Saturday, September 26, 2009

intelligent and pink

i realised that i never posted my review of lili wilkinson's book pink (which i loved).

so here 'tis:

"working for the centre for youth literature, lili wilkinson (author of scatterheart, the not-quite perfect boyfriend, as well as the latest gem angel fish)must be very familiar with everything that is out there in young adult fiction today. she has used this advantage in her very funny new novel pink, for older readers. this one is for the kids that just aren't sure: about their sexuality, their friends or themselves. pink successfully turns the traditional theme of fitting in upside down, while reinforcing the importance of being true to one's self - if you can figure out who you are.

ava has convinced her parents to send her to a posh academic school, instead of the more carefree, alternative high school she had previously been attending. she wants to be challenged. even though she loves her girlfriend chloe, she wants the chance to reinvent herself a little and make some new friends. of course, her plans do not run smoothly. the characters are all well-written, come from a range o backgrounds and the dialogue is quick and snappy (hello gilmore girls!) and fun. ava is a smart and strong female character and i love this idea of the rebel lesbian girl who wants to try living in the mainstream."

so that was the bit i wrote for a magazine. i want to add a few things:

pink would be a great companion read to simmone howell's ace gold inky-winning notes from the teenage underground. i could see ava and gem (the warhol-loving, filmmaking, feisty protagonist) as friends, hanging out at the state library.

i love that there are some great books out with smart and funny girls as the main character. i also love destiny mccartney from gabrielle williams' beatle meets destiny who was a (maybe just little) bit ditzy, but also clever and fun.

i think i might compile a list of all my fave smart chicks in YA. and my favourite smart lads too!

(oh and as a last note...i love that ava's parents threw her a coming-out party when she told them she was gay. reminded me of the party gem's mother threw her (in nfttu) when she got her period.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

naked or dressed

i stayed up quite late the other night finishing nick hornby's latest novel juliet, naked. (out this week, from viking)

it was marvellous! fantastic! once i finished i went back and read the last few pages again and sort of sat there thinking about it. and now i just want everyone i know to read it so i can talk about it.
it's the story of duncan and annie, de facto by circumstance not totally by choice or love. duncan's love and passion is reserved for tucker crowe - a dylan-esque, leonard cohen-type singer-songwriter (but not so famous) who disappeared completely after his sudden retirement.

fans the world over (led, pretty much, by the obsessive duncan) theoriesed ceaselessly over the reasons for tucker's retirement. was it the famous "impossible" julie - about whom tucker's chef d'oeuvre juliet was written? did she break his heart completely? will tucker ever release another album?
but it also deals with annie and duncan's relationship, their trip to america to tour all of tucker crowe's haunts and all that happens from the moment they receive the first copy of a new release acoustic demo version of tucker's album (released as juliet, naked) when annie has a finger hovering over the play button as she contemplates the fatal sin of listening to it before duncan. (and thus, being able to form her own opinion of it, not coloured by his academic analyses of style and influence).
juliet, naked is truly classic, truly fab, hornby.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

coffee art

here are the coffees the evil sister and i were served when we had lunch at the rather funky alphabet city cafe on high st, westgarth just the other day. impressive coffee art! i haven't come across much coffee art, just the occasional feather and love heart.

and they were delicious coffees as well! perhaps a little on the milky side, but i'd definitely go back. plus, it's just across from the westgarth cinema. and it does good food. and also there's a very quirky junk shop in westgarth too, filled with treasures - if you could only get to them!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

some picture books

at my work i get to read a lot of picture books. this is something i love! my ultimate favourite being wilfred gordon macdonald partridge by mem fox and julie vivas, which never fails to make me a bit weepy - in the best way!

mannie, strawberry luca and lilliput are off for a day's adventure! they take along mannie's special box - a pink suitcase filled with secret things. mannie is martine murray's latest creation and a brilliant addition to her other tearaway adventurer-girls cedar b hartley and henrietta; brought to life in sally rippin's beautiful, expressive illustrations.
'wait a minute! what's in the box?' it's all sorts of things that make their adventure go swimmingly, even when the clouds become grey and ominous. it is then that the shy, timid elephant lilliput has to summon her courage. i love martine's expressions: 'a serious explorer hat', 'creep peep creeping through the tall reaching trees', 'tip top toeing along the dark pointy roofs'. beautiful!

colin thompson's latest picture book is a sweet and humourous story of a frightening-looking bulldog called fearless. however, fearless is really a friendly scaredy-dog. people cross the road when confronted with his thick muscled body, docked tail and meaty jaws, when really he was "just smiling hello." this makes fearless confused and sad. sarah davies has provided perfect, detailed illustrations, bringing out the endearing fearless - so expressive and realistic.

