Thursday, December 31, 2009

do i believe?

i just finished reading justine larbalestier's liar. what a freaky fucked-up mofo of a book! it was amazing. i can't believe that no one told me about the weird twist - i had no idea she'd head off in such a direction. brilliant writing. a main character i just wanted to like even though she kept disappointing me and lying. it was frustrating but always interesting. it was powerful and kept you guessing.

and on a side note: after having read it i am something near to appalled that the american publishing house put a white girl on the cover. the question of race played such a huge part of the book. really, what were they thinking?

had breakfast at the rathdowne st foodstore. delicious croissant, bad jam. bad soy latte.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

my favourite australian YA of 2009

i've been reading persnickety snark's top 5s of the year - she's put a number out over the last week or so. her most recent one i think i'm going to steal:

!top 5 aussie YA books of the year! (disclaimer: in my own opinionated opinion)

loving richard feynman by penny tangey (UQP)
catherine is 15 and she's got a mega crush. on a physicist who, in the 40s, helped to build atomic bombs. so yes, catherine is a bit different from the other people at her school. but she says: "i suppose i could be more popular if i tried harder. but i don't want to pretend to care about facile television shows, eyeliner and who in year ten is on the pill." i think catherine is a rad character, so clever and so so so funny (seriously, she could give georgia nicholson - from angus thongs - a run for her money!). this book takes the form of her letters to the scientist over the course of one year, during which she slowly reads feynman's autobiography surely you're joking, mr feynman! and during which her life starts to come apart at the seams. writing to feynman helps her cope with all the problems she faces. this book deserves a lot of attention. come and get it!

when the hipchicks went to war by pamela rushby (lothian/hachette)
i reviewed this one awhile ago here. i love historical fiction, especially ones written for teenagers and especially when they deal with different aspects of a history we know quite well, parts of a war we tend not to focus on - and when women get their stories told!

a small free kiss in the dark by glenda millard (A&U)
beautifully written, sad and moving story about skip, a young boy who runs away from his abusive foster family only to find himself a victim of war. though she doesn't specify, i get the feeling that millard has set her war in melbourne. skip and bill, the old homeless man he meets, find themselves caring for little max who was safe in the library when bombs started falling but who is still waiting for his mum to come and get him. the trio head out on foot along the tram line to an abandoned fun park where they meet the teenage mum tia and baby sixpence. glenda millard's characters are always spectacular and poignant and these are no exception. the way she approaches the war is so well done, so brutal but brilliant. and there's always hope in her voice.

beatle meets destiny by gabrielle williams (penguin)

when john "beatle" lennon meets destiny mccartney you could forgive him for thinking that it was fate...err...destiny maybe. and if it was fate then what's the harm in taking her for ice cream and for a beer. or two. and is it really so wrong to kiss her? and maybe going on a picnic together the next day? perhaps it is a bit wrong when you consider beatle's lovely and faithful girlfriend. this is a riotously fun book with a pair of very real, engaging and not always well-behaved characters and a brilliant support cast. there are twists and turns, laughs and tears, eccentric families and a great (read: bizarre) stalking storyline. it's very melbourne and all kinds of awesome.

swerve by philip gwynne (penguin)

from the author of deadly, unna and nukkin ya this is very different. hugh is a cello-playing private schoolboy from sydney with a secret obsession for muscle cars. an old hippie man with a long ponytail has been hanging out the front of his school, trying to talk to him. it turns out he's hugh's grandfather - long estranged from the family - and he's got a proposition. poppy wants hugh to drive them to uluru in his '69 monaro. hugh falls in love with the car instantly, plus he wants to get his hours up (he's still on his Ls) and not even the audition in a week's time at the conservatorium can stop him. hugh is totally out of his comfort zone with poppy and away from his posh sydney life. with poppy he has to mingle with rough types of people and is confronted by the girls he constantly refers to as 'skanks'. predictably, things don't go to plan on the road. there's the hitchhikers manifesto, which dictates they must pick up all hitchhikers: not always a great idea, there's the runaway and then the psycho... but they meet some great people at truck stops and they camp in swags off the beaten track (checking into the million star motel!) and they wrestle with the powerful car, which remains the main character in the book. this is a moving and funny novel.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

poetry, by way of cinema

the other day i indulged myself and went to two films. first, my crick-crack-rock-chick best friend and i saw jane campion's bright star. it was divinely romantic without being mawkish.
here's a great keats poem:

give me wine, women, and snuff
until i cry out "hold enough!"
you may do so sans objection
til the day of resurrection
for, bless my beard, they aye shall be
my beloved trinity

and this poem also shows what i felt was one of the strongest aspects of the film: that these regency folk, including the romantic poet himself, were just people like you and i and that in spite of all those period films that would have us believe that everybody comported themselves with the utmost restraint and good manners, these people were smart and fun and fiesty and played outdoors and climbed trees and joked about with their elders.

