it does to mine.

It was my first crush. I was fourteen, he was sixteen. Okay the GP was the Monaco one and if you’re going to start somewhere this is kind of starting at the top, hard to improve from there. Particularly as the race was amazing. The main record was that only three cars finished!

Move forward sixteen years or so and here I am in Australia for the Melbourne GP (you can read more about this later in the year when Exclusive comes out). And the issue is – what to wear. Yesterday (Thursday) when they were doing the fly overs and Formula Ford and Porsche races it rained on and off all day, but was also hot and sticky. Not that I’m complaining too much as in New York it wasn’t getting over 16 C. But how to keep dry but stay elegant?

Not sure these grid girls have got it right but at least they are trying!

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/grand-prix

Just hoping that the weather will be better for the weekend and I can show a bit of leg and get some sun! Otherwise, well jeans it is and the only question is which Tshirt I’m going to by. I do like the red Ferrari one but given the two Aussies (Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo are in Red Bull senior and junior (Torro Rosso) maybe I should support them. Maybe one of each of the teams and change them is I get wet…

 

9th March

A Little Bit of Fluff and Fun

Isn’t fluff and fun what fashion is meant to be about? It was International Women’s Day yesterday and it’s great all the wonderful things women have done but lets not lose the ability to do a Cyndy Lauper…

Sometimes girls just want to have fun

It has apparently been the hottest Australian summer in 11 years. The wettest too, given 75% of New South Wales is either under water or under threat of being so. Luckily for flimsy little numbers like this for those hot sultry evenings drinking cocktails on the terrace looking out over Sydney Harbour …Could have come from Tiara Mancini (The Hot House in Embedded…) but is a Gabrielle which is nice given the hot man in my life in Embedded is Gabriel…

As I’m moving back to New York (Exposé coming out next month) I guess I’ll only have to pack it away until June…

2nd March

Earrings

I gave this as a present to Simone…a bit over the top for me but very her.

I had a very Fitzroy experience when I stayed with her in Melbourne; cocktails at The Everleigh on the corner of Gertrude and Napier (new, upstairs and very New York, felt quite homesick), tapas at Anáda, also on Gertrude (great tapas, sherry and great service from Kelly, Jamie (he’s the one with his hair in the bun) and David at the bar). Finished off the evening a few doors down at Enoteca being well looked after by Brigitte and Jamie with a wide choices of great reds by the glass.

Fitzroy Earrings

Ears are even better than ceilings for some chandeliers…

Coffee next morning at the happening place De Clieu (corner George and Gertrude) and then wandered down to buy these earrings at Metal Couture  (www.metalcouture.com).

 

24th February

Hats

I adore hats. Living in Australia they take on a different meaning. Slip slop slap anti-skin cancer program seems to have led to (shudder) caps with handkerchiefs at the back. Very useful I’m sure but these are not the hats to which I refer! Nor do I include Fascinators, a favourite at last year’s Melbourne Cup, though they are not without attraction.

No, I mean hats. Like this one. A little dusty perhaps but true Victorian Gothic. Something to lose yourself in.  Something that makes a statement. Not great in the wind, but the Slip Slop Slap people would love it…

 

16th February

Thank God for Australian weather! Alright it is a little wet at times (well under water up North) but the glorious warmth of summer means you can bring all those gorgeous little numbers out. The ones that cost a fortune and you wonder why given the lack of material constituting them.

Actually this one was a bargain, by Gripp.

And it most certainly does. Grip…

This one was what I wore in Argentina at Gabriel’s house when I seduced Miguel in front of him…

9th February

Sometimes I like to be noticed. Okay maybe a lot of the time. What better way to do it than with clothes?

In ‘Embedded’ this dress when worn to the Melbourne Cup (What sort of city has a public holiday for a Horse Race?) is described as a Gaultier. This was a slight exaggeration. Well, actually not true. But I’m sure this dress would inspire JPG if he saw it though…

Miguel certainly appreciated it…

There is a fabulous fashion precinct in Melbourne- Gertrude and into Smith St Fitzroy. Bit grungy and definitely trendy, the stores with new designers hover around the fashion school just off Gertrude in George St. One is even down in Gore St opposite the Pub where ‘Offspring’ is filmed. Anyway, this dress came from one of the designers that was showing her stuff there (though has now moved). It’s wild!

3rd February

Designers. I met my fair share when I was working for Coco and I have to say that in general time is better spent with their clothing than them. There is something about the fashion industry that seems to combine unstable dynamite, metamphetamines and narcissism and then takes a whisk to it. No, actually egg beaters on full throttle. Not that shoppers are much better waiting for the doors to open on sale day.

Favorites? Lots and ever changing. Though I’m out of the fashion industry now, being in Australia has given me a chance to try a whole new country of designers. The weather generally being so good (well there has been a bit of rain admittedly), there’s lots of opportunities for pool and yacht parties…

Versace was one of my old favorites and this dress is the original – Gianni that is. It’s like wearing air…soft caresses occasionally reminding you not to panic, you aren’t naked. And he did like color- Donatella has certainly kept that going!

This one I picked up in Saks, Fifth Ave.

 

 

 

 

27th January

The dress you’re never going to forget.

Okay I really needed a proper photographer for this, but you get the idea. Every woman has one. Maybe it’s the wedding dress. The dress you met your partner in. The dress you first took off for your partner…

Mine is the first dress I bought from the first fashion show I ever went to. It was wild. In a circus tent, there were uncaged leopards (ok, on leases) and some very, very sexy models just in ‘out there’ clothes. I couldn’t resist this dress. It was also the dress that made me realize the power of sex appeal and how what you wear and how you feel makes it ooze out of you. This was a very successful dress on all fronts…

 

20th January

My strong suggestion is that if you’re female and under sixty (and even a few people over) – get a pair before you die! If you wait too long they might be the cause of your death. Okay they do mould to your feet like they were sprayed on, and yes you do feel like a million dollars and yes you could take on Sarah Jessica Parker. But let’s get real. Blanik was Chinese in a previous life and responsible for feet binding. This is not what our feet are meant to do! I’m getting (horror, horror) bunions. The bank account (well had my mother not helped out…) would have been cause for suicide and had I been older when I walked in the them after a snow storm last year in the Big Apple, I would surely have ended up in Bellevue. Possibly the morgue (and I’ve read about the Morgue in Linda Fairstein’s novel (or was it Patricia Cornwell?). Not somewhere to have a date).

400 comments

Travel Tuesdays- Walks : Hadrian’s Wall, Camino de Santiago, Coast to Coast.

 

 

 

Free Counters

 HADRIAN’S WALL WALK SEPTEMBER 2014  – In the Footsteps of Emperor Hadrian or …Looking for a Pile of (Special!) Old Rocks

 

Day 8: Carlisle to Bowness on Solway; 27km

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If I had been told a week or two before setting out on this walk we would do it without any rain, would not need wet weather gear at all and we’d need suntan lotion I’d have laughed and thought you delusional (after all, at much the same time of year, two years ago, we pretty much swam the Coast to Coast, only a little south). When we left France only a week earlier the weather had started to look a little more optimistic, but I still left the hat there and packed a beanie and thermal that had been left from a previous trip. Of course I didn’t use it!

Another glorious sunny day as we wove our way out of Carlisle along the river Eden, it was a nice start, mostly easy walking with only small ups and downs. Past the church (right) that sits exactly where the wall used too be…

By later in the morning though the flat straight three mile “plod” through the salt marshes was tedious and when we later took a wrong turn (and extra half mile to the total) we just wanted to get to the end. A welcome ale (in my case G&T) at the Hope and Anchor in Port Carlisle after a number of earlier options proved closed (thanks to the honesty box refreshments we found that kept us going), then the final mile to Bowness and our last night with the views over to Scotland. The body felt today was far too much!day9 (1)

Day 7 Brampton to Carlisle: 18km

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After a lovely evening at the elegant Oakwood Park Hotel (really a guest house but has a bar and does meals) we were picked up and delivered back to the track. Another sunny day, albeit chilly morning, the walk was a gentle stroll through pastures, meandering along the river and into the biggest town we’d seen since Newcastle. The walking was about as easy as walking can be—particularly given how blessed we were with the weather. Entering Carlisle through the park, our room wasn’t ready, so we wandered into town for a coffee. Even on Sunday afternoon a lot of shops in the mall were open. Mostly an old world feel, with ancient walls surrounding, but a touch of real working town here too.

Day 6: Gilsland to Wallston (Brampton) 14km

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The rain that fell overnight is long gone as we head out for (unbelievably) our 6th rain free day! Gilsland is known as the spa on the wall and there is soon plenty of wall to see…though somehow we take a wrong turn and find ourselves herding sheep (and doing a rather good job I must say). For only the second time on the trip our GPS is out and we trudge along a road (downhill) to connect with the path—and plenty more bits of wall. Undulating country gives rise to mostly flat, easy walking. It’s Saturday and there are plenty of others, some out for day walks, mostly in the other direction. A few pretty streams, rest stops with picnic tables and in one place an honesty box with drinks available. No need to stop long, though we wait for our taxi transfer to Brampton (3 miles off track, as not enough accommodation at this point) at the Wallston tea house which was sadly closed. Our generous hostess at Oakwood Park Hotel makes us tea in a quaint lounge room, with hens, ducks and geese (and one large turkey, not Christmas dinner I hope) strolling around on manicured lawns outside.

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Day 5: Gibbs Farm to Gilsland; 16km

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Another gorgeous day, though rain had been forecast for later so we set out early—thanks to having no cooked breakfast and walking back to the track, which added to the original “short day”.

The first section continued in much the same manner as how we finished off yesterday, walking along a high ridge with lots of ups and downs. Then it eased off to more gentle undulating countryside and easier walking. The path took us past more wall and turret base, across pastures and quarries (one with a welcome icecream stop) before gently leading us into Gisland where we have a night at the pub, The Samson Inn.

 

 

Day Four: Wall to Steel Rigg (Gibbs Farm); 24km

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They said it was only 19km…but we started and ended off track and we clocked up the extra km. And felt them. Until now it had been largely flat with the occasional gentle rise and fall. Not so today. The wall—and we finally got to see great chunks of it, remnants of towers (okay a few stones around the base)—was built along a ridge, and a ridge we walked. Up, down. And up again. Some steep parts, enough to feel it. In spots the wall was on top of cliffs and I can’t imagine the Scots bothering anyone there! Finally we were also off the road and felt truly in remote countryside. In sections grass is growing atop the wall, and you can see in stretch ahead, so some great photo spots too. Weather sunny and warm! Even got a bit pink on the shoulders. Now? Muscles getting a well-earned rest, washing in the machine and then the B&B transport us to the pub. Rumour had it, it might be a dry one…but fortunately that applied only to the nearby Visitor’s Centre. A great steak pie to be had at the Twice Brewed Inn!

Day Three: Corbridge (Robin Hood’s Inn) to Wall

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After upsetting our B&B host by wanting breakfast at 7.30 (we only have cereal…), though if we hadn’t the Americans would have also (they had a cooked breakfast), we were dropped off back by the Inn at 8.30 ready for one of the shorter days of the walk. Ended up just short of 15km, a little off track at the end to get to Hadrian’s Pub in Wall (wonder where they got that name from…), it started foggy but as promised, this had blown off by lunchtime to another sunny day! I’m not expecting it to last, but it is nice!

Today was the day of stiles and gates (nine to get around one farm!), of pasture and woods, and though never far from the sound of cars and lorries, there was the sense of being in the countryside. We even got to see a lump of wall, though the “mound” which was apparently unique version of dirt piled up by Hadrian’s soldiers, looked well…like a lump of dirt to me.

Feet, back, legs all travelling well. But tomorrow is meant to be 19km and by my calculations (we start off a couple of kms off route and end the same way), it’ll be closer to 24km. In the days we did the end of the Camino, that would have been a piece of cake. But now? With rain, and apparently lots of hills? Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Day Two: Newburn to Robin Hood Inn (Corbridge)

Hadrian's Wall at Heddon-on-the-Wall

The morning dawns brilliant blue skies and sunshine; even more amazingly, this maintains most of the day! Today is a shorter one, a mere 15km, and surprisingly my aches and pains don’t seem too bad. It’s also largely flat, and mostly not on asphalt so the feet manage better today. We get to see a good chunk of Hadrian’s Wall – 3 metres wide but only a stone or two high. Better than where it has been covered by the road-which is mostly! A challenge for later archaeologists. We wind through the occasional village and mostly along fields, never far from the road and often having to block out the sound of cars and lorries on the A route (and overhead planes-seemed to be one every time I got the flip video camera out.

From Robin Hood’s Inn we are picked up due to lack of accommodation on the track (it is apparently the busy time but we haven’t seen many walkers, a few in the opposite direction, the 4 Oregonians who are with our tour company and are going slower than us so we will lose them in a couple of days when they take time off) and a Dutch couple. Mostly older people.

We’ve finished walking by lunchtime so have time to do a pub crawl to check out the beer gardens, as well as the shops in Corbridge. The most amazing meringues in the bakery—huge!

 

 

DAY ONE

Hadrian's Wall Walk

Millenium bridge Newcastle

 

 

For the first time in two years (and post a disc prolapse and operation) I have donned by walking boots again and set out from Wallsend (near Newcastle-on-Tyne) to follow in the footsteps of Emperor Hadrian who put a wall across the top of UK in AD 122 to keep out the Scots…

Bad enough thinking about walking given the back. For the previous three weeks I have been constantly at the Ostepaths, Masseur and Pilates class. I can barely turn over in bed without the neck freezing and my back saying a loud I DON’T THINK SO! But there is also the little issue of the last walk (The Coast to Coast) I practically had to swim. England is green for a reason. Last week the area we are walking had top temps of 14 Celsius and yes, rain every day. Walking in Ireland (Way of Kerry) wasn’t much better. Third time lucky???

So we arrived last night in Whitley Bay (and had a great Indian feed, but the English group next to us ordered chips with their curry. Really?) and …it rained. Not going to let that stop us! An early start with a Ploughman’s lunch (and very good it was), a quick trip on the Metro …back doing okay so far…and there we were at Wallsend. yes, where the wall ends. A bit still left…

The path hugs the Tyne river and took us through Newcastle with its amazing series of bridges, ship building remnants of a glorious past in flour and coal, on and on. Nineteen kilometres. Feet a bit sore. Feeling good. Just thought I’d take a wee nap-no problem. But getting up? OMG. I am a hundred years old. I need a back op. My osteo. A masseur. HELP!

Husband ushers me (slowly) to the pub. He does a beer tasting. Me? Gin and Tonic. Brilliant. Why didn’t someone suggest that before I wasted money on all that healthy stuff? ….mmm….we’ll see tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

THIS BLOG FOLLOWS OUR WALK FROM CLUNY,

FRANCE TO SANTIAGO, SPAIN

ALONG A LESSER KNOWN CAMINO DE SANTIAGO DE

COMPOSTELA

– 87 DAYS AND 2038KM

You can read a fiction (erotic romance adventure) along the same route- Expose by Simone Sinna, on Amazon here

We are doing Bordeaux to San Sebastian on the Camino in August – September this year! -Look Out for it then!

The Assisi walk planned sometime in the future when we have a spare nine weeks!

This is now complete for Cluny to Santiago – Enjoy

Day 87 (May 14 2011): Arrived at Our Final Destination–

Santiago

It was nearly three months ago that we had set out, thinking maybe we’d make it to Le Puy (twice as far as we had ever walked before) and then thinking maybe St Jean Pied de Port. Instead we had made it from central France, leaving our own home just as the early pilgrims had, in the middle of a wintery February, up through the Pyrenees then via Camino de la Costa and Camino Primatevo to reach the cathedral where (myth has it) St James’s head is buried.

We had been told before we left we would get blisters. We were told to wear light boots’ we did, and no blisters resulted. We carried our clothes all the way, had over ninety stamps to prove our status. We had also been told we would cry when we got there.

There was a steady of stream of walkers (and cyclists) now, Santiago closing in, the final section along roads before hitting the old town and the final cobble-stoned stretch to the Cathedral. Musicians, buskers, serenaded us in. The Cathedral loomed ahead, stunning both inside and out. I dropped my pack and sat. And yes, I did cry.

 

It was and had been the most taxing physical thing I had ever tackled. It was also the most spiritual, most amazing experience, to rely only on my legs to take me 2038km (as our GPS told us). I had barely had contact with Australia, no emails, and only weekly contact with our children; they were the only thing of my ‘real’ world I had missed and thought about. I had thought a different place each night would become irritating and destabilsing, as sometimes touring in a car can be. I was wrong. I thought I might get bored, I was wrong. I thought I might have a religious experience and at first I thought I was wrong. But looking back at video of the monks chanting in Conques cathedral, now as part of a six minute video I have made, to a Gregorian chant, I think maybe I did. Certainly at a spiritual level the walk turned me upside down, though it has taken me time to realise just how profoundly.

I used to buy lots of clothes. Now I rarely do.

I used to work full time, obsessed with the next achievement. Before I left Europe, after the walk, I had negotiated part time and now work two days a week in my old job- one I still love and am passionate about, but I have time for other things now.

I had wanted to be a writer, started hundreds of stories left unfinished as a child (mostly only first paragraphs) and maybe three truly awful hand written manuscripts at about 14. Then two submitted manuscripts in my thirties (with good feedback from the writer’s manuscript assessment service), one of which got an agent and to the last phase at Random House.

After the Camino I sent in a manuscript for an erotic romance suspense I had finished during my sabbatical. It was accepted and there have been nine more under Simone Sinna. Now I have a psychological thriller Medea’s Curse due out January 2015, under my real name.

I can thank the Camino, and all it taught me.

I hope to have published, with my husband, Walk to the Stars, a fiction version of our Camino.

And next year, or maybe the year after, walk out from our house in France and this time follow the dove – to Assisi and then Rome.

Day 86: Rua 34km

It was a longish day and flat, through forests smelling of Eucalypt and reminding me of home. With only one more day to Santiago, home was now on my mind, but I had no urgent need to be there either psychologically or practically. I was still totally immersed in this walk, mesmerized by the chemin. If we’d had more time, I think we might seriously have considered walking all the way back to our house in France from where we started. I was feeling physically brilliant, muscular calves I barely recognized on the video clips we were taking, a little slimmer than normal (and I’m not big to begin with) and totally out of contact with social media, email and work. I was only missing my kids, and maybe the cat.

There was as yesterday, now on the Camino Frances, many more people, including those selling fruit and rinks along the way. Towns were full of pilgrims drinking and eating and waving to those passing. Occasionally the cycle path met us and these pilgrims whizzed past. To get the certificate one had to walk 100km – or cycle 200km. As we got closer, the church mindful of “cheats” – one would think that God would know, but I gather the Spanish put it on their CV to help get jobs, so it is so they can’t be hoodwinked – now required us to get two stamps a day. We noticed more than once people ducking out of cars into churches to get these stamps. Sad.

We ate well on our last night, knowing now that even if we had to crawl on our hands and knees we would get there, and felt strangely content. I didn’t know then what I know now: just how much this walk had changed me.

Day 85: Melide 28km May 12th

Today after studiously taking the longest hilliest Camino we could find (through central France, then the Pyrenees to the coastal route and finally to Camino primatevo) in part for the views but mainly to avoid the crowds, for our last two days of the Camino we joined the masses. In Melide the collide; here as well as those of us descending south west along the Camino Primatevo, are those coming from the East on the Camino Frances from St Jean Pied au Port; four weeks across Spain for them, longer for us who were last at St Jean on day 47 (April 4th) where we had a day off (and one other in San Sebastian). On the Primatevo with the improving weather we had got used to seeing the Chicas and our eight Sapnish men at dinner, and occasionally on the trail. But that hadn’t prepared us for the sudden onslaught of walkers and cyclists that confronted us wandering around Melide. The days walk had been longish, gently undulating; in a bigger town full of people there was more walking looking for our accommodation, drinks with a couple of cyclists and then pulpa with the Chicas. Mama Chica had been on the Camino Frances previously and knew where to go; a bustling restaurant with long tables and bench seats had pilgrims eating octopus all day and night it seemed. Crusty bread and steaming hot pulpa pulled from great vats, cut briskly and sprinkled with paprika. Never had octopus and rosé wine tasted so good.

 

 

Day 84 San Roman da Retorta 20km

It was a leisurely day walking where we bumped into the Spanish men in pairs at different times along the track. Very different to the start of our walk, we were now seeing people and talking each day about how they were finding the walking and why they were doing it. Mostly English was enough, though we had a hilarious non-conversation with a Spanish man, not one of the eight, who kept repeating Primatevo (the name of the path we were on) when I was trying to say our names. Turned out Primatevo is a name and it was his!

The day ended at a Albergue where we had coffee with a group of walkers; but it didn’t take reservations and was full as was the other we had tried. So for the first time we had a bit of a taste of the bustle and rush for beds of the Camino Frances. We weren’t about to walk nine kilometres extra off track so the owners of the hotel in San Roman, well used to this, came and picked up. It was weird being in a car after so long on foot! Town was definitely working town not tourist; just a place to sleep and eat (more non-conversation with Primatevo over dinner).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 83 Lugo 33.2 km May 10

A big day but not a hard one as it was mostly descent…right up until the end of the day, when we found Lugo was on a hill. One of the bigger towns we had been to we walked up past the hostel with everyone friendly and waving us in…only to spend an hour wandering around trying to find an information office to tell us where the hotel we had booked was. This included finding the seedier side of Lugo … We then found our hotel was, yes, back the way we had come and down the hill, outside the walled town. By the time dinner came we were too tired to contemplate another walk up so contented ourselves at a local hotel and an early night.

Day 82 O Cadavo Baliera 25.4km May 9th

 

Despite a hangover (how many bottles did those Spanish men buy us…?) I was feeling remarkably energetic. Even the inevitable climbs (smaller than some days but noticeable all the same) didn’t alter the skip. Nice weather, some off road trails hugging stone fences, forests and some towns, ones with cemeteries on the road (complete with mausoleums and yellow arrows for us on their walls!) were all part of the day. We were meeting other walkers on occasion and stopping for chats, exchanging stories. No one had walked quite as fare as us (later after returning home I found some locals who did London to Rome, much the same distance and much faster, but they has a certain wistful look when we regaled them with tales of literally having plenty of time to enjoy and soak in the scenery).  I felt amazingly lucky, fit and healthy and walking felt like what I was meant to be doing. The end now only days away had us both wishing we could keep going.

Day 81 A Fonsagrada 25.7km May 8th

In distance it didn’t seem so much but by the end walking up to the town on the hill nearly killed me. The weather didn’t help, though seeing the Chicas walking under umbrellas was entertaining (who brings an umbrella on a long distance walk??? No wonder their bags were heavy and needed taxi transportation!) A day of climbing (what a surprise!!! …not). On the hills we traversed we became very familiar with the Wind Turbines and though I would have preferred the countryside without them, there was a certain graciousness about them that we got used to. Having arrived in a town of bars we finally found one with space for a crowd and had pulpa with the Chicas, and met up with the eight Spanish men who did two weeks of the Camino each year, seven walking and the rotating eighth driving with the bags. Not much English but lots of wine, singing and feeling good!

Day 80 Grandas de Salime 19.4km May 7th

We were now only a week away from Santiago but other than an occasional pang of ‘I’m not sure I want to stop’ we remained mesmerized by the chemin. I had never felt so fit and healthy in my life. The aches of my bunions had long passed, the knee had had its one flare up and behaved, I was eating less in the warmer weather and my weight was low and my calves wide! No distance worried me and nor amazingly did the hills. There was a smallish (400m) climb and a more careful (not point aggravating our knees!) descent of 900m along a winding path, spectacular views of hills and valleys shrouded in cloud, lakes and weirs and a stop at a bar for icecream where we found an Aussie bar tender. Weather? Well I was still using my wet weather gear but temperatures were mild.  We found ourselves at the end of the day in an old town whose name made me think of Aladdin more than Spain. It was a small enough town that we soon bumped into the Chicas, our Brazilian friends, and joined with them for wine and pizzas. Their English was getting better- my Portuguese had a long way to go, well behind my scant Spanish.

Day 79 Berducedo 16km May 6th

It was a short day but never-the-less had a 600m climb, and as it was a day of wildflowers, it gave us plenty of time to enjoy them. It was perhaps the most magic day walking we had. The paths were mostly well marked and through gorgeous countryside well away from roads. There were picturesque views, from purple and yellow flowers to mountains covered in purple heather. One of the many lessons of the Camino – to be amazed by nature’s beauty. We stayed upstairs in the Albergue near the church while our Brazilian friends had the downstairs dormitory. We wandered into town to find everyone returning from a funeral, which filled the bars for a while! But after drinks we went to a famous restaurant for the region, specializing in slow food. Wonderful!

 

 

 

 

Day 78: Pola de Allande 27.5km May 5th

 

We aren’t finished with the hills just yet in seems! A day where for every up there was a down…and then another up! Six to eight hundred metres we enjoyed pleasant views over farm land before coming into a medium sized town, prettily located on a river. Our hotel (Nueve Allandesa) was more than reasonably priced, the room elegant and antique filled. The restaurant was a value packed five course…except I had to pass on the black pudding (it doesn’t taste any good no matter what country you are having it in). Better though- real coffee!

 

 

 

Day 77: Tineo 20.5km May 4th

There was a five hundred metre climb…(rule one of the Camino- there is always a climb). Today we walked through dairy country, following these cows for quite some time! Weather looked like it was going to turn wild, but passed us by. The windmills are part of the scenery here and though not as beautiful as nature, there is something about them that is easy to accept. Perhaps that is us now…each day brings something new, something different and we are open to it all.

Day 76 Salas: 22.3km May 3rd

Today after a wet start we had nice weather and all the variety that we had grown used to in Spain with regards to Terrain. N routes and under freeways, roaming around with our new Brazilian friends and making use of their Spanish (seemed to be their second language rather than English for at least two of them) to get directions when we were confronted with two opposing arrows and at another time when one official one was covered and a make shift one went elsewhere. As always we were in good hands (I suspect either way would get us there and the do-gooders were helping us with a short cut). Along country lanes and overgrown paths workman were removing trees that had fallen across the path; everyone was helping us getter closer to Santiago.

 

 

 

Day75: Grado 27km May 2nd

 

The first day of the primitevo started pretty much in the way we had become accustomed to; in rain. Because we were starting in the city centre, complete with old churches and a myriad of cobblestone streets, we had another common start; wandering around looking for scallop  shells, or what was more common in Spain, hand drawn yellow arrows. We always felt somewhat at the mercy of these unofficial signs. In Australia we would be fairly sure some kids would have ensured we went around in circles. Happily this never occurred on the Camino. We did never-the-less take some time to escape the towns boundaries, and not before being approached by one drunk and a beggar, something we hadn’t seen to this point, perhaps because we had avoided large cities as much as possible.

The trail itself held enough delights from the previous century to soon make us forget this; shepherds clearing their cows off the path for us as they had for centuries, and the original cobblestone s themselves speaking a thousand stories long past.

This was the day where we met with the chicas, five Brazilian women (or rather four women and one chica, the daughter of the group leader). We were to see quite a bit of this group and over the next two weeks get much more of a sense of what the Camino Frances might be like. A lot of camaraderie and partying! The leader had done the full Camino Frances in the past and now led a group through a different section each year- it was the first for her 19 year old daughter. We met them at a lunch spot after a particularly long hill. Looking at thsize of the leader’s pack it was  miracle she made it at all! Much later as we searched Grado (a sort of industrial average town) we found the oldest of the Chicas (late 50’s) at our hotel asking if we had seen the Chicas. We don’t speak Portuguese and she didn’t speak English but we worked it out. They made it eventually…but after this their packs went by taxi…

 

Day 74: Camino Primitevo Oviedo 17.5 km May 1

Today marked an end and a beginning; the end of the coastal Camino in truth had been some time ago but the days between the coast and Oviedo had some sense that in modern times some one had sort a way to connect and that the route may or may not have had any ancient pilgrims along it. Of course this is true of the whole route; often the true pilgrims took the fastest direct way, and that was where the freeways now were. Though in Spain there had been more freeways than I would have liked mostly the chemin and the camino avoided them. Occasionally there were moments of feeling the ghosts of our forebears, like in Conques where the path deviated massively to accommodate some (in ancient times) free food, accommodation and a blessing (the latter probably needed given the risk of starvation, infection and then being attacked by Moors or general riff raff. We had passed plenty of sites of pelerine hospitals in France but less so in Spain. I figured they’d died before they got here; of cold if nothing else. They wouldn’t of had the sort of superior equipment and clothes we had (to say nothing of the excellent accommodation and wine and food).

The beginning was of the oldest camino, the Primitevo, and as we came into Oveido (putting aside the roadworks which sent up onto bitumen wrestling for space with the cars) it seemed the perfect place to start. The old section is cobblestoned and our hostel was in the heart of it, a room (to ourselves) up stairs. After dumping our bags, as it had been a short day, there was plenty of time to explore the churches and shops. There were more tourists here, some but not all pelerins, so there were plenty of bars and restaurants touting for our custom. Now Santiago seemed no distance at all.

Day 73:Pola de Siero 29km, April 30

Despite the mammoth day yesterday, my feet felt no worse than they had any other morning. We felt bright, refreshed, and keen to walk. A day that was under thirty kilometres wasn’t worth worrying about. Though late spring the weather was still variable and we started with mist until the day cleared and there were hints of sun. I had become much more attune to the weather and all things in nature. A day chasing butterflies, taking in flowers and literally smelling the roses was now part of the routine. Now nature threw something new. Looking at the map I decided that there was a short cut and though signs were a bit dubious, off we went. Where we actually went I can’t really say, and whether or not it was a short cut remains doubtful. But the path took us high (yes, more climbing) above the road where we felt far from anyone. This was particularly important when we found ourselves essentially bushbashing (an Aussie-ism that the Spanish probably wouldn’t appreciate but it had been a long time since anyone had cleared this path. In the early mist with the sun pressing through, we found ourselves surrounded by a magical world of spider webs, stretching over acres of bushes, the dew on them glistening. I have never been a spider fan and it probably helped that the webs were a good deal more evident than the owners, but it was without doubt, spectacular.

With only two weeks to go until we finished, we were now heading inland to join the oldest camino (supposedly)- The Primateva- in Ovedio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 72

Villaviciosa 41.1 km

 

When I started this walk the thought of thirty kilometres in a day soon became a fear that took some overcoming. But I did it, and now 30km days were not unusual and I barely gave them second thoughts. But today was going to be 40 kilometres. My husband had given me a choice; two medium days or one hard and one light. This in itself wasn’t what made me choose the latter, it was that the former went with a hostel stop as no other accommodation was available. Early on we risked a couple of hotels (the Pic Priory on day nine a highlight) but we had never had to share a room. Early on this was because no one else was mad enough to be walking in the heart of winter, then the hostels had the option of our own room. This hostel did not, and by now other walkers were a common enough sight, and this hostel large and with a monopoly so we knew we wouldn’t be alone. Don’t get me wrong- the company would have been fine, but I can elbow my husband if he snores (I sleep badly)… the other occupants in a spared room weren’t going to be as easy to deal with. And I get up in the night and I didn’t have a nightie…

 

So the long day it was. We started at 7.30am. we walked along the sea out of Ribadesella and along the coast and then found we were going the wrong way. Not a good start, though the distance wasn’t great. Hills, yes got them. More sea. Under freeways, passing our fellow walkers who were already at the hostel, feet up, toasting us with beer. We were just over half way. Along freeways, not my favorite. Feet normally dying by twenty kilometres. Rests. Sore again. Time ticking by. Shit another five kilometres? You have to be joking. No he wasn’t.

We get in at 8pm. Exhausted. Thought I would never walk again. Until the second tapa and the first glass of wine… we did it! I can’t stop smiling. Over 41km, and while I am in no hurry to do it again, I know I can. In fact I think I can do anything.

Day 71 Ribadesella 26km April 28

The Camino continued to wind along the Spanish coast this time veering across meadows in order for us to take in a church, past pools full of fish and along roads down to finally take us to one of the larger sea side towns. Spread along the coast and across an inlet there was more people bustling into cafes and stores and we were less of a novelty than we had been in some places. The issue of a bigger town also meant it was harder to find where we were staying but we came in early enough to cruise along the streets until we found it. Seafood and rosé for dinner….naturally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 70 : Celorio  32k Wed Apr 27th

More glorious Spanish coast though the weather was variable and there was still plenty of need for waterproof coats and equipment. A long paved road ensured we also remembered there were lots of hilly sections along the coast. One of the many benefits of the route though was also the access to fresh local seafood and we made the best of it. Dinner in town (along with the rosé) made the 32 km fade quickly into the background. Though feet still hurt after 20 or so, it only took a half hour for them to be as good as new.

Day 69: Unquera 29km, April 26

When we started this walk any distance approximating thirty km made me feel distinctly like not getting out of bed, or if I did, looking for a bus timetable. Now 29km seemed no longer worth worrying about. So much so that we weren’t leaving early anymore, just when we woke and got around to it. We no longer carried lunch either, and though I still needed a snack, both in and breakfast were light. The warmer weather meant our bodies no longer required so much fuel to keep us warm and we were walking I suspect far more efficiently. It had been a long time since I had had any serious twinge of any sort. Santiago was full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes.

Today’s walk included some of the history and reminders of being in Europe, and I soaked it in, mind only on today and where I was, now totally cut off from the world of social media, emails and worries. Husband checked in, I rang the children (grown up ones) once a week, smelt the roses (or equivalent) each day, and now knew how to live in the moment. As we looked at all the stamps in our Camino passport we felt pretty pleased with ourselves. As always we ended with a glass of Rosé and some seafood which wasn’t a bad moment either.

 

 

 

 

Day 68  Comillas 22.5 km 25.4

We left Santillana Del Mar the same way we arrived- in the rain. Despite this the village was so full of character and the hotel so good it will remain one of the highlights of the trip for me.

It was a nice day walking, as the weather improved a little, not too hilly and a good deal of coastline to enjoy. We were closing in on the time we would be heading more directly to Santiago and off the coast line so I was determined to enjoy every minute of it.

Comillas was a town just back from the coast line, and we stayed at Hotel Esmeralda, a casual hotel where we secured a double room which soon filled with wet clothes. The heaters were working so I had them on trying to dry off some of our stuff. As always I washed our socks- we hadn’t yet had to put on wet or dirty socks and nor had we had blisters. I was certain these facts were associated and wanted to ensure the trend continued!

The restaurant was empty but for us, but the owner and his 75 year old mother kept us entertained, luckily in English as our Spanish still had a long way to go!

Day 67 Santillana Del Mar 21.3km (24th April- Easter Sunday)

It wasn’t hard walking but the rain didn’t help. Nor specially scenic, with a lot of roads, train lines and following miles of pipes. At least with the yellow arrow we knew we were heading the right way!

That drizzly grey that wouldn’t let up. But arriving in Santillana early made up for everything. Both the town and the place we stayed (okay, we splashed out) meant the weather was very secondary. Maybe even helped for the visit to the Spanish Inquisition torture museum where the English translations at least left no room for misogynist ancient Inquisitors! The blurb about the chastity belt in particular…(Stephanie gets locked in the dungeon there in Expose…)

The hotel, Casa del Marques was small, old and beautifully restored, with a bedroom full of antiques, a balcony it was too wet and cold to use and a staircase carved in one piece from what must have once been a truly enormous oak. (I set one of my favourite scenes in Expose here…)

The other highlight was the soda fountains, or rather, cider fountains. Specific to this region, the cider was delivered from great height either by waiters or a help yourself in rounds of three from fountains. A good deal of cider splashed and got lost along the way, but it was loads of fun! Who cared about the rain?

We finished off with Cognac and hot chocolate in a divine library room at the hotel. This was how to live!

 

Day 66 Mogro/Boo de Pielagos 15km 23.4

 

One of the things we had been warned about on the Camino (aside from the race for hostel beds and bed bugs if you did the Camino Frances, hence why we didn’t) was the dogs. Early on in France we had the amazing interaction with a slip of a girl singing opera coming out of the fog being dragged by two huge mastiffs; since then there had been a string of dogs who greeted us enthusiastically as we entered and left their territory. Some looked like they were lining us up for dinner but by and large seemed to be more bluff than action. Today every house we walked past seemed to have a dog. At least they were on the other side of the fences…

The Spanish section of the Camino if nothing else was full of variety. While it wasn’t a long or difficult walk, we finished off getting a train. After the boat yesterday this really did seem like cheating, particularly as the neck of water we had to cross (and it was illegal to walk on the train bridge) could have been walked around, just so long as you didn’t mind an extra 20km or so.

We did mind, so train it was. Lucky we arrived in plenty of time. Speaking Spanish to a machine getting a train ticket proved challenging. I have no idea if whatever I bought was the right thing. It was short trip and then our accommodation a homey little hotel with, yes, a great bar…

 

Day 65 Santander 22km 22nd April

Though not a long walk the distance covered was significant- today we caught a boat. The books assured us this didn’t in any way take away our pilgrim status, but it did feel strange! Prior to the boat there was the 22km mostly on road and bitumen paths through a less rural Spain. Santander was one of the bigger places we stayed, and approaching it by water we had a great view of the hillside covered in hotels and residences, and docks along the waterfront. After a brief rest my husband dragged me out to find a place to eat; though he doesn’t speak Spanish sheer determination and gourmet in the blood led him to work out that there was a great sea food restaurant owned by the father of a famous Spanish footballer Iván de la Pena (I presume soccer, no idea really…).

This added several kilometres to our day as we roamed around dubious looking docklands, then decided it was too early (read deserted- the Spanish eat late) so we went back to the hotel. Before returning and to be fair, enjoying some great fresh fish courtesy of Papa la Pena, we were also lucky enough to catch an Easter parade. To be honest it was rather alarming…it looked like the Klu Kulx Klan had landed, as robed men in pointed hats matched the streets. As I passed a book shop and saw a book about the “amazing” Armada (no mention of its annihilation by the Brits, all we learnt at school…) and thought the Inquisition wasn’t so long ago…

 

Day 64 Noja: 15 km

Though we might have been much fitter than when we started, the option of a shorter day was not one to say no to. Much later I met a couple who walked much the same distance (the only people I know who had) as us, from London to Rome, over the alps (I guess they got the boat at Dover!). They had done it in less time and were a little dismissive of how slow we had been. But they had had a job to return to and time pressure. As I talked more, there was a sense of a whimsical wish from them that like us they had had time to linger. For them it would have been to enjoy churches and museums. For us it was a sleep in, leisurely breakfast and a long stroll along beaches. Soon we would be turning off the coast and I wanted to enjoy every moment on the beach, watching the gulls hovering over the ocean that lay like blue stain sheets, ripples yet to be straightened out. It was one of the greatest lessons for me of the Camino and one now two years later I haven’t lost. The scallop shell I bought in St Jean I was wearing and still do, was part of my life. I notice the seasons and I stop to smell the roses. On this day it was stopping to feel the sand gritty beneath our feet. One short hill and then in for dinner. After the glass of rosé of course.

 

 

 

Day 63 20 April 26km to Laredo

The weather continued to bless us and for the most part I was in t-shirt and had the bottoms off the trousers, turning them into shorts. The back pack was covered with last night’s washing which no longer dries overnight because the rooms don’t have heaters, We followed the usual yellow arrows placed on the roads, concrete boulders and anywhere else there was space, and it took us through forests, under freeways and then along the picturesque coastline and its rocky beaches and cliff tops beside and ahead of us.

My husband with his rudimentary Spanish had booked us accommodation- then we had the fun of finding it trying to read the Spanish maps in Spanish or French, As usual they had us down, but not as Australians or by name, just the date and with a grin, we were the people who had booked the matrimonial bed.

I was way too tired to be thinking about anything other than that glass of rosé, fish and chips and then sleep.

 

 

 

 

Day 62 (19 April) 28.2km to Castro Urdiales

This had to be one of my favourite days; given it was nearly thirty kilometres, it shows how far I have come since leaving Cluny! The weather was largely good (a little rain early on) which helped, but what wasn’t to like? This day in many ways typified the difference between this route and the French one (or for that matter the Camino Frances across the top of Spain). Lovely cliff walks with fabulous views of blue, boats and cliffs, occasional beaches, and the wonderful red brick road that was for joggers, cyclists and us…went for something like 20 km, under red bars, over freeways and through countryside. A wonderful piece of something different!

Then not sure if we took the wrong turn or not, but after a stop for a drink (when we don’t have long to go and its sunny, it’s a Gin and Tonic which may have contributed to getting slightly lost…) we were on a path along the cliff that disappeared and we ended up bush bashing into Castro Urdiales. But coming in over the hill to see it was rather magic… and this place is magic. At night the church on the water edge, lit up with an amazing fresco of Madonna and child, was one of only three “religious” experiences I had on the walk (Conques and Santiago the others). What a great town too- we ate more octopus than I thought possible, and savoured the fun and friendly Spanish life around us. This was what the Camino was all about!

 

Day 61 Portugalete 31 km April 18th (via Bilbao)

We must have been feeling fit. Rather than two shorter days and time to peruse the famous Bilbao Guggenheim we opted for the one long one. Though at another time I would have enjoyed a day of modern art, we were so focused on the walk, our identity so tied up with being pilgrims (of sorts) that we wouldn’t have done the Guggenheim justice.

I had been (briefly) to Bilbao before, en-route to a plane to London and it hadn’t left a particularly favourable impression. More, as I thought about it now, I recalled it being big and wondered how many kilometres of suburbs there would be.

Arriving was a pleasant surprise. The path designers had managed to divert walkers through the park so that the first you see of the town is from the hill above it. By the time you are the bottom you are in it well and truly.

The day was windy and warm, but by the time we were in Bilbao we were protected from the wind and it was hot. We made a detour past the famous museum but didn’t stop; the highlight was in fact the fruit shop where we indulged in huge luscious red strawberries. I can still taste them. The taste had to keep us going for what seemed like never ending hot pavements. Worse, our two maps disagreed, the yellow arrows and scallop shells evaporated and we had to make a decision. Piecing the instructions (one lot in French which we were okay with and the other in Spanish which was not our strength) we decided to follow the river. From the Spanish map it was clear that we were on a river and so was Portugalete. Our GPS was clocking up the km; I was not happy.

Sadly, we found out eventually, it was not the same river. More hot pavements and little about Spain that we were seeing to recommend it. Then we ended up completely lost next to huge freeway, wandering up and down a deserted walkway surrounded by high rise. I was even less happy.

But as always on the Camino, no matter how hot and bothered I was, no matter how much my feet hurt when we finally did find a scallop shell, the glass of Rosé and a tapa made for a short memory. I just hoped tomorrow would take us away from industrial sites and housing estates.

 

 

Day 60 Matsa

Though cool when we started the day and quickly warmed up so I made use of the zip off section of my trousers. Walking in shorts was a stark contrast to the winter we started off in and in made us all the more grateful for it as well as a constant reminder of beauty of nature.

Leaving Gernika we walked through more elegant streets than the industrial ones we had entered through, leaving through centuries old walkways. The final streets gave me a little of the Picasso I had been hoping for – albeit it the modern variety. This was to the be the first graffiti of much that would regale us. More urban certainly than the beauty of the French hills, but as I was easing into Spain, sunshine and a different Camino, I saw as much beauty in this and welcomed it.

Day 59 Gernika  17.7km

After a long day yesterday a shorter walk today was welcomed. There was still plenty of hills, a combinations of roads and paths around and through farms and, blessedly, more sunshine. Because the weather was getting warmer it meant that there was rarely heating now in out hotels, so no heaters to dry clothes. As we only had two “spares” in T-shirts and underwear, this meant that M.Sootie’s (the Frenchman who had given us our camino/chemin passports back in Cluny 59 days ago) advice re taking safety pins became vital. It mightn’t have looked glamorous but the t-shirt and underwear pinned to the pack and wafting in the breeze as we walked, was now a fixture.

Gernika was at first disappointing; no sign of Picasso and his famous painting or what inspired it, and more, the town seemed a fairly ordinary working one. But there was some parade on and the locals didn’t bother going back to work after their lunchbreak and the afternoon turned into a wonderful bustling enjoyment of sunshine, food wine and Spanish family life. Our first Tortilla was worth the wait…and the Rosé as always hit the right spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 58 Bolibar 30.8km (15 April)

After a mere 18.5km yesterday we did nearly double today. I had thought I was fit. But it took until the first wine this night (or maybe the second) to remember this thought. It was long- and very up and down. Ten hours walking!  Leaving views of the coast behind we went through forests and farmlands, villages and then kept right on. The weather at least stayed mild and our first glass was outside the hotel/guesthouse, chasing the remaining rays of sunshine. And being remote they at least did us a real dinner, which was all I needed before falling into bed. At least it’s a short one tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 57 Deba 18.5km (April 14th)

We were now as fit as we had ever been in our lives, and while it soon became clear that the rumours about the Spanish coastal route being hillier than the classic Camino Frances were more than rumours, we were not in the least daunted. The knee that had nearly stopped my husband in the long descent on the Inca trail (and had caused one day of pain for me) were no longer a problem. We walked steadily, if not fast, took few and only brief breaks, and welcomed each day and all it brought.

