Friday, April 29, 2011

the dangers of reading

yes. some books are very dangerous, as two blog posts have recently highlighted:

there was the post on the embarrassment of blubbering over a book on the tram, by Brand New Blogger pippy b, who some of you might remember from her review on this very blog of one of our thursdays is missing by jasper fforde (that wiley double ffer).*

here are some books not to read on the tram:
  • on the jellicoe road, melina marchetta
  • if i stay, gayle forman
  • looking for alaska, john green
  • of a boy, sonya hartnett

and the inkling, who has appeared to have rediscovered blogging with fervour, writes about the merit of mediocre-to-pretty-good books because really good books get in the way of working and sleeping.

here are some books that get in the way of regular day-to-day programming:
  • the knife of never letting go, patrick ness
  • his dark materials, philip pullman
  • the end of mr y, scarlett thomas
  • spud, john van de ruit (double whammy warning: also makes you weep like a footballer who loses a premiership, or roger federer whether he wins or loses)

and the mediocre-to-pretty-good books to read when you only have half a brain to spare but still want to be pleasantly entertained:
  • circle of friends, maeve binchy
  • all of sarah dessen's oeuvre, particularly just listen and lock and key

*"but," you're saying indignantly, "you said her name was arlene. is it arlene or pippy b? or is it BJ?" just go with it...her elusiveness adds to the allure.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

she keeps a 38 smith and wesson at her side

the felice brothers melbourne show at the prince of wales, st kilda

If Bob was far away, then The Felice Brothers were the opposite. In my face. Steppin' on my toes (literally. Ian jumped off the stage and cheered his own band from the crowd) and LOUD. Some of their enthusiastic singer-spit even flew at us and we didn't even mind, because everyone was having a good time...except that douchebag who was being an annoying douchy loser, but even he I forgot, once the guys came out and launched into Murder by Mistletoe - honestly, an interesting, slow choice for an opener, but we just went with it. And fracks, it was a great show.

These self-confessed "dirtbags from New York" looked a little, um...sleepy...when they first came onstage but distinguished themselves well and leapt around stage, talking to us, talking to one another in between the songs. James and his piano accordion were spectacular, in particular his solo song Got What I Need (I think many of us fell in love with him). And the bread thrown into the audience? Fabulously hilarious! 'Take this bread if you need it friend...'

The crowd were all fans (well, those at the. very. front. row. where we were, err were) and of all ages. They came back on for a rambunctious encore, including a great scrappy version of Frankie's Gun. Then, a second (and hard-earned, on our part) encore of Whiskey in my Whiskey. I could have stayed all night. And a friend pinched the set list.

Love 'em.

My baby told me, darling
If you can't get a pardon better get a parole
I told her I'd be out by morning
When the sun is dawning
With a money roll
Oh-wee that gal's the gal for me
She loves me tenderly
-- love me tenderly

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

review : first light

First Light, Rebecca Stead (Text)

What was actually Rebecca Stead's first book, First Light has arrived to our Australian shores as the follow-up to her Newbery Medal-winning stunner When You Reach Me.

First Light is a dual-narrative novel for readers around 10 and up that explores environmentalism and politics through a cracking adventure - and slightly sci-fi/fantasy-ish - set in Greenland.

Peter has gone to Greenland with his parents, who are studying climate change. He begins to spend time with the sled dogs, exploring his new icy home. Having suffered from headaches in the past year or so, Peter also begins to have strange visions...

Thea lives at Gracehope, an underground city her ancestors built after they fled England, a people persecuted for 'gifts' and 'talents' they possessed. Gracehope is a model of sustainability, but its ruler is less than receptive to any questions or suggestions that young Thea puts forward.

Of course, these two curious, intelligent characters are destined to meet and it's when Thea and her cousin find a passage to the surface that the plot changes gear and pitches forward at an exciting pace. The themes are accessible and the language perfect. Highly recommended.

