Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MWF: Family Matters - Robyn Bavati & Amra Pajalic

From the MWF program: Ditty was born to dance, but she was also born to Jewish parents with other ideas. Sabiha is Bosnian, but she's also Australian and a Muslim, and prefers to be called Sammie...

Caught between family and friends, dreams and responsibility, Ditty and Sabiha have some thinking to do. Sound familiar? Robyn Bavati (Dancing in the Dark) and Amra Pajalic (The Good Daughter) talk family matters.

After Melina Marchetta's session, I headed up to ACMI to wait for this to start in ACMI Cinema 1. Originally, I hadn't purchased a ticket for this event - unfortunately Megan of Literary Life was unable to attend and being the awesome girl that she is, offered up her ticket. I got to meet Megan this morning, and she is just as lovely in person as she is on her blog! Anyway, here are my notes from the session (which was chaired by Ruby Murray):
  • We started with an introduction to Robyn and Amra - which I was really grateful for, as unfortunately I wasn't able to read either of the books before the session (but purchased both books from the Readings stand later that afternoon and plan to read them as soon as possible!).
  • Both Dancing in the Dark and The Good Daughter examine cultural differences in modern Australia and the difficulties teens can face when there's a clash of conflicting identities. Ditty is an Orthodox Jewish household who secretly ventures into the secular world (and seems to enjoy what it can offer) and questions her beliefs. Sammi has to balance home and cultural identities - her mother wanting her to be a 'good daughter' in front of guests. Amra also talked about the way her writing explores the stigma of being a child of a parent suffering from mental illness (an area I find especially interesting and not hugely represented in YA fiction.
  • What I thought was really interesting was how much each novel seemed to come from the authors own experiences. Robyn has a dance background and Amra grew up between Bosnia and the western suburbs, and described that at times when writing The Good Daughter "felt like I was bleeding on the paper".
  • I loved getting to hear their own stories about growing up. Robyn was a self-confessed "good girl" who didn't lie to her parents until she was 14 (and then confessed to her mother two years later because she couldn't stand the guilt!).
  • There was also some excellent discussion surrounding moments in coming of age, especially when "beginning to question your parents' beliefs and what you've been taught" - which was something I could really relate to (like being raised in Catholic household and attending Catholic school for over ten years - I'm now lapsed and my brother is an atheist).
  • Both authors discussed the response to their work their respective communities. Robyn said the Orthodox community generally liked it and felt it presented a balanced view, with the exception of one high school administrator, though she made the very sensible comment that "all you can do is write a book ... you can't control how people react to it". Amra commented that most Bosnians don't read English! Though it seems like most teens who've read it have responded positively.
  • Ruby remarked at the beginning to the session that the writing of both authors celebrates "brave and courageous women", which is always a good thing,
Another very enjoyable panel. I think I would have gotten even more out of it had I read both texts, however I could still follow almost all discussion and it's definitely ignited my interest in reading them. Oh, and at the end of another panel, I was leaving the same time as Amra and she complimented my shoes. She was really lovely and I feel so silly for not saying how much I liked the panel - d'oh!

MWF 2010: The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta

From the MWF program: Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave, and friends he used to care about, and a string of one-night stands, and favorite Uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world... Melina Marchetta's brand new novel delves back into the lives of Thomas, Tara and, of course, Francesca, but this time, it's someone else who needs saving.
Melina discusses her life as a writer.

So I had eagerly been anticipating this session since first reading The Piper's Son last month. Also, I'd never been inside any of the venues inside Federation Square or ACMI, so that was pretty cool. BMW Edge, where this session was held, was an interesting venue (though I was very surprised that it only seemed half to two-thirds full). Melina was 'in conversation' with Nikki Anderson, and I had a front row seat. I've decided to attempt to transcribe my notes from the session into dot-point form, so hopefully they make some form of sense:
  • Melina has a middle-grade book out shortly. It's called The Gorgon in the Gully and it centres around Danny Griggs (the little brother of Jonah from On The Jellicoe Road) and Melina assured us there be an appearance from Jonah himself. She also commented that it was a bit difficult writing such an innocent character, having been used to very sarcastic voices in her work.
  • Obviously The Piper's Son revists "old territory", though Melina had never planned to write a sequel. If she had attempted it earlier, it would probably have focused on Will Trombal or Tara Finke, however, as Melina was writing Finnikin of the Rock, she found Tom's voice kept coming back. After "resisting more than a little bit", Melina said that she "really felt like I had no control over it ... Tom would just be in my ear the whole time".
  • Melina spent a significant amount of time getting to know Tom - listening to his music and his conversations before she started writing The Piper's Son. She stated she didn't really want to push for the return of favourite characters, and loved the new characters Tom bought in.