This day brought glorious coast line, whimsical looks towards England…and yes some hills. We were also getting used to Spanish seaside, here at least with towns built and lived in for practicality rather than their seaside beauty. This also meant that we were spared the tourists and Brighton type of tourist attractions I suspect are present in the southern Spanish coastal towns.

With the worst weather well behind us, we were also enjoying Spring and whether it was because our bodies were now working efficiently, or that we no longer needed fuel to help maintain our body temperature, our appetites plummeted. We tended towards light breakfasts (they were variable in Spain anyway) and often an apple and dried fruit and nuts (when we could get them) were more than enough to get me through the day. The trouble was, the Spanish eat their main meal in the middle of the day…and getting a proper dinner proved to be hard at times. We were told the Spanish ate late, which is true, but this created two problems; one we were too tired to wait up that late (and we wanted to be up early) and on the occasions we did, dinner could still prove a challenge because really the main meal for the day was over, and dinner, even if late, was light. This is the land of the Tapas after all. As out appetites decreased we just went with the flow; tapas would do!

 

Day 56 to G(u)etaria 13th April 27km

The weather is suddenly magic, the drizzle of yesterday and the fog of two days ago suddenly a distant memory as I strip to a T-shirt when I am walking, and soak in the brilliant sunshine. For the first time the reason we chose the coast walk is abundantly clear. Leaving San Sebastian we walk along the beach, and even the hill up and out can’t dim our enthusiasm. The blossom is out everywhere and the path takes us along the coast line, along cliff tops and then the final long path to Getaria with the sea crashing onto rocks only metres away.

 

 

Getaria is full of restaurants; we book into a small family run hotel and wander down (and then up…) the streets to select where to eat. The menu is all the same! They have outside BBQ’s and its fish…or fish. Suites us fine. The fresh fish is delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

Day 55 April 12th San Sebastian: Rest Day

 

For the second (and what will be last) time on the Camino we both have a rest day to enjoy San Sebastian. It’s my birthday; we are staying at the Hotel Maria Christina, which felt odd arriving at in walking gear and back packs (it’s not that sort of hotel!) though the staff were very polite. The previous night we hit the Tapas bars- ecstasy! The range and tastes are amazing and not expensive. I never want to leave! Then the shopping which is magic- mainly for my daughter’s birthday and I will have to ship it all home so a long queue follows at the PO where no one speaks English so I’m not sure it’s ever going to arrive. Tonight we eat at Arzak- the local paper has an article and the female chef (daughter-father combo I think) has just won a prize. She comes and talks to us and luckily speaks English having just been to Aus! The food is sensational! After these two days I’ll need to walk it off…if I can get out of bed tomorrow…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 54 Route to San Sebastian 26km

This was our first day on the coast route. After a day of oysters and a walk on the beach and tapas in Hondarribia, I was up early and would have been enthusiastically ready to hit the road, except for the weather. It was raining. Steady, cold, grey rain. Oh well, we were used to this; into our wet weather gear and off we went, leaving through the castle walls and up a path (yes, it is still up in Spain…) and off along the coast.

Well I presume the coast was there. Out map suggested so. The GPS had blue to our right. But we never saw it. Not once. Thick fog made it hard to see more than ten metres in front of us let alone a vista. The yellow arrows (more ubiquitous than scallop shells) at least were large and prominent. The path was steep and narrow in spots and we had to keep our wits to stop from slipping and getting lost. There was no time for sight seeing. At one stage I had to dig my hands in to pull myself up. I vaguely recalled reading that this section was hillier than France. Oh shit.

We passed (and occasionally got close enough to see) towers from wars long passed. I imagined Spanish soldiers watching the Armada leave and then the British boats returning (no idea if this happened, only know the British side of the story). As we picked our way along the paths we heard tinkling of bells. Even the horses had bells around their necks and given the fog I could understand why. My hands were cold, I was wet, and this was not fun…

The fog finally lifted as we came to the top (yes more hills) of a hill and before us lay San Sebastian, nestled into two coves with beach lined cafes. Okay, fun was ahead.

 

Day 53 13km Hendaye – Hondarribia. SPAIN AT LAST!

I am back walking again, now refreshed. I want to walk to the sea, and from here I am anticipating with some excitement the left turn at the ocean and then the route along the coast to Santiago. It’s only a short day, so we are in no rush. The weather is till nice and we meander along, still with some hills to negotiate. Ahead of us we are catching sight of the ocean until finally we are on the outskirts of Hendaye. It’s a beachside town and it seems a little weird having started in the centre of France to now be seeing ocean. We walk in the sand, I souvenir a tiny shell, and then we celebrate with oysters and Chablis for a late lunch to farewell France. Then we take our first (of which there will be more, legitimately as we’ll find out) of our boat rides and cross to Spain across the bay.

If there is customs they were at lunch. We arrive and check in top a wonderful hotel (read more in Exposé – Stephanie stays there) in the old part of town. After a rest we can’t wait any longer (we were told not to go for tapas until ten but its 8.30 and we’re starved) and we hit the tapas bars. Oh wow! They are great, diverse, fun and cheap. A lot of difference in one boat ride! I sleep well dreaming of all the Spanish wine and tapas ahead of me. And of course the beautiful coast line.

 

 

Day 52 GR 10 through the Pyrenees from St Jean to Hondarribia : Birriatou 9.4 27km …including some detours

The rest of our trip all the way to Santiago is now looking very real. Though we have travelled all the way from central France, it is still daunting. All the weeks on the road and still weeks to go. We are on the GR 10 and tomorrow will join the Camino that comes down from Paris through Bordeaux and the Camino del Norte or the Costa route will begin. I still feel I am not quite ready to let go of the holiday and though I enjoyed the amble yesterday the thought of a big day isn’t enticing, particularly when I think of Andre saying we could take a train and still be legitimate- it is only the Camino that counts! So I slack again- my last day of rest, but my husband insists on walking. He just takes a day pack, sets off early and I linger guiltily over breakfast, grab a taxi and cruise into Birriatou. There is a family function in the square I watch for a while, then settle in with a gin and tonic and read some French. It has improved a lot but I am all too aware that in another day I’ll be having to speak Spanish!

My husband is late. Very late. Ten and a half hours walking … lots of hills and poorly signposted. Luckily he had his GPS because he managed to make it into Spain without knowing it and had to find his way back. He has more than one G &T. As the photo shows…it isn’t always that clear where to go!

 

 

Day 51April 8th: Sare, a gentle 12km!

After a few days off I am keen to get walking again, particularly given the glorious weather (unseasonal everyone says, but we aren’t complaining!) and that today is a mere 12km! The boots are familiar friends and easier to put on than try and carry attached o a pack as I have for the last two days while husband has been walking with just a day pack.

Having enjoyed the scenery from the balcony restaurant on Hotel Ostape two days ago I am pleased to be on the road and seeing the Pyrenees for myself. We are high but today’s route is kind. Not too many hills, not too long, and a lovely place to stay and eat at the end. And even more special, we catch our first view of the sea! All the way from central east France we have almost made it to the coast! What’s not to like?

 

Day 50 6th April : Ainhoa 29km

We are still officially off the Camino and looking at today’s GR 10 route I see a steep descent and can’t quite rid myself of the need to rest and recover. I’d have quite happily stayed longer at Hotel Ostape; the weather continued to be magnificent and a late breakfast and a swim had so much appeal I took this up. My husband however was up early and walking. He had thought that the 4km to the hotel would decrease this day’s route but no such luck- he has to back track it all. I pass him in the cab and feel guilty- briefly.

From the photos I see the territory is beautiful but also challenging. The most challenging thing was believing that someone thought it was a good idea to put three full size crosses complete with bodies writhing in agony, on the top of one of the mountains. I guess you can’t account for taste.

Ainhoa is lovely. I explore the town, enjoy the time to think and let the body wonder why it’s got it so easy, then after a five km steep descent my husband joins me for a glass of Rosé in the sunshine and we have an amazing top quality meal. Tomorrow I vow to walk to justify it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 49-Bidderray 6th April 26km: The Pyrenees

Having made it to St Jean where we had originally thought we would finish, we took an extra day to regroup, enjoy the sunshine and the depth of history at this gateway to the Pyrenees and Spain. But we had decided to continue. Pouring over maps we decided quickly that the Camino Frances wasn’t for us – but the coastal route was. The Camino Frances is the commonly used route and the one in The Way (Martin Sheen) and in a number of nonfiction books. They all agree that there are lots of pilgrims, not so enthusiastic Spaniards and hostels you have to race to and can only hope to avoid the bed bugs. This had no appeal to me, even if there was lots of flat sections (which were also boring). The Pyrenees meant Grand Route 10 to the coast where we could pick up the Camino taken from those coming down through Bordeaux or who arrived by boat. It was the hilliest and hardest. Naturally we took it.

I wasn’t feeling ready to go as the evening before came to an end. The religious pelerin with whom we had stayed had talked about the GR 10 disparagingly, that it wasn’t the Camino and therefore if we wanted to do the Coast route we could just take a train. My husband wanted to walk, but the first day was going to be two days combined and on the road and I decided to leave him do it. I took a taxi.

I arrived at our destination thinking I was in heaven. When my husband arrived he did so probably more literally. Having after a long uninteresting walk, he arrived into Bidderay only to find out hotel was four kilometres away- up.

Hotel Ostape is a resort owned by a French chef (read more about it in Exposé) we got our own golf buggy to tour the very hilly terrain, a pool (I had to buy some bathers for the unseasonably warm April) and dinner on the terrace looking out across the beautiful Pyrenees. It was magic.

There would be time for the hard life of a pilgrim…later.

 

 

Day 47 , 48 St Jean 23km Mon 4/4

What can one say? We did it. When I had left Cluny there had been a realistic expectation that we would have stopped at Le Puy. Instead, over a thousand km and 47 days later without a break, we arrived where most people begin their Camino. We had already walked further than the Camino Frances, from here to Santiago.

The day was beautiful. A gorgeous spring day with birds singing and flowers blooming at the roadside. The entry into St Jean was everything it should have been. You enter high, passing the cities ramparts and down the cobblestone streets, past the Camino office where our details are recorded. Tiny shops full of Camino t-shirts, chocolates and wine line the streets. But for their contents nothing has changed here in centuries.

I am grateful for one change. The pharmacy. For the last few days I have been bloated and unwell. I am certain I have Giardia. Unfortunately I am allergic to the only treatment I know of.

The pharmacist and I pore over his bible. It is, of course, in French. But Latin and medical names tend to transcend language. He has looked at me sceptically (could be the atrocious accent) but when he finds it he is excited. There is another treatment, a one tablet only version. The name is suspiciously like the one I am allergic to. But I don’t have much choice. I down it and tell my husband to scream for adrenaline if he can’t rouse me.

We book into a top hotel where we will have dinner tomorrow night after the pill has hopefully worked, and enjoy muscles in white wine and a rosé outdoors by the river. We feel fitter and healthier than we ever have and we look at each other in the same instant and know.

‘Santiago’ we toast and laugh. We are only half way.

 

Day 46 Ostabat 28km   Sun 3/4

There’s only one place we can find to stay and even though we will have to share the bathroom at least we’ll have a private room. We are now walking in Basque country and there are reminders in the graffiti on the walls in towns and tunnels in case we hadn’t known. The country itself is rougher underfoot, steep slopes and sheep with narrow faces and thin but sturdy legs. We move through farmer’s fields across styles and through gates. Basque country of not, the scallop shell continues to faithfully take us closer- to St Jean or Santiago we were still not committing.

We watched shepherds guiding sheep through narrow streets as they had for centuries, and then as we closed in to our destination, were greeted by the St Jacques walking club. On  a day walk. When we told them we had started in Cluny there was much excitement and chatter. We were congratulated and they stood in two line, poles overhead in an arch, cheering as we went through. It was a special moment, one to make 28km seem little, and indeed, 45 km important, but…we both felt it. Neither of us would feel we deserved this accolade unless… we continued.

Despite the mild weather it was freezing cold as the sun went down over Ostabat. And one of the gas bottles had gas. Our host who took our money (admittedly not much) deposited a bottle of marc and said it would keep us warm. There were a few of us. A French couple, one of whom walked and the other who took the car, dog and guitar and a few others we hadn’t met, some with a little English. One knew there was a hotel open that did dinner. We left the dog and walked up the hill.

We brought the unfinished wine home with us (the Marc would have killed us). With it, the guitar and my husband’s harmonica we managed a few songs (I sadly have a bad memory for lyrics and my husband who knows them all can’t sing to save his life) before falling into our single beds.

I was wearing my thermals and fleece and my teeth were still chattering. As I crawled into my husband’s single bed, certain I would die of exposure, I was not thinking warm thoughts about the owner and his Marc.

 

Day 45 Lichos 30km Sat 2/4

Another long day – 30km- and it is a distant memory that this was ever a problem. Yes we are still sore at the end of it but it no longer had the power to terrify me. You just take your time. You get there. You recover.

We pass through lightly wooded forests and see strange tree houses with long ladders. Too high to let your children climb. We eventually decide they are for pigeons. Racing we presume but this is out of our realm of expertise. We see no one and no pigeons. Just signs to be quiet and these strange structures.

We are staying tonight in a B&B. Not in the book. The first one in the book recommended them. Friends.

They are standing by their fence looking out for us. Monsieur Basque (we could understand very little of what he said, either local dialect or accent it was hard to tell) and Madame Sweet. They were so excited to host us they couldn’t stop talking. Their enthusiasm was delightful and overcame a lot of the language problems. They showed us their home bottling of fruits and cassoulet in the garage and brought out the unlabeled bottle of wine from their friend (all of the French have an unlabeled bottle from a friend, even Parisians). We eat and sleep and shower with care the next morning. It’s one of those we ‘fell like we are in their homes’ experiences. I guess the good things come with catches.

 

Day 44 Abbaye de Sauvelarde 32.5km  Fri 1/4

Today the chemin’s magic was loud in my ears. Was it because St Jean was so close and there was the temptation of having some of my long service leave at leisure?

But the walk though long – OMG 32 km!!!- was not so hard, and passed as effortlessly as the wisps of cloud, lost on the beauty of the vistas that constantly assaulted us. The Pyrenees seemed tantalisingly close, at our finger tips at each turn ready to take our breath away. In T-shirt and shorts the weather was magic.

There were hills and woods, but they too brought magic, a huge frog paralysed by snake venom, disappearing into the serpent before our amazed eyes. I felt I was in one of those science and nature episodes, but there alive without having to wait for the time photography to capture nature at its most brutal.

Then we stayed at the Abbaye, not quite the Pic Priory nor Conques Abbaye, and the accommodation basic and hostel level for all of the private room, but we ate outside, heard the tale of woe from the proprietors who hadn’t been able to make a go of it and would moving on (in French, my understanding was really getting much better) and drank in the experience. Just in case we were ending it all soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 43 Uzan Thu 31/3 28km

This was not my finest day. Upset stomach, sore throat and the day finishes off with a bad Madiran. Feeling bad is not enhanced by walking- by knowing you have little choice. Of course had I been really sick my husband would have been on the phone changing bookings, but we are closing in on Ste Jean and the border and I didn’t want to stop now. Besides, feeling unwell in a hotel or B&B just isn’t the same as being at home in front of the TV. It was a long day which didn’t help. The weather was mostly fine and mild and the positives were the pilgrim tree and messages from L’Alchemist  although one of these was Tais-Toi (Shut Up)!  We saw a wild pheasant yet to make it to someone’s table and a peacock presumably owned by the local farmer. We did get to cook for ourselves but in this B&B the heating had yet to be turned on and it was cold- so early to bed! Next morning we were seen off by Mme Dunk, hence named because of half her toast disappearing into the world’s largest cup of coffee over breakfast. We have found that at French B&B’s when you are asked about what you have  for breakfast there is only one answer- coffee or tea. The former is served in a soup bowl.

yes there is a pheasant if you look closelypligrim tree

pilgrim tree

Day 42 Maison Marsan 22.5 km Wed 30/3

The chemin continued relentlessly through the farmlands, bringing each day new experiences. But every day was bringing us closer to the French- Spanish border, and suddenly, today for the first time we saw it. There in the distance were the snow-capped Pyrenees.

We saw also a new animal- two of them- that had me scouring the internet using my husband’s computer and temperamental dongle. I decided it was an obscure animal introduced to France for its fur that went wild. If not it was a very large weasel or stoat, neither of which I had seen off the pages of Wind in the Willows.

Our journey was encouraged along by quotes from the Alchemist…I had read it and Paul Coehlo’s take on the camino but I hadn’t quite reached his level of spirituality yet. Accepting the inevitable- the chemin- I had acheived though.

We arrived at our accommodation to find we had a palace, or rather a walkers farm variety. Three bedrooms, kitchen laundry and spa bath. I was in this is seconds.

We bought the ingredients for dinner and cooked ourselves. Surrounded by ducks we ate confit and drank local wine and again decided France must surely be the most ideal place to walk. We were already Francophiles, perhaps we were now cheminophiles. Would though we just walk the French section and condemn the Spanish section as ‘too busy’ and ‘too common’? We still hadn’t decided. But there was a lure in those mountains and we both felt it.

 

Day 41 Aire sur L’Adour 28km Tues 29/3

I’m tired. It’s a week until St Jean Pied de Port where we either finish or at the very least have a day off. Neither of us want a day off yet, because, well what would we do? We’re walkers, not tourists. We can’t carry a book and though occasionally I have devoured one when found in English, I am certainly not about to carry one.

I think in retrospect my ankle decided to give way in protest. I was way too cocky about how my body kept recovering, how well I was doing for a middle aged academic. Okay, I go to the gym but honestly, whatever happens on those machines bears no resemblance to the real world. Trust me. There had been a lot of uneven territory and my boots didn’t have ankle support so maybe this was the ‘I told you so’ from the die hard tragics of heavy boots and twenty kilo packs.

But by the time we got into town I was in pain. Quite a bit. My husband didn’t tell me, but the accommodation was still another km- up  (of course). We had thought we’d eat in town, a nice town full of nice shops, but he wisely decided to buy food so we could cook without any more walking. He deposited me in a bar and went off.

It was a nice warm day. The last part of the walk had been a drag through the outskirts, the least favourite of all the walking experiences and inevitable in bid towns (Spain was to be way worse). I all but collapsed on an outside table and eventually a waiter came to see if I was alive and able to pay. I ordered a gin and tonic. To date these had been hard to come by, a quintessentially British drink and I wouldn’t put it past the French to not stock it for precisely that reason. Even if it meant loss of custom. But this waiter sensed my pain (or Aussie accent) and brought one with loads of Gin and loads of glace (initially I think he thought I wanted icecream in it. Probably just the accent).

After the second of these, with the gin in me and the ice on my ankle, I was a new woman. When my husband returned with food I all but skipped up the hill. I was even mellow through our hosts discussion of the religious significance of the walk (it turned out that when my husband had booked, the grilling about the luggage wasn’t because he was trying to sell us a luggage service, but rather he wouldn’t have let us stay had we not been carrying our own stuff!).

In any event, his religious concern and best wishes and the pictures of Jesus over us that night did some good. My ankle was as good as new the next day.

 

Day 40 Nogaro 20km  Mon 28/3


Had this day followed the Cele we may not have ever completed the walk. This was the day we probably deserved having started in winter, but had until now escaped. We had had cold, fog, ice and even snow. It had rained. But it hadn’t rained like this, and there is a reason France is so green.

One of the saving graces was that it was a ‘mere’ 20 km. Believe me, this is better than 25 or 30. But the last few km it was raining so hard we could barely move forward. We had good gear, but by the time we arrived in Nogaro (what was with this name? Some Japanese connection?) we were soaked, inside and out. The plastic lined pack meant our change of clothes was okay, but nothing else was.

Our hotel room was one of the smaller we had. Between that, the shower we soaked in that adjoined the room, the heater going and the sheer amount of moisture on us, it felt like someone had hosed the room down. The walls, everything was wet. And it smelt- well funky. We ate downstairs because it was still raining. Luckily the kitchen was open because I wasn’t going anywhere. When we left the next morning I looked in dismay and the tidal river we left behind and hoped no one needed it that day.

When I look back on the video we took I know it rained a lot. I was often in and out of wet weather gear. But this was the only day like this. Later, when I walked the coast to coast in England, 13 of 16 days were like this. Yes, we were blessed on this walk.

Day 39 Eauze 16.7  Sun 27/3

From the canola fields of the previous day we now walked through vineyards. Given much of our time in France prior to this walk had been in Burgundy and Bordeaux sampling wine, and trips into Beaujolais from our house, it had been a long time without seeing what we had considered was essential France. Now in Spring there was green across the fields of gnarled aged vines, and we paid them silent homage for what we drank each night.

Between and around vineyards we went through gullies and bursts of trees, but mostly we were in the open, France in the hand of the farmers and vigernons. They seemed to be managing well.

Eauze was a town like many other, but after a short day we arrived in time for a late lunch, and ate in a sheltered outdoor setting looking into the towns courtyard. This was in part by choice, but in part because our boots were muddy and give the time we wanted to eat first and wash and rest second. After this we still had time to wander through the tourist shop and regard some of the Abbey’s curiosities, before dinner in a pleasant little restaurant. It wasn’t busy but it was nice to not be eating alone. France and the Chemin were wakening from a winter slumber.

 

 

Day 38 Montreal du Gers 20km Sat 26/3

The chemin was now taking us through farming country. There was no sense of wilderness here, any woods small and merely breaking up the fields. But there was still a sense of the ancient, that the farms here had been ploughed and planted in much the same way for centuries. The tractors might have been new, a welcome addition we were sure when regarding the huge chunks of brown soil waiting to be more finely broken down for planting, but the crops and soil were as old as Europe and for a while we were pelerins from times gone by.

We were swallowed up into fields of golden canola, wavering in the wind as the path wove us between fields. We marveled at higher points at the sheer beauty and though they weren’t sunflowers I was reminded briefly of Van Gogh whose paintings had been of land not so far to the east of where we were. Had I been a painter I would have wanted to stop and covered canvas after canvas. Instead the golden stalks whispered into my brain and painted a picture there, where I can return in an instant,  sometimes unbidden when I drive past such a field now, or in a lazy warm spring day when I long for peace and the calm that only the camino brings, this is a place to which I return.
We were now into Armagnac territory, and our hosts for the night were farmers, her from her family a heritage of the wine that her husband shared with us as we talked in English. He was Dutch, a puppeteer who had travelled the world with his puppets. These were his heritage, his father’s possession and wisdom, and one which he had used to give information to the resistance in the war in Holland, right in front of the Nazis. It made for a good story and he was both excellent host and story teller.

 

 

 

 

Day 37 Condom 27.8 km Fri 25/3

Today’s route gave us another choice. It was a shortcut so as far as I was concerned, no choice was required! La Romieu by all accounts was worth a visit, but next time, by car perhaps.

We left Lectoure early. It was going to be a reasonably long day (not made any shorter by wandering around looking for scallop shells) and we liked to get in early and savour some of the afternoon. Despite the previous evenings dessert, I was starving. As we went past the bakery the early morning perfume dragged me out. Straight out of the oven, piping hot and butter oozing everywhere, I was delivered the most prefect pain aux raison every made. I can still taste it. It was heaven.

Later in the day, perhaps because our gastronomic senses had been revived at the restaurant, we went into equal (well almost) ecstasy over a mandarin. Food had taken on a new meaning. We have always loved good food, but now simple food, food our bodies needed and that we had earned, tasted so very much better.

Condom is a big town with varying legends about whether there is any association between the name and its English meaning. If so, it was much later. Its large Cathedral and giant statues of the three musketeers are probably what the locals would prefer it to be remembered by. We also remember a great pizza. The stomach wins again.

 

Day 36 Lectoure 24.7km Thurs 24/3

St Jean Pied de Port and the French border no longer seem so far away. We watch our progress on maps and boards in villages that show proudly that they are on the Chemin St Jacques and wonder at and celebrate our progress. Today there are long stretches through fields and though there are hills there are less fearsome and we are less scared. I have now in my head a ringing truth. I can walk, I will get there. I think back to how slowly I tackled the first hills in the blistering cold and fog. I am faster now, but if I need to, I can slow and I will get there. Anywhere.

As we head into an un-seasonally warm spring the farmers are out in tractors ploughing their fields. They wave to us and wish us well. Bon Camino is a familiar sound.

The warmth has brought new bars open and we sit in the sun late morning and enjoy a sirop before walking on. The bar owners beautiful sleek black spaniel decides to join us despite our plees and stern looks. We cross busy roads and so does he, my heart is in my stomach watching him and I pray he makes it home safely. He comes with us all the way to Lectoure, more than ten km.

We sit by a lake and eat bread and cheese and salami for lunch and our new friend flops beside us. The birds are now loud and active, the flowers blooming and it is like a different time and place to only four and a half weeks earlier. It is wonderful to live in the moment, and these moments are especially rich with colour and sound.

Lectoure. Like so many of these towns, is on a hill. We pass the cemetery on the way up, full of flowers and lined by pine trees. It is a long slow climb and when we disappear into a hotel- the classiest we have stayed in to date (even if it is called Hotel Bastarde!), I guiltily farewell our friend and wish him well. We eat in style. Pre-dinner drinks in the courtyard bar and then a fine meal in the French tradition. I squeeze in dessert. If anything I am still losing weight so I do so without a hint of guilt and rather think that people should do the Camino rather than join weight watchers.

 

Day 35 St Antoine 28.9   Wed 23/3

Following on from the 30km break through we are destined to have another. My husband has grimaced and pored over the books but in the end can’t find closer accommodation. It looks like it might be quite a bit over 30km and my feet are unhappy just thinking about it. But through some good luck we were alerted the previous night to an alternative and we take it. It ends up keeping the total under 30, and better still, we walk for much of the morning along a canal. Beautiful, different to anything else to date, and blessedly flat. The sun shines, we find some delightful French day-walkers to practice our French with, and life is truly rather good.

This night we are in a B&B run by a British couple. It’s nice being able to speak English and they are pleasant and tell us all of the local history. They are clearly part of the local ex-pat group even though they speak French. They had retired to France like so many Brits largely for the weather and so their money will last longer, rather than an inherit love of the French. They don’t seem too keen on the local Dutch either.

This area we are told, was rife with resistance fighters in the war. As I have cried my way through Schindler’s List, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Diary of Anne Frank (books and films, to name just a few) and once wrote a story about Violette Szabo a martyred French resistance fighter, this interested me. All the French towns we walked through had war memorials. Many lost in WWI, few in WWII as they gave in early. I am the mother of a son. I get this. In the next village, our hosts told us, the Germans took 20 or so women and children and hung them outside the Mairie. This shakes me. I have seen this in films, read about it happening. But we are walking daily past Mairies. It suddenly brings it very close to home. I wonder how the German walkers cope, what reception they get.

Luckily we eat in the restaurant opposite. I say this because the British are not renowned as chefs, not this generation anyway. We are the only guests but the owner happily opens up for us. The walking season is still a way off he says. Soon. We are happy to take the good weather and not have to share or fight off other would be walkers who might want our rooms. Here there is a shortage of accommodation so it could have been a problem. We consider ourselves lucky and smart for leaving when we did, and wander back over to the other side of the street to bed.

 

 

Day 34 Moissac 30km Tue 22/3

The day had to come, and it finally did. The day I had to crack the fear of the thirty km mark. I was in a positive enough mood. I had been walking strongly and no hill had again reduced me to tears. I felt strong, was certain I could do it.

This didn’t mean it was easy. My feet, unlike my bunions, still protested after 15-20km. At one stage it looked like being even worse. A French farmer had a large sign out saying basically anyone walking on his property would be shot. I didn’t take this lightly. I knew a friend of a friend killed when he camped on a French farmers land. Trouble was our map and the GPS both said it went through his field, and any alternative meant another five kilometres. Later we found several had done this. We walked up and down the road anxiously and then dived across the field. No buckshot followed us mercifully.

I knew my feet would be fine by morning but that didn’t make the pain at the end of the day any easier. There had been rumour that this hotel, on the river, did massages. Alas, only in the mornings. I wouldn’t need one then. Worse, the hotel was a km out of the centre and neither of us felt like the full French catastrophe proudly advertised on the board. Five courses? Fois Gras? Not walkers fare. My stomach protested loudly. Louder than my feet.

So we eased our poor feet into runners and walked gingerly back into town. It proved the right decision. All the walkers – and there weren’t many of us- seemed to have aggregated into the one bar. A decidedly non-French bar that did – OMG – Margaritas, Nachos, and burgers with fries! French food is wonderful but this after so long of a French diet was heaven. Better still it was cheap. Jean-Marc of the buggy joined us and if my feet even hot the side walk on the way home, after several Margaritas, I never noticed.

 

Day 33 Lauzerte 25.5km  Mon 21/3

The weather continued to be kind to us, and on longer days in particular, with an extra hour or two on the track, this was appreciated. The chemin took us over miles of farmland stretching forever, fenceless fields that took on a very different shape to the early days out of Cluny. We walked and talked, but mostly listened and watched the chemin around us, savouring France in a way that we never had on any of the many previous trips.

My ear for French I noticed improving. I had pretty much given up any hope that I shall ever speak the language well, but after several tries at language courses and a bit of homework I have enough grammar and vocabulary to read basic articles and carry on my side of a basic conversation (okay the French person would have to be able to cope with a bad accent and words in the wrong order and wrong tense from time to time). I am also brave or stupid enough (especially after a wine) to ramble on regardless- except for one thing. I can never make head or tail of what is said back to me and this unlike my bad French, I find acutely embarrassing. There are only so many times you can say ‘encore’ and ‘lentment’. But this time in France, where as usual I did a lot of the shopping, and got to listen to the many B&B Madames, I was finding I was picking up more, and had more natural guessing ability than my husband. It was a small improvement that of course disappeared as soon as we crossed the boarder into Spain, but for the moment I enjoyed it.

On this day we met a French walker, an ex-public servant, retired early on a full pension. He was towing his luggage on a cart, something which inspire a future novel but we didn’t know it at the time.

Lauzerte was at the top of a very steep hill. We were staying in another Gite (with single room) and cooking for ourselves. The supermarket was at the bottom of the hill. We decided one walk up was enough and bought supplies, but given this included chicken, vegetables and a bottle of wine, it didn’t make the walk any easier. I was more than happy to find our accommodation and off load it all. But we still had enough energy for a walk (even further up) into town and look around a lovely old town before coming back for a pre-dinner drink in the sun and a robustly tasty and fibre filled dinner.

 

 

Day 32 Lascabanes 24.6km  Sun 20/3

If the scenery itself wasn’t varied enough- and generally it was- then the variety of towns and places we stayed certainly were. We weren’t overall fans of the B&B’s though this was mainly if the room was in the middle of the home thus giving us little privacy, or we had to eat with Madame which may have been good for my limited French, but was far from relaxing. On the other hand we were largely avoiding hostels (Pic Priory being a worthy exception) because I decided I was too old to not have my own space. I like to sleep and other people snoring weren’t going to add a positive to the experience. I also tend to go to the bathroom at night and as we weren’t carrying pyjamas this would have created its own problem.

Coming across fields into Lascabanes we were looking for a new form of accommodation- a gite. Many of these hadn’t been opened but as we were now heading into walking season many were starting to open their doors. This one provided our own room and bathroom (single beds) as well as dinner.

The Swiss couple pulled up next to the gite as we arrived and invited us to join them for a drink. On the picnic table we enjoyed the last rays of sunshine and drank wine and talked. Their English was excellent and as we hadn’t met many walkers it was a nice change. A few others were to join us for dinner, as did the Swiss, giving themselves a day off cooking, including one male lone walker and two others. They were French and mentioned our pressured pelerin from the previous day. Apparently he was Australian. Typical. The lone male was nursing feet covered in blisters. He was only on his third day. I thought of M Sootie and thanked him for his advice. I rather doubted this young man bothered to wash his socks.

 

 

Day 31 Cahors 18.5 Sat19/3
Day of the pressured pelerin.

Today heading into Cahors we knew we would be in a bigger town than we had been for a while. Cahors has featured in a number of historical novels I had read and though I couldn’t recall any details I felt the Cathars, Templars and maybe some French royalty had made appearances.

It was a shortish day which helped keep up my enthusiasm but since the two ‘down’ days on the Cele I had really settled back into the walk without question. I enjoyed the moments of nicer weather, enjoyed the changing scenery, hills and all, and looked forward to whatever each day brought. If it brought less hills that was a bonus. On one hill we were surprised to meet another walker, though meet is an exaggeration. He powered past me and barely mumbled a Bonjour in response to ours. A young man in a hurry.

Coming into Cahors was a steep decline. This my knees joined with my feet in taking exception to. Finding another body part that protested was becoming par for the course but I no longer let it worry me. If it was there in the morning, then I’d think more about it, but most things seemed to be cured with a night’s rest. My bunions, which had been needing regular rests through the day, rather than getting worse (really what else was for them to do- I kept giving them the same punishment?) confounded medical science and was no longer causing me any problems at any time. Go figure.

Our hotel was on the outskirts, on the wrong side of the river that was manned with ancient lookout towers. We wandered in after the usual washing routine, bought fresh fruit at the local market, chose the restaurant for dinner and came back for a rest. The beauty of a shorter day was that my feet objected less and we wandered back across the river for dinner, like any other tourist might.

 

Day 30 Poudally 24 Fri 18/3

I am walking better and twenty four kilometres is still a good distance but seems doable. As we start at first light we are usually in by mid afternoon and today that is even better as we are staying in a Gite and will be cooking for ourselves. I am fantasizing about vegetables and pasta. Unlike at Pic Priory where we risked being in a dormitory with others, this Gite as many along the way do, offers separate rooms. My husband and I, surprisingly are still enjoying each other’s company and if there are others to talk to, that will be good but not essential. With emphasis on talking to, not sleeping with. I am a light sleeper and other people coming to bed and getting up at different times, to say nothing of the snoring, would keep me up all night. I gather this is common across the main route in Spain and holds no attraction for me. If my husband snores I can elbow him.

The weather is mild and the walk reasonable. We pause in one town looking at the war memorial. As always there are far more men lost in the First World War compared to the second. The French countryside is as always picturesque and when we arrive we rest before preparing dinner, chatting to Germans who are returning having already made it to Santiago. They will be the only people we meet on the entire trip who work further than us. It I hard to gauge how momentous the arrival in Santiago was for them. I guess if you’re only half way it kind of takes away from the impact. They look driven.

For us, four weeks in, we just look at the map and see how much closer we are to the border, to St Jean, which, after all, is where we are heading, isn’t it?

 

Day 29 Limogne en Quercy 20km Thurs 17/3/11


The next day it was as if the previous two hadn’t existed. I woke up ready to walk and never considered any alternative. I was refreshed and rejuvenated, a mere afternoon off it seemed enough to re-orientate me towards St Jean. My husband was still looking at me occasionally with a worried look, but as far as I was concerned I was enjoying the Camino and what it was throwing at me. Well most of the time.

The path took us again through dark forests, this time lined with ancient stone walls, so thick with moss in spots that it was hard to make the wall out. The hues were of deep green, the mysterious forests of childhood books such as The Faraway Tree, full of elms, oaks and maples that at home are largely relegated to the Botanical gardens.

We were staying in a Chambre d’Hotes, a French B&B, and this was run by another single woman we labeled Madame Daytime TV. She was watching it when we arrived and when we left for dinner. After the worst coffee I had ever had there, it was a blessing we decided we weren’t having dinner with her. Not all the French can cook. She had however, bless her, supplied the guest bathroom with every possible cosmetic from eye liner to shampoo. My hair relished the conditioner, first time for some weeks, and I played with every moisturizer I could lay my hands on. Bliss.

In town, we ate Barbary duck at a wonderful little restaurant and as always drank well. The walk home was in the dark- no street lights, just a small torch light. But we made it, and yes, I said to my husband, I wanted to walk on. This had not been a no go day.

 

Day 28 Cajarc 14km Wed 16/3/11 Day of the dead Cele.

Knowing we only had 14 km to walk helped a lot. That it was all on the road did not. Quite aside from the effect on our feet, there is something soul destroying about walking on a road passed by cars going where you are but much faster and with less pain. A year later when walking the coast to coast I would opt for the boggy moors, mires and all, despite the inclement weather, rather than walk along a road. Even if it meant several extra kilometres. But I wasn’t at that point yet. As far as I was concerned this was day two of ‘no more’. The end was in sight.

Carjarc was a nice town, a little touristy but not too big. Our motel- and it was just like a motel, the only one we stayed in in France, was basic. Nothing quite worked and though there were cooking facilities the gas didn’t work and there were no pots and pans. The heating however did work.

Finishing early meant there was time to wander the town looking at tourist fare I couldn’t buy. Better still there was a wine bar I could sit in eating cheese, drinking wine and reading the local paper. Even if it was in French it felt like a luxury. I refused to think about the next day or how many extra kilometres over all our venture into the Cele had meant. I just wanted to be a tourist on holiday. The sort where you relaxed rather than walked.

We ate in one of the local restaurants, feeling completely human after an afternoon off. I could see my husband itching to ask how I was feeling about more walking but I was trying to feel nothing at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 27 Marcilhac sur Cele 25 Tues 15/3 Day of the two dogs and tears on hill.

My spirits were a little better in the morning, but not much. I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted to do, but walking wasn’t it. But there really wasn’t much else to do. So we walked. The path took us high, us and over and along ridges, sometimes in forests and others with spectacular views. There was no one else walking, but we found ourselves company in the form of two large dogs, who decided to attach themselves to us. They were mongrels both, and one would flop next to us when we rested, regarding us with large hopeful eyes. My husband isn’t a big dog fan but we were both worried they were get lost. They followed us despite us yelling and throwing things in their general direction.

Later we found that this is not so strange. In peak season the dogs have a number of walkers to join and do so for the pleasure of the walk that their owners are presumably too busy to do. They know which way to turn, and if ever we were in doubt, unable to find a scallop shell, our new friends were happy to oblige. After more than eight kilometres we came to a town and went to the Mairie. The women there rolled her eyes and yelled “Andiamo! Maison!” and they left. Naturally. We had been yelling the same thing but in English. What were we thinking?

We finally came to a hill that threatened to defeat me. It wasn’t that it was any harder than the others, it was just yet another, and my frame of mind was negative. I burst into tears and stated that yes this was day one of me saying no. I didn’t want to do this any more.

We stayed with the local mayor and his second (or was it third?) wife. He spoke English well, they had a real coffee machine (bliss) and they both cooked. It was a lovely meal and house but the next day loomed. There was an added problem. Despite the assistance of the Mayor and his wife my husband had been unable to find accommodation. One woman was having a baby, another closed and a third didn’t answer. In my current frame of mind if we turned up and there was no accommodation it wouldn’t have been pretty. So my husband scoured the maps and we changed direction, back to the main route taking the main road. The only good news was that it meant the next day would only be 14 km.

 

VARIANT DE CELE Day 26 Corn 22 (via Beduer)  Mon 14/3 Plan Cele 2

At this point in our trip we had arrived at a choice. While the Chemin St Jacques tries to follow the original route, the pelerins weren’t necessarily an obliging lot who did the same thing. Places like Conques they all visited for food and sustenance but between the Abbeys and churches were hills and rivers and many chose different ways to navigate. Our book showed two alternatives and we elected for the variant via the Cele river. I like rivers and think of flat paths beside them. Unfortunately rivers also have a habit of winding between mountains as we were about to find out.

It was at this point I started to wonder why on earth I was doing this. We had planned just to go to Ste Jean Pied de Port but I knew my husband well enough to know that like me he was harbouring a desire to keep going. All the way. This appealed on one level. I had six months long service leave and no real other plans. We could sit in our French farmhouse and read and write and I was sure we would enjoy it. But there was something enticing about saying we walked out of our door one day in central France and ended up on the Northwest coast of Spain.

But I started to question this vague appeal. Who really cared? We weren’t even using staffs that could be buried with us (my husband’s poles just didn’t have the same romance). Who cared if it was 1000 or 2000 km we walked? Already I had blown any previous record well out of the water. I didn’t need to feel I failed if I called it quits at St Jean. Or right here for that matter. No one of us, we had agreed, could pull the plug (unless for injury reason) unless we felt the same way every day for at least four days. My husband was watching me waryily, willing me not to make the call that this was day one.

I didn’t, but though the scenery was lovely I resented every hill. At the end of the day the walk to our B&B was straight up and I wanted to cry. I was really over this.

Our hosts were determined however that this would be our most memorable night. An older couple whose children had left, they did this more for the love of it than the money. Madame whisked away all our dirty clothes and washed everything and then Monsieur delivered dinner worthy of a Michelin star, right down to the dessert with elegant piping over it. I slept well but was still aware of a definite shift. I wasn’t enjoying this any more.

 

 

Day 25 Figeac 29km (Sunday 13/3): Hotel St Jacques (with bath) booked

Day of Sangliers and French onion soup.

Today was a long one. Though I had now been on the Chemin nearly four weeks and was enjoying the rhythm of the days, barely giving a thought to the chaos and rush of my usual life (except missing and wondering about our kids), this hadn’t translated to me thinking 30 km in a day was easy. It still loomed over me as an unachievable goal. It took a long time to walk this far, and my feet hurt by 20km let alone any further.

We were heading for Figeac, a medium sized town we had had heard of from Australian friends who romantically had bought a Chateau somewhere outside of the town. We had never visited and looking at where Figeac is on the map compared to anywhere one might reasonably fly into from Australia, this was one of the reasons why. The other reason was that they only had a share of the Chateau and ever since buying it the couple who were on site seemed to be involved in their very own Year in Provence type renovations. But it was turning into a decade…and the Amercian tourists arriving to finance it all was not filling them with joy.

The walk as always was a mix of country and town, with lots of farm land, roads (the bitumen I’m sure wasn’t helping the feet aches) and tracks. The weather was reasonably mild and though a fine drizzle was never far off, it was good walking weather and we had no complaints. The rhythm of the day meant that often we would walk for long periods with little conversation. Our plan to devise the plot and characters for our next book/screenplay was relegated to five minutes at most in the morning. Our mind turned to watching the scallop shells and soaking in our surrounds. Anything else seemed largely irrelevant.

The sanglier, all three of them (wo dark distant dots here…use your imagination…), were not irrelevant. I knew what it was because my daughter’s French book of animals had one in it. There had been one in the local paper as well, to say nothing of the butcher shops where they were prized. I had eaten sanglier terrine and sanglier stew (under a much better French title) but I had never seen one. They are essentially a wild boar and are dangerous.  I marvelled at their casual saunter around this farmer’s field. I looked around for the farmer, hoping they knew something I didn’t. I wasn’t specially worried about their welfare but seeing such a magnificent (albeit ugly) animal slaughtered was not my idea of enjoying the French countryside. I was worried about a French farmer with a gun. We hurried on.

The day was every bit as long as I feared. The walk into Figeac along the bitumen road was agony. We found our lovely little hotel by the railway station (up a street in the wrong direction from town) and I fell into the bath and didn’t ever want to move. Dinner was served downstairs but we would have been the only guests in a rather upmarket little place with rich food I didn’t feel like. Which meant a walk.

It seemed like nothing was open. We walked over the river into town and wandered around a deserted town realizing it was a Sunday night. I was ready to give up when we fell over a trendy wine bar of all things, right on the river. We drunk glasses of local wine, and had the best French onion soup ever made. I went to bed happy.

 

Day 24 Decazeville 22.5  Sat 12/3

There was a reluctance to leave Conques, as if God or the monks were saying ‘this is safe- why go?’ The town was so quintessentially everything that your average Aussie tourist was looking for, it was hard not to think, well, what else is there? Nothing can surpass this!

This was not helped by the fact that the chemin went sharply downhill – and then, naturally, up again. It was slow going, over uneven paths covered in tree roots and strewn with decaying chestnuts. The one incentive was the chapel on the hill, where we knew if we rang its bell, the bells of the Abbaye Ste Foy would reply.

I’m sure it is all automated. But it really didn’t matter. When I was standing in the middle of a remote chestnut forest, by a tiny chapel, peering through the leaves back at the magnificence of Conques, it wouldn’t mattered if Bruce Willis had dropped in. I was in the 10th century and I was a true pilgrim. Or at least I was when those bells rang back at me after I pulled the chain on my side of the mountain.

It was probably just as well. Though the day wasn’t long (a now standard 22.5km) it went up some significant climbs through dying heather, and then across ridges and farmlands where winds threatened to blow us off at times, and at the very least chilled us to the bone. For much of the walk we were high on a ridge passing industrial towns, all the more hard to take after the beauty of Conques. Finally we descended into one, wandered aimlessly, feet sore for all the supposed short day. Our hotel, well located for leaving the next day, was well out of town and a walk was needed to eat. I begrudged every step. It was only a very good pizza, a glass of wine or two and the welcome company of the Swiss that made me think anything good would every happen again on the walk.

 

 

Day 23 Fri 11/3/11 Conques 22km

On the map we were heading far further west than we needed in order to get to the border point, St Jean Pied De Port. But the guide books were all clear why we were heading there, and that it was worth it. This was one of the few nights we were spending with a traditional pelerin host. But the monks at the Abbaye Ste Foy had moved with the times. Yes, they had the dormitories  but we would have our own room and bathroom (though with single beds!).

The walk was a pleasant one, the usual hills, forests and fields, green and lush and still cold enough for all the occasional daffodil or wildflower, to remind us we were still in Europe barely out of winter, however mild it had been.