the movie was brilliant, so subtle and romantic but fun and passionate. keats was beautiful, the inclusion of his poetry made it come alive again and abbie cornish was a revelation as the wonderful fanny - she was phenomenal in those final few scenes. however, it was paul schneider as mr brown that stole the show in his tartan "onesie" and sarky asides.
later that night, the evil sister and i watched nowhere boy, the story of young john lennon with an excellent focus on his relationship with his aunt (who raised him) and his mother. it was much more moving than i'd prepared myself for so the combination of these two films left me emotionally exhausted but a good cry is always welcome!

the boy - err, young man - playing john lennon (aaron johnson) was robbie in the hilarious teen movie angus, thongs and perfect snogging and i was a bit worried about his tween looks and simpering voice but he astounded me and now i think i'm a bit in love with him. he's beefed up, but more importantly he did really well imitating lennon's mannerisms and laugh (it was the laugh that got me - brilliantly done!) his performance reminded me of lennon's performance in the ace beatles film a hard day's night: i think the writer and/or director must have been fans - the opening scene of nowhere boy was defo an homage. he was also very impressive in the more serious scenes, as were kristin scott thomas (the stern aunt mimi) and anne-marie duff (john's mother julia). beautiful. two thumbs up for nowhere boy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

what did you get for christmas?

if you were a 10 (or 8 or 9 or 11 or 60) year old in melbourne this christmas, chances are you received a copy of either jen storer's brilliant tensy farlow and the home for mislaid children or richard newsome's equally brilliant the billionaire's curse. both books flew off the shelves where i work. (if you don't know where i work: it's a fab little independent bookshop in one of melbourne's inner suburbs that has more cafes per capita than anywhere else i've been...which are all shut today, except the crap one. i'm not happy.) but back to the books. i suppose it didn't hurt that everyone who works here (including me!) absolutely loved these titles.

don't know anything about them, still?as i said back in august, tensy farlow is what might have happened if anne of green gables had had a baby with lemony snicket which was then raised by j.k rowling. a couple of angels are on earth trying to locate mislaid baby tensy - now a ballsy and clever 10 year old - who has no guardian angel. with some delightfully evil baddies, a creepy orphanage and a lot of charm, this book is in my 2009 top ten.

the billionaire's curse is the story of gerald who inherits a billion dollars from an old aunt in london but then discovers that she may have been murdered and he must solve the mystery of her death, find the missing diamond, avoid the man who smells like bleach, all with the help of a pair of wisecracking twins. a rollicking adventure.

other books i've been recommending like a madwoman:
- the ask and the answer, patrick ness
- tomorrow, when the war began, john marsen (in preparation for the movie!)
- dreaming of amelia, jaclyn moriarty
- the magician's elephant, kate dicamillo
- oscar wilde's stories for all ages, stephen fry (ed.)
- wanted: the perfect pet, fiona robertson
- 3 little culottes, sylvie chausse
- elephants, a book for children, steve bloom

books i gave as gifts:
harvest: a complete australian guide to the edible garden, meredith kirton
the truth about melody browne, lisa jewell
stardust, joe kanon
spud: the madness continues, john van de ruit

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"look like the innocent flower

but be the serpent under it." this is spoken by lady macbeth, macbeth, act 1 scene 5.
she's a brilliant character, lady macbeth. so twisted and evil and ready to assist her husband in his bloody ambition.

i read macbeth as a teenager as part of english class and it remains one of my favourite shakespeare plays. last week i read lisa klein's latest novel lady macbeth's daughter and it was fantastic, a wonderful companion to shakespeare's scottish play. plus i also love all things scottish, so perhaps i am biased.

the idea is this: that macbeth's wife grelach (whom he married after killing her first husband, to whom she was wed at 12, having her first child - a son, luoch - at age 13) gives birth to a daughter. macbeth is enraged - it turns out he had been told by the wyrd sisters that he would bear many strong sons. the daughter is born with a deformed foot. macbeth orders his man eadulf to leave the baby to the wolves. the babe is rescued by the queen's lady-in-waiting rhuven and she takes it to her sisters. they name her albia - innocence sprung from darkness.

the novel follows albia as she grows into a young woman, far from the zealously ambitious macbeth and his ever-assisting wife. of course their lives become inevitably re-entwined, and the reader meets the other famous characters of macbeth: banquo, duncan, malcolm and macduff. and she has fleshed out the female characters, given them a voice and a role. albia in particular (of course, being the heroine) is smart and strong, flawed but determined and compassionate.
all these characters are given extra story, back-story, and more character. it's wonderful, and so well done. it never feels anything like fan-fiction - klein's storytelling and characterisation is brilliant.

i love that the wyrd sisters are actually friendly and funny people, caring. they fool macbeth because they had been loyal to the previous thane - and because they can. macbeth hears whatever he wants to hear, twists the sisters' words to fit.

