Thursday, September 30, 2010

Passing Strange - Daniel Waters

The Facts
Author: Daniel Waters
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 2010
Length: 400 pages

The Fiction
From the Publisher: Karen DeSonne always passed as a normal teenager - and now that she's dead, she's still passing - this time, as alive. But when her dead friends are accused of a high profile murder and forced into hiding, it's up to Karen to prove their innocence. Which means doing the unthinkable and becoming the girlfriend of bionist zealot Pete Martinsburg, who she suspects of framing them. But if Pete finds out who Karen really is, the consequences for her will be worse than death ...

So remember I was really excited about the release of Passing Strange? Really excited? So excited that I even pre-ordered the UK paperback edition (so it matches my other copies), which I never usually do. Anyway, I've been really enjoying Daniel Waters' series, and was really excited as this novel concentrates on my favourite character (and let's be honest, the most interesting female in the series) Karen DeSonne.

Passing Strange picks up from Kiss of Life. Differently biotic students have been banned from attending school and are basically on the edge of being sent back to their graves due to a strong anti-zombie movement (lead by the Reverend Mathers, the One Life Ministry and their new posterboy, Pete Martinsburg). Whilst Tak and the Sons of Romero are forced into hiding, Tommy is taking on Washington and Karen, never one for subtly, is hiding in plain sight – by working at the Oakvale Mall and ‘passing’ as a human girl. Whilst posing as ‘Christie’, Karen starts going out with Pete in an attempt to try and uncover information about the Ministry and anti-zombie activities.

Passing Strange is basically split between Karen and Pete’s perspectives A lot of my favourite moments were finding out about Karen’s past and her home life – the way she interacts with her family is both sad and lovely. Her relationship with her family, it seems, is one of the biggest reasons she is such a ‘developed’ zombie, and a really interesting message within the series – it’s the living impaired kids who have a support system and are loved, are the ones who have an easier time adapting to their new life. I was thrilled to finally hear more of Karen’s back story, especially having gained so many teasers in the first two novels.

Pete's storyline actually reminded me a lot of Jason Stackhouse and Fellowship of the Sun (the plot from True Blood, which plays out differently than in the Charlaine Harris novels). What I love about this series is that even the antagonists are given a detailed history, are well-developed and Waters manages to we are able to be sympathetic towards them. Once again, the Sons of Romero (the underground/rebel zombies) were a highlight. I’ve grown to really like Tak, and feel like Karen brings out a sense of humanity (a sign of life haha) in him.

Passing Strange is low on a lot of main characters (minimal Phoebe/Adam/Margi which surprised me), basically no Tommy (I actually missed his emails and blog entries – and I was sure he would play a bigger role as the trads/zombs tension came to a head) and no Thorny (c’mon, I can’t be the only Thorny fan!). On the plus side, I felt like the plot was more focused, the themes stronger and the point of view didn’t constantly change (as it did in the first two novels), allowing a much better character insight.

Now I was under the impression that Waters was writing a trilogy, but from the way Passing Strange ends, I feel like there has to be more to come! I feel like there is still so much that's been left open and unexplored. For fans of the series, I think you’ll really enjoy this next instalment, which in my opinion, stands apart from other paranormal YA titles.
Feel free to check out my reviews of Generation Dead and Kiss of Life

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ohhh Shiny! Sony Pocket E-Reader

I have a shiny new toy!

After months of research and careful deliberation, I finally purchased an e-reader. Ever since I attended an afternoon of seminars put on by CAL about e-readers, e-books and the future of reading, I had pretty much made up my mind that I wanted one. Then came the decision making. Unlike the US where it seems there is already quite an established market for and supply of  e-readers, they are still a relatively new device in Australia. Before the Kobo became available at Borders, the other models I had seen were either incredibly high-priced, or didn't have a lot of information and support available for users.

My own reasons for wanting to purchase an e-reader were:
♥ I have roughly a two-hour commute each day and this is when I do a lot of my weekly reading. Unfortunately I often finish a book halfway through my trip which is annoying, and I don't like to carry around more than one novel in my bag at a time (current handbag already weighs a lot and won't close)
♥ I often do manuscript reading and assessment for the literary agent I work for. In a paper form, they are difficult to read without being at a desk and are impossible to transport around with you. If I read them on a computer, I find I'm usually trying to multi-task and the reading process suffers

My limitations when looking for a model:
♥ I really wanted to be able to look/try it before purchasing. I had though about buying a Kindle or something online, but big purchases like that make me nervous, and I much prefer to buy them in person and know that once I've handed over my money, I will be walking out of the store with something tangible.
♥ I didn't want to spend more than $250. I put some of my tax return aside specifically to buy an e-reader and don't have a lot of extra cash anyway.
♥ I wanted to be able to read different formats - particularly PDFs and Word for work purposes
♥ I wanted it to be easy to use and there to be resources available for the product and support if needed.

I came pretty close to buying a Kobo (the price and the 100 free books it comes with are pretty tempting), but then heard that the Sony Readers were finally coming to Australia so I thought I'd wait a little bit longer (at least to check them out in person). I'd heard a lot of good things about the Sony models, especially from people in the publishing industry, and read a lot of very favourable reviews. Even the 'negatives' were things that personally didn't worry me (like no wi-fi). After checking the Borders website all week to see when they were in stock, I hurried down on Friday and was stoked when they had one on display! I had a quick play with it and it seemed to be as awesome as I'd hoped, so I took the plunge and bought it.