We kept thinking we would arrive, expecting a sudden vista to open up before us. But the kilometres ticked over and there was no sign of this famous abbey.

Finally, as we headed down a path through a forest, water cascading over it, we opened out. But instead of an Abbey there was a rather ordinary looking house. Still being built. Ancient abbey this was not. What became apparent was that the path took us up and over and beyond the abbey. We had now come down and had to work our way back. The Abbey, care of the weather in the area, had not been built on the hill but rather hidden on its side, protected as much as it could be.

The guide books were right. Even though I wasn’t here for the religious significance, this town should be on everyone’s list. An A-lister for tourists, religious aficionados and historians as well as camino walkers this town seemed to be in a time warp. Yes there were the tourist shops but every building looked straight out of the ninth century, the abbey and all its buildings dominates the town and gives it the focus that is hard to avoid. The brothers (or fathers?) in age old robes, the huge doors of the abbey I marvel at from the balcony of the bar where I sip wine with the Swiss we had met days earlier, the statue of the martyred 12 old. All are from another place and time and yet there I am, a part of it magically, taken back in time and reliving the lives of those who built the abbey, who died poor and happy or poor and unhappy.

We eat with the monks, a basic, cheap meal (canned Salmon, it’s Friday…) where we help and there appears to be volunteers. Some eating with us are visiting for religious reasons but are not walkers. They come to the blessing ceremony regardless.

It is not in the main cathedral, but rather in a small chapel. I sit in the back, self-consciously atheist. The monks file in. They sing, magically without music, in perfect tune, filling the white walls with its cross and basic windows with magic. In Latin, French, possibly both, I am overcome with the tingling that goes up and down my spine, by the beauty of their voices, the same voices that have sung here day in and out for centuries. I take their (nonreligious) walkers blessing humbly, mindful that they and I have shared something here that transcends this world and mere beliefs. It is about the beauty of all things and all that man can do, and I accept it humbly and gratefully, letting this message of the Camino sit and work into my soul. I am not, like Paul Coelho, likely to have a religious epiphany. But the Camino works in many ways, and this adds to my internal checklist. Conques will always hold a special place in my heart.

We note in the guest book as we leave book that Jocelyn the French women had spent the previous night there, with Lionel the American and Mattias the Belgian boy. It seemed it had been special to them too.

 

 

Day 22 Thu 10/3 27.8 km (490km) Golinhac

We start as always with winter hat and gloves that are only removed to sample the fresh croissant as we leave Espalion alongside the river, still covered in the early morning mist. It’s a long day today and I peer at the GPS and see that we are closing in on a total of 500km- tomorrow we will make in enroute to Conques.

After the brief luxury of walking along the river (read flat) we are confronted with a hard climb but at the top are rewarded with panoramic views as we walk across the high plains. The chemin takes us through towns, some with little more than a church, but they are always old and central to the village and village life. More than once we are serenaded through the town or valley by the ringing of the bells that have rung countless times throughout the ages.

The day warms up. As we reach another river we see Estrange (I may not have spelt this properly) and are tantalized by what looks like café’s with tables and chairs in the sun. We are in luck. One is open, and beneath the Chateau or cathedral towering over the town we sit and watch a woman in shorts (we take off the mittens and hat and even jacket but shorts seems extreme) pruning a wisteria. The coffee is great and enough to keep us going along a winding section by the river before the next, inevitable hill.

Day 21 Wed 9/3 24.5km Espalion

The spring in our step at having survived the Aubrac, and having been lucky enough to at this time of year get through it minus snow, was added to by the weather. Still cool in the morning, the sun fought the clouds the won. My frostbitten nose was particularly appreciative.

The chemin took us across fields and through woods, the usual hills and the occasion town. In one the small church had a lovely table and chairs for a picnic but while the shade would have been welcome in midsummer, I took the wall in full sunshine. Around the trees near the church daffodils were out and sitting drinking coffee and resting my feet I took in the change of season and celebrated and appreciated it in a way I hadn’t ever before.

In one of the many books I read on the Camino de Santiago (A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela by Dee Nolan and photographed by Earl Carter, Lantern/Penguin 2010) the author (who herself only did an 11 day section but drove to many places including some of the French section) talked to other walkers and she and they came to the conclusion that the secret of the chemin/camino was time. That suddenly time became yours, and it fitted you rather than the race we have in our usual day to day lives between people and events and stressed further by emails, tweets and Facebook.

As Spring bloomed and I could just sit and enjoy, this truth was never more apparent. We had nothing to worry about except getting to the next

town. We were now bonafide walkers so this didn’t worry us too much (as long as we weren’t going anything close to 30 km) and instead the day was about the surprises, the Mary on the hill (did we really go all the way up this peak just for that???), the castle towering over us as we drank in more sun drinking coffee by the river, the river walk that said ‘no cars’ but they drove along anyway.

My husband had booked the next three days accommodation so our only decision at night would be where to eat. Tonight we would be in Espalion, a large town over a river with stone carvings looking down over walkers, and plenty of choices. We could linger in shops, have pizza or fine cuisine. I would wash as always and put the wet socks and underwear over the heaters where they would be ready in the morning. I would shower and my feet would say please don’t walk around the town (I do anyway) but then settle down to the fine cuisine in our hotel and stagger up to our room after. There is no one to ring, nothing more to think about except the next day and the rolling hills ahead of us.

 

Day 20 Chely D-Aubrac 17km

We were now right in the heart of the Aubrac about which we had been warned.

‘It is not passable at this time of year!’ authoritatively from the Cluny tourist office.

‘There are roads around,’ said M. Sootie.

‘People have been lost and nearly died.’ And ‘last year there were search parties out’ from fellow walkers.

We were certainly more than happy that we had a GPS. On the windswept plains, which thanks to no snow we were able to traverse without fighting police and SES barriers, any sign of a trail quickly disappeared and we wandered along fence lines looking for a crossing. The GPS showed a trail that as far as we could make out had never existed, certainly not one that made creek and fence crossings any easier. It was bitterly cold, and my nose was soon feeling as numb as my gloved fingers. There was no stopping for rests or food, we needed shelter.

At one stage we saw a scallop shell high on a post. Despite the GPS, it was reassuring. Nearby we found the small hut the lost walkers from the previous season had hauled up in. It was basic, but anything would be better than the Aubrac in a snow storm.

When we finally came off the high plains into a town our guide book assured us was full of cafes, we were cold a desperate for a coffee. Desperate we were to remain. Despite at t\least three, one with a man inside right next to the machine, the message was the same. It is winter, we are closed.

Off the Aubrac plains the weather was a little warmer but by now my nose was in pain. When I finally made it into the small hotel we had booked for the night, it was alternating between red and blue. Dinner at least was only downstairs and we started early, joined by the Swiss couple who we had met and walked but then hitchhiked back for their van in which they slept. Tonight they were eating at the hotel and joined us. Without my black hat they hadn’t recognised me. We were soon enjoying wine, fine food and good company. And celebrating our survival of the Aubrac. Only my nose, clearly with frostbite, had not survived.

 

 

Day 19: Nasbinals 27 km

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Mondays : Manic Month

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Simone Sinna’s Manic Month Blog

Monday August 11th : A whirl wind trip and insights into The Rosie Effect…

After a short reprieve, things are about to go crazy again (in the nicest possible way!). Next week we’re off for a week in rural France to complete (I hope…) edits of my psychological thriller (written under my real name) Medea’s Curse due out with Text end of January. Okay, it’s true there will be some French food and wine and walks in the countryside too. There will need to be some walking because of what is happening later in the month (read on!). Then a few days in Amsterdam (Graeme Simsion talks more Rosie Project…when we return it will be full on The Rosie Effect, due out September 24th, the sequel) before we walk across England along Hardian’s Wall. When we walked (swam…) the Coast to Coast walk a couple of years ago we thought that was the shortest part of the neck, but this walk is only 134km (cp 307km). But looking at the weather forecast, probably just as wet! Then to Swansea for a conference , London and home.

So I have (and now a few others with ARC’s have also) read The Rosie Effect. When Graeme asked me as first reader of The Rosie Project “is it a real book” I said I don’t know! (Later i decided it was, I just couldn’t think of anything else it was like. But I reckon early John Irving). This time my response was easy – yes and I think it’s better! Of course I am biased, but I am not the only one who said these exact words!

Firstly – the Americans have it wrong. It is NOT a romance (or Chicklit – for heaven’s sake, Bill Gates called it profound!). That said, it is at times sad, and romantic. At other times it is also very funny. Laugh out loud, though maybe not as roll around floor laughing as The Rosie Project (lot of giggling though), but it has a lot more heart, and it’s deeper. Despite someone tweeting – “ARGH Pregnancy that’s not romantic”, this is a deeply movingly romantic book at times because it is real. As it is from Don Tilman’s perspective, not Rosie’s, it isn’t about “pregnancy” as it would be in ChickLit. This is Don, with his own peculiar take on everything, that goes very close to many men’s hearts. Go Don, we’re rooting for you!

 

 

 

 

 

Monday July 14th

Parenting: Pitfalls in the Culture of “Me”

There is a lot of talk about the “culture of me”; Anne Manne’s new book on the Life of I (I haven’t read it but I heard her on the radio) and articles on the explosion of narcissism in the first world. Marry this up with the explosion of articles on parenting: helicopter, tiger, attachment parenting and many more and the bursting at the seams of our adolescent psych units with children as young as 8 and 9 years old bouncing off the walls after family breakdowns or/and taking Ice there isn’t much to look forward to if you’re having a family. How to negotiate? Who to listen to? It used to be just conflicting advice around breastfeeding. Now it’s whether they should be doing three hours piano practice or allowed to play in the mud by themselves.

As a perinatal specialist (in my non-author time) I see the anxiety, worry, and frantic attempts to be perfect and do things right and the cost this has. There is no such thing as perfect parenting, rather it needs to be good enough—imperfect but with a robust structure of respect and confidence that allows ruptures to be fixed. Many of the mothers I see don’t have the role model in their own childhoods to have the confidence, and depression, anxiety and marital tensions make it worse for them as well as for the children who feel the tensions and without the robust structure blame themselves, feel confused, angry and “act out” though it is almost always because they desperately need connection.

We as parents have a responsibility to bring up our children to the best of our ability and get help when we can’t. BUT…society isn’t helping and this takes us back to the cult of “I”.

I have been doing family therapy with an intact loving (and imperfect family) from a traditional Asian background whose 12 year old daughter has been raised in Australia. They in keeping with their traditional values “spoilt” the little girl and though not rich gave her all they could. They made mistakes, probably intervening too early when she was young and not putting enough boundaries around her and allowing her to learn to deal with her own emotions at a younger age (The common parenting problem of being ruled by wanting to avoid conflict and have the child love me).

But what her father said to me today opened my mind to how else we are failing our children. They had just had the police out again; the child’s behaviour is aggressive and threatening and she isn’t little any more. She keep swearing and threatening until the father lost his cool and said he would hit her (acceptable in his culture), which he was told by the police was inappropriate. However this was just what the child (and in this moment her out of control rage was child not adult) wanted—to feel that power. In his home country he said, it would never happen because the culture (and the society and law) is about respect and dire consequences if not adhered to. So this child would have got the same or worse anywhere else the state puts her.

This child is on the verge of going into foster care. I have another patient now thirty who had exactly the same story at 13 and did go into foster care. But rather than show her this was worse than loving parents it had the opposite effect—gave her new freedoms and drugs and sex to experiment with. I have other patients who because of their childhoods are never going to work and will rely on those of us who do to support them throughout their lives; I rarely have any discussions with them about them feeling guilty about this or trying to put back into society. It is all about not taking responsibility for themselves and letting the state do it—which reinforces their sense of low self esteem, poor self efficacy and contributes strongly to their mental illness. I have a friend when in his twenties all the forms were set to go for the disability pension which he would have stayed on for life; until a psychiatrist refused to sign them, said it would be a death sentence for his mental health and that he needed a job. He did just this and believes that advice saved his life literally; he is now in his sixties with no plans to retire from a successful lucrative career.

I am not suggesting that we have an authoritarian regime as in some other countries—that has many problems! But I do think we need to adopt more a culture of with freedom comes responsibility not just to the self but others. We can start this in the home but if we don’t as a society unite to support the importance of responsibility to the greater good, I see an inevitable sad decline of all that is good into a society none of us will want to be a part of; when it all disintegrates remember Noah will only save the animals. We have to save ourselves before it’s too late.

Monday May 26th

Criticism: Makes us stronger or sends us running?

I don’t care what anyone says; no one likes criticism. It’s just that some people are in a deeper denial (they would say better defended) than others.

At one extreme my writer friends are paralysed and keep re-writing the same bit, never to finish, because of fear of failure. With my early books I cut the umbilical cord and rejected the baby to some extent, only to be told (rightly) by my writer’s group that the baby still needs nurture (mmm…editing).

I tend to say “criticism is fine if it’s constructive” which is true to a point, but it doesn’t mean I don’t secretly want everyone to agree with me and think my work if something of pure genius (I’ll settle for a ripping good yarn, or made me think or enjoyable. With my Simone Sinna titles, had the best sex in years after my husband read it will also do). We certainly need to be able to hear criticism  to improve and are more likely to be able to tolerate it if given constructively so it’s worth learning how to do this. My best teachers have been (in no particular order): my writer’s group, Syd Field’s Screenplay, Myers Briggs and Kent Hoffman (a psychotherapist involved with Circle of Security based on attachment theory that I use in my other job) and a final nod to James Blunt (yes I do like his voice and songs and I have all his albums).

Okay I’ve probably lost most of you now and the ones still reading are thinking something like WTF?

First and second go together: Syd Field’s book, though I am not and never wish to be a screenwriter, is great for understanding story structure (for plot Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots was more interesting and engrossing) and being able to anchor your thoughts and know about story structure. I read extensively and I intuitively know when something is working and when it is not. I know that in crime/thriller books there are a number of things they almost all adhere to like giving hints and red herrings. But to actually be able to say what it is that is wrong is much harder and harder again to suggest how to fix it. Editors are good at the former, but not at the latter (hence why they are editors not writers), though to be fair fixing the problem has to come from the author who knows their characters and has a big picture of what happens and how it needs to be set up. From Screenplay I learnt to identify clear import parts of story which is critical to screen plays but perhaps is just as important in stories and books where the story is clear. So this means genre, yes, but also to my mind, better, literary books that stay with you, Like Burial Rites. Beautiful writing to me, alone, will just send me to sleep. Add good characters I’ll be up for a while, but add in story – then you have a masterpiece. So enter writer’s group who didn’t always use the words inciting incident or first act turning point but by identifying weaknesses in places like this it made it much easier to see how you could strengthen your writing. I need to add here some great advice I got last night from Text author Chris Flynn (A Tiger in Eden) which was in the end, don’t try to write by committee.

Next? Myers Briggs and Core Sensitivities (Hoffman et al from circleofsecurity.net) basically helped me understand myself and how I take criticism. I am an extrovert unlike a lot of authors, so I get my energy from the outside world. This means that reviews are going to draw (and repel) me like a magnet and I will find them irresistible (I read about one author that never reads them. I understand not looking up Amazon/Goodreads but reviews? Really?). Not replying is also not something that comes naturally but the advice is to ignore (James Blunt of note has some hilarious responses on Twitter to his hate tweets). I have also heard horrible stories about increasing aggression and that would be even worse.

From Hoffman I know I am esteem sensitive. Think narcissism without having to be a full blown politician. This means that reading bad reviews is soul destroying. Esteem sensitive means just that – not that you believe you are great, just that you bolster yourself up to get through life (not to delusional level, but, well, it is nice to focus on the positive reviews not the negative).

The final advice comes from James Blunt. He told the Sydney Morning Herald reporter something like this about his detractors: I don’t know them so why should it bother me?

I’m going to practice this one.

 

Another manic month- at least it helps me identify with the heroine in my psychological thriller, out under my real name early next year! I don’t think I get a weekend at home until July….having just been shopping in New York I’m not complaining too much though!

And the photo is New York (along the Hudson River), not Amsterdam….

Monday May 5th

The Writer’s Life

There is a lot of romantisization of a writer’s life – and having after many years of rejections and three unpublished manuscripts (over 140,000 words each!) on the bookshelf to now have a book contract with a prestigious publisher for a mainstream book (after 10 erotic romances…) I’m not about to complain here, just put things in perspective. I run a group called putting your life in perspective (It was called Putting your Problems in Perspective, but it is for new mothers and I changed the name when they started identifying the baby as a “problem”- the problem is lifestyle change. Not the baby) and on the plane to New York (not to research a book but for the “other” life professional conference, my husband however is doing the research) I saw a lovely movie About Time which added to the whole perspective idea. While overdoing it a tad and being arguably schmaltzy (I cried and if I ever get a second father I want it to be Bill Nighy) I loved it and the take home message was to cherish every minute of your life. I have been living that idea to some degree ever since walking the Camino de Santiago and going part time and writing the rest of the time, but it was a timely reminder.

So yes I am jet lagged (Melbourne-New York really does bad things to my sleep pattern), and there is not enough time to go to the conference, write, shop, go to Broadway, eat at all our favorite restaurants, see all our friends…yep, first world worries! But there is time to be wowed by NY in spring. Amazing daffodils on the Highline. Great views as we fantasize about where Don Tillman might live in The Rosie Effect (the book my husband is researching, out in September), to combine the bar visit in Brooklyn with catching friends in Long Island and …okay not much happening with my book but I am waiting for the edits on Medea’s Curse (and rethinking the name; The Medea Curse maybe?) due in a couple of weeks and it’s hard to think about the drafted sequel of the new Simone Sinna Book (Rulebreaker, which I am half way through!) when so much to distract me.

There was also the quick trip here via Canada… I was giving a talk in Vancouver (beautiful city!) as my husband lived the promotion side of being a writer. He likes talking and the Canadians love the book which helps, but you do get a small taste of what it is like to be a celebrity (novelists thankfully aren’t as easily recognizable as actors) but you could understand authors who want to sit in a garret and write would find the publicity tour daunting to say the least (my husband has been on the road since The Rosie Project came out in Australia in January 2013). Mine comes out in Feb 2015 and I’ll happily go on the road though the one (or none) turning up to events, the bookshops who don’t have your book are all things ahead of me I rather suspect… but that’s a writer’s life. Bring it on.

Monday March 31st

Writers: Do You Want to Know What You Don’t Know?

 

Two weeks ago I attended a Master Class for published authors.

Though my husband is a great help and fountain of knowledge, (and he studied writing and screenplays for more than five years) it is many years since I did the couple of brief writing courses and most of my knowledge has come through reading fiction with a passion (some 200 books last year!) and practice. We are told to get 10,000 hours and that was certainly what I needed to be an expert in my “other” area of work where I worked for a number of degrees. I have had a couple of  150,000 word manuscripts almost get published, one 143,000 word document thrown in the bin (by me) and all which added to those hours. Most recently writing and publishing as Simone Sinna has enabled me to write in a positive feedback loop- and get better developing character and plot line. One review of my first book said the characters were two dimensional and it hurt … but I took it on board (though I have to say the romance genre does tend to lean towards this, as does novellas where there can be limited character development).

But I have also been writing a psych thriller and felt out of the positive feedback loop with this- hence the master class. A group of more different writers you can’t imagine; fables, literary drama to postmodernist paranormal. And my thriller Medea’s Curse to be published in Jan/Fen next year by Text. The only “genre” piece of work. But after being frozen in my twenties through fear of not being able to write anything important enough to writing erotic romance suspense I have become content with what I can and cannot do – and what I want to do. Medea’s Curse might be broadly genre but it has a multi-layer plot(s) and moral and ethical issues. And I don’t think the criticisms will be about two dimensional characters. I have worked on this for nearly three years and didn’t think I could get it better…until my editor (who hasn’t attacked it yet) made some suggestions and the Master Class got to it.

Two weeks later I am looking at the manuscript in amazement. I have made a lot of changes. After the editors get at it I’m sure it will be better still. It will never be perfect, but the outside knowing eye of a knowledgeable reader who can pinpoint problems versus someone reading for just pleasure is very telling. Thank you class!

But the other gift they gave me was to tell me to read 7 Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. I was reluctant. I mean I could hardly change the plot of my book now could I? I figured when I found it was only $16 that I’d do a quick peruse…

It usually takes me a day to read a book. This took me a week and a half. The first quarter? Yeah, like the name, 7 Basic Plots; Overcoming the Hero, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rags to Riches, Rebirth. But there are the discussion around the books that fit (and don’t fit) the mould, and then the rest of the book which is Booker’s ode to history, including science and sociology, psychology (he’s a Jungian who studied history) and an amazing (though I don’t always agree with him) attempt to pull it all together and look at why and where we are with stories in 2014.

I wish I had read it thirty years ago. I don’t think it’s too late to read it not matter how long you’ve been writing. I guess it cheers me up to see my book has got the features of a good story (doesn’t mean it is good of course!) though he is fairly scathing about crime stories and stories for mere entertainment. I read to wind down and I often use that as an excuse to read “light” thrillers rather than literature/ Pulitizer-Booker winners (which I also read). But I have never enjoyed stories without a plot and how much more rewarding to have one that is well written by someone who knows what they are doing and can maybe, even in thrillers, allow the hero/heroine to move towards learning something about themselves and teaching us at the same time.

I am now writing the sequel to Medea’s Curse. I hope that all I have read will settle in and inform rather than overwhelm. It means a far more rewarding and exciting journey.

 

Monday 17th February

The Magic of Victoria’s Surf Coast

After six weeks in the cold winter from Boulder (minus 20), to snow in New York and a pleasant but still chilly rural France, its great to be back in Aus and seeing some sunshine! This weekend I was showing off my favourite part of the world, taking a Brazilian friend along the Great Ocean Road to have prawns on the barbie (fighting off Kookaburras though not as bad as the last time I was here) and magically, soaring over the 12 (well 8) Apostles in a Helicopter. Oh and we got to see koalas in the wild too…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday November 11th

Another Day Another City

Arrived Hong Kong on Friday for their Literary Festival. Different I have to say than the others I have been too; more spread out, smaller venues. Listening to Graeme Simsion in a quaint old space that would have only fitted a 100 people max was different to the huge marquees of Byron Bay or the lecture theatres of Perth.

I have been to Hong Kong many times, but each time I see a different aspect, a chameleon city of many faces. Last year I was here for a forensic psychiatry conference and we stayed (I think) on the “other” side of Hong Kong Island. I say think because I was mostly at the conference and the two times we went other places it was by cab and I really had no idea where we went. Yes there was a mountain in the middle, views, islands and bridges. But what where and when? Well in this city I am very geographically challenged.

But I was determined this time to make some sense of it. So first I went walking. Wow. Staying in central on Hong Kong Island firstly all the streets look the same. But I had my trusty map. Luckily. The first time we were picked up to go to an event we had to make our own way back. By my reckoning we were led in a circle. Picturesque but hardly easy navigation. My bemused husband couldn’t work out how I got us back to the hotel in five minutes. He’s more geographically challenged than me – and he didn’t have the map.

Next I set out to find the water. Once map orientated – easy. Then I found the walk ways. OMG. It was like every mall and shopping centre I had ever been to was joined (and stretched upwards). For those of you (read my mother) that like shopping centres, this is your heaven. For me, who has panic attacks in the car park just imaging those endless corridors of fluorescent lights, the only saving grace was the walkways were under cover but outdoor (read natural light). This was the HK we read about but I was pinning for steep alley ways and rickety architecture.

The latter still exists. The hotels and buildings that looked new the first time I was here over thirty years ago when the place was full of “old China” are now held up with bamboo poles and added corrugated iron. Not many, but still there. And a bus ride to the Stanley market reunited me with the markets of cheap and cheerful where I really don’t want to buy anything.

Then there is the nightclub HK where we crawled between glitzy bars too early for the hip crowd and found ourselves in the new happening thing- wine bars. This one only had Californian wine and food. Oh well, why not? Not all of HK’s faces can be Asian I guess!

 

 

 

Monday October 14th

Writers- Beware What You Wish For (Or: If its 4am it must be an airport)

I have been writing since I was eight, almost published 15 years ago then published with Siren two years ago (anniversary coming up!). I am about to submit a mainstream novel (again after 15 years) after two years of hard work rewriting and editing. I like all authors (well a majority) want to be published and read. We want our readers to like our books and maybe learn, laugh or cry, maybe all three. But a majority of writers aren’t published (I have now been to sooooo many writer’s workshops where everyone is on their first novel; its either intimidating or you want to cry, sometimes both) and even those that are, in Australia at least, a 2000 print run is considered very good (well beyond anything I have got to with Siren). And this is with a big publisher and their publicity team behind you.

At the many writer’s festivals I have been too this year (courtesy of my husband being an invited speaker)  it has been fascinating to watch and learn from a range of wonderful authors with a varied success behind them; I met Michael Robotham at a time Watching You was about to hit the mainstream Aussie best seller list, and Jo-Jo Moyes just before Me Before You hit the NY Times best seller list. Heady, exciting moments, in these cases, for authors who were well established. They had worked hard writing and re-writing, their publishers had worked hard too. But beyond the writing and re-writing and editing, what else do these authors do?

Writers Festivals is one obvious answer- I’m feeling a veteran and only just started this year (except going to Melbourne Festival in past to see some Crime writers). They have been doing it a good deal longer. From the outside (from within the Green room) there is it seems to be a mix of responses from writers; cliques of the “literary” ones that keep to themselves, some who keep to themselves if for no other reason than they are nervous (Jared Diamond was one of these to my surprise, given he is well established, and intellectual, but it may be because he gets some negatives for his ideas- never think that this doesn’t have an effect. Always be constructive with your feedback!). Then there are the up and comers (and some who are just extroverts) who have lots of fun and support each other. A few narcissists stand aside but as they are swamped by their adoring audience they may not care (I suspect they are constantly checking their Amazon rating compared to the others at the festivals).

Then there is the book tours. Most authors do six weeks maximum. I have toured myself for work seminars and hypotheticals I have run; touring is, let me say, overrated (yeah, yeah, I’d take it if I was offered). Hotel rooms, constant need to be polite to strangers (some of whom are very strange), away from family, friends and familiarity. It all gets wearing. But add in a compact tour with jet lag…

My husband’s book launched in the USA last week. It’s his first. Sold into forty territories it has got great reviews (eg Washington Post last week) but unlike Dan Brown his name is unfamiliar and people don’t just automatically pick it up (as I did for instance when I saw Elizabeth George’s latest in a book shop on the weekend). Because he’s Australian they get him for two weeks (okay we are going back together in December) and the six week tour is packed into two. With the worst time differences possible, and me here and him there, it’s hard to catch each other. Particularly as he is in one to three airports every day. For the last two days there have been texts from him at 4am his time. He only had 12 hours before his first talk (at  Lobster truck in New York…go figure!.. But at least he got a hug…no not random stranger, good friend! Hope they gave him a lobster roll) he is still jet lagged. I imagine he is running on adrenaline and his talks (competing for attendees at small towns across the USA with anything from a baseball game to a rodeo) will be fun and informative. But when I do speak to him, let me say that isn’t how he is with me! I am reminded of my son aged 15; you know, at the grunting stage.

Would I want the chance to do the same? You bet, but I have been sobered a little. Even for “successful” authors the glam bit is light on. You enjoy every bit you can because it may never come again…live the dream, and even if it’s at a lesser level than overseas launches, maybe that one person who reads your book that it makes a difference for, is all that is needed. Some of the emails to my husband have given him just that. So I’ll wish for this, and if any of the rest comes…well I’ll take pseudoephedrine, a coffee machine and stilnox. And pray I end up in the right place at the right time and talk about the right thing!

 

 

 

Monday September 9th

Brisbane Writer’s Festival 2013 see http://simonesinna.blogspot.com.au/

Just have to brag (a little); it was only a first para but mine won the Sister’s of Crime Comp from this crime scene… Just so you know, amongst other clues there was a Harry Curry The Murder Book laying open, written by Stuart Littlemore (a QC).

 

Now this was a frame up if I ever saw one; circa 1920. Watch stopped at the time of death? Fingerprints on the sunglass that the victim wasn’t wearing? I’d lay bets on DNA on the mint packet where the owner put his lips to extricate one? Give me a break. I knew this woman; she didn’t read anything heavier than a Vogue magazine. So the question really was; if the boyfriend didn’t do it, what grudge did the real killer have against Stuart Littlemore?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 5th August

Byron Bay Writer’s Festival Day 2 (okay I am putting this up on a Saturday)

(for Day One see my other blog http://simonesinna.blogspot.com.au/ )

 

The weather has continued to be the number one star of this festival – or at least for a refugee from a Melbourne Winter. Stunning warm sunny days (and it is possible to manoeuvre your chair to the periphery of the tents where the events are held, near the loud speakers, to both hear and sunbathe) and chilly nights for sleeping; all wrapped up in the perfect package of stimulating and interesting people and conversations. And not just about writing- there is a sculpture competition in our midst. The one here that is my favourite, a Jodi Poulsson (with someone by my apologies, I can’t recall his name). I had a picture but alas it won’t upload.

My day started with a fun yarn in the green room with Robert Power (and yes Irishmen can talk!), then a brief look in at fabulous first books with (Inga Simpson, Graeme Simsion & Christie Thompson). Then off to an engrossing, stimulating and inspiring (my editors say I use too many adjectives and adverbs, but honestly, these had to be put down) John Elder Robison talking about his own and his son’s Aspergers (relevant as husband Graeme Simsion’s book The Rosie Project has a socially challenged protagonist, arguably with Aspergers – he (husband, not Don Tilman) doesn’t want to read Robison as he doesn’t want to be influenced, but would have loved to have heard him speak and couldn’t because they were on at the same time. I figured I should read John’s books so when I’m reading future first drafts of the Rosie sequels I can be well informed). John is a wonderful dead pan speaker courtesy of his Aspergers, and is therefore wonderfully funny and yes, like Don Tilman, it became very clear that people with Aspergers do want connection and do care. He talked about writing and doing these talks to help other people (and children particularly) not suffer as he did, through being informed. He had to learn to stop doing off putting behaviours, and though I think still struggles at times on a one to one, this wasn’t evident in front of an audience. His take of his house being put into shut down for three days because of his son’s interest in chemistry had naturally led to test driving army level explosives and putting it on You-tube, was priceless- I gather it’s in the book I have bought but yet to read.

Next with a slight overlap (I was running between tents, worsened when I bought their books and wanted to get them signed and had to judge signing line lengths as well) I was in to M.J.Hyland’s session telling me how it was done. This was particularly worthwhile for me as her hints on success were all what my husband tells me…and it’s so much easier to hear from someone you don’t sleep with…For those interested:

  1. Leave lots to the reader’s imagination. They don’t need to know every detail eg about what someone looks like (or even all that many); that’s what a film is for.
  2. Leave the manuscript and come back to it.
  3. Lots of rewriting required (this is the one I really hate)

Unlike my husband and I she’s a “pantser” -as in seat of your pants- not a plotter/planner, as most authors I have heard at this festival have said, but I’m not sure I entirely believe them. I think they have more in their heads when they start than they admit to or know.

She’s a pretty interesting person; has MS which affects how long she can write,  comes across as rather like my heroine in the psych-thriller I’m writing, somewhat Goth looking in a hot way, and very ballsy (she used both F and C word in her talk). I gather she had a pretty colourful childhood.

Next I needed another dose of crime, so off to Sally Breen, Ed Chatterton, Tanya Levin and Michael Robotham (chaired by Marele Day); the only one I have read was Michael and his new book isn’t out yet but there were pre-release copies for us. Yes, Watching You  is now another to squeeze into  my carry on luggage (I hope Jetstar don’t weigh…). Then a whizz through story boarding where hubbie was, as well as Robyn de Crespigny who has written a heartfelt story about a refugee who happened to be a people smuggler closer to Oscar Schindler than how they are currently depicted, and a film documentary maker Mandy Chang.

The finale? A brief liaison with the CIA, Glenn Carle, author of the best selling book yesterday at the festival, The Interrogator. Okay now I need to …start reading some of these books…but I should be editing. (Sigh).

Monday 15th July : Weekend Indulgence

It was that time again. More than six months since our last Gourmet weekend. It had been looking like our calendars would never align and then (thank god) the numbers fell into place; yes all three couples were free.

We’ve been doing this for years. Three couples who all love food and wine and have a country house. We take it in turns to host and on your weekend “on” depending on your choice of menu, it can be hard work, but always milling around a fire (winter) or BBQ  (summer) with glass of wine, good friends and good conversation.

This weekend we were in the south east of the state, famous for cows, wine and cheese – and rain. We had plenty of all three. The house is perched on a hill, below us in the mornings the valley was hidden by cloud, and as I drew closer to the fire, watched the fingers of mist creep higher as there was no sun to warm them away.

It was Bastille day weekend so in honour we had steak frites, salad (from the property) and amazingly light crepes on the Friday night, with a selection of big reds (after a Caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail).

Saturday I moved between table and couch and not much further, though we did manage to not drink at lunch time (a small miracle), and it was five before the screw the screw top (horreur!) of the Beaujolais came off. Then an amazing menu followed courtesy of our inspired hostess, in the theme of my husband’s book The Rosie Project; Claudia’s mushroom cappuccino (an amazing amount of mushrooms went into this, with truffle on top of course!), Don’s Incredible slow cooked lamb (made with precision of course!), Gene’s “cheesy” serve and Rosie’s champagne jelly and petit fours (with amazing salted caramels, all home made). Somehow we still ate the egg and bacon pie and stewed rhubarb the next morning but after the count was a bottle of wine each on Friday and Saturday, no alcohol for a while!

Monday 24th June Noosa Long Weekend

We don’t have a beach holiday house and any time I have ever thought about getting one a whole heap of things have got in the way; how far is it? how often would we get there? how much will it cost? One or all of these have got in the way. Living (mostly) in Melbourne the attraction of the beach hasn’t been accompanied by the idea of long luxurious summer days, sunsets with a cocktail of chilled white, walks along the sand in the early monring sun. Rather, it has been thoughts of long queues of cars, irrtable children (okay they are too old now, but this has been on the agenda for years) with melting icecreams smeared over the car interior and gale force winds and water too cold to swim in.

Enter Melbourne’s most northern suburb; Noosa. For those who aren’t Australian this is a joke. Its a two hour plane flight, Florida from New York. Yet most of the people living here are from Melbourne. Many are scarily young…and retired. AHHHH!!! My husband has just began his new career and I haven’t yet submitted the psychological thriller which I want to do sequels to for the rest of my life.

I was here about a year ago for a health professionals conference and it was wall to wall people and it rained constantly so I swore I wouldn’t come back. But then along came the Noosa Long Weekend (actually ten days, over two weekends) and my husband was talking about yes, The Rosie Project, so we got to take a five day weekend. We arrive and it pours, great. But then … the days have since been a magic twenty (seventy five Farenheit), blue skies, sun sparkling on the sea, I’ve read four books and eaten fabuliusly as well as a brisk walk through the state forest. We got to see Mrs Bang, a wonderful caberet performer with a great voice (Miaou Miaou was also here) and another array of authors trapsing through; Michael Leunig (beautiful book of cartoons), Sarah Turnbull (book should be Almost Tahiti after the one I read and loved, Almost French) and here I am reading Love With  a Chance of Drowning (Torre DeRoche, about sailing around the world). So maybe I could just stay here and write?…

Sydney Writer’s Festival

We came in late to the festival, on the closing weekend, the car from the airport easing carefully through puddles that were likely to swallow us whole if the ferocity of the pelting rain had been going for any length of time. We watched it from Flying Fish, still fortunately able to make out the changing colours on the Harbour Bridge, part of the opening on Vivid, an arts festival that uses technology to light up various parts of the city. We saw the Opera house the next night- one minute an Aboriginal Art spectacular, next a Ken Done painting. It was truly magical. As was Sydney’s weather for the rest of the weekend. It is coming into winter but blue sky and sunshine as my mother texted from Paris saying it was cold and miserable there.

So the festival- my second now as Graeme Simsion’s (The Rosie Project) hand bag. Bigger than Perth’s – even in the glorious weather people were out early Sunday morning to hear Nick Earls and Graeme fire one liners off each other (and some quieter reflection from Robyn Davidson who had just seen the yet unreleased version of her book Tracks on the silver screen; an amazing enough thing but even more so given it was a memoir and she was watching “herself” of thirty years ago. It took this long for Hollywood to finally get it ltogether. Hope The Rosie Project is faster or I’ll be seeing it in the Old People’s home!)

Other highlights? A wonderful hour with Carlos Ruis Zafon (Shadow of the Wind, Angel’s Game and Prisoner of Heaven). He’s currently working on the fourth and final in the series (and he assured us we might think we know what is going on but we don’t!). The amount of effort he put into getting the right English translation (he is fluent but believes he writes better in Spanish) was staggering. But he doesn’t speak the other 38 languages it is in, so who knows about them! And no it won’t be a film; while I would go to see it were it made, it was nice to hear him want to keep a book about words and books just where it belongs- in print.

I also enjoyed 50 Shades of Feminism (in Perth it was 50 Shades of Chick Lit. This was a tad more high brow!) which was telecast so you may well be able to hear it on ABC somewhere. Natasha Mitchell compered, with Jude Kelly (director of Southbank centre in London), Shami Chakrabarti (human rights lawyer once described as UK’s most dangerous woman) and Kate Mosse (author of Citadel most recently). Wow! Thoughtful smart stuff, a pleasure to listen to. Women of the world- let’s all Lean In and listen and support our fellow women where equality does not exist and continues to be undermined (I’m talking Congo, Pakistan but maybe France too with the burka ban preventing some women leaving the house).

All in all? Bring on more authors and more books! Loving it!

Monday April 15th

Dining in Style (and not on a Broomstick)

Okay it hasn’t been a month since the last Monday blog but this month is even more manic than normal…

Last week we arrived in London and after a dash to Exeter for the day I indulged myself, or rather a very good friend did: we regressed and went to Warner Brothers studio outside London for the full Harry Potter submersion. Did you know that it was properly laid Yorkshire slate on the floor of the great hall? As I thought they had used a hall in Oxford for that, I didn’t! But I got to walk on it… All the props with an amazing attention to detail, and yes the layout wasn’t quite as in the movies, though the person height model of Hogwarts, used in the movie as if real, was just as we saw it. Seeing the broomstick with the apparatus that made it look like it was flying did somewhat take away from the movie experience…

Then we ate, and London has definitely come along in the last twenty years- thank you Jamie, Nigella and yes, Gordon Ramsay whose restaurant we dined in in style. There were almost as many wait staff as guests and as we couldn’t get a booking until 10.15, we were the last to leave. Fabulous eastern European (to say nothing of the herb, dill, chilli and other vodkas we tried) at the Baltic and the private room with The Rosie Project launch at The Walmsley.

 

Yes, ready now for some plain…er French food here in Burgundy.

Monday April Ist

Nothing Foolish on this April 1st…

Just had Easter and even though it was a little later this year than some years the weather stayed mostly good with the wonderful sunny clear mornings and chilly nights typical of Easter in this part of the world. After an eight day March record streak of days over thirty Celsius (eighty five or so) you can’t rely on typical of course!

Easter tradition for us includes the eggs, hot cross buns and Easter egg hunt (though now my children set it for their younger cousins) and my daughter managed to source my favourite nougat egg from Darrell Lea- no mean feat as they went out of business! The other fun thing is out bacchanalian Roast Pork Good Friday fest. No, we aren’t religious…This year was accompanied by a double magnum of Bordeaux – see photo (called a jeroboam had it been filled with Champagne).

So now recovering on Easter Monday…it’s back to work! My husband is busy writing an article for Vanity Fair (commissioned, don’t you hate it?) on finding the perfect women. For some reason I haven’t been mentioned. I have got the edits back from my daughter of Icebreaker- first time I’ve got her to read a Simone Sinna book draft (though she skipped the sex) so I need to go through them then off to the publisher with it before leaving for London on Thursday! And a short story off as well.

This month is going to be a definitely fun one. Book launch dinner for The Rosie Project (it had an amazing review yesterday in the Sunday Times UK) on the 11th after dinner with friends and a trip to Warner Brothers to see Harry Potter with another good friend. Oh and a birthday dinner before catching the train to our house in central France. There I have a week editing Balance (working title, have another catchier title) after some input from my husband and a judge I had dinner with and then hope to get that into the publisher.

Then a week in Milan and Rome again with The Rosie Project. Friends pointed out that the Italians are brilliantly dressed so I’ll either have to shop madly in Milan (mmm could think of worse options) or hope I can fit an item or two extra in the carry on (it’s all I ever travel with).

May? I’ll be back home…

Monday March 3rd – Writing, Reading and Travelling. A writer’s pep talk.

Well February kicked off husband Graeme’s The Rosie Project launching it onto number three on the Indie best seller list and him around the country. It was month of ‘What is the name of the town you are in tonight’?  The answer as amazing as the fact that it also has a library. There is a national scheme to encourage people in the country to read. So libraries and book sellers in obscure places host authors for whom the government pays the airfares. Little old ladies come for the tea and scones and add their name to the library list. But he managed a sell out in one town. I think he sighed and hinted the book seller was going bankrupt…

It has been nice having lots of people actually reading it and saying how much they liked it, and of course being treated like royalty (same authors tent where the handbag(me) also got to go at the Perth Writers festival with luminaries  Jared Diamond, Margaret Attwood and fun people like Zane Everett, Zoe Foster and Anita Heiss (wow is she great – makes me proud to be an Aussie and hopeful that with women like her there might be a happy resolution for our Indigenous people).

So this month? It has started with ‘what country did you say you are in?’ Hit me acutely this am after the spread in yesterday’s paper on Central Park made me acutely nostalgic for New York (we lived there for 7  months and if I lived anywhere else in the world it would be there) and Graeme tells me he’s having a Margarita at our local on 17th st Suenos….wives have killed for less. Still I get London, France and Italy in April when there is better weather and I missed (thank goodness) Brighton in winter (yes, Brighton UK).

But I have to write!!! Went to see Katherine Howell and Sue Williams last Friday (Sisters in Crime) and I am so close to submitting my psychological thriller…but I have to keep polishing. Has to be just right…nerve wracking because this really counts. I feel I am living Natalie Richards life and that’s nerve wracking too…In the spare moments I have the new Simone Sinna MFM BDSM to go through as well before I submit. So much harder to get excited and sit down to editing rather than the writing! Particularly as now reading Ruth Dudgell’s first psychological thriller and its good…I want it to be mine!

So I will keep plugging and dreaming a bit, but knowing dreams without the work don’t actually have any chance of eventuating. Better to try and be rejected than never to put in the effort.

Monday February 25th

THRILL ME- TALES FROM THE PERTH WRITERS FESTIVAL

http://simonesinna.blogspot.com.au/ for a take on the sessions, below for the photos!

Andrew Croome, Zane Lovett & Parker BilalComic Relief with Ben Law, Zoe Foster & Graeme Simsion

 

 

Jared Diamond

Thrill Me- LA Larkin, Andrew Croome & Steve Worland

Graeme Simsion signing next to Margaret Atwood

Monday February 4th

January was a definite bipolar month. Highs and Lows. Lows first so I can get them out of the way and concentrate on the positives!

I am so like never going to think anyone with a sore back is a whinger ever again. Sciatica came out of nowhere and had been pretty relentless. One ultrasound, one MRI, three GPs, one Emergency Dept visit, two new chairs, two massages (sadly female masseurs but I probably wasn’t up for much other than groaning), a course of prednisolone  and over a thousand dollars later, still no better. I didn’t even go manic (the thought of me on steroids had several people including the doctor worried- I usually operate at around 9 out of ten average. The thought of over ten I found rather appealing but strangely no one else did….). Next week it’s the Osteopath and the week after the neurosurgeon. The latter was recommended to me as “wouldn’t let anyone else near my back, but man’s an asshole.” I gather this is a prerequisite for neurosurgeons.

Okay that out of the way! Wow, highlight of the month was The Rosie Project book/party launch (bookstore launch is this Thursday). This was for the connected, literati and those who had helped the author (my husband). Nearly two hundred people and four cases of rosé champagne later, a hilarious intro by Danny Katz (who on finding I was an erotic author suggested we adopted him as a plaything…) and first 100 books sold! There are now 1000 posters around Sydney and Melbourne saying “Don is getting married…he just isn’t sure who to yet…” Just seeing his book on all the main bookstore shelves gives me goose bumps. Don’t quite get that as an erotica writer- well unless you are EL James (I’m not though I think her husband is a screenwriter and my husband is in conversation with Hollywood).

So for February. It hasn’t begun well. I have tickets to the Paris Opera Ballet doing Giselle. Cost a fortune, oldest ballet company in the world. Get them out to check the time last week. It’s in Sydney. Currently I live in Melbourne. For non Aussies that 600 miles. Two flight tickets and an overnight stay later, this makes it the most expensive ballet I have ever been too…

I then get to hand my husband over to the world and say goodbye. He disappears to UK and USA. He is in a different US city every night for five nights with his publisher, Simon and Schulster. I think he can keep that gig. I do get to go to the Perth writer’s festival though with him before he leaves. I’m going to some fun workshops (crime & thriller and of course the ones my husband is doing) and will check out the “50 Shades of Chick Lit” and report back next month!

