Thursday, July 29, 2010

dash and lily's book of dares

i know a girl and she gets to read lots of awesome books before they are released and she also gets hugged by certain authors i would like to be hugged by. yesterday she showed me what she's currently reading. i am enormously jealous.

this is how the blurb goes:

'Imagine this: you're in your favourite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You reach the section where your favourite author's books reside. And there, nestled between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook. So what do you do? The choice, I think, is obvious: you take down the notebook and open it. And you do whatever it tells you to do.'
It's Christmas-time in New York, and world-weary Dash has managed to persuade each of his parents that he is staying with the other, thus sending them both off with their new 'paramours' and leaving him happily shuffling back and forth between their empty apartments. Meanwhile, Christmas-loving Lily is bereft at the thought of spending Christmas without her full complement of family, and has been consoling herself with cookie-baking and carols-singing. When Lily's brother plants a red moleskin notebook in Dash's favourite store, leaving instructions that lead him not only around the bookstore but eventually out into the Christmas-sozzled city, the scene is set for a back-and-forth series of clues, coincidences and missed rendezvous.
Will sarcastic, intriguing Dash finally meet up with nerdy but loveable Lily? Only time will tell as the two teenagers try to outwit each other for as long as possible in this charming twist on the classic game of cat and mouse.

you know it! you do! and we are excited, no? even though we were a bit disappointed with naomi and ely? we sure are! there isn't even cover art for me to show you yet (although the book she had in her hot little hands did have a two-tone picture on its purple and black cardboard mockup cover).

let's all keep our eyes on this page at allen & unwin.

Monday, July 26, 2010

sometimes i get the urge to read grown up books

if i got to choose four books to take home tonight (if only el cardo credito weren't at the end of its tether and threatening to cut me off and send me to Spenders Anonymous...where i would kick it in the balls with my fancy new 1940s-esque black patent schoolma'am, gal-friday shoes...)

where was i?

oh yes.

under the dome, stephen king (hodder)

who would have thunk i'd ever want to read a stephen king so much? this one looks particularly epic, about a giant dome dropping over a town - cutting birds in half and detroying an aeroplane (killing some of the people inside) as it settles into place. i've just read the first three pages.

the boy next door, irene sabatini (sceptre)

this is a curious one. set in zimbabwe in the 1980s it looks to be the story of a young girl - lindiwe - and the young boy next door who is arrested for setting his stepmother alight. the blurb says "...though eighteeen months later the charges against ian mckenzie are dropped and he returns home, full of charm and swagger." i know very little about africa (and what i do know i only know from spud) and this story, which the blurb says vividly evokes this country's slide into chaos following its independence and it's also a love story.

truth, peter temple (text)

merely because it won the miles franklin. but i'd also have to get the broken shore, cuz i ain't read that yet either.

our tragic universe, scarlett thomas (canongate)

because i LOVED LOVED the end of mr y and have been DYING for another scarlett thomas since. this one's an august release and we'll prob get it in at the shop this week. i don't think i'm going to be able to stop myself buying it, somehow. fingers crossed for a reading copy!
here's the blurb from the text website:
If Kelsey Newman’s theory about the end of the time is true, we are all going to live forever. But for Meg—locked in a dead-end relationship and with a deadline looming for a book that she can’t write—this thought fills her with dread. Stuck in a labyrinth of her own devising, Meg knows that there must be a way out. And a wild beast living on the Devonshire moors, a ship in a bottle, the science of time and a knitting pattern for the shape of the universe all have a crucial part to play in Meg’s release.
Smart, entrancing and buzzing with big ideas, Our Tragic Universe is a book about how relationships are created and destroyed, and how a story might just save your life.

but i'm lucky, because my nana (who is very old - 93 - but very awesome) went to the sydney launch of p.m. newton's debut novel the old school (viking) and she bought me a copy and posted it to me.

but right now i have three books to review for magpies. they're awesome:
i am a genius of unspeakable evil and i want to be your class president, josh lieb (razorbill)
mimi and the blue slave, catherine bateson (woolshed press) - i've read a couple of chapters and cried. as i do whenever i read a bateson. her books are just so beautiful!
and i've also got an aussie chomp, but i can't remember which one.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


this is shyness, leanne hall (text) read my review here.
A guy who howls. A girl on a mission to forget.

