Friday, May 28, 2010

food for silverfish

my dear friend silverfish has decided to throw caution to the wind and tell things exactly how she sees them. fuck it, she says. anyone got a problem wi' that? take it up with her.

this week she has reviewed angelica sprocket's pockets by quentin blake. WATCH OUT PEOPLE, SHE'S OUT OF CONTROL!

Monday, May 24, 2010

and the spud goes to...

why have they made a different cover for the third spud book (aka spud: learning to fly, by john van de ruit)? my mild, self-diagnosed OCD is not happy.
i love the spud books. LOVE them. i mean even just on the surface they are hysterical: it's basically adrian mole, but set in a almost archaic south african boarding school with the most hilarious caricatures for teachers, an insane group of dormmates (quickly christened the "crazy eight")...and vern. cannot go past 'im. the best 100% bonkers character to come out of a book since...mrs rochester??? but more entertaining.

i love how authentic it is: spud learns a new word, or is introduced to a book by the guv and spells it phonetically until he realises how it's really spelled, what it really means. fab.
but the the new, weird, cover? less fab.
but i'm sure in the inside bit it's awesome.
i'll know soon - this book is already in my possession and aching to be read.
spudspudspud...
(also can't wait to see what dad and the wombat are up to now)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

no and me, delphine de vigan

"Dogs can get taken in, but the homeless can't. I thought to myself that if everyone took in a homeless person, if everyone decided to look after just one person, to help them and be with them, perhaps there'd be fewer of them in the streets. My father told me that wouldn't work. Things are always more complicated than they seem. Things are what they are, and there are lots of things you can't do anything about. You probably have to accept that if you want to become an adult. We can send supersonic planes and rockets into space, and identify a criminal from a hair or a tiny flake of skin, and grow a tomato you can keep in the fridge for three weeks without it getting a wrinkle, and store millions of pieces of information on a tiny chip. yet we're capable of letting people die on the street." (p.71-2)

De Vigan has created the most wonderful character in Lou Bertignac. She's a thirteen-year-old prodigy who conducts interesting investigative experiments (trying to find out why all frozen packaged food tastes the same, how watertight various containers are, to understand how the inspectors know if a metro ticket has been validated or not), finds her french classes so very interesting, quietly loves Lucas - the seventeen-year-old class bad boy (he was held back, she skipped a class or two) and who spends her afternoons at Austerlitz train station watching people come and go so she doesn't have to go home to her depressed mother and distraught father.

At the train station Lou meets No, a young homeless girl, and is drawn to her. Lou meets her often at cafes after school and No, knocking back vodkas, tells her about her life on the street. Lou's going to use the information for a dreaded school presentation. She's chosen the topic of life on the street for French women. When No goes missing Lou is frantic, she feels like she has failed No, and she travels through the seedier parts of Paris in order to find the homeless girl; Lou wants to give No a family and love. Then there is the chance that Lou's family can also be healed through helping No.

There is some beautiful writing here that tugged at my heartstrings:
"In the class photo...I'm up the front, where they put the smallest ones. Above me, up at the top, is Lucas, looking sullen. If you allow that a single straight line can be drawn between any two points, one day I'm going to draw a line from him to me or me to him." (p.13)

The story is complex but simple at the same time. Similarly the language is effortlessly sophisticated and philosophical topics are broached straightforwardly. I was on the edge of my seat, unable to totally put my trust in No (unlike Lou, for the most part) but desperate to be there for the ride. It's magnificent - for children and adults alike.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

secondhand delight


secondhand books! i do love them! sometimes i just forget when i have such ready access to shiny and new books. but when it comes to the classics, i can't go past a yellow-paged delight.

i bought these at the barwon booksellers in queenscliff while i was down visiting my mama bear and my dadda and farewelling les frogs who are heading (via new zealand and la nouvelle caledonie) back to frogland. bon voyage!!

carson mccullers' clock without hands
gertrude stein's three lives
jean-paul sartre's the reprieve

and les frogs gave me jack kerouac's sur la route - which i have read in english but it could be an interesting read in french too.

they are just so purty. and they smell good. i can't wait to read them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

i can't get no...

rich and mad, william nicholson

This one sort of felt like it had perhaps been written in the 70s and then hurriedly updated for a modern audience...definitely echoes of Judy Blume here. Sure, it’s to-the-point, engaging and the characters feel pretty real. It’s also kind of odd in its approach. It is about love (the all-encompassing crazy kind) but there are also some pretty horrible friendships and one cringe worthy cautionary tale that made me want to punch the book in the neck.