this one is a new favourite of mine. not only is zou an adorable little zebra-boy but the story goes that he wants to make his parents breakfast in bed so they'll get up and play with him - and they need coffee! plus it is french (and i am a serious francophile) so zou pours bowls of coffee for his maman and papa. but watch where you're walking, zou!
written by michel gay. in france there are lots of stories about zou, so i hope we'll see more of him soon.
and speaking of coffee...i've been pretty slack about trying new places recently. however, i did get a takeaway latte from giant kitchen little (i think this is what it's called) on moreland road in brunswick. the staff were so friendly and they played excellent spanish-type music and sang along. the coffee itself was nice and hot, not too creamy, but a little bit weak. i will go back though.

i also went down to point lonsdale on the bellarine peninsula and had coffee with my mama bear and evil sister at kelp. kelp has a nice view onto the beach and along to queenscliff. the coffee was actually quite good this time (previously it has been burnt and bitter) and they give you a little piece of yummy fudge on the side so that was nice. for food though, they don't even have one vegetarian option so i got cross.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

spotlight on my favourites: joanne horniman

secret scribbled notebooks

this is probably my favourite of her novels. mostly because i love kate, the main character. i want to be her. she's finishing up her final year at school, dreaming of escaping her hometown of lismore and hungry to experience life. there is a delightful cast of characters: sophie is kate's sister who lies long hours in bed reading and reading and breastfeeding her baby (first called anastacia, then hetty). lil, the red-lipped, raven haired old lady who brought them up after their father left them behind at the rambling bed and breakfast called samarkand (the house almost a character to itself). the "russian prince" from the second hand bookstore enchanted me as much as he did kate. jo's words are masterful, evoking the lusciousness of this almost tropical hinterland, as well as its oppressiveness.


matt and emmy were only teenagers when they discovered they were expecting a baby - mahalia, it turned out. but they decided they would love her and worry about the other problems later. but emmy can't seem to cope and before mahalia is six months old she leaves them and goes to stay with her godmother in sydney. matt is fiercely determined to take care of mahalia by himself and be beholden to no one.
this is a beautiful story and very realistic. again set in lismore (reading jo's novels you expect to see characters from every book just wandering about) and the landscape and the people flesh out the story, no less important than matt and mahalia and the main action. another set of characters that i want to be friends with; particularly matt's mate otis and his family, and the lion-like eliza.

a charm of powerful trouble

i have only read this book the once, and it was quite a few years ago when it first came out. i remember it being very sensual, lush and dream-like. it is the story of sisters and their mother and all the mess of relationships and people in their lives.
i remember vividly one of the characters' first kiss. in secret, hidden in some verdant and sequestered place (the landscape felt wild!) she kissed her friend and bit her, so her first kiss tasted of blood. such a powerful piece of writing, it has stuck with me since.
it makes me think of picnic at hanging rock. but set in the australian tropics. and much more poetic.

then there are the sequels, or companion novels...

little wing tells emmy's side of the story; her time away from mahalia, helping us to understand her motives for leaving. i think my loyalties lie too strongly in matt's camp and i did not fully warm to emmy. but her personal development and healing, as well as the people she meets on the way, make it a warm and moving novel. the cool blue chill of the nsw blue mountains (the setting for this book) is a contrast from the muggy scenes of lismore in the other books.

in my candlelight novel we are treated to the poetic and sexy story of sophie, the sister kate (from secret scribbled notebooks). just twenty-one, and a single mum to the delectable little hetty, sophie is starting university. filled with literary references and crammed with the blossoming ideas as sophie ruminates on motherhood and love. this is what young adult literature should be; smart, sumptuous and thought provoking. just divine.

all these books are published by the wonderful folk at allen and unwin. read them, savour them. (buy them)

Friday, September 11, 2009

the thinkings of a lili: Are you old enough?

this is what lili wilkinson (practically my idol) had to say about deciding whether someone is old enough to read something. she's put it excellently!

the thinkings of a lili: Are you old enough?#links#links

that said, a librarian gave me sonya hartnett's sleeping dogs to read when i was 12 and i read it through to the end and it disturbed me to no end. i've blocked it out and not read it again since. i think i will get on to that, as i'm assured by friends and critics that she's worth it!

lili's recent book pink was ace and her even newer angel fish equally as ace, though very different. i'll post reviews of both here soon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

a boat filled with flowers

here's a review i wrote awhile ago for magpies - a fantastic magazine that focuses just on children's and YA books. (