Sorry I tried to flip the image about five times but it doesn't seem to want to shift. Grr!
I went for the Pocket edition as I wasn't too phased by the extra features of the Touch. Plus, at $229 the Pocket sat nicely in my price range. I'd also intended to buy a case for it whilst I was there, but they hadn't finished unloading them yet and didn't have a pink case yet (which I kind of had my heart set on. Sad, I know!)
The size of the Sony Pocket Reader compared to a paperback novel - my current read Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati
I've only just started to play around with the model, but so far all is good! It comes with a USB cord to connect the reader to your PC (or Mac) for updating and charging your reader. The set-up was quick and simple, and the instructions relatively easy to follow. The only (minor) issue I've noticed so far is that some of the instructions are still American/European specific and they aren't completely up-to-date with the way e-books are sold in Australia. The Library software is quick to set-up and installs when you first connect the reader to your computer. It's fairly basic (and resembles an early version of iTunes), but has been easy to manage this far.

Argh, why must you rotate?? The Pocket Reader charging.
I haven't purchased any ebooks yet, mostly because I can't decide what to pick! Choices (at least for Australian readers) are still somewhat limited and I've noticed that prices of ebooks here aren't completely consistent - an issue which was discussed at length by panelists at CAL. As I'd attended that seminar, and from an agent's point of view, I can understand a big part of the price issue is ensuring that authors are paid correctly for their work and are receiving a fair royalty, but I do think that at the moment, the price of ebooks may put off some potential users (I was quite surprised at the cost of a few titles - especially as the cost was significantly more than a paper copy).

I did, however, download a handful of titles from Project Guttenberg - which is a fantastic resource that provides free digital copies of titles that are out of copyright. So far, I've got Jane Eyre, Dracula and Frankenstein - all titles I've wanted to read for ages, but have just never gotten around to. I also put on a few files from my own computer, like a manuscript in Word to see how the format read on screen (especially as this was a criticism that came up a lot in reviews for various readers - that Word documents and some PDFs were rendered unreadable due to formatting).

A docx Word file on the Sony Pocket Reader - looks pretty good to me!
 I was very happy with how Word documents (well, the three I tested) came up - as this was one of the main purposes I'd be using the e-reader for. So yay! I suppose that maybe some files won't come out as nicely, especially if they use odd fonts or tables or something, but it seems suitable so far.

Anyway, I've probably rambled for long enough. Overall, I'm very pleased with the quality of the product, and how easy the software has been to operate - though it has only been four days since I originally purchased it. Once I purchase an ebook through a retailer, I'll let you know how the process went. I feel like I should also add that despite this purchase, I am and always will be a huge advocate of the paper book and in no way do I think that e-books will ever replace them (the same day I bought this, I also spent $50 on an order from Book Depository). For me, the two can happily co-exist.

Now a quick question  - do you own an e-reader? If so, which one? How often do you use it? What has been your best ebook purchase so far? I'd love to know - and feel free to ask me any questions about the Sony Pocket Reader if you wish.

Helpful links for buying an e-reader:
♥ A Wikipedia comparison table of e-book readers
♥ Another comparison of different models of e-readers
Good Reader is a useful resource, especially the forum, to get information, reviews and personal experiences with a variety of e-readers.
More comparisons and reviews - I found the video reviews to be especially interesting (a great way to see how the product works and important details like lag time and battery life)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy 26 - 30

Hello! Firstly I must apologise for missing this post last week! My weekend flew by and before I knew it, I was lying in bed on Sunday night and realised I hadn' written my list yet. Anyway, back on track now - this is all part of my 43 Things list. I'd love to know what makes you happy, so feel free to tell me in the comments or make your own post.

26. Book Club
 After a number of book-related Facebook discussions, a couple of my friends from high school suggested we start our own mini book-club, as a way of reading new things and having an excuse to catch-up regularly. We are having a session this afternoon at one of my favourite cafes, and I can't think of many other better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon - with books, friends and food!
image source: flickr

27. Glee
I'm not even going to downplay this one, but I was all kinds of excited that the new season of Glee aired in Australia this week. Whilst at times the narrative side frustrates me, there is something so infectious about the music and the way they use song, that it overrides any of my negativities about it. Yep, I'm a huge Gleek.

28. Spring weather
Whilst Melbourne is know for it's crazy weather, I finally feel like Spring is here this weekend. The sun has decided to come out! This, to me, means the start of having coffee outside and being able to wear sundresses and cardigans without freezing.
image source: we ♥ it

29.  Going out for Breakfast
I feel like their is something strangely luxurious about having someone else make your breakfast for you. I do love a good brunch, and am usually torn between choosing the sweet option (pancakes or french toast) and eggs benedict. Mmmmm.
image source: flickr

30. Marina and the Diamonds
One of my favourite new singers for 2010 (and that's probably saying something, as I tend to be a music-loyalist and stick with what I love and don't listen to a lot of new stuff). Her album The Family Jewels is amazing.
Also, she has fab personal style!
image source: we ♥ it

What makes you happy?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mixed Bag #18

Good morning friends! Here's a super-small bag of linky goodness this week:

image source: we ♥ it

♥ Megan at Literary Life has written an interesting piece on personal style in writing and reviews

♥ Even James Franco was disapointed with the sex scene (or lack there-of) in Breaking Dawn

♥ Back-to-back sequels planned for Tomorrow When The War Began

♥ Famous Rappers and their 20th Centure Literary Counterparts. Enough said.

♥ Sesame Street does True Blood - True Mud

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine to "spotlight upcoming releases". This week I've picked :
The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight
Author: Jenny Valentine
Publisher: Harper Collins
Australian Release Date: 1/10/2010

After three and a half years, Caspar Roadnight came home. Except he wasn′t Caspar Roadnight any more. He was me. One boy′s life changes dramatically when he′s mistaken for a missing boy. If he embraces this new persona, he could enjoy a life he′s only ever dreamed of. But then again, perhaps some dreams should never come true...
A tense and brilliantly disturbing novel from award-winning author Jenny Valentine.

I have a thing about books about missing people. Totally weird I know! Plus, I always hear great things about Jenny Valentine (though I still haven't read any of her earlier novels!), but the concept of this really appealed to me, and the cover art is so cute!

