Thursday, December 30, 2010

and so what were the grownups reading in twentyten?

well i don't know about most grown-ups, but for me it was a little bit scary when i realised these three books were probably the only 2010-release grown-up books i read this year. they were all fabulous, at least.

our tragic universe, scarlett thomas

scarlett thomas' third book was sort of about nothing, but was also a wonderful story all about stories. about writing and ideas, coincidence and relationships, knitting, the beast of dartmoor, taking the dog for a walk, kissing married friends on ferries - this is an absolute must-read for all writers (and readers).

read my review here.

the hopeless life of charlie summers, paul torday

i've relished each paul torday book since his brilliant 2007 salmon fishing in the yemen. you never know what his next book will be about. this one is actually narrated by hector 'eck' chetwode-talbot who is in finance in the city, but it's also about eck's doppleganger charlie summers, whom he meets by chance. eck works with money in the million, the billions, the squillions. charlie sells weird dog food and has lots of hairbrained schemes. eck's about to find out just what makes him so different from charlie. now i don't pretend to know a snit about $ or finance, but this book played on my unease regarding stocksbondsinternetbanking:
'then, somewhere, someone asked a new question. it was: "can i have my money back?" we didn't know it then, but the money that had come out of nowhere was about to return to exactly the same place.' (p8, uncorrected proof)

eleven, mark watson

at once hilarious and tragic, i loved eleven. xavier ireland is a late-night talk back radio dj in london, his sidekick murray a more laconic version of murray from flight of the conchords, but xavier was once chris cotswold and lived in melbourne. this book is about why he left. at first i was concerned this book was mere dick-lit and was hesitant to get on board with the omniscient narrator that told me all about a series of other people whose lives were getting increasingly difficult. but he pulls it off! however, it's marketed as a funny book by "one of britain's best-loved comedians" but THIS BOOK HAS A HARROWING, HARROWING MOMENT. my blood ran cold and i cried. read it, this one is worth it.

here's a photo from the launch at the sun bookshop (actually held in 'the grand' at the sun theatre due to massive attendance):

i did also read some grown-up classics, including (but not limited to):
  • keep the aspidistra flying, george orwell
  • nausea, jean-paul sartre
  • pursuit of love, nancy mitford
  • the great gatsby, f scott fitzgerald

but here's to a new years resolution to read more contemporary fiction. anyone read anything amazing this year i should go back and explore??

the joy of mediocrity

ever wanted to travel in north africa? here's a great new travel blog from a little first-time blogger - complete with visits to the star wars sets, desert shenanigans, coffee and great photos.

trust me, it's a hoot. and educational!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

wishin' and hopin'

this is a persnickety snark venture and i'm just a-ridin on its coattails, cuz i quite like this idea...

5 hopes for young adult literature in 2011

1. that australian books find international homes and set a good example for us

2. that young adult authors continue to break barriers and push the boundaries and strive to represent all young people and their hopesfearswonders without discrimination.

3. that markus zusak's new book does indeed get released (have you even written it, markus m'dear? see you at reading matters!)

4. that publishers no longer need to be so set on finding the next massive series (ie. the old angelvampiredystopianmoviedealbooktour) to make way for...

5. ...slow reads, beautiful writing, complex plots, intelligent observations and stand-alone books.

*photographs from when i "cleaned" the other day. a $2 suitcase is a good bookshelf.

Monday, December 27, 2010

some of my favourites for twothousandandten

2010! there were books! oh by god there were books! it was a fun year to be a bookseller in a children's bookshop, i can tell you. here are some of my favourites from the year (almost) gone by:

the keepers: the museum of thieves, lian tanner

lovely, lively little tale of goldie roth - the bold child of jewel who dared to run away and who finds refuge in the strange, dangerous museum of dunt where she learns a kind of magic and, when her city is threatened, takes on hatred and fear.

first sentence: goldie roth hated the punishment chains.

read my review here.

the last dragonslayer, jasper fforde

the story of jennifer strange, who works for the wizard employment agency kazam at a time where magic is waning throughout the world and the ununited kingdom is awaiting the death of the last dragon - so they can get their hands on the pristine wilderness he has been living in and build shops and houses and roads. jennifer, the wizards, the sisters of the lobster and the cranky orphan boy tiger prawns all come together in this gorgeous fairytale-esque story of classic ffordian hilarity and cleverness.

