Saturday, June 26, 2010

this is shyness

Melbourne author and children's book specialist Leanne Hall's first novel This Is Shyness tells the story of one night in the lives of Wildgirl and Wolfboy as they explore Shyness - a part of town where the sun never rises, a place of darkness, of eternal nighttime. Wildgirl is a tourist in shyness but she's met Wolfboy at the Diabetic Hotel and is drawn to him (he's really hot, she tells us) and he agrees to show her around.

Shyness is home to Dreamers whose dreams are now their realities, and it's also a home to sugared-up Kidds always out for a hit and will mug anyone for a chocolate bar or some lollies. Sounds cute, but they carry knives and, on this particular night, they have taken one of Wolfboy's precious belongings. Our kooky, damaged, wilful duo set out to take back what is rightfully Wolfboy's, even though this means entering Orphanville - home to the Kidds.

I read this book in a day, finishing it as a dingy tram trollied me homeward at midnight one rainy eve. Wildgirl and Wolfboy were engaging characters (particularly the howling Wolfboy) with complex backstories, witty banter and a lot of energy. It was the world, though, that really sucked me in. Hall has built a very familiar, but also very strange, curious place that was frightening but also drew you in. I wanted to read more! And actually, by the end of the book, I did feel there were a couple of plot points that could have benefitted from being drawn out a little further; for the story wrapped up quite neatly, but questions still remained in my mind. What is up with the creepy Doctor? What does he want? Maybe we'll be seeing some more of Wolfboy in the future...

This is Shyness is a fantastic read. For lovers of Margo Lanagan, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, Simmone Howell...

Winner of the 2009 Text prize for young adult and children's writing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

review: monsters of men

Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness

This review will assume knowledge of books one (The Knife of Never Letting Go) and two (The Ask and the Answer) and may contain spoilers. However, I will not give away anything specific from Monsters of Men.

The town that was once Haven, now New Prentisstown, is on the brink of war. War between Mayor/President Prentiss' army and the guerrilla army led by Mistress Coyle the Answer. Then there are the thousands of Spackle flooding from across the planet to fight for their species.

Todd and Viola narrate the happenings in alternating chapters, but there is also a surprise new voice in the telling. The convoy from Earth is arriving soon - Viola and Todd are fighting to have a peaceful planet/environment from the ship that landed at the end of The Ask and the Answer. Todd and the Mayor, whom he spared at the end of the second book, are constantly in each other's company in Monsters of Men and much is discussed in reference to people's tendencies and abilities to change; can you trust someone who has proven in their past to be unspeakably evil?

Todd must also learn to cope with the atrocities he has seen - and participated in. Memories, visions, dreams haunt him, but in learning to control his Noise it is possible he may find a way to block out his pain. With Viola away with the Answer, and with the convoy the duo have to keep blind faith in one another, but they also must make terrible decisions as individuals in order to ensure the peaceful future of their planet. Not every decision, however, will play out as planned. Things are murky, and sometimes gut instinct is not enough. Sometimes it can result in more devastation.

In Monsters of Men, the action is almost non-stop. It's almost visceral, breathless and you are swept along, each time you think something is over, that you can rest, it starts up again.
This is the incredible final act in the stunning Chaos Walking trilogy. I've had a lot of customers complain that this series is too violent - they talk about that awful death in The Knife of Never Letting Go that traumatised the middle-aged ladies more than it did the children; they speak about the scenes of torture in The Ask and the Answer. But I think it is just magnificent. Patrick Ness has masterful command of language and the books explore and show war in such a brutal and honest way, showing the best and the worst of humanity, the necessity of love and trust, compassion and strength. Just, just, just...so.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

just quickly...

i read the elegance of the hedgehog while away on my holiday. it was just divine. i am in love with this book and cannot wait for the film to come out in july. it was intelligent, funny, moving, and tres francais. perhaps this is why i loved it so, and i certainly will be reading it in french as soon as i get get my hands on it. i loved that barbery could talk philosophy without sounding at all pretentious. renee was an incredibly engaging character and i never got bored with the story in the slightest. it was darling. you must all read it. go now.

as i lay in front of the fire i also indulged in a comfort reread of the delightful goodnight mister tom by michelle magorian. this quiet little read never fails to have me in tears, but also to warm my heart's wee cockles. i love it, quite simply.

but i didn't read any of those other books i'd planned to. not yet at least.

Monday, June 14, 2010

je vais en vacances

ok so i am only going away for four days (practically five) and i will never get through this many books i am still (as long as they fit in my carry-on) going to take them.

