Tuesday, April 27, 2010

and now, i mean business!

mixed business, that is!

delicious coffee, amazing food. it's on queens parade in clifton hill and that is all you need know.

oh. on a saturday or a sunday you will probably have a hard time finding a table, but never fear! become a perpetual student like me and you can go during the week!!

eat the fruit toast, or the mushrooms with goats cheese. or the french toast, i hear it's delish.

but most of all, drink coffee.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

beautiful monster, kate mccaffrey

beautiful monster explores one family's grief following the loss of a child, as well as eating disorders and the pressure to succeed at school. it tends slightly to being an "issues book" but fortunately this is a genre at which mccaffrey excels. her first two books, destroying avalon (cyber-bullying) and in ecstasy (teenage drug abuse), were critically well-received.

since her little brother brodie tragically died (this bit was incredibly moving and very well-written) tess has felt the pressure to be the perfect child. her friend ned has been a comfort to her since her brother died but ned has started to play on tess' fears and insecurities; she's too fat, too stupid. it is soon clear that ned is not all he appears.

i was quite frustrated with tess and her relationship with ned - i had to put the book down once or twice because i didn't understand why she did certain things. the book also had a few false endings and it covers quite a few years in not a lot of space - i know it is a bit confusing when i say that i thought the book should have been either shorter, or longer.

in beautiful monster mccaffrey not only tackles death and grief, but also eating disorders and mental illness. the characters are very real - and here is the heart of the story. tess' family and friends are obviously lovingly crafted, as is their grief, strength, weaknesses and empathy.

as with a lot of books crammed with issues i thought at times this book was a bit much (dramatic and a wee bit hyperbolic) but teenage girls (13-15 or so) will enjoy this book.

Friday, April 23, 2010

good strong coffee at luncheonette

in spite of a noisy, leaky, beeping machine sealing (or something) the new bit of road right next to the cafe, my chouette amie and i had a very nice time at luncheonette yesterday. the staff were lovely and the decor charming.

i liked the teapot sugar bowl and the the coffees were strong, but delicious -not bitter at all. organic coffee beans, AND organic milk. we both had avocado on 7 grain toast and it was very yummy (with spicy hot chili flakes on top) but it was a bit pricey at $7 for just one bit of toast. but i had two coffees and it totally made my day.

visit their website here

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

rich kids have feelings too

when reading salinger i can't help thinking about wes anderson.

i thought i was so clever when i said to my best friend m: "you know? i think owen wilson and wes anderson must have been reading franny and zooey when they wrote the royal tenenbaums" only to find in a quick internet search that most people realise this.

franny and zooey is a collection of two short stories (one called franny, the other called zooey; the zooey bit much longer than the franny) and our two protagonists are part of the glass family. seymour glass, the eldest, is the subject of a perfect day for bananafish, one of salinger's most famous stories. the others appear in stories such as raise high the roof beam, down at the dingy and seymour: an introduction.

the glass family are a riot. upper east siders, childhood stars of a radio show called 'it's a wise child.' now adults and young adults they are smart, caustic, depressive, (often misanthropic) perfectionists. the two youngest siblings, franny and zooey, are suffering from having been practically brainwashed by their older siblings (primarily buddy and seymour) in all aspects of philosophy and religion, particularly eastern mysticism. franny has become obsessed with prayer, and specifically a christian pilgrim's "jesus prayer" which one is mean to pray constantly, every minute of the day with the aim that it soon becomes automatic. she's hardly eating, always thinking away, and it is causing problems with her boyfriend (though i thought he was something of a douche, really) but also with her family. her mother is worried and she enlists zooey to talk to franny about it. zooey is very handsome, but (and this cracks me up) "his face had been just barely saved from too-handsomeness, not to say gorgeousness, by virtue of one ear's protruding slightly more than the other." he is an actor who is sick and tired of other people's pretentiousness and excitement about their own work (be they screenwriters, playwrights or other actors). the siblings talk, they help and hinder each other, in an effort to understand one another.
i simply adore salinger's turn of phrase and intelligence, wit and the brilliant dialogue he gifts to his characters.
and so you can see why i can't totally separate the glass family and the tenenbaum family in my mind (and, curiously, and not unsurprisingly, the eldest glass daughter, boo boo, actually marries a mr tannenbaum). margo, chas and richie tenenbaum are equally disillusioned grown-up child prodigies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

ya community thanksgiving

adele from persnickety snark wrote a post today in which she talked about all the things she is thankful for regarding the interweb young adult blog community. now, i'm still new to the internet, and a bit cynical and quite a lot afraid of my privacy. and hesitant to jump on community bandwagons (which sometimes remind me of cliques at high school). but! i must stop! adele says this is all about positivity. i can do pollyanna:

i love reading reviews. they help me at work and it's fab to see what others thought of books i loved or...err...didn't love.
so i am thankful that there are so many passionate readers out there. that they take the time to write up their reactions to books and book news. i'm often surprised at the quality of the reviews and wide array of genres that are represented.
i'm happy that there are people out there who notice and care about important issues that come up alarmingly often, such as the great bloomsbury whitewash.
it's not exactly an enviable amour, but i love a good, heated blog-comment argument. until the bullying starts.
i like the relative anonymity of blogging and the subsequent freedom.
i don't love feeling like a total wanker when i tell people that i write a blog. but i do love that people visit bean there, read that and write comments. oh lordy, i surely do. i'm embarrassed at how pleased it makes me.

so doing this ya community thanksgiving isn't something i would usually take part in. i do steer clear of those meme things (i had to look this up on an online dictionary to find out what it meant. it made me feel old) because i have this thing where i am fierce at wanting to do everything my own way (oh yes, i am an individual just like everybody else).

but i wanted to do it because i read all the blogs and i comment on some and i thought i'd just let y'all know i love this corner of the web.

and now for your viewing pleasure...a real, honest-to-god photo i took of one of the chickens at my parents' house:

it was obv meant to be a picture of poppy the dog, but the chook just had to get her fairly freaky-looking mug in the shot.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

guardian of the dead review

guardian of the dead - karen healey

set in modern day new zealand, guardian of the dead takes its reader on an imaginative thrill ride through maori legend and fantasy. the cover is great (this is the aussie cover, i have seen another with a big white mask on it, which didn't appeal to me nearly as much) but inside is a curious choice of font. it's in bold. bizarre, i know, and it makes the type seem large and almost childlike, belying the more adult content (or at least young adult).

healey spends a lot of time building her characters and their relationships, we get to know ellie very well before any of the action even begins (which is good) we also get to know kevin pretty well, and get to like him quite a lot; which is disappointing considering he actually doesn't get a lot of page-time later on. and i have to admit, i didn't love mark and i didn't really understand why ellie was so drawn to him.

it is so silly, one of my main grumbles seems so minor, and yet so stands out to me. so ellie receives a gashing blow to her back and her bra is all cut up. she then goes on to run and fight and next day she talks about being unable to put a bra on because her back hurts. this is fine. except there are lots of descriptions about ellie being a biggish girl and i think she would have found running bra-less a bit uncomfortable, to say the least. but she doesn't mention it, though does talk later in the book about how strange it was that 'mystical adventures seemed to involve a lot of minor aches and pains that didn't make it into the stories.' (p304)

i loved learning about maori creation myths and healey obviously knows lots more about this world she has created than ever made it to the page. perhaps she will reveal more in sequels? the dialogue was great and it is fabulous to see a clever and tough young woman out there defending herself.

slight reference to the end of the book below (shouldn't spoil the plot for anyone though)...

'there was another cave between her thighs, filled with a second set of obsidian teeth.'(p307)
while i am all for mythical beasts, metaphor and the fantastic...this toothy vagina really creeped me out. was i supposed to read this more figuratively?

Friday, April 9, 2010

be holden! a message!

oh no! i really should have spent some more time reflecting on my top 10 YA books because i've remembered at least two more that i should have included. and i've also decided that it is impossible to narrow the best YA down to just 10. there are too many factors to consider. first, my favourite ten to read and reread (ie. comfort books). second, those books which i believe hold important lessons or stories that all teens should experience. third, ones which continue to resonate with me as an adult (and a sub-consideration of this, whether or not this is even important at all when one is considering YA).

king dork, frank portman

from the blurb: "...when tom henderson finds his father's copy of the catcher in the rye, it changes his world. it puts him in the middle of several interlocking conspiracies and at least half a dozen mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, ESP, blood, guitars, monks, witchcraft, a devil's head and rock and roll. it appears to be just the tip of a very odd iceberg of clues that could help tom unravel the puzzle of his father's death, and - bizarrely - reveal the secret of attracting semi-hot girls."

