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??