My Booky Wook 2 - This Time It's Personal
Author: Russell Brand
Publisher: Harper Collins
Australian Release Date: 1/10/2010

Brand is sober and has had a taste of national notoriety. Does fame bring happiness and inner peace? Not exactly, but it does mean a lot of sex. It also ushers in a raucous ride through chat shows, tabloid scandals, and Hollywood, all the while detailing Brand's search for the contentment that fame can't quite grant.

I loved My Booky Wook (and am a bit of a Russell fan in general - seeing clips on the Big Fat Quiz of the Year with Noel Fielding never fails to make me laugh), so am definitely looking forward to reading the follow-up, to see how Russell deals with 'making it' in Hollywood (Booky Wook dealt more with his early life and addictions and only started to touch on his emerging fame towards the end).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Girl Saves Boy - Steph Bowe

The Facts
Author: Steph Bowe
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: 30th August, 2010
Length: 280 pages

The Fiction
From Text Publishing: The first time we met, Jewel Valentine saved my life.
Isn’t it enough having your very own terminal disease, without your mother dying?
Or your father dating your Art teacher?
No wonder Sacha Thomas ends up in the lake that Saturday evening…But the real question is: how does he end up in love with Jewel Valentine? With the help of quirky teenage prodigies Little Al and True Grisham, Sacha and Jewel have a crazy adventure, with a little lobster emancipation along the way.
But Sacha’s running out of time, and Jewel has secrets of her own.

Like I'm sure a lot of you are, I've been a fan of Steph's blog Hey! Teenager of the Year for quite a while, and have been following the excitement leading up to the publication of Girl Saves Boy. Needless to say, I was very happy for Steph when it was released (and went to five different book shops on release day, only to find none had any copies in stock!).

Anyway, to the book - after all the excitement, I was not disapointed! Girl Saves Boy is a quite a lovely and very heartfelt young adult novel. The narrative alternates between Sasha and Jewel (c'mon, by now surely you all know how much I love this style) as theynavigate their way through a myriad of problems - of both the regular teenager variety, as well as some which are potentially more life changing. There's also romance, garden-nome theft, school fetes and lobster liberation. Steph crafts some incredibly evocative images (the one which stuck with me involves Sasha and Jewel making an inside tent with a couch, sheets and a bottle of wine).

Both protagonists are engaging and their chapters enjoyable to read. I must admit it took me a little while to warm to Jewel - I think it's because she's quite profound and makes some subtle-yet-amazing observations that kind of impress me and make me feel wow. Sacha reminded me a bit of Asher from Guitar Highway Rose, in the nicest possible way. I think it's that he's quite gentle and lovely, but you also get the sense of anger coming through. Steph also shows a skill for dialogue, and creates two distinctive voices through her leads, and her writing has just the right mix of wry observation and banter.

I have to say that I was also very fond of the sidekicks - amazingly tall and equally smart Little Al and the meticulously-organized and highly ambitious True Grisham. Little Al  in particular, was a favourite of mine - with his loud yet so loveable M-named family (like a smaller, Australian version of the Duggars with less religion and just a bit bogan). I thought their own plotlines were well-weaved throughout the narrative - even if at times I wanted more (only because I'm greedy like that).

The plot, at times, seemws to float around a bit - though not unpleasantly. I felt like their wasn't a major sense of urgency and that things were going to unravel and subsequently sort themselves out in time, which they did and I had a sense of satisfication at it's conclusion. There was also (in my opinion) a successful balance of introverted thought, emotive flashbacks and moments of sweetness and fun.

Girl Saves Boy is a quirky and charming debut novel from a promising young author. It's a funny and very smart story about teenagers, by a talented young author. Steph's writing is fresh, insightful and certainly captures the energy and emotion of youth. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what Steph does next, and would love to read more of her work - Girl Saves Boy is surely the start of a promising writing career.

For those in Melbourne, Steph Bowe will be appearing at the Wheeler Centre's Debut Monday on September 27th. Go here for more information.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mixed Bag #18

Good morning blog friends! Sorry I've been so slack again this week (this full-time work thing is harder than I imagined haha), but on the plus side my long commute is allowing me to get lots of reading done and I now just have to sit down and write some reviews. Anyway, here's a little something to start your  Friday morning:

image source: we ♥ it

The Bookshow Blog talks about young adult heroines (I was thrilled to see Caroline from Michael Pryor's Laws of Magic series made the list - love her!)

♥ I am in love with this gorgeous animated trailer for Leanne Hall's This is Shyness

♥ A really thought-provoking piece about falling out of love with books from in which a girl reads

♥ One of Mariah Carey's biggest fans is a buddy children's author and her story is peppered with Mariah references!

♥ Anna from Door Sixteen has written an amazing post about how she became an book cover designer

♥ I adore this video - Lin Manuel Miranda (Tony Award winning composer and lyricist and all-round dude of awesome - did I mention he is working on a musical production of Bring It On!?! AWESOME) anyway, he organised this surprise for his wife Vanessa on their wedding day. Nawww!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tim Burton at ACMI

Back during Comment July Challenge, I was lucky enough to win a 'buy one, get one free' admittance to Tim Burton: The Exhibition at ACMI from Sea of Ghosts. I finally got around to using the pass last weekend and went with my sister early Saturday morning.

Unfortunately you aren't able to take photos inside the exhibition (due to copyright reasons), so there aren't many pretty pictures for you to look at, but I did manage to take a few in the outside/public areas though!
Both my sister and I are huge Tim Burton fans, so we'd be waiting to see this for a while (trying to sort out a free weekend when you both work in retail is no fun).