  • There was an excellent point raised by Nikki about the connections to the bigger world (politics, current affairs and world events in particular) in The Piper's Son. The novel is set in 2007, following a family still reeling from the aftermath of the London bombings, in which they lost a son/brother/uncle Joe. Then there's the plotline involving Tom Finch, Tom Mackee's paternal grandfather who went to fight for the War in Vietnam and his body was never recovered - so the Finch-Mackees are "a family who haven't been able to bury their dead". 2007 was also the year of a change in goverment in Australia with the election of Kevin Rudd.
  • Nikki asked Melina is she thought her teen readers would get bored with adult storylines, which lead to a discussion around Georgie. Melina wanted to write about her generation and was able to do so through Georgie and was also able talk about Tom through her (and vice-versa).
  • "I don't want to write perfect characters": discussion then went back to Tom - the way in which he starts out quite unlikeable, angry and ruining relationships and that he needs others to come help him out. Melina then discussed the way she was able to balance the tough scenes with humour and that Tom is a funny guy (which is so true - he can be a total smart-arse and I love it).
  • This is about the point when I stop breathing - because Melina started talking about a review she read recently and mentioned that it called him a "loveable dickhead" and that was pretty accurate. Um, that was my review. So I kind of froze for the next five minutes and probably sat there with my mouth agape.
  • One of my favourite parts (and I don't even think I mentioned this is my review - gah idiot!) was the relationship between Tom and Anabel, particularly through email. There's so much warmth in them, and as both Melina and Nikki noted, it's a very effective way in getting the reader to care for him "that he has so much time for a thirteen year old girl".

  • Then there was a reading and the discussion starts to come back to Saving Francesca. One of the things I resonated most with Melina's statement about teenage girls in YA fiction - that they "always get bad press for bitchiness" and that it's often used to create tension amongst girls. The girls in Saving Francesca/The Piper's Son really love and look out for each other.
  • The absence of Jimmy and Siobhan in The Piper's Son - even though neither is physically present, Nikki spoke of the way their absense speaks for them, and are part of the story even if not there.
  • The Piper's Son is the first of Melina's novels which really mentions technology (the use of emails, Frankie recording music mixes for MySpace. What I thought was quite funnt was that she mentioned that really early on in Jellicoe Road the characters talk about not getting reception in the area, so that there's no reason why mobiles need to be used in (and would take away from the mystery and pace of the story).
  • In the Q&A section at the end, one of the questions was about who inspired the characters and Melina had some great annecdotes. In short - Jimmy is based on a former student (who has now sorted himself out a lot, so she can't imagine writing another story for Jimmy), Tom is a combination of boys she taught, and that an old friend goes around telling people he was the inspiration for Jacob Coote in Looking for Alibrandi. He was not.
Anyway, hope that wasn't too rambly (some of my notes were quite hard to decipher - short-hand plus messy writing is not a good combo). All in all, a fantastic session and a great way for me to kick off my MWF schedule! Oh and if you're interested, here is my review of The Piper's Son.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pink - Lili Wilkinson

The Facts
Author: Lili Wilkinson
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: August 2009
Length: 300 pages

The Fiction
From Goodreads: "The pink jumper was practically glowing in my grey bedroom. It was like a tiny bit of Dorothy's Oz in boring old black-and-white Kansas. Pink was for girls."