tom 'chi-mo' henderson is the anti-holden caufield (or a kind of post-modern holden) protagonist of this riotously funny book. tom has a little sister amanda - not unlike phoebe from catcher. his mother spends a lot of time sitting on the back porch smoking and drinking low-balls (bourbon + soda) talking to a friend (when she isn't depressed) and it is in this way that she is not unlike a sterotypical mother from the 50s. his stepfather little big tom doesn't really fit into the catcher family...but he's a paid up member of (what tom calls) the "catcher cult" - these are people who love holden caufield so much 'they want to have sex with him, and with the book's author too, and they'd probably even try to do it with the book itself if they could figure out a way to go about it.' tom doesn't beat around the bush.
here is a character with one hell of a voice. the book is split into month-long sections with shorter 'scenes' - all hilariously titled - within. tom is cynical and smart, but he's also pretty angry. he is determined to find out what happened to his dad, and if ploughing through an old copy of catcher in the rye will help him, then so be it.
in other news, tom and his (only) friend sam hellerman are destined for greatness with their band 'baby batter'. or was that 'the plasma nukes'? or 'the nancy wheelers', with pseudo-mo on guitar, sam hellerman on bass and ouija board; first album - margaret? it's god. please shut up.
five kinds of awesome, people. read this book.

the messenger, markus zusak

honestly, i feel terrible that i forgot this book off my list last week. it is up there, up there right at the top, of my favourite books of all time (not just young adult, but ALL BOOKS).

many of you will have read this. you've met young drifter and cab driver ed and read about how he briefly became a local hero for stopping a bank robbery only to then start receiving playing cards in the post with unnerving and cryptic messages on them. and how, in delivering these messages the best way he can, he meets some amazing and horrible people and his previously stagnanting life begins to change.
zusak has such a marvellous way with words; his carefully chosen prose hits you hard in the heart. this book is a remarkable essay on humanity - the very best good (and very worst) in people. it's kind of a scungy, rough pollyanna. when you read it you will probably cry, definitely laugh and i dare anyone to tell me it didn't make their hearts soar, and ache.
the people that i've spoken to have mixed feelings about the ending. i won't spoil anything here. but i love it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


so it's not the best pun in the world, but the most recent one to cross the bookshop counter (that i've remembered to photograph).

for other hilariously terrible puns check out: www.fuckyeahpuns.tumblr.com

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

would you like some more sugar?

my mama bear ploughed through sugar sugar over the last day and a half and kept coming out to exclaim over certain parts. my parents travelled through the middle east from kathmandu to london in 1980 (dad made the journey multiple times as a top deck tours guide). they stayed in the town of 'doggybiscuit' just like jackie and mama's iranian visa looks just like the one jackie describes in the book.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

september will reveal all...

about the TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN movie extravaganza!
i have my fingers crossed for this to be good. i care too much about ellie and the gang to be disappointed. there is a trailer on youtube. watch it ... see what you think.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

scarlett vs jo

this is pretty much the best thing ever.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


sugar sugar, carole wilkinson

carole wilkinson is so well-known (and well-loved) for her dragonkeeper series. well, there are no dragons in sugar sugar.

instead, it is the 1970s and here is jackie: an australian girl living in london, who wants to be a fashion designer, but who is slaving away as a shopgirl. so one weekend she packs her psychedelic suitcase, arms herself with her folio of precious designs and heads to paris. on the ferry from dover she meets the 'v's - two american girls driving a london cab to all the places in europe that start with v. jackie scores a lift into paris - gaahh! l'etoile! giant roundabout of death! - and the 'v's drop her off.

only for her to realise she has left her folio in the car.

what follows is an amazing retro roadtrip. there is a cast of fantastic characters (some more likable than others) which are all so well-written you could be sitting next to them in the car, trying to observe the hitchhiker's code with them, swapping books and trying to stay awake en route while listening to them play guitar in the back.

and it is after jackie falls asleep that things start to happen. after versailles, after vichy, and on the way to verona, jackie decides her folio is a lost thing and hitches a ride back to paris with a couple of dutch guys (dolf and thomas). she wakes up to a demand to see her passport. they are in yugoslavia, with a beautiful scandinavian girl called ulla.
jackie's journey moves through what is now the former yugoslavia, to greece, then turkey and then extends through the middle east. the 'v's reappear, as do the unsettling/endearing pair of british mates val and alun. jackie's journey is out of control, she thinks about getting back to london a lot, she dreams about australia but she carries onward into the deserts of iran and afghanistan.
even though she is scared and dirty and most of the time wants to go home, jackie also starts to enjoy the experiences. fascinating, these places that you can't get to so easily nowadays. wilkinson's descriptions of the scenery are simple but evocative and her depictions of the people jackie meets along the way are just wonderful (and horrible). the story is so well-paced, to the point of almost action-packed and i greedily read on and on until the end, all in one sitting.
jackie is an engaging character. sometimes she seemed a bit dim, but it was lovely to follow a character who doesn't know it all. and then there were the times that jackie did think she knew it all and then tripped up. she is a very human character for whom i came to care a great deal over the course of the novel.
i would love to have been able to travel at the time jackie was, but i have had to content myself with hearing about my parents' voyages overland (the photos included in this post belong to them) that they made in the late 70s/early 80s.