Meantime I keep writing! Current Simone Sinna is a MFM BDSM. I like to put my hand to …most things. This one is set in the snow but I may even try an Aussie outback cowboy one after that. Also writing a thriller (temporarily put the love story on the Camino on hold) which is fun, but much harder work. Particularly doing it standing up, kneeling or on my stomach…At least I can say I have suffered for my craft!

Have a great month, and write, read or both!

 

 

Monday January 7th

Last year I managed to blog five days a week without missing, despite time overseas (Including a two week walk across the UK!), and gain nearly a thousand twitter followers. I was suitably proud of myself, and my husband thought I was mad. He doesn’t blog (but is now addicted to twitter and I have to make an apt to speak to him sans i-phone). His book (one to my 5 with two coming) isn’t out until end of this month and he’s already sold more than I have. Lucky really…helps pay the bills!!!

But my next one comes first!!! The Ghosts’ Return is out January 24th with Siren and Weredevils’ Revenge should be on Amazon soon. But no cover yet…

So this month- is THE ROSIE PROJECT launch. An in house one but one open to everyone at Readings in Carlton on February 7th. Check out the website and do the questionnaires… we all had a lot of fun with them! ( therosieproject.com.au)

Until then some frantic writing before I lose him and peace and quiet. This is the year where I get to carry his luggage, but the Writer’s Conferences and world book launches should be loads of fun! Pity about having to fir the day job in! Still his adoring fans might bet a bit much. My family all read the book over Christmas and them falling all over him was hard enough!!!

I have decided to rationalise the blogs though- particularly as now I also do one on Google + (http://simonesinna.blogspot.com.au/) So Mondays and Fridays will be monthly, Tuesdays will continue with the Camino blog (I love this walk and writing about it just reminds me and is good practice for the fiction book I’m writing with my husband on it) and I read more than enough to do a weekly book review on a Thursday. On Wednesdays sins will continue- but hopefully with a few others sinning too…

 

Monday 31st December- Last Blog for the Year!!!

Triumphs 2012 … and 2013…?

I reviewed the sins of the year last week in my Wicked Wednesdays Blog so here’s for the triumphs as we farewell yet another year (OMG where does time go?) and perhaps things to work on more…

WRITING

Haven’t for one moment regretted going down to half time in the academic/clinical role I have done 60 hour weeks in for 20 years or more. Might not have won the Booker or had 50 Shades’s sales but it has been fun and Siren Bookstrand and their team fabulous-thanks guys! The great network of sirenistas has also been a wonderful bonus though the number of emails would be headache inducing if not for the delete all button at times!

Next year? Haven’t decided which of the three books drafted to work on! AHHHHH!!!!

Speaking of writing- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is out in Aus on Jan 30th and wherever I can I’m tagging along to writer’s festivals and book tours in 2013. Should be fun!

CHILDREN

They’ve both finished first round of uni courses but I’m not facing empty nest just yet. One doing honours (then masters or PhD) and the other tossing up between honours and a JD. They won’t be going anywhere soon and I will continue to enjoy having them around and being grateful for them!

 

TECHNOLOGY

This was the year of Facebook, Google + and Twitter. My head is still in a spin with them all and I have a long way to go…

TRAVEL

I LOVE TO TRAVEL. We couldn’t get time off for the Assisi walk this year (or next) but managed the Coast to Coast walk across the UK in the rain in September. Who knows next year? Definitely some time in our house France, then UK and USA with husband’s book tours- look out for them and come and say Hi! I’ll be the one in the front row glaring at the hot women throwing themselves at the author…

BALANCE

Text publishers and my husband came up with this questionnaire (online – www.therosieproject.com.au ) related to the book and score tells you (in a light funny way) which character you are most like. Whether I  am more Rosie (feisty heroine) or Claudia (mother, psychologist and somewhat long suffering wife) hangs on one question. I know even maybe two years ago, and certainly ten years ago I would have answered as passion in my work being the most important. It still is, very, but I err now towards answering ‘balance’. I work hard and am passionate about everything I do, but it is so important to have work, family, social and exercise all into your life to really live it well.

Monday 24th December

Monday- It’s Christmas Whether You Are Ready or Not…

It’s weird having Christmas on a Tuesday. We’ve just had the weekend and one day then two more off. Though over the weekend of course the shops were open, keen to wring every last cent out of us. All those last minute presents and people we’ve forgotten.

I’m not working this Christmas but I have in my younger days. The day when it is meant to be about families and good cheer, but all too often it isn’t. In the Emergency department there are all those accidents in the day – new knife that slipped through more than the turkey, the bike junior wasn’t quite big enough for just yet. By the evening it’s the brawls. There is a reason families don’t get together except at Christmas. It might be better never to get them together.

One particular family used to be infamous. There was a strong history of drugs and alcohol, violence and mental illness. Case managers go one leave and the brother they always hated turns up with the weed, mother pours alcohol into them to calm them and of course it does the opposite. There used to be a betting scheme out on them- which of them would be admitted to the psych ward and which one to the surgical.

It’s a bit like putting together Sarah Palin, Osama Bin Laden (when he was alive though sometimes on home visits this is hard to tell) and the Pope together for the day. Well at least in this case their tweets would be entertaining.

“Fuck you all”

“You are fucked.”

And “Bless you all.” But then that would have been prescheduled.

As they all think they are in the right do you suppose they all end up in an individualised Heaven? Putting them all together would be beyond anyone’s definition of Hell surely?

It is for others a day of sadness, a day of lost hope and wishes that never came true. Of Christmases without the child that presents had already been bought for. My heart goes out to the parent’s of the Connecticut massacre (and all others that have lost children). I lived and worked in Connecticut. The people I knew were pro-gun control. But it still didn’t help if the laws don’t make sense.

When I stopped full time work about 18 months ago it was because I thought life was too short not to try and do everything you want to and live every single moment. I haven’t changed my mind on this, and Christmas is one of those times for reflection. If life and your family isn’t what you want it to be, what can you do to change it? You can’t bring someone back to life, but you can cherish and honour memories, forgive and be more tolerant (okay I’m thinking of the sister you want to strangle here).

My husband did a wonderful short movie once called push-up. It covers forty years of Australian family Christmases, 1966-2006 (not every year of course!). The father and son end up doing push up competitions, originally for a watch, in the end one wonders if the now forty something year old son who has never won wants to bump his Dad off. He doesn’t and in the process learns about the futility of this aspect of a father son relationship.

The bit I really like though is the Aunt. Each year she turns up with a different man, from a different nationality, dressed like him; Chinese (cutting room floor), African, and Spanish. She also does punk (its wild, as she was an ample sized woman and dressed in a pink tutu she’s unmistakable and unforgettable) and finally gay. It’s a wonderful brief commentary about accepting change and difference. May we all try and do that this Christmas.

The warmest, merriest and most congenial Christmas to you all!

 

Monday December 17th

A Belated Christmas Tree

Is it REALLY the 17th??? Ahhh… the spot in the corner has been carefully cleared by my daughter. I look at it and feel guilty (this is normal, I’m a mother). I won’t list the things that got in the way of a Christmas tree, suffice to say, there were a few. And subtly suggesting the small synthetic one in the cupboard might do wasn’t working. We had to kill a tree. In 2000-1 we bought a live one and planted it later which made me feel better but it got to the balance of guilt and where it was strongest. Mother guilt won. Having A tree was better than none which is what would have happened if I had had to find a correctly sized tree in a tub that would have survived until I found a spot to put it (and then thoroughly neglected it).

When they turn into hot men- much cuter to put under the tree! checkout Were-Devils' Curse and Were-Devils' Revenge!

We have had Christmas’s all over the world. I grew up in Australia with English Christmas cards (you know, the snow, reindeers etc) while I was asking for bathers and water related toys. We ate roasts and plum pudding and it never felt right. My children have had at least half a dozen Northern Hemisphere Christmases. But given we now in Australia use Christmas cards with sunburnt reindeers and the odd kangaroo, this has probably confused them as much as I my childhood confused me (probably a role of parents by design or default).

But wherever we have been, we have always had a Christmas tree, and the whole process and decorations and everything is surprisingly similar in London, Paris, rural France, Australia- Sydney, Melbourne, New York and New Hampshire (the places I have had Christmas).

There is something therapeutic about it. Tradition, and whatever religious roots it may have had, it has transcended that to be part of a culture that in Australia at least is quite separate from religion.

So we take my husband’s 4wheel drive, recently cleaned (I wonder how he feels about the smell of pine? The odd needle or two?). Having tried online for the elusive live tree we give up and drive. Then there it is. Okay, a bit small admittedly, but the guy selling it swore to me it would survive my maltreatment.  We have a tree and we get to feel good when we plant it. To say nothing of entertaining the cockatoos who love ripping pine cones for the nuts. Better that than my window sills…

Monday December 10th

Mid Life Crises

Of course it becomes a crisis because of the fear that it might be past midlife (no guarantees in this world after all). A few hundred years ago midlife was likely to be about twenty if you were lucky. Now children born in the western world can expect to live to over eighty on average and having got to forty or more then it goes up as you’ve already survived baby diseases and teenage stupidity (sometimes more by good luck than good management).

So you do sit down (or fall down after too much to drink) on your forty plus birthday there are all these possible questions and thoughts:

  1. What the f*ck have I been doing for the first forty years?
  2. Do I want to keep doing this (if you’re asking the answer is probably no)?
  3. What else can I do? (The answer can be depressing. Yes you can learn a musical instrument for the first time but you aren’t going to be very good at it)
  4. I can’t be forty- it’s all a mistake. I don’t feel any older than when I was twenty.
  5. Who is that person in the mirror (after fifty your eyesight deteriorates so this isn’t such a problem).

 

Then you have to look for answers:

  1. Drink more. Except that you aren’t as young as you used to be and you’ll start to feel really old.
  2. Have an affair with someone twenty years younger. But when they run screaming from your sagging ….fill in the gap…body part, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  3. Buy a Harley. This will solve getting old. I believe the death rate in the midlife crisis group is high so hopefully you won’t have to worry about wheelchairs.
  4. Buy a sports car and dress like a James Bond or one of his heroines. I did this at my thirty year old crisis I feel it worked better at that age.
  5. Perform some death (possibly) defying feat such as-
    1. Climb Kilimanjaro (altitude sickness makes this less than fun- one good bit of news is that young men are more likely to get this badly than oldies
    2. Walk the Kokoda trail (warning, this killed able bodied army guys and there are leeches)
    3. Walk the Camino de Santiago (now this I can definitely recommend but if you do the Camino Frances with the hoards and hostels beware bed bugs, sleep deprivation, bad backs (from sleeping on the floor because you didn’t get up earlier enough to get a bed at the next hostel))
    4. Write a book. Okay this is one thing older people can do. And its fun! If you’re like my husband you might even make money out of it!

Monday December 3rd

Paranormal fantasy- what’s the attraction?

Why exactly are we fascinated with werewolves and vampires? And I contend we are- you only have to look at the best seller lists and they’ll be there, and the popular TV programs.

It isn’t because the Twilight series was that good. Certainly the movies weren’t.  But maybe these books did bring in a younger audience and just opened up the possibilities for them, a bit like Harry Potter books did for a generation of young boys.

Buffy was the first to hit the TV in a big way (and then Angel), this mostly had the vampires as the bad guys and loads of action, and a feisty heroine. Definitely not a Bella. Things weren’t as clear cut in this as in other super hero series. There was a ‘bad boy’ element and more complex characters than the Joker and Scarecrow. Somehow it’s easier to identify with someone who occasionally bares teeth and drink blood than someone in full white makeup and a painted smile.

Vampire Diaries are all about the love triangle so closer to the erotica and romance fiction. This also adds other characters; witches, werewolves and occasionally ghosts. What is so good about this series I ask my 20 year old daughter?

“Damon.” This seems to be reason one two and three. My son doesn’t watch it…

The danger seems to be a key too though because this constantly puts the hero into a situation that is compelling. Some easy accessible escapism. Having extra powers, being invincible…this appeals to us all somewhat. It’s like watching James Bond ride his motor bike over the rooves of the Turkish markets and knowing he’ll survive. The adrenaline rush but not at the paralysing level that it might be if it was for real (I jumped out of a plane once and was frozen with fear!).

For me the possibilities beyond the confines of the real allow me as the writer to open up new dimensions and tap into mystery, secrecy, action, romance and magic all at once. What’s not to like? Developing my world of were-devils and ghost vampires inspired by real animals and their viral curse, opened up all sorts of possibilities that by the final one includes a love that has gone through different times and places and then finally resolves. Across the four novellas we have five love affairs between the ghosts and were-devils (the fifth is the one that went wrong and caused the curse- we hear about that in Were-Devils’ Revenge). There is also an intricate curse, races to find the vaccine to save lives, death at the hands of the ghosts, a bushfire that threatens to wipe out the were-devils (Ghosts’ Return out in February), deaths of the true vampires and a flood (Ghosts’ Release the final book). It isn’t dull…

So – more were-devils coming! Actually there’s a whole family of them and I put up the family tree (as well as their rivals, the ghosts) on my website- just click on the were-devils and ghosts tab! My husband suggested this as he was getting a bit lost when editing. But I think women are used to juggling who is who so most people will manage. Compared to Game of Thrones this is nothing!

Today, Were-Devils’ Revenge, the second in the Were-devils of Tasmania series is available at siren

 

Monday November 26th

Bondi, and short films to laugh and cry over

When my husband started a screen writing course some years ago it took us into a world we knew little about. Because most of the people in his class were younger, and no one had any money but loads of enthusiasm, it sent us on a journey of film making- short, sharp, sweet …and cheap. Students get to use the expensive camera equipment free (though truth is a digital Sony does a damn fine job) and by the time you link up with an acting school and audio-visual students everyone gives their time for free (and a credit).

It’s been a lot of fun, though you can’t help but feel sorry for the actors who are mostly making do with hospitality jobs until they finally give up and move into something that pays a little better but doesn’t using the acting skills they have been honing. The audio-visual students do better. There’s always a job for technological knowhow.

My husband isn’t techie- he’s a writer, but he’s driven, a good networker and practical, so he worked out early on that if you want to see your work on the screen you need to organise it yourself. By default he’s done a lot of producing. His one and only cinematographer and director credit got into the Bondi film festival, shown this last weekend in Sydney. ‘Reason for Living’ was made for his documentary class, on a hand held Sony. It didn’t win anything – ‘The Maker’, a beautifully crafted short with dolls took out most of the awards− but it was one of the few at the festival with a story and a story arc, which made up for a lot of the technical faults (not that I saw these, not being techie myself).

It’s about a socially challenged guy now 60, talking about his early struggles, how he finally married in his forties and then the ensuing difficulties and illness. It’s very touching, and the audience struggled to know whether to laugh at his nerdiness or cry at his insights, or both. I have seen it many times and never fail to be moved by it, perhaps even more so this time. I know in his twenties he nearly killed himself. People like this at the end of their tether ring lifeline all the time. Some don’t make that and it’s tragic to think that with time and maturity they might have, like Rod, found a Reason for Living.

The festival showed a number of documentaries, one on Boxing, one on Alex Jenkins the sole survivor of a WW II plane that was hit and a delightful one about garden gnomes and the eccentric woman who bought them and filled her garden with them. It had started after her husband left her and they well and truly replaced him. We all need a reason for living- these had become hers.

We also need to laugh- there is far too much bad news and seriousness in the world and it’s important to keep a balance. The gnomes helped with this. I still picture the one from Amelie travelling the world…in this short they were quick to tell us that none of this woman’s gnomes had been harmed in the making of the film and instead special stunt gnomes had been employed…

As a final note, though Rod’s partner has been dealt a bad hand, she keeps in good spirits and has him to care for her, a better deal than many. And his quirky take on the world inspired the Feel Good Novel of 2013: The Rosie Project, out in Australia in February.

Monday November 19th

Just Over a Month to Christmas

Not wanting to panic anyone but…

If you are one of those well organised people who bought all the pressies on sale a month ago, stop reading now. Or read and gloat. The rest of us will be edgy for the next four weeks then panic will unleash itself and we will hit the chops with everyone else, want to kill them, remind ourselves we don’t like (fill in the space here) and why are we buying them anything anyway? So we won’t and then in a day or two feel guilty and get the voucher (guys) or the soap/bubble bath (girls) that they will smile wanly upon receiving and give you the same thing (probably what you gave them last year).

A few years ago we decided we had too much “stuff” and with my sisters decided to put in to a collective fund and buy a chicken/goat etc of which we received a photo but they went to a deserving family in a third world country. We felt good, they got something they needed, everyone was happy. Except my mother. She thought this was a ridiculous idea and while my sisters and I still do it, we still have to get parents and out children’s presents.

Christmas is really about the kids, and I love getting them pressies so I understand where my mother was coming from. But it was easier when they were five. Now in their early twenties it usually means clothes shopping, for which they have to be present and it takes away the surprise somewhat! My son is a delight to shop with. Maximum two shops, one hour, all over. My daughter? Days, weeks, sore feet and many headaches later we still have only one item…

Then there’s the food to consider. Not just what, but where. My husband’s or my family? Usually both, on the same day, with vast amounts of food and about fifty km (forty miles) between. Now I remember why we’ve spent so many years overseas at Christmas. We told the family we wanted a white Christmas, but it was just so we could stay in one place. Besides its easier to eat more if it’s cold. Who wants turkey and plum pudding in thirty (eighty) degrees? Maybe it’s not too late to book out tickets.

Monday November 12th

Monday and all the Reasons I Need to Get Up

It’s warmer than it was. Not that warm true, and now the heaters are off (and we can now afford to eat. Yeh, yeh, my husband sold his International book rights for trillions but not one book has sold and he doesn’t get a cent until mid next year. We could starve by then…). It is going to rain. Okay scratch this as a reason, bed is looking cosier by the minute.

I don’t have a hangover. Excellent, but this is only because I drank at lunchtime yesterday rather than dinner (and in the afternoon at my friend’s art exhibition) so more time to recover. But if I stay in bed all day then I can totally clean out the system. Not good enough, I’m staying put.

I need more sleep. I thought it was the Texas Grand Prix early this morning (Aus time) and I had to watch it. Only I got up and had my weeks mixed up. Next week. I was just keen not to miss it.  In Exclusive this is where the tear jerker scene happens. Well at the Texas Grand Prix ball. Stephanie finally makes up her mind and has to say goodbye to the man she isn’t going to have a HEA with (she then goes onto a wild sex scene in the Texas penthouse with the one she does have the HEA with, but for me Texas is the tears over man one, which are really tears over a lover farewelled in real life many moons ago and it’s not that I want to be with him, it just takes me back there. Bridges of Maddison County does it to me too). But trouble is I’m awake now and unlikely to go back to sleep.

This is the best time to go to the gym. I can’t do gym later in the day, things get in the way. Right now I made the mistake of allowing an option rather than getting up without thinking. Things are starting to get in the way. My great grandfather smoked and spent the last twenty years in an armchair and still lived to 96.

I have a meeting. This is why I am at home and not up the country writing. I need to go to this meeting. It was the only day we could all do it, and it’s about planning for next year and I managed to raise money this year through this group that got a couple of my hard working staff to conferences they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise (public service has all sorts of awards that all fall apart when the manager says “no”). Mmm maybe I could Skype them?

I have hours of wrestling with social media ahead. I seem to now have another account and I’m not sure what to do with it. Having nearly missed a review of Were-Devils’ Curse I also have to add a google search regularly. And I have a masochistic need to check how many books I’ve sold (or haven’t). Blogs to write. Okay, definitely staying in bed.

The cat is driving me nuts (wants his bone) and the children are unlikely to be up before midday. It’s swatvac. If they can stay in bed why can’t I?

Okay, I’m getting serious now. GET OUT OF BED AND STOP SNIVELLING. YOU’VE GOT A BOOK TO EDIT. Shit I mean WRITE!!! And the really exciting thing that’s going to get me out of bed to alas rewrite another draft is that my sister bless her stayed up to midnight to read the draft I put out and loved it. This is my mainstream one…yes I can and will do it!!! This is the only reason I need but I will go to the gym and my meeting too.

Monday November 5th- From Stephanie Beauman

Abu Dhabi- Stephanie’s Grand Prix Review

I’m posting this today en route to the plane I’m taking to the Melbourne Cup which will feature in tomorrow’s blog – a bit of a change of the usual order of things but then the Melbourne Cup doesn’t happen every day.

The GP circuit has been heating up- two GP’s in a week and literally in the heat of the middle east (unless you’re indoors, including the garages, which are all airconditioned!). Abu Dhabi is extraordinary. The circuit looks like its straight out of a Fisher & Paykel box and the locals are still enjoying undoing the wrapping. I wasn’t sure I’d leave the hotel. Besides being stunning (and cool) there was the small problem of everything being done by the touch of a button…and I couldn’t find the button.

In contrast the race had been getting a bit predictable. Boy wonder was slow start to the season but then hit his straps and the championship is all but his. Vettel was, I’m sure, starting to think he was God, but it’s all a plot by the FI management to ensure we don’t get bored or to remind all this is about more than just the drivers. Vettel ran out of petrol in practice- and the rules are clear. You finish on the track without petrol to test, go to the back of the grid. So instead of on pole Vettel found himself at 24th.

Hamilton was delighted to have the opportunity to be in the lead, Webbber second, Maldonado in third and Raikkonen fourth, Button fifth, Alonso still in contention for the championship but with ever dwindling hopes, in sixth.

The start was magic to watch. Raikkonen took off like a man on fire, but with all the intuitive expertise of a champion, taking him right into second. Alonso, also with fire in his belly, took the opportunity to go into fourth, completely reordering the top four before the first lap was over.

There was plenty of excitement elsewhere. Hulkenberg and Senna flew off the track together and with safety car out after lap 9 when Rosberg and Karthikeyan had a spectacular crash they both walked from. Vettel’s front could hold on no longer and had to take a pit stop for a front wing change. Hitting the DRS sign didn’t help. Either the car or his humour. Puts him back at the end again.

Lap 14 they were all back racing once more, Webber unusually aggressive but it did him no good, Alonso holding on. Vettel wasn’t about to give up (the boy has spunk) and from the back began racing past everyone. But lap 20 after doing all things right, Hamilton (another boy wonder and this one with an excess of self-opinion somewhat at odds to his performance at times) came to a stop, not for the first time as lap leader and due to electrical faults. Goodbye to any championship hopes he might have still entertained. This put Raikkonen into first and Alonso not wanting to be left out of the excitement passed Maldonado into second, Webber closing in but unable to do likewise. Then in Lap 23 Webber hits Maldonado as he tried this again, spinning off and though returning, now in 7th. Poor Webber, he just doesn’t do aggressive well. It was investigated and dropped. Vettel meantime has made it to 10th and Button does pass Maldonado!

Lap 26 Webber does it again!!! This time he and Massa spin each other around! This is also investigated… surely they must be saying you are giving us the wrong name- didn’t you mean Grosjean? Maldonado? I’m starting to wonder if this is the same staid driver we’ve got used to! Someone added something to his cornflakes…Webber comes out best in 6th and Massa drops to 15th– but Vettel is there on Webber’s tail.

Vettel needs the points more than Webber in fourth, but Webber comes in for stop (probably told to in order to get him out of Vetttel’s way) as does Raikkonen. Suddenly Vettel, incredibly, is in second briefly! Whether he can stay there is another matter- his tires were changed some time ago. By lap 33 its Raikkonen, Vettel, Alonso and Button.

By this stage, quite aside from the race itself, the view is stunning and if it wasn’t so noisy (okay its sexy but wearing on the ear drums, ear plugs or not) a lot of time would be taken just looking at the marina, the pink shaped roof or the blue glow of the wave shaped roof, the harbor and hotels lit up like magic.

Then just when things were looking like they might settle for a while (it was the middle sector after all), there was Webber (in 8th) again. More than amphetamines overdose (or multivites as these are the ads he keeps popping up in) in the cornflakes, it was like third time bad luck. The sort of flip side of the karma that Vettel seems to be getting. Perhaps he’d been looking at the view- probably ahead the far distant rear of Vettel. Bad mistake. Vettel pits again but emerges well ahead of the bunch and clear of the melee, starting with a Perez overtake, Di Resta going off and ending in Grosjean (not his fault, poor boy has been on his best behaviour for some time) and Webber spinning off- and out. Bye Bye championship well and truly. Another investigation. Perez penalised.

Lap 42 they’re back racing again. Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Vettel and Maldonado. Now things will really matter. Vettel sat right behind Button. I’m sure he could have felt his breath on his neck. Alonso meantime is doing the same to Raikkonen. Then Vettel makes his move and takes Button getting into third, which not only keeps his hopes alive but also Red Bulls. Beautiful clean professional driving from them both.

So they come in, Raikkonen, an older champion showing he still has what it takes for Lotus, Alonso and then Vettel, an amazing third from the back position to maintain his overall lead. A boy wonder indeed.

Monday 29th October

It’s hard not to be inspired. Three days away and from the floor to ceiling windows across the front of my girlfriend’s house the view soars high above houses below to the ocean. We can hear the waves at night and during the day soak in the salt air mingled with eucalypt, the tress in the National park behind us full of koalas. It is tempting to just go animal spotting rather than writing though they have been coming to us. The kookaburra was particularly welcome when it swooped in through the open balcony door to collect the huntsman spider I had been trying to sweep out the door and had bounced back towards me. Saved by a bird.

The coastline here is superb. We’re not quite in the huge tree house on the Californian coast that Katherine Neville wrote The Eight in, but close. Restaurants in either direction but we just want to sit and enjoy, a BBQ lunch, crisp cold Chablis and seafood for dinner. Bliss. I just wish I could do with less sleep- so much to enjoy and do!

Eating out with Text publishing last week I ended up armed with four new books to read. Two at least relevant to books I have partly written and hope to make a full time career out of: Guilt & Crime. No I don’t want to become a criminal, just use my forensic psych experience to write fictionalised nonfiction or crime psychological thriller. I have one of each (the former not completed because I thought the second would be better). I also had Nine Days by Toni Jordan- I reviewed her first book last week and though there has been another in the middle, this is completely different to both. And finally the latest Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I loved Shadow of the Wind.

So all good? Well I also need to write…current novel on hold until we get some feedback from publisher and friends who are busy reading. But I need to do final check of The Ghosts’ Return and start the final in the Were-Devils of Tasmania series. Help! I need some amphetamines, a personal assistant, no make that a PA and a chef. At least no TV, internet and I can turn the iPhone off. Then I’ll need a break…

Monday 22nd October

Wedding Anniversaries

Okay there is no doubt that the commercial band wagon is out in force at every opportunity. Valentine’s Day leaps to mind. But what about wedding anniversaries? There’s now competing lists of ‘new’ and ‘old’ presents you can pick from. But guys (you, the ones wanting to make a buck) where is your imagination? Or rather mine is not being inspired. It started off hard enough. Paper? Really? The alternative of clocks had more potential but I’d given my first husband a huge station clock that sat proudly over our stairwell and was still there when I left and somehow I just didn’t want to go back there. This time it was a framed print of exotic dancers.

Second. Cotton? China? Men are hard enough to buy for anyway let alone expecting this to be inspiring and it wasn’t much help to him either. Given we have an Antique store china just seemed a bit passé.

Now leather. I’m a clothes girl and things were looking up but putting my husband into leather trousers? Ugh, did that to the first one and I do think you have to be Elvis Presley or gay.

Wood? If he had been a handyman maybe. Mind you, he found me a fabulous Chinese wooden jewellery cabinet.

Wool was a highlight- a fabulous heavy woollen cloak from Venice that I flounce over to the cloak room in and announce that it will be the only cloak for the night. There may be a reason for that.

Tin? I found a band called Tin something…

My husband is soooo much better at this than me. For Lace he got Our pLace. The deeds to a French farmhouse. So much better than a trip to Belgium or the Lace island of Venice, or the more realistic doily.

I really like rubies, but fortieth? That seems a long unlikely way off…and the in between numbers are so uninspiring. This years? I’ll just have to keep thinking.

Monday 15th October

Monday Spring Clean

After spending my break up to my ankles in mud and water walking the Coast to Coast in England I returned having missed the one warm spring day, to more cold and wet. But yesterday was Melbourne spring at its best. Brilliant blue sky, the sun assuring me it was at least twenty degrees (seventy five-ish Fahrenheit) even if my iPhone was saying it was still 12. The wisteria is white at the front of the house and purple at the back and the banksia rose is masses of yellow blooms. Suddenly I feel like gardening – and a spring clean of the study.

Where a writer works is fairly critical. I can rewrite and edit just about anywhere, and sometimes when engrossed in the story can even write on a plane (the last of my creative choices. Planes even ruin movies). But mostly, if I want those creative juices to flow (mmm maybe not the best turn of phrase for an erotic fiction writer), I am mindful of the surrounds. The family are generally pretty good at keeping interruptions to a minimum (the kids congregate enmass to enter the inner sanctums, but that’s because they are usually after money). No one rings me because they know I’m either not with my phone, it’s on vibrate or the battery is dead.

My first choice is either our French farm house or a cottage north of Melbourne where we do most of our writing. No phones apart from our iPhones and no internet (we can get it in France) and no TV. Not that having a TV there is an attraction for me, it wouldn’t get turned on (that said I watched Daniel Craig in Casino Royale last night and relived my character Stephanie’s love affair with Jeffrey Carraway in Exposé and Exclusive. I clearly had Daniel Craig in my head when I wrote them as every time I see him I turn into Stephanie and feel he’s being unfaithful when he gets it on with the film heroine. Oh well).

But at least three days a week I am in inner city Melbourne and occasionally on Fridays to Mondays which are my writing days. So it needs to be right.

I have a lovely French antique desk with secret drawers and a large open surface. Or it would be if it wasn’t covered in: phone, fax phone, lamp, statue (gift from colleague), a computer backup disc, a pile of discs, a sticky tape dispenser in the shape of a high heel shoe (another present- someone knows me…), and then the three piles of ‘to do’. No wonder I like going to the country. A spring clean is in order. The pile of documents on the floor is going to have to stay. I wonder about all those boxes…?

Up until yesterday the walls were covered in my favourite film photos. Now I’ve pruned those down (Gone With the Wind remains…) and added by book covers. Bless you Jinger Heaston and Christine Kirchoff. The words are flying off my fingers…

 

Monday 8th October

Farewell to France

I’m feeling a little Hemmingway, even if when wandering in Paris at midnight trying to flag a taxi he didn’t materialise. Nor did a taxi. Or at least not until the one that wouldn’t take four people stopped and we packed our friends off into it, and then another finally that only took us because we refused to close the door. He didn’t want to take us because he couldn’t understand our accents and didn’t want to bother trying. I bet Hemmingway had a lousy French accent too. Anyway Farewell to Arms was a crummy movie.

But arrogant taxi drivers aside, as always I enjoyed the Paris (and before that rural France) retreat. All hotel rooms in Paris are designed to make you feel like you’re a struggling student in a garret−about the size of a postage stamp, no lifts or is there is two people have to breathe in to fit, and hot water that either trickles or scalds. That said when you husband is disappearing into the bathroom at odd hours of the night to talk to his Hollywood agent it is hard to maintain this belief. Since first coming here as a struggling student the concierge’s attitude has improved. I had thought it was my improved accent but given the taxi driver experience perhaps not.

There is the shopping, the food, the ambiance. Given I was at a conference there wasn’t really time to reacquaint myself the Louvre or Musee D’Orsay but I enjoyed vicariously my friend’s sisters art through the book she showed me from the exhibition opening she had been to when we’d been toasting the success of The Rosie Project with my husband’s delightful French publishers. The exhibition was loosely titled In the Body of the World or the Origin of the World and was about women’s bodies essentially. Her sister’s piece related to a painting she had been commissioned to do, recreating an explicit piece that left nothing to the imagination (and beautifully painted in both versions) but even more interestingly, the video of people walking past her as she was doing so and their comments. Everything from pornographic desire to horrified parents herding their children past rapidly.

So farewell to all this, the long dreary flight home (no upgrades have miraculously appeared) and then- well our food and art is up there, taxi drivers the same and you can only miss tiny hotel rooms and shopping for so long…

Monday 1st October: Writing in France

After the wet and cold of Yorkshire, I was greeted by brilliant sunshine the first morning in our house in central/east France, somewhere just out of Beaujolais. I can see why the Brits are buying up here, though our town is thankfully very French. Nothing wrong with the British, but, well, this is France.

I’m here to write. Peace and quiet, no land lines, no TV. Green countryside with a short walk into the village for a coffee and croissant. A fully fitted out kitchen to whip up the odd Coq au Vin, and a cellar full of wine. What could go wrong?

The mobile. I personally turn mine off. But then I didn’t just sell a book for over a million…My husband’s phone has been ringing constantly. Hollywood called. The email box is overflowing. He was interviewed by the Age newspaper. Everything is all about Rosie, while we are meant to be writing our joint project and need to workshop the refinement of our secondary characters. Is the youngest Brazilian walker going to be a sulky teenager (think daughter, niece aged 14) or my daughter’s delightful but flaky friend?

I think I’ll be making the decision myself, but then, that’s the fun part about the creative process. Just this is a book we are both writing−or rather he’s writing the male version and I’m doing the female one. Two completely takes on the same story. Challenging but lots of fun! Trouble is if I have a sulky teenager and he has a gorgeous flake, will they be recognisable as the same person from two perspectives?

Then there’s the other thing that goes wrong. The wine. We’re in France, the cellar has a few good bottles and my cousin who stayed here last left us a half dozen top wines. We’re only here six days. Wine I find is not conducive to writing. Well. Not well unless you’re Hemmingway (I’m not). If I have a glass of Beaujolais at lunchtime (and how can I not, the sun is shining, there it is open…) sends me directly to bed for an afternoon sleep.

I have a group of party goers in my book, taking a cocktail tour of France and Spain. Maybe I can just channel them? Can I tax deduct the wine and spirits as research???

Monday 24th September

Coast to Coast Finale- Lessons Learnt

With Monday comes the last day for us of the Coast to Coast walk across England, made famous by Alfred Wainwright. I gather he never did the whole thing at once. We did it (307 km or 190 miles) in 16 days which was the shortest way of traversing without doing over 30km (20 miles or so) on any one day, or at least with Contours who organised it and had our luggage carried by packhorse. With respect to the latter this is a company, not my husband.

What have I learned?

  1. Human beings are designed to walk. I knew this from walking the Camino, but had forgotten it took me 10 days for my body to be reminded of this. On an 87 day walk this is okay, not so much on a 16 day walk!
  2. England is cooler than Australia.
  3. The Lakes district has lakes that have to get their water from somewhere. It doesn’t come from vague rivers from somewhere else; it rains. A lot.
  4. Climbing, scrambling and sliding up mountains in the rain is not much fun.
  5. Sunshine makes an enormous difference to one’s sense of wellbeing. We were lucky, we did get some.
  6. There is no such thing as water proof gear.
  7. Stuffing newspapers in wet boots helps them dry but not as much a damn hot fire.
  8. Cathy may still be looking for Heathcliff on those moors but I didn’t bump into Rochester on his horse. The moors are however, beautiful.
  9. English pubs are quaint but they don’t put the heating on as early as they should.
  10. The English gentry speak nicely, wear weird things to hunt grouse, have nice Manners and Manors and occasionally you get to stay in one of the latter because things aren’t the way they used to be. I was grateful.
  11. English pub food has improved in the last 30 years but avoid the breaded anything and still expect stodge in Yorkshire.
  12. English pubs don’t know anything about wine.
  13. I don’t like English beer.

Did I enjoy it? Definitely. A great way to spend a couple of weeks, even if your husband is Skyping his publisher every morning.

17th September

Monday and it’s Yorkshire

Day eight of the Coast to Coast and we’re now in Yorkshire. Yesterday to be fair we had sunshine (a little) and it was fine and we were greeted in Kirkby-Stephen with tea and cake and great steak and cabbage (yes cabbage with cream, peas and zucchini was best I’ve ever had) at the local bistro. But today – yes, you guessed it- more rain. Blisteringly dreary, constant, cold wet, monotonous, continuous, annoying…you’ve probably got the gist.

My husband reminded me we have chosen and paid for this. The Englsih couple at breakfast, who had moved to Sydney six months ago but returned because this holiday had already been booked, had been considering option two. A plane to Rome and a glass of Chianti in the sun. In the midst of peat bog, slush and mud I want my ticket NOW.

We arrive in Keld. There is only one pub. We didn’t book early enough to get accommodation there so we have to wait for a taxi to where we are staying. Back where we were lsat night. There is just something wrong about arriving in Yorkshire then watching the road you walked flash past as you return to Cumbria. The weather is no better here.

But the car will come to take us back to Keld tomorrow and I’ll stifle an uurge to say ‘take me to the station’ and keep praying that the weather improves…

10th September

Coast to Coast

Since discovering the joys of long distance walking I have had my eyes on the Coast to Coast, Alfred Wainwright’s classic 307km (190 mile) walk from the Irish sea at St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay on the west coast of England. I should hasten to add that when I say walk, there is no tent or cooking is required, but rather the luxury of a bed and bath, to say nothing of someone else providing you dinner – and the accompanying wine!

So finally there was space in our diary and we arrived after two trains trips (the second sounded like a large truck and you had to request your stop) we arrived at St Bees (misspelt and heard, after an Irish woman called Bega. Given the accents I understand what went wrong). A bottle of Spanish wine later (okay we hadn’t started walking but we were getting into the spirit of things), a not half bad plate of moule (mussels) and some faijitas, still on Australian time I fell into bed.

We were up and out the door shortly after seven, deciding nine was too late for breakfast and followed the trail as it wound around the coast, past the lighthouse and then inland. We were lucky and I’m not expecting it to last (this is England), but the morning was sunny and we stayed dry, apart from the boggy marshes- and we’re nowhere near the moors yet! We only saw one set of walkers who powered past us (but when we arrived and as I sit in the bar, seven suit cases are in the hall yet to be picked up…).

The country is truly beautiful; green, lush, then windswept, barren and bracken covered on the hills, back to ‘burbling becks’ (small creeks) and the fells (hills) we went up and over and slowly, painfully down. Now having had a bath and a G&T I can almost forget that we did 25km (14 miles) and my legs and back are aching and feet protesting that they thought I’d retired them. The Camino was sadly over 18mths ago…but I’m ignoring the body as the soul is soaring.

3rd September

Jet Setting Again

I’m doing my bit for Qantas. Well I thought I was then found I’m on Cathay. I still get points, though the way our national airline carrier is going it may all be for nothing…Off to Hong Kong tomorrow for a conference, where my husband’s friend who is Chinese-Australian is currently back. Why? Because she’s had a baby and you’ve got to believe that the Chinese do the whole ‘let’s nurture the mother as well as the baby’ better than Australia does. Given we don’t do it at all this wouldn’t be hard. Her partner her work’s with me will be at the same conference. He’s looking shell shocked. I’m not sure if the Chinese nurture the Dads too. Maybe not if they aren’t Chinese.

So she’s invited us out- a classy up market place with a foot massage before hand. Yeah, I’m thinking why would anyone have a baby in Australia (though I somehow doubt the average Chinese farmer is having her foot massaged, baby or not). For a communist society I think they’re just as hierarchal and money driven as the West. Just with a few more rules. Like the one child policy. I booked at the hotel. No double beds. A Chinese thing I was told. Really?

Then we’re walking in Yorkshire, (and some time in France and a conference in Paris). Plenty of writing time on the plane, in France and at the end of the walk each day- as opposed to when we did the Camino, on this one we’re having our gear carried so both computers are being packed!

The walk we are hoping will inspire memories of the Camino which were are both currently writing a fiction travel romance story about. I already revisited the walk when writing Exposé (Stephanie is working under cover on a film crew filming the Camino across France and Spain, but in her Manolos there isn’t much walking done!. Exposé had its launch Saturday- thanks to my die hard friends, family and fans!)

But we hope it will inspire writing in general as the coast to coast walk goes in the footsteps of Coleridge and Wordsworth, so maybe what inspired them will also work its magic on us! The weather report says 14 degrees (Celsius) max and yep, rain every day. When we did the Ring of Kerry in Ireland in June (summer) it rained five out of seven days so we’ll see if Yorkshire can beat that! There are wonderful bits of advice from the walking company like “DON’T stray from the path, in fog this can be dangerous”…I somehow think Wordsworth and Coleridge were indoors smoking opium on these days…

 

27th August

Exposé Book Launch

This will be my second but I think I’m more anxious than the first. I mean the first was a novelty for friends. The second is starting to become habit and I’ll have third out by the end of the year which will seem a bit Ho Hum. It’s not like I have the fan fiction line waiting for the latest Harry Potter. Maybe I need to redirect the Fifty Shades line. They don’t improve where as I put a lot of research into this book (we did walk the 2038km of the walk this book takes a film crew along) and I think my writing improved in this and then again in the final one, Exclusive (also well researched including poker champions and a trip to Monte Carlo!).

At least there should be less drama. Last book launch the books went missing and we had the few I’d ordered, a few the bookstore had left from the initial rush (which was kind of exciting!) and then a book mark to hand out saying the book would be sent. This time they arrived in plenty of time.

Feel free to come along, coffee not champagne which would be more in my heroine’s style but the coffee shop isn’t licensed and besides it’s before lunch!

11am Rendezvous Bookshop Saturday September First

118 Lonsdale St Melbourne.

20th August

Teenage Idols

Having endured the family function for my ‘baby’ sister’s big birthday (we don’t mention the number because then I’d have to think about how old I was) last Saturday was the friend’s function. I was kind of pleased I wasn’t considered too old to be invited and let’s face it this was more likely to be fun than the family gathering where my son’s left wing leanings gets dumped on by my conservative mother (she thinks he’ll grow out of it).

But it was fancy dress. Not that this is a problem−I like dressing up as much as Stephanie (heroine of my erotic trilogy)−but the theme was ‘Teenage Idol’. My teenage years are ten years later than my sister’s. My partner went as Bob Dylan who is seventy. I guess this just means it’s good to have an older role model (my partner isn’t anywhere close to this age). To be fair the invitation had pictures of Get Smart and 99 as well as Harry Potter, and other oldies like Jon Bon Jovi who my daughter liked for quite a while.  So maybe I need to put the paranoia aside.

Unlike my daughter who has a steady stream of fancy dress clothes arriving in the mail from being ordered on the internet (currently she is dressed as Robin, her boyfriend as Batman and they are skiing…), I had to resort to the wardrobe and a lifetime of hoarding. It has to be good for something, and the architect did have to put in two extra built in wardrobes for the purpose of storage…

There was really no choice (see Friday June 29th Stephanie’s blog for picture of Desperately Seeking Susan). Yep, it was time to brush the dust off the conical bras, bodices and dig up the chain belts and heavy silver artillery for neck wear that I haven’t worn in … well a long time. Madonna it is. As role models go she’s doing okay though she’s at the gym a good deal more than me and I wish she was still with the hot guy in the Scottish castle (I can’t help it, I do write romance after all).

And this had to better than the Spice girls (even if they did get together again for the Olympics) or Princess Di. Go Madonna.

13th August

Getting a Tradie

This has not been a good winter. It’s not that I’m not used to cold. I’ve lived in Europe and New York and on actual temperature scales Melbourne is well above. Though I like how our weather forecaster is now following the American habit of reporting temperatures as “11degrees (Celsius) but feels like 4. How do they work this out?). But the NY apartment and French house were centrally heated. It was never cold. The department stores are frankly hot. Somewhere like Minneapolis you go from heated garage to heated carpark to underground (the Gopher tunnels) or heated walkways in the air.

In Australia we have this idea it’s hot. As it is in the North. Melbourne is South. Yes we can get warm in summer but no more than New York. And it a house with no heating in the main area it’s downright freezing in winter!

The problem began with the architect. Architects are these wonderful arty people who sue your money to create their dream that looks good- but they don’t have to live in it. Our architect won a building award with our house. It’s gorgeous. We asked for light and we have wonderful bright stair wells and windows. The air-conditioning is essential in summer and it does work (alas the design was pre-global warming going viral…). But the heat never gets there. Bedrooms and my office no problem. My husband works witting in bed at the moment because he doesn’t have a door on his office.

The entertaining area (fab in summer with doors opening everywhere) has the large TV and if we want to watch it coats and blankets are required. Because the underfloor heating which used to just stopped the chilblains isn’t working. Last year the roof caved in in a deluge, drowned the huge TV and ruined the rug. The kids thought we’d be able to get a new DHD TV. Amazingly, the TV dried out and works (bad luck kids) and even the rug is okay with the sofa hiding bits. The heater worked throught he winter then we turned it off – and it hasn’t been going since.

At the beginning of winter we called the company. He (the ONLY person in Australia prepared to touch our floor) is coming next week. He has an operation the week after. I picture him saying “It’s a 50-50 chance I’ll make it and as for your floor….well good luck.”

Is this for real??? Can I blame the architect (probably) for the choice of floor heater? (I did have to stop him putting in 8, thousand dollar heated towel rails…).

Will he be able to fix it? How does someone get under your floor? This one has a concrete slab and granite on top. This could be really scary. Then there’ll be the bill… Maybe I’lls end it to the architect.

