Thursday, May 26, 2011

the bean enchiladas

this is my kind of cookbook. a lovely cover, mexican food and a cute little chicken making a joke.

my abuela's table, daniella germain (hardie grant)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

lovely new things to read...

two newbies that arrived at the shop today, and one i borrowed from a friend:

cannot wait to start beauty queens because it has such a kickarse cover and because i loved going bovine so much. black painted fingernails i have already had a sneaky sneaky peek at, but can't wait to sit down and luxuriate in herrick's wordy words.

but first, reading matters. yes, my reading does matter, but no. it's the reading matters conference this week. be there, and be a square. a cool, hip, melbourne bookish square.

then i shall retreat to the hons cupboard and catch up on what darling fanny and her husband alfred are up to. this book is set in paris (!) but i hope there shall be at least one visit to alconleigh. "Life is sometimes sad and often dull, but there are currants in the cake, and here is one of them."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

where's the buzz?

after hardly any bloggery, tweeting buzz (i am very disappointed in everyone. did you not read loving richard feynman??) an advance copy of clara in washington by penny tangey (UQP) arrived at the shop and it is brilliant. very clever, funny and touching as clara (often anxiously) navigates the social and political streets of washington dc, while trying not to think about her year twelve results and wondering what the heck she wants to do when she grows up. and trying not to get mugged or murdered on the subway. and she makes friends with some anarchists.

plus, coffee.
this bit of the book was particularly fun for me. american coffee is really, really bad. this is me drinking it:

clara in washington is released (according to titlepage) on 27 june. that's not far away! i'll review it properly around then.
read about it at penguin books.
go see penny at the melbourne writers festival.

Monday, May 23, 2011

history, herstory, mystory

Nanberry: Black Brother White, Jackie French (Harper Collins)

Shan't say much just yet. Handed in my review to B+P recently and I believe it has to be one of the best books I've read this year and is a top-notch example of excellent historical fiction.

from the HarperCollins website: It′s 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, Surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son. Nanberry is clever and uses his unique gifts as an interpreter to bridge the two worlds he lives in. With his white brother, Andrew, he witnesses the struggles of the colonists to keep their precarious grip on a hostile wilderness. And yet he is haunted by the memories of the Cadigal warriors who will one day come to claim him as one of their own. This true story follows the brothers as they make their way in the world - one as a sailor, serving in the Royal Navy, the other a hero of the Battle of Waterloo. No less incredible is the enduring love between the gentleman surgeon and the convict girl, saved from the death penalty, to become a great lady in her own right.

The Ivory Rose, Belinda Murrell (Random House)

Conversely, I was disappointed with The Ivory Rose. It has a great premise and plot but lacks sophistication in its delivery.

Jemma has just landed her first job, babysitting Sammy. It's in Rosethorne, one of the famous witches' houses near where she lives. Sammy says the house is haunted by a sad little girl, but Jemma doesn't know what to believe.

One day when the two girls are playing hide and seek, Jemma discovers a rose charm made of ivory. As she touches the charm she sees a terrifying flashback. Is it the moment the ghost was murdered? Jemma runs for her life, falling down the stairs and tumbling into unconsciousness.

She wakes up in 1895, unable to get home. Jemma becomes an apprentice maidservant at Rosethorne - but all is not well in the grand house. Young heiress Georgiana is constantly sick. Jemma begins to suspect Georgiana is being poisoned, but who would poison her, and why? Jemma must find the proof in order to rescue her friend - before time runs out.

See? Great, exciting premise. But too much exposition in sometimes-stilted dialogue causes the story to drag. It's also a little bit prescriptive. There are slabs of text that describe the ways of life in 1885 that read as lessons, rather than woven in to enrich the world subtly. When Jemma runs into Henry Parkes at the apothecary shop she fortuitously is able to recollect her school history class and dictate the lesson to the reader and the father of federation himself.

The characters suffer from being cookie-cutter shapes and tending towards the one-dimensional. Particularly, I wasn't convinced by the mother in this tale and object to her being portrayed as a pushy, overbearing, workaholic mother who then when has to turn to baking and wearing 'softer' clothes to show her character reconnecting and starting to understand her child.

I would still recommend The Ivory Rose because a historical fiction timeslip novel is always interesting and it is still great to enter another world and learn more about our history.

