Friday, December 31, 2010

Blog & Reading Resolutions 2011

image source: we ♥ it

Read 100 books in 2011 - I managed to read over 100 books in 2010 so I'd like to try and at least match that. As part of this resolution, I'd also like to read across a wider range of genres and read more titles that are out of my comfort-zone.

Post more consistently - I think since working full-time, I've become a bit unorganised and haphazard when it comes to posting. In 2011, I'd like to keep some weekly features (Mixed Bag), fortnightfly features (Polyvore Profile, Snack Size) and some monthly ones (the return of Film to Fiction).

Write higher-quality reviews - I'd like to spend more time on my reviews (I do have a tendency to type them up very quickly) and try to develop a more consistent style. Whilst I'd still like to maintain my own personal take on reviews, I'd like to try and write reviews that are a bit more insightful and analytical.

Comment more! I managed to keep commenting somewhat regularly after the Comment July Challenge but I could definitely be more active in the way of commenting, especially on blogs I really enjoy or to posts that have made me think or reconsider my own point of view.

Attend more literary events - I loved going to both the Emerging Writers Festival and the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2010. In 2011, I want to become more involved and make the effort to get to more events (and then share them on here!)

Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy New Year in 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

PS Five Challenge - 5 Great YA Bloggers

I've been partcipating (mostly) in Persnickety Snark's Five Challenge. I'm especially excited with today's topic of 5 Great Bloggers, because it gives me a chance to share some of my favourite blogs, from lovely people who are not only generally awesome, but have helped me a lot in my own blogging over the year.

Nomes of inkcrush
Anyone who has ever received a comment or email from Nomes will surely understand when I say that she is just one of the nicest, sweetest people in blog-land! Nomes is so lovely, and her blog is always full of YA (especially Aussie) goodness! Yay Nomes!

Megan of Literary Life
Megs is also insanely awesome. She somehow manages to do a million interesting/exciting/literary things at once, and find time to blog about it. Her blog never fails to make me laugh, or make me think about an aspect of a novel or blogging or an issue I hadn't previously thought about before. I love that she is so passionatelt involved in the Australian literary scene - go Megs!

Kate of Bean There, Read That
Oh Kate - of fabulous musical taste and lover of good coffee! Kate was one of the first blogs I started regularly reading when I started mine and I just adore Bean There, Read That! Her book reviews are always so insightful and her coffee/food photos make me want to go try more cafes here in Melbourne. I was also lucky enough to meet her at the MWF and she is lovely!

Romy of Lost in Stories
Again, Romy was someone who started blogging at a similar time to me and of course, I'm a huge fan of Lost in Stories. Her reviews are always well-written and thoughful and her writing has even convinced me to give some more supernatural YA more of a go (after not really reading any since my experience with Breaking Dawn in 2009). Seriously, if you don't already, starting reading Romy's blog!

Jess of Start Narrative Here
Ah Jess - I'm super lucky to have known Jess before starting this blog (actually, I used to read her film reviews on LJ and was mega-jealous of how amazing film-literate she is and of how well she writes). Anyway, when she started her reading blog, I was rather excited and she definitely inspired me to start my own. Jess's blog is fantastic and her writing is always so perceptive and always makes me want to try and write more than just "this book was awesome".

Which blogs are your must-reads?
Who should I add to my Google reader?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

PS Five Challenge - 5 Great Author Moments

I've been taking part in Persnickety Snark's Five Challenge, leading up to the New Year. Today's picks was for Top 5 Author (in the flesh) moments. I've taken this kind-of loosely and have included authors I have seen speak (at writings festivals) but didn't exactly meet this year ....

Kathy Charles at the Wheeler Centre - Kathy was so lovely and nice, even though I was supremely awkward. She signed my copy of Hollywood Ending and totally made my night!

Steph Bowe and Shirley Marr at the Melbourne Writers Festival - I got to meet both Steph and Shirley briefly after their panel at the MWF. Both were really nice (even if I was super awkward - seeing a pattern here?) and I had my copy of Fury signed by Shirley (I didn't have a copy of Girl Saves Boy on me, and apparently was having a dumb moment and didn't think to buy a second copy from the bookstore behind me to get it signed!).