Richard (that’s the “rich” bit of the title) is a kind of geeky young man who wants to know about love. Maddy (she’s the “mad” bit) is a sweet young lady who also wants to fall in love (crazy love). Unfortunately he is mooning over Maddy’s particularly unlikable friend Grace (ok she is a total bitch) and Maddy has decided to crush hard on Joe Finnigan (who has a girlfriend already). There's also doormat (but funny) Cath.

It was the sex scene that got to me though. After all the brouhaha earlier this year about NO SEX IN BOOKS! and JUDY BLUME'S FOREVER, FOREVER! here's an awkward, step-by-step sex scene, explicit, not sexy and highly uncomfortable. And it's the last scene in the book.
you know what made me gag most?
this:
"[him:]'I'll get better. I'll make it wonderful for you.'
'[her:]It is wonderful for me.' ... Part of it was the pleasure she got from seeing [him] so overwhelmed, and knowing that it was her doing, her body, her gift."
Bullshit. Come on writers. If you're going to show sex in such instructional ways, at least don't make it such a bad lesson for girls. god, even Bella tried to get more out of her sex life with Edward. (though of course he wouldn't let her).
Let girls get theirs, ok?
You know who got hers? Read chapter fourteen of The Dead of the Night by John Marsden. One of the better sex scenes...

Monday, May 10, 2010

the babysitters i clubbed

go here for crunchy bites of brilliant storytelling.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

say hello to your friends!


confession: i was a baby-sitters club tragic. i even read the babysitter's 'little sister' books. i had the 'summer vacation' special eds. i was browsing at readings bookshop in carlton the other night and saw the summer before, a new release which tells the story of kristy, mary-anne, claudia and stacey (as you might have gathered) the summer before they formed the babysitters club. for only $4.99! bargain!
as an aside, there should be an apostrophe after babysitters, yes? and i could spell babysitters as one word: as in the babysitters' club? though wikipedia spells it with the hyphen...hmm. i will bring it up with my editing teacher this week.
grammar aside, it got me thinking about what the babysitters club members would be doing as older teenagers or adults...
would kristy be coach of the middle school softball team, still beating off the advances of that semi-boyfriend of hers? or would she have taken her incredible skills for leadership and have joined the navy, quickly rising through the ranks to commander in chief?
would mary-anne be married to logan (yes, i remember that her ever-so-dreamy boyfriend is called logan) raising some brats and be teaching kindergarten? or would she have thrown off the shackles of her father's house and gone to oxford to study the romantic poets and become a lesbian?
claudia? maybe she managed to get a scholarship to a fine arts college even though she isn't academic at all and now be a famous artist, or would she be the visual merchandising employee at the stoneybrook mall?
and stacey - she might have realised that NYC is, in fact, much cooler than this backwater in connecticut and she'd have high-tailed it back to the big smoke and fallen in with serena van de woodsen and blair waldorf.
then there is dawn: now on a greenpeace boat fighting the good fight against global warming and whaling. either that or hanging out, stoned, on some californian beach with some dude called zeus.
mallory: head librarian at the stoneybrook public library or the next j k rowling?
jessi: does she become a lead ballerina for the american ballet company or does a teenage pregnancy ruin all her chances?
so, scholastic...if you want me to write any books about the baby-sitters club: the later years, just email me at beantherereadthat@gmail.com.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