The exhibition is divided into roughly three areas to reflect Burton's career - Surviving Burbank, Beautifying Burbank and Beyond Burbank. I won't go into detail about his life and career (you can just wiki it anyhow). The whole thing is incredibly well put-together - the detail and size of the collecting is amazing! It covers everything from English essays and art school projects to student films and character concepts, to props and costumes and prosthetics. It was amazing to see a lot of Burton's student and early work, where you can clearly see the beginnings of his highly distinctive film style, recurring themes, interests and motifs.

Personal highlights from the collection - the Large Marge eyes from Pee Wee's Big Adventure, an angora from Ed Wood and watching Vincent, one of Burton's first short films. There is also this amazing 'Burtonairum' which is a black-light room of awesome that I can't even describe.

Tim Burton: The Exhibition will be at Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Federation Square until October 10th. If you are in Melbourne, I strongly urge you check it out! Alternately, if you have already been - what did you think? Also, because I'm super nosey, I have a question for everyone:

What is your favourite Tim Burton film?

For me it is an an incredibly hard choice but I narrowed to a tentative Top Three: Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Big Fish (2003)

Monday, September 13, 2010

How I Review

image source: we♥ it

A couple of weeks ago, Adele of Persnickety Snark asked YA bloggers how they review. Adele posted a very insightful video blog and posed the question to other bloggers. Megan also responded to the topic with  a vlog entry, and I've been really interested in reading the responses to both posts. It made me think a lot about my own reviews - both how and why I review, and I've tried to articulate this below:

Books - I pretty much purchase all of my own books. I am also an avid user of my local library service. I do read a lot (I have a long daily commute) and couldn't afford to purchase every title that catches my eye. I pick out everything I read myself (as in, I do not receive review copies and to date have only read one ARC, and it was a title I had been lusting over for a couple of months) and as you can probably tell from this blog, I predominantly read contemporary YA. I also read a fair bit of crime fiction and non-fiction, but don't usually write about that here.

What to Review - I decided fairly early on with this blog, that I would only write about books I've enjoyed. It's not a review system for everyone, but it works for me. Personally, I would much rather write about something that I've loved, or an aspect of a book which excited or amused or moved me than something that I was just ehhhh about. If I didn't particularly enjoy reading a particular title, I probably won't review it (or at least won't dedicate a whole review post to it). Also, having worked with on the agent end of publishing, I know how much hard work and effort have been put into a novel (especially by the author, as well as the agent, editing team and publisher).

Process - I don't have a really review serious process. After reading and liking a book, I'll make some brief notes about it (I always try to make notes as I read, though it doesn't usually work out. Mostly because I find once I start reading, I get too involved and hate stopping). I make a few notes - usually just in dot-point form and to remind myself of the main topics I want to cover in my review. If I'm super-organised (or if I remember), I'll also write down page numbers or quotes I especially enjoyed - though I often forget and end up doing a lot of flicking through the text).

Reviews - Then it comes to actually typing up a review. Depending on my mood (lazy or creative) I will use a Goodreads or publisher synopsis, or I may write my own. Then, I use my notes as a loose guide (roughly a paragraph for each point) and I have a very basic formula (I usually discuss character/s because that for me, is something I really value) or will just focus on whatever aspect of the novel appealed to me the most (like zombie lore in contemporary culture in Generation Dead and family dynamics in Suite Scarlett). Sometimes I write in dribs and drabs, other times I'll practically write the whole thing in one short sitting, then come back to it and tweak a little. I usually try to remember to spell-check so I don't embarrass myself, then post and voila - a review!

When I started My Girl Friday, I don't think I really set out to be strictly a review blog (as you can tell from my recent activity, I'm lucky if I post two reviews a week - if that!) but I do enjoy writing reviews (mostly) and am always interested in how other people write theirs.

How do you review?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy 21 - 25

It's that time of the week again - my mini collection of Things That Make Me Happy for my 43 Things list. As usual, please feel free to make your own Happy Things list either on in the comments section, or on your blog!

21. Spending time with my sister
Though the five year age gap used to be annoying, I'm now at the stage where I (usually) love her company and we spend a lot of time together. I'm lucky that (generally) we get along very well and are able to do fun things together and she's one of my best friends. She doesn't even mind when I borrow her clothes (well, doesn't mind much anyway)...

22. Fish and chips
Maybe it's the English heritage, but I have a deep-seeded love of fish and chips. Just the smell of the crispy batter, of thick chips and vinegar, reminds me of my family and childhood. We often used to go for long walks or drives to the park on Sundays, which were usually finished off with fish and chips - eaten straight from the packet. Mmmm.
image source: we ♥ it

23. Libraries
I still remember going to my local library on an excursion with my class when I was about six, and was super-proud because the librarian knew my name as I went there with my mum every week. It's only really been in the last couple of years (when I've had more disposable income) that I've really bought books - I normally would rely on my library (plus I always found it exciting to get a letter telling me the book I reserved had come in - now you get an email, which isn't as fun).
image source: flickr

24. Freaks and Geeks
One of my all-time favourite shows (and sadly, one of the best examples of a show that was cancelled before it's time). It is probably one of the most well-written, clever, moving and funny examples of a teen dramedy and I think helped pave the way on commercial networks for teen shows of the noughties. Not just that, but this show really helped cement a valued friendship whilst an uni (she introduced me to F&G and made me copies of the entire season as it's extremely hard to get on DVD in Australia).

25. Car rides with my brother
My brother and I don't always get along on a day-to-day basis. He does a lot of things that drive me insane (like leaving dirty dishes everywhere) and I'm sure I do the same to him. He loves driving though (which I do not, mostly because I don't have the attention span and freak out behind the wheel), and regularly offers to drive me around just because he can. When he does, we crack jokes and have some great conversations which don't often happen at home.
image source: deviant art

What makes you happy?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mixed Bag #17

Good morning net-verse. I have a teeny Mixed Bag this week, but hopefully you enjoy it anyway:

image source: flickr

♥ Rumours are flying about the eagerly anticipated Hunger Games film adaptation. Apparently three directors are fighting for the job.