Friday, May 20, 2011

an awfully exciting gift

i haven't read it yet. just keep touching it. and looking at it. and reading the bit that says "for kate". i'm sure the rest of the book will be just as good as the bit that says "for kate".

thank you, thank you to our lovely walker rep, who is beautiful and stylish and kind.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

review : just a girl

Just a Girl, Jane Caro (UQP)

The girl destined to be queen sits in her chamber on the eve of her coronation and reflects on the tumultuous path of her life to this moment. Elizabeth recalls her childhood, declared illegitimate when her father King Henry VIII executes her mother Anne Boleyn for treason and adultery (but really for not begetting him a male heir), throughout her adolescence, her incarceration in the Tower of London and the deaths of her brother and sister, which led her to the throne.

Though disadvantaged by her sex, Elizabeth is extremely intelligent, has an incredible aptitude for Latin and Greek as well as a keen interest in politics and diplomacy.

Just a Girl illustrates the young Elizabeth’s sexuality in the playful scenes – and reputation-damaging scenes – of not-entirely-innocent games with Thomas Seymour, the younger man Catherine Parr (the last wife of King Henry) marries after the death of the king. These vivid scenes mark the point in the novel where Elizabeth realises how cautious she must be if she wants to keep her head.

Jane Caro’s created Elizabeth doesn’t suffer fools; she’s as hard on others as she is on herself. Although she does have empathy and is a very loving person, this is tempered by her ambition. Her arrogance makes her human, just as the way her enjoyment of people looking at her, and calling out to her, as she rides in the royal processions will be something the young adult readers of this book can identify with.

Just a Girl also works well as an introduction to the Tudor and Elizabethan eras, with the descriptions of life at the time: fabrics, living situations, sounds and smells (such awful smells) and the occasional glimpse into the lives of the poorer subjects of England who come out to watch the kings and queens pass by.

There is no way Elizabeth is ‘just a girl’. She is smart and ambitious enough to know that, for her “it has to be Queen of England or nothing.”

This review taken from the longer review I wrote for Magpies magazine, which appeared in their March 2011 issue.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

be careful not to touch the wall, there's a brand new coat of paint

there are many things i am supposed to be doing. lots of deadlines looming. are some of my procrastinations:

i very much enjoyed watching the eurovision bong (?) contest on the weekend. wonderful costumes, interesting songs, it should have been moldova for the win! what hats they had! or romania! what a smile! head over to the joy of mediocrity, for la dashla certainly enjoyed her eurovision moments and will amuse you.

also look out for her list of 5 books never to read in the midst of a mid mid life crisis.

neither a borrower nor a lender be.

apparently i borrowed this book from my grandfather. i have no idea how long ago, but when he was moving all his books so he could sand down the bookshelf and revarnish it (yes, my very old grandparents get these wild ideas sometimes) he found this note. uh oh.

excellent graffiti that was near my house. apparently this artist gets around, as there is evidence of this elsewhere in melbourne. someone has scratched this one off now. it made me think of childhood, 52-card pickup, circuses and lily, rosemary and the jack of hearts (perhaps the woman with the axe is rosemary?? only with an axe rather than a penknife).

Lily was a princess, she was fair-skinned and precious as a child
She did whatever she had to do, she had that certain flash every time she smiled
She'd come away from a broken home, had lots of strange affairs
With men in every walk of life who took her everywhere
But she'd never met anyone quite like the Jack of Hearts -- Bob Dylan

Monday, May 16, 2011

i told you it was a great book...

didn't i? well, the nsw premier's literary prize-givers of 2011 agree. congratulations cath!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

my cover or yours? revisisted

'tis a curious thing to have the same photo on multiple books. here are two (or is that one?) that came into the shop last week.

the memory of love, aminatta forna (bloomsbury, april 2011)
someone knows my name, lawrence hill (4th estate, october 2009 - pb ed)

on one hand i think it's kind of cheating, just taking photos from the interwebs. wouldn't it be better to have an original cover. i suppose one has to think of the $ and the time it takes, too. but i do love seeing how designers can be tricky though - taking away (or maybe adding?) a scar here or there, changing the brightness and light, the colours. it's very clever. one day at my interny home recently i was shown lots of different covers for one book to see how they came to the final choice. things like make up put on, make up removed, hair, skin, background was really quite impressive.

think i shall away to master photoshop...

previous my cover or yours? here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

review : little sister

Little Sister, Aimee Said (Walker Books)

Aimee Said's second book covers a lot of ground - there's the rampant use of social media and how it impacts on your life during high school, there's sibling rivalry, lusting after the hottest guy in school and a kickin' battle of the bands. When the rumour and the secret about Al's perfect, overachieving big sister Larry are revealed, everyone's prejudices come to the surface and tension runs high.