(i have lent my book out so can't give you the first sentence. it's awesome, i promise you.)

review coming...

about a girl, joanne horniman

a beautiful love story, sensual and evocative. all the relationships explored in this story - and there are many - are wonderful, as are the descriptions of place within about a girl, tropical lismore and chilly canberra. literary references and beautiful observations round out this glorious book.

first sentence: this morning i woke and remembered her, and went to the window to look out into the leafless garden, leaning my forehead against the cold winter glass.

read my inadequate review here.

monsters of men, patrick ness

final in the chaos walking trilogy, finishing off the story of todd, viola and that surprise third voice which joins in to tell it (shan't spoil it for those who haven't read this yet). this tale of war is so fast-paced that it leaves the reader breathless, but also - curiously - holding that same breath until the beautiful, satisfying conclusion.

first (two) sentence(s): 'war,' says mayor prentiss, his eyes glinting. 'at last.'

read my review here.

big river, little fish, belinda jeffrey

tom was born on the banks of the river, the day his mother died. he grows up good with his hands but slow at school, with his only friend hannah as his only champion. the way tom cared for the lost souls living down at the riverbank near broke my heart. a remarkable novel, poetic and lush. frightening and real. this is an australian novel supremo.

(have lent this one out too, thus no first sentence and no pic)

read my review here.

graffiti moon, cath crowley

over one busy night, one magic night. lucy dervish is looking for the graffiti artist shadow (who she loves and lusts after), but is stuck with ed (but twist! ed, we know, is in fact the very same shadow) and ed has to rob the school's media department later in the night. evocative and funny and just as good on a re-read (that makes three reads for me now).

first paragraph: i pedal fast. down rose drive where houses swim in pools of orange streetlight. where people sit on verandahs, hoping to catch a breeze. let me make it in time. please let me make it in time.

read my review here. and read about the launch here.

six impossible things, fiona wood

i love dan cereill. the poor thing, his dad's just come out as gay - and bankrupt - he's had to move into a stinky old terrace house with his mum, had to start at a new school and is in impossible love with his next door neighbour. this is a great debut by fiona wood - funny, heartwarming and clever.

first two lines: there's this girl i know. / i know her by heart. i know her in every way but one: actuality.

read my review here. and here i'm chatting with fiona wood.

slice, steven herrick

slice is the story of darcy, who says lots of things he should probably leave unsaid, who has a crush on meditating audrey from next door, is a sometimes reluctant (but ultimately steadfast) friend of weird noah and whose dad worries - in a hilarious way. no one writes boys like steven herrick. love it.

first two sentences of the chapter entitled 'the value of poetry' (from uncorrected proof): 'all romantic poets deserve to drown, or die slowly of tuburculosis in a garret.' i'm standing at the front of class, waiting for universal acclaim from my fellow students.

read my review here. and more herrick-love here and here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

review : dash and lily's book of dares

dash and lily's book of dares, rachel cohn & david levithan (a&u in australia)

on the eve of christmas eve it is probably the perfect time for this one. given that i work in retail my emotions are rawther like dash's at the present - 'might as well have gift-wrapped my face and pumped carbon dioxide in.' (p27 - when dash is faced with a christmas time visit to macy's) but i also love singing christmas carols, like lily, so not all is lost.

dash and lily are another pair of quirky and smart nyc post-punk, mostly straight-edge, literary hipsters from the figurative moleskine notebooks of noo yawkers rachel cohn and david levithan, them what brought you nick and norah's infinite playlist and naomi and ely's no kiss list. in this installment our protagonists are lonely teens at christmas time in the big apple - dash by choice and lily by circumstance. they come together via a red moleskine notebook of clues left at the strand bookstore by lily's brother langston (well, lily leaves it there, but langston kinda forced her to) in an effort to force lily to make friends so he is free to spend christmas in blissful lust with his new boyfriend benny. and it's dash who finds the notebook, completes the initial dares and builds on it - this is quite a hilarious caper story which takes our protagonists to the aforementioned macy's in the mad christmas rush, to madame tussauds, to bad christmas movies, fao schwartz for secret muppet-building projects and even out to brooklyn to see impressive christmas lights.

this was me with jo horniman's mahalia at the strand.--->

levithan and cohn have such a delightful energy to their books. they write kooky characters extremely well and have peopled dash and lily with a wonderful support cast that revolve around the main characters to perfection. though it did feel like the story had one too many false endings/climaxes the energy kept up throughout and it's a very satisfying read. sweet and funny, about books and book nerds complete with salinger-love, gay characters and old people (love old people) and did i mention it's set in motherflipping N.Y.C.?