  • parisians: an adventure history of paris by graham robb (picador)
  • the elegance of the hedgehog by murial barbery (gallic)
  • meanjin quarterly vol 69 edited by sophie cunningham (mup)
  • this is shyness by leanne hall (text)
however i fear that, as a hardback, the parisians may have to remain behind.

now (well, tomorrow) off to chilly leura. vive les vacances!!!!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

'trying not to make out with my spoon'

the sky is everywhere, jandy nelson

this is lennon's story (lennie to most people). her older sister bailey has recently died unexpectedly from a fatal arrhythmia and the book explores her grieving process and her relationships with her gram (who has looked after her and bailey since their mother took off exploring), her uncle big, her friends and two different boys. toby is bailey's boyfriend - equally as adrift and devastated as lennie and the two fall - horribly - into each other's arms for comfort. joe fontaine is the new boy, a total dream, and it is with him lennie (or john lennon, as he calls her) feels like she can play music once more.

i found that the sky is everywhere actually had some similarities to secret scribbled notebooks - very lush surroundings, lavish emotions, an elderly guardian, sisterly connections, intriguing boys. it made me imagine how bereft kate would have been if sophie had died. but ssn wins because of its deliberate, perfectly-chosen, prose with not a word too many...

this book is full of blowsy overblown language. however, i didn't mind. lennie was such a ridiculous romantic, complete with a wuthering heights obsession. it worked, i think.
i didn't like the blue font though, it was vair distracting and sore on the old eyes. and though i liked that the book felt a little like a diary with the elastic strap thing, i think this very moving story could have used a more sophisticated jacket.

my favourite part? when lennie becomes acutely aware of sex and her body and goes around kissing the furniture. wonderful!

Monday, June 7, 2010

reviewlettes

graffiti moon, cath crowley
to be published in august 2010

i just finished this wonderful wonderful book today over lunch. i have been reading it off my computer - an experience i HATED, so clearly no e-readers for moi - and i will review it properly closer to its release date. but wanted to put it out there. fans of cath's other books (chasing charlie duskin and the gracie faltrain books) will love this, as will any fans of simmone howell, jaclyn moriarty, james roy, scot gardner, joanne horniman, steven herrick...etc...etc... basically any top aussie authors. it tasted a little bit like nick and norah's infinite playlist, but with graffiti and a melbourne setting. it made me want to be the kind of girl who'd break a guy's nose if he tries to grope her when she wants to talk about rothko.

the carrie diaries, candace bushnell
ha! this was actually a strange experience. for on one hand, you're imagining SJP in the role of carrie, but maybe looking like she did in girls just want to have fun. actually yes! i was totally picturing janey! but, keeping it brief, i really enjoyed the carrie diaries - it was a quick, nice read along the same lines as a sarah dessen or stories of that ilk. middle class america high school genre. as only an occasional watcher of the tv show i don't know how much this aligns with what's been said about carrie and her past there. so the book is great, only thing is... so there's a scene with a bag in the middle of the book, one of her sisters has spilled nail polish on it. carrie fixes it by putting her name on it in nail polish and i can only assume it is supposed to look like the cover of the book (err, or vice versa) but there was no description in the text. bizarre.
but otherwise, a good read: ace friends, cool guy characters and a very chuckle-worthy last line.

and baby makes two, dylan sheldon

oh-em-gee. so this book is, like, about realising that having a baby is harder than you think. lana is 15 and has no ambition except to maybe get married and have babies and her own flat. she meets this dude who works at a video shop, he's a bit of orright. course she doesn't tell him that she's only 15. and surprise surprise, she soon gets pregnant. it's clear from the start that the guy is a dead loss. but anyhoo, lana's going to keep the baby. honestly, she was the stupidest, most unlikable character i've read in ages. dumb, selfish and mean to her mother. after the baby was born (ha! won't tell you what she calls it, but it's hilarious) i was just so scared the whole time that the baby would die from neglect. seriously. and i guess she learns her lesson by the end of the book, and i know she was meant to be irresponsible and all, but i wanted more from this.
perhaps read mahalia, by joanne horniman instead.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

for a friend...

From Macaulay Station - The Lucksmiths

I know by now
That no-one cheers up when told to
That it's more the arms that hold you
Than whatever words are said
Of course I know
But you can't blame me for trying
I could hardly hear you crying
For the traffic overhead

There will come a time
When there will come a train
To take us somewhere else

You figured out
You needn't break a promise
For it to be dishonest
For you to be undone
But spare yourself the self-recriminations
And summon all your patience
For the summer still to come

'Cause there will come a time
When there will come a train
To take us somewhere else
Far away from the factory shells
And the shades of grey
From the pools of piss and the broken glass
Underneath the overpass
From the rush-hour roar and the nagging rain
There will come a time
There will come a train....

(if you didn't already know, the luckies are my favourite and my best. visit them here.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

north, north carlton


this little caf is on rathdowne street in north carlton and it looks the part: wonky wooden tables, retro chairs, hipster staff, INCREDIBLE FOOD SMELLS. and my food was quite delicious. i had a bagel with a poached egg on it.

but the coffee was atrocious. it was weak and watery but that wasn't the worst of it. it sort of tasted like...i'm not even sure. soap? perfume? just not coffee. i did think that if someone had served it to me saying it was dandelion coffee (which i've had before and quite enjoyed) then maybe i could have accepted that. but as a normal skinny latte? i couldn't drink it.