Little Sister is a very engaging story with a plethora of great characters - as well as multiple scenes in a cheese shop that will certainly get you drooling (if cheese be your thing...mmmm...cheese...). At times Al comes across as unsympathetic and a little bit blind to what her actions are doing to her friends, making her sometimes unlikable...but honestly, quite a true depiction of teenage behaviour. As a teenager it often is as though you're the one the world revolves around.* And in the end, you'll find yourself cheering for her.

I am the big sister in my family. The evil sister had a little bit more rage than I did when we were growing up. Perhaps she just has a lot to say. I hope she never felt overshadowed, because I was definitely not an over-achiever. Never have been, never intend to be. Just pleasantly average.

You can come to a Little Sister party this Saturday if you would like to. Information here.
You can read my review of Aimee's first book, Finding Freia Lockhart, here.
*only sometimes, and not everyone. but, on the other hand, often and lots of teens.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

révolution, je t'aime

Today is forty-three years since the Nuit des Barricades – the Night of the Barricades – when the student-turned-general protests in France, May 1968 came to a violent climax. The protesters dug up cobblestones in the Latin Quarter, threw Molotov Cocktails, set fire to cars and barricades themselves on the street. They were sick of a dated university curriculum, sick of not having a voice and ready (like youth all around the world) for a new government, a new outlook for their evolving post-war world.

The poetic rhetoric of the May ’68 movement captured the idealistic fervour of the protesting youth and has remained one of its greatest strengths. Influenced by the Situationists (in turn influenced by Dadaism and Surrealism) they pasted posters and graffiti all around Paris, writing memorable slogans that have been reused and pastiched in French protest ever since.

The evolution of the slogans is clear as the movement progressed from mere discontent on campus to a wider attack on society as a whole. At the suburban university campus of Nanterre (where the problems escalated around the time Daniel Cohn-Bendit compared the French government to Hitler Youth) the students cried ‘Professors, you are old!’ Also evident in the slogans is an awareness of language and the strength of language as a tool of dissent. The posters and newspapers provide a visual representation of the rhetoric and language of the 1968 uprisings.

Other images also use the creative distortion of French linguistic formations. This slogan is making fun of the verb conjugation exercises that would have been learnt at school, but adds a very cynical edge. Translated, it means: I participate, you (singular) participate, he participates, we participate, you (plural) participate, they profit.
Another favourite is: L’anarchie, c’est je (‘Anarchy is I’). The use of incorrect grammar symbolises the disregard for the conventions of even the most basic element of French culture.

The students, rebelling against the old – the conservative education and the old man who ran their country – were also rebelling against the old ideas of literature and poetry. Rather than in the old books in the library, la poésie est dans la rue – poetry is in the street! The slogans scrawled as graffiti around Paris “were full of popular wit, but also…had a surrealist tone, symbolised in the assertion that ‘imagination has seized power.’”*

Using words and phrases to fight against the old social order, the students created an atmosphere of possibility: Rêve + évolution = révolution (‘Dream + evolution = revolution’).

Given that it's also Australian Federal Budget Day today, it's the perfect time to get some enthusiastic idealism into you!

To write this post I just smooshed together notes I made while writing my honours thesis. Apologies for the undergraduate hyperbole.

*from Daniel Singer's excellent book Prelude to Revolution.
If you want to read about 1968 in general (because it was a very exciting year all around this globe), look no further than Mark Kurlansky's excellent book entitled 1968: The Year that Rocked the World.

Monday, May 9, 2011

review : surface tension

Surface Tension, Meg McKinlay (Walker)

The day that I was born, they drowned my town.

The town of Old Lower Grange was flooded to become a catchment on the day that Cassie was born (like the old township of Glenmaggie in Gippsland). The town's Mayor pulled a lever, let the water in, and now all their houses are at the bottom of a lake and they all live in New Lower Grange in new houses that look just like the old ones.

Cassie is twelve now and she has to swim laps of the pool every day to help her lungs, which didn't develop properly on account of being born too early. One day, sick of swimming in the town pool (after a particularly disgusting "seven-bandaid swim") she goes down to the lake, to a spot that no one goes to - so she can swim in peace.

Liam, about the same age as Cassie and with a past that also distances him a little from people in their town, joins her at the lake and the two of them form a fast friendship and act as sounding boards for one another's theories when strange truths start to appear from the murky depths.

For the water level is dropping - revealing dead trees, forgotten objects and one humdinger of a mystery. Cassie is smart, she questions things, she has insight and listens to what isn't said - more so than any adult within these pages.