6th August

Monday and my baby sister is older than I feel…

What happens when your baby sister is turning an age you don’t feel you’ve got to yet? Years of therapy? Look into the mirror? Get glasses and get real? Go by the adage that you’re only as old as the man you feel and turn into a cougar?

Well the last has some appeal. In theory of not practice anyway. Let’s face it there has to be an upside to the hours of writing and editing…Some of the guys on the covers are really hot. My girlfriend’s son’s wedding photo and him and his wife naked from the waist suggesting sensuality is alive and well (okay she was behind him and you could only see the side view) and 50 Shades has made us almost mainstream so forget the glasses except to get a better view of the covers (I don’t need reading glasses just yet but maybe a bit of magnification?). The Aussie 8 member male rowing team looked so hot I really didn’t care they came last (possibly they and rowing enthusiasts did).

Anyway regardless, she had the birthday and wasn’t going to wait around for me to get used to the idea (and let’s face it, must be worse for our parents). So there’s the present. What to get her? She plays hockey and is high school teacher. Out there with the young but living in Boganville (she may be related to Kath and Kim (a TV program of would be’s if they could be’s but they definitely weren’t) but if so I was adopted).

So I thought clothes. Get Stephanie’s help. Alright maybe my sister isn’t up to Manolo’s (which feature in the Stephanie Beauman books) and my mother unlike Stephanie’s is not going to pay for them. A dress? Mmm she must wear them to work but I can’t remember not seeing her in jeans. A bag? A scarf? A hat? My husband and children are laughing. Not that my sister might not like these but the ribbing I am going to get over my taste which is, let’s be honest, completely at odds with my entire family, daughter included. Maybe I was adopted.

Next and I have nowhere to go after this (no I am not buying her a chance to scuba dive with the sharks as her children might never speak to me again and hot air ballooning you have to get up early- I don’t think so). Jewellery. Easy, right?

No.

First she likes white gold. Priced that recently? OMG! I love her but!!!

I figure silver looks similar. Old or new? Fine or chunky? I keep picturing her playing hockey in what I am buying and when I mentioned this to the jeweller she nearly passed out. As she did when I suggested the diamond white gold heart looked the same to me as the $69.95 version. Well, close, and I wouldn’t have to mortgage the house…

Then it jumped at me. An 1870’s silver locket. It’s gorgeous and I gather the rage. Besides she can exchange it if needed. And I’ll have it if she doesn’t want it…

30th July

Too much to do and too little time!

I need to get better at time management. Actually learning to say no to things would probably help even more. What was I thinking saying I’d do two talks interstate at the end of the week and then another on a SATURDAY? From this writer’s perspective Friday to Monday is becoming hallowed writing ground. I tend to start in the morning Friday and write only to stop for meals and sleep until Monday night. So where did I think the talks were going to fit?

Throw into the mix my computer (brand new) coming to a complete halt (I find out later because in my enthusiasm to stop viruses – oh how I hate them- I had been trying to run two antivirus programs and my computer just said NO!) so I didn’t have it with me to work on the plane (or the three hours at the airport) and then yahoo didn’t seem to want me to check mail and put up blogs, the one I did for Melodee Aaron- check her website out.

What I did do while staring into space at the airport/ on plane/in tram to Saturday talk was to plan the next book. Or several actually. Were-Devil’s Curse set in Tasmania has just been accepted and I have two more for the series. The next one is going to go back briefly in time to the origin of the curse (the real Tasmanian Devil is endangered because of a rare contagious facial cancer and I’ve woven this into my story, along with a group of Vampires stemming from the real ones called False Vampires or Ghosts…). I hope I don’t talk out loud when I’m thinking but my fellow passengers were looking at me strangely….

23rd July

Exercise- it’s good for you, right?

We are told we are a sedentary nation going to fat, getting diabetes and that our children will be the first generation ever to have a life expectancy lower than their parents. After a three day stint of 12 hour days attached to my computer in a flurry of enthusiasm for my new book, I then read that this type of behaviour was going to significantly increase my chance of death even if I had also been to the gym daily for an  hour.

Well on those days I don’t move out of the chair by the fire except to get dinner (we only have soup for lunch and no dessert…do I get brownie points for this? And the wine helps dissolve the fatty plaques in my blood vessels doesn’t it? As long as it doesn’t start to mess with varying other organs…)

But during the week I dutifully go to gym where I do a warm up, weights (limited due to the tennis elbow or is it golf elbow it causes), aerobics and finally stretches (carefully,  given there seems to be as many pros as cons). If I get there early I’m there with the Director of the Australian ballet (who wouldn’t know me if he fell over me, come to think of it with my early morning bleary eyed uncoordinated state, he probably has through no fault of his own) and a group of office types that clearly didn’t read the article that said this was going to do them no good.

If I’m there a little later I have the gym to myself but if I’m unlucky the change room is full of dripping (there is a pool at the gym) elderly women. I don’t want too be cruel to the sisterhood (and okay I have been known to cringe at Julia Gillard’s clothes making her backside big and wishing Hilary Clinton would get a hair stylist) and it is great they are exercising but ahh…is this what I’m in for? I’d better start dimming the lights.

Actually I shouldn’t worry because after the stretching causes my calf muscles to go, the weights mean I will need steroids for my elbows, the steroids will cause me to get diabetes, particularly after I stop exercising. I’ll be depressed and drink even more and my liver or brain will go. The latest article says one of them will get me in the next three years. So I should just give up, right?

Actually maybe rather than listening to the experts we should be listening to our bodies. We have I think got out of the habit of it. Stretching before exercise makes no sense to me, slow warm up does. I feel better after a half hour workout and it seems to help my weight stay healthy and stable. It means I can go on long walking holidays and skiing without puffing like a steam train. I think I’ll keep it up…

16th July

Monday I’ve Got Friday on my Mind…

After going to part time work (which means I’m busier than ever because I’m writing the rest of the time weekends included..) I quickly got used to having my week over by Thursday evening. It’s delicious. Get in the car then or when my husband is working, on the Friday evening after I’ve had a day to myself, and go to the country, stoke the fire and write. Bliss. My husband suggested a walk and besides the fact that it was four degrees and raining intermittently, I was aghast. I didn’t want to move thanks all the same.

So then there’s a report on how if you have a sedentary occupation meaning 8-10 hours sitting your chances of dying in next three years go up.  Even if like me you go the gym. And I’m sitting 12-14 hours DAMN!

So I should be pleased that I am working four day week for two weeks. Running to the airport, on trams to meeting, occasional video pretending I am not very good at some task for teaching (this usually comes easily and it has nothing to do with acting talent…). But instead I am now looking longingly to Friday- in three weeks. Ahhhh….

I’ve also got September on my mind (what is this wishing my life away?). Actually its good to have something to look forward to. Just booked a walking holiday – totally hooked since walking the Camino. This time a mere three hundred kilometres, luggage carried and all booked for us. Coast to Coast Lake District/Yorkshire. The scenery looks fab and my grandfather came from Whitby (home to Bram Stokes, Dracula got delivered here in a coffin) so have a soft spot for the region. Was very cold and Dracula like in October…hope it will be a bit warmer in September though after walking the Ring of Kerry in Ireland in June and it raining five out of seven days, I know to take my rain coat…

Okay back to enjoying the day. It’s not so bad a week, just have to put aside writing….

9th July

Women Having it All

There has been an awful lot of talk about this topic over the last week. I once thought about writing a book about it but I’m pleased I didn’t. Whoever wrote the latest in the USA has been canned as a one of series of offenders. One end of the argument is why would you want it, the other is it’s not a woman’s issue it’s a family issue and the men need to come on board.

I guess I was really lucky. Am still. One of the reasons why I didn’t want to write the book was it might have jinxed the luck! I have had a very successful career (no, not writing!) and considered an Australian leader in my field. I get paid to talk and teach others about it, I get to help people and I love the work. But I was also able to go part time, take a year off – and I wanted to do these things and I never felt guilty.

Many of the women are guilty at work for not being with their kids and when their kids missing work. Not me. I loved both when I was with them, and having a part time nanny meant when I was with the kids I didn’t have to do housework (which I most certainly don’t love!). I was lucky to have a job which could afford this, to having had a parenting experience that gave me a good sense of self and lucky to have perspective.

What I haven’t heard in the arguments is – what about what the children need (and deserve)? A lot of emotional building blocks get put down in the first couple of years (even first year). A parent who is able to give the message “I am here and you are worth it” (see www.circleofsecurity.org) to the child by the age of one has a child with inbuilt resilience that will buffer them against bullying, bad days, failing a school test and a teenage romance gone wrong. But parenting that says ‘I am putting my needs first” is not going to do this. It doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to your child, but you do need to remember you’re the grown up and not to let your shit get in the way of that message.

It doesn’t have to be mum all the time either! There is an African saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately that village was disappeared with the ‘having it all’. We shouldn’t be wanting it all and including in that the bigger house, car etc. We should be including a community, an extended family, and of course our partners, the child’s father! Don’t hit yourselves over the head with not having it all- celebrate what you have and remember those early years go fast.

2nd July

Film Editing and Things we do for our Mothers

I love my mother, truly I do. It’s just that right now she could be responsible for any number of stress related illnesses and for my computer dying (well it will die because I’ve thrown it against the wall).

Of course it’s all my fault, as my mother would be quick to point out. In my other life I run a group for women and a lot of time is spent on mother’s and their faults and this is high on the list. Pointing out things you know and really don’t need to hear from her, or anyone for that matter. Being allowed to be delusional should be considered a sign of love. I wish I could say that practised this with my daughter. I try. At least I don’t tell her she looks dreadful (My mother thinks I need some of my sister’s fat on my face) because she always looks nice. Sometimes I think she should be wilder, isn’t that what you’re meant to do as a teenager?

Anyway back to the more recent issue.

My husband and I walked the Camino (see Tuesdays blogs, alternating with the Grand Prix) in 2011- 2038km over 87 days. My mother was impressed and we’ve given several talks for various community groups she runs (it’s hard to stay annoyed at someone who does so much volunteer and Good works). My husband spent days if not weeks sorting out the hundreds of hours of video we took on out Flip, and put together a ‘Walk Simone Walk’ video – lots of me well, doing what we did- walking.

But my mother for the recent talk wanted a ‘See Simone See’. She’s a tick person. Why hadn’t my husband included the Foi Abbey? The Le Puy monuments? And surelt there must have been other Things.

So with my husband away and not knowing how to use his proper editing suite, idiot here thought I could whip up five minutes of monuments in an hour or two. Let me tell you, this is neither possible on my computer nor with Windows Movie Maker. Or at least not with me operating it. The computer froze (I had saved the file) completely five times and after every addition for at least a couple of minutes. When I say every addition, I mean doing ANYTHING. Ten hours later when I thought I was going to have to give up (something I’m really bad at) I got it together, It even looks half reasonable. But what’s the chances my mother will think I could have just done a little of this or that….?

 

25th June

Monday and it must be Texas…

My daughter noted my flight schedule had a not truly needed stop in Texas. I would have liked to have gone and seen my publishers in Austin but that wouldn’t fit time wise (I did think about the drive but a flight would have been more sensible), so it was (just) Dallas. She rolled her eyes and said she presumed this was part of the bucket list.

Okay I confess. When I was young my girlfriends wouldn’t travel around the UK with me because I had too many castles on the list I ‘needed’ to see. Then it was churches in Europe. My husband isn’t a list person so after many years of marriage he has almost beaten (metaphorically) it out of me. But I d have this thought that wouldn’t it be nice(interesting, whatever) to go to every State in the USA.

I’m over 20, which is a good deal more than a lot of Americans I should think. The easy one was California because your plane lands there from Australia (and Hawaii once as a stop over)! My parents bought a holiday home in Florida, so add that. When I was living in NY (another two states as visited New Jersey)I was doing the Fall watch (it’s on the internet and shows exactly where in New England the leaves are at their best) so the bucket list raised its head and a train ride and car hire later, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, tick! Friends invited up to Colorado for Thanksgiving and we flew via Las Vegas and drove to the Grand Canyon (naturally…) so two more States! Also saw friend in Boston (can’t spell the state that is in….) and went to Martha’s Vineyard via Rhode Island. Had a course in both Washington State and Minneapolis and a conference in Iowa and Pennslyvannia so tick to a few less travelled by tourists. Managed on weekends out from the courses, both Dakotas, Montana and Idaho.

Finally now I have Texas. Out to see where JFK was assassinated as soon as I recover from the two excellent Margaritas and the HUGE (this is Texas) dinner. But before that – the view from the hotel window was just so what I expected (though where are the oil rigs the tower off to right, not in photo, will do…) where if you look carefully you’ll see a freight train. I cannot believe how long it was- went forever! And of course the flag!

18th June

Minnesota Monday

Minnesota isn’t on the usual tourist list. So my accent stands out and everyone is suitably amazed I am here to do a course that pretty much is only run here or London.

It’s very mid West. Friendly, warm and number plates that say 10,000 lakes, only the locals know it’s really 11,000. I spent the weekend on Gull Lake and passed a few others but boy, is that a lot of water.

It’s hot which is kind of a surprise, and at odds with the town gear up for winter. I am staying at the University and there is an underground system they call the Gopher tunnels. So you don’t ever have to be reminded it’s minus 30 out there. In the centre all the buildings are connected by tunnels in the air for the same purpose. It’s kind of weird. I’m glad I’m here in summer, I don’t feel I need to see it operational.

USA does Weather with a capital ‘W’. There is a TV station dedicated to it. I thought this was overkill until I lost count of the thunder storms, lightning strikes, tornadoes, and floods that were being reported. In summer this means you get wet. I could say you carry an umbrella but the wind is such that it really isn’t going to survive. Mostly you hope a lot, and plan your day.

The friendly is kind of interesting too. The waiters or wait staff are uniformly pleasant. Sitting at the bar, and on a bus, you take your chances a bit more. Coming from the airport there was the discussion about Australia being close to Germany. Mmmm geography not a local strong point. On the bus, the guy from Wisconsin here for a ball game had actually been to Australia. We heard about it in great depth. Five out of five for enthusiasm. At the bar, keeping quiet seemed a good idea when four letter words were flying attached to ‘liberals’ and people taking handouts and the president. It didn’t seem the right moment to say I liked Obama (who I can’t vote for anyway) or that the mentally ill people I work with aren’t capable or working and any reasonable society should provide for them. I might have got my husband slugged and the Republican was ex-navy.

It is a country of passion, which is one of the things I love. Just sometimes the passion is informed to my mind by ignorance. Perhaps at the end of the day one of the reasons I rarely get passionate about issues (as opposed to people or writing say) is because I can usually see both sides of the argument. There are exceptions but at the risk of losing readers I might bypass them.

Right now I’m back in Minneapolis, working hard and trying to fit in writing around everything else. The usual manic Monday.

 

11th June

Fabulous New York (even if I am indoors writing…)

Okay it did dump a bucket of rain on us on the first night and naturally we were unprepared and got drowned. But it’s been sunshine ever since and well – it’s New York!

Summer here the streets are full of people, taxis impossible to get (literally when it’s raining) even though the streets are full of them. Luckily there is a great subway (with a really easy ticketing system- why couldn’t Melbourne have this instead of Myki???)

We’ve been eating Mexican and drinking Margaritas since arriving, though with time to buy 12 poke-dolls at the Nintendo store: they read “four years up”…my daughter is twenty…

And have also been doing a lot of writing. It seems a shame to stay indoors but the edits came back for Exclusive, I started a MFM (ménage a trios) novella about were-devils that is in the critical – and exciting– end stage (heading towards the finale sex scene), I had to do a final rewrite of a short story for a competition on the Seven Deadly Sins (which I just couldn’t pass up, and besides it was finished, just needed polishing) due yesterday, a completed crime/psych thriller that needs a serious relook … and I have a publisher interested in a new (mainstream) novel that I need to have two chapters to submit by August. Yep, on fire, not really time for a holiday! Am squeezing in a play tonight though. It is New York after all…

Fortunately I can write just about anywhere, though I am pleased out 32nd street studio is facing the street meaning more light. We lived for three months in one facing the alley. Good for sleep but in the day you just had to get out. Favourite places to write however are French or Australian country houses with no TV or telephone…

Edits. Not my favourite I have to say, though when you’re pretty sure it will be published, that takes away a lot of the pain.

The editors were worried about Exclusive, yes there were the usual comma and comma splice problems (not that many I didn’t think but I guess I wasn’t being drivel nuts by them- bless the patience of editors). But the real problem was my story had strayed outside the very defined rules of the genre. Ahhh!!! I’m not a great one for rules because the story kind of takes me where it has to go, and when I first read the covering letter it was “OMG” I’ll have to do a complete rewrite. As usual, after I calmed down things weren’t as bad as they seemed. But it was interesting to reflect on how the rules of romance – the aim being positive fantasy- really do skew reality. I have been criticised (one reviewer on Amazon hated my book) for stereotypic/ superficial characters, but when you give them depth and make them real I am told they may be unsympathetic and inadequately noble! Mind you there are a few saying this in Amazon about Fifty Shades of etc as well!

Oh well, now done, fingers crossed. Exclusive I hope will appear soon – Stephanie gets to travel around the world as I am now (but not stay inside writing!) following the Grand Prix circuit (I did get to go the Monaco GP), and she finally gets her HEA ending…with a hero that’s now not quite as bad as he was….

4th June

Catching Up with Old Friends…and Lovers

France at this time of year is magnificent. There is a reason there are more tourists in this country than any other. Great food, wine, and weather. We get to catch up with old friends–their son and ours went to school here together many years ago. R is American and M French and though R had spoken always to his son in English, it wasn’t until E was frustrated with our son’s French that he spoke his first words of English. A few years ago they moved to Colorado but still have their French house so we try and aim trips to meet them in one or other country. Last time we saw them it was for Thanksgiving in Colorado.

This year we’re also catching up with someone else. My ex. No, not ex-husband though I have one of those too. He wouldn’t bother speaking to me if we were sat next to each other on a twenty hour flight so it wouldn’t be likely to accept an invitation to stay with us in France.

No this is the guy I went out with in between husbands, over twenty years ago. He married someone else, lives in the UK, so I saw him probably twice in 20 years. Then his marriage broke up. What can I say? I’m a therapist in my other life and middle aged single men who drink too much worry me. One of our friends in this category topped himself after his wife left him. So I invited him to come cry on my shoulder. This was last year. It went well enough that we’re trying for a repeat. I think my husband’s ready agreement was because the last visit sent his imagination off on a tangent, and he wrote a short story about it called Savoir Faire that Stringybark published. Now he’s finishing off the novel.

For most of us who picture many rejection slips it would tempting to think it’ll probably never see the light of day and why worry about trying to explain this didn’t happen to our kids isn’t worth worrying about. Except that last week his first unpublished manuscript won the Victorian Premier’s literature award and will maybe get this and future books published!.

Our kids loved The Rosie Project (the one that should come out next year and be made into a film….ahhh….) but they don’t read mine. I have a version of Embedded for my daughter with the naughty bits taken out, but I missed one and she’s still traumatised. I think my husband’s new book may fit into the same category. Okay it isn’t erotica but there is lots of sex, and the heroine (who everyone will hate) bears an uncanny resemblance to me … that is me without the common sense and husband to bring me down to earth. But anyone who knows me….so then they’ll think ….what else in this is real?

My husband has managed to mix his and my ex-s characters up but they’re both in there. And now he wants to spend the next few days ensuring he’s got the Manchester terminologies right. While they’re having beer and telling dirty jokes (which in any other company my husband never does) and the ex thanks my husband again for taking me off his hands… I think I’ll just go to bed alone.

28th May

Air Travel

Anyone who has travelled at least once a year by plane has a plane story. Usually more than one.

I travel around by air Australia giving talks (at least once a month) to places as close as Mildura 1 and a bit hours in small aircraft) and others as far away as Broome (five hours plus a stopover). I also travel to Europe and USA at least once a year each or as on this occasion, on a round the world fare. I am not helping global warming. I am adding to the carbon footprint I worry about and my mother uses my air travel as a way of proving there is no Global Warming. Go figure.

I am not proud of this but since desperately escaping the country at 18 (and equally as desperately returning at varying times) I have an ongoing love affair with the exotic, the different, places I wish to return to and places I have never been. Despite my girlfriends at 18 calling me Castles (I think I have seen them all in the UK…well a lot anyway) and my husband lamenting the bucket list (not because of the suggestion of our finality but because he thinks I tend towards tick tourism. You know, walk past Notre Dame, tick I’ve seen it), there are just places I want to go, things I want to see and things I want to do.

But there is that 20 plus hour flight between Australia and the Northern hemisphere. For the most part we are a stoic lot who just put up with it (once in the past they put up with smoking as well so I am spared that).  Yes it is cramped, yes it is true that the food in economy leaves a lot to be desired. That the sound and film system often breaks down. But a part of me still marvels that it gets up there at all. Physics was never my strong point. I understood the little Greek mamas on the Olympic airways flight crossing themselves as they landed. Might have had something to do with that I had told one of them I thought her husband was dead. Mind you she didn’t speak English and he woke up as I was trying out my Greek. Okay first aid isn’t my strong point either.

The last few years, I guess ever since September 11, the security measures have taken a lot of the fun out. Common place are delays, and murderous thoughts towards the person who failed to board and whose luggage is now being searched for (I’d love to know who gives it back to them. In Heathrow I’m sure it would be blown up. One of my bags is either still there or has been, but through their fault not mine). Airline lounges not calling, me not listening, flights rushed for, mostly made and occasionally just missed. The Air Mauritas flight turned back because someone had put a coke bottle in the bathroom with Bomb written on it. Flying really doesn’t bring out the best in people.

But there are some great movies about flying (Flying High to Airport with the delicious Elizabeth Taylor and Louis Jordan, and Die Hard II) or films I’ve seen on movies- cried constantly through Bridges of Maddison County to the hostess’s concern and all but di martial arts in my seat through Hidden Tiger/Dragon (never can remember its real title but great movie!).

This time? Upgraded to Business for Singapore leg – Bliss. Writing, eating, leg room. Then back to economy to Paris. I guess I’ll be able to feel my legs again one day soon. Still my memory is short and there are lots of fabulous things to distract myself with until I have to reboard. Just please no Sumo wrestler and Mother with baby.

21st May

Salamanca Market, Hobart Tasmania

It’s always nice to get away, even if it’s for work. Tasmania isn’t very far from Melbourne and although it can be quite cold in winter, it’s always a great place to be. Actually it can be cold in summer too. I went to Cradle Mountain (and we aren’t talking Everest here) and it snowed in December- that’s meant to be summer in Australia!

So I’m here for a conference. I wish I could say it was an erotic fiction conference. Siren is having one later in the year in Texas and I’d love to go. Some people thought August in Texas would be too hot, but I just keep picturing the male book cover models strutting around and who wants them rugged up??? Anyway I can’t go (royalties wouldn’t pay for the tax to get out of the country let alone the airfare and accommodation).

So I’m at a more standard conference, you know serious looking people showing they are… well…serious about their job.

Mmmm I like to have time out too, so arrived Friday night where we bumped into friends (nothing to do with the conference) and ate well at Monty’s (okay, drank a bit too well) and then spent Saturday morning at Salamanca market. As markets go, this one is fun. Great coffee, tempura mushrooms followed by nice heavy stodgy Dutch donuts for brunch – perfect really! Jewellery, clothes, food, books, DVD’s. The usual T-shirts with Tasmanian devils which I succumbed to; my niece and nephew are having birthdays.

Sadly all things come to an end. Running a workshop Sunday morning (ugh) and then conference all day today. Not a hot male model in sight….

 

 

 

 

14th May

There was a slight hope as I clicked the icon on ‘Monday’ that I had already written today’s blog. The rest of the week is easy as Travel Tuesday is either a review of the Grand Prix (this week Barcelona last night) or the 87 days of the Camino with still weeks to go, Wednesday can be difficult but at least has the sin theme, Thursday I read prolifically so reviewing a book or film is no problem. Okay Friday can be challenging- Stephanie’s fashion blog. Particularly as today’s angst about blogging relates to an article in The Age last Friday talking about other people who do very successful fashion blogs they not only have people read (ahhh what a wonderful thought, that someone actually reads what I write rather than it sit there gathering cyber dust) but that also get paid.

So I am having a moment of despondency. I have clicked onto a blank page which reminds me of how few comments I ever get even after a lot of tweeting and emailing yahoo groups. This is better than the 200 comments I was getting daily before I worked out how to use Askmet or whatever it’s called (bless it). Comments that told me in bad English what I read job I was doing and then adding an inane comment. The purpose of these was a complete mystery. Or the one that told me to stop whining. Okay, NOW I’m whining but after briefly feeling about this criticism (before relegating it to the spam folder) but as no one is going to read it what the hell. Don’t shrinks call it catharsis???

Okay one more whine. My technological incompetence (yes I will take responsibility and am working to empower myself to take on cyberspace) I subscribed to a readers group with my work email. I can’t remember how to get them to come in groups like my other readers group does so I now click onto email to hundreds of comments I am probably not interested in and figure anything I write no one else is going to be interested in. Maybe I should just write for myself and keep myself happy.

Whining over. On the positive note of writing, my husband is well into his second novel (first which is great is with three publishers, one asked for the whole book so fingers crossed) and reads it to me as we go to bed. He’s writing manically so that usually means a whole chapter. As it is kind of about a menage a trios this should make good bed time reading, and it’s great so I love listening. Mmmm but the female lead is turning into a prima donna of extraordinary proportions and there is an uncomfortable resemblance to someone I know – me. Is he trying to tell me something?

 

 

 

 

5th May

Roses and Chocolate Blog Hop and Giveaway

Starting at one min after midnight May 5th, it’s up and running until one minute before midnight on the 9th May! Try and read all the blogs, there’ll be some great giveaways and who doesn’t like Roses, chocolates and pressies!!!

For a chance at a copy of one of two short erotic story collections (print) published by Stringybark, Between the Sheets or Heat Wave of ’76 (Australia only) or a copy of Embedded (erotic romance suspense, ePub or lit version) then just leave a comment on my website saying why you like or don’t like roses and chocolates or about the story below! Winners notified by email/tweet/facebook (and asked for address via email for books to be sent) on May 10th.

You can also enter by tweeting @simonesinna with chocolates and roses in the message or via Facebook, but maximum of three entries per person! I’ll draw it out of a hat.

For links to other authors check out under Competitions (main menu on left)

 

A Roses and Chocolates Story: The Language of Roses

See www.rkdn.org/roses/colors.asp

Chrissie had never had a boyfriend. As her mother liked to remind her and everyone else that ever came to visit. The last time had been the final straw. Her mother’s friend Sally had had her son Ben with her. Six foot, blue eyes, a nice smile, a year older than her, studying science … and no girlfriend. Chrissie could almost see his eyes glaze over when the words came out of her mother’s mouth, relegating her to ‘loser’ in Ben’s eyes. So much for the passing thought that maybe she could ask him to the end of year party. She was the only one of her friends without a partner to take.

So she had been surprised when Ben hadn’t run a mile when they bumped into each other in the university coffee shop. He’d actually bought her a coffee. The boost to herself esteem must have done something – though it was paying less notice to traffic that had drawn her to Matt’s attention. A waiter in the restaurant near where she was crossing the road, he had called out and woken her from her day dream and then made her a coffee. He was a little skinny and gawky, a bit taller than her, and he was able to make her laugh.

Ben had rung five days later – unfortunately getting her number via the mother connection ­­– and asked if she wanted to catch up. Finally Chrissie felt that maybe she didn’t have BO or some major personality disturbance.  Matt accepted her friend request but didn’t look like he was too much into Facebook book given lack of well – anything much on it. But he did keep ‘liking’ the things she put up.

She saw Ben a few times, and he was polished, confident and polite, but maybe just a little too smooth. The more her mother talked about him the more Chrissie wanted to either elope or never see him again. She tried to ignore her mother’s less than subtle hints to ask him to the party.

Matt got a bit more friendly on Facebook, even put up photos and commenting on hers. She dropped in and had a bowl of pasta when he was working and he made not just her but also her friends laugh. When he finished work one day as she was leaving uni, he asked her to have a drink with him and she got to know him a bit more. He wanted to own his own gardening business one day, the outdoors clearly his main passion and waiting just a way to make ends meet for the time being.

The single lavender rose – love at first sight – arrived a month after she met them both, without a note. It was so romantic! Chrissie wasn’t sure what to do. What if she thanked the wrong one? She went to a party with Ben, had another drink with Matt. Neither gave anything away. She tried to smile knowingly at both of them.

Pink came next. Appreciation. Okay, she told them both she really appreciated their friendship and breathed a sigh of relief.

Next was white. Her purity or that he was worthy? Chrissie viewed the website in panic.

The next rose that arrived, as always, single and without a note, was orange. Desire and enthusiasm. Was this a way of asking for a sexual relationship? Chrissie started to get nervous. She needed to know who was sending them.

She had to find out. She liked them both. Ben was easy to be with and would have clearly been her mother’s pick but there was something appealing about Matt. They had interests in common and he was fun, less serious than Ben. But how to find out?

Then a box of chocolates arrived – Guerlain, not exactly her favorite but then it was the thought that counted and after all the roses had been stunning. She made her way through them while she was studying and wondering how to word a Facebook post that would flush the right person out without the other knowing, when she got to the last chocolate and went to the next layer. On top was a note. From Matt.

Chrissie sighed in relief. The choice had been made. Matt it was. He was delighted to come to the party. Ben was polite and she felt sad, but at least she felt she was being honest now.

“I have a date for the party,” she announced to her mother.

“Oh thank God,” said her mother. “Sally said poor Ben was going spare over working out whether you thought he was too over the top.”

Chrissie starred at her mother with a sinking feeling.

Her mother smiled brightly. “I assured Sally that you loved the roses.”

30th April

Romance isn’t Dead

This was inspired by the end of the week competition and blog hop- be sure to drop in and see the Friday blog to tell you more!

Well we all know it isn’t for women (who make up 40% of the book market with romance novels) but what about guys?

Aussie guys have a reputation as being drunken louts so it’s hard to imagine from this picture buying roses, chocolates or getting down on bended knee. Certainly attending a game of Aussie rules football would be enough to send any woman looking for romance out of the country in a hurry.

It is true that my husband’s friend gave his wife a toilet seat for her birthday once. They are no longer married. Then my son’s friend (currently single and desperate for a girlfriend) suggested practical presents were obviously the sensible gift. And my Asperger’s friend who told his wife he loved her once and didn’t see the need to repeat unless the situation changed.

But wait. They aren’t all like that!

In any relationship you have to both work at keeping it alive – in general for men it means they need to work on the romance which isn’t (for most) ‘wired in’. For women, at least after having children, it’s the sex they need to work on (see Bettina Arndt’s books). If both work on the ‘weaker’ part of their wiring, the relationship can be pretty damn good!

My teenage son carried a glass rose from Prague around in his back pack for six weeks for his girlfriend- it miraculously survived (okay the chocolates didn’t do quite so well as he came home via Asia where the temperatures were a tad warmer…).

My husband makes romance an art. He is to put it simply, the master.

He spoils me and I’m sure I don’t deserve him but wow it’s nice! Fabulous jewellery (no toilet seats or electric carving knives in sight) and the most amazing birthdays! One year we made a film that I starred in (no, acting is not on my resume for the reason anyone who saw it could tell you) and we showed it at the Kino cinema, complete with limousine, red carpet and photographers. Another time we sipped champagne watching the sun set over the Taj Mahal.

The picture included here is from a full poster size card that he made for me one Valentine’s Day. It really says it all.

23rd April

The Moment You Realize Your Parents Aren’t Perfect

No this is not going to be a teenage rant. As a teenager we would never have considered our parents anything other than so not cool, so old and so boring that the word perfect would have been laughable.

Nor is this going to be a ‘it’s my first day at school and how can I stop my Mum embarrassing me’. Yeh, yeh we knew they meant well. It wasn’t that they weren’t perfect, it was we were afraid we weren’t.

Nor is this the moment in psychotherapy where you uncover all the nasties you’ve been denying for the last decade or so. No, this is the moment when is you were lucky enough to have had pretty good parents who did their best and meant well and more often than not got it right (not as easy feat as anyone who is a parent knows), and you see their bad points without the rose coloured glasses. You keep things in perspective, everything else is still true, but you just think….Mum did you really have to?

I’ve had many of these moments, just I’ve ignored the reality of their sum up until now. We all know, my siblings and I, that well, that’s Mum. Not exactly oozing sensitivity. But wow so much overshadowed by all the good things that who’s to complain? I think my mother must have put in more volunteer hours over the last forty years than anyone else I know has put into a paid job. Red Cross, Country Women’s, local political party, local old people’s home, Probis, the list goes on and on. If there’s a bushfire she’s there making sandwiches, if there’s a tree fallen on a house she’s taking the family to new accommodation. Yep, prefect, right?

Mmm, okay the gripe. Did she have to tell me twice (maybe this is Alzheimers) that her friend hated my book? Given the friend is 80 and my book is aimed at 20-50 year age group, this is hardly a surprise. And erotica is not exactly everyone’s cup of tea. Going on from last week’s blog on taking criticism I take a breathe and move on.

But then over the weekend I have my aunt and uncle’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. I expected most people to be, well not exactly young. My mother and father would be there. I dressed carefully. Meaning that I got out the conservative (and elegant Akira number I own) so mum wouldn’t be horrified (she normally is, and to be honest it’s become a bit of a baiting thing- how wild can I look? One year I convinced husband and two kids to join with me and we turned up to Christmas dinner all with different colour hair – green, purple, yellow, pink…).

But it still wasn’t good enough. Apparently my great aunt thought my stockings were hideous (dragons twisted up the leg, French and probably $50 worth…). My husband said they were tattoos and for a moment mum believed him. Maybe that’s what I’ll do next time…

So no, not perfect. But then again, nor am I.

16th April

Taking and Giving Criticism

No one likes getting criticized. Just some people hide their sinking emotions, surging anger or sheer desolation better than others. We like to believe we’re right, and that we’re doing well. We know we were trying our best…and if we weren’t, well no one is perfect and everyone is entitled to an off day, right?

But sometimes like it or not, what we do isn’t good enough. If we have tried our best we can say that at least. When I got a psychological drama (all 153,000 words of it) to the last phase at Random House and they rejected it, this thought gave me some comfort. I had been saying ‘I must write a book’ for years; at least I finally had. It gave me some satisfaction that at least that it had got that far, more than a lot of books. Trouble was the need to write kept coming back, the desire to be published still bubbled away beneath the surface and looking back at the work it wasn’t as good as I could do. I was very experienced and at the top in my profession – but my profession wasn’t writing and I quite simply hadn’t practised enough.

How the criticism is framed (and by whom) makes a difference. If it is from someone you don’t respect and who delivers it badly then it’s easier to brush off. If it’s someone who knows what they are talking about and deliver it well- then this is the criticism to learn from. So when we deliver the words people don’t want to hear- think about how you say it because you don’t like being hurt and the old do unto others…but also people will listen if you are respectful.

For a number of years I supervised people training in therapy. Or rather I supervised their supervisors and found out quickly that they complained to me about their trainees but couldn’t and wouldn’t deliver the bad news to the trainee. This resulted in people being in jobs they were unsuited to because they didn’t get the appropriate feedback, and gave them no chance to improve.

I was criticised twice recently and listened to both. One was about my presentation style. I do a lot of professional talks from which I generally get very positive feedback (a company is paying me to go around Australia talking so I must be doing something right- looking for objective evidence like this incidentally is a good way of getting through badly delivered criticism). But this woman pulled me aside, thanked me for the knowledge but also pointed out I had been a bit casual and wondered if the students might have misinterpreted what I said. She was right. It’s something I have a tendency towards and it was great someone reminded me.

The other was about my writing, much harder to take as I don’t have a list of credentials to back me up and my book isn’t selling as well as I’d like (though this is a marketing issue primarily – just look at Fifty Shades of Grey!). The person criticising at least said he took some blaming for reading the blog. I personally have flicked past lots of blogs I didn’t think were for me, and mine probably wasn’t informative or whatever he was looking for. So it left me a bit bemused. How do I fix it?

But then there is the issue of no one is going to be liked by everyone, as much as we might want to be. ‘Ulysses’is a pinnacle of literature and I can’t get past the first page. What is to my taste is not to others. So I review, reflect – and try to toughen up. I want to write and I’m going to keep at it.

9th April Easter Monday

Reflections on Eggs, Marzipan, Bunnies and Bilbies

I love Easter. In southern Australia the weather is almost always perfect. Cold crisp mornings warming up to mid twenties (mid seventies farenheit) with blue skies and sunshine. Leave starting to fall, the hint of winter coming but with summer still not letting go. There is also of course two public holidays making for a four day weekend. When I was younger we would often go camping up near on the Murray river, waterskiing and swimming. As I got older we did this but added bonfires at night and casks of wine and beer with the BBQ.

Having kids adds an extra dimension. The Easter egg hunts where the dog finds most of them. And you keep finding the rest over the next six months.

Then we had an Easter in Germany which was amazing- their marzipan eggs are to die for and I have never felt the same about plain Cadbury eggs since. Fortunately Australian is pretty cosmopolitan and if you look hard you can find some European imports or Australian takeoffs.

Australia’s contribution to the enhancement of Easter has been shall we say limited? Of course it’s all the fault of the British. Whatever possessed them to bring rabbits to Australia? They have taken over. Ever seen the movie Rabbit Proof Fence? Based on a true story, the fence was constructed in an attempt to keep the rabbits contained. It didn’t work, they are everywhere. They’ve tried myxomatosis and then Calici virus but all that did was mean you tripped over slow sick rabbits with white eyes that made you feel ill. A month or two later the ones that were immune had bred and we were back to where we started.

So it’s hard to feel fuzzy and warm about chocolate Easter bunnies. To say nothing of the fact that it had nothing to do with an Australian national identity. So some bright spark came up the bilby. The bilby is a bit like a rabbit but an Australian native and thus is in tune with the environment and hasn’t run rampant. Not sure the kids get it though. Actually, all they want is the chocolate.

2nd April

Disorganisation allows lots of surprises!

For those of you who read an earlier blog on personality styles, referencing the Myers Briggs scale, you will know that organisation in my life comes from necessity not natural talent. When you’re married to someone even more ‘P’ on the scale than you then when you have young children, unless you get your act into gear, they are going to keep getting notes from the teacher about being late, not having had their homework done or with them and starving at lunch because the lunchbox is still sitting on the kitchen bench (with or without food in it). But now my children take responsibility for themselves (and occasionally their parents) my natural lean towards letting things run their own course, planning on the run and being surprised where you end up, is starting to take over my life again.

So this is how I found myself on a plane last week going to Newcastle (about 1 ½ hrs North of Sydney) wondering if I was on the right flight. I had thought I was talking in Nowra (2 hrs south of Sydney). Fortunately I had it wrong – that talk is next month. Ok, I think. Newcastle is a bit of an industrial town but they must have a decent restaurant.

After we’d been driving an hour I started to think that the residents of Newcastle must have been more than a little militant to have had their airport this far out of town. So I enquire of the driver when he thinks we’ll be there. Another hour I am told. It is dawning on me. I’m not talking in Newcastle.

We end up in Taree. Or actually Wingham in a bank. Well it was a bank once and I have the bank manager’s office now converted into a bedroom. The old safe now houses the restaurant pantry. Not large but quaint and a very typically Aussie country town with wide streets, greasy take outs, verandas on two levels around the corner pubs.

Then the surprise. The next morning (before we drive even further north to tonight’s talk in Kempsey) I have a few hours free and no internet. The weather is gorgeous and I know there is a river somewhere so I go searching. Along the way, no more than 100 metres out of town, I find an entrance to the Wingham Brush. Whatever that is. The next sign is more helpful, introducing me to a board walk and rain forest. With huge Moreton Bay Figs (see photo). Virtually all that is left in the Manning Valley since man did his thing. Our arrival as a species also almost but failed to eradicate the species of flying foxes, a sort of possum with wings that looks like a bat.

Then I hear it. Stepping into the forest it is deafening. As I get used to the darkness I have stepped into a different world. There must be thousands of these animals here with me. As I look into the treetops they are in every tree, talking to each other in a cacophony the likes of which I had only heard before in the Amazon. In the photo that’s them in the trees- just imagine really loud chatting sounds!flying foxes in the last remaining rain forest of Wingham

I suddenly want to join every anti-logging group and chain myself to equipment. To lose this from the world would be a loss too great to imagine. A part of our inner-selves because as I stand here I am more in touch with myself and what is important than I ever am while in the ‘real’ world.

26th March

Nannies- Pros and Cons

Use of nannies is apparently up. Doubled according to today’s paper.  This is in Australia remember, not the land of Mary Poppins and ‘children should be seen not heard’ Victorian culture. Maybe up to 4.6% of the 50% of under twos with two working parents. Grandparents are still number one as the answer to working parents’ dilemma of making working worthwhile financially, but for those where money is less critical a reason for work, or more readily covers the costs, then nannies come next.

Let’s put aside the cost because that’s individual decision and circumstances. Put aside also those who are battling mental illness, drug addiction, poverty and survival because nannies probably aren’t in their sight.

We’re a nation of helicopter parents who want the best for our kids, right? But we also want to be able to balance our lifestyles so it’s not all nappies and play-doh. So the choice is you’re parents work still or live inter-state or you just don’t get on (and certainly don’t want them doing to your child what they did to you) then your choices are a group child-care arrangement – or the nanny.

I was lucky enough to be able to afford a nanny. I was only working part time and wanted to enjoy my kids and do all the fun stuff when we were together so house work was something I didn’t want to waste time with, and it was important for me to keep my hand in at work for intellectual reasons as well as career prospects. Only one of my friends was a stay at home mum and we drifted apart quickly with little in common. I wanted it all! Career, husband, kids and family life. Fortunately my job was one that was very accommodating with flexible times.

Childcare just wasn’t a consideration. It’s a personal choice thing (and I did have the luxury of choice, though had no nanny been available I suspect I wouldn’t have worked until they started school as my wage wasn’t needed) but little kids to me need stability and nurture and they aren’t going to get that in a child care centre. Time enough for the rat race when they go to school- for me the longer they had in a home setting the more stable and secure they’d be. There is some evidence for this being a positive, though mainly under the age of one, as babies struggle to regulate themselves – still learning to do this both emotionally and physically.

My one aside from this was starting our son at school. We were told he was too ‘emotionally immature’ and I disagreed. The education department said try him in child care so at four and half once a week I left a very miserable little boy in a perfectly nice childcare when he’d much rather have been at home. The education department didn’t shift, meaning public schools were blocked so we sent him to a small private school with a class of 12. He was shy, don’t get me wrong, a careful kid who spent time assessing before jumping in (he was the same 18 months later when he started school in France) but he loved school and settled in just fine. My mother’s instinct was right and I should never have put him in that child care centre.

So, nannies. Our first was a lovely bright young thing who loved the kids and had fun with them. Oh, she did the housework too and because it was very difficult to find someone part time we ended up getting a full time nanny but one who would do flexible hours. So she did two nights a week so my husband and I could go out. The kids were asleep and didn’t miss us and we got to maintain our relationship- in the end a critical thing in successful parenting.

Our next one was a little less successful, sweet enough but a country girl, not very bright and she was homesick, so she went back home. The next, fortunately only part time, was a French girl who spoke with a BBC accent (she’d learnt English in London) who we hoped would keep our kids tuned into French after having gone to school for six months in France. We didn’t discover that her French accent was gutter Marseilles (not my words- this came from a French friend) until after I had the police escort her out of the house. She’d stolen several hundred dollars and some of my clothes.

The best of the nannies was one my age who I am still friends with. Mother of two (plus three step-kids) she had been left with them all by the father and needed to make ends meet. A smart bubbly woman who was attracted by the hours and loved kids, she was great. The most problematic one was probably the Southern European one who was really fine but I still blame her for my daughter’s hypochondriasis! Remember if you bring in significant others into your child’s life they will have an impact!

It sounds as if we had these nannies parading through our lives ever-changing but it didn’t seem like that. My friend and the Southern European lasted a year each and we only stopped them because we either moved or both kids had started school. They made life so much easier than it is for mother’s rushing to pick their kids up from child care and clocking up an extra $10 a minute after six pm. They took the stress out of being a working parent. Your kids were in an environment which was safe and comfortable, one carer to two kids, the house work was done and there was the option of dinner being bought or even prepared. I know two surgeons who thought it world so well they had three- covering every hour of the day so they could both be called into work! Not my idea of parenting but innovative…

Apart from the robbery the most negative experience was interviewing on one occasion when we’d moved to Sydney. After about the eighth interview I burst into tears. The previous one I was sure had untreated schizophrenia (I have a mental health background), the one before barely would have clocked an average IQ, and before that an array of personality styles and backgrounds that was well not ‘good enough’ for my kids. I hadn’t thought I was that difficult or that I was particularly grandiose or that I thought my kids deserved more than any other mother, but I began to wonder. It’s such a hard thing- you love your kids, as babies they are so vulnerable, and yet you have to decide how to manage this balance which has an enormous selfish component.

In the end I had one more interview booked and it was with the one who became my friend. Perhaps having a high standard isn’t such a bad thing.

Maternal guilt? Yes it always pulls at us. But carefully chosen, particularly if your nanny will do nights and you can have time with the kids during the day supplemented by time with your husband at night, then for me it was a perfect compromise. The kids seem to be doing okay too.

