Sunday, 30 June 2019

More Highlights

I sincerely hope there comes a time when I can be more consistent with my posts here – once every three to four months is not ideal, and my goal has always been once a month. However away from Life Amidst the Unreal there is that pesky interruption called life. You know the one, where there’s money to be earned, kids to get where they’re supposed to be at any given time, bills to pay, food to cook, appointments to attend, pain to ease or tolerate if it can’t be eased. The one where husbands injure themselves at work and require an operation and a chauffeur (luckily my daughter has her Ls now, so she can take over that job sometimes). The one where manuscripts won’t edit or submit themselves and blog posts won’t write themselves.

But enough of the Real! Time for highlights of the Unreal:

Writing highlights: I currently have three separate manuscripts out there in the slush. Two PBs and a YA. Also bashed out a couple of rough chapters for a sequel to my YA urban fantasy.

Reading highlights: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, The Nancys by RWR McDonald, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend, Ship of Dolls by Shirley Parenteau, and by Jaclyn Moriarty I read Gravity is the Thing and reread A Corner of White. I highly recommend all of these books and would happily read anything written by any of these authors.

Viewing highlights: Not a lot to list here, too many good books to read, and too much happening IRL. The Handmaid’s Tale (1st series on Stan, 2nd and 3rd series on SBS on Demand), Yesterday (currently in cinemas)

Opening lines highlight: Madeleine Tully turned fourteen yesterday, but today she did not turn anything.
Oh, wait. She turned a page. – A Corner of White, Jaclyn Moriarty

Tuesday, 12 March 2019


Been working hard getting my manuscript ready for submission, so here's a few highlights from Life Amidst the Unreal over the last couple of months:

Writing highlights: finishing off the YA urban fantasy I’ve been working on for what feels like forever. So close, so close…

Reading highlights: Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood; Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin; A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett; currently reading Vicarious by Paula Stokes.

Viewing highlights: The Bodyguard series on Netflix; Good Girls series on Netflix; The Cry BBC/ABC miniseries; Bohemian Rhapsody movie on DVD.

Holiday highlights:

Mount Kilcoy, Qld

Random river stones, Mount Kilcoy, Qld

Lake Somerset, Qld

And I'll leave you with a couple of "Royal" highlights:

Roger Taylor: You’re a legend, Fred.
Freddie Mercury: You’re bloody right I am. We’re all legends. But you’re right, I am a legend. 
- Bohemian Rhapsody

Rio: You wanna be the king, you gotta kill the king. This stuff's medieval darlin'.
- Good Girls

Sara: There's nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it in - that's stronger. It's a good thing not to answer your enemies.

- A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Monday, 26 November 2018

Gap Year Nanny by Goldie Alexander

Part of the Shakespeare Now! trilogy (also available as an anthology), Gap Year Nanny takes Macbeth from historic Scotland and brings it to modern Melbourne.

During her gap year, Merri watches the rise and fall of her employers, corporate climber Stuart Macbeth and his wife Lorna, while looking after the couple’s young children. The familiar tale of greed and corruption plays out against Merri’s day-to-day problems, such as getting her charges to trust her, losing old friends, making new ones, and balancing a social life with the demands of her job.

Placing Macbeth’s main themes and characters in a modern setting (the witches make a memorable appearance as internet gurus) makes this book a great introduction for young people studying “the Scottish play” for the first time.

I look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy – The Trytth Chronicles based on The Tempest and set in the future, and Changing History? a time-slip novel set in 1928 Berlin based on Romeo and Juliet.

Monday, 29 October 2018

The Best and Worst of Audio Books

I’m a big fan of audio books and listen to them in the car to make the commute less of a chore. It also gives me the opportunity to experience more books than I have time to actually read, and to experience books that I otherwise probably wouldn’t read because they’re ‘not my cup of tea’. Listening to them often makes them easier to digest.

The most recent audio books I have listened to pretty much represent the best and the worst things about audio books.

The best: Deep Waters by Ann Cliff, read by Anne Dover.

Set in the 1890s, a Yorkshire farming valley is slated to be flooded and dammed to provide water to the city of Leeds. Rachel is determined to fight for the land and the future of the community she loves.

The book is beautifully and subtly read by Anne Dover. There are no over-the-top character voices to pull you out of the story, and her accents hit the mark. A generous sprinkling of romance infuses the story without getting in the way of the main themes of progress, class, choices for women and how one person’s actions can make a difference.

The worst: Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood, read by a full cast.

Part cat, part owl, part genetic engineer: I think he’s meant to be some sort of super hero, but he doesn’t really do much. The rest of the half-animals seem more proactive in fighting the half-rat boss-man and his army of evil rats. 

I have always wanted to read something by Margaret Atwood. I fear this was the worst possible introduction I could have had.

The atrocity starts with the fact that this is adapted from a graphic novel. How many times have you read a graphic novel and thought, Hmmm, this would make a great audio book

What’s that? 


Me neither. 