a few little quibbly things, though: dash and lily are both so painfully selfaware and a little sickeningly overly indie-quirk (ie. lily says she's not an ironic hipster wearing her black rim glasses, but a true nerd - except THIS IS SOMETHING ONLY AN IRONIC HIPSTER WOULD SAY) and these kids being too hip to drink (dash) and swear (lily) makes me feel like i'm being judged a bit (it was the teeny downside to nick and norah as well, while i'm being honest) and dash's page 29 diatribe to the woman buying the mittens at macy's made me kind of hate him for a minute. what if she was buying them in an ironic way? but indeed, what the fuck does it matter if she's buying something he hates? fuck off indeed, dashmeister. plus there was one wee plot goof (anyone else pick it up?) and a couple of odd typographical glitches (which didn't really bother me, but given that i learned proofreading this year i'm feeling a little smug i picked up).

but i do just have to add that lily was the most hilarious character, absolutely off-the-wall crazy! even though i did wonder what she might have rated on the asberger's spectrum i absolutely loved her enthusiasm and charm and am particularly fond of her alter-ego, shrilly. i also loved her boots and the way she says "hello puppy" to all dogs (because that is what i do too). the way she dressed reminded me of teen fashion blogger tavi.* dash was a little snarly for me, i think.

dash and lily's book of dares has great heart and mucho humour. i did really, really like it and would recommend it to all those who like their books smart; your too-cool-for-school teenager will embrace it, so long as you don't force them to read it. let them discover it for themselves...

it made me laugh a lot and feel all christmassy inside.

*i stole this photo - let me know if i ought to take it down, tavi!

Monday, December 20, 2010

coffee : new day rising

new day rising is a such cute little cafe. have been there a few times now and the coffee is excellent - and cheap.

pleasantly hipster. awesome music.

fabulous menu. please note that coffees are only $3...just $3! (add 50c for soy (grr) but they make it with bonsoy, which is delish)

lovely lovely staff in their teeny tiny space.

221d blyth st brunswick east. right at the end of the 96 tram line, near rrr.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

meredith music festival 2010

day one:
we are so hip we had to climb a tree to demonstrate to the masses. then we break a hip trying to get down while wearing masks and wellies.

little red. because i've been going to see them since way back when and they are still mega-nerds.

day two: i consider getting a massage, but it seems like a risky move.

the beautiful afternoon sun shines through the gums and pines...

terrible quality photo of neil finn as he invites anyone who can play guitar a bit to come up on stage and play a song with him and a young lad called matthew, who we predict will get so lucky post-show, is the winner.

day three:
i find who i have been looking for and the weekend is complete.

meredith. it was a gas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

to tide you over until regular programming resumes...

honestly, with christmasmadness and workingworkingworking, failing NaNo and trying to get word count to a respectable figure, and the delightful black hole of music and joy that was the meredith music festival i'm a slack blogger.

so here are some sneaky peeks at reviews to come (aka notes on a review, aka a cheat sheet for fellow staff members at chez workingworkingworking during christmasmadness):

Freefall, Mindi Scott (Simon Pulse)

This is great. Pretty simple screw-up-comes-good story, great characters, excellent dialogue. Slightly more dark/troubled than Sarah Dessen books, but would appeal to her readers. Sex, drugs and rock and roll alert. And lots of drinking and some death. But also funny and heartwarming. Under-the-radar sucess!

Matched, Ally Condie (Razorbill)

Ah, dystopian futures. They truly are the new vampires.

In this world, people’s lives are completely controlled, from your daily work and activities and when you will die, right down to what an individual eats, who they marry and how many children they have (if any). Cassia (the main character) is Matched on her 17th b’day, and the society has chosen her friend Xander as her ideal Match. But is he? There’s the obligatory bad boy (Ky) and Cassia becomes more and more involved with him. There’s also repeated reference to Dylan Thomas’ Do not go gentle... as Cassia starts to make decisions for herself...which isn’t going to go down very well. Will be a series.

The Chosen One, Carol Lynch Williams (Simon and Schuster)

Polygamist cult, young 14-y/o female protagonist about to be married off to her uncle, one of the community elders. She has been secretly reading books from a mobile library and also falling in love with boy, also community member. Both are starting to think they need to get out. Pretty well written, bound to interest teenage girls. Quite a bit of violence.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

review : trash

trash, by andy mulligan (david fickling books)

"my name is raphael fernandez and i am a dumpsite boy."

and thus part one of trash begins. eleven-year-old raphael is frank and unrestrained as he describes his daily work in the dumpite of behala, sifting through the city's rubbish to find something they can sell (tyres are good, so's plastic) and you're with him completely by the time he finds a bag among all the stupp (shit) and inside the bag: money, a map, a key, an ID card and two photos of a little girl. we already know, raphael has already told us, that this is an 'unlucky-lucky day, the day the world turned upside down.'