In the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn’t rise and the border crackles with a strange energy, Wolfboy meets a stranger at the Diabetic Hotel. She tells him her name is Wildgirl, and she dares him to be her guide through the endless night.

But then they are mugged by the sugar-crazed Kidds. And what plays out is moving, reckless…dangerous. There are things that can only be said in the dark. And one long night is time enough to change your life.

graffiti moon, cath crowley (pan macmillan) read my review here.

Lucy is in love with Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist.
Ed thought he was in love with Lucy, until she broke his nose.
Dylan loves Daisy, but throwing eggs at her probably wasn't the best way to show it.
Jazz and Leo are slowly encircling each other.
An intense and exhilarating 24 hours in the lives of four teenagers on the verge: of adulthood, of HSC, of finding out just who they are, and who they want to be.

six impossible things, fiona wood (pan macmillan)

this looks fab - i'm only up to page 32 at the moment but so far it's holden caufield via nick earls expressed with humour and warmth by fiona wood. dan's dad's gone bankrupt, realised he's gay and dan and his mum have moved to an ancient old house that smells of piss...but there's a pretty girl living next door. at the moment dan seems to know a lot about her, and i'm not sure how... we'll just have to see.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a minor place

ah a minor place. my local and my best. the coffee is knock-your-socks-off strong. the food is delish. the staff are lovely (yes, even surly waitress) and i couldn't ask for a better local cafe. this day we had the mumbler - with avocado instead of tomato - and the new york style bagel. it's on albion street, brunswick. a minor place has a website here.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Graffiti Moon, Cath Crowley (Pan Macmillan)

Lucy loves Shadow, although she has never met him. Like a Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist with street art and burglary instead of punk music and NYC, Graffiti Moon takes place over one rollicking night.

Lucy Dervish has finished her year 12 classes and is heading out for a night on the town with her best friend Jazz (who wants to write "stayed out all night. kissed someone." in her diary the next day) and new friend Daisy (who kicks her b/f in the balls when she wants info out of him). she wants to find Shadow - a graffiti artist who paints skies and birds and doors on walls all around the city.

They run into Daisy's b/f Dylan and his friends Leo and Ed instead. Ed and Lucy once went on a date. 'Every time he looked at me I felt like I'd touched my tongue to the tip of a battery. In Art class I'd watch him lean back and listen and I was nothing but zing and tingle.' (p26) But when she tried to talk about To Kill A Mockingbird he grabbed her arse. So she broke his nose.

Jazz is totally up for an adventure and preferably one with Leo. Ah, Leo whose other guise is as street graffiti poet known only as Poet. Poet's poems thread through the narrative (which alternates between Lucy and Ed) and poignantly tell his story. Leo needs money, and quick. So, with his brother, he plans to rob the school's media department and has asked Ed and Dylan to help. But they can hang out with the girls first...

I fell in love instantly with all of the characters. The plot is multi-layered and complex but Cath makes it all so easy to follow, it feels effortless, and you're compelled to read on and on. There are so many things I want to tell you about. I love Lucy's parents. I love the mentors. I love the descriptions of Shadow's art. I love that Lucy is a glass blower.

This is sexy, hilarious, rude, and a bit dangerous. It's got fantastic pacing (one night, people, this takes place over one night only), brilliant characters and awesome dialogue. It is 100% ace. Pop it on your shelf next to Notes from the Teenage Underground and let the riot start!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

review: the emerald casket

the emerald casket: the billionaire's curse book II, richard newsome (text)

by jolly what fun! i loved the billionaire's curse numero uno and number two is just as spiffing.
gerald, ruby and sam are enjoying their summer after the horrible events with sir mason green and the creepy thin man (who smells of bleach) and the golden rod and the crypt with the rats...hoo boy was it an exciting tale. now they've been invited to india to stay with alisha and mr gupta. india is loud and busy and exciting. mr gupta's house is extravagant and plush with lots of croissants and sweet lime juice (completely innappropriately i kept thinking about the darjeeling limited and jason schwartzman and the sweet lime, not appropriate at all). then it appears that the second of the three caskets (which belonged to gerald's family many, many, many years ago) is hidden somewhere in india and our gang of four must find it before the evil sir mason green does. of course trouble is afoot and soon gerald, the wisecracking twins ruby and sam, and alicia are dodging ninjas and creepy fortune tellers and bandits - and they're not exactly sure who to trust. then there's the question of this mysterious fraternity.