Because graphic novels are all about the visual. I’m sure comics like Batman and Superman were presented as radio plays back in the day, and that’s the format used here. But the over-the-top voices, the ridiculous dialogue, the pointless, meandering plot all conspire to make this book unlistenable. I really tried, but by the third and final CD my brain started tuning it all out and I lost track of who was who and what was what. So, in one of those life-is-too-short moments, I gave up and turned on the radio.

Most audio books fall somewhere between these two extremes – some reading voices you could listen to forever, some pull you out of the story with character voices that don’t work, some books have strong storylines that make for riveting listening and some plots are just too convoluted to follow audibly. But the fact that I’m less invested in listening to a book than I am in reading one, makes an audio book easy to switch off if it’s a shocker, and an absolute joy to hear if it transports me beyond peak-hour traffic.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Book-Movie, Movie-Book

Some people refuse to watch movie adaptions of books they’ve read. The common consensus is that the movie is never as good as the book. But I find it hard to resist seeing characters come to life on the movie screen. Yes, it can be hit and miss, but it’s interesting to see what works and what doesn’t. Here are a few adaptions I’ve watched lately.

Everything, Everything (book by Nicola Yoon)

Book: I read this for my monthly book club. It’s a quick, easy, enjoyable read. The protagonist, Maddy, is a girl who lives an isolated life because she can’t go outside her house without getting sick. A cute boy moves in next door and a relationship of sorts develops, but how will they make it work? If you break it down the plot has some issues, but really if you over-analyse any kind of fiction it falls apart. Best to suspend disbelief and go with the flow.

Movie: I enjoyed the movie, but in this case, I felt the book was better. Mainly because some of my favourite moments in the book didn’t occur in the movie. In the book, Olly does parkour and teaches Maddy how to do handstands. In the movie, this part of Olly’s character is missing. Also, I felt that Maddy’s imaginary scenes with Olly prior to their actual meeting detracted from excitement of their first meeting irl.

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (book by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn)

Movie: Here is a case where I’ve watched the movie adaption before I have read the book. I feel hesitant to read the book, because I enjoyed the movie so much. Naomi has been best friends with Ely forever. Even though he’s gay, she’s secretly in love with him. In the interest of maintaining their friendship, they create a No Kiss list of boys they both like. However, they neglect to add Naomi’s boyfriend, Bruce 2, to the list, because, well, “some things are just obvious”. I’ve read reviews saying how annoying and ego-centric these characters are, but I think that’s the point. Through the breakdown of Naomi and Ely’s insular friendship, they are finally able to grow and become better people.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (book by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn)

Book: I read this book for book club several years ago and I didn’t like it. The plot seemed to wander aimlessly, and I found the writing uneven – I liked reading Nick’s chapters much more than Norah’s. There was also a storyline where Norah kept trying to force herself to do something that she really didn’t want to do and that annoyed me no end.

Movie: After enjoying No Kiss List, I thought I would give this DL/RC movie adaption a go and am happy to report that the movie was much better than the book. The annoying subplot was gone, and the story seemed much more coherent: Norah asks Nick to pretend to be her boyfriend for five minutes to get an annoying school mate (who happens to be Nick’s ex) off her back. They spend the rest of the night simultaneously trying to get Norah’s drunk bestie home, trying to find out where the best band in the universe is playing their secret gig, and falling in love.

Some adaptions where I liked the book better: The Cat in the Hat – Dr Seuss, Percy Jackson books – Rick Riordon, Howl’s Moving Castle – Dianna Wynn Jones, Twilight – Stephenie Myer, Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson

Some adaptions where I liked both the book and the movie: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak, Harry Potter franchise – JK Rowling, Hunger Games franchise – Suzanne Collins, The Fault in our Stars – John Green

Another adaption where I liked the movie better: The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

“I've read many more books than you. It doesn't matter how many you've read. I've read more. Believe me.” 
― Nicola Yoon, Everything, Everything

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Blog renos and Anne With An E

As I have felt uninspired by my own blog for some time, I decided it was time for renovations. So here is the new look, the new theme, the new title. As much as I love and am grateful for my real life, “life amidst the unreal” is my escape. It is the life of books and writing, stories on the screen, of magic and possibilities. It is a place I hope you’ll join me now and then to see where I’ve been “living”.

My latest adventure has been the Netflix series “Anne with an E”, based on “Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. Amybeth McNulty plays Anne to perfection. The beloved supporting characters: Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, Diana, Gilbert and Mrs Lynde et al are all faithfully portrayed. This adaption delves more into the characters’ pasts and introduces new characters adding further textures and layers to LM Montgomery’s story without diminishing Anne’s spirit and the essence of her rags to contentment story. And of course, no adaption of the book would be complete without the picturesque landscape of Prince Edward Island and its “Lake of Shining Waters”, “White Way of Delight” and the welcoming refuge of Green Gables.

“If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an E I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.” – LM Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Where I've been lately...


Isle of Pines




Middle of Nowhere