♥ More Hunger Games casting rumours

♥ A rather thought-provoking piece from Hannah Moskowitz: What Are We Doing to YA?

Tomorrow When The War Began made $3.8M it's opening weekend. Read more here - a really interesting article about the Australian Film Industry.

Reading choices of Mad Men characters!

♥ Jillian of Random Ramblings made her own literary-inspired Polyvore sets - very cute!

♥ I've written a guest post for Mindful Musings - A Film Lover's Guide to John Belushi is Dead by Kathy Charles.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pretty in Polyvore - Childhood Favourites

This week I've started my first full-time job, so I've found it harder than I'd expected to find time to write posts. I basically get home and collapse on the couch, sleep, then wake up and leave for work the next morning. I'm sure once I get into a routine, it will be fine. Anyway, to make up for the lack of words, here are some pretty pictures! You all know I love Polyvore, and thought it would be fun to put together sets inspired by some of my favourite childhood literary characters. Enjoy!





Monday, September 6, 2010

By My Bedside #15

By My Bedside is part of In My Mailbox, a meme created by Kristi of The Story Siren.
So this batch covers two weeks of book-buying as I forgot to post last week (not that I ever have many titles to show unless I've been to the library). All books have been purchased my me unless stated otherwise:

Girl Saves Boy - Steph Bowe (purchased at MWF)
The Good Daughter - Amra Pajalic (MWF)
The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han (library)
Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
I Am Number Four - Pittacus Lore (apparently this wasn't meant to be released until early September, though my local Target had loads of copies two weeks ago!)

Missing from the photo is Robyn Bavati's Dancing in the Dark (purchased at MWF) as my sister decided to borrow it whilst I read Girl Saves Boy. What can I say, I'm sharing the love around!

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy 16 - 20

Here are the next five items on my Things That Make Me Happy list, which I'm compiling for 43Things. As always, feel free to share what makes you happy in the comments, or on your own blog!

16. Writers Festivals
What could be better than getting to listen to and spend time with a range of such talented people? I love listening to authors talk about their work and their process, and it gives me such a huge burst of wanting to write myself (even if it's just a few lines scribbled at the back of my notepad). I adore getting to meet other people who love books and are as passionate about reading as me!
image source: Fed Square Gallery

17. Sleeping In
I don't consider myself a lazy person, and I'm usually pretty good at getting up on a morning - but I still think there's something really lovely about getting to sleep in (even if it's just a little). For me, a sleep-in isn't later than 9 - 9.30am (I have a friend who often sleeps until midday), just that small bit extra which always makes a difference and lets me start the day with a bit more spring in my step (one that is not caffeine-motivated).
image source: we♥ it

18. Pretty Stationary
Maybe it's a bit silly, but I'm a complete sucker for a cute pen or pretty notebook (even though I already have a full of drawer of them at home).
image source: Kikki K

19. The Music of Ben Lee
I'm a huge, huge fan of Ben Lee. I own all his albums (wait, scrap that - it appears on further examination that someone has 'borrowed' my copy of Hey You, Yes You. Grrr). Anyway, his music just makes me so happy - whether I'm listening to it on a crowded peak-hour train or whilst I'm writing at my laptop. If you're ever feeling down, I highly recommend his album Awake is the New Sleep to make you feel good.

20. New Opportunities
Though they usually fill me with a mix of fear and excitement, I love the opportunity to try something new or do something that will challenge me. Tomorrow, I start a new (and my first full-time) graduate job. Even though I am really, really nervous, I'm also looking forward to starting a new part of my life and to the amazing things it will bring.
image source: we ♥ it

What makes you happy?

MWF 2010 Wrap-Up

I had intended to do a MWF wrap-up earlier, but ended up having to do work some extra hours (for the last time) in my retail job and didn't get around to it. Ah well, here's a small collection of what I saw and read this year for the Melbourne Writers' Festival.

Tuesday, August 31st
Wednesday, September 1st
Review List
The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta
Dreaming of Amelia - Jaclyn Moriarty
Pink - Lili Wilkinson
Fury - Shirley Marr

Reviews to Come (books purchased at the Festival)
Dancing in the Dark - Robyn Bavati
The Good Daughter - Amra Pajalic
Girl Saves Boy - Steph Bowe

I had a fantastic time and look forward to attending again next year!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mixed Bag #16

Good morning blogosphere! Here is my weekly collection of links to things that have interested or amused me in some way, and because sharing is caring, I'm offering them up for your reading pleasure too.

image source: tumblr

♥ My friend Emily has launched the first issue of Ricochet, an ezine for aspiring writers and artists to showcase their work - check it out!

♥ EW wants to know who you want cast in The Hunger Games film adaptation? Some of their options are alright, but others (in my opinion) are completely bizarre (like Skeet Ulrich as Gale?!? Maybe if this was the early 90s! WTF?)

♥ Speaking of Hunger Games, adorable actress Kristen Bell professes her love for the series. Oh, and she's totally Team Peeta!!

♥ The 2010 Inkys Longlist has been announced! My picks are The Piper's Son for the Gold (followed by Loving Richard Feynman) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson for the Silver (you knew I'd be picking the John Green title right?)

♥ Speaking of the man himself, John Green does Fitness for Nerds

♥ A great, new blog to watch - That Cover Girl, which focuses around YA book covers (I love this idea!).

♥ Adele of Persnickety Snark has written another excellent article - Love Bites: when romance makes me want to howl.

♥ I love this - Portraits of Fall TV's Best Characters and Scene Stealers for Rolling Stone. The Kurt one is my favourite!!!

♥ OMGLEE, if you haven't watched the Emmy's opening number, what are you waiting for? It was epic (Tina Fey! TIM GUN!!!)