the story is told in the enigmatic voices of raphael, his friend-brother gardo, the smart and solitary rat (real name jun-jun, renamed 'because he lived with the rats and had come to look like one'), the kind father julliard and the naive, well-meaning olivia. they take it in turns to spin the tale, speaking from some point in the future when the story is over. they recount just how they all became involved in this tale of money, corruption, police brutality, real poverty and real hope. there are similarities to the film slumdog millionaire here, as other reviews have noted, and certainly those who enjoyed that film will also appreciate trash.

the characters come alive in these pages and remain with the reader long after they finish the book. the writing is wonderful and very evocative and the codes and puzzles in the story work nicely. although this book is quite confronting, when i think about the scenes in the prisons and the two chase scenes towards the end and not to mention the terrible conditions these kids live in, this would be an excellent read for children 10+ and particularly excellent for families to read together. and grown-ups should read it too, even if they don't have kids. and just look at that cover - beautiful.

and oh! the ending! it's wonderful!

trash goes onto my top ten list of favourite books of the year. easily.

andy mulligan's website is here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

fancy goods

check out the fancy goods blog, the online home of bookseller and publisher news, reviews and interviews.

you can read my most recent fancy goods/b+p review here. (and you can also read my dear friend hannah mae's interview with juliet marillier here. we're sharing love on the blogs today, hannah and i).

careful what you wish for (published by A&U) is a pretty cute book in spite of its slow start and the main character ruth is engaging enough - although her friend howard (who i didn't have space to talk about in my review - although on reflection i really ought to have MADE room) was the sparkiest character in the book, and responsible for much of the initial action. i would have liked to see more of howard.

a nice book for girls aged 7 to 9 or so.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

coffee : exploring geelong

the sprout and the bean cafe on malop st

$3.80 (yes, you read that right) for a regular size skinny milk latte. i waited a long, long time and had to go back inside to remind them i'd ordered (people who had arrived after me, served before me) and the coffee was only ok. it was strong, which was good, but the flavour was odd - possibly a type of bean that doesn't appeal to me but it was also a little burnt on top. and in spite of a free coconut thing to eat and nice waiters (although annoyingly forgetful) it was an underwhelming visit. blerg.

bean squeeze, mercer street

very pleasantly surprised! i would usually avoid a place that looks like this. it's a little chain place, with a couple of sites around g-town. my papa bear loves it. i bought a skinny latte ($3.30) and it was good. not great, not on par with my faves in brunswick-town, but very good. website here. i give them extra points for quoting kev carmody and paul kelly.

and thus continues my search for decent coffee in geelong. while the mama bear recuperates after receiving two bionic* knees i shall be visiting fairly often. i've been recommended the cottage on pakington st and espresso on ryrie. we'll see...

*not really bionic. more plastic. and apparently tin. tin??

Monday, November 29, 2010

children make terrible pets

children make terrible pets, peter brown (little, brown)

i loved peter brown's 2009 the curious garden (inspired by the new york highline, a disused railway now a community garden) and this newie children make terrible pets is just as charming. lucy the bear is just lalala-ing through the forest, practicing her twirls when she comes across a little boy. instantly enamoured, she sweeps him up and takes him home. 'squeaker' she calls him, for he makes a funny squeaking noise. lucy's mum does not think children make good pets at all, but lucy is determined to keep squeaker. there are gorgeous double page illustrations, kind of retro and sepia-toned, and full of energy. lovelovelove.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

leonard cohen at hanging rock

the beautiful hanging rock

what a crowd! (i felt very young, it was like being at PFFF - excellent!)

dan sultan's sexy sultry snarl (they ought to have turned his mic up and let him sing more than five songs!)

the magnifique full moon (and fairy lights)

the wonderful man himself. he promised to give us everything he had and surely he did. he was humble and spritely and generous and magic. the best day i've had in a long time.*


-our picnic
-how quick it was to get a beer
-hanging rock itself
-leonard skipping off stage
-leonard looking so dapper
-the back-up singers, the webb sisters (especially their cartwheels and them singing if it be your will)
-suzanne, so long marianne and the future - hells, all the songs were my favourite.

*i know a lot of people had trouble getting out of the venue at the end of the night and they are very cranky now. there were fights on the train back to melbourne too, apparently. (one teenager i spoke with on monday said she was so ashamed and thought "what would leonard think of us?!") we didn't have these probs as i was with someone who had a disabled parking ticket and we were outta there in 20mins, max. i hope people still remember how amazing the show was in spite of the loooooong exit strategy.