i love gerald and the billionaire's curse for a number of reasons:

  1. it is a lot of fun and doesn't take itself too seriously.
  2. from the first chapter - nay, the first PAGE - it sets a cracking pace and the story is totally gripping.
  3. it doesn't rest itself irrevocably in reality - give me billionaire 13 year olds and private jets where you can ride on plastic trays for plane sledding during take off (and then turn the plane around just so you can do it again!), give me twists of fate, and lucky breaks.
  4. the hint of james bond accompanied by lashings of enid blyton.
  5. in the emerald casket, newsome mentions the tsunami and manages to include it in the story, plus he acknowledges (but doesn't make a massive point of it) england's colonisation of india - hopefully aussie kids will find this interesting and ask some questions.
richard is blogging at inside a dog this month and the other day he discussed amateur internet reviewers. i guess i'm not an amateur because i am paid to review children's books when i'm not on the internet, but on my blog i am more likely to offer my personal reaction as well as a more considered, objective review. so i'm not a kittykat with a book and a feather, nor am i hannibal lecter.
i think i'm definitely more like this:
(and it's not because of my neck-beard or penchant for planet-sized earrings).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

let me tell you a little tale...

i love short stories.
i haven't always, but i do at the moment. every week i receive one or more photocopied short stories by some writer or other from some time throughout history and then i spend four hours with some lovely people talking about it, and then also sharing our own work with one another. so far we've read guy de maupassant, jd salinger (oh em gee i am in love with for esme, with love and squalor - it shall have its own blog post soon), raymond carver, isabel allende, colette, janette turner hospital, anglea carter, marguerite duras, the indomitable agatha christie (we read POIROT, yes, poirot, he talks about poirot in the third person, aha), anton chekov and edgar allan poe. to name a few.

i love short stories for their brevity and sparseness (though not always sparse, but certainly brief by nature) and how complete they feel within only ten pages or so. fewer, sometimes.

i love kelly link's the wrong grave (especially for 'magic for beginners' and also the titular story) and i am traumatised and completely seduced by margo lanagan's heartbreaking story 'singing my sister down' from the collection black juice. these are scary, magical, beautiful stories.

another great collection, which is just out this week, is wordlines: contemporary australian writing (five mile press) compiled and edited by the brilliant hilary mcphee - author, editor, publisher. (and i helped). there is a slew of top-knotch australian writers represented here but if i had to pick out two to mention they would be abigail ulman for her story 'chagall's wife' which was an electric tale about a young girl and her relationship with an older teacher. it made me feel like they were moving through treacle, slow and kind of sexy. (but also awkward and funny) the other would be the extract from sophie cunningham's not-yet-finished novel about virginia woolf and her husband - the extract here entitled 'pearl' which celebrates the grit of love in a rotting relationship affected by sickness.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

cultivating a green thumb: july

oh dear.i had such high hopes for the garden. but as you can see, aside from a very healthy compost bin (it has munched up all our green waste and a couple of newspapers and down the bottom are thousands of up-t0-date and well-fed worms and lots of nutritious black compost) all i'm cultivating is a place for rats and rubbish. so now it is my project to create a functional garden that will hopefully yield useful plants to eat and look at.
i'll delight you all with updates every so often to ensure i stay on track.

Monday, July 12, 2010

cedar b hartley

the slightly true story of cedar b hartley (who planned to live an unusual life) by martine murray (allen&unwin)

i love this one. i love the gorgeous scrappy cedar b. it's been out for quite a few years now, but i sell at least one copy per week at work, and more and more little (and big) girls (and boys) have been equally delighted with her. cedar hangs around on smith st, she wanders down the merri creek, plays with her dog stinky, and makes friends with kite - the boy who can fly - and cares for all the people she knows (except perhaps mr barton and his son harold).

i love the way martine murray puts her words together, and the slow and quiet but magnificent thoughts she articulates through this positively delightful character.

'i liked it but i can't say why. perhaps because it was odd and small and quiet, not grand, and because it made you smile just a little inward smile, and the way it scratched at your mind, like a funny tickle. not a big one. it wasn't big, but it still made you wonder.' (p.140)

here is a list of the things in this book that tickle me:
- barnaby's postcards
- sweet carmella with the chubby knees.
- kite, the bird boy.
- the wobbly, thoughful oscar.
- the fab little sketches and "commonplaces" throughout.
- little scruffy stinky, cedar's dog.

and here is my own darling puppy dog, whom we named cedar b.

and here she is as a wee puppy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

to julia gillard -

we all die in the end

an excerpt from darren hanlon's song folk insomnia from his new album i will love you at all.