Political and cultural superbrain The Cultured Animal has written an excellent critique, which you can read here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

his bobness : live in melbourne

the two men sitting behind me at rod laver arena discussed the furore that followed dylan going electric at newport in '65, but of course his tour in australia in '66, well there's just not a lot written on it...i love a dylan tragic. they were out in force at the rod laver arena last wednesday.

papa bear and i just hoped bob would sing something we could recognise. he did. in his own special way: a voice that sounds like he's gargling whiskey and gravel, a spiffy suit and hat and a couple of rockin' dance moves. i swear it's contrariness that sends his songs spinning in a new arrangement every year. highlights for me were tangled up in blue and simple twist of fate. they were closer to the originals and the band didn't bang on too loud or too long.

rod laver arena sucks though. bob was just too far away. so impersonal. and chilly. i don't think i shall go there again. it had none of the ambiance of other old rocker concerts i've been to.

did i say that bob was far away? (click to enlarge) though the lighting was fantastic, in the absence of screens (damn your contrariness bob!) his silhouette was uplit and projected large onto the back of the stage - i could philosophise on the many meanings behind this, and interpreted from this, larger-than-life, a false modesty, ...

he finished the evening with forever young. a beautiful song, which is now a fab children's book with great illustrations, full of references to his songs and his life. perfect for the offspring of dylan tragics.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young

trailer for the book:

reviews of the concert here and here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

remember that novel you wrote?

~ the text prize ~

time to dust it off and polish it up, because submissions will soon be open for the annual text prize for young adult and children's writing!

never been published before? fabulous! you can enter.
published so many times it's getting a bit passé? that's fine too!

make sure you get your entry in between the dates may 2nd and june 3rd. it costs a little bit to enter, but the prize is well worth it.

just ask richard newsome, leanne hall and jane higgins...

check out all the details here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

murundak: songs of freedom

murundak: songs of freedom is a fantastic new documentary that follows the Black Arm Band touring their murandak show around Australia and abroad; to the Opera House, the Womadelaide festival, Royal Festival Hall in London and to remote Aboriginal communities that hadn’t seen a concert before, let alone one so big and purposeful and about them.

The doco was filmed during end of the Howard years and the start of the Rudd government, including the wonderful and incredibly belated moment of apology to the Stolen Generations (Archie Roach speaks about being taken from his family as a child, how he came to write the song ‘Took the children away’) and uses archival documentary footage of historic moments – massive land rights protests, Whitlam pouring a ‘handful of sand’ through Vincent Lingiari’s fingers, the Rudd apology.

Like the filmmakers Natasha Gadd and Rhys Graham said, the film aims to bring the stories of Australian Aboriginals into everyday conversation, through the songs. It challenges the ignorance of these politicians (and others) who look back on Australia’s past and don’t, or refuse to, see the violence and mistakes. People like Howard, Keith Windschuttle and Andrew Bolt who say it’s just a biased, black armband view of Australian history. (the gorgeous) Dan Sultan put it so well in the Q&A when he said: ‘St Kilda lost the grand final last year. That’s not my opinion, it happened.’ He said we can’t look at the scoreboard of our history and say it’s just an interpretation, an opinion. It happened.

murundak is a protest film, there’s anger and hurt explored, but it’s also so upbeat and positive. It's so important to hear these stories - and the music is beautiful.

The film is full of hope. Go and see it.

black arm band website
daybreak film website
check out the cinema nova screening times

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What can you CBC? A shortlist off the port bow!

2011 CBCA Shortlist

What excitement! Ye gads!

About a Girl, Graffiti Moon, Six Impossible Things, The Midnight Zoo, The Piper's Son, The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher (pic below, my copy has gone walkies). How often does the CBC get it so right?*

You can go to the CBCA website for all the other categories. They are all good, but none like the YA section.

And isn't it so wonderful to see so many lady novelists represented? All other literary prizes are always skewed firmly the other way. And so many lovely lady novelists to boot! Bring on the cake and champagne! (shortlisted mans can have cake and bubbles too).

*(err...though extremely disappointed that Lian Tanner's The Keepers isn't on the Younger Readers list...)

if The Smiths read Where She Went

Where She Went, Gayle Forman (Doubleday)
three years earlier:

Girlfriend in a coma, I know, I know - it's serious. Girlfriend in a coma, I know, I know - it's really serious.


Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package! Re-evaluate the songs. Double-pack with a photograph, extra track (and a tacky badge). A-list, playlist, "Please them, please them!" "Please them!" (sadly, THIS was your life). But you could have said no, if you'd wanted to. You could have said no, if you'd wanted to.

Stop me oh oh oh stop me, stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before. [thought I for a moment as I read, but then got into the swing of the story]

Fifteen minutes with you, well, I wouldn't say no. Oh, people said that you were virtually dead and they were so wrong.

Nothing’s changed, I still love you. Oh I still love you only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love.

Everybody's got to live their life, and god knows I've got to live mine.

Tried living in the real world, instead of a shell, but before I began ... I was bored before I even began.

Two icy-cold hands conducting the way, it's the Eskimo blood in my veins. Amid concrete and clay and general decay, nature must still find a way. So ignore all the codes of the day, let your juvenile influences sway. This way and that way, this way, that way.

Hand in glove, the sun shines out of our behinds. No, it's not like any other love, this one is different, because it's us.

Taking lyrics from: Girlfriend in a Coma, Hand in Glove, Paint A Vulgar Picture, Reel Around the Fountain, Shoplifters of the World, Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before, Stretch out and Wait, William, it was really Nothing

If you'd like a slightly more conventional reaction to this book, try this review. Or this one. Or this one. They say pretty much what I'd say.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Jo Horniman, your books make Lismore seem so...exotic. But perhaps the Simpletons experienced it another way?

p.s. Do bass players in Lismore still dress like pyjama pirates?

wee jeanie - now open

...and it's good.

nay, great!

a saturday lunch in yarraville yesterday. a visit to wee jeanie. i ate the beetroot salad and it was DELICIOUS and so speedy from order to plate to me - perfect for a half-hour lunch break nibble. my friend assured me her soy latte was delectable and we admired the (apparently very expensive) coffee machine with its sleek green bits and it's fancy wooden knobs.

with lots of diners and friendly staff, i'm very excited. it's more take-away vibe means it caters to a different crowd to cornershop and i think this means the two places can co-exist nicely. excellente.

anyone else been yet?

Friday, April 8, 2011

review : the hate list

The Hate List, Jennifer Brown

Val wrote a list of people she hated, people she said she wanted dead.
Her boyfriend Nick brought a gun to school one day, and opened fire.

Told in the first person, with Valerie the narrator, the book starts with her on the first day she goes back to school after the shooting and over the course of the novel flashes back to events leading up to, on, and immediately following that day. It's certainly an emotional read, and one a reader quickly becomes engrossed in; pacy and well-plotted. Val loved Nick, thought she knew him, and is having to live with what he did (which includes killing students and a favourite teacher, and shooting Val - who ran at him to get him to stop - before killing himself) and try to reintegrate herself into school and her family, while living with the guilt and hurt.

I know morbid and taboo topics are popular and that one of the awesome things about young adult novels is the way a teenager can experience something without actually having to experience it. For that end, this is an interesting book.

For the most part the writing is good. Limited interiority sometimes weakens the story, even in spite of it being from Val's point of view. For example, when Val goes to see Dr Hieler for the first time and he suggests her mother leaves the room for the session, he asks: 'Are you comfortable with that?' The next line is 'I didn't respond.' But I want to know why didn't you respond? What were you thinking?

Characterisation and development was pretty good. Although, the characters were, rawther unsubtly, given names that are designed to manipulate the reader's perception of them: Nick, the killer, has the surname Levil; the bully, named Christy Bruter; and the stupid and unsympathetic principal called Mr Angerson. Some reviews have noted how Nick is given a more sympathetic rap than the father, but for me, I could see exactly why the father acted like he did (even though it was both cruel and weak) but Nick was more of an enigma - which made sense.

The end? Leetle bit disappointing and cliched, although it did explore forgiveness and hate enough to give readers closure. I read this book and wanted to hate it for being one of those books, an issues/torture porn type read. I thought I did hate it while I was reading, but...I guess I didn't.*

Visit Jennifer Brown's website.