Amra Pajalic and Robyn Bavati at the MWF (thanks to Megan!)  - this was fantastic and I only went by chance (as Megan unfortunately couldn't go and gave me her ticket) but was not only a really insightful panel but also introduced me to the writing of two great authors I hadn't read before. I also spoke to Amra briefly afterwards when she admired my shoes!

Jaclyn Moriarty and Lili Wilkinson (again at the MWF - seriously, it was such a good selection of authors this year!). A really fun panel and both women spoke so well and gave excellent insight into their writing process and characters - loved it!

Melina Marchetta (MWF) was an incredible experience. Having been a fan of her writing for so long (I read Looking for Alibrandi and then finally being able to see her in the flesh and hear her talk about her characters was amazing. Also hearing her quote something I had written (well, at least I'm 98% sure it was me - I feel like "loveable dickhead" isn't something that would be common wording in reviews) was just wow.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

PS Five Challenge - 5 Most Anticipated for 2011

Sorry, I missed the last two days of Persnickety Snark's Five Challenge. Whoops! Here are five titles I am incredibly excited for in 2011:

A Pocketful of Eyes - Lili Wilkinson (Allen & Unwin, May 2011)

Where She Went - Gayle Forman (Dutton, April 2011)

What Happened to Goodbye - Sarah Dessen (Viking, May 2011)

The Bridge - Jane Higgins (Text Publishing, August 2011)
Winner of the 2010 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing

Star League series - H.J Harper (Random House Australia, June 2011)
I have to admit that I've had a bit of a sneak peek at this and have been following this series in bits and pieces through the pre-publication stages. It's going to be an amazing middle-reader series and I can't wait to see it on Australian shelves!)

What books are you looking forward to in 2011?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from My Girl Friday

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the best for a happy and safe festive season with your families!

I'm going to take a few days off from posting (I've been a bit slack lately anyway and will have to belated post my picks for classic Christmas films) but will be back before the New Year starts to wrap a few things up. Hope you all get to have a bit of a break and enjoy yourselves these holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PS Five Challenge - 5 Great Covers

I'm really excited to be taking part in Persnickety Snark's Daily FIVE Challenge for the rest of December, which you can learn more about here. Today's picks are for 5 Great Covers (and I love pretty cover art!). Here are 5 of my favourite 2010 covers:

Dancing in the Dark - Robyn Bavati
Penguin 2010

Marrying Ameera - Roseanne Hawke
Harper Collins 2010

Fury - Shirley Marr
Blackdog Books 2010

John Belushi is Dead - Kathy Charles
MTV Books 2010

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Allen & Unwin Australia 2010

What are your favourite book covers from 2010?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Persnickety Snark's Five Challenge - 5 Great Debuts

I'm really excited to be taking part in Persnickety Snark's Daily FIVE Challenge for the rest of December, which you can learn more about here. To kick-start things, Adele is picking 5 Great Debuts in 2010. Here are my picks:

Finding Freia Lockhart - Aimee Said
Walker Books
Published February 2010

Freia Lockhart just wants to fit in at school but her best friend Kate is determined to get in with the popular Bs: Belinda, Bethanee and Brianna. Even Freia knows when she hangs out with the Bs she fits in like a turkey in a flock of flamingos. Kate convinces Freia to audition for the school play so they can 'all hang out together' and meet all the cute guys. Predictably, Freia misses out on a chorus role and instead is assigned to production lighting, with rumoured bad boy Daniel. Freia soon learns first impressions aren’t always correct and when Daniel needs a friend, she risks her reputation and place among the Bs to support him.

This is the first book I reviewed for this blog! I adored this book (and I've been regularly using the brownie recipe - my office was amazed - and hopefully they went out and bought copies of the book!). You can read my full review here.

Fury - Shirley Marr
Blackdog Books
Published May 2010

Eliza Boans has everything.

A big house.
A great education.
A bright future.
So why is she sitting in a police station confessing to murder?

