Sunday, November 29, 2009

where is the coffee, you say?

no, i haven't written anything about coffee in a while. BUT. in the past two days i have been for coffee at TWO places.

yesterday i had breakfast #2 at minimo which is situated on the very excellent corner of sydney road and donald street, brunswick. i only meant to go for a coffee, but i got there and the waiter spoke to me in zee loveliest accent francais that i had to order a croissant avec la confiture.

so, my skinny milk latte: the coffee was strong and good, the milk was hot but not too hot and on the whole it was good. the milk could have been creamier (as in, it was a leetle bit bubbly) but that's me just searching for that perfect consistency.

the croissant was delicious. (however, i will write soon about the best croissants this side of paris soon).

then today we went for breakfast at mixed business on queens pde in clifton hill. divine.
coffee = perfect. my avocado and feta on the most grainy tasty toast ever = scrumptious. the mushrooms on toast with goats cheese and rocket? ahhhh i had order envy! must. go. back.

who wants to go with me next week???

woe, summer programming

things i am not excited about...that i am cranky pants about:

1. channel 10 stopping ncis MID-SEASON. a-holes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

things i'm excited about

1. meredith music festival in december

2. the ask and the answer by patrick ness is now out in paperback!

3. fantastic mr fox is on at the moonlight cinema, december 19

4. the brunswick baths for swimming in then early morning. i'm getting used to 6am

Friday, November 27, 2009

the good daughter

PRIZE ALERT! amra pajalic has won the civic choice award in the melbourne prize for literature, awarded today. this is a prize voted by the public (meaning she's the most popular!). there were 2,400 votes (online and in person) and amra came out on top for her fantastic novel the good daughter (text publishing).
the good daughter is the hilarious and heartfelt story of sammie (or sabiha) who has had to move with her mum from thornbury back to st albans, back to the bosnian community she all but left as a small child. dido, her widowed grandfather, has come from bosnia to live with them.

sammie's mum has also decided to re-integrate herself with the tight-knit bosnian muslim community there, which comes as a shock to sammie (now sabiha once again) after her fairly secular and relaxed upbringing. at her new school she makes friends with two delightfully oddball boys but finds it difficult to connect with her annoying cousin adnan (golden boy of the family) and most of the girls there, who have been close for sometime and are reluctant to accept a newcomer.
at home sammie is struggling with her grandfather's strict beliefs and it's upsetting when she gets very little support from her mum, who just wants them to fit right in.
this is a great coming-of-age, fitting-in, culture-shock story, very funny and engaging.
congratulations amra!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

spotlight on my favourites: nick earls


after january (UQP)
this is my no.1 favourite. probably up there on my Favourite Books Of All Time, if i'm honest. it's the story of alex and the long wait over summer before he finds out if he's got into university. alex is not good at waiting, so it's days of trying to relax, reading and bodysurfing. and then he meets a girl, a girl unlike any others he's known.
what i love about after january is the quiet way in which it's written. it's practically poetry, the way the words go. alex's voice is so clear and beautiful, the changes in him over the "three unlikely january weeks." plus, it's hilariously funny as well. every character is so real, they could be friends, or neighbours (or christian plumbers) that i have known myself.

48 shades of brown (penguin)
this one is how i wanted my final year of school to go. imagine being left in the care of your uber-cool, 22-year-old, bass-playing aunt - jacq - and her vague and lovely housemate naomi. dan is 17, his parents are overseas, and this is his life. of course he instantly falls in love with the "flaxen-haired beauty" naomi which just further complicates his life (he thinks) as he tries to wrangle maths (the attention and affection he has for calculus made me hate maths methods just that little bit less), english (specifically the fish tank scene in romeo and juliet) and his insane friend chris burns (with the pustular face and large ego). and pesto. and folk art. and tin tin.
you should see me right now, just writing about this book i am in hysterics at my desk - literally bahahahhahahahhaha laughing out loud.
the party scene in particular is golden.

world of chickens (viking)
less like my ideal university experience, world of chickens is more like my uni actually was. though i don't think i was quite as unfortunate as phil, at least i hope not. phil and his best mate frank are med students who work part time at the burger joint world of chickens. they are employed by the enthusiastic ron (who warms straight away to phil) and they work alongside ron's daughter sophie (phil warms to her straight away). even though he's studying to be a doctor, phil dreams of being a filmmaker. the characters and friendships in this book are touching and wonderful.
if this was a movie it would be one of those to send my dad running out of the room with his fingers in his ears going "ooh ooh ooh" because he's so uncomfortable. phil is always getting into sticky situations, just can't seem to catch a break. it's hilarious.
plus it's set in the 80s. and phil's parents are a riot.

headgames (penguin, now very sadly out of print)
this is a collection of short stories which includes tales and adventures, an early version of frank and phil, the weird but delightful story 'the goatflap brothers and the house of names', which was made into a short film in 2003. headgames is bizarre and funny and sometimes heartwrenching. 'all those ways of leaving' is a story that's stuck with me. the lines:
"this is so strange. you seem to have taken it for granted that you would die between novels, not during one." the idea of an autopsy, of malignant intestine filled with a long coil of golden hair.

the true story of butterfish (penguin)
this, the latest book from nick earls, is a winner. the main character, curtis, is back in australia after his hugely successful band butterfish released their third album and it tanked completely. on top of that his marriage has busted up - LA is not the place for him anymore. now living in the outer suburbs of brisbane, curtis is trying to reconnect with his brother patrick, is working on an album for a norweigan band trying to break into a wider market and he's occasionally dabbling in some songs for himself. however, his new neighbours - the almost-woman annaliese, her emo-goth brother mark and their harried but friendly single mother kate - make curtis' "normal" life just that little bit more interesting.
we were very lucky to have nick earls come to my work for the melbourne launch of butterfish and we were very sorry that the harry potter fans were so noisy. also sorry for making you stand in front of bruno:


and i've read and enjoyed all of nick's other books. you should read them too!

monica bloom
making laws for clouds
the thompson gunner
zigzag street
joel and cat set the story straight
bachelor kisses
perfect skin

nick earls lives here: www.nickearls.com

Monday, November 16, 2009

let the wild rumpus start!

i can't put it down.

dave eggers has written a novelisation of the screenplay of the classic picture book.

his max is a high-energy, imaginative and confused boy whose family life is less than perfect. he escapes in a boat and finds himself on an island with a bunch of beasts as ready for madness hilarious rioting as max himself.

so far it is spectacular! magnificent! it basically just tickles me pink. one brilliant line, max is standing on top of the kitchen counter, howling like a wolf while his mother stands below becoming more and more angry with her out-of-control son. she tells him he's too old to be on the counter. he looks down at her: "you're too old to be so short! and your makeup's smeared!...woman, feed me!" (p.73)

i'm loving it. proper review to follow...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

so, to sum up...

wonderland, joanna nadin

(hey)jude(the obscure) was a lovely character: i felt her pain at being trodden on, ostracised and humiliated. i felt like cheering when she had her punk-chick makeover and made all the boys eyes bug out of their heads. i felt i could have been in her village, doing handstands in the dunes. nadin captured the small-town vibe really well and all her characters were well-voiced and believable.

however - the "twist" revealed towards the end was pretty obvious from the very start. this was very disappointing and the end seemed to fizzle a little, in spite of the potentially very exciting denouement. this could have been a brilliant book, but as it is, wonderland is very enjoyable and solidly good.

ember fury, cathy brett
ember is a teenage recovering pyromaniac (!) who has come from england to LA to stay with her famous muso dad. (her famous artist mum died) instead she finds herself in the company of her nice, but over-eager stepmother and her dad is hardly ever there. at a fancy-pants birthday party thrown in her honour, ember meets the gorgeous hunk finn and things seem to be looking up. then there's her invisible friend ned (imaginary or ghost?! love it!) who is always looking out for her, and her mates from the treatment facility in england keeping in touch via the internet.

there's timeslip, which i loved and that didn't seem out of place at all. it's exciting and ridiculous without ever being glib. the way brett has played with text and image is fantastic. ember fury is hip and fun. read it!

surf ache, gerry bobsien

ella's family have just moved from melbourne to newcastle. she's had to leave behind her awesome boyfriend, her best friend and her ballet school. her little sister creaky finds her groove instantly (as is her wont) but reserved ella just doesn't know what to do. then she meets katie, an excellent surfer, who puts ella on a board and - just like that - missing ballet, boyfriend and melbourne doesn't weigh on her so much. but there's still the question of why her mum, a former pro surfer, won't get in the water. can she support ella's new passion?
this is a good, solid book. fun characters it reminded me a little of margaret clark's books - families, boys, surf.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

ghostly and fantastic

the other night i finished jaclyn moriarty's dreaming of amelia. (pan macmillan) at first - when i was dipping in and out of this book, trying to read others at the same time - it seemed a bit difficult to get into, a bit slow. but once i gave it my full attention...wowsers!

our favourite characters from feeling sorry for celia, finding cassie crazy and the betrayal of bindy mackenzie are back and this time they're in year 12. not only that, but they're joined by two scholarship students (mysterious, beautiful, smart, talented...aloof) amelia and riley. everyone is intrigued by the newcomers, particularly em, who follows them around and reports back with words hyperbolic and punctuated with an abundance of e!x!c!l!a!m!a!t!i!o!n! marks.
an author has really achieved something special when the story can genuinely stay one step in front of you (another great example: the messenger by markus zusak lovelovelove) and jaclyn moriarty has definitely succeeded here - while we get glimpses that offer possible conclusions, they are mostly just teasers and reading through to the end is extremely satisfying.
every different perspective was just as good as the next. i loved toby's irish convict storyline, and truly felt for him and his pain concerning his parents and black holes. being a history nerd i now want to find out about the events of castle hill some more. lydia's conversation with the ghost made me laugh! and em's fierce determination to prove the existence of the ashbury ghost was hysterical. riley's sections were moving and poetic. most of all, the minutes from the staff/teacher committee meetings were riotous.
dreaming of amelia is sophisticated writing: engaging, complex, clever and ever so funny. this is what our twilight-infested YA world needs.

Friday, November 6, 2009

an alison lester collector

(mama bear collects the lester, evil sister and i used to force littlebro to tell us repeatedly that alison lester was his favourite author bahaha)

running with the horses, alison lester (penguin/viking)


this is a beautiful fictional story about a little girl (nina) who, during the second world war, had to make a wild escape with her father and a friend from their spanish riding school in vienna. they had to ensure the safety of the last four stallions from the school. nina adores the old cab horse zelda and begs her father to let her come along. Her father knows the treacherous ride they are about to make, isn't sure that zelda can make it. but he loves his daughter so much he allows it. and old zelda certainly has a lot of pluck in her. all this, and accompanied by beautiful alison lester illustrations, black and white sketches in front of coloured backgrounds.

it made me misty-eyed, i assure you. a story for horse-loving girls. and everyone else. and in case you are worried, it has a happy ending.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

left hand of god

i have just finished the left hand of god, by paul hoffman (penguin books). this is an imaginative fiction story, the first in a series (at least that's what it says in the publisher's description in my reading copy).

the left hand of god opens in the "sanctuary" a walled religious community run by the brutal and fearsome redeemers, their faith based around the hanged redeemer (read: jesus). the redeemers have been collecting boys from a young age, for a long time. they beat and abuse these boys; training them as their acolytes...to be soldiers in a great war.

cale had been singled out since he arrived, receiving special attention (good and bad) and has grown to be the best fighter of the lot of them, emotionless and independent. when vague henri (the closest thing cale has to a friend) finds a secret stash of rich, delicious food (compared to the foul rotten meat they are fed daily) he brings cale and another boy, kleist, into hidden labyrinthine passageways where they happen upon unthinkably cruel acts performed by a head redeemer on a young girl. (the boys have never seen a girl before). too late to rescue one girl, they are able to save the voluptuous and agreeable riba and they four of them make an escape from the sanctuary.

this section of the story is probably my favourite, i felt it worked best, the journey across the scablands and meeting the fascinating idrisspuke. what follows covers the territory of fighting, warfare, trust, love and hate, with some delightfully named characters.

hoffman uses familiar place names in his made up world, taking parts of various cultures to make up this new one. he also uses a pastiche of history, so if you know much about the history of war it's very interesting to see what he's trying to do. it's sort of like having deja vu the whole way through the novel. it's a western, a samurai film, a bible story, the holocaust story and a medieval tale all rolled into one.

i think this is a very interesting attempt, but is lacking a certain something, a bit of "oomph!" and while i liked it, i didn't love it and i'm not very excited about the sequels. this is sort of a poor-man's the knife of never letting go. minus the aliens.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaNoWriMo Oh No

oh dear.

i have been noticing that all the cool kids are doing that uber chic NaNoWriMo thing where you have to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of november. so i joined up. it was peer pressure.

so i am already 4 days behind all the cool kids. craps.

i'd better get typing. those who know me in the real world, get ready to see less of me. (and don't pretend to be so pleased).

current word count: 0
current ideas: 0