Of course it was the Melbourne Writer's Festival was on this week, which I've been blogging about the past few days. Here are some blog posts, reflecting other peoples experiences:
♥ Megan of Literary Life: Day One, Day Three, Day Four parts 1 and 2
♥ The SMH has an excellent article about the "why teens think bigger than adults" panel with Jostein Gaarder and Lia Hills. Sounds like an amazing session!
♥ Shirley Marr's Adventures in Melbourne-Land
♥ Amra Pajalic and Robyn Bavati have both written about their Family Matters panel here and here.
Kill Your Darlings has Five Things I Learned at MWF This Weekend
♥ Don't forget about the MWF School's Program Regional Tour! Check out their blog entries here.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

MWF 2010: What Makes a Hero - Jackie French

From the MWF program: Ned Kelly, Simpson and his donkey, the pioneering women of the first world wars... Australia's history is full of people who've done extraordinary things. Join Jackie French as we explore the stories of our best-loved ancestors and what they have in common. Maybe you'll get to answer the tricky question: What really makes a hero?

Ok, last one! I hadn't originally planned to go to this, but my lovely boss suggested we meet at the Festival and catch a session together. I only wrote one page of notes, because if you've ever heard Jackie French speak, you know how passionate and engaging she is.
  • Jackie began with a series of questions from the Heroes Enterance Exam from her School for Heroes book series. The audience interaction throughout this session and the way she was able to engage with a huge group of schoolchildren (aged from 10 to 18) was amazing.
  • What it means to be a hero. She reminded us all that in times of the greatest hardship, humans have shown they are capable of the most compassion, courage and invention.
  • Jackie also spent a lot of time talking about the ways even animals can demonstrate great heroism. She spoke of her research regarding the story of Simpson and his donkey, and how they put themselves at risk to rescue the wounded and were a sign of hope for ANZAC soldiers.
  • There is a time in everyone's life, when they will find out if they are a hero or not.
  • Jackie also told the story of Michael Hingson, a man who was in the first tower to be hit during September 11 and survived. Trapped on the 78th floor, Michael (who has been blind since birth) followed his guide dog, through the smoke to the fire escape and lead others to safety. Shortly after emerging from the building, the tower collapsed.
  • "Tomorrow is never going to be the same as today".
  • Jackie also did a really great job in linking the concept of being a hero with environmentalism. She is incredibly passionate about inventions and eco-technology, which was very interesting to hear about and definitely infects you with her enthusiasm.
I'm really glad I went to this session. It was a wonderful way to end to end my experience at the 2010 Melbourne Writer's Festival! I had an amazing time and got to see, hear and meet so many incredible, inspiring people. Hopefully I'll get to do it all again next year!

MWF 2010: Colonising the Internet - Steph Bowe & Shirley Marr

From the MWF program: Before Shirley Marr or Steph Bowe’s books had even been released, they’d both built massive communities on the Internet, sharing their work and ideas with people all over the world. They talk today about the new space for creativity that the Internet affords us, and share their tips for finding-and sharing-the best new writing on the internet.

Once again, I was in the Festival Club for this session (which was quite full, as obviously it's a topic a lot of people are interested in). In a very fitting manner, I found myself sitting with two incredibly lovely blog-girls, Kate and Claire - who I'd conversed with in blog-land, but had never meet in face-time - so that was pretty awesome. We had a nice chat - we talked about what sessions we'd been to so far, admired Shirley Marr's shoes and declared our love for Steph Bowe (and her outfit). Anyway, onto the panel:
  • The session was chaired by James West and I have to say that all three participants seemed really comfortable with each other and had this great banter going on.
  • James started the session with asking about the differences in writing for an online audience and a traditional audience. Both Shirley and Steph now have published novels and garnered audiences online. James also bought up the fact that (statistically speaking) Australians are the most enthusiastic social networkers
  • He then asked both women about the first time they used the internet. Steph couldn't remember, having grown up with a computer and spent a lot of time writing on word-processing software (rather than on pen and paper). Shirley remembered exactly when she first used the internet - at the age of 18, when she went to uni!
  • Steph and Shirley then discussed how and why they started blogging. Steph started her blog in April 2009 as a way of being able to communicate with other readers and writers and asked her mum's permission first! Shirley is a newer blogger and she said writing on it feels "not natural". She started it to coincide with the release of Fury and as a way of helping facilitate people knowing about her writing.
  • Can I just say that Steph Bowe is wise beyond her years! She is incredibly well-spoken and everyone I have spoken to have commented on how mature she comes across. She also has a wicked sense of humour.
  • The issue of trolling and negative online experiences (bad comments etc) came up and both authors had some experience in this area.
  • Shirley uses her online persona to generate publicity about her book and allows her, as an author, to reach a wider potential audience. She spoke about the way in which blogs can work as a powerful marketing tool.
  • James posed the question of how much should you put out there and asked about online indentities. The idea of trying to work out your boundaries and work out what you are willing to share (would you be happy for your grandma to see your Facebook page?). Shirley spoke about the way putting the personal online it can humanises an author. Though at the same time, she doesn't want to come across as an "over-age emo". Another important tip - never post drunk!!! (Friends don't let friends drunk-dial/drunk-text/drunk-tweet).
  • There was also some discussion about ebook readers. Shirley stated that despite having a Kindle she doesn't connect to it, but made the excellent point that she'd rather have someone buy her book on the Kindle than not buy it at all. Steph also made the comment that the two (physical books and ebooks) can certainly co-exist.
  • Steph Bowe talked briefly about how having an online presence helped her to get her agent (Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown) and in turn, gain publishing deals both in the US and Australia.
  • Also, because I found it amusing, during the Q&A section, an audience member stated that she "launched the Internet in Australia" and then went on a bit of a rant about Rupert Murdoch charging for the news etc etc and then asked Steph and Shirley how much money they made from their blogs, which I thought was quite rude.
Another excellent session! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got to meet Steph and Shirley briefly afterwards. Stupidly I forgot to bring my (newly purchased) copy of Girl Saves Boy for Steph to sign, so I felt pretty silly. Oh well, I'm reading it at the moment and it's brilliant!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