"...and then one day i start to worry
that i am gonna be a goner
before i read all the books i wanna
and if i plant a tree now it'll be fully grown
long after i'm just dust and bone..."

because what's a thursday without pondering our mortality?

darren lives here. he is also the second most notable person to come from gympie, queensland see wikipedia.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

new brunswick cafe: pope joan

this morning the evil sister and i had brunch at the 6-day old cafe pope joan.

it is officially a hipster-free place. however, this made me quite uncomfortable. and i felt pretty uncool. the staff were VERY chirpy and happy and eager to fill our water glasses and take our order. it was so...bizarre. i am used to having to catch my coffee as it's flung onto the table by Surly Waitress at a minor place and being snubbed by all the rude wait-staff at any place in northcote. but - it has only been a week. they'll come around to bitterness.

the coffee was quite delicious. not as strong as you might get at a minor place, but very very nice nonetheless.
i was disappointed to find that the fried haloumi/rocket pesto/dukkah dish (which they had advertised on the postcards delivered to the evil sister's house last week) wasn't available on the menu - but my order of toasted banana bread with rhubarb was very delicious. err, tho it did turn out to be rhubarb cream but it was quite light and it was a-ok in the end.

evil sister had a bacon and egg sarnie which she says was very yummy. she opted out of having HP sauce on it though.

although the chef (the kitchen is in the open) initially shouted NO! when i enquired whether the haloumi dish would make an appearance at all, he was then very funny and grumpy and nice and said there'd be something delicious with haloumi and beetroot coming up. so i'll have to go back...

77-70 nicholson st brunswick east <--but this site didn't work when i tried today.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"i mean what i say, i just shouldn't say it aloud"

slice: juicy moments from my impossible life is the perfect example of less-is-more, of well-chosen words, of understatement and poignancy. and, it's very funny.

darcy is in year eleven at school, a bit of a shakespeare fan, definitely not a soccer guy (in spite of his middle name - pele - and all of his football-mad dad's encouragement). he can't shut up, mostly just blurting out whatever shoots into his head. even when it's not the best thing to say.

there's the totally awesome english teacher, ms hopkins, who wears t-shirts with great slogans on them, whose reaction to the class dismissing the romantic poets as crapola is to piff shelley out the classroom window.
and there's the beautiful audrey, girl of darcy's dreams. audrey who meditates in her backyard while darcy lies out on his roof...pretending not to watch her. audrey's not afraid to say what she thinks.
and there is noah, chess-obsessed and darcy's unlikely friend. there's also tim harris, the bully. but our characters don't stay pigeonholed or one-dimentional. these are normal, smart, thoughtful teens who are awkward but somehow confident, they've got their problems but nothing is blown out of proportion (tho darcy does spend a lot of time worrying about one little blackhead on his nose) and when it's revealed that noah's father has suffered a stroke darcy isn't so blinded by his love for audrey that he can't realise when others need support. these are good people.

slice looks at what it is to be a man. it's a coming of age story and includes a gorgeous scene in which darcy goes to buy condoms and reminisces about going for ice cream with his dad, wishing he was getting ice cream now instead. such beautiful sentiment about childhood and moving forwards, and it only takes herrick three short paragraphs. i can't help thinking about other books (err...and my own work) that blather on and on, in an effort to get to their point.

herrick is master of writing relationships. in particular, relationships between fathers and sons (like jack and his dad in love, ghosts and nose hair ; the father-like relationship between billy and old bill in the simple gift) and in slice it's hilarious and beautiful as dad frets about darcy thinking suicidal thoughts, to the point of kneeling at the bathroom keyhole as darcy wills his blackhead pimple away. there's nothing clichéd, nothing mean or brutal in here, the dads and their sons are always friends - even if they are annoying and stupid at times.

on my first read i thought that it would have worked better in the free verse form of herrick's older work, that it was too short as a conventional novel. but reading it through for a second time, giving myself time to really enjoy the way it was written i decided it's pretty damn perfect how it is.
read my reviews of some of steven's other books here. or read his blog.