best of all, lady macbeth gets some more page-time. she's not simply the willing-assistant-turned crazy-remorse-woman, but she is grelach: wife and mother. she has emotions and thoughts and we get to know her. excellent.

klein has drawn this world so clearly and her characters were so accessible. i am sure that even someone who has not read macbeth will enjoy the book - maybe even more so because they do not know what is to come! i didn't read klein's previous book ophelia (based on shakespeare's hamlet, of course) but will certainly be seeking it out now.

and here are some photographs of scotland, from when i lived there:

here are some creepy woods in crieff, where i lived - about an hour or so from dunsinane, actually!
this is the view from the crieff knock:here is urquhart castle, near inverness (on loch ness):
this is inside of urquhart castle:

Monday, December 14, 2009

one about music

lucky me, i got to see some excellently brilliant performers this weekend at the meredith music festival. true, i may have lost my voice and still be too tired to make much sense, but it was too wonderful not to share. above (and below, actually, with added shoes) you have the incomparable paul kelly who charmed us all.

he played how to make gravy which is one of my very favourite and best christmas songs and i was so happy to discover that others felt the same way. his thought-provoking song everything's turning to white about fisherman who find the body of a young woman murdered but wait a few days before reporting her death because they have only just arrived for their fishing holiday is an excellent, and very moving, example of storytelling through song.

jarvis cocker. oh jarvis you were the highlight for me, i believe. he turned the whole crowd on. from his cutesey and funny puns in leftovers: "i met her at the museum of paleontology / and i make no bones about it" to his sexy self-deprecating pronouncements in i never said i was deep : "if evey relationship is a two-way street / i have been screwing in the back whilst you drive / i never said i was deep / but i am profoundly shallow / my lack of knowledge is vast / and my horizons are narrow" he was fucking hot. i loved his lanky awesome dancing. his rendition of running the world roused the crowd enormously.

kitty, daisy and lewis are siblings. young. totally ace. their sound? kind of rockabilly hawaiian blues. top songs: mean son of a gun and honolulu rock-a roll-a.

along with wagons, kid sam, oh mercy, akron/family and the middle east - it was an ace weekend. now i can't wait until the port fairy folk festival.

but now...back to books (and coffee - today it at was birdman eating on gertrude st, fitzroy. two thumbs up!)

a man dressed in a wolf-suit...

now that's the kind of mischief i like seeing in public!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

my worried shoes

i went to see where the wild things are at the nova cinemas last friday (and then again on saturday). it was fantastic - whimsical, scary, moving and funny.

as a child the picture book by maurice sendak frightened me a lot and as a family, we didn't really like it. as an adult and a bookseller i've really come to appreciate it - even though i find the bit that reads "the night max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind (then you turn the page) and another" a bit jarring. and i think the film took the essence of the book and created something more, something really special.

the screenplay, written by spike jonze and dave eggers together was the basis for dave eggers' novel the wild things. it follows the plot of the film for the most part, but with some segues and diversions - all welcome. in the first few pages of the book max rides his bike over to his friends' house a couple of streets away and he goes by himself and i think helmetless. the mother of his friend, when he arrives, is shocked and agitated to the point of almost hysteria at the thought of max riding home again alone. she wants to accompany him back, but he rides off. she runs after him. this scares max and he rides faster - his confusion and fear were marvellously written and it was a brilliant start to the book. i was there, i was max, while reading it.

older children will enjoy this book for its fun and adventure, they might even feel the same way i did. but i think it is the grown-ups who with benefit most! without being cloying, it reminds the reader of being a child - the way children percieve the world and how something that adults accept without question can really frighten kids. in the book, and the film, when max's teacher tells the class that one day the sun with die, and with it take the earth and other planets with it - sets max to thinking and thinking hard. an adult might dismiss this, for some reason need no further explanation or reassurance that it won't happen tomorrow, or to me.

at the cinema: the wild things were magnificent! apparently they had to CGI their faces for the eyes and some expression, but the fact that they were giant puppet-esque/people in wild-thing-suits gave them a quality and realness that has been lacking from movies for a while. it sort of reminded me of classics like the neverending story, or the labyrinth. but the wild things were even better than the weird creatures in those films! other things i loved about the film: the fort they build (anyone seen the book natural architecture by alessandro rocca - wow! and maybe the inspiration?)

the movie's soundtrack by karen o and the kids is also fantastic. i've been listening to it on repeat for a couple of weeks now. it was perfect for the film, creating atmosphere, fun and rumpus! highlights of the album: capsize and worried shoes.
basically i give all wild things two thumbs up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

oh? nano?

nah, no. i didn't make it.

i think i got to almost 11,000 words, which took me about three weeks and some fairly achy tendonitis-esqe wrists. it was very fun, nonetheless, and now i have 11,000 more words to work with than i did a month ago. it'll be fiiiiiine.

sign me up for next year!