MWF 2010: Virgin Voices - Shirley Marr

This was my first event of Wednesday, September 1st. After yesterday, I thought I knew my way around and was less-stressed, though still had a bit of trouble finding the Festival Club, where this session was held. It's a really lovely, quite intimate setting though and Shirley was 'in conversation' with Bel Schenk from Express Media. Anyway, here's my notes:
  • Firstly, I have to say that Shirley had the cutest shoes ever! I'm a huge Wizard of Oz fan, and they were totally ruby slippers - pretty sure I need a pair of my own!
  • Shirley is a big fan of true crime and loves TV crime shows like Criminal Minds (my favourite - mmmm Dr. Reid ....) and Lie to Me, so it felt comfortable for her to write a crime story.
  • Eliza is quite an unlikeable main character. Shirley said that she "love(s) a villain" and that she was drawn to the darker side of people. "I didn't want to write an easy character" and I thought this idea was really interesting - especially the concept that you really need to invest the time and "earn the right to get to know her". She's a narrator who definitely puts up a front and as that starts to come away, you get to see who she really is.
  • The structure of Fury is quite unusual (begins with the confession of a crime and then alternates between flashback and police interviews). It took Shirley three months to write Fury and it came out in that format - being a crime story, she felt it was naturally suited to flashback.
  • "I didn't want to write a 'nice' story".
  • Shirley cited John Marsden's Letters From The Inside and Margaret Mahy's The Changeover as the novels she read as a teen, which made her want to be a writer. That and she'd "love to be sandwiched between Mahy and Marsden" on a shelf at a bookstore.
  • Shirley said that she went to a "bogan high school" and was interested in writing about a picture perfect neighbourhood (where everyone is rich and attractive) but with something dark lurking underneath the surface.
  • Then onto the process of writing and publishing Fury. As Shirley works as a full-time accountant, she wrote Fury in the evening and on weekends, taking moments where she could. It was written in a fairly linear way and the first sentence in the published copy was the first sentence Shirley wrote in the original draft.
  • After writing the Fury manuscript, Shirley sent a hard-copy of the first three chapters to a selected list of publishers who she felt might be a right fit for her work (very smart) and included a box of chocolates (even smarter!). While she waited to rack up a set of rejection letters, she received a publication offer from black dog books and Fury was out only a year later. She did have a tough editing process, which involved cutting 30,000 words from her work.
  • Somehow the discussion moved to vampires for a moment and Shirley mentioned (jokingly ... I think) about writing about Chinese vampires who are "not attractive" and like zombies. It made me laugh, as it reminded me of one of Tina's lines from Glee that "Asian vampires are the most vicious of all vampires".
  • Shirley's best words of advice for aspiring writers were "write what you want to write" and that you don't have to write something that's currently popular. She wrote Fury for enjoyment and originally had no expectations about getting it published, and that she still doesn't think of herself as "the other A" - as an accountant, not an author.
There are some photos from the session up on Shirley's facebook page. I was also fortunate enough to see Shirley in the Atrium after her panels, where she signed my copy of Fury and was absolutely lovely. If you're interested, here's my review of Fury.

MWF 2010: Fading Twilight

From the MWF program: The most compelling books for teenagers ever written or brain-draining, sexist rubbish? Harmless, escapist fantasy that is inspiring more teens to read than ever before or mind-numbing, badly plotted tripe? Seventeen million copies later, the Twilight debate continues to rage. A panel of writers, booksellers, editors and publishers discuss the pros and cons of this best-selling series - pushed and probed by you, our Festival audience. Have your questions ready.

So it's probably obvious by now that I'm not really a Twilight fan, but I thought this debate could be snarky and fun. It was. My notes were pretty haphazard by this point, so I've tried to just sum up each speaker's arguments. In short - we had two teams: the Affirmative (Jeff Sparrow, Chris Flynn and Ben Chandler) and the Negative (Bec Kavanagh, Kate Forsyth and Van Badham). The debate was adjudicated by Nikki Anderson. Each speaker had four minutes, followed by question time and a rebuttal before the winner was judged by the audience.