This is such a strong debut! It's so snarky and biting and a bit confronting, but a fantastic read. I was also lucky enough to hear Shirley speak about writing Fury at the Melbourne Writer's Festival (and got to meet her afterwards!). My review of Fury is here.

Girl Saves Boy - Steph Bowe
Text Publishing
Published August 2010

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.

Another beautiful debut! Girl Saves Boy is just the right mix of fun, sweetness and honesty. My review is here.

Six Impossible Things - Fiona Wood
Pan Macmillan
Published in 2010

Fourteen-year-old nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving house, new school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on the girl next door. His life is a mess, but for now he's narrowed it down to just six impossible things...

Ugh, I can't even say how much I adored this without gushing like a crazy person! I loved it! My full review of Six Impossible Things is here.

This is Shyness - Leanne Hall
Text Publishing
Published in August 2010

A guy who howls. A girl on a mission to forget.
In the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn’t rise and the border crackles with a strange energy, Wolfboy meets a stranger at the Diabetic Hotel. She tells him her name is Wildgirl, and she dares him to be her guide through the endless night. But then they are mugged by the sugar-crazed Kidds. And what plays out is moving, reckless…dangerous. There are things that can only be said in the dark. And one long night is time enough to change your life.

Oh Text, you're on a roll! They have been publishing so much fantastic Australian young adult literature, including the Text Prize winners, like This is Shyness. This is an amazing read - not only a great adventure narrative, but is so funny and charming. Read my full review here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

By My Bedside #20

Good morning! I haven't done one of these for a couple of weeks and swung by my local library this weekend, so I have some to-read goodness to share with you! By My Beside is part of In My Mailbox, created by Kristi of  The Story Siren.

Style Me Vintage - Belinda Hay (I'm hoping next year I will be patient enough to sit and learn how to do pretty things with my hair!)
How To Say Goodbye in Robot - Natalie Standiford

Hold Me Closer Necromancer - Lish McBride
Saltwater Vampires - Kirsty Eager
What Now Tilda B? - Kathryn Lomer
Jarvis 24 - David Metzenthen

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ex-Mas - Kate Brian

The Facts
Author: Kate Brian
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Date of Publication: 2009
Length: 224 pages

The Fiction
From the Publisher: Two Exes. One holiday adventure. Merry Ex-Mas?
Seventeen-year-old Lila Beckwith's parents just left for vacation, and Lila's all set to throw the holiday party of the season. But when her Christmas-obsessed little brother, Cooper, discovers that global warming is melting the North Pole, he and his best friend, Tyler, take off on a runaway mission to save Santa.

Lila has to get Cooper safely home before her parents get back on Christmas Eve. But the only person who can help her is Tyler's older brother, Beau -- a.k.a. Lila's musician, anti-everything ex-boyfriend.  It'll take more than a Christmas miracle for Lila and Beau to overcome their differences and find their fugitive brothers. But could a journey destined for disaster help these polar opposites fall in love...all over again?

Part road-trip adventure, part Christmas romance, Ex-Mas is a fun holiday story from the author of the Private series.

I have to admit, I didn’t find Ex-Mas as enjoyable as some of the other festive novels I’ve read this year (however, I haven’t read much of the Private series, so perhaps that has got something to do with it?). I found it took me a loooong time to warm up to Lila (and even then I was kind of ‘eh’ towards her) and found Beau to more likeable (though he was quite often turned into an emo/scene stereotype). Lila comes across as quite spoilt and self-centred, and ultimately I wasn’t sure if she had that “ahhhh” moment where she discovered the true meaning of Christmas. I also felt like I had pegged the whole story’s plot within the first couple of chapters (which there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that I suppose, but I prefer to be surprised). Still, there was certainly enjoyable aspects and liked some of the scenes between Lila and Beau whilst on the road, as they drove in search of their brothers (and re-visited their old relationship and shared past).