UPDATE: so i've been observing my stats this morning (not euphemism)...dear people who are getting here via some facebook site, where are you coming from?! leave me a comment. it is tres bizarre.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

coffee : geelong train station

coming home after a visit to mama and papa bear (very environmentally friendly on the train) i bought a skinny latte from the wee cafe at the station (very environmentally unfriendly because i forgot my keep cup) and it was pretty gross (not bitter, just not very tasty coffee, made with a dirty filter or something maybe?), but once i added a sugar to it and put a lid on it so i could pretend i got it from, say, the east brunswick project or a minor place - it wasn't the worst thing i've drunk. it resembled coffee and prevented a caffeine withdrawal headache and, to be honest, who really expects delicious coffee from geelong - err - i mean from a train station?

p.s. if anyone from geelong can tell me where to get a good coffee in those there parts, please let me know. really. i will travel down there just to give it a go.
p.p.s. poor old geelong. if you've driven through the main drag in recent times you'll realise it's something of a ghost town. beautiful old buildings looking all worn and ugly and cheap stores, or empty shopfronts. it's really sad. tell you what - close the horrible waurn ponds deakin campus and bring it into town. liven it up a bit. yes. that's what we should do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

review : rosie black chronicles - genesis

Rosie Black Chronicles: Genesis, Lara Morgan (Walker)

Rosie Black is a gutsy young woman from Newperth. She forages for salvage from the past that she is able to swap for luxuries, such as vegetables. She comes across an interesting piece of salvage and, with her friend Juli, unwittingly sets off a serious chain of events that could lead to the deaths of many. Not only this, but Rosie soon finds herself pursued by a strange, yet enigmatic, Feral called Pip.

While what exactly has happened to the world we knew is not explained explicitly but the reader gleans enough to know that water levels have risen, causing lower lying parts of the city to become flooded—there are references to floating markets—and a particularly deadly strain of malaria has emerged (called MalX), magnified by the marshy, damp areas inhabited by the poorer members of society, such as the Bankers and Ferals. Those who can afford to live on higher ground (the Centrals) are more fortunate. The world created, and the novel’s premise, is great; the post-apocalyptic world, clear division of class systems, renewable energies, inter-planetary travel and the fear of deadly, engineered disease all make for an interesting story. The important plot points are very obvious though – the significance of the pendant, for example.

Less interesting things: how the baddy is the only Asian. Or in other words, how the only character with an obviously Asian name is the baddy. He’s also the only one whose appearance is described like this: ‘caramel brown skin, his natural colour though, not tanned.’ This was all I could think about as I read on and, to be honest, I was shocked. (I think Juli may also have been Asian, but let's not talk about what happens there).

The book is quite simple, the character development is pretty stunted and formulaic – the “romantic” stuff between Rosie and Pip is boring. Characters are often just mediums for an information dump. Rosie’s story would have been stronger if told from a first-person perspective. As it is, the reader is removed unnecessarily from any chance of emotional action.

Given the language and the plot I would usually recommend this sort of story to a 10 or 11 year old reader. But then there are torture scenes (ok sure, they don’t have anything on Patrick Ness but they are torture nonetheless) and at the end one of the characters gets shot point blank. So I would hesitate in recommending it to younger readers and I don't think Genesis is sophisticated enough for older readers, I don't think they will bother. Though reluctant older readers might - maybe - so maybe that is who it’s for.

Many people, including people I actually know, have really enjoyed this book so please, as usual, do not take my word as gospel or to deter you from reading it. Morgan’s prose is solid and the story moves at a good pace. For readers 12+ (but please note torture and potential racism)

I would like to open discussion on the interwebs about books, rather than just posting. If you have read Rosie Black please please let me know what you thought and why.

I received this book to review from Magpies magazine and my official review can be read in the current (November 2010) edition.

Monday, November 22, 2010

punter's club reunion show

check it out!

before it was called bimbos and served cheap pizzas to the drunken masses (hey, before brunswick street was gentrified and filled with colour-by-numbers hipsters and tourists) the building that sits on the corner of brunswick and rose streets was an excellent live music venue called the punters club. when it closed, people were sad. but now there's a couple of nights for nostalgia and tribute and hopefully much drunkenness and music.

and so, in tribute, (as always) THE LUCKSMITHS:

Requiem for the Punter's Club

Have you been drinking?
'Cause it's not too late to start
There's still a week
Before they come and pull the place apart
And I was thinking
I have sorrows to be drowned
Too complete to contemplate
Without a friend around

On Brunswick Street the bits of broken glass
Sparkle brighter than the six or seven stars

And I'm reminded
Of a Sunday afternoon
How the sunlight caught the cigarette smoke
Curling through the room
And you behind it
Your hair in rubber bands
One more for the footpath
And we walked home holding hands