  • Twilight shouldn't be dismissed as 'just a story'. Stories impact on our culture and tell us about how we live. What does Twilight say about contemporary culture?
  • There is a tradition, in the vampire novel of dealing with sexuality, sexual appetite and desire. Twilight places sexual attraction on not having sex.
  • In 2006, the Bush Administration promoted abstinence-only sex education programs in schools (this was also the same time Twilight was published). Teenagers were encouraged to pledge their abstinence with the Silver Ring Thing and Sparrow suggests that abstinence in taught in a highly sexualised way "be incredibly sexy while you don't have sex".
  • Twilight as promoting a magical resolution to a real dilemma
  • Came from a bookselling point of view. Twilight has set both the publishing and bookselling industry "blazing". Breaking Dawn broke sales records in 2009 with 19,000 copies sold each week during January.Twilight also promotes other works like Wuthering Heights and has hugely increased their sales figures too "revitalising old work".
  • Twilight encouraging reluctant readers and people who don't normally, to buy more books.
  • "I'd rather be sitting next to someone on the tram reading Twilight ... than having them harrass me".
  • The similarities between Wuthering Heights and Twilight in regard to an encouraging an old-fashioned relationship to sex.
  • Chris had a number of issues with Bella wanting to sleep with Edward her "really hot boyfriend". Most humoursly, the question of whether "is his penis cold? Is it like a pink icy-pole?". Was also curious about Edward's frozen sperm.
  • Called Twilight 'anti-feminism' and it's attitude to sexuality "out of place in the modern novel".
  • Men to be guarding female virginity is a Victorian concept
Kate talked about the five reasons why she loves Twilight
  1. Not only encourages young women to read, but their mothers are also reading it and it opens a forum for discussion between them. Also boys are starting to read it.
  2. Bella is an ordinary girl - gawky, clumsy (I disagree somewhat. Mostly because of this)
  3. Due to it's success Wuthering Heights has been re-issued - Twilight is introducing new readers to classic texts.
  4. Twilight has fallen victim to literary snobbery and what constitutes good writing
  5. Stephenie Meyer deals with the grand themes of literature in the Twilight Saga (love, loss, life)
  • Started with a description from Bram Stroker's Dracula, and claimed Twilight is "destroying our image of the vampire in literature".
  • Vampires as originally being demonic figures "vampires don't sparkle, they burn in the sun".
  • References to Spike and Angel (yay!)
  • Edward's qualities and virture make him something more like an angel, as vampires aim to corrupt. 
  • Twilight as a novel about female choice and that Edward and Bella's relationship is challenging for men.
  • Stephenie Meyer is the only person in history to have all four titles on the New York Times best-sellers list.
  • Had some very interesting (and scary statistics) like 1 in 3 teenage girls in a UK survey found they had been coerced into sexual acts and by the age of 17, 54% of teenage boys had clocked up hours of watching porn.
  • The success of Twilight has had a huge impact on female writers, allowing more female voices to be heard and published.
  • She concluded with this zinger "the time of sucking your icey-poles is over"
I really thought Van's heartfelt and empowering speech may have won over the crowd, but the laughs provided by the boys apparently sealed the deal (or the audience was more anti-Twilight than I expected) because the Affirmative won. I'd have been interested to see how the debate would have gone if both teams were mixed rather than a battle of the sexes-esque set-up. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining way to end my first day at the Festival! There are some photos up on the MWF Facebook page.

MWF 2010: Growing Pains - Jaclyn Moriarty & Lili Wilkinson

From the MWF program: Shifting schools smack bang in the middle of term - and in your final year of high school - is a nightmare scenario. It's bad enough fitting in with kids you already know, never mind a bunch of strangers. To make things worse, Ava may or may not be gay, and when Amelia and Riley show up, they create havoc for their new fellow students and teachers alike. Lili Wilkinson (Pink) and Jacqui Moriarty (Dreaming of Amelia) explore the pressures of conforming, sorting out who the heck you are, and trying to do it all before your 16th birthday.

This session was moved to ACMI 2 due to big ticket sales (yay) and was chaired by Chris Gordon from Readings. For some reason I didn't take as many notes on this session (I think it was because I'd written about 12 pages from the first two and my hand was le tired).

  • Jaclyn Moriarty comes from a law background (which I feel like I did know, but had forgotten). She had a law degree but didn't really want to be a lawyer, so she went on to study more law overseas. Whilst in the London, she made a secret pact with herself that she would try to get a book published, and if she didn't she'd then become a lawyer. She sent out the manuscript for Feeling Sorry for Celia to London agents but without success, so she came home to be a lawyer. Later, when working as a lawyer in Sydney, she sent it to an agent here who signed her up and found a publisher (I always enjoy hearing how writers found their agent / publisher).
  • Lili then spoke about Pink. I have to say I can totally see why Lili gets booked for so many school visits (14 visits at 10 schools in Book Week according to her blog), as she has a way of talking about her writing in such an entertaining and engaging way that the teen audience seemed to really respond to.
  • Both authors read an excerpt from their books. Lili's was very animated and Jaclyn's passage (from Dreaming of Amelia in Emily's point of view) also got a lot of laughs from the audience.
  • It was bought up that both novels have a focus on school plays and why that was. Both authors said that it was a great way to create conflict and tension (teenagers working long hours in close quarters is bound to make drama). Jaclyn spoke about the way that the play worked as an effective narrative device for her (it gave her an excuse for the characters to be at the school late at night etc) and Lili mentioned she was in stage crew herself.
  • The point about school productions lead to a really interesting comment (though my silly notes don't indicate exactly who said it - sorry!) that a lot of YA authors maybe didn't have the best experiences as teenagers themselves, so when they go back and get to "do it again and do it right".
  • Another excellent point of discussion was that both works centre around strong young women who are "firey, indignant, in a fury". Lili made, which I thought was an excellent comment, that there are "too many Bellas out there" and Jaclyn spoke of "angry young women who don't know how to use their anger". Chris bought up the idea that in older books angry girls were 'naughty' and would then have to be punished (like Enid Blyton's Naughtiest Girl in School series) and how refreshing it is for contemporary writers to embrace these young women.
  • Also discussed was the importance of friendship in both novels and the way these friendships travels out of the schoolyard (in Dreaming of Amelia - Chris mentioned the way the girls keep their conversations going outside of school, like on Emily's blog).
  • There were some great questions at the end of the session - someone asked if there was a character that the authors particularly love or hate, and how readers respond to their characters. Jaclyn mentioned how much she loves to write Emily, though some readers have commented that they find  her annoying (because she's very talkative, melodramatic etc) and that this saddens her as she loves writing her voice so much (I'm definitely Team Emily, I adore her and can see why Jaclyn would enjoy writing about her).
  • Jaclyn also had a really cute story about how her dad used to commission her and her siblings to write stories, as a way of earning pocket money. She then had an anecdote about how she told her sister that fairies used to fly around her hair and tell her what to write because she was a blonde and as her sister was a brunette the fairies must think she's a witch. Hahaha. As someone who used to tell similar lies to their younger, darker-haired sister I found this especially amusing.
  • We ended with a cheer for angry girls!
Only not-so-good part about this session was there were a few audio issues, particularly with Jaclyn's microphone, but even that was sorted out fairly quickly. Overall a fantastic, engaging session, which was 'made of awesome'. I have review both Dreaming of Amelia and Pink on this blog.