Ava Simpson is trying on a whole new image. Stripping the black dye from her hair, she heads off to the Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, leaving her uber-cool girlfriend, Chloe, behind.
Ava is quickly taken under the wing of perky, popular Alexis who insists that: a) she's a perfect match for handsome Ethan; and b) she absolutely must audition for the school musical. But while she's busy trying to fit in -- with Chloe, with Alexis and her Pastel friends, even with the misfits in the stage crew -- Ava fails to notice that her shiny reinvented life is far more fragile than she imagined.

I really wish I had read Pink earlier. Funnily enough, I picked it up from my library at the start of the year and read the first chapter. Somehow it ended up going back to the library without me realising (when your mother is an ocd-neat-freak-bookworm this can often happen) and I never got around to borrowing it again. Then, after buying tickets to the MWF, I visited no less than eight bookshops to find a copy of Pink! Anyway, Pink is pretty much made of awesome and has everything I love in YA – musical theatre, geeky boys, hippie parents, fandom, ranga jokes, identity crises’ and Pastafarianism.

Ava is a great character to read about – unlike someone like Amy from Posse, or Chloe in this story, Ava isn’t completely comfortable with her sexuality and is still trying to find out who she is and where she fits in. I really enjoyed the way Lili allows Ava to explore facets of her identity and question gender roles. Ava’s uncertainty and the journey she undertakes in Pink to discovering and being comfortable in her identity are a really critical part of adolescence, and I think most teens would really respond (in some way) to Ava.

My favourite parts were basically any scene involving the Screws (stage crew) – particularly the Dennis Station picnic, which is really lovely. Each of the Screws – Jule, Jacob, Jen, Kobe and of course, Sam, are brilliantly characterised and wonderfully quirky. Even Queen of the Pastels, Alexis (who I must admit, I was initially quick to dismiss) proved to have heart – and a surprising love of sci-fi, which I felt was a fitting reminder that everyone should embrace their inner-geek. Lili also does a phenomenal job at writing clever banter and realistic teenspeak – with the right mix of nerdisms, references to internet memes (the appearance of Flying Spaghetti Monster made me giggle) and heartfelt, believable dialogue.

Plus, any novel set in Melbourne and is full of references to this lovely city (especially ones to the Hurstbridge line!) owns my heart.

Lili Wilkinson will be appearing at the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival at the following panels:
Growing Pains (August 31st with Jaclyn Moriarty) and Fading Twilight (August 31st). Ticket information available here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy 11 - 15

Here is the next installment of Things That Make Me Happy as part of 42 Things list.
I'd love to see or hear what makes you happy too, so feel free to post your own list in the comments or on your blog. My five things:

11. Reading the weekend newspaper
To be honest, I don't really follow the news as much as I should. It's terrible, I know (especially considering the amount of time I spend on The AV Club and OhNoTheyDidnt getting my entertainment news fix). I do love reading the paper on the weekends though, mostly because of the arts, culture and lifestyle supplements.
image source: coffee cups tumblr

12. Melbourne!
My lovely, marvellous hometown - I adore you!
image source: we ♥ it

13. Singing in the car
I have a really terrible singing voice. Like really, really bad (to the extent that when I sing, my family will ask if I'm either a) in pain or b)completely deaf. But when I'm in the car, I think I sound pretty good (even if I get funny looks from other drivers)
image source: we ♥ it

14. Board games
I feel like I'm normally a fairly chill person - until I play board games, which brings out my competitive side. Seriously, don't play Scattegories with me, I tend to get a bit crazy. I'm also partial to Scrabble and Cluedo, but am not so great at Monopoly. During late-night trading at my retail job, my co-worker and I used to have epic matches with games we sold in the store.

15. Writing
I really enjoy the act of writing, much more than the finished product. I mostly write for fun.
image source: anxiolytic tumblr

What makes you happy?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fury - Shirley Marr

The Facts
Author: Shirley Marr
Publisher: Black Dog Books
Publication Date: May 2010
Length: 277 pages

The Fiction
From Goodreads:
Let me tell you my story.

Not just the facts I know you want to hear.
If I’m going to tell you my story,
I’m telling it my way.
Strap yourself in...

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?

How can you not want to read Fury with a blurb like that? From the first page, Shirley Marr had me hooked. She teases out Eliza’s story (the narrative alternates between Eliza’s interviews with Dr. Fadden at the police station and flashbacks of the events leading to the murder) and allows the mystery to slowly come together.