For pop culture junkies like me, you will probably appreciate the amount of references Kate Brian throws in there throughout Ex-Mas. I actually think that Ex-Mas would work quite well on-screen (I think with the right actress, Lila might be a bit more vulnerable and a bit less vain). If I was pitching it in movie-terms, Ex-Mas would be Mean Girls meets Drive Me Crazy with a dash of I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

Ex-Mas is light-hearted, fluffy and kind of silly though would be ideally suited for a lazy afternoon read after a big Christmas lunch.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Aussie YA Book Challenge 2011

I am thrilled to read about Nic at Irresistible Reads and Nomes from inkcrush's Aussie YA Reading Challenge for 2011. Over the few years in particular, Australian writers have produced some amazing young adult fiction, and I'm looking forward to being able to share more of it with you in 2011.

Here are the Challenge Rules from Irresistible Reads:
Australian participants - Read at least 12 young adult books by Australian authors from 1st January, 2011 to 31st December, 2011.

International participants - Read at least 6 young adult books by Australian authors from 1st January, 2011 to 31st December, 2011.
They can be old or new titles, however no re-reads.

So far, I'm pledging to read:
Good Oil - Laura Buzo
Loathing Lola - William Kostakis (I've borrowed it twice from the library, but haven't read it yet!)
Jarvis 24 - David Metzenthen
Angel Creek - Sally Rippin
Noah's Law - Randa Abdel-Fattah

Sound like fun? Join us! Or share some of your favourite Australia YA novels with me? And have you checked out Nomes Best of Aussie Ya series yet? Get on it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Popcorn - Contemporary Christmas

This week I thought I'd share some more reviewlettes about contemporary Christmas films. I've picked three of my favourite films to write on and like my Snack Size reviews, each is around 100 words a piece. Enjoy!

Elf (2003)
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Will Farrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Cann

Ok, so I feel like I have to come clean and admit that I’m not really a Will Ferrell fan, but I think it’s hard to really dislike Elf – one of the best Christmas-themed films released in the last few years. Elf is the story of Buddy, a boy raised amongst North Pole elves, only to be sent to New York City one Christmas to track down his real father. So it’s kind of silly, but it’s also very sweet. If even you are not a Will Ferrell fan, watch it for Zooey Deschanel (my number one girl-crush) and my personal favourite scene where Buddy decorates a department store for Santa’s arrival (did I ever mention that being some kind of Christmas decorating co-ordinator is my dream job? No? Well it is!)
Trivia: Terry Zwigoff was offered a chance to direct the film, but turned it down (he directed Bad Santa instead)

Home Alone (1990)
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Macaulay Culkin

Kevin McAllister is left home alone during a family Christmas holiday to France, only to discover that his neighbourhood is being targeted by a duo of burglars, the Wet Bandits. Hijinks, of course, ensue as Kevin attempts to protect his family home whilst his mother tries to get back home before Christmas day. It’s a film full of physical comedy and unashamedly utilises it’s ‘kid-cuteness’ factor and I think has that right mix of fun and holiday schmaltz (lord, anything with the old man Marley makes me teary because lonely old people at Christmas makes me cry). Also, did this film cause anyone else to try and make their own burglar traps at home?
(Ok so after writing this review, I realised that Home Alone is celebrating it's 20th anniversary this year, which makes me feel really old and realise that it's not really a 'contemporary' Christmas film, but I wanted to include it anyway).

Trivia: The role of Uncle Frank was written for Kelsey Grammer.

Love Actually (2003)
Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy

This, oddly, is my dad’s favourite holiday film, and in my opinion, the best Christmas film of the noughties. The story is made up of a number of interconnected relationships and set over the holiday season. Some storylines are stronger than others (Laura Linney’s failed romance with the delicious Carl always makes me cry) and some are just silly (Colin Frissell and his All-American foursome) but it’s certainly an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours this December (preferably cuddled up with a blanket and hot drink). Watch it for the beautiful closing montage filmed at Heathrow, showing real reunions, for Hugh Grant daggy dancing and an abundance of celebrity cameos.  

Trivia: Kris Marshall returned his pay check for the scene where the three American girls undress him. He said he had such a great time having three girls undress him for 21 takes, that he was willing to do it for free, and thus returned his check for that day.