This is an eerie tale, a real page-turner and a wonderful read for anyone about ten and up. Dialogue, excellent. Story, brilliant. Pacing, perfect. The cover is gorgey. Admission? This book scared me a little bit more than I would have expected and I had très troubled sleep the night I tried to read it in bed. That fear of what lies beneath...I was a little bit like Anne that evening she had to run through the woods to Diana's and back.

Photograph of the Cowwarr Weir - there is no town underneath here, as far as I know.

p.s. Very exciting that Meg McKinlay is shortlisted for her book Duck for a Day in the CBCA awards. Visit her website here. And her blog here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

coffee : wide open road

Wide Open Road
274 Barkly Street

Newish, slightly posher, more put-together, little sibling cafe by the people who brought you A Minor Place. It's really beautifully set out with matchy-matchy salts and sugars (as you can see) and the decor is equally perfect.**

The coffees are perfect too - strong, no bitterness at all, and not too milky. They roast their own coffee out the back. Bliss. Their food is also delicious - a small menu but really really lovely food, complete with croissants and other doughy treats from Fitzroy's Loafer Bread.

Our favourite waiter from A Minor Place now works here so we have to go and visit from time to time, though the original cafe still holds top place in my heart.

*I've heard whisperings of new slang "NoBRo" = "North of Brunswick Road". Please confirm.
**I feel like, in spite of my love of matching hairclips to socks and shoes to scarf, I'm not quite fancy enough for this place.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

how do you choose your next book?

  1. it has a beautiful cover
  2. the author's name is awesome, and includes an X
  3. the blurb includes the following: he [that's marcelo] learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. but it's a picture he finds in a file - a picture of a girl with half a face - that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

ya? y not?

Fall For Anything, Courtney Summers (St Martin's Griffin)

Don’t be misled by the cover or the quality of the paper, both of which suggest dire slit-your-wrists emo pulp. Fall For Anything is a really well-written young adult novel: smart and moving – with a bit of a mystery thrown in. Eddie is still reeling from her photographer father’s suicide two months earlier and her mum is not keeping it together at all. Milo is Eddie’s best friend and there’s perhaps, maybe, a frisson between the two, but the girl who was his girlfriend is back in town. Then Eddie falls in with a gorgeous young photographer, who was her dad’s protégé and who might hold the answer as to why Eddie’s dad killed himself. The dialogue is brilliant, especially between Eddie and Milo (sometimes I wonder about the guys in YA, they are always way too cool and unbelievable...Milo is very real, but still a little bit perfect) and the novel as a whole isn't too sentimental or cheesy, when you consider its premise.
(Oh, and we really like Courtney Summers, she’s a 22-year-old Canadian author who works as a cleaner to support herself so she can write.)

A Pocketful of Eyes, Lili Wilkinson (A&U)

A taxidermist-in-training, Bee works at the Natural History Museum and arrives at work one day to learn her boss and mentor has been found dead in the Red Rotunda room—an apparent suicide. Bee doesn’t believe it. In fact she is convinced it was murder. Like a teenage Agatha Christie, or an indie Nancy Drew, Bee is determined to find Gus’ killer. This book is a lark, immediately engaging and very, very funny... read the rest of my review at the Fancy Goods blog, or in the April edition of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

The Dead I Know, Scot Gardner (A&U)

Aaron has left school and The Dead I Know opens on his very first day as assistant to funeral director John Barton; Aaron is uncommunicative, but willing to work. Though confronted by the dead bodies, he still takes to his new employ with little trouble and his capability surprises Mr Barton. But at home, Aaron’s life is fraught, to say the least. He lives at the caravan park and is the sole carer for his guardian Mam. But Mam is becoming confused, having accidents and forgetting how to do the simplest things. Aaron sleepwalks at night, waking up further and further from his bed and getting himself into trouble with the volatile and angry Westy, whose vulgarity and violence is very frightening. The descriptions of the dead bodies and preparations for the funerals are realistic to the point of being a little disturbing, but there’s nothing vulgar about the way Gardner has approached this story. The characters are very respectful of the dead. Scot Gardner, author of Gravity, Happy as Larry and the wonderful Burning Eddy, writes novels for teenagers that are always extremely accomplished and though dark, yet totally uplifting. The Dead I Know is no exception – it offers a special glimpse into a job, into an aspect of life that is very different and strange and, in Aaron, an inspirational character.
A version of this review also appeared in the April edition of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.