March 19th

Grand Prix Action

Okay I’m a petrol head. In a previous life I raced cars and was one year the mini car club champion. Ladies champion that is. Frustrated the hell out of me that I wasn’t even close to the times for the slowest male driver. Testosterone either gives you a better relationship with your car or just makes you value life less. Possibly both. Minis aren’t exactly Formula One either, but it’s enough to give you the flavour. When you see them screech down gears into a corner and power out you know the feel. Broadly.

Start of Grand Prix season

McLaren and Red Bull dominate

A lot of people in Melbourne would be happy if the GP never returned and given the cost this is a real possibility. If I lived in Albert Park I could understand this. It’s not like this is some distant race track that you can ignore. Everyone in Melbourne can hear those engines (Ahhhh…) Unfortunately for them they don’t all have my reaction, which is something like an instant regression from a previous hypnotic suggestion such that suddenly I’m in my early twenties again and feeling very twitchy hormonally. If you get my meaning.

So this year I’ve been every day. Thursday and Friday I got wet. We are in Melbourne after all. But the weekend was perfect. Brilliant sunshine, previous champions spinning off into the gravel, a Formula Ford stack, both Aussies boys making it into the top 10. What more can you want?

Of course I was there working. Research that is. Next book, Exclusive is about to be sent off to Siren is the third in the Stephanie Beauman series, is set around the 2012 GP circuit. Essentially finished, just making sure I’ve got the details right. Naturally as she’s American the grand finale is on the new Austin circuit in Texas (yes I know Saó Paolo is after this but in my story it’s all sorted by then).

So the highlights? Drivers disappearing into the gravel always adds a little extra something, to say nothing of the Caterham car just stopping on the straight. Petrov was out so fast and through the window they normally hold boards out of I was certain he must have thought the car was going to explode. It certainly smoked. You had to feel sorry for Maldonado who had been doing so well until tire and car came apart in the very last lap. And of course it was great that the two Aussies stayed in the top ten though I’s sure Webber would have liked better than fourth.

Won’t be at the Malaysian one next week unlike Stephanie, but I just might have to tune in…the petrol in the system has been reignited…

March 12th

Gourmet Weekends

It’s been a long weekend in Melbourne, and not that we needed this excuse, but we headed away to friends for break. This is something we do about every six months. Three couples that take it in turns to host a weekend away; all of us having in common a love of food and wine. The weekend that is our turn, we go all out. Over the years, we’ve had pheasant, crayfish, duck, rabbit …and all the usuals!

This weekend we headed to Leongatha. For those who don’t know, this is about a hundred and thirty km (eighty miles) west of Melbourne. Not far from the ocean, the farm property our friends own is in the heart of picturesque green hills, steep slopes, dairy cows, and the occasional deer. No sound of cars, lawn mowers or screaming children. Just the odd kookaburra laugh and the bray of Celeste, our friend’s donkey.

By the time we arrived at half past seven ­– after nearly three hours of peak hour traffic that had been monotonous for the first eighty km –  we were in need to the glass of Chateauneuf du pape our hosts had opened and breathing for us. It heralded the vertical tasting we proceeded to indulge in for the remainder of the evening. Starting with 2007 we finished with 1985. Liquid heaven, last week’s gluttony in action.

Sue of course had cooked up a storm to have with it. Home potted prawns (shrimp) with toast, then herbed lamb done in their outside oven as we watched the sun come down, with home grown baby potatoes, sugar snap peas and snow-peas and mint. Finishing off with dark chocolate with prune and nuts- home baked of course.

Today started with granola made with oats, nuts and local honey, toasted to a crisp; stewed plums off their trees and yoghurt. Chris had the smoker up and running shortly after, preparing the trout for lunch (had with a very cold Giaconda and a Mersault). Time then for a walk, sleep and then another round!

Beef Wellington

Dinner started with jamón, figs and buffalo mozarello, followed by a stunning beef wellington (pictured) with spinach and roast potatoes and the piece de resistance, the rose water cheesecake. This was accompanied by Gruaud Larose from 2000 to 1962.

Brunch before we left? Baked eggs, jamon and tomatoes with fresh herbs in individual ramikins and french toast with hot strawberry jam….heaven!

Okay back to reality now. Where’s the toasted sandwich maker?

March 5th

Why Your Girlfriends Are Invaluable

Last weekend we had a girl’s weekend. Partners where they existed were left behind to deal with the leaking shower, hot water service not working, and the brewing family crisis. A long drive, a beach house with a stunning view and lots of wine and six koalas spotted. What more can one ask? Girlfriends we decided long before the end of the second bottle, were invaluable. Here’s why.

  1. They do the dishes when you’ve cooked for them. They usually bring dessert too. (Okay it’s true we couldn’t get the BBQ started)
  2. They help you put your pictures on the wall. No I mean help, not offer advice from behind the computer. Okay so they are a bit crooked…
  3. They don’t yell at you when you turn the map upside down to read it
  4. Encourage you to do things you wouldn’t normally do (we finally convinced Tara to hit the internet dating site)
  5. Let you cry on their shoulder without them trying to get into your pants (if one wants this from a guy then you aren’t really wanting to focus on the crying)
  6. They never cease to surprise (hide in cupboards rather than face the ex – this woman is terrifying so I’m glad I haven’t met her husband, naked calendars, nudist beaches, picking up men you’d NEVER have imagined they would have fancied…)
  7. Sometimes they have cute husbands…

Seriously … as I get older I value of the sisterhood more and more. I guess as we’re going to live longer than our men we’ll need each other in the nursing home…

 

February 27th

Embedded Book Launch Postmortem

"Sold Out"

"no books left but bookmarks going cheap"

Who was it that said if something can go wrong it will? Murphy? Thursday before the book launch it looked as if this was where we were heading. Not that it was all bad- just that Rendezvous, having advertised ‘Embedded’ in their newsletter two weeks earlier had virtually sold out prior to the launch (sales are good!!!) and their second delivery hadn’t arrived. Or at least it has arrived somewhere else.

Fortunately I had my own supply (the ones I lovingly stroke and sigh over as I walk past) so I threw these into the car, Rendezvous promised to do free deliveries of any ordered, Sinnaman is ready to take coffee orders and we are set to go.

Okay, then we find the road is blocked off. And there is a city event on in a street usually quiet on a Saturday morning so parking is tricky. I managed to con the Hotel car park to let me in- I think they were dubious about the red fish net stockings and high heels even though it wasn’t that end of town. But will everyone else give up in despair?

Fortunately no. The morning passes quickly with a steady flow of familiar faces, some more so than others. WE SELL OUT- again. I get to sign books and write messages and feel…well I am actually a writer.

Book launch for "Embedded"

sold!

Thanks everyone for the support and enjoy reading!

Rendezvous have more on order!

www.rendezvousbooks.com

 

 

 

 

Februrary 20th

This is a weird Monday. Returning from Broome and it’s going to take all day with time changes, starting before nine am and finishing after nine pm. That’s two planes and a tour of Perth airport. Lots of time to read, write and think of all the things that aren’t getting done. Then another week of squeezing work into two days to then rush off to Canberra and Liverpool. More well paid work just no beaches this time. But what a week!

The week finishes off with a Book Launch – my first ever – for Embedded. I have to say I’m a little nervous. Good twitter buddy @deliciouslybad with whom I share an evil sense of lust will be there…. but er…so is my mother. True, she did laugh when I finally got the nerve up to tell her. But she hasn’t actually read it. Nor do I want her to. My children may well be there also- but at least they have voluntarily insisted on looking no further than the cover (and have promised to divert their grandmother’s attention).

I have some colleagues from work coming though they blushed when they told me, and others who I sent invitations cross to the other side of the corridor when they see me. I guess I won’t be seeing them. One from school though has it in her diary- more frustrated authors also dreaming of writing.

Then there are the girlfriends. Thank God for girlfriends. Two I went through fourth, fifth and sixth grade with, another have known for over twenty years, a fourth at least fifteen. One is bringing her eighty year old mother (hence shaming me into telling mine…). Sinnaman’s screen writing group may be represented (babies in tow), some of his ex-colleagues. None of these people have probably ever read erotics before! And may never again…The price of friendship…

Then the boyfriends. Or ex’s. One will be there in spirit at least, but tricky to do in person from the UK. Ex-husband? Ah no, I think not. Probably just as well. He’d have an apoplexy … Mind you if I’d written Erotica while still married to him he would have had far worse than an attack of the shakes…

So anyone in Melbourne come along to see the fun! Brunch at Rendezvous Bookshop, 118 Lonsdale St Melbourne, 10.30am 25th Feb.

 

February 13th Singing in a Rock’n’Roll Band

Maybe it just as well the weekend is only two days. It curtains my overinflated ideas of my capacity to do everything to a narrow time slot. Actually it’s not the weekends that are the problem, it’s that I have a glass of wine or two and then the opportunities seem to escalate. Like the last weekend. Invitation to a friend’s soiree. Harmless sounding enough, right?

Trouble is I have this deep seated…well maybe not that deep…desire to sing in a rock’n’roll band. Doesn’t everyone? I did it a few memorable times. Sang ‘It’s Raining Men’ in a black short plastic dress while four men in rain coats danced behind me. It would have been a totally cool experience had the acoustics not stunk (for those who aren’t professional singers, believe me, you need to be able to hear yourself to keep in tune…). It was probably the most terrifying moment of my life,  knowing I just had to sing anyway and my singing teacher was not going to rescue me (she was hiding under the table). The piano player was very kind. Maybe too kind because he invited me to last Saturday night’s soiree…

Yes, you guessed. One glass was all it took (mmm I think there might have been a lot of vodka in it). And it’s been a while since the singing lessons. Ugh. Well the acoustics were better. Outdoors. With a bit of luck everyone else had drunk a lot more and the rest didn’t hear me. Did I really sing a Doris Day song? It’s lucky I wasn’t lynched…

Okay so now for Monday. It’s is going to be a totally mad day because I’m squashing all the normal paid work for the week into two days (today and tomorrow) so I can do some extra work….There is a bright side. It pays well, and though there be a small case of jetlag (three hour difference between Melbourne and Perth) they are also send me to Broome where I’ve never been. This is going to take four hours flying to Perth and then a few to Broome (for those who don’t know, half way up the west coast of Australia) so I’ve convinced Sinnaman (who is recovering from jetlag having just arrived back from the Netherlands) to join me for the three days afterwards to sit with me on pristine miles of beach. While having a cocktail. Or two. Watch out for pictures in future Tuesday travel logs- I’m sure I can convince Stephanie to do a quick trip there…

So I just have to survive two days. Not so hard…

February 6th – Single Motherhood

How do single mother’s do it? Maybe they don’t. The forced adoption stories and stolen generation will be replaced in the next generation with the revealed secret that they are all screaming inside (or maybe not so silently): ‘Take. Them. Back. Now.’

Sinnaman is overseas for a week. I have two paid jobs to juggle, two days of voluntary work (whatever possessed me?), two children and a cat. Oh and the plumbers I’ll be seeing all week because the sewerage exploded (and despite what they charge they don’t clean up afterwards) and they are now digging up my beautiful cultivated garden. Well, organised chaos the last gardener who looked dubbed it. And that was before the plumbers arrived. Now just chaos I guess. Smelly chaos.

It’s okay. We can do it all. Have it all (does that include the cute plumber?).

Starting when they are babies. Yep, no problems impressing the mother-in-law thought my friend. Just wish she hadn’t turned up at 2pm when I hadn’t got out of the nightie, baby had just thrown up, breasts were leaking and infected Caesarian scar oozing.

Okay maybe we get it all after the baby phase?

Right after we’ve worked a sixty hour week, paid the extra for being late picking them up from Childcare (all the time I should imagine if you’re single), explained to your children that no, ‘work’ is not the name of the person you are having an affair with even if you’re wondering that if you did would your boss let you leave earlier.

Okay teenage years, right? As soon as I’ve mastered how to revive someone after they have chugged a litre of vodka. Either that or get them off my property so their parents won’t sue me. And surviving the 120 hours of driving practice.

Actually I’ll keep the children. I’m trying to convince one to become a plumber. Please someone take the shit out of my backyard instead. It’s getting hot…..

 

January 30th Perosnality Issues

Okay this week is going to be even madder than usual and it all starts today. Why does Monday dawn and I feel that it’s all too daunting, that there’ll never be enough time and why am I doing this to myself? It’s rarely as bad in reality. A bit of organisation goes a long way.

Ever done a Myer’s Brigg test? Because this may explain a lot to you if 1). You have no idea what I’m talking about (you’re a ‘J’) and 2). If you can so identify (you’re a ‘P’).

Let’s just take an example.

I have a friend who was very bemused by my supermarket  shopping style. My mission is to get in and out as fast as possible. This is a problem because I try to only do it monthly which means there is so much stuff I can’t carry it all and thus need someone with me. Someone is usually a child or the Sinnaman, neither of which is conducive to either fast or cheap shopping. But regardless the pressure is on – I am in there cracking the whip, racing down aisles and throwing things in as fast as I can. Because I’ve forgotten the list which I didn’t write (daughter is a J) unless she is with me I end up doubling up and missing stuff (I am a P in case you hadn’t worked this out).

My friend is a J. General’s are J’s which is a really good thing. A disorganised army is a scary thought (think of Beluscosi and the Italians versus Caesar). When my friend shops he always starts at the opposite end to the green groceries. I had never thought of this. He suggested I try when he watched me unloading squashed cherries…So P’s can learn, I have adopted this. But he also stacks the trolley and puts things in sections (meat together etc). Forget it. I can always do that at the check out if I have to. Which is unlikely. It can all happen at the fridge and cupboard putting away level.

Imagine what it’s like for two P’s together? Chaos? Actually I just find my inner ‘J’ when needed. The kids are always at school on time…

Two ‘J’s together? Mmm could be same holiday place every year. Orderly that way.

Now for the fun bit – a J with a P. It’s funny to watch, you just don’t want to get caught up in the melee. Like another male friend (J) with wife and three daughters (all P) booked for a three day trip to other side of the country. Missed the plane (well there was a lot of clothes to pack). Because it was only three days they couldn’t wait until next day, only available flights were Business Class…another $3000 later I suspect my poor J friend didn’t relax for months after.

Okay so I’m focused now. Some learnt J behaviour and the week will be fine…

 

 

January 23rd Just Bloody Mondays

Mondays always start badly because I haven’t slept well the night before. No matter that now I’m not working a nine to fiver, five days a week, that Monday is actually a day which can hold hidden delights instead of a weekend build up of emails and messages. There is something about saying goodbye to the weekend that immediately puts me on edge. The mind that contentedly switched off as my head hit the pillow on Saturday night, suddenly now has an urgent need to remind itself everything that has to get done, who has to be spoken to, emailed, called, tweeted or texted. And at the moment I have that extra dread of how many direct messages will I have telling me my account might have been hacked.

I am seriously over this current twitter virus which arrived in my direct message service to tell me someone was saying ‘terrible things’. After an initial thought of ‘how awful’ it was obviously spam and I ignored it. A few days later I have half a dozen people direct messaging me telling me I’ve sent it to them (which of course I hadn’t, or rather not deliberately – my apologies to anyone who got it from me). People start blocking and unfollowing me. This does not make me happy. I check for viruses, change my password (twice) and swear a lot at hackers and people who think this is funny. This one is still out there…

Last night was hot too which didn’t help. And I had to stay up for the tennis open. Not normally much of a tennis fan but Tomic at 19 is doing Australia proud, and besides he needed all the support he could get against Roger Fedderer (In ‘Embedded’ Stephanie has an interesting encounter with a tennis star in the Singapore Qantas lounge…).

I’ve tried yoga and relaxation tapes. They obviously work for some people, like my French teacher who unlike the French living in France, floats around in a Kaftan mumbling unintelligibly (several years of French and living there haven’t helped me progress much on the deciphering) and shaking her head about meat. But she does so very serenely. Blissfully even. Perhaps she doesn’t even need to sleep.

Sleeping tablets work of course, but I now only use when sober and on long distance flights after my husband convinced me that I had wandered into our guests bedroom in a negligee after one (admittedly with a healthy dose of wine, never a good idea with medication, let alone stilnox). I’m pretty sure this didn’t actually happen, but the female of the couple did look at me askew for a while. It was probably the collection of erotic literature though – this was before I ‘came’ out.

Hot Chocolate makes me think at least I’m doing something purposeful towards the task but with every new idea that pops into my increasingly weary brain necessitates another Hot Chocolate. One night can have my entire day’s calorie content covered, meaning the day isn’t only not going to start well but continue in this vein.

Then of course there’s my cat Pirate who likes to seize the opportunity of my restlessness to encourage play, patting or trips outside. He has a cat door on the ground floor, but on the third flight where my bedroom is, it’s the balcony he’s after. If I ignore these night diversions then he is happy to entertain me with sitting as close to me as possible and loudly purring, or better still, washing himself and with gay abandon including any bit of me that gets in the way.

Sleep. Well at least tonight I’ll be so tired I’ll fall into bed in a heap and be ready to repeat the cycle next week.

605 comments

Wicked Wednesdays- Simone Sinna’s Seven Deadly Sins

 Free Counters

CELEBRATING ANYTHING A LITTLE BIT WICKED AND NICE….

JUNE 2014 CELEBRATE WOMEN OF WONDER WITH LIZ ADAMS, INCLUDING GIVE AWAYS – MY OWN STEPHANIE BEAUMAN OF EMBEDDED AMONGST THOSE GUTSY SEXY WOMEN…

 

FACEBOOK EVENT HERE

 

This was my very first Siren book! Available at www.bookstrand/simone-sinna and on Amazon

 

 

 

 

Journalist Stephanie Beauman goes undercover to investigate a corrupt business deal, taking a job as hostess for enigmatic businessman Gabriel de Romanos. She is drawn into a world of high-stakes business, social excess and murder, as de Romanos and his rival Miguel involve her in their business and sexual games.

 

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 30th   Beth Carter’s new release!

A Wanted Man (Releases Oct. 31! pre-order here ) Hot erotic futuristic MM…

The world has changed.  No one knows how the Z-disease happened, but no cure is available.  Humanity is a forgotten concept and to survive the scavengers and roaming plague scouts, one must blend in or become invisible.  And above all never trust anyone.

 

Atticus is a loner, avoiding human contact as much as possible.  Until he discovers a young man on his own in the deserted wasteland and he can’t help but be curious.  So he watches, content to admire from afar.  But when bounty hunters come for the young man, he makes the choice to step in and save him.

Kit escaped the brutal confines of imprisonment just before he was to be sold into being a sex slave.  But the slavers aren’t the only ones who want him.  The underground scientists have finally found him, and they want him because he’s the only person born immune to the plague.

Kit might be wary of the handsome loner but he realizes Atticus might just be the person he needs to stay safe, if only he didn’t feel so attracted to the man.

 

Dreamland (Released Oct. 2nd): MFscorching erotica (42,259 words)

Dicen Burke had it all.  As lead singer in the world famous rock band, Dark Army, the world lay at his feet.  But the path to super stardom warred with a painful past and during a performance the demons haunting him finally descended.  Unable to stop the self destructive path of alcohol and drugs, when he fell, he fell hard

 

He wakes up in a world he doesn’t know.  The Twenty-first century rocker is now in the 1920’s, lost and bewildered.  He’s taken in by Juliet Fox, a beautiful woman trying to be a positive influence in her brother’s wild lifestyle among the Hollywood Motion Picture elite.

 

Dicen does his best to adapt, and with Juliet by his side, he discovers a world that offers him a clean slate.  But when he’s pulled back to the present, separated by time from the one person that gives him a reason to live, will he find a way to push past his demons as well as find Juliet again?

 

BUY HERE!

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 9TH : Trusting Her Two Doms by Marla Monroe

Maximillian “Max” Dominguez and Sawyer Jernigan stop for coffee and find their perfect woman.
The trouble is, they’re Doms who run the local BDSM club, and Taylor Rizzoli’s never tasted the forbidden pleasure of submission.
Max is willing to curb his dark desires for the chance to have her, but Sawyer believes she’s more than up for the challenges they’d have in store for her.
They find out someone wants her gone and isn’t worried about how they remove her from the picture.
They are determined to uncover the plot to get rid of her and enlist their new friends to help.
Can Taylor accept two men who arouse in her things she’d never have contemplated before meeting them,
or will she shy away from what they have to offer?
What happens when the threat is gone and it’s just the three of them and a dungeon full of toys?
BUY HERE

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 18TH with MELLIE MILLER and GAMBLER’S FOLLY

While vacationing on Gambler’s Folly with her husband, Trae, Karianna O’Brien’s life is ripped apart when he loses her to Damiano Leone in a game of chance. Within two days, she is divorced, widowed, and married to Damiano, the darkly desirable, powerful, and dangerous lord of the underworld.
Irresistibly drawn to Damiano, Karianna enters a world of wealth and glamour in his casinos, while he teaches her the meaning of pleasure and sensuality in his bed. Though married to Trae for four years, she’s never experienced true seduction, or sex so exquisite it could become an addiction. Is he really human, or something else?
As Damiano’s enemies threaten Karianna to leverage his vote in the syndicate, he gambles all he’s worth in a dangerous game of skill. Will his plans pay off in time to save Karianna? Or will he lose both his business and his soul mate?
FUTURISTIC PARANORMAL… YES PLEASE!
buy HERE ONLY $3.99

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 11TH with Beth D. Carter and Sleeping Beauty

Now this grabbed my attention – have tried most things (writing I mean…) but this is out there! Erotic, Futuristic Sci-Fi Menage a Trois MMF. Wow! Not like any other Sleeping Beauty I might have read me thinks!

Ronan Hark and Noah Kabot are deep space salvagers, partners in  business as well as in life.  While investigating an old ship they  discover a cryo chamber holding the frozen body of a beautiful woman  who’s been asleep for thirty-one years.  Against Ronan’s better  judgment, they take the chamber and wake her up.

Alivia Carian has spent her life living as a sheltered yet unloved  princess, until the day she is forced into cryostasis.  It was only  supposed to be for a short time, but somehow her ship crashed and she  became nothing more than a memory.

But now everything has changed.  A hunter is after her and killing  anyone who knows she’s alive.  As they race across the expanse of space, can Ronan and Noah keep her safe?  And what happens when she finally  returns home to confront a life that forgot about her?

OUT TODAY HERE

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 4TH WITH SKYE MICHAELS: CHECK THESE OUT!

A scorching BDSM erotic romance….

Violette’s Vibrato

Golden Dolphin Three

Violette O’Reilly, concert violinist, is injured by a fall down the stairs in the subway after an evening performance at Lincoln Center.  Her Dom, well-known Manhattan real estate developer, Nik Rossiter, convinces her to recuperate aboard the Golden Dolphin, the three hundred foot super yacht on a BDSM cruise to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival while he looks into the incident.  Violette can’t believe anyone would hurt her on purpose, but Nik is sure it’s not an accident.  Can Nik protect Violette from a jealous friend and the Russian mob can he convince her she wants to spend the rest of her life with him?  Throw in some sexy jewels thieves and you’re in for a hot trip to Rio.  The usual suspects are aboard including Captain Constantine Cortelis, First Mate Alexander Dragados, Saltydawg, and Jamie Deverau and Anne Sutton.

 

Available August 15, 2013 here

Other books by Skye Michaels available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com:

The LeClub Series:  Calleigh’ Collar, Kelly’s Challenge, Anne’s Courage, Paula’s Commitment, Madison’s Choice and Belinda’s Crown

The Golden Dolphin Series:  Ivorie’s Surprise, Harper’s Submission, Violette’s Vibrato, and coming soon:  Cassandra’s Revenge and Pandora’s Box

The Horsemen Series:  The Appearance of Impropriety

WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/SKYEMICHAELSBOOKS for covers and first chapters

E-MAIL:  SKYEMICHAELSBOOKS@YAHOO.COM

Best of luck Skye!

 

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 28TH  MAYBE NOT SO WICKED BUT CERTAINLY DELICIOUS WITH BETH CARTER AND ONCE UPON A LOVE STORY

Caleb Tasker lost his wife to cancer but it took him a long time to put her memory to rest.  Deciding he needs a vacation, he accepts the gracious invitation of living in his friend’s Malibu home for an over due holiday.

Delilah Ward grew up in rural Mississippi and ran away when she was sixteen, moving to Los Angeles with thoughts of being anything but the person she was born to be.  But reality settled in quickly and the bright lights of Hollywood soon faded into the dark abyss of dancing on a darkened platform.

Caleb is used to love being easy and Delilah is used to fighting against everything.  They have nothing in common except a wildfire attraction that won’t let go of them.  But when tough choices need to be made, will they both be able to be honest to what they really want? (This is a sequel to “Love Story for a Snow Princess” but can be read as a stand-alone)
Buy link: http://www.bookstrand.com/once-upon-a-love-story or at my website  www.bethdcarter.com

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 21ST   GET WICKED WITH CATHERINE SHARP IN UNTAMED HEART!

A HEA MF with a cowboy!

Fearing for her virtue, if not her life, Ashley Clayton awakens in a dilapidated cabin clad only in a threadbare blanket, secured in the arms ofa rugged, powerful stranger.  Instead of attempting to flee, she is transfixed by the hypnotic eyes of the savagely handsome Shane Cordell, who has no intention of letting the copper haired beauty out of his sight.Little does she know that the real risk she faces is losing her heart.
BUY HERE
Best of luck with it Catherine!

WEDNESDAY JULY 31ST THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPIETY BY SKYE MICHAELS

Like a romance, horses, Florida’s rich and classy? This is for you!

http://www.bookstrand.com/the-appearance-of-impropriety

The Appearance of Impropriety

 

When Victoria Rose Aldrich de Alvarez, high-powered Miami litigation attorney and international level dressage rider, has a flat tire on the Florida Turnpike on her way to the Wellington horse show grounds, she meets handsome polo player, Zack Talbot, when he stops to help her out.

Zack and Tori hit it off in a big way and soon find themselves in a relationship that seems to have great promise.  When Zack becomes aware that they might have a conflict of interest with regard to a case Tori is handling in which Zack’s company, Z-Tech, is the Plaintiff, he knows he is in for a rough ride.  He has already developed feelings for her and is reluctant to confront the problem, hoping it will go away before Tori or her client, the unpleasant Mr. Green, learn of it.

When Tori finds herself facing a malpractice suit and possible disbarment, can Zack salvage the situation.  Can Tori forgive Zack, and can they mend their relationship?

 

 

MY REVIEW

This gently paced love story is a Romance with a capital ‘r’ so sit back with a glass of champagne and prepare to lose yourself in the Florida high flyers (I could think of worse places to disappear!). Both hero and heroine are survivors of marriages that didn’t work, but recognise the chemistry between them is just what they had been looking for and previously missed out on. They seem entirely suited to each other; just one minor problem of the Victoria is representing the low life who is trying to take Zack’s company to the cleaners.

Midst the increasing tension of who and when is this going to be exposed, we get to spend plenty of time with Victoria and Zack (and Victoria’s wonderful horses Rocky and Rosebud), learn about Grand Prix dressage to music (I used to Event but I thought it was only the Lippzaners that did the music bit, so this was fun to read about) and polo, and odd rub up against the ex-husband/girlfriend and just by the by – some wonderful hot sex!

WEDNESDAY JULY 17TH ICEBREAKER NOW OUT! ON SALE $4.49

Icebreaker

Sienna Martin has been training as a private investigator and needs a job, so when her friend Elle has a task in the snowfields, all expenses paid by DJ, the resort owner, what’s not to like? Checking out Steve Prescott and his new nightclub might even be fun. Trouble is, she has to pretend to be Elle, and when Connell Crane, the hot resort manager, thinks he knows things about the real Elle that she doesn’t, things rapidly start to go wrong.

Steve and Connell seemed to be working together, or is Connell about to do a double-cross? Attracted to them both, Sienna is torn. A twenty-five-year-old mysterious death ties them and DJ together, but just how? And when a murder attempt brings the real Elle running, and Sienna gets herself tied up in Steve’s basement just about anything might happen…

Genre: BDSM, Contemporary, Ménage a Trois/Quatre

Length: 37,781 words

WEDNESDAY JULY 10TH RELEASE TOMORROW TEXAS TIME OF ICEBREAKER!

buy book here

Featured on Siren’s Menage Monday http://www.facebook.com/siren.bookstrand

Tips for Surviving for First Night as a Sub at High Tower

 

So you’re all dressed up? Taken hours to look just right, suitable level of cleavage and perfected the look of innocence (it’s your first night, this isn’t hard. Just try not to look terrified!). Maybe a new G-String matching the see-through bra? Just in case both the very hot two men you fancy help you overcome your fear. You’re doing well…just do remember High Towers is in a remote street in a small town…and there’s snow−lots of it. Wear a coat girl! Your hot men will appreciate an erect nipple but not if it’s frozen solid…

 

I know you want to talk to your girlfriends about this. Maybe you’re so nervous you’d like to take one with you. Believe me, there is time for talking with them afterwards. This is your night, you look hot and the two hottest men in the room are going to make you forget your girlfriend’s names! Temporarily that is. Sashay your way into the room, drop the coat, channel your favourite hot female movie star, and the night is yours!

 

‘Do you whip or get whipped?” is not recommended as an opening line. Have a glass of champagne instead. If this is your first time, unless you’re a really good actress, the rather delicious club owner is going to probably pick it, and have you looked after…he might just bring in reinforcements and take you to the cellar.

If you’re invited to the cellar−go! Take the two hottest men−Steve and Connell come to mind−close your eyes and let them take care of you. Imagine the gentle caress of feathers on your upper thighs, one man’s hot lips over yours, the others man’s mouth opening your other lips, gentle but insistent. The more you can imagine this in advance, the more pleasure will take over your whole being. The night will be one never forgotten.

These men are not just hot. They are fit, athletic skiers. They have loads of energy, and didn’t get to be Olympic qualifiers by not persisting. Have a good night’s sleep, take an energy drink and don’t plan anything for the next day. Come to think of it, maybe for the next two days. You and they may want to linger over breakfast.

Give in. Let go of all the tasks and responsibilities. Here in High Tower’s cellar your two hot men will be responsible for you. But remember, if you don’t do as they say, they will enjoy disciplining you. But then you might enjoy that too! Remember they’ve done this before. Whatever you have imagined they have perfected.

So you’ve never been tied up? Blindfolded? You don’t know what those ropes are for? Don’t panic. Your two very hot men do. And they’ll use them for your pleasure. This will be a night like no other…

 

 

Icebreaker

Sienna Martin has been training as a private investigator and needs a job, so when her friend Elle has a task in the snowfields, all expenses paid by DJ, the resort owner, what’s not to like? Checking out Steve Prescott and his new nightclub might even be fun. Trouble is, she has to pretend to be Elle, and when Connell Crane, the hot resort manager, thinks he knows things about the real Elle that she doesn’t, things rapidly start to go wrong.

Steve and Connell seemed to be working together, or is Connell about to do a double-cross? Attracted to them both, Sienna is torn. A twenty-five-year-old mysterious death ties them and DJ together, but just how? And when a murder attempt brings the real Elle running, and Sienna gets herself tied up in Steve’s basement just about anything might happen…

Genre: BDSM, Contemporary, Ménage a Trois/Quatre

Length: 37,781 words

WEDNESDAY JUNE 26TH WITH JANE WALLACE-KNIGHT

JANE’S Wicked Indulgence:

I make a cake for family and friends that I call The Triple Threat  Chocolate Indulgence. I try not to make it too often because I can’t  resist it!

 

THE HOLY TRINITY Synopsis:
Sam Reed was born different, it was a fact he  had always known and tried to hide. Abandoned as a baby he had always  felt out of place, never really knowing where he came from or why he  could do the things he could.
Jackson Harcourt had long feared the day he would meet his mate.  Banished from his birth pack, Jackson soon found himself in charge of a  pack of outcasts and misfits, all looking for somewhere to belong. Fifty years ago Jackson met and fell in love with a seven hundred year old  vampire named Alek and together they had not only built themselves a  pack, but a family.
When fate threw Sam, Jackson’s true mate, into Jackson’s path,  Alek’s ancient heart felt as though it would finally break into too many pieces to ever again be whole. As Alek prepared for the worst though,  he began to wonder if perhaps fate didn’t, truly, move in mysterious  ways.

Check it out here! Got some great ratings!

Author Bio:

Jane Wallace-Knight lives in the East  of England in a small town on the coast, in a house by the sea. She  finds that walking along the beach with her dog each morning is the best time to let her imagination run wild and give her the inspiration  needed to write.

In her free time, Jane loves baking and cake decorating and often makes cakes for the special occasions in her  friends’ and family’s lives. A vegetarian from the age of eleven, and an avid animal lover,Jane finds it hard to turn away a stray, and as a  result lives with a dog, two cats, and a very understanding family.

 

WEDNESDAY JUNE 19TH WICKED DELIGHTS WITH TASHA BLACKSTONE & ECHO IN THE NIGHT

This paranormal MF look delicious! Simone. Out today! Here

Thank you, Simone, for having me today! I’m so excited to be able to share my newest release with everyone. This will be my 3rd release this year with Siren Publishing and I am having such a great time making my way around and getting to know fellow authors and readers!

I’ve been trying to figure out what my most wicked indulgence is and I have to admit, I think I must be one of the most boring erotic romance writers in existence! Lol I drink tequila (Patron Silver please!), I wish I loved wine because it looks so yummy but I can’t get past the cheeky bite every time I take a sip, I would give up every nutritious piece of food just to get my hands on some chocolate, I love sex – wouldn’t object if I could indulge in it every single day although life disagrees with me and tends to get in the way, and I am a total girly girl and throw temper tantrums like a spoiled princess if I can’t get my nails done.

I do enjoy visits to the local adult shop though. J They have an awesome array of toys – some I happily use and some I think “Oh My God! How does that NOT hurt!” lol I also love the variety of lingerie – there’s something so exciting about how a single piece of lingerie can make you feel like the sexy Goddess you were born to be! I’ll take silk or satin over flannel any day of the week!

ECHO IN THE NIGHT

Can a Witch who was born to be a Vampire Hunter find true love with her mortal enemy?

It’s easy to live life on auto pilot and that’s just what Echo Abbott is doing. That is until everything shifts. As her house of cards begins to crumble, she meets Henry Knight. Obnoxious and gorgeous she can’t stop thinking about him and against her better judgment she wonders if he is the key to healing her broken heart.

In this dark, seductive tale set in the heart of Oregon, Echo is a Witch with remarkable powers whose gift is sought after by a power hungry Vampire, Corrine. Corrine’s brother, Henry, is a willing pawn in her fight for the ultimate power and has been tracking Echo for years. Seeking out Echo’s weakness he soon finds his desire for her is more than he can control. He wants Echo all to himself, but can he convince her that he isn’t the enemy before it’s too late or will her stubborn nature be her downfall?

 

Tasha Blackstone:

New to publishing, but not new to writing, Tasha Blackstone has been spinning tales ever since she was a little girl with an overwhelming imagination. She has spent her life weaving stories, but found a love of romance back in high school when she filled her time writing fantasy love stories for friends and classmates. Though she only writes part time for now, she hopes to someday be able to write full time. When she isn’t pounding away at the keyboard, Tasha spends her time with her best friend/husband, her three teenaged kids, and her two drama queen dogs. Life is busy, overwhelming, and hectic at times, but it’s all worth it. During the late night hours, when all is quiet, you can find her working on her next work-in-progress or curled up with a good book and bottle of tequila. Yes tequila, she hates wine!

Story Excerpt:

“Oh my God! I’m so sorry!” A large man with muscled arms and strong hands lifted her effortlessly from the glass battlefield. “I didn’t mean to scare you! Are you okay?”

Suddenly more pissed than scared, Echo wriggled and screamed in his embrace, trying with all of her might to break free from his hold. “Put me down!”

Gingerly and on command, he did, but as her foot found the deck, she pushed a shard of glass deeper into her heel and cried out again, “Pick me up! Pick me up! Take me inside!”

The stranger quickly swooped her up back into his arms and with rapid procession, carried her into the house and set her down onto the kitchen counter. Without a word he grabbed a towel from the oven bar, soaked it in warm water and tended to her foot, pulling out the largest shard of glass that had impaled her. She screamed and kicked at him as the pain pulsed through her and as he dropped the sharp triangle on the counter beside her, Echo could feel the familiar sensation of warm blood dripping down her foot. With an eerie swiftness, the man backed as far away from Echo as he could without stepping back outside.

“That’s–that’s a lot of blood.”

His face was ashen and there was a quiver to his voice that oddly enough set Echo at ease. He was tall and muscular with broad shoulders and a chiseled chest, easily defined even through the fabric of his gray button-up shirt. His hair was raven black and clean cut and he had the hint of a five o’clock shadow on his face. His thick eyebrows were arched in alert and his crystal-blue eyes had locked onto the droplets of blood that fell to the tiled floor. He was a beautiful mess.

“Who are you and what the fuck are you doing here?”

He did not pull his eyes from the blood when he answered. “I’m Henry. I’m here to buy your house.”

“You have got to be kidding me! Henry?” Rage pulsed through her. “As in Henry Knight the douche bag stalker who refuses to take no for answer and just leave me alone? That Henry Knight?”

He finally looked up into her eyes, a hint of a smile etched along his full lips.

“Well”—he laughed—“Most women don’t refer to me as a douche bag, but yes, I suppose I am that Henry.”

 

Adult Excerpt:

“Head down, love, and spread your legs for me—I want to see how wet you are.”

She obliged, pressing her head deep in the overstuffed comforter and spreading her legs wide. She could feel Henry hovering over her pussy as he took a deep breath and inhaled her arousal before she felt his tongue trail along the length of her pussy lips. She moaned into the bed and wiggled her ass at him, eager for him to take her fully into his mouth. His hands spread her cheeks apart and his tongue teasingly trailed along her slit again.

“Tell me what you want, love.”

“I want you,” she moaned.

He gripped her cheeks tighter and she heard an animallike growl rumble from his gut.

“Yes—and?”

“I want you, Henry! I want you to devour my pussy and make me come!”

“Good girl.” His mouth was suddenly pressed firmly to her, caressing his lips around her pussy lips, tongue pushing deep into her body.

She cried out into the blanket and bucked her hips, pushing against him, eager to feel him as deep as he could be. His tongue wiggled around, licking around in circles, flicking in and out. He dragged it up her slick fold, lapping at her leaking juices as he pushed her hips forward revealing her hidden clit. Her nub pulsed and tingled in wait, and when his tongue teased the tip, she cried out louder, her need controlling her vocals. He continued to flick across her clit, building up her orgasm to the point that she could barely control it. When he sucked the sensitive nub in between his lips, she was done. Her hips seized as the walls of her pussy clenched in response to the ache and pleasure that now flooded her body. As he sucked hard on her clit, draining her of every electrifying surge, her juices flowed down her slit, drenching her. Her body relaxed and Henry continued to dine on her, lapping at her nectar, licking and sucking at her lips, drinking in every last drop that her body released. When her pussy was spent, he flipped her onto her back. His lips glistened with her juices and he dragged his tongue, cleaning up the last bit that had been smeared over his mouth, as he unzipped his trousers and let them fall to the floor, revealing his dick pushing hard against the fabric of his boxer briefs.

Nervous excitement filled her as her eyes fell to his cock. Even hidden he was huge.

His fingers slid between the band and his waist and he slid the boxer briefs down over his hips, his dick springing to life, pre-cum glistening at the slit.

“Oh my gawd,” she whispered.

He looked to be a generous eight or nine inches with impressive girth, veins etched along the shaft, skin pulled tight like satin over steel, his mushroomed head purple with need.

“I’ll be gentle,” he promised.

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY 15TH MAY  AFEW FAVOURITES!

All this wickedness has ensured the pearly gates and I are never going to be in proximity! Right now I’m angry at my back (what does the surgeon mean when he says people over forty are meant to be dead and hence an evolutionary failure of structures such as vertebrae and discs???), as well as this ensuring a goood deal of sloth (bed ridden over the weekend), Proud ICEBREAKER my first BDSM novel will be out early July, greedy because I’m hoping my mainstream psychological thriller, off to the editor today, will be accepted (and though mainstream am lusting over Liam the hero) and envious? Welll maybe kjust a little over my husband’s FABULOUS book (of which I am also proud) The Rosie Project and how well it’s doing!

So I’m slowing down on the Wickedness and this blog goes monthly…but heres’s some favourites – if you look further down you’ll find details, or just google them!

isle of fantasies ecover.JPG

 

 

WEDNESDAY 8TH MAY SINNING WITH SUMMER NEWMAN & PASSIONS IN THE NORTH COUNTRY!

Check out this hot new Canadian writer http://www.bookstrand.com/summer-newman

Passions in the North Country (MF)

Jenny Ashbury is a beautiful woman from Florida running from a jealous and dangerous ex-boyfriend. She flees to Canada, hiding in an old hotel on the south shore of Nova Scotia. She meets an incredibly handsome and interesting man named Devon North, the mysterious owner of the North Country Inn. She works there for free in exchange for a room where she can disappear like a ghost. In time her brilliant business sense rescues and revives the floundering inn, and she is drawn irresistibly to Devon, a man who unleashes her unfulfilled, wild passions.

Staying at the inn, she soon learns of its ghostly inhabitants: the Captain and a nun named Maria. The lovers lived side by side for decades, separated only by a door without a lock, but they never consummated their burning love, nor ever physically touched, even once. Their spirits wander, destitute, waiting for Jenny and Devon, the perfect couple who will release them with the scorching lovemaking the Captain and Maria craved but never experienced.

Then the mad ex-boyfriend tracks Jenny down…

WEDNESDAY 1ST MAY Sinning with Shae Shannon!

Really enjoyed her book Beginning of Eternity (read on for more details) but in sins- beware if you own a Dodge Challenger…

Hello! I want to first and foremost thank the amazingly talented and absolute sweetheart Simone Sinna for having me today. She is one of my all time favie authors, and I am so honored to be here.

This is my very first blog that has to do with more than just a basic promo, and I am so excited! Much to my surprise, it didn’t take a whole lot of thought to answer for my seven sins like I had anticipated…hehe Lets start with wrath. I am a very compassionate, loving, and understanding person for the most part. The one thing that will bring my wrath of hell down on someone is meanness. I absolutely cannot stand rude, mean, and yucky people who intentionally hurt others. Whether it is directed at me, my family, a friend, or even a stranger, I tend to turn into the Hulk and smash them with either words or any means necessary to fix the situation.

Greed was a little harder for me to figure out. I love to help others, and would give the shirt off my back to someone in need. However, I do tend to hide chocolate from my kids, and refuse to let them into my stash, and will lock myself in the bedroom if necessary to avoid sharing. I guess this is pretty greedy… In my defense, they eat me out of house and home. Hiding it is the only way to get some!

Sloth is not a sin I get the privilege to have most of the time. Between my husband, kids, dogs, fish, and hamster, I am lucky to sit at all unless I am writing. I do tend to get extra comfy when I write. I usually prop in the corner of our sectional couch with my Tigger pillow pet on my lap and my pink laptop. I get extra cranky when I have to get up, and enjoy the lounge time.

My pride is for my family. I take being a mother and a wife seriously, and devote most of my time to making sure the house is clean, food is cooked, and they are all tended to. They fill me with pride every day.

Envy is my biggest downfall. I don’t envy out of hatefulness, or bad wishes, but instead I am happy for those who have things I don’t. I envy all of the writers who have started a great career for themselves, and my goal is to join them in being successful and helping my family financially. And, here is a big secret, I envy the people driving the new Dodge Challenger.  I might secretly hope that a bird poops on it, or bugs splatter on their windshield from time to time, but mostly hope that someday I will be cruising the grocery store parking lot in a purple Challenger. (shhhh… Don’t tell!)

Gluttony is a big one. This list could go on and on! I am a total glutton with Chinese food, chocolate, coffee, pie, and rice crispy treats! There is also no such thing as too many shoes, or clothes. It is hard for me to get rid of them, and even harder to resist getting new ones! On a more personal note, I am a sexual glutton. I can never get enough! The hotter and more wild the better! (Poor hubby!)

While writing my first book, The Beginning of Eternity- Decadent Delights, I found myself falling prey to most of the sins listed above. There is something about the forbidden aspect of vampires and shifters that bring out the inner naughty in me. I greedily added enough eye candy to entertain every type of woman. Once I dove into the scene I was writing, I lazily refused to do anything until I had it finished and clicked save. Dinner ran a half hour late on some nights because of it! Pride filled me the day I hit #7 on the Best Sellers list. I envied the girls in the story, for stealing the love and affection from such a hot vampire! Of course, there was no way I could ever get enough of Gabe, Blake, and all of the shifters!

The second book of the series, Always and Forever- Decadent Delights, is set to release in June. Here is an inside look of The Beginning of Eternity. I hope you find a few deadly sins along the way for yourself!

[Siren Classic: Erotic Paranormal Romance, vampires, bondage, spanking, sex toys, HEA]

The most exciting event of Chloe Kent’s life had been opening a coffee shop with her best friend Amy. Amy, who has wild and colorful sexual encounters regularly, finds it her duty to change her obsolete love life.

One girls’ night out turns Chloe’s ordinary life upside down. When she runs into the man of her dreams, her libido goes into overdrive. She has finally found someone that is a hot, mouthwatering, pantie-twisting party of orgasms wrapped up in a sexy hunk of a man who just happens to be a vampire. Just when things start to heat up, someone wants to sacrifice her. Freakin’ figures.

Gabriel Jacobs has been waiting centuries for his one and only mate. He must work to capture her heart, while protecting her from an ancient evil vampire with a self-made Frankenstein army. With his growing need to claim and protect her, their destiny is on the line. Can this be their beginning of eternity?

Excerpt:

The girls raised their shot glasses, toasted, and gulped the fiery liquid. Immediately after, they chased with the contents of their fruity cocktails. Slamming their glasses a little harder than necessary on the bar, they ordered up another round and giggled. “I know exactly what we need, Chloe. Wait here for a sec!”

“What are you doing, Amy? Wait…where are you going?” But, before she could stop her, Amy disappeared into the crowd of people.

Turning back to the bar, she lifted her glass and started to take a drink, when a swift movement beside her caught her attention. Jerking her head a little more dramatically than she had intended, she caught sight of the cause. Sitting on the bar stool next to her was him. Not just any him, her him. Her fantasy hunk of male perfection. Her heart stopped, and she held her breath, knowing it was all her imagination. Her mind whirled a million miles an hour, flipping through all of the previous scenes, leaving her mouth agape and her eyes as big as the moon. I am just drunk. That’s all it is. Snap out of it before someone realizes you are losing it!

He was mesmeric. The paintings did not capture his full beauty. Unable to speak, her mouth went dry, and her hands started to tremble. And then, she heard him. He was speaking to her. Snapping out of her thoughts, she shook her head, barely mumbling the words, “Excuse me? I am terribly sorry, what was that?”

A smile stretched across his face, softening his masculine features. “Hello, madam. I was simply stating that such beauty should not be sitting alone. You are stunning.” Stretching his hand out, he made introductions. “My name is Gabriel Jacobs. You are…?”

“Oh, um, thank you. I am Chloe Kent. Nice to meet you.” Meeting his hand, she was surprised when he pulled it to his lips and kissed the back of her hand, slowly, sending every cell in her body into explosions of stimulation. Her eyes never left his lips, drinking in the sweet lushness. Chloe examined his features, soaking in every detail as if her life depended on it. Dragging her gaze up to meet his eyes, she was embarrassed when she realized he had been watching her and found amusement swimming in the pools of his dark eyes.

Trying to hide her blush, she hurriedly gulped half of her drink, trying not to choke as the burn trailed down her throat. “I’m sorry, I know this seems cliché, but you look familiar. Have we met before?”

With enough heat in his eyes to make Superman’s heat vision look like a childish prank, he pulled his mouth into a devilish grin and leaned in to speak only for her to hear. “I would hope that you would classify us as more than strangers, pet. After the time we have shared, I do believe that at least puts us in the ‘acquaintance’ category. However, we will be much, much more than that very soon, I promise you.”

Her eyes bugged out of her head, her mouth dropping slowly as the recognition sunk in. Pet. He had called me pet. Before she had time to react, Amy walked up on the arm of a handsome man with golden hair and a boyish smile. Surprise lurked on her features as she looked between Gabriel and Chloe, sending subtle questioning looks to Chloe. She could see that Amy was astounded at how amazingly perfect he was and how he made her blond arm candy look like M&M’s next to her exquisite French chocolate. The amusement of the situation and the emotions pouring from the trio made a slight almost guffaw escaper from Gabriel. Gaining their attention with the sound, he turned and started introductions. Within a few minutes of small talk, and the knowledge that the blond Ken doll on her friend’s arm was Blake Marshall which suited his surfboard style, the room was enveloped with “We Made You” by Eminem. Amy, screeching like a schoolgirl, turned to Chloe, announcing, “That’s what I went to do, well, before I had the privilege of running into Blake. I figured we needed something to pump up the night! Let’s go show these boys what we can do on a dance floor!” With two loud “whoot! Whoots!” they got up from their seats.

She grabbed her friend’s hand, and they made their way through the entwined bodies on the dance floor. Gabe and Blake followed, taking care not to lose the women in the ocean of movement. Glancing around, a blush came to Chloe’s face as she realized that most everyone was doing everything but having intercourse while they swayed and ground against each other to the beat of the music. A couple was locked together in a hot embrace, their tongues exploring each other intimately only to come back up to lock in a passionate kiss that would make a porn star blush. Her body temperature bolted up a couple of notches as she tried not to stare but couldn’t stop her gaze from straying around the room in amazement. As the song changed into a pulsing, erotic melody, she and Amy started swaying to the sexy sounds pumping out of the speakers that surrounded the area. After a short moment, she relaxed and got into the beat, turning and moving her body like a belly dancer. Her arms above her head, she snaked them around in a hypnotic rhythm, designedly being a seductress and letting her inhibitions run free. Amy mimicked her moves, and both took the attention of most onlookers, bringing a crowd of people around to join them, moving their bodies against the girls and letting their hands explore.

He noticed how Chloe seemed a bit awestruck at first and watched as her body language showed her relaxing. His gaze was affixed to her every movement, watching with a deep need roaring inside of him, ready to combust at any moment. His passion turned to anger, and his primal instinct emerged the moment he witnessed the other dancers move closer to his woman. When hands started groping her, he had to swallow an attack as his fangs descended and the dark animal within came to surface. His eyes glowing a deep red, he fought the urges to grab her and carry her off to his lair where he could erase the touches with his own and brand her forever.

Through clenched teeth and protruding fangs, he closed his eyes and started sending images to her, with more intensity than probably necessary. He let his voice drift to her, clouding her senses. “My little temptress, enjoy your little bewitching dance. You will only bring more punishment to that sweet ass of yours later. Make no mistake, I have claimed you as mine and mine alone. Soon you will bear my mark, and no other will dare touch you. I will show you pleasure that you have not discovered even in the books you bury yourself in. I love you, kitten, and will make sure to fulfill every dream and desire that is in that pretty little head. You will yearn for nothing, and everything will be yours.

www.bookstrand.com/the-beginning-of-eternity

A Siren Erotic Romance

Shae Shannon

http://about.me/shaeshannon3

Follow my blog-www.afterdarkwriters.wordpress.com

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Thank you so much again for having me! It has been a blast!

 

The Beginning of Eternity by Shae Shannon – Review

This is sexy! Not only is it sexy, it’s also lots of fun. Shannon throws us into a world of vampires, witches and werewolves (plus a few other types) and there’s barely a moment to take breath. I loved the atmosphere she sets up in the old house that heroine Chloe thinks she has inherited from her father; she then takes us along on a romp of sex and action as Lucade and his crew try to dominate the world. But Gabriel and Chloe with her new discovered powers are up for the fight, even if Chloe is discovering them as she’s going along. This actually adds to the fun; there are a lot of light moments that also give you a giggle as the characters bounce off each other.

And did I say the sex is hot…???!!!

At times there is a lot of information thrown at us and a few to many ‘Holy crap balls’ and similar sayings (not that this did EL James any harm) for my liking, but they aren’t repetitive and fit these characters.

Lots of fun- well done for a first novel!

WEDNESDAY 24TH APRIL – SINNING WITH JESS BUFFET & HER HUNTER CLAN!

Welcome Jess- hope we meet up but only after you’ve had your coffee!!!

Jess Buffett and her Seven Deadly Sins.

Hi everyone, and a big thank you to Simone for having me here today. Simone wanted to know just how much I’ve sinned lately, and I have to say, I think I even surprised myself. Lol. But that’s okay, because after reading some of the other authors answers I know I’m not alone in my sinning.

Wrath: I’m usually pretty good, I let things slide, or I just keep calm and handle the situation—lots of deep breathes. I tend to be one of those people who have a fairly high limit, but once I’ve reached that…oh, boy, that is the time to duck and cover. That and when I can’t get my coffee. It’s not a pretty sight.

Greed: I don’t want a lot. What I would like was to earn enough money so that my family didn’t have to go without anything. My hubby takes great care of us, but I’m greedy because I want to help too.

Sloth: I would love to be lazy. Lol. Having a family to look after doesn’t mesh with that theory though. Although I guess you could say I spend a lot of time sitting around on my bum while I write. Hmmm…does that count?

Pride: Okay, with this one I’m shocking. My pride as a wife and mum knows no bounds, I really do feel for my kids as they get older, because mum’s praise is just going to get downright embarrassing. Lol. And finally I have some with myself as well, especially with my first book having such a great release. When I saw my book had reached the bestsellers list—oh, yeah, there was a lot of sinning going on there.

Lust: Between my hubby and the fact that I write erotic romance…I definitely reach high. 8

Envy: I envy the speed in which some of my fellow authors are capable of writing. I’d love to be at their level. Those guys are wickedly amazing!

Gluttony: If you add coffee to the list…then I’m done for! I’m addicted, it really is a problem sometimes because I can’t get enough. Lol. You should see me when I haven’t had my first coffee for the morning, I’m barely functional. I’ve also noticed that I tend to use it as a refuel for when I’m writing.

Hunter Clan 1 – The Kayan’s Mage

(MM erotic romance, shifters, vampires, HEA)

Heat Level: Scorching

Publisher: Siren-BookStrand

Buy Link: http://www.bookstrand.com/the-kayans-mage

 

Blurb –

Sawyer McLeod lost his family and his entire Guild, except his twin, seven years ago. Now almost twenty-one, he is coming to the age to receive his abilities as a Mage. Unfortunately there are others who will stop at nothing to see the brothers don’t survive that long.

When Jake Hunter, Kayan for a Clan of Wolf Shifters living in Australia, finally finds his true-mate, he doesn’t expect it to be in the midst of a brutal attack. Through omissions of truth, misunderstandings, and fear, Jake struggles to prove to Sawyer that he can trust him.

When Sawyer is finally willing to give Jake a chance, a ghost from the past returns to destroy everything they have built together. Will they be able to overcome the foe long thought gone, or will it be the end for the Kayan’s Mage?

 

Story Excerpt:

“Come to the new club, you said. It’ll be fun, you said…I’m not really feelin’ it, Riley,” Sawyer McLeod muttered to his brother.

One of these days he was really going to stop listening to that brother of his. Really, any day now. Shame he should have started yesterday.

His twin, Riley, had always had a knack for getting them into one scrape or another, but to his credit not even Sawyer had seen this coming. The group of men who were currently backing them into a corner were twice their size and just as drunk, looking more than ready to start something. The fact that their so-called best friend, Elijah, was standing with the men and encouraging them was a real kicker as well.

Sawyer was still reeling from seeing their former friend walk toward the group of men. He had thought the man had lost his mind, until Elijah had turned back, pointing his finger in their direction, and informed the men that they were the ones the group had been waiting for. Elijah had been the only friend they had, not having stayed too long in the one spot, and watching him betray them like that had felt like a knife in the gut to Sawyer. He had never had a reason not to trust the other man though. Even Elijah suggesting parking in this lot, which was situated further away from the club they were headed to, hadn’t set off any of his usual alarms. Jeez, I must be losing my touch.

“Eli, I don’t know what’s going on, but you need to stop this. Please,” he pleaded, his voice shaking toward the end.

“Why would I want to do that?” Elijah frowned. “Things are going exactly like they should.”

“What things?”

“You and your brother. You’re supposed to be dead, and now you will be.” Elijah made the claim as if Sawyer should have known that. “We can’t have your kind running around and multiplying.”

An icy knot formed in the pit of his stomach. Your kind? Did he know what they were? How? They were always so careful. His heart sank as Elijah’s words truly registered. He was right, they should be dead, and the fact that Elijah knew that could only mean one thing. They had been found.

Sweeping his gaze over the dimly lit lot in desperate hope of finding a way out, Sawyer noticed it was almost empty of cars. As the three large men at the front stepped forward, closing in on them, he became more aware than ever that there was no way anyone would hear a call for help from here. Even if they did, chances were it would be ignored. Life in the city.

The sounds of gravel shuffling under his feet echoed through his ears as they were backed up against the metal fence. Sawyer’s heart was beating so loudly and frantically that he was surprised he could hear anything else. Risking a quick glance at his brother, he saw his own fear mirrored in Riley’s icy blue eyes. It amazed him, even at times like this, that their eyes were the only physical difference between them, Riley’s being blue, whereas Sawyer’s were green.

Struggling to keep himself calm, at least on the outside, he tried to figure out a way of getting them past the three gigantors, then Elijah and the others. There was also another twenty metres to where their car had been parked. No problem, right?

“Com’ere, blondie,” the middle man slurred, his body swaying as he spoke. Sawyer could smell the pungent scent of stale alcohol from where he stood and shivered in revulsion when the man’s eyes raked over him. Worse still was when the man cupped his crotch and licked his lips like they were some sort of delicious meal he couldn’t wait to dig into. God, he was going to be sick.

Riley reached over and gripped Sawyer’s hand tight. He could feel the tremors running through his brother’s body, but he was hiding it well. While they may have had a slight advantage since neither he nor his brother was human, these men were big and outnumbered them. And if Elijah knew what Sawyer and Riley were, he also knew how old they were and that they wouldn’t have their abilities yet. Prime pickings.

“Seems they think they’re too good for us, Bear,” the one to Bear’s left chuckled. He took a step forward, and Sawyer couldn’t contain the whimper of fear that passed his lips even as he stepped sideways to place himself in front of his twin.

“Well now, Tiger, we’ll just have to change their minds. Won’t we, blondie?” sneered Bear.

Really, Tiger and Bear! Who were these guys, the rejects from an L. Frank Baum novel? Sawyer was just waiting for the guy on the right to pipe up and announce to the class that his name was Lion. If they were shifters, maybe he’d get it.

Wait, scrap that. Not even shifters would be that corny.

From behind him, he heard Riley mutter, “Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my.”

A snigger slipped past Sawyer’s lips, clearly indicating that his self-preservation wasn’t kicking in. Both of them had always found the most inappropriate things amusing when they were scared, and unfortunately for them, Bear didn’t seem to appreciate their particular brand of humour. No one ever did.

A fist collided with the side of his head, blindsiding him and knocking him to the ground. From where he fell, Sawyer shoved at Riley, moaning for him to run. Somewhere to his left he heard Riley scream his name, but there was nothing he could do but draw their attention, giving his brother a chance to escape as another hard kick landed in his stomach. That was going to leave a mark. Managing to regain his footing, Sawyer blocked the next hit, following it up with a right hook of his own. His fist collided with the man’s temple and the guy went down with a grunt. All those years they had spent on the street were paying off, and by the look on Elijah’s face, he hadn’t been prepared for that. A small sliver of satisfaction ran through Sawyer. The arsehole hadn’t expected on him fighting back, which meant he didn’t know Sawyer as well as he thought he did.

“That’s right, bitch. This twink fights back,” he spat out.

 

Adult Excerpt:

Pressing his body into Jake’s, Sawyer swiped his tongue along his lip in a sign of submission. He felt the wolf’s body tremble against his with barely restrained lust. Following the trail of his jaw, Sawyer gently nipped at his earlobe. “I want you to show me how to make love, to be yours, Leannán.

“Well, this will be the first time making love for me as well, Can,” Jake said while gently laying him down on the bed.

“Aww, that’s the sweetest and corniest thing anyone has ever said to me.” He giggled as Jake’s hands slid up and under his top. Nails tracing circles around his nipples before grazing over them had Sawyer arching and moaning. “Please.”

“It’s okay, angel. I’ve got you.” Jake deftly lifted his top up and over, discarding it on the ground. “So beautiful,” the wolf sighed.

With a flick of the wrist, Jake had his jeans undone and was lowering his zipper to slide them down his legs. Sawyer hissed as strong, firm hands reached for his briefs and grazed over his leaking cock. Within seconds, Sawyer found himself lying naked on their bed, panting with need for his mate to take him. Spread out for Jake’s viewing as he was, Sawyer felt his blush spread from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. Reaching down with his hand, Jake wrapped his long fingers around Sawyer’s sensitive cock. Pumping the already weeping and engorged flesh, Jake used the pre-cum to soothe the way, leaving him begging for more. “Oh yeah…so good! Please more,” he cried as his hips bucked. Jake ran his tongue over his left nipple before trailing down to flick his belly-button ring. “Oh, god.”

“That’s it, babe…just feel,” Jake whispered, gliding his tongue downward to the angry-looking mushroom head. He was becoming impatient, trying to thrust his prick further into Jake’s mouth. If his mate didn’t fuck him soon, Sawyer was going to throw the larger man down and do it himself. “Not yet, babe. I need to get you ready.” The wolf chuckled.

Sawyer whimpered.

Jake climbed off the bed and hastily removed his clothing, undoing his jeans, and kicking them off revealing his impressive cock. And by impressive, he meant fucking huge. How in the hell was he supposed to fit that in? The man’s dick had to be at least nine or ten inches. Sawyer wasn’t sure whether he should say wow or ouch. He settled for a very unmanly whimper.

Reaching for the bedside table, Sawyer followed his mate’s movement as he pulled out the lube he had placed there this morning. Jake prowled up onto the bed, leaning over, and slowly raked his tongue over the head of his shaft again. If he kept that up, Sawyer wasn’t going to make it. He jerked in surprise when he felt Jake slip his fingers lower to his waiting hole, rimming the outside. Sawyer clutched at the sheet below, desperate for something to hold on to, but too afraid he would rip Jake’s hair out. In one swift movement, Jake swallowed his cock as he inserted the first digit. Oh damn, that felt weird. It burned like nothing he had felt before, but the suction on his prick had Sawyer asking for more. Bobbing his head up and down, Jake flicked his tongue over the slit, pressing it in slightly. He pumped his finger, working it in and around. When he started to thrust back against the finger, Jake slid a second in, stroking over his prostate. Sawyer arched off the bed, moaning and mewling with need.

“Fuck, you’re so responsive,” Jake panted as he lifted his head.

Swooping down, Jake took the head of his leaking cock into his mouth again, inserting a third, then a fourth digit. “Now, Jake. Take me. Claim me. Now.”

Pulling out his fingers, he replaced it with the head of his slicked-up cock. Jake lifted Sawyer’s legs over his arms, pressing his head against Sawyer’s quivering entrance. “Ready?” At his nod, Jake pushed forward with a little more pressure. “Push out as I push in, angel.”

Jake pushed the head of his cock past the ring of muscles, stopping to allow him time to adjust. After giving his mate another nod, Jake began slowly thrusting, not stopping until he was fully seated.

“So full…Oh god…Please.” He clawed at Jake’s arms, burning with the need to feel his mate take him. The slow, rocking sensation was driving him mad. He understood that Jake was trying to be gentle for his first time, but he needed more. “Please, Jake, I won’t break. Love me like I know you want to, my Kayan.”

That seemed to do the trick. Eyes igniting, his nostrils flaring at the words, Jake pulled himself out until only the tip of his cock sat inside then slammed home, making Sawyer scream in ecstasy. “Yes.”

This was what he wanted.

Jake kept up the hard, pounding pace, holding nothing back. “Wrap your legs around my waist, Can.”

Linking his arms and legs around Jake, all Sawyer could do was hold on as the hands on his hips tightened, impaling him up and down on the thick shaft. “Fuck, Jake. Yes, harder, please harder,” he cried out, mindless now as he wrapped his arms around Jake, pulling the man closer. Watching as Jake’s canines dropped and his eyes shifted, Sawyer tilted his head to the side, baring his neck. “Claim me, my mate.”

 

Contact Jess:

Website – http://jessbuffett.wordpress.com/

Email: jessbuffett@gmail.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jessbuffett05

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/Jess_Buffett

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessBuffett

 

WEDNESDAY 17TH APRIL SINNING WITH LEXI DeHALO!

Simone Sinna, thank you for having me here!

I’m providing a sneak peak at my upcoming release, Forbidden Moon [Be-WERE2]. It’s packed full of delicious sinfulness.

Lust is the more obvious sin in Forbidden Moon as an ex-Alpha shifter and strong Head Enforcer with submissive cravings heat up the pages. I have to say they were two of my favorite couples and they gave me plenty of steamy scenes to write.

As far as the other 6 deadly sins go, they might not all make an appearance in Forbidden Moon but you’ll definitely see some strong contenders like wrath and pride.

My personal favorite sin would definitely be Lust. That’s probably why I write Erotic Romance. I like the chemistry between the couples and watching as they explore their hidden desires. Nothing sexier than reading or writing a romance novel full of lustfulness between the two main characters!

For more updates on my latest releases, check out the links below!

Lexi DeHalo

http://www.lexidehalo.com

http://lexidehalo.blogspot.com

http://www.bookstrand.com/lexi-dehalo

Mating Moon [Be-WERE1]

Night Stragorri was born to hunt. As heir to the Stragorri bloodline, it’s his sole purpose to kill any paranormal that threatens human life. He is bound by blood to the Hunter code, but he desperately wants a way out. He didn’t imagine in a million years that one fateful visit to a shifter-infested nightclub would bring him face-to-face with the man who would change his destiny.

Akira Landers is a Were-panther with a painful history. Adopted into a pack of werewolves at an early age, he learned to fear Hunters above all others. Working at the pack-run nightclub, things are always eventful, but even he is surprised at the Hunter who enters their domain and more surprised by the attraction he feels for the other man.

Inexplicably drawn together, sparks ignite, but their pasts seek to divide them as they struggle to accept their love in a world where Hunters and Weres are mortal enemies.

Buy Link: http://www.bookstrand.com/mating-moon

Excerpt:

“Did you at least grab my pants off the ground?” he teased. His beast purred as he stared at his mate. He didn’t realize that an actual purr made its way out of his throat and filled the air. His fangs elongated. Man he felt sexy. Night stood there watching him with those lust-filled green eyes, too focused on his every movement to reply.

Akira’s gait became sultry as his hips began swinging lightly in an age-old method of attraction. The Hunter might’ve been oblivious, but the choice of location made Akira’s beast closer to the surface than usual as his mate’s scent filled his nostrils with every breath. It was intoxicating. He slinked up to Night until he was within touching distance.

“So, did you grab those pants?” he asked again as he resisted the urge to preen for the Hunter. He licked his lips instead. Kiss me. Kiss me and I’ll forgive you anything.

“Sorry,” Night muttered as he shook his head no. He looked Akira up and down before setting the empty bottle on the only table in the small space. The apartment wasn’t much. Other than the mattress on the floor, the rest of the furniture consisted of a dresser in the corner and a table with two chairs that looked as though they’d been pulled from a Dumpster. The one thing that seemed out of place was the stainless steel mini-fridge sitting on the countertop in the kitchen area.

“But you’re welcome to take a pair of mine,” Night offered. Akira watched as the Hunter moved toward his dresser and began shuffling through the drawers until he found what he was looking for. He held up a pair of ripped blue jeans.

“I’ll give them to you on one condition though.” Night gazed down at Akira, holding the pants just out of his reach.

“Does it involve you naked, me on my knees, and a stiffness in my walk tomorrow that will make me wince with every step?” Akira fired back. He knew he probably shouldn’t be encouraging the chemistry between them. There were so many questions left unanswered, so many obstacles to overcome before they could even contemplate starting any kind of relationship, but after his run in the forest, he was feeling wild. He didn’t care that Night was a Hunter now, all that mattered was he was his mate and Akira had finally found him.

Night appeared to be seriously considering his proposition. “I’ve tried being a gentleman in the only way I know how, but it seems pointless since apparently you and I want the same thing.” Night’s eyes seemed to darken with lust, and the raw look on his face as he stared into Akira’s eyes sent a shiver through his body.

“On your knees then, Were,” Night demanded as he removed his clothing in one swift motion, freeing his already hard cock from the confines of the thin material.

Akira obeyed. He whimpered as he dropped to his knees so fast that they cracked against the hardwood floor as he fell. He didn’t even blink as pain assaulted his nerve endings. Night was still out of reach, so he dropped lower, onto his hands, and crawled to the Hunter, his eyes never leaving Night’s gaze. His eyes dropped to the Hunter’s erection for an instant, and he licked his lips.

“Yummy,” he whispered, his voice gone husky with lust. “Is that for me?”

“Say please.” Night grinned.

“Pleassseee,” Akira whimpered, gripping Night’s firm thighs and scenting the air. He smelled so good.

Night entwined his fingers in Akira’s hair, pulling him closer. “Show me how much you want me, Were,” he commanded, giving him the permission Akira was seeking.

Akira murmured a whisper of praise before wrapping his hand around the base of Night’s arousal. He was thick in his hand, and Akira longed to know how he would feel buried deep inside him. He licked his lips, his mouth literally watering for a taste. He looked up into Night’s eyes and took his first long, luxurious lick.

Night growled in response. “More,” he demanded of Akira. “Show me you need me.” His hands tightened on Akira’s loose strands of hair almost to the point of pain.

Thank god. Akira leaned forward to swallow the entire length down his mouth so that it bruised the back of his throat. He worked the hardened shaft with his tongue, throat, and just an edge of teeth. His hands massaged the soft sac nestled below the dick that he was currently licking like a lollipop.

“So good,” he mumbled between deep, rhythmic pulls of his mouth. “Want you so bad.” He felt like he had some kind of fever. He was delirious with passion. He’d never felt like this while touching another male. His beast shimmered beneath the surface of his flesh. His knew his eyes were glowing a bright purple, lit up with their own internal light.

Please, he thought deliriously. Please, don’t let this ever stop. Distantly he felt his Alpha’s voice along the Pack pathway, calling his name. It didn’t matter though. Nothing mattered. Nothing but Night’s dick in his mouth and those strong hands anchored in his hair.

 

Forbidden Moon [Be-WERE2] – Coming May 25th

Adam Anderson must put aside his broken heart for his Pack. Taking on a dangerous mission deep within the mountains is a step in the right direction. When Adam is severely injured, he is rescued by a lone shifter with a past as troubled as his own. What evolves from there is a romance that awakens feelings he hasn’t had since the death of his mate.

After his pack’s betrayal, Cersin Everett swore never to trust again. He resigned himself to a solitary life far away from both pack and past. However, a hunting trip turned rescue mission brings him a man that can teach him what it means to hope again.

As Sin shows Adam his world, it becomes harder for them to deny their growing feelings. But theirs is a forbidden match, an unmated pairing. They will have to either surrender to their newfound love or be torn apart by the world outside the sanctuary of Sin’s home.

Excerpt:

“How about we up the stakes?” Adam watched as Sin raised one eyebrow at the suggestion.

“What do you have in mind, pup?” The pet nickname Sin had given him was said with an endearing inflection and was growing on Adam.

“For every round won, the winner gets to make a set of rules or demands that their opponent must abide by until the end of the game.” Adam couldn’t help but smile to himself at his brilliance. If Sin wasn’t going to make another move on him, then he would just have to take things into his own hands and let him know how he felt. He was kind of embarrassed though, using a game to express his obvious attractions for the other man, but what choice did he have? Sin clearly wasn’t going to be the one to make the next move.

“All right, I’ll bite. Are there any rules to this game?” Sin had a broad grin on his face, and his eyes sparkled with mischief.

Adam couldn’t help but feel a bit of excitement as the other Were caught on to his plan. “There are no limits. As long as each of us agrees to keep playing, we have to obey the rules made by the winner.”

“Okay, you first,” Sin’s gaze raked over his body. The heat of the fire they were sitting in front of warmed his bare skin. They were both shirtless, sitting on the throw rug playing their game of cards. Adam couldn’t help but notice the way the firelight danced across Sin’s well-muscled bare chest. His caramel-colored skin seemed to almost glow as each muscle rippled with every move Sin made. Adam licked his suddenly dry lips and laid out his hand.

“Straight flush. Beat that!” Adam challenged as he proudly displayed his cards for Sin to see.

Sin eyed them, but there was no noticeable change in his facial features. Despite his excellent poker face, Adam knew he’d already won. A straight flush was a good hand and one not easily beat.

“You play a mean game of poker, pup, but I’m afraid your good luck has finally run out.” Sin threw down his cards. “Read ’em and weep.”

Adam blinked a few times as he registered the hand Sin had been hiding all this time. A royal flush, he couldn’t believe it. He sighed in defeat. “Well, I guess you won this round.”

“Now for my prize.” Sin’s voice held a hint of desire and it made Adam wonder if he would take the opportunity Adam was giving him. Sin leaned in close to Adam, so close Adam could feel his breath against his skin.

“Y–yes?” Adam’s heart beat loudly as he looked into Sin’s eyes. He swallowed nervously.

“Strip.” The command was simple, but Adam could hear the lust in Sin’s tone as he gave the order.

Adam stood on shaky legs and pulled off the remainder of his clothing until he stood before the Were completely naked. He wasn’t sure where this was headed. He’d counted on winning, but now the tables were turned. He silently hoped that Sin would take the hint and realize Adam’s intentions.

If Sin’s asking him to strip was any indication, then Adam would guess that the message was understood especially given the way he was looking at him now. Sin’s eyes moved across Adam’s body, admiring every inch of him. Adam’s heart was beating erratically as he waited for Sin to say something. Anything.

“Tell me, Were, what kind of other games do you like to play?” Sin’s voice was low with lust as Adam struggled to find the confidence to say what he wanted to.

“I–I…” He hesitated as he contemplated baring his inner most secret desires to the other shifter. He had always fantasized about surrendering to another man.

“I don’t know. I’ve never really been with anyone that I trust enough to play any games with,” Adam said with emphasis. They were definitely no longer talking about their card game. Somehow, from the time Sin had ordered Adam to strip and this moment now, the meaning had shifted and Adam’s mouth watered in anticipation of how far Sin would take him.

Sin stood up. “An honest answer, I can work with that. How about we forget cards and play a new game, one where I make the rules and in exchange”—he paused as he circled Adam and ran a finger down his spine before leaning in and whispering into his ear—“I’ll give you the best sex of your life.”

Sin wrapped his hand around Adam’s waist, pulling him close. Adam’s cock jumped at the proposition, already hardening at the prospect. His breath was coming in sharp gasps as all his fantasies came to mind. Could Sin be the one to finally fulfill his needs? “So what do you say, pup? Think you can handle submitting to a lone Alpha wolf?”

 

WEDNESDAY 10TH APRIL SINNING WITH TARA KENT

Well almost … Tara is actually off doing what Siren authors do best, and indulging I believe in a little lust! On a cruise I believe with her husband…Now this is rather approprite to the book here, Isle of Fantasies available at http://www.bookstrand.com/isle-of-fantasies

see my review below…if you’re fancying a bit of warmth or on your own cruise, add to the holiday with this fantasy (actuallt sveral of them, and what a way to have a holiday…)

We don’t have her further take on the seven sins wither because of my sloth in asking (it’s possible I was preoccupied with packing to go to London, where I now am) or her sloth because she was preoccupied with the pending lust, or maybe she is just lounging around having cocktails…

Isle of Fantasies by Tara Kent

Wow! Hasn’t every woman fantasized about a vacation like this one! Maybe not exactly the same individual fantasies (there are seven) but there’s enough here for just about everyone to relate to. Have to confess they are all on my list! Hot men (and more than one), massages with the extra touch so to speak, being overpowered, tied up…it’s all here!

So Mary the heroine, is working too hard, no time for relationships and needs a holiday that gets rid of all the pent up sexual  tension she hasn’t been able to expend. Enter the perfect holiday island…and some very hot sex!

I have to say I was a bit exhausted contemplating what she got up to in such a short period of time but I read it in one sitting- don’t, save each fantasy to spark off a release of your own tension! Given the stories central premise probably works better as erotica than a romance (though there is that too, I wish there could have been a bit more), it isn’t long and it is easy reading.

 

 

APRIL 3RD IT’S RELEASE DAY FOR THE GHOSTS’ RELEASE! BUY HERE
On the sin front, it’s pride…this is the final (though I hope to get a short story prequel published) of the series and I am particularly proud of the ending, which ties up all the science, magic, sex and romance and with just a touch of woman power!
Nest week I’ll host Tara Kent but this week I’m being selfish and keeping this all to myself! I had better get the cat of nine tails and whip myself..actually about to submit my first BDSM so maybe I will!!!
Hear the first chapter of The Ghosts’ Release, fourth and final in Were-Devils’ of Tasmania being read to Linda Mooney here

WERE-DEVILS OF TASMANIA

A four part novella series – Scorching erotic MFM paranormal romance

An ancient viral curse that the seer has read in the stones can only be resolved through change and love. As the scientists fight against the clock to find a cure, others are less ready to forgive and plot revenge.  Will Becc, Gabriella, Lena, and Misty, and the men they love, and in whose hands the future of the were-devils and ghost vampires rests, be able to overcome the rivalry and bigotry to ensure not just their own survival but the future of a world held captive to the northern vampires viral power? Action, tension and an explosive conclusion that moves from the wilds of Tasmania in Australia’s south to the humid northern rainforests and coastline, and a finale on the dark mist covered moors of Yorkshire and in the caves of Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay in the UK.

Inspired by the real life viral cancer affecting the Tasmanian Devil and the Hendra virus in Queensland bats.

Available at www.bookstrand.com/simone-sinna and on Amazon.

Reviews for WereDevils’ Curse: Five Stars on Siren and First professional review – Four Stars from Guilty Pleasures “unique”! Four Hearts from Sizzling Hot Book Reviews

5 lyres at Rites of Romance 4 feb 13 http://rorreviews.wordpress.com/ “sizzles…and heartbreaking too!” “action packed!”

The Ghosts’ Release

Despite her home at Tarrabah being in ashes after an attack by ghost destroyers, Misty Mortimer goes with her instinct to trust ghost brothers Damon and Kadar Karlssen, finding their attraction is mutually hypnotic. But the brothers are trying to break the northern vampires’ centuries-long hold on the secret of a viral curse, and in order to do so all three are pitted against a formidable enemy.

Buoyed by a prophecy from her homeland in Tasmania, Misty must survive the vampire caves beneath Whitby but can only do so if Damon and she can link in a way they have never before. Aided by the ghost of her grandfather who died at the hands of the vampires, and a love that has survived generations, there is a final choice put to them by the Oracle, and they must decide whether the power of love will win.

Note: There is no sexual relationship or touching for titillation between or among siblings.

Genre: Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Paranormal, Shape-shifter

Length: 28,854 words

MARCH 27TH SINNING WITH SKYE MICHAELS
Welcome to Skye Michaels, author of the Le Club series. Her sin? Well I think enjoying herself so much!!! All she wanted to talk about was lust…and her hero/heroines have plenty of that (though as she points out, monogamously as per Siren’s guide lines!). Ivories Surprise came out earlier this year and is being followed up with this very hot BDSM number!

 

Harper’s Submission

Golden Dolphin Two

The Devereau brothers, members of the exclusive BDSM club known as Le Club Laurel Oak–Ocala, have purchased a super yacht named the Golden Dolphin for the purpose of very discreet and private around-the-world BDSM cruises.  They have hired the Greek captain, Constantine Cortelis, and Alexander Dragados as Chief Mate, as well as Gregory Dempsey and Natasha Romanova from LeClub Beaudelaire–New Orleans to run the shipboard club.

High-powered Manhattan attorney and Domme, Harper Cameron, has just finished a four month trial and she’s tired – tired of being the one on the line, the one in control, the one responsible for the outcome of the very complicated antitrust trial that was make-or-break for her firm.  The unrelenting, but undisclosed, attraction she had felt for her client had not made the trial any easier.  She had pulled it off and gotten a verdict for her client, but she needed a chance to get away and rejuvenate.

Harper’s client, the reclusive multi-millionaire businessman Morgan Court, is a member of Le Club Eastside – Manhattan where he has seen the Domme, Harper Cameron.  He has had his eye on the sexy attorney since the first time he saw her.  Out in public, aided by the clear lens glasses he often wears a la Clark Kent, nondescript clothing, and his uncanny ability to blend in to his surroundings, he hides a stunning physique and handsome face.  When he goes to Le Club Eastside, he wears a mask. His extreme penchant for privacy has made him a target for newspapers and gossip magazines.

After the trial is over he invites Harper to accompany him on a cruise aboard the Golden Dolphin.  She decides to take him up on his no-strings-attached offer to enjoy a BDSM cruise aboard the luxurious three-hundred foot super yacht.  She is unaware that he has decided that she is going to bottom for him.   Little does he know that he’s met his match.  It won’t be easy to dominate the beautiful, sexy, and determined Harper, who has demons of her own to conquer.  But despite her reluctance to
become involved with him, she finds Morgan Court compelling and sexy.  She’s going to have a fight on her hands.

Digital copies available : www.bookstrand.com/skye-michaels

 

Story Excerpt

Harper Cameron peered carefully out of the door at the top of the steps of the Federal Courthouse before cautiously exiting the building. Dusk had fallen, and it was dark and rather forbidding out on the steps. She had not wanted to leave the building until all of the reporters and television cameras were gone. They had finally given up on getting a statement from her, no doubt thinking she had left through one of the underground exits used to transport prisoners in and out of the courthouse.

It had been the last day of an exhausting and complex antitrust trial. She had won a decision for Court Industries against the federal prosecutors seeking to divest her client of a good portion of their pharmaceutical holdings, including patents on several promising new medications which were still in the development and testing phases.

When she saw the black stretch limousine pull up to the curb and a uniformed chauffeur exit the car, she put her handbag over her shoulder and started down the steps with her briefcase in her hand. The chauffeur opened the door and patiently waited as Harper came down the stairs. She glanced inside the car before she gracefully slid in and turned to face the other occupant in the backseat.

“Well, Mr. Court, another victory for the good guys against the forces of a too-controlling government seeking to infringe on free enterprise.”

“Indeed, Ms. Cameron. Good job.” Morgan Court turned toward her and took off his dark-framed glasses with clear lenses which served to camouflage the burning gaze of his enigmatic coal-black eyes. It always amazed Harper that the mere removal of Morgan’s glasses could change his entire look from nondescript to striking. His wavy black hair fell to the collar of the black cashmere overcoat he wore over a black double-breasted Armani suit. “Can I pour you a glass of champagne? Or do you want to wait until we’re on board to have our first toast?”

Harper smiled at him. “I think I’ll wait until we’re on board the Golden Dolphin.” They were boarding the ship early in order to avoid the scrutiny of the press. Any statements regarding the trial could be left in the capable hands of her firm’s partners and their public relations firm. For some reason the press had fixed its eye on her and had pursued her relentlessly during the entire trial. They had made it more about what she would wear to court each day than what she had to say in court, which annoyed her to no end. The other hot topic in the trash press was whether her client, Morgan Court, was present and accounted for. Harper knew she would be a virtual prisoner in her upper eastside brownstone townhouse for the entire weekend if she returned there. Her bags had been delivered to the ship early that morning. Morgan’s friend, Jamie Devereau who owned the luxury yacht on which they would cruise the New England coast and St. Lawrence River inland to Montréal and back again, had done them the favor of allowing early boarding so that they could take advantage of the ship’s excellent security team before departure.

Harper laughed to herself. Morgan Court, when he was not shielding his attributes, was truly one good-looking man. He was sleekly tall and muscular with wide shoulders and long legs. She also knew that he was one of the wealthiest men in New York, if not the entire country, although the facts about the extent of his net worth were zealously protected and not generally known. It was rumored that his fortune was in the top one hundred, but he never made the list because he carefully guarded his personal and financial profiles, avoiding interviews and photo ops like the plague. As one of New York’s most eligible bachelors, he was pursued by the legitimate press as well as the paparazzi at every opportunity. She also knew that he was a master of disguise and well able to come and go as he chose. She had seen him enter the courthouse and sit in the back row wearing an old trench coat and worn-down sneakers. Only his piercing black eyes would have given him away to a more astute observer.

Harper had accepted Court’s “no-strings-attached” offer of a BDSM cruise to Canada aboard the Golden Dolphin, a three-hundred foot, extremely luxurious mega yacht. She desperately needed a break. Harper and Morgan had originally met at the secret and very luxurious BDSM club known as Le Club Eastside—Manhattan. Although they were both members and she had seen Morgan Court at the club, they had never engaged in a scene together. He was a Dom who always wore a mask, and she was a Domme who never had sex with her subs.

* * * *

Morgan Court had been waiting for an opportunity to get to know Harper Cameron. “Know” as in the biblical sense. When he had spotted the beautiful, black-haired, blue-eyed Domme at Le Club Eastside a year and a half before, he had been disappointed that she was not a sub. But the more he watched her—and watch her very carefully he did—the more sure he was that he could get her to bottom for him. He could see the dark undercurrents in Harper’s eyes. He didn’t know why they were there.

When he had learned that she was a senior litigation associate with a very prestigious Wall Street law firm where his company was a client, he had made sure the assignment for the upcoming antitrust trial went her way. He had checked out her qualifications carefully before he had put the very complicated trial in her extremely capable hands, and he hadn’t been disappointed in her performance. Her listing in Martindale Hubble, the directory of attorneys and law firms, had told him she was thirty-five and had done both her undergraduate work and attended law school at Fordham University. He now hoped his fantasies of convincing her to bottom for him would materialize and that he would not be disappointed in her performance as his sub. She had no idea what was in store for her, but he was sure he could bring her around.

Adult Excerpt

Morgan was waiting impatiently for Harper in the main dungeon. He was anxious to get started, and he wanted to see how much progress she had actually made since their initial scene together. The room was beautiful and well equipped with the standard BDSM paraphernalia. The walls were lined with an assortment of ornate gilt-framed mirrors to highlight the action in each scene as though it was happening on a movie screen. The effect was elegant and rather surreal.

When Harper entered the room Morgan caught his breath. Her long, silky black hair cascaded over creamy breasts pushed up into temping mounds atop her black bustier. He wanted nothing more than her mile-long legs wrapped around his waist while he fucked her until she was a boneless puddle in his arms.

He had donned his mask and stood with his arms crossed over his chest while he watched her scan the room looking for him. He knew it was an intimidating stance, but nonetheless, he felt her hot, challenging gaze as soon as her eyes found him. Her demeanor was not in the least submissive. Her icy-blue eyes raked over him in an almost insolent, if not hungry, gaze. He had known she had a deep well of grit, but this insubordination would have to be dealt with. Morgan immediately morphed into Dom mode and stood waiting for her to approach him. He had to get a grip and take control of the scene. He would remind her that he was the Dom, and she was the sub, forcefully if necessary. He obviously still had her Domme mentality to deal with. She wasn’t going to give him her submission without a battle, and he was ready to storm her walls and take it. Morgan knew her underlying emotional problems were still there. They had not magically disappeared. He had to firmly rout them from her head and her heart. He knew that Harper would try to take control of the scene, but he couldn’t allow it. She was definitely the most challenging sub he had ever dealt with, and he knew it would take all of his skill to subdue her.

She crossed the room to him, but when she didn’t immediately assume the slave position in front of him, he hardened his voice and his stance and said, “Greet your Master, sub. Strip and assume the position.”

She looked momentarily uncertain and embarrassed by her failure to enter the dungeon in scene, but her gaze still challenged him, and she hadn’t dropped to her knees. She slowly began to unlace the bustier as she looked into his eyes.

“You forget yourself, sub. Lower your eyes and assume the position.” Morgan saw her hesitate for a moment. Good. She realizes her mistake and is attempting to correct it. When her full, round breasts spilled out of the open bustier, he almost lost it. He forced himself to remain in scene while she removed her skirt and shoes. When she was finally naked, she dropped into the slave position at his feet with her head bowed.

“Good evening, Master. I hope I please you.”

“You please me very much, Harper, but you know your insubordination will have to be corrected.” She did, indeed, please him. Her ivory perfection was stunning. He couldn’t bring himself to call her “sub” at this moment. It was too dehumanizing for what he was attempting to accomplish. He needed to subdue her, but he wanted her to feel safe enough to voluntarily give over control to him so that he could lift the burden of her childhood from her shoulders, even if only for a few moments. Hopefully she could then gain the strength to overcome it, to push it aside and go forward.

He spread her thighs, widening her legs until he was satisfied with her position. She was vulnerable and totally open to him. She looked a little nervous, but that was only to be expected. He ran his hands over her arms and legs, gently massaging the muscles while he looked into her eyes. He could see the fear there. “Harper, it’s okay. You’re going to be fine. Just relax and let me take over.”

Morgan walked over to the wall of implements. He was looking for just the right thing. He wanted her to feel the sting of this correction, but he didn’t want it to be too harsh. The point was to help her reach the threshold of submission and to cross over. He wanted to teach her to reach for her own pleasure. He could feel her eyes following him. Then he saw what he was looking for—a soft suede flogger. He picked it up, ran the strands through his hands to test them as her eyes took in every move he made. He walked back to where she was restrained.

He walked in front of her so she could see the flogger he held in his hands up close and personal. When her eyes widened, he slowly ran the soft strands over her breasts and belly as he prepared her body and mind for the coming ordeal. Then he walked behind her and ran them over her back and butt. She flinched. Good. I need to ramp up her anxiety level.

“Master….”

“Silence, Sub. You knew you were earning this correction with your attitude when you came into the dungeon. I am the Master and you are the sub. You will acknowledge that, but first you will reap your punishment. You will receive ten strikes, and you will count for your Master. If you don’t count, we will go back to number one and start again. Understand?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Are you ready?”

“Yes, Master. Please punish this disobedient sub.”

Morgan brought the flogger down on her butt. The strike was not hard. He put just enough body English behind the stroke to give it a slight sting. He waited for her to count. When she didn’t, he said, “Sub, count for your Master. We will begin again.” He brought the suede strips down across her butt again, this time with a little more force.

“One, Master.” He could see the worry in her eyes.

 

MARCH 20TH SINNING WITH LEE ROSE
Lee’s second book now out! But buy this or her first (the one she thinks is more sinful…..) and rate  it on Siren!

 

Thanks for hosting me, Simone. I am so excited to be here.  Let’s see the seven sins we deal with in everyday life.

Gluttony- I do LOVE to read a lot so I guess that could be considered gluttony. I do watch TV with my kids but honestly I would rather read a good book any day. That’s my idea of relaxing after a tough day of working, housework, raising two energetic boys and all the obstacles life likes to throw our way. And I love a good meal too. Living off salads just doesn’t work for me.

Lust- Hmmm. I guess I wouldn’t be able to write erotica romance if I didn’t have lustful thoughts and I wouldn’t have three kids if I didn’t have lustful thoughts toward my husband. So yes I do experience lustful thoughts.

Envy- I don’t envy anyone. Everyone has their own battle to fight even if we can’t see it.

Sloth- OK, ok I must confess to this one. Some days I like to tune out the world and it’s problems by getting lost in a good book and ordering pizza for dinner. My kids love it when they see me take out the pizza menus.

Greed- I don’t think of myself as greedy. I work hard to pay the bills and give my kids the things they need and that’s enough to satisfy me. Although you won’t hear me complaining if I win the lottery someday (lol)

Wrath- I’m a pretty low key gal. I don’t get mad or offended easily. Sure I have my bad days but who doesn’t right? In general, I try to be nice to everyone so wrath is not something I deal with often.

Pride – That’s a tough one. I am proud of the things I have accomplished in life but I don’t think it’s wrong to feel that way. I think everyone should be proud of something in their lives.

I have two books out so far and I think Run, Lacy run is the most sinful.

Liz’s Luck by Lee Rose:

[Siren Classic: Erotic Contemporary Romance, HEA] AVAILABLE: http://www.bookstrand.com/lee-rose

When Elizabeth “Liz” Daniels meets Ethan White at a dance, she instantly falls in love with the sexy deputy of Appledale. Ethan admits Liz is one sexy lady, but what can a young, successful businesswoman like her have in common with a small-town deputy like him? Unwilling to risk his heart yet again, he walks away from her, breaking Liz’s heart in the process.

But there is someone else who wants Liz and wants to take her away from everyone in the process- forever. When Liz realizes she has a stalker she is frightened and her friends rally around her to protect her, including the handsome deputy, Ethan. While protecting the beautiful Liz, Ethan realizes he was wrong about her and they fall in love.

Despite their best efforts to keep Liz safe she is kidnapped. Will Ethan and the others save Liz in time for him to declare his love for her, or will it be too late for Liz and Ethan to find a happily ever after of their own?

MARCH 13TH  SINNING WITH SAGE MARLOWE
Welcome to Sage and her new book NEWBORN – but when it comes to sins she is making me feel I need to give myself a higher score on sloth. Seventeen books in ten months! Wow this girl is on fire!!!

Hello and thank you to Simone for hosting me here today. Simone wanted to know how sinful I was during the last year, so let’s see what I’ve been up to.

Wrath: I’m basically a peaceful, forgiving soul but I have an extremely fast fuse that has become even shorter because of all those sleepless nights and the general pressure I’ve been under this past year, so let’s just say you wouldn’t want to meet me when I’m pissed off – or before I’ve had my coffee.

Greed: I’d like to have enough money to get by, that’s all. It’s no secret that writing books isn’t the best paid job in the world, that alone should tell you that I’m not a greedy person as such.

Sloth: As I have this completely crazy goal to become a full-time writer, I have no time at all for laziness. It’s either looking after the kid, writing or doing household chores for me with an average of six hours of sleep tucked in between. I guess I don’t qualify in this category.

Pride: I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, but I am proud of what I have achieved. I have published seventeen books in ten months, most of them novels. Another four are contracted and scheduled for release in the next couple of months. And I’ve done that while raising a big and boisterous toddler without much family around. I think this is something to be proud of.

Lust: Hey, I write erotic romance, do I really have to comment on this?

Envy: I’m not immune to envy but everyone has their own burden to carry. Just because it seems that other people are better off or have easier lives doesn’t mean that it’s true.

Gluttony: I love food, I love wine, so yes, I’m a sinner – but I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints

I’ve tried to think which one of my books is the most sinful. It’s hard to say, but I think it would have to be Newborn, my vampire story.

Newborn

(MM erotic romance, paranormal/vampires. Novel)

Heat level: scorching

Publisher: Siren-Bookstrand

 

Buy links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A796SOG

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/newborn-sage-marlowe/1113801256?ean=9781622419029&itm=1&usri=sage+marlowe+newborn

Bookstrand: www.bookstrand.com/newborn

 

This title is also available in print

 

 

Blurb

If what you love the most and what you hate the most become the same, which emotion will win?

Parker Rowe has hated vampires with a passion ever since his family was murdered by a gang of malicious vampires, and he has been trying to hunt down the culprits for years.

A promising clue leads him into a small, secluded town where he meets Josh Summers. Sweet and innocent, Josh is as much out of place in Parker’s world of revenge and violence as he is in his own narrow-minded community, but he can give Parker the peace of mind he craves. When the vampires Parker is chasing use Josh to deliver a very special message, Parker finds himself facing the ultimate dilemma. If what he loves and what he hates the most become the same, which emotion will win?

While Parker struggles to accept the changes his lover goes through, he comes closer than ever to detecting the truth about his family’s deaths—but then his own life takes a dramatic turn…

Story Excerpt (G)

Parker froze mid-motion, listening. He felt the familiar cold clasp of fear claw up his spine and settle in that spot right at the base of his skull, but he ignored it. So what. He’d grown used to it. Fear didn’t frighten him anymore because fear couldn’t hurt him. They, however, could hurt him.

Tilting his head, he willed his feeble senses to provide him with more information. Information that might be vital for his survival, but, little surprisingly, his senses failed him. He could hear nothing, see nothing, and fuck, smell nothing.

Well, of course that wasn’t true. He could hear the soft, almost melodic rushing noise, the faint thuds of the falling rain. He could see it as silvery threads, reflected by the dim light of a the singular street lantern at the end of the road. He could even smell it in the air around him, the moisture it brought, and the damp earth it stirred. Rain. Water. One of the major sources of life but entirely meaningless to him. Just like life itself had lost its meaning.

There. A movement to his right. A slight disturbance of the air, gone as fast as a shadow and just as impossible to catch.

Well, nearly as impossible to catch, Parker thought grimly as he tightened his grip around the gun he was holding. The secret was knowing how to do it—and having the right equipment. Turning slowly around his own axis, he stared into the ghostly darkness that surrounded him. He knew he was at a mighty disadvantage here, but he didn’t exactly have a reputation for his clear-headed approach to pursuing his goal. His quarry. Some might say it was what made him so good at what he did. Some certainly said it was what was going to get him killed. Parker didn’t care about either of them. He didn’t care about anyone or anything apart from what was needed to bring him closer to his enemies.

He never even heard his attacker approach. With the sudden, unforeseeable power of a lightning strike, Parker was grabbed, lifted up, and whirled through the air before he hit the ground with a nasty thud. That would have been his skull breaking, he mused with an eerie detachedness, even as bright pain exploded in his brain and nausea threatened to overwhelm him.

He ignored both. Like fear, pain was something he’d learned to ignore. It only told him he was still alive. Which he wouldn’t be much longer if he didn’t get a grip on himself and start fighting back.

Except, there was nothing to fight. He raised his head gingerly to look around and take stock. A moan slipped out of his mouth before he could stop it. Fuck, but his head did hurt. So much it affected his vision, so maybe the damage was worse than he’d thought. Blinking furiously, he tried to make his eyes focus, but the world around him remained blurry.

This time he stifled the sound that wanted out, a little sigh. If it was still around, then tonight might well be the end of it—the end of Parker, to be precise. Shivering from a sudden gush of cold air, Parker reached into his pocket and curled his fingers around the familiar, smooth round shape. The metal had warmed from the heat his body was radiating. It felt quite nice now, actually. Comforting, friendly, and nothing like the deadly tool it was.

“Take your hand out of your pocket,” a voice said right behind Parker’s left ear. “Slowly, and be sure to leave whatever’s inside it where it is.”

Parker let out a sarcastic chuckle. “Now why would I do that?” he asked, clenching his fingers around the bulbous piece of metal. If he was to part with it, it would have to rip his arm off.

“If that’s what you want,” the voice said casually, and Parker knew it had figured out exactly what his plan was and found a way to keep him from putting it into effect. Which meant he’d failed, so maybe whatever was about to happen served him right.

The creature behind him laughed softly. “Yeah, right. You’re quite the hero, aren’t you?” It must have leaned in, because the voice was closer now, and Parker could feel the air the thing expelled with its words stir the hairs at the nape of his neck.

“But let me tell you, Parker—tonight isn’t the end of it. At least not the way you think it will be. No, for you, tonight is the beginning.”

 

Adult excerpt

Josh held Parker’s gaze for a moment before he looked away. “I’m not sure there’s much you can do at this time of night.”

“There’s always one thing,” Parker said softly and reached out to take the towel from Josh’s clenched hand, stroking the back of his fist with his fingertips. Josh flinched but let it happen, staring at their hands like a startled deer.

“W–what’s that?” he asked after a moment.

“Can’t you guess by now?”

“I, um, I–I’m n–not sure,” Josh stammered.

Parker leaned in close enough to stir the short hairs behind Josh’s ear with his breath as he spoke. “I want to fuck you, Josh. You do know that, right?” He raised his hand, cupped Josh’s cheek, and tilted his face up so he could look into those soft chocolate eyes. “So what do you think?” His free hand landed on Josh’s hip, just an inch or so from the tempting curves of his buttocks. Josh made a soft, helpless sound somewhere between a nervous laugh and a moan. He pulled his head back a little at the same time as he flexed his hips to push into Parker’s touch.

“Shh,” Parker soothed. “I’m not going to hurt you.” Placing his thumb under Josh’s chin, he held his head in place. Parker let his gaze wander from the lovely brown eyes to the full, moist lips that were parted just a little, so invitingly. Lowering his head, he brushed a first gentle, tentative kiss on Josh’s startled mouth. When Josh didn’t exactly respond but didn’t pull back, either, Parker took it as the permission to go further. He found Josh in a second, more intense kiss. This time, he didn’t settle for just a brush of lips. He caressed Josh’s bottom lip with his tongue before he licked that little cleft at the corner of his mouth then, at last, dipped into the sweet, velvety opening. Josh tasted nice. Minty, clean, and so excitingly new. Fresh and pure, and nothing like the shady figures Parker normally did this kind of activity with.

Parker explored the inside of Josh’s mouth and trailed his tongue along the sharp ridges of teeth to where Josh’s tongue waited to be awoken from its slumber. Josh responded at last. His kiss was still reluctant but all the sweeter for its shyness. Parker groaned into their kiss. This was good, but it wasn’t enough. Leaning back a little, he nibbled Josh’s lips briefly then started a trail of tiny kisses along Josh’s jaw to his neck. Josh shuddered delicately, and Parker felt goose bumps rise under his touch. He gripped Josh’s earlobe with his teeth, biting gently and drawing a choked moan from Josh. The sound was lost in the silence of the kitchen, but, at last, Josh leaned into Parker’s hold. Parker kissed a line down Josh’s neck to his collarbone, as always a little disconcerted when he felt the pulse under his lips. This one was strong, so full of life, and undeniably excited.

Still holding Josh’s head in place with one hand, Parker started investigating Josh’s lower regions. When his fingers brushed Josh’s fly, he was pleased to feel the hard bulge of an erection behind it. Cupping it, he gave it a teasing squeeze. Josh moaned and melted against him. Parker undid his fly, swallowing whatever weak attempt at protest Josh made in another kiss. He sneaked his fingers into the waistband of Josh’s boxers, found the eager cock beneath it, and freed it. It leapt into his hand gratefully. Josh let out a needy whimper as Parker tightened his fist around his shaft, and he pushed into the tight channel Parker offered him.

“That’s it, baby,” Parker whispered. “Show me what you like. Take what you need.” He turned Josh around, one arm wrapped around his shoulders to hold him steady, and used his other hand to jerk him off. Josh reflexively thrust into his grip, panting as he did so. His head dropped back against Parker’s shoulder, baring the smooth curve of his throat as he leaned on him for support. About two inches shorter and of a much lighter build, he was a perfect fit for Parker’s body. Parker smiled into his neck. It was so easy. Just a few more strokes and Josh went still in his hold.

“Oh.” Josh sounded endearingly surprised when he came. His cock was pulsing in Parker’s hand, and soon his knees buckled, and he went limp in Parker’s grip.

“Steady, sweetheart.” Parker chuckled as he easily took most of Josh’s weight to hold him upright. “How do you feel?”

“Pretty, um, good,” Josh answered, his voice rough with post-orgasmic tightness.

He turned around and timidly looked up at Parker. “Do you want me to…uh…?”

“I think we ought to clean up first.”

“Huh?” Bewildered, Josh looked around the kitchen he’d just cleaned so thoroughly.

“Not that,” Parker grinned. “This.” Holding up his hand, he showed Josh the creamy white cum on his fingers.

“Oh.” Josh turned almost crimson. “Oh, gosh, I’m sorry, I’ll just…” His eyes darted to and fro, frantically searching for a cloth.

“Just lick it off,” Parker suggested and brought his hand to Josh’s lips. Pulling a face, Josh turned his head away.

“Never sampled it?”

Josh looked appalled. “No, of course not.”

“Why not? It’s just spunk. There’s nothing wrong with it,” Parker teased.

“Because…well, you–you just don’t d–do that,” Josh answered a little helplessly. “Do you?” he added, almost as an afterthought.

“All right, baby.” Parker smiled reassuringly and shrugged, leaving the question unanswered. “Nothing you’re not comfortable with.” Turning away, he washed his hands in the sink. “I’d like to take you to bed now,” he said gently. “Is that okay for you?”

 

About the author

Sage is a multi-published author of gay erotic romance and loves taking romance to the edge. The edge of passion, the edge of pleasure, the edge of propriety.

Hopelessly in love with books from a very early age on, Sage has dreamt of writing one for years while working on the day job instead. It took a very persistent character in the company of a much-adored Muse to finally get the first novel going. The fact that this gorgeous guy was gay came as a bit of a surprise, but it explained a lot.

Ever since, Sage has been the willing slave to all the fascinating guys who just keep queuing up and want their stories told. This has resulted in several published books and countless manuscripts at various stages of completion, so there’s always something to work on—preferably at night when the rest of the house is asleep.

Sage’s characters often have a dramatic and sometimes traumatic past and need to battle some demons to be with the one they love. But don’t worry, they get quite a lot of naughty action along the way to keep them happy and there will always be a happy end!

 

Contact and buy links

 

Sage’s website & blog: www.sage-marlowe.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sage.marlowe0

e-mail: marlowe.sage@yahoo.co.uk

Twitter: @SageMarlowe

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/SageMarlowe

Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/sagemarlowe

For all books published with Total-E-Bound, go to: http://www.total-e-bound.com/authordetail.asp?A_ID=224

For all books published with Siren-BookStrand, go to: www.bookstrand.com/sage-marlowe

 

MARCH 6TH Sin along with Beverly Price- she’s setting a new high!!! But we gotta forgive her…anyone who gets married after knowng the guy 11 days (see below) is clearly destined to be a romance writer!

Beverly Price and her 7 sins:

Gluttony: Geese, this would be something that has me thinking, but I would have to say my weird addition to chocolate and red wine. The combo puts my mind at ease while I write. I indulge probably too much, but hey all good writers have had a drink here and there right? 9

Sloth: I am so bad here. I do spend a lot of time sitting and writing during the morning hours. However having four children I am constantly on the move (which could explain the wine addiction. LOL), so sitting is not possible. Plus I hate a messy house! 6

Wrath: I am German and Irish, so yeah I have a bad temper. It was worse when I was pregnant and finishing my master’s degree. My poor husband didn’t know whether to hug me or throw a candy bar at me. I have a short fuse when I cannot figure something out. This would include stupid websites. It takes me forever and hundreds of YouTube videos to figure out how to set one up. But I did get it! 10

Lust: Umm need I repeat I have FOUR children? Lust is always there, not to mention I married my butt to a Marin who is ready to go at a drop of a hat! He helps me with ideas when I am stuck. He likes to help “play it out” when I am. 10

Pride: I don’t know about this one. I am proud of my work, but I do not boast and brag nearly enough according to my mother. She does it all for me, as well as my children. Their teachers know what I do thanks to them… I know yikes, but that is why I have a pen name! I am however very proud of this book. It is my first and it is climbing up the charts like wild fire! 6

Envy: I admit I am very envious of other who has to time to sit and write about 4-8k in their new books. I struggle sometimes to just get 500 words. But I know I need to push forward to get anywhere. Just time away for the kids would be a vacation for me! 8

Greed: I am a very greedy person, but not in the way you think. Yes I would love to make good money from writing and whatnot, but the truth is I want more. I want to be able to write and help out at home with bills, to have happy and healthy kids, and to have a husband who is home at night. I will get there, but until then I will hold on to what I have and keep it safe! 9

Score: 58… Wow really… Funny when you see your life in numbers…LOL 

 

 

Just Her Luck:

Riley O’Connor has been on the run from her past, but when her luck turns south she ends up in a small town just outside of the Canadian border. She is not used to allowing others to take care of her, however, Riley must face her demons and rely on two strangers. Will she try and run again, or stay and fight for the life she has created for herself with the men she has fallen for?

Cooper and Cash Jackson live a perfect small-town life, but when a small broken woman enters their world with her past following right behind her, the men stick together to try and save her. When an attack on Riley happens, they discover someone within the town is actually behind the attacks. Cooper and Cash are faced with the question of who they can trust to keep her safe.

STORY EXCERPT

Cooper Jackson was making the drive back from the city where he needed to pick up some supplies not found in town. Lucky, Montana was a small community and everybody looked out for one another. He would never trade it for the world. Running a ranch gave him a purpose and a sense of belonging to the town. Once he was over the mountain and heading down the long stretch of road on the other side, Cooper knew he was almost home. Listening to a country station, he drove as he was in a trance, not paying any attention was he went on his way. As he passed the Lucky 32 miles sign, he happened to notice dust and smoke coming up from the side of the road. Someone must have run off the road. He decided to stop as he had his truck and could help pull them out if they needed. Getting out of the truck, Cooper walked over to see if he could help. As he got closer, he noticed a small blue car was smashed up against the side of the ditch and the airbag was inflated.

Man, that car was totaled, and the smell of gas was everywhere. Hoping no one was hurt, he called out. When no one answered, he carefully went over to look at the driver. What he saw caught him off guard. A small auburn-haired woman was slumped over against the side window with blood running down her forehead. Cooper reached into his pocket for his phone and then called 911. He was informing the dispatcher of his location and about the woman in the car when he smelled smoke. He looked over at the car, and smoke was starting to billow out of the engine. She must have done some serious damage. With the smell of gas lingered in the air, Cooper knew he had to get the woman out of the car and quickly as it could go up in flames at any point. He tried to get the door open, but it was jammed. He ran around the other side and was able to crawl across the passenger side and pull the women out that way. Man was she tiny and light. She looked like she hadn’t eaten anything in weeks. Trying to be as careful as he could, he picked her up and ran up to the road to wait for rescue crews. He did a quick scan of her body to see the extent of all her injuries. He could see she had a nasty laceration on her head and bruising on her chest from her seat belt. Thank god she wore that. He looked down and noticed her wrist was swollen. She probably broke or sprained her wrist trying to take control of the car. Everything else looked okay.

Cooper held her in his arms, pushing the hair out of her face, and noticed how pale she looked. She must have lost a lot of blood. He took off his shirt and placed it on the cut on her head, hoping to stop the bleeding. When he covered the cut, she let out a painful moan. Her eyes started to flutter open, and she looked at him. She must have been startled as she tried to get out of his arms. “Whoa there, darlin’, you need to stay still,” he said as he ran his hands over her hair, trying to comfort her. He knew she had to stay still to make sure no more damage was done. She had been lucky she was not killed, but she needed to be checked out.

Riley didn’t know what was going on. The last thing she remembered was driving down a long stretch, playing with the radio, then a deer. “Oh my god, I crashed,” she said as the memories started coming back. Trying to gather her thoughts, she looked up and saw she was being held, and she didn’t know this person holding her. All she knew was she had to get away. She tried to get up but his arms held her down. He was gently rubbing his hands down her hair. Riley felt dizzy and leaned back on his lap. Trying not to throw up on him as the world was spinning around her, she took slow, deep breaths. Trying to think of something to say, she opened her mouth and was cut short by the sounds of an approaching emergency vehicle. The paramedics rushed over and started asking her questions about the date, where she was, and her name.

The paramedics loaded her up onto a stretcher, and the only thing she saw was a concerned look on her rescuer’s face as the doors shut.

ADULT EXCERPT

Lunch went by quick, and soon she found herself back at work. Cooper had not returned from his call out to one of the ranches, and the sheriff was nowhere to be found. Riley sat down and started filing the reports that were left on the desk. The door rang, and Riley looked up to a very pissed-off Cash.

“Where the hell were you? I tried calling you on the cell and here. Cooper is out on a damn call and the damn sheriff is gone. There is no one here with you. I agreed you could take this job as long as someone was here to watch you, and you ran off without a damn care in the world. Now where the fuck did you go?” Cash was screaming hostilely as he approached Riley, who was now backed against the wall of the office.

“I can do whatever the hell I want, Cash Jackson! But for your information, I went to lunch with Sam. It was nothing big, but I went there and came right back. So don’t go getting your panties all in a twist. No one is going to get me in here.”

“Kitten, you’re skating on thin ice. I have had just about enough and should put you over my knee and watch that tight ass turn bright pink and hot under my hand for not listening to me and Cooper. Then maybe you would think twice before putting yourself in any danger again.” Cash knew he was hanging on by a thread. His heart had stopped when he had not been able to get a hold of her, and he knew Coop was out on a call.

“You wouldn’t dare spank me. You talk a big talk, Cash, but you have used this line on me before and you haven’t once followed through. So go blow it out your ass.” Riley knew she shouldn’t be baiting him, but she had had enough of him telling her what she could and couldn’t do. As soon as the thought popped into her head, Cash was on her and dragging her into the sheriff’s office and locking the door.

“Oh, kitten, now you have done it.” Then the next thing Riley knew, she was being turned around, facing the desk, as Cash worked on the button of her jeans.

Cash was well aware that Riley was pushing her luck, but he was more than happy to play. He did warn her, and his palm twitched with anticipation of heating her ass up good. The stunt she pulled with her leaving and just now had earned her ten good spankings.

“Riley, I need you to know that I would do anything to keep you safe. This is a reminder that every time you don’t listen, I will spank your ass. Now bend over and don’t move, and you are not allowed to come until I tell you.”

And with that, Riley bent over the desk and held still. She knew he was worried and then threw it back in his face.

The excitement of being spanked had some sort of appeal to her, as she read about it in books but never experienced it. She was not one for pain, but she knew neither Cooper nor Cash would actually hurt her. The first smack came at her with a surprise. It hurt, but not as badly as she feared. Cash rubbed the area after each hit, but by the third smack she was feeling the pain morph into pleasure as it radiated down into her now-aching sex. She never knew that this pain could be so damn erotic and hot.

By the tenth smack, Riley was moaning after each one. Cash felt the zipper of his denim jeans creating an imprint on his cock. He leaned over and whispered into Riley’s ear, “You did great, kitten, but now I am going to fuck you, and you can come now.” He let his words penetrated Riley’s mind, while he lowered his zipper, and then he was inside her. Cash started a slow, rhythmic movement, grinding his hips when he was seated fully inside her. He could feel Riley quicken with pleasure as her walls started to grip him tight. Cash was aware that Riley was getting close as her breathing patterns increased and she panted with need, need for him. He started a punishing pounding rhythm as their bodies collided. It was the last of his control. He never thought Riley would let him spank her, as she seemed so timid and shy, but she accepted it without any hesitations. The fact that she submitted to him made his cock strain with need. The sensations started to build at the base of his spine, and his balls drew up.

 

About Beverley:

As a person who does believe in love at first sight, it was easy to find romance where ever I went. I myself have fallen into fate’s hand when I met my husband and married eleven days later. Now, we just celebrated our ten year anniversary with four children. I never regret a single day, and love him more and more with each passing hour.

I was never much of a writer in school. I enjoyed mostly poems, but anything longer never held my interest. When I decided to go back to school I learned that writing can be therapeutic. With my MBA complete, my time was spent watching the grass grow. Then, a friend challenged me to actually write a book better than the one she was reading. I toyed with the idea, and now here I am today. I have found a hidden passion that allows my wild side to come out while keeping the romance together. I would love to hear from all of you. You can email me at Beverly_Price@yahoo.com.

Find me at:

http://www.bookstrand.com/beverly-price

http://www.facebook.com/beverlyprice01

FEBRUARY 27TH

LUST ALONG WITH DESIREE HOLT!!!

An emotion or feeling of intense desire in the body. The lust can take any form such as the lust for knowledge, the lust for sex or the lust for power. It can take such mundane forms as the lust for food as distinct from the need for food. Lust is a powerful psychological force producing intense wanting for an object, or circumstance fulfilling the emotion. It is pleasure, delight, intense or unbridled sexual desire. Lasciviousness. Intense longing or craving.

I think that’s why I chose to include it in every title of my Night Seeker series. And who are the Night Seekers? Eight men and women, most of them shapeshifters who can shift into wolven form. They have a lust for revenge. And they seek a creature driven by a lust for blood. The legendary Chupacabra.

No one has ever identified what it is. Those who have seen it call it a nightmarish apparition, the devil incarnate, that kills its victims, rips them open and drinks their blood. Each member of the team has lost someone to the creature and now they are determined to hunt it down.

They are also driven by a sexual lust, each and every one of them, a lust they forcefully keep under control until each finds his or her mate. And then the lust is unbridled, driving them to unbelievable sexual satisfaction.

So first we had Lust Unleashed.

Then we had Lust By Moonlight.

Now comes Lust Undone, the third book in the series.

Available at all virtual bookstores and from Ellora’s Cave.

Blurb:

Returning to her home state of Maine to investigate a possible Chupacabra killing, Sophia Black meets Clint Beltaire, lean, dark and sexy. From the moment she meets him the heat between them is incendiary, the sex erotic and the pleasure beyond her imagination. Clint takes her in ways that fulfill all of her fantasies and teaches her ways to please him. The Maine air might be cold but in Sophia’s motel room it’s beyond boiling. Clint works to help her with her case, using his knowledge of the area in which he grew up. And as they learn each others secrets it’s obvious to both of them that they are meant to be together. Mated.

Excerpt:

Sophia watched her, eyes tracking to the man behind the bar. And unexpectedly her pulse kicked over and heat flashed through her.

What the hell is this?

But the man seemed to carry an electric charge around him. He wasn’t that tall, not even six feet, she guessed. But inside the plaid shirt with the rolled up sleeves she could see the outline of a compact muscular body. Thick dark hair touched the collar of the shirt and she could see it sprinkled on his arms where they were visible. His face was rugged rather than handsome, at least as much as she could tell from that distance. A good case of five o’clock shadow gave him an intriguingly dangerous look. Then he raised his eyes to scan the booth and she felt their impact clear to her toes.

Sophia wriggled in her seat, trying to still the sudden ramped up beat of her pulse in her cunt. Why on earth in the midst of this crisis did her hormones suddenly decide to take a walk on the wild side?

“He and Frenchy sure don’t look anything alike,” she told her sister.

“I know. Hot, isn’t he? Every woman in the county’s been trying to get his attention.” Bec looked up from studying the menus. “And this seems to work out for both of them.” She gave her sister a knowing look and her mouth curved in a tiny smile. “Go on and introduce yourself to him, Soph. You know Frenchy always had a soft spot for you. You can ask him to pass along your greetings.”

“No.” Sophia shook her head. “No need to.”

“Chicken. Don’t tell me you’re afraid of a good looking man.”

“Of course not.” She buried herself in the menu.

“Come on.” Rebecca set her menu down and pushed against Logan to slide out of the booth. “Let’s go say hello. It will take your mind off the meeting we just had.” She made a face. “And the one tomorrow morning. Besides, I want to ask about his almost-uncle.”

“I don’t think—”

“Right. Don’t think.” She grabbed her sister’s hand and practically dragged her out of the booth. “He doesn’t bite. I promise.”

Sophia reluctantly let herself be towed across the room by her sister. Her instincts were telling her she was stepping into a danger zone.

Get it together, Black. He’s just some bartender in a town you’ll never be in again after this gig.

The man was polishing a small area of the bar with a cloth when Rebecca rapped on the heavy wood to get his attention.

“Saw you come in, Bec.” His voice had a low, smoky sound to it. “You surely do bring this place some class.”

Rebecca laughed. “Well, now you can double it. This is my sister. Sophia Black, meet Clint Beaudine.”

He dropped the rag, swiped his hand on the leg of his jeans and held it across the bar. “The pleasure is all mine.”

Sophia put her small hand in his large one and nearly jumped at the electric shock that ran through her arm and into her body. She looked at Clint and saw the same reaction reflected in his eyes, an amber-flecked hazel. He squeezed her hand lightly before releasing it.

“A real pleasure.” His words were like a caress skating over her skin.

Sophia couldn’t take her eyes from him. She couldn’t remember a time, ever, that a man had affected her this way.

 

And watch for Branded By Lust, on its way to my editor.

 

Do you have my App? For Android or Apple, it has all my books along with Buy links and it’s where I post all my updates. Get it today.

www.desireeholt.com

www.desireeholttellsall.com

Twitter: @desireeholt

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Email me at www.desireeholt.com

 

 

 

FEBRUARY 20th SINNING WITH ZARA CHASE…
Welcome to Wendy…or rather Zara Chase…and it would be a sin not to read one of her books! She hasn’t talked directly about her sins here but my heads up?
Lust wins- 14 novels!!! And thats not talking about the many more as her other personna! Pride? Seems she’s working hard to overcome her nice girl background and isn’t looking back! She’s hit the best seller list more than once, so I’d be proud too. And she writes menage so that has to get a score for Gluttony and Greed, right? Sloth- forget it, she must write in her sleep…And the envy and wrath must be mine…she might be freezing in Britain at the moment but she’s just returned there from some idyllic Caribbean island. Now I could write 14 books there….

It’s a rapidly changing world.

Love it or hate it, the internet has touched all our lives and changed a lot of them beyond recognition. Whether for the better or not, I’ll leave you to decide.

What I do know is that when I started out as a novelist over ten years ago, e-books were in their infancy and publishers still reigned supreme, with agents as their fierce gatekeepers. I managed to get published by a small London house that didn’t require me to have agency representation. They did however dictate what I could and couldn’t write. The publication process was long and laborious, the sales disappointing.

Then the e-revolution came along. It was relatively easy to find hungry e-publishers willing to take your books and the whole process was a damned sight quicker. Downside, you’re expected to do your own promotion and be all over the net. If, like me, you’re a Brit whose mum told you it was bad manners to put yourself forward, that doesn’t come naturally. But the publishers are still king, albeit of the net, and if you don’t do as you’re told you’ll be dropped.

Ha ha, much they know because along came self-publishing. Now I’ve not tried it myself, yet, but it’s certainly making publishers sit up and take notice. Authors have the audacity to write what they want to, not what they’re told to, and worse, it’s actually selling. They seem to know what people want to read. What is the world coming to?

Motivated by this sea-change, I decided to reinvent myself. I’ve always wanted to have a go at erotica and apparently it’s…well, hot right now. I read a few books written by people I know and respect and blinked several times. Blimey, this is ménage stuff. More than one man servicing a single woman? Hmm, lucky girl! I read the publisher’s guidelines and discovered there had to be at least one scene where double, or there were three men involved, triple penetration took place. Okay, don’t panic, how…er, hard can it be? Just work out what goes where – that’s it, slot A into hole B and hey-ho Zara Chase was born.

I’ve now written fourteen erotic novels for SirenBookStrand, including a series featuring shapeshifting hunks. The third in my Impulse series, Jaguars’ Reward ,is published by Siren on 1st Feb. Don’t you just adore this cover? My alpha shifters have to mate with humans in order to keep their powers going, but it has to be the right human, of course. Hence the guys play amongst themselves until their mate comes along. I had a lot of fun dreaming up things for them to do to each other!

Here’s how Siren describe Jaguars’ Reward.

When alpha jaguars Vadim and Zayd rescue a woman from drowning off the coast of Impulse, they expect just a little gratitude for saving her life. Instead, driven by instincts she’s unable to control, Talia tries to kill them both.

Convinced Talia has been sent by their enemies to infiltrate Impulse, the entire colony is on its guard against attack. But for Vadim and Zayd it’s a defining moment because they sense that Talia’s the mate they’d almost given up on finding. Unfortunately Talia not only has shifter blood herself, disqualifying her as a suitable mate, but has also been taught to hate everything to do with shifters.

Driven by their overwhelming feelings for Talia, Vadim and Zayd risk the security of the entire colony in their quest to possess a woman who can never be theirs, can she…

Check out all my titles at SirenBookStrand http://www.bookstrand.com/zara-chase or at Amazon.com Follow me on twitter @chasezara or I’m on Facebook as Zara Chase and you can keep up with all my news and releases that way.

Thanks for having me here Simone.

Wendy

FEBRUARY 13TH SINNING TODAY WITH E.A.REYNOLDS!
Compared with last week’s guest, Hell is warming up the seat for this one! Well the Hell with plush red velvet lounges, cocktails at 5pm and delicious hunky men….Congratulations on first book being published last year and expect lots more to come!

I’m not much for making New Year’s resolutions but when I look back over the old year I do hope to be better in the coming year than I was in the last.

So, how bad was I?

Gluttony: Well, not much for overdoing on anything except for cake. But I only rate 8 here because I never make it when there’s no one to help me eat it. 8.

 

Sloth: I’m not a neat freak, I’ve been letting a few things go a little too long in favor of longer writing and editing hours. I give myself a 6 though because I deserve a me time. 6

 

Wrath: This is a goodie. I’m not sweetness and light or mean and axe killer bad, but I’m a grouch when I’m interrupted during writing. I hate to lose my train of thought. I just can’t always get it back that cuts into the flow of the story. I rate a 8.

 

Lust: Not enough in real life at the moment I’m afraid, but my mind has been overflowing with it in my books. I wrote about it so much I even dreamed about it.  So, I rate a 6 because I’m keeping my romance life very low key right now. 6

 

Pride: First book! Accepted published! Proud! I go with a 10 because I walked around smiling for weeks for no reason other than the first book was no longer a figment of my imagination. 10.

Envy: I admit I would like to be more successful than I am, but I’m just starting out as writer, so I know I have to be patient. I do envy some of my Siren sisters and brothers their popularity with readers. I’m not hating on them so I give myself an 10.

 

Greed: I want to be well off. Not stinky, can’t stand the smell of my money rich, just well off enough to live well. I’d like to be able to give a little more to my favorite charity, St. Judes and give to a few others too. I’d rate myself a 8.

 

Total:56 …I say not too bad but then I am an optimist.

 

About me: I am a daydreamer who loves Dresden Files but I’m not too sure how I feel about Vampire Earth even though I’ve read the entire series. My guilty pleasures are  cake and ice cream, (separately) with a good hot daydream. Course, real thing’s always better. A big grin.

 

Fall Into To Me: Doctor Dillan Ellsworth has known Sagan Saldana was his mate for years, but a battered heart makes him hesitant to do anything more than crave him from a distance. Now that Sagan’s life is in danger, and Dillan is forced to protect him, what Dillan feels can no longer be denied.

 

 

Story Excerpt

Sagan stepped into his kitchen to find Dillan sitting at the peninsula with a mug of steaming liquid before him. The dark-golden skin, the thick hair with its hints of red, and his hard body made the man a gorgeous creation of manhood. His sexy smile and pretty eyes all made him eye candy that Sagan could lick up with his eyes all day.

But what kind of man was Dillan Ellsworth? Who was he? He’d mentioned having been with women. What about his family? Dillan knew pretty much all there was to know about him except the only piece of his past that had been withheld from him until only days before his uncle’s death.

He’d spent a good deal of time in Dillan’s company before he became attracted to him. During that time and after, all of their conversations had been open and honest. At least, on his end. He’d told Dillan everything, wanting him to see him and know him. He’d wanted Dillan to fall in love with him then, and he wanted it even more now. Knowing more about Dillan and what had him so heartbroken or heartsick he couldn’t love him back might help him understand the man’s fears better.

Sagan crossed the room to the coffeepot and poured himself a cup. His uncle had stocked up on some of the best coffee beans in world along with a grinder. Obviously Dillan enjoyed a good cup of joe as much as he did. He added a touch of cream and a pinch of sugar and then went to the peninsula.

“You want some breakfast?” Dillan asked looking up from the screen of his phone.

Sagan studied him a heartbeat. “You have nice hair,” he said. “Why do you wear it long?” Dillan had grown his hair out some over the years, and he thought it was as beautiful now as it had always been.

“I like it this way, but I’m due for a trim,” he said then smiled. “You want to cut it?”

Sagan reached across the peninsula and captured a thick strand. “I could trim the ends. I do cut my own hair.” Dillan’s hair smelled nice like the soap he used.

“Don’t all black guys?”

Sagan laughed. “Hell no,” he said.

“Your father was black?”

He frowned. “Yeah. My sister was raised by my Dad’s family.”

“How’d you end up with your mom’s family then?” Dillan asked. He looked down at his phone and typed something in.

“My mom and my uncle were close from what I remember,” he said with a frown as he tried to recall how he’d come to live with his uncle when his sister and younger brother had ended up with his father’s family. “I heard once that I didn’t look like my dad’s family or my dad and that my mom had cheated on my dad. Well, after my mom died, my dad was stone drunk one night, and I was trying to help him to bed and he started babbling about the time he and my mom had a threesome with his best friend.”

“Do you know for sure if you’re the best friend’s?” Dillan asked, looking up at him with a curious light in his eyes.

Sagan shrugged carelessly. “My mother was promised to a Beorc brother, but before the ceremony could take place, she ended up drunk in Vegas and married.”

“Ric must have been pissed,” Dillan said wryly.

Sagan snorted. “My mother was bred to carry a Beorc’s child,” he said. “She was from a line of psychic healers who could manipulate vibration and emotion. They were emapths. The goal was to breed her with my father to produce me.” He shrugged.

“How’d it happen if she was married to someone else?”

“My fathers were bi,” he said. “They wanted each other as much as they wanted my mother, but they agreed to keep their relationship secret for my mortal dad’s sake. We kids didn’t know, and my siblings still don’t know, but it doesn’t matter because I’m the only child my mother had that was my dad’s.”

“The only child promised to the coven,” Dillan said quietly, and Sagan nodded.

“Yes, and my dad would have taken my uncle’s place had he not been killed.”

“That’s why Ric wanted you with a Boerc,” he said. “You are the product of one. ”

He shrugged. “It’s why I can’t just walk away.”

Dillan put a hand on Sagan’s. “Must have hurt like hell when you found out about your dad,” he said. “I mean how he died.”

“Broke my heart,” he admitted. “I did love him. He was always good to me, and he was as much as a dad to me as he could be without me asking questions.”

Dillan nodded. “Rodriguez-Roe?”

“He was my father,” he agreed. “I loved him, and I want follow in his footsteps and be as much a part of this coven as I can.”

Dillan nodded. He saw better now what drove Sagan’s determination to see this through. He’d been surrounded by the Beorc culture and traditions most of his life. He knew how important their survival was and how dependent it was on the males the dominants produced. None of them had ever produced more than two males. All dominants were born of the Beorc through a Beorc dominant or the daughter of one, be she witch or psychic.

“Do I have to worry about you hooking up with some woman behind my back?”

 

 

Adult Excerpt

Dillan watched him kick off his shoes before undoing his belt first then the button of his pants. Sagan dragged the zipper down then pushed his pants from his hips while Dillan moved to the full-size bed and the nightstand. He opened the drawer and withdrew a few items before turning his attention back to Sagan.

He stroked his cock while Sagan took his time pushing the pants down his narrow hips and legs. Sagan licked his lips, and Dillan smiled. “You’ve already had your taste. It’s  my turn.”

Sagan kicked away his pants and turned to give Dillan a back view of the briefs Riley had picked out for him to wear tonight. He heard the sharp intake of breath, and a satisfied smile spread over his face as he turned back to face Dillan.

“What pretty little panties,” he drawled. “Come here.” Dillan closed the space between them.

“You’re so controlling,” he muttered, though there was no heat in the statement.

For an answer, Dillan wrapped an arm around Sagan’s waist and dragged him up against him roughly for a hard kiss then kissed a path over Sagan’s chest and down to his stomach. He licked over his navel before dropping to his knees. He peeled Sagan’s underwear down to his hips and wrapped his fingers around Sagan’s cock, breathing harshly. He swirled his tongue around the head, and then he drew the tip into his mouth. “Yu-mmy.”

Sagan sighed and closed his eyes. He pushed the fingers of both hands into Dillan’s hair as Dillan began to feast on him. The suction of his mouth was tight, and his tongue was a wicked weapon wreaking havoc on his sensitive shaft. He speared the slit, raked his teeth lightly over the shaft, licked his balls, and sucked him deep.

Sagan mewled above Dillan as he sucked him slowly and kneaded his ass. He was so  damn good Dillan didn’t know if he’d be able to get enough. He hallowed his cheeks as he sucked. He took Sagan to the back of his throat and took him down.

“Oh, fuck!”

Dillan squeezed the base of Sagan’s cock to prevent him coming.

“Not yet, sweet one,” he murmured and reached for the cock cage that lay on top of the nightstand. The cage was a vibrator that would send tiny pulses to the shaft and head via wireless remote. The leather would hold Sagan’s cock erect as well as support his balls. It would allow for some sensory pleasure from the outside of the leather, mainly his light strikes to the cock and balls.

He put the cage on, and Sagan looked down at him. His heart was pounding, his eyes were almost navy.

“Now, the fun begins.” Dillan said getting to his feet and licking his lips. The taste of the boy lingered on his tongue. He wanted nothing more than to go back to his knees and suck the kid off, but he wanted to play with him more. ,

He reached for the handcuffs, which were lined with silk inside. “Hands on the nightstand.”

One of his lovers in New Mexico had been a cop. He’d used his handcuffs on him a few times. Sagan had enjoyed the walk on the wild side, so he obliged, and Dillan snapped the cuffs in place. Sagan turned his hands to see if he could grip the nightstand and noted the chain was a little longer than standard cuffs.

“You want to stop?”

He shook his head. “No.” He was wired on lust. It was a drug that had him going higher with each move Dillan made.

“I like these,” Dillan murmured as he stroked his hand over Sagan’s ass. They were booty shorts that revealed his firm cheeks. He tore the briefs using a hint of telekinetic power. The fabric merely ripped, and he tossed it away before bringing his hand down on Sagan’s rear end and felt him gasp.

“Such a tight ass.” Dillan hit him harder.

Sagan shuddered. The sensations tore down his spine, and the heat set him on fire. The heat flared, and the vibration of power slapped against his cock head, making him whimper.

Dillan hit him again then smoothed his hand over his ass before removing a paddle from the drawer.

“Fuck, I like that,” he said harshly.

“Then, you’ll love this,” Dillan murmured then hit him again.

Sagan clenched his ass, and made an orgasmic noise. “Damn you,” he breathed out harshly. “Again.” Sagan licked his lips with the pleasure skittering through him.

Dillan hit him with the paddle, and Sagan whimpered and caught his lower lip between his teeth. Dillan lowered his head and nipped his ear. “I‘ve been looking forward to this since you turned twenty-one.”

“I wasn’t ready for this then,” Sagan said, breathless.

Dillan hit him again, playing a tattoo on his ass, and Sagan cried out. The pleasure in the pain ate a wide swath through him. His was burning, a wildfire threatening to burn out of control.

“That little ass is blushing so pretty.”

“Fuck me,” he commanded. “I need it now.”

Dillan slapped his ass with his hand. “When I’m ready, I’ll give you what you need.”

“You’re a bastard, Dillan Ellsworth.”

Dillan grinned. “The bastard this ass belongs to now.” Dillan slapped Sagan’s ass again, slapping out a tattoo that left his ass blushing brighter. He smoothed the red flesh and then turned the vibration in the cock cage on. A few more strikes to his ass and Dillan turned the vibration higher.

Tiny pulses of pleasure nipped at the shaft of his cock, and even Sagan’s ass was tingling in pleasure. The next strike of his hand had Sagan’s dick throbbing and pulsing for release. “I can’t take it,” he cried.

 

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FEBRUARY 6TH SINNING WITH PROF DON TILLMAN, HERO of THE ROSIE PROJECT
This week I shifted gear- just for a week!
The Rosie Project which won the Premier’s literary award last year ofr an unpublished novel has been hailed as the feel good novel of 2013. Released in Australia Jan 30th (April in UK, Taiwon and Italy and later in the year for USA, Canada and into next year for 27 other countries!) available on order