melbourne weather

things are bizarre in melbourne. one day i am all scarves and gloves and foggy breath. then the next (today) i get a bit sunburnt having lunch outside. in honour of this weather i have copied out the lyrics to one of my most favourite summery sunny day songs:

t-shirt weather, the lucksmiths

hey mike, you busy?
all this sunshines making me dizzy
went outside, all my clothes dried
and if i'm babbling, please forgive me
but its the first hint of sunshine
for a week or so, i'd say
and i'm keeping well, i'm in good health
but i sneeze when i look into the sun today

there's my bike looking dusty
the spokes are broken and rusty
but i'm happy to walk
i'm happy with anything today
'cause i'm out in the sunshine
while my friends at home asleep
i guess thats just the downside
to the money he makes and the hours he keeps

and i say hey, its a beautiful day
and i'm starting to feel a lot better
so wake up, wake up
it's t-shirt weather

ba-ba-ba how could things be better?
this afternoon in the pub I met her
'maggie may' on the juke-box
hey, things are okay
just two things she tells me,
if you want to keep things friendly
no beer for me, no peanuts, and i'll be happy
oh, and no football, well i guess that makes three

its a beautiful day
and i'm starting to feel a lot better
so wake up, wake up
it's t-shirt weather
its t-shirt weather

sadly, the lucksmiths broke up last year (it broke my heart, surely) but you can buy their cds at polyester records and from the lost and lonesome record label. and, trust me, this song never gets old.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

two book reviews

the worst thing she ever did, by alice kuipers

sophie is having a lot of trouble (although, if you ask her, she is fine) dealing with the thing that happened the summer previously. but the therapist she has been forced to visit has asked her to keep a diary. we, as readers, get to know that sophie's mother is also having trouble coping, sophie's friends are either walking on eggshells around her (which she hates) or kissing the boys that sophie wants to go out with. the question is: what has happened to emily?
it really did feel like a teenager's diary, kuipers has got sophie's voice down so well. but when it is supposed to be a diary and there are perfectly recalled conversations and dialogue it can't help ringing a bit false. this is not a criticism of this book, but is what i find a bit jarring in this type of book in general.i love that the emily question isn't resolved until quite late in the book, kuipers very successfully gave us snippits, clues and ideas, but managed to keep the mystery and suspense. that said, i think there was a bit too much middle and not enough end in this book. similarly, sophie's moods dragged on a bit too long, i found myself getting angry with her, the way she treated her friends and her mother (but perhaps this was the author's intention). and upon finishing the book i thought that, yes, sometimes teenagers ARE this cruel and perhaps sophie's interactions with her mum are so true to life that they made me uncomfortable.
while some of the writing is a little blowsy or flowery, there are some very, very lovely words in here. and a terrific "support cast" with special mention to new girl rosa-leigh.
what now, tilda b? by kathryn lomer

there were so many things i loved about this one. the seals, the friendships, the bees, i loved tilda's grandparents. i think kathryn lomer writes very well and has tackled a lot of issues here.
tilda's life is pretty insane already - she has to decide what to do with her future, how she feels about her surf-mad boyfriend, her hair-crazy best friend, her parents who are hanging together by a thread...and now she's stumbled upon a pregnant elephant seal on the beach. the seal hasn't exactly picked the best place to give birth - this little coastal town are notoriously backwards when it comes to preserving our endangered flora and fauna. they are loggers, mostly.
i found it bizarre that going on to do years 11 and 12 were not a natural progression for tilda. however, i think this is a reflection of me, not anything lacking in the story. really interesting, having to move away from home if you want to continue with school.
i wish this book had been much longer. i wanted to hear so much more about all the other characters and their situations. leaving the book this way could open up opportunities for the author to write a whole bunch of books - one about bella, one about eddie, one about shell. for though i really like the idea that tilda's life is chaotic and full and interesting, as a book i found it a bit frustrating and even a little disappointing that the characters weren't allowed to be fleshed out fully. because they are interesting and i know that lomer knows them. i want to, too.