Like the weekenders and window-shoppers do
We were happier than either of us knew

So act surprised
It's been a while since I came calling
I know it's late
But old times' sake and all that junk
I'll be alright
We'll make tonight tomorrow morning

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows you're drunk

review : the keepers - the museum of thieves

the keepers: the musuem of thieves, lian tanner (A&U)

the kids of jewel are not wrapped in cotton wool, they are kept chained to their parents or to the blessed guardians who are their teachers during the day. goldie roth - our heroine - is an uncharacteristically bold child, frustrated by her shackles and desperate to be 'separated'...and her separation day is approaching! but poor goldie, midway through her separation ceremony (she is connected only by a ribbon to her fretting mother) a bombing on the town's outskirts freaks the bejeezus out of the adults and they hastily decide they've been too hasty at letting the children off their chains. chain them back up!

goldie is not having a bar of it, she's had enough. with a secret pair of scissors secreted about her person (pinched from one of the blessed guardians) she cuts her ribbon and pegs it out the door. the wide, wild world frightens goldie - once so full of bravado she becomes so terrified by, and ignorant of, everything to the point of almost being run over by a road train and potentially savaged by a brizzlehound - and she starts to regret her actions pretty quickly. but there is no going back and she winds up being taken in by the strange but friendly folk at the tres bizarre museum of dunt (the only place in jewel not policed by the blessed guardians) where goldie finds a haven - albeit a rather dangerous haven where her complete inability to do anything practical soon changes under the guidance of the commandering olga ciavolga, the lovely sinew, herro dan and, more reluctantly, by toadspit who is a runaway like goldie herself.

goldie's 'education' was a particular joy to read - and how i wish i could master some of her accomplishments. particularly the talent of fading into invisibility and camouflage. the museum of dunt is spectacular. it's magic, with shifting rooms that create a maze for those who don't understand the museum's charms - and protect a terrible, horrible, dangerous dangerous force that lies behind a pair of gates at the museum's heart. a dangerous force that is champing at the bit thanks to the nefarious plans of the evil fugleman of jewel...

this one reminded me of sally rippin's fairly recent post about childhood freedom - read it here. and i recalled the day i was allowed to walk to school by myself (we only lived about 800 metres straight up the road) and i must have been in grade two or three and i remember feeling gleeful and proud and rawther free. i feel like i remember my parents telling me a few years later that, in actual fact, my dad followed me at a clandestine distance to ensure i was not katenapped or roadkilled. this put a damper on my glee a bit.

reading this from an adult perspective, the keepers really does explore quite sophisticated ideas, such as terrorism, the police state and fear. i really want to hear a child's perspective on this one. i love the germanic folk tale feel to it (definitely german influences in there: herro dan, frow oster) and it's a beautiful and exciting read. i think goldie and tensy farlow would get along damn well.

lian tanner's interweb home is here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

a teapot hat

oh damn. you meant a hat LIKE a teapot. oops.

couldn't get the image out of my head. so i got it onto my head. thanks for this post, jo.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

comes with barrier-breaking feminist vision!

the hilarious anna over at excellent hipster-doofus greeting card able and game posted this.

"the joke's on you, narrow-minded cur!"

Friday, November 12, 2010

review : love is the higher law

love is the higher law, david levithan (knopf)
this one came out in australia a year ago, apparently, as a hardback. i completely missed it, but now it's back and in paperback and only $14.95.

love is the higher law has one of the most spectacular first chapters of any book i have read in recent times. what comes after is also excellent, classic levithan and very, very moving. but the first chapter is magnificent and if i could give it a prize, i would. the story begins on september 11, 2001 and spans the entire year that follows. claire, jasper and peter are the protagonists and reveal the story in alternating chapters; the three characters all have a mutual acquaintance but before now have not been friends, really - jasper and peter were supposed to go on a date the night of september 11, peter and claire go to school together.

claire starts this story, with the planes hitting the world trade centre as she sits in homeroom. claire's thoughts are on her mother - what if she had headed home to their apartment ten blocks from the towers instead of going uptown to work? she is also thinking about her little brother sammy; and so, with another girl from her class, goes across the road to the primary school to collect him.

people are arriving from downtown by this stage, people covered in chalky dust, ragged from their escapes; the towers are burning above the city. levithan's descriptions are understated but still somehow loaded with imagery. it's clear that claire's life has changed when she realises that she can't take sammy back to their apartment. she says: "i've never in my life said those words before. there's nowhere for us to go. I feel it." there's the craziness of not knowing what's going on, and trying to keep calm for the little kids in the classroom, waiting for their parents to come and pick them up. shop keepers are handing out free water and free shoes; people are pulling together and respecting one another in a way that claire has never experienced before.