What are your favourite festive films from the past decade? Which ones make you want to choke on tinsel/drink spiked eggnog?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Questions & Giveaway Winners

Jillian tagged me in her Christmas questionaire and I thought it would be a fun way to end the week, so thanks Jillian! Here are my answers:

1. When do you usually know and feel that it's finally the holidays?
I usually know it's holiday season when shopping centres start putting up decorations (ridiculously early - like October) and because I am a Christmas geek, I make myself wait til after my birthday before getting too excited about it. To me, it doesn't quite feel like the holidays until we put our Christmas tree up in early December.

2. What do you want for Christmas this year?
I think I've gotten to the stage where I don't really 'want' a lot of things anymore. I usually ask for book vouchers and clothes vouchers, but this year I've also asked for some house-y things too as I hope to buy a house within the next couple of years.

3. Do you go all out with decorations?
We used to, but unless we are hosting Christmas lunch we have now toned them down a lot in my house. We have a big decorated tree and we hang Christmas cards, but that's about it (my mum is also kind of a clean freak and an interior design freak so she's very particular about what we have out). However, in the past I've also had a store to decorate and this year, my office is also having a decorating contest haha.

4. What are you doing Christmas Eve?
Working until 1pm (ugh) and then going to a Christmas Eve dinner with my mum’s side of the family. It will be one of my cousin’s first Christmas, so that should be pretty exciting. Besides that, Christmas Eve dinner is always nice as it’s fairly relaxed – we’ll just have a barbeque and lots of sweets and sit around.

5. What are you doing Christmas Day?
Morning – opening presents with my immediate family then heading off to a big lunch with my dad’s extended family. It’s usually pretty full on and I’m exhausted by 3pm. It will be the first Christmas for one of my cousins, so that will be quite exciting to watch.

6. It's Christmas time. What are you reading?
Well, I've just read three Christmas themed titles (Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, Let It Snow and Ex-Mas), but I also feel there's something lovely and Christmas-ey about Harry Potter (at least the earlier books anyway). I'm also trying to finish off the last couple of library books I have still, so I can return them before the library shuts for Christmas.

7. Favorite movie to watch during the holidays?
There is no greater Christmas film than It’s A Wonderful Life. You can quote me on that. Seriously, if you don't start crying when George Bailey runs through Bedford Falls, bursting with gratitude after his visions from Clarence, I will question if you have a heart.

8. Favorite Christmas song?
For classic/religious songs I'm partial to O' Holy Night, but for especially Christmas-ey songs I love pretty much any version of I'll Be Home for Christmas (but especially Judy Garland's).

9. Favorite holiday drink?
It's usually too hot for them here in Australia, but I do love gingerbread lattes mmmmmm!

10. How is your Christmas shopping going?
I’m 100% all done. I usually have it finished by December 1st (having worked in retail for the past five Christmases, there is no way I’m spending my free time fighting the crowds if I don’t have to!). I tend to buy bits and pieces throughout the year and then finish off in November, before it gets too hectic. Now I just have to wrap it all up ...

11. If you could spend Christmas day anywhere else, where would you spend it?
I'd love to have a white Christmas (just once) so somewhere cold and snowy - but only if my family was going to be there too.

12. Any holiday traditions?
We have a lot but my favourite is still leaving out our Santa sacks on Christmas Eve. Even though my brother, sister and I are 20, 17 and 23 respectively, we still leave them out on Christmas Eve and wake-up to them filled with presents on Christmas morning (we are very spoilt, I know!). We used to go to Christmas Eve mass every year too - which I loved - but now because my family is larger it is hard to try and fit it in and keep everyone happy (plus my parents are two different religions and my brother is an aetheist, so it's extra tricky!)

13. Favorite thing about the Holidays?
Family, food, Christmas music, wrapping presents (yes, I get a ridiculous amount of excitement from wrapping and giving presents) and the overall sense of festivity, goodwill and Christmas spirit (cue the smultz).

Anyone who wants to do it, go ahead. Thanks again for the tag Jillian!

I'm also thrilled to announce the winners of my Christmas Giveaways!

Giveaway 1 goes to Romy of Lost in Stories

Giveaway 2 goes to Chachic of Chachic's Book Nook.

Congrats girls, I'll be emailing you shortly about sending your prizes. Thank you so much to everyone for entering, and I'm looking forward to running some more giveaways in the New Year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mixed Bag #25

Hello! Sorry I've been a bit slack with the Mixed Bag posts (and on blogging in general), but now that it's holiday season I feel like I'm busy all the time, argh! Anyway, maybe this is a reminder that we should all take a moment, have a coffee and catch up on fun-things in blogland:

(image source: we♥ it)
I've always wanted a White Christmas

♥ Nomes at inkcrush is doing a fantastic wrap up of Aussie YA 2010, and will be featuring 'Best of' lists from some Aussie book bloggers - including me!
♥ Tye at The Book Gryffin reminds us all why we should support independent booksellers
♥ Kathy Charles has a guest post up at post-teen trauma - Anatomy of a Novel: Hollywood Ending
♥ Megan at Literary Life talks Deadlines
The Biggest Mistakes Writers Make When Querying Agents
♥ It wouldn't be a Mixed Bag without a Glee link - The Best Guest Stars of Glee on ONTD
♥ Charlie Brown Christmas performed by the cast of Scrubs to get you into the holiday spirit!

PS. Both of my giveaways (here and here) will end today, so hurry up and enter!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances

The Facts
Authors: Maureen Johnson, John Green and  Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Penguin Group
Date of Publication: October, 2008
Length: 400 pages

The Fiction
From the Publisher: Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks.

Ok, so I am going to freak the pants off all of you with the following statement: John Green’s story A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle was not my favourite part of Let It Snow (I’ll now give you a moment to recover). Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed JG’s story a lot, but for me, Maureen Johnson was the stand-out with The Jubilee Express. Here’s my thoughts on each of the stories:

The Jubilee Express: My favourite! On a train to spend Christmas in Florida with her grandparents, Jubilee ends up stranded in North Carolina, and ends up staying with a (Christmas-obsessed) Jewish family. I really liked the character of Jubilee (stripper’s name and all) and her Flobie-obsessed parents. Stuart reminded me of an early series one Seth Cohen (before he got all hip – back when he was geeky and awesome). I felt like this story had the right mix of heart and snark - Maureen Johnson’s writing is so smart and funny and chain-of-thought-y, and yet also has been lovely, touching moments too).

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle: Three friends venture across town during a blizzard to reunite with a friend who is stranded at a waffle house with a cheerleading troupe. Like Paper Towns, it’s a really good ‘journey’ story, and as always, JG writes fantastic friendships and smart, funny dialogue and banter. I think I may have liked this a teensy bit more if I’d read it prior to reading JG’s other work. To me, there were a lot of similarities between characters – Tobin is a total Q/Will Grayson, The Duke is a Lindsay crossed with Jane and JP is a Korean version of Ben. Still, this is probably the funniest story in the triology, and is still quite sweet.

The Patron Saint of Pigs: It’s hard because I already knew Maureen Johnson and John Green’s work prior to reading this book, so I kind of knew what to expect, but have never read anything by Lauren Myracle before, so maybe I don’t have the best taste of her writing style. I found this story the hardest to get through – the pace was a bit odd (I felt like I was going in circles a little bit) and I just couldn’t warm to the character of Addie. However, it did come together nicely and had a good ending.

I really enjoyed the way that the stories interconnected (without going overboard and turning into a Love Actually-esque six degrees of separation kind of thing) and were each set over a single day (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day respectively). Let It Snow is an easy and enjoyable read for the holiday season – festive and fun.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Polyvore Profile - Rosie Moon

Time for another Polyvore Profile - this time it's for Rosie Moon of Brigid Lowry's Guitar Highway Rose. This is one of those books I have heard about forever but had never got around reading. This year, I listened to the whole thing on an audiobook (and it was fantastic!).

Review from Teenreads
♥ Kate's post on remembering Guitar Highway Rose - I think I would have been obsessed with this too, had I read it when I was 15
Teacher's guide for teaching Guitar Highway Rose

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Giveaway #2

So I made up a pack for a Christmas giveaway and I kind of went a bit overboard. So then I decided it would be more fun to give away two Christmas presents for my lovely blog readers. Here are the goodies in my second giveaway:

♥ Ex-Mas - Kate Brien
♥ Heart measuring spoons
♥  Post-its and a pen
♥ My 2010 Christmas Mix CD

Once again, the giveaway is open internationally. All you have to do is leave me a comment with your name and email address before December 11th (so I can make sure you present reaches you before Christmas). Whilst you don't have to be a blog follower to enter, I do always like new friends and of course, you are able to enter both giveaways.

Christmas Giveaway #1

I'm sure I've written before about how much I love to give presents, so of course I was going to have a Christmas giveaway (or two!). I'm so excited to share Let It Snow with someone - it's a really lovely Christmas-themed YA title (and one of the three stories is written by John Green. Come on, you know how I feel about JG, I won't start fangirling again in this post...). I've also included a couple of other goodies to add to your festive side this December:

Let It Snow - John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
♥ Tiny book light
♥ A copy of my 2010 Christmas Mix CD

Interested? All you have to do is comment with your name and email address! This giveaway is open internationally and the winner will be drawn on December 10th (to give me enough time to post your gift and make sure it arrives before Christmas). You don't have to be a MGF follower - though it would be nice, of course.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Popcorn - Unconventional Christmas Films

New feature time! I miss writing about film, so I thought it would be fun to occasionally post mini-film reviews (in a similar vein to Snack Size). These ones are a tad longer (I must learn to rein in my desire to elaborate on everything) and are all suggestions for some holiday viewing, especially for those who may not be as, well, full of Christmas cheer like myself. Hope you enjoy!

Bad Santa (2003)
Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac

It’s a dark comedy about Willie Stokes, an alcoholic thief (who has surely earned the top spot on the Naughty List), who poses as a department store Santa as part of a scheme to rob the store’s earnings on Christmas Eve. Willie ‘befriends’ a lonely kid and gets a small dose of Christmas spirit. I remember seeing this at the cinema and the audience was in hysterics. I spent most of the movie wanting to cry for poor Thurman Merman (the kid) as the perfect example of a child falling through the cracks (also any films with bullying make me cry). On the flipside, Billy Bob Thornton is oddly charming as Willie, and if you like your comedies lewd, crude and very rude, this is the Christmas film for you.
PS. I also feel the need to warn any Gilmore Girls fans – if you watch this, you may never feel the same way about Lorelai Gilmore again!

Trivia: Bad Santa marks the last on-screen appearance of John Ritter.

Gremlins (1984)
Directed by Joe Dante
Starring: Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates

One of my favourite childhood movies! Billy receives an unusual pet from his father for Christmas – a mogwai (a cute ball of fluff named Gizmo), who comes with his own set of strict instructions (no bright lights, don’t get them wet and the most important of all – no food after midnight!). Of course, all these rules are broken in a fairly quick succession, resulting in Billy’s small town of Kingston Falls is overrun with gremlins, who are intent on causing mayhem amongst the Christmas Eve festivities. Whilst Gremlins is a great film, it is also the film that hugely impacted on my own understanding of Christmas as a child – I don’t want to spoil it, but Phoebe Cates’ “childhood Christmas trauma” story kind of scarred me for life.
Trivia: The set of Kingston Falls was also used for Back to the Future (1985) - on the Universal backlot.

Die Hard (1988)
Directed by John McTiernan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman

Ok, so Die Hard definitely isn’t your conventional Christmas film – but it is set on Christmas Eve, at a company Christmas party (that counts right?). The festivities are disrupted the arrival of a terrorist group (lead by the delicious Alan Rickman, in what I believe is his first feature film role!) Never fear, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is here, to try and save the building, kill the terrorists and reunite with his estranged wife – all in time for Christmas morning (and maybe some eggnog under the tree after the credits roll – yes? Too optimistic?). For an action movie, Die Hard has quite a very well-developed plot and doesn’t rely solely on a big budget of effects. Perfect for people who don’t want any schmaltzy crap or festive warm-fuzzies, seriously go watch Die Hard - yippee kai yay.
Trivia: Bruce Willis was the sixth choice for the character of John McClane (Seriously? Can you even imagine anyone else in the role now?)