*Though it makes me feel like a bad person, I couldn't help but giggle when I read this interview with the author and learned that a Nickelback song inspired the novel. Ye gads. Even worse, I can't get The Smiths out of my head, thinking about how people's words can get twisted if you take them seriously:

Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking
When I said I'd like to smash every tooth in your head
Oh ... sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking
When I said by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed
Bigmouth, Bigmouth,
Bigmouth strikes again
I've got no right to take my place in the human race

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

coffee : each peach

each peach...doesn't it just conjure delightful images of each peach pear plum by janet and allan ahlberg? 'each peach pear plum, i spy tom thumb, tom thumb in the cupboard, i spy mother hubbard...' all the way until the plum pie in the sun!

it's a very cute cafe up the - what i like to call - berlin end of lygon street (aka the poorer and increasingly hip end) that looks very homey and has a fantastical bathroom with fairy lights and a pink bath.

coffee was very good, a bit too hot but very tasty, and the omelette was decadently delicious (too eggy, said my vegetarian-egg-disliking inner self, but i knew what i was getting into) with cheese and spinach galore. plus, the bread was to die for.

the staff were friendly, but they did forget my coffee and my food and i had to go in and remind them. which is fine, except it's the third time i've been there and the second time they've forgotten us. so i certainly recommend it, but maybe not when you are in a rush, because you never know.

review : a beautiful lie

A Beautiful Lie, Ifran Master (Bloomsbury*)

In the last week or so leading up to the 1947 partition of India (our good friend Wikipedia actually has a good entry about it), thirteen-year-old Bilal is not only facing the end of his country as he knows it but his father, his Babuji, is dying. His father loves India, his mother country, and Bilal devises a plan to hide the truth from him so he can die believing that India is at peace.**

It's a very lovely story and it's great to see such important historical moments written about. Bilal's friends - all of whom come from different backgrounds - are great, lively characters. The riot scenes, between the Muslims and Hindus are probably the strongest in the novel. On the whole, though, the book meanders along at the one pace and it was difficult to maintain interest. The language was unremarkable, and at times tipped into the cringy side of sentimental.

A Beautiful Lie would have been a stronger story if it gave more explanation about what the date signified. Without prior knowledge of the partition of India, the reader could be a bit lost and Bilal himself didn't seem to explain, or even truly understand, the events that were taking place.

Nevertheless - I love a little bit of historical fiction to open people's eyes just a little to the things that have come before. A nice read.

*Copy received for review from Bloomsbury
**If it sounds like you've heard this story before, you might be thinking of that gorgeous German film Goodbye Lenin starring the hunkahunka Daniel Brühl, in which a young man recreates the GDR in his apartment so his mother, who has been in a coma and could die if put under stress or shock, doesn't know that the Berlin wall has come down and the East Germany she knew and loved has crumbled.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

may the force be with you, because you're worth it

lots of lovely things to read this week:

where she went, gayle forman (doubleday)

the golden day, ursula dubosarsky (allen&unwin)

press here, hervé tullet (allen&unwin)

chenxi et l’éntrangère, sally rippin (mijade)

outside of reading, there are lots of other lovely things to do this week:

• a friend of mine sent me this link to a video of sarah kay, a spoken word poet. wonderful. wonderful. watch it.

• can't wait to see howl, the allen ginsberg biopic starring james franco. if you want to go to the cinema, i would heartily recommend the new peter weir film the way back (and not just for the gorgeous jim sturgess) which was a fascinating film about a group of prisoners who escaped from a siberian gulag and walked to india (ye gads, i know!) read a review over at the joy of mediocrity.

• my reading is suffering a little because i can't stop watching outnumbered, with karen being my absolute favourite character.

karen: i think the world is unfair to women.
mum: well absolutely. i think you're right.
karen: because women can't grow moustaches or beards.

mum: do you want to grow a beard?
karen: well...i might want to be a...a...tugboat captain, or ayatollah.
mum: you'd make a good ayatollah.

this clip never fails to make me laugh: