Sunday, January 31, 2010

OTTO

i read in the paper the other day (the age, australia day) about a young guy who has designed and built a new stove-top coffee maker. it sounds incredible. the creator, craig heron, wanted to make an espresso-style coffee at his home, but found that most stove-top coffees lack body. his machine OTTO looks beautiful - all stainless steel and you can even steam milk with it.

the article was supported by the east brunswick project's coffee gurus - they approve!

you can read more about OTTO and even order it, here.

ok. bring on tomorrow and some COFFEE. delish.

Friday, January 29, 2010

daniel handler is lemony snicket

(and evelyn waugh is a man and miles franklin is a woman)

what a nice morning to get up and then get to know one of the funniest writers of the decade - thank you to the rejectionist for this interview.

i loved the series of unfortunate events A LOT because of their fast-paced and hilariously funny stories. i will have to admit to reading number 13 standing by the bookshelf in a glasgow waterstones, my umbrella dripping a puddle onto the floor because i was too cheap to buy a copy even though i really wanted to know what happened to the baudelaire trio and who the heck was the real VFD.

the composer is dead is another classic snicket - you can read my review here. i particularly love the opening:

'the composer is dead.

"composer" is a word which here means "a person who sits in a room, muttering and humming and figuring out what notes the orchestra is going to play." this is called composing. but last night, the composer was not muttering. he was not humming, he was not moving, or even breathing.

this is called decomposing.'

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

after january

i was very excited today to receive in the shop a copy of nick earls' after january. as you may know, this is one of my favourite books of all time. you can read about it here.

and it has a new cover - a very excellent cover - well done UQP!

so, in after january the main character - alex delaney - mentions that he wrote a short story about the girl he acted in the school play with:
"We did the play, we kissed in the school play and it all lingers in my mind like a relationship...All I have left is the fifteen episodes of our 'relationship', thirteen rehearsals and two performances, and the story I wrote two days later when she was all I could think about."

and now, in this new edition of the book nick has included this short story. i didn't know this, but apparently in 1995 he wrote 'juliet' for a short story anthology for a small publishing company jam roll press. it is the story of the play, of the kisses.

and so i bought the book and even though i have already had my annual read...i think i'll have to read it again. bliss.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

beautiful creatures by kami garcia & margaret stohl

here's my professional opinion: beautiful creatures is a teen romance set in america's deep south where modern day life continues to be influenced by their civil war past. ethan is counting down the days until he can leave his hometown of gatlin - with his mother dead and his father a recluse there doesn't seem to be anything to keep him there. but now he keeps dreaming of a girl. a girl who suddenly appears at his school and turns his life upside down. there is a connection between the teenagers, who share not only their thoughts but also a frightening vision. who is lena and what is her secret? ethan is determined to find out, determined not to lose her. a love story for those twilight fans looking for something new.

and here's my personal reaction: this is a fairly ordinary offering in need of a good edit, ultimately long-winded and over-dramatic. i'll admit that having two authors really put me off from the beginning, even though in the past i have embraced books like nick and norah's infinite playlist by david levithan and rachel cohn and dear venny, dear saffron by gary crew and libby hathorn. and now, well, beautiful creatures is not a book to my personal taste, but i think that even when i look at it objectively it falls below the mark for being slow moving and repetitive. the authors tell the reader that the town was oppressive, that it held tight to its inhabitants; similarly with lena's family. but i didn't feel it: the reader just has to accept it as truth. while i really liked the dream-flashbacks to the civil war era i think the book failed to create a real sense of suspense or mystery and i always felt one step ahead of the characters - sometimes infuriatingly so. lena is a wishy-washy character that i never warmed to, and i didn't understand why ethan felt so strongly for her - i just wanted him to hightail it out of town and stop being so pathetic.
alternative reading options: for books with creepy settings and mysterious townspeople you could instead read the gathering by isobelle carmody. if you want a book about feeling some deep internal connection with another person you could go with bridge to terabithia by katherine paterson. and if it's the deep south that interests you there's always gone with the wind by margaret mitchell.

Friday, January 22, 2010

girlfriend fiction

it has been a fairly slow day at work today. i took advantage of the situation and read the latest girlfriend fiction release dear swoosie by kate constable and penni russon.

i have really enjoyed the majority of the girlfriend fiction books (special mention to big sky by melaina faranda, always mackenzie by kate constable and something more by mo johnson) and this one was very fun and touching.

poppy and india do not get along. poppy is skeptical and cynical about india's tarot-reading, fortune-telling skills, while india thinks poppy is too negative and blocked. when the pair are forced to spend a saturday in detention together they come across a bunch of letters "dear swoosie/love swoosie" and they realise their mothers had been best friends at the same high school - until a terrible betrayal tore them apart. the girls decide that they need to put aside their differences to ensure their parents' happiness as well as their own.

this is a fast-paced, funny and engaging book for teen girls (boys might like it too...but mostly girls i'd think!) about friendship and parents and bike riding and luurve. good, easy, summer reading - thumbs up.

minor issue: because i am pedantic, and also a francophile, the fact that "un petite poisson bleu" was written incorrectly bothered me a little. it should be "un petit poisson bleu" because poisson is masculine and the adjective must agree with the noun. a little blue fish!

great bloomsbury whitewash update

they are changing the cover.

honestly. i just want to know whether it was all a stunt to create buzz about this title or whether bloomsbury have stupidly made the same racist decision again. i sort of hope it was neither.

here's to proper representation of everybody in books! hourra!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

curiouser and curiouser

isabella's garden by glenda millard and rachel cool (walker)
this is a sweet book about the life cycle of a garden, based on the old childrens' rhyme 'the house that jack built'.

"these are the seeds
that sleep in the soil
all dark and deep in isabella's garden"
BUT!

even though the illustrations are in wonderful colours - the plants and birds etc, we all here at the shop are troubled (and some of us a little frightened) by the weird children in the book:
all white,
all rosy cheeked, and
all with either blue or green eyes.
i don't understand! they all look the same!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

sad to hear that the great bloomsbury whitewash continues

last year i was shocked when i read about justine larbalestier's book liar having a white girl on the american cover when the main character was black (african american). they changed the cover after extensive public outrage.

then today i have read about a new book magic under glass by jaclyn dolamore and it's the same thing: white girl on front, black girl inside. many bloggers have already been vocal about this, the rejectionist (one of my favourite blogs to read) has links to many, including this open letter to bloomsbury.

i don't know if it is really that publishers believe that having black people on their books' covers affects sales. i hope they will change their mindsets asap stat because this racism does not wash with me!

(and there is also a little cynical part of me that wonders if they are banking on the outrage to boost sales on this particular title. i hope not.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

on the teetering pile beside my bed

- shades of grey, jasper fforde

i have been waiting for a new jasper fforde for so long. loved the thursday next series, as well as the nursery crime books. this is a new venture and the two or three chapters i've read are brilliant. classic fforde! this new world is one in which people's class status and ranking correspond to what colours they are able to see. the greys are the lower class, they perform the menial tasks and have fewer opportunities in life. the purples are rather special. edward russett is a red, a sort of middling colour and he has just become smitten with a rather fiesty grey.

- the betrayal of bindy mackenzie, jaclyn moriarty

i can't remember if i read this when it came out, but since reading dreaming of amelia i'm making a quick revisit of all moriarty's others.

- the old man and the sea and for whom the bell tolls, ernest hemingway

i found a cheap copy of these classics...while i liked a farewell to arms, i'm not sure if i'm a hemingway fan. this is an experiment to find out.

- the museum of innocence, orhan pamuk

i have had our shop's reading copy of this book, set in turkey in the 1970s, for so long that i must read it soon so everyone else can have a read.

- will grayson, will grayson, john green and david levithan

ye gads! a new john green! a new david levithan! i am too excited to breathe.


and i seriously, literally, don't know which one to open first. err...if i'm honest, i've started them all and it's becoming silly. i'm about halfway through bindy, three chapters into fforde, two into will grayson...maybe alphabetically is the answer?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

to thine own self be true...when reviewing

a couple of months ago i reviewed the left hand of god by paul hoffman. at the time i read and reviewed it there was very little information out about it except publisher's buzz and the occasional website proclaiming it to be the NEXT BIG THING. our penguin rep had told me how awesome it was, that it was going to be huge. it was ok, interesting definitely, but you can read my review to see what i thought.

today i came across a review in the guardian by patrick ness. and essentially he said everything i wanted to say, but better. and so i have resolved to be braver, and trust my own judgement. i might even start drafting my reviews so they sound more eloquent.

also - very excited about patrick ness visiting australia this year, and for the release of chaos walking 3: monsters of men in may. very excited.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

why february is going to be exciting

well! not only will i be gleefully falling off the wagon with a gin and tonic in one hand and a latte in the other...


...the rest of you can read the deliciousness, the joy, the bittersweetness of joanne horniman's latest novel, about a girl. the idea is this: that anna is living on her own in a town she moved to because the bookshop there hired her. she sits in the storeroom and reads novels on her break (and sometimes when she is meant to be working!). sometimes she goes out to see a band. one night she sees flynn singing and anna is instantly smitten. because this is a book, and because this is the way it should go, the two girls soon see more of each other and soon become lovers. while their relationship progresses - often blissfully and with great affection, anna is often wracked with fear, or worry, that flynn won't come knocking next time. we learn about anna's life before flynn, we come to realise that maybe flynn too is keeping something of herself hidden.
this is a remarkable love story, passionate and mature, and smacks of beautiful young things. there's literary references and music, you yearn to be clever, and to be friends with anna.

i'm not 100% sold on the cover though - it makes it seem to be a younger book than it is. however, i do like the idea of illustrated YA book covers, as i don't love books with photographs of people's faces, as a rule (mostly because i like to imagine what the characters look like for myself, and also because it can sometimes be tacky).

p.s. i meant to thank allen&unwin for sending this reading copy to the shop. you guys are rad.

Monday, January 11, 2010

the opposite of coffee

these hot summer days don't lend themselves to drinking coffee anyway... (only 21 days to go)

yesterday, after a civilised 8.30am swim, i stretched out on the faux lawn at the brunswick baths (i love it! it looks great - let's face it, any real grass would be brown and probably dirt by now) and finished paul auster's invisible.

i really liked the way it was written: from different perspectives, sometimes in first person, sometimes in third and sometimes bits of the story missing. the narration somewhat unreliable, but more that it dealt with memories and individual perspectives and ideas. this is the first auster that i've read, but people assure me that this is classic auster, a return to form. one review i read this morning - though glowing - ran through a list of auster's techniques and literary devices almost like a checklist, which i thought was odd.

adam walker is the handsome and enigmatic and smart student living in new york, the events that unfold after he meets the commandeering rudolph born and his enticing girlfriend margot. i felt a bit uncomfortable in some parts, and i'm not too sure about the ending, but i thought it was excellent, moving, gripping, fast-paced...though did tend to spend a few pages ruminating on writing style and author intent. Auster question the role of the author, the role of truth and ... by gee i liked it. the book travels from new york to paris and to little craggy islands in the caribbean and we meet a great cast of intriguing characters.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

in absentia

dear friends. i'm giving up the bean for january. gotta cut back on all that caffeine and with the bonsoy recall what's the point, really? ok i know i drink a lot of the skinny milk but this is a good excuse. forgive me my grumpiness, coworkers and housemates. i'm coming down.

here are some of the places i've found the best coffee during 2009:

a minor place, albion st, brunswick: consistently great and strong and served with loveliness

the east brunswick project, lygon st, brunswick: smells awesome in there, quick and awesome

mixed business, queens pde, clifton hill: great coffee plus the best mushroom breakfast = tops

worst coffee wooden spoon goes to: whatever that terrible cafe/cafeteria was called down in launceston on the waterfront. couldn't drink their coffee, couldn't eat their soup. two thumbs down.