Falling by Sharon Dogar

Sixteen-year-old Neesha has had the same ‘picture’ in her mind her whole life – a man punts a boat filled with flowers and a woman steps off a houseboat into a lake but does not resurface. She knows the pictures will continue to torment her until she can bring them to a conclusion and let the ghosts rest. Falling is a compelling story of old wrongs and forbidden love. Sammy and Neesha, passionately drawn together against the will of their parents, find out whether they are destined to play out what fate has in store for them or if they have the free will to create their own future. The traumatised Kefin is a powerful character; his anger, confusion and misplaced violence make his part in the story frighteningly real. Dogar deftly explores the persisting rifts between the old and the new Britons, especially the teenagers, with characters from both sides of the story. There are a number of flashbacks to colonial era Kashmir, which affect and explain the present-day action. Falling is not an easy book to read; the many different voices were initially confusing. However, it doesn’t take long to fall into place and the plot picks up a great pace and strong readers will appreciate just how well written Falling is. Dogar is a cross between her fellow British writers Meg Rosoff and Kevin Brooks – frightening and disturbing, but ultimately enjoyable and very rewarding.

Monday, September 7, 2009

wee bit o' ranting never hurt anyone

this is the first blog i've created. i'm still not sure if i'll keep it up. it seems like there are a lot of blogs out there, a lot of people having their say, but how is it possible that there are enough people interested in us? my main problem with blogging is that it's very self-indulgent.
the reason i started bean there, read that is because i love reading and sharing my thoughts on what i've read. but now that i'm here in cyberspace and reading about what other people have to do people take this seriously. it is more like everyone putting out their reviews in competition with each other and not so much conversation.

i've also noticed that at the moment it seems there is a bit of a book-blogging war going on with young and old bloggers getting angry at other young and old bloggers for hogging too much of the blog limelight and not sharing the love around. don't get me wrong, i want everyone to read my stuff so that one day i get headhunted to be some kind of commissioning editor for a quirky independent publishing house. but ye gads - i'm also going to do some courses and apply for jobs that i don't really want and put in some hard yards in order to get what i want. i can't see that my blog is going to change anything, really.

there is also a lot of talk about reviewing etiquette. basically they say to be honest, polite and reference your sources. when i review for real magazines they say to indicate the book's intended readership, things that are wrong with it, things that are right. it is pretty much what i learned at uni when doing creative writing classes. and constructive criticism. give it, and learn to receive it. i've been known to make my opinion without really thinking about how it might make the author feel - i am often seduced by the anonymity of the internet, and the speed with which you can make a comment and send it out into the great unknown. i'm going to try to mend the error of my ways. maybe.

maybe one day i will post the infamous review i wrote which sparked the most entertaining response from an irate author whose feelings were hurt beyond repair (i fear). at the moment i still feel conflicted - between concern at my lack of diplomacy and my conviction that i was totally on the money.

but back to the important things:

coffees today included: delicious and creamy skinny milk latte from green on sydney road, brunswick and a strong and hits-the-spot soy latte (with bonsoy) from a minor place on albion st, brunswick.
books today: a quick nostalgic flick through nick earls' zigzag street (bantam) and re-read of angel fish by lili wilkinson (for a black dog books review that should have been done last week).

Friday, September 4, 2009


yesterday was so gorgeous and sunny and bright that i'm getting excited about nicer weather. while winter is great for hot chocolates and curling up in your bed to read a book, spring (and summer) are great for being sprawled on the grass (reading a book) and at the beach (reading a book) and being in the beer garden (usually not with a book, but you could definitely do this)

in honour of spring, here is one of my favourite spring poems

here’s to opening and upward, to leaf and to sap
and to your(in my arms flowering so new)
self whose eyes smell of the sound of rain

and here’s to silent certainly mountains;and to
a disappearing poet of always,snow
and to morning;and to morning’s beautiful friend
twilight(and a first dream called ocean)and

let must or if be damned with whomever’s afraid
down with ought with because with every brain
which thinks it thinks,nor dares to feel(but up
with joy;and up with laughing and drunkenness)

here’s to one undiscoverable guess
of whose mad skill each world of blood is made
(whose fatal songs are moving in the moon

ee cummings

Thursday, September 3, 2009

first coffee of the day

the first coffee of the day started late today. it was procured from the cornershop cafe in yarraville. $3.90 for a large latte.

their coffees are consistently good quality (and they also make a mean soy with bonsoy) and have the most hilarious and friendly service. it went down a treat (a caffeine withdrawal headache was coming on) and now i want another.

cornershop also do amazing food and being opposite the art deco sun theatre mean that it is the best place to eat before or after a movie. warning - it does get crowded on the weekends.