More viewing suggestions:
Santa with Muscles (1996)
Black Christmas (either the 1974 version or the 2006 remake)
Jack Frost (1996 - another chrorror film = Christmas + horror)
Also in the Chrorror genre - Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) and Santa Claws (1996)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Polyvore Profile - Dash and Lily

I thought a nice way to start the Christmas season (yes, for me Christmas lasts a whole 25 days!) would be to review Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, which I did this morning. This coincided nicely with my usual Wednesday Polyvore activities, so I figured I had to do a Polyvore set inspired by Dash and Lily:

Dash and Lily

Dash and Lily by Girl_Friday featuring ivory tops

Alien Onion look at some excellent literary collaborations including Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
♥ The film rights for Dash and Lily's Book of Dares have already been acquired! Let's hope it's a nice and quick process and doesn't end up in development hell!
♥ Chachic chooses Dash and Lily as her 'Want Books' pick.
♥ David and Rachel on Dash and Lily in the NY Daily

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

The Facts
Authors: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Date of Publication: December 1st, 2010
Length: 192 pages

The Fiction
From the Publisher: 'You're in your favourite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You reach the section where your favourite author's books reside. And there, nestled between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook. So what do you do? The choice, I think, is obvious: you take down the notebook and open it. And you do whatever it tells you to do.' A New York novel of love, friendship and Christmas.

Oh my goodness, so I’ve been (not-so) patiently waiting for Dash and Lily’s release since July or so – and was even a little bit worried that I’d overhyped it to myself (as I tend to do) and was scared of being let down. Well, I’ve now read the novel twice and wow, was definitely not disappointed from this latest Cohn/Levithan collaboration.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is a charming and festive YA scavenger hunt/teen romance. The story alternates between Dash (snarly, articulate hipster with a love of language) and Lily (an enthusiastic carol-singer, cookie-baker and all-round lover of Christmas, like myself). Whilst I liked reading both characters chapters, I did prefer Lily a teensy-weensy bit more (she shares my enthusiasm for all-things Christmas and has this lovely naivety and hopefulness about her which I found to be really endearing). Not that Dash is less-loveable – though I felt he could come across as a little bit arrogant, he still manages to be this great mix of persnickety and bookishly charming. As usual, the protagonists are aided by a dynamic supporting cast of characters (I’m rather partial to Boomer, though I also thought Langston and Benny were great).

I did find some similar elements to Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which I most connected with in Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares:
- The ongoing journey style of the narrative (though instead of being set over one epic night, Dash and Lily covers the just before Christmas and up until New Year) – the way this is told in alternating chapters, which slowly fill in bits of back story

- The hint and promise of a romance, without it necessarily being a 'love story'. Also, without trying to give anything away, I do like that the majority of the novel is spent developing a relationship between the characters without them meeting (I suppose, in a way Norah feels like she knows Nick through the mix-CDs .... am I stretching too far here?)

- Of course there’s also the snark and the spot-on pop culture references – not to mention, the part that make me squee a little, references to other Cohn/Levithan collaborations (again, I’d like to think that maybe Lily goes to the same school as Norah and Caroline, though a few years younger. And that maybe Langston had a thing for Dev before the Jerk-Offs – or did they become Fistful of Assholes, took the NYC hipster-club-scene by storm).

I really enjoyed the correspondence between Dash and Lily, and watching them slowly reveal their secrets and holiday wishes to each other. Then of course, the treasure hunt with the moleskine journal (I’m a total sucker for things like this – just love it!) was brilliant – and getting all these glimpses of a New York Christmas was definitely appealing to me (especially for someone who has never had a white Christmas, the sound of winter coats and snow sounds so nice).

I honestly can’t really think of anything I was unhappy with. Whilst I didn’t have the same ‘oh my gosh, this is changing my world’ reaction I did to Nick and Norah, this is certainly a fun and very sweet read. Fans of the earlier collaborations will certainly enjoy Dash and Lily (and appreciate the familiarity of the Cohn/Levithan dual-narrative style) and I highly recommend Dash and Lily's Book of Dares as your must-read title for the holiday season. Get on it!