these descriptions are the descriptions of one who was there, most definitely. the scene where jasper goes to give blood is another highlight. claire's vigil in union square is moving, but is one of the times when i think it was laid on a little thick for me (though i admit to crying) and i felt less like i was part of the story and more like a voyeur, exploiting the grief of these new yorkers from afar. the strongest thing about this book is the authenticity of the experiences of this event and its aftermath. so often i read books about calamitous events, serious and awful happenings and while they are good, they don't have the impact that this had - i think due to the author's own experience of 9/11, as well as his brilliant prose here which is (mostly) so careful and restrained. it would appear he took chekhov's "be cold" advice.

love is the higher law is a story full of hope and sadness and kindness...and some regret. as claire says: "i thought we were going to be better...after what happened. as a country."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

launch of the reader

volume 2 of the reader was launched last night at horse bazaar in the city by editor aden rolfe, accompanied by two readings from the journal. such a sultry night required an icy beer, which was thusly acquired. aden rolfe spoke about the emerging writers' festival and the reader, and the relationship between the two - less strange bedfellows, more passionate lovers (this is my metaphor, please forgive me), he talked about community, discussion and conversation.

sean m whelan read aloud his piece the pitfalls of public speaking, or how to lose friends, alienate an audience and never get invited back. he spoke very well, within a reasonable time limit, with lots of eye contact, respect for the microphone and no apologies.

then lou sanz treated us to your literary career: choose your own adventure. while she chose our adventures for us (started a blog, applied for a grant, recorded a spoken word cover of mandy moore's 'crush') but she really got me laughing - in a kind of spit-out-your-beer, gasping, shocked kind of way - when listing the necessities for life as a writer...and came to: 'it would also do you good to develop an irreverance to augusten burroughs (eg. he's just like me, but i'm not gay, he's the symbolic cock in the arse of my life)...'

in the reader you'll find fiction, non-fiction, poetry, sci-fi erotica,'s a cornucopia, nay, a farrago of writerly stuffs. go out and get yourself a copy. it's totally worth it.

support emerging writers!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

peripatetic at large

hannah mae is the inkling.

she is also one of my friends in real life and now she has her own blog. we were students together, studying literature and creative writing of all sorts; we parleyed francais and ordered many a drink from plush fish.

in 2005 while i was slaving over the final year of my Bachelor of fuckAll, hannah mae was ahead of us all, and logged on and tuned in. she had a blog and i didn't even know what a blog was. because i didn't read it then it's very exciting to go back and read it now, some five years later . i note with amusement that at some point in 2005 she commented that she doesn't really like coffee that much. bahaha. how times change.

she is a:

"seller of books, student of words, protector of copyright, lover of all things edible, coffee addict, peripatetic at large."

i had to look this one up: peripatetic is someone who travels around working and living in various places, an itinerant soul.

and she sends great postcards from her wayward travels:

Friday, November 5, 2010

kiss this book

reading megan's post the other day about lending books and then getting them back (when you get them back at all) in less-than-perfect condition, i certainly understand where she's coming from. i think for me, though, i'd prefer to have my damaged copy back rather than a new one that might not be the same as my original. the original is sometimes special - an early reader's copy, a gift, something sentimental...perhaps a reason it shouldn't have been lent in the first place (but how can you not? i want everyone to read my favourites! i thrust it upon them!)

it made me think about how i treat my books. i basically love them to death. i loved it the other month when marieke hardy came out with lipstick kisses all over the book (was it catcher in the rye?) on the first tuesday book club. i kiss my books.

here's a poem (not by me):

I kiss this book
with coffee-rings
and greasy thumbs.

I kiss this book
with butter dripped
from my toast.

I kiss this book
with dog-ears
and bath-steam.

I kiss this book
and make it mine.

--adam ford, from not quite the man for the job.

here are two other ways i love my books:

dog-ears to mark interesting bits.
and underlining, so i can remember the interesting bits later on, when i've forgotten them.

and i could only laugh this morning when i got out my well-loved copy of the messenger (markus zusak) to show you all to what extent i love my books, only for this to happen:
pages 6 through to 57 all over the floor. it doesn't matter, really, i have two more (whole) copies - how does this happen, i have multiples everywhere...sorry mama bear they probably belong to you - but it did hurt my heart a little to see the story explode. it's ok. i have sticky tape.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

monthly monday milf meeeem

MMM is a meeeem created by The Dugong Lady and kate.o.d in celebration of those who lurk handsomely in the background. we want you between our pages.

and this month's winner (aka hot lover) is fonsie from circle of friends*.

fonsie (alphonsus) is gorgeous: an irish-italian teddy boy in drainpipe trousers and winkle-pickers, awesome jackets and he sometimes wears velvet (this is awesome, not weird). he's naughty, totally cool and edgy with awesome taste in music. and fonsie runs the chip shop with his uncle mario - not only runs it but over the course of the book he REVOLUTIONISES IT with a jukebox and other ace stuff...making it the place to be at night (in the tiny town of knockglen where the book is set). plus, he can jive.

so he's enterprising, a dancer, awesomely cool...and irish. hot. i would definitely go there. plus, i am a heathen so no catholic guilt for me! bonus!

unfortunately i do have a feisty opponent for fonsie's affections in clodagh pine: "she had her long legs exposed for all to view in a ridiculously short skirt. She wore a lime-green dress with a black jacket over it, a pink scarf, and her earrings, which were long and dangly, were precisely the same green as her dress, and her very obviously tinted hair was held up with two black combs."

*so i know this exposes me as a total maeve binchy tragic. but i don't care. and though i think, technically, fonsie rates as almost a main character, he doesn't appear in the film at all, so booya! MILF!
**teddy boy photo from

coffee : green refectory

had a coffee this morning at green on sydney road and it tasted grainy and a little bit like dirt. made me think of the scene in 48 shades of brown (by nick earls) where dan makes pesto. i'm sorry green, usually your coffee is quite nice but today i think it contained "actual soil".

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

a year in provence...or was that the dordogne?

we've stocked the covetable cards for a while now at the shop and i love them. kinda cheesy, but great. and i'm just so impressed by how beautifully designed the book is. go into a shop, i dare you, and have a little touchy-feely look. it's cloth-bound, for the love of lavender! and think about christmas, birthdays, other holidays: mums, aunties, francophiles...they'll love it.

have to admit, i haven't looked at the poems yet. they could be tosh. but they're probably good. and you could just look at the pictures at any rate. france! flowers! markets! bicycles up against stone walls? oh dear, i fear i am falling into the elizabeth gilbert trap!!!

visit the covetables website here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


i think that this, too, is how a good story is written (or told).

(this is from page 85 of nausea by jean-paul sartre, popular penguin edition)

Monday, October 25, 2010

review : six

Six, Karen Tayleur (Black Dog Books)

One car. One after-party.
Six people, six points of view.
But only one outcome.

Six is quite eerie and intense. Tayleur has successfully created a true page-turner with heightened anxiety and increasing tension. After reading the atmospheric prologue, I thought I knew exactly where the story was going and it did get there eventually. But there was also a SURPRISE plot departure!

This alternate storyline (ie not the car bit) was much more interesting, but unfortunately speedily resolved in two lines at the end. I would have liked to read much more about it. Though I wasn’t 100% convinced by the way the group dealt with THE SURPRISE, nor did I fully understand certain characters’ motivations, it was definitely an excellent plot twist.

Like Megan, I didn’t understand the 'txtspk' language in the text messages half the time, though muddled through and got the gist.

We don’t learn a lot about the characters beyond the superficial and they do seem to slot into specific ‘Breakfast Club’-esque moulds: the jock, the princess, the weirdo. The scene at Virginia’s house served no real purpose but to get them into the Woods, thus to discover the thing that the book revolves around. But it could have been used better to give us a better understanding of the characters. There were elements that fleshed out their situations, such as Poppy’s slightly-odd stepfather, Virginia’s dad being in politics and even Sarah’s family, but mostly it goes nowhere. However, in spite of being on the one-dimensional side, the characters are kind of sweet and interesting and some of their dialogue and exchanges were funny. The voices are also convincingly teenage.

I think that teenagers will really enjoy this one, really get on board with the ending and be very moved by it. I certainly have many customers who will ADORE it. But I don’t think that Six ultimately stands up alongside books like Paper Towns (John Green), Game as Ned (Tim Pegler) or Checkers (John Marsden) that also deal with horrifying events. (err. and this book nowhere near as disturbing as Checkers. Six is appropriate for around 13+)

But all this has got me thinking about the different kinds of YA. More on that later...

Friday, October 22, 2010

sew you feel like a coffee?

this is a little cafe i went to in krakow, poland.

it's a pole. and we're in poland. funny enough for me, but then the pole felt the need to declare both its being and belonging with this note:

unfortunately this hilarious pun's hilarity was lost on my french travelling companion. 'franchement, kate,' il a dit, 'qu'est-ce que tu as dans la tête?! n'importe quoi!' I guess puns don't translate.