One of the things that struck me most about Fury is that Eliza Boans is not your typical teenage heroine. She’s snobby, sarcastic and pretty unapologetic brat. For most of the novel, I found her positively unlikeable (which is usually the biggest factor in me putting a novel down unfinished). Yet there’s something so engaging about her, that like Dr. Fadden, you can’t help but being drawn in and wanting to hear more of her story. Marr manages to balance Eliza’s shallow nature, superficiality and temper with hints of vulnerability and a sense of integrity (particular when it comes to her relationship with her mother and Neil). I found Eliza to be quite a refreshing change from some of the tittering, passive female characters that can dominate contemporary YA fiction.

Fury is an intriguing read with a strong narrative – and I’m sorry for keeping the review so brief, but I don’t want to accidently give anything away! I will say that I felt that Fury invokes some incredibly strong visuals and I imagined it would be like Sofia Coppola directing Heathers (I can only imagine/drool over what she would do with one of my favourite – and possibly the most visually strong scenes – Eliza and her friends walking through the edge of East Rivermoor in party dresses and animal masks). Also, how stunning is the cover? Love it. For a novel that will challenge you, make you laugh (Marr’s writing is deliciously sarcastic and clever) and keep you on edge until the last page, Fury is one to read immediately!

Shirley Marr will be appearing at the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival on September 1st at the following events: Virgin Voices - Fury and Colonising the Internet (with Steph Bowe). Go here for ticket information.

Mixed Bag #15

Good morning blogosphere! This week's Mixed Bag is slightly late and comes with a somewhat cold cup of coffee - I overslept and now feel rubbish. Anyway, here is my weekly collection of links for your perusal:

image source: we ♥ it

♥ Today is the first day of the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival! Hope everyone attending events has a fantastic time!

♥ Forbes lists the Highest Paid Authors (despite not releasing a new title in 2009, Stephenie Meyer still made $40 million dollars - due to royalties from the books, licensing and adaptation rights and the release of the Twilight film).

♥ Speaking of all things sparkly-vampire, the Hollywood Reporter claims that 'vampire-related entertainment' (which they describe as everything from movies, tv shows and books to clothing and porn) has generated $7 billion since the first Twilight film was released in 2008. WHAT?!?  

♥ One of the first reviews of the highly-anticipated Tomorrow When The War Began. I can't wait to see this next week!

♥ Fiona Wood of Six Impossible Things on Gah! Writing! from Simmone Howell's blog

♥ Megan of Literary Life has an excellent, in-depth interview with author Penni Russon here, here and here.

♥ The AV Club has rounded up their list of Non-Doomed Fictional Couples (yeah Eric and Tami Taylor!)

♥ The Film Yap tells us Why Kids Love Horror (I found this so interesting - as a child I was always interested in things that were creepy or a bit macabre).

♥ Interesting article about Princess Culture and what effect it's having on young girls

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Snack Size Reviews #9

Another pocket-sized collection of reviewlettes for your reading pleasure!
This week they are all Australian YA titles:

Letters to Leonardo - Dee White
Publisher - Walker Books
Publication Date - July 2009

Instead of getting art lessons for his fifteenth birthday, Matt Hudson receives a card from the mother he thought to be dead. As he attempts to reconnect with his mother, work on his artwork and navigate through adolescence, Matt writes to Leonardo di Vinci and realises the two have a lot in common.
Dee White not only deals with mental illness with sensitivity and realism, but she also crafts a very authentic teen voice in Matt. Whilst confronting at times, Letters to Leonardo is an insightful coming-of-age story which was well-worth the ten years it took Dee to get it published!
Joel and Cat Set The Story Straight - Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow
Publisher - Penguin Australia
Publication Date - July 2007
Length - 240 pages

Arch enemies Joel and Cat are forced to work together for a tandem story project for their English class. Straight away, there’s a struggle for control - whilst Cat is penning Austen-esque romance, Joel is all about guns, explosions and revenge. To make matters worse, their single parents start dating, forcing Joel and Cat to work together for the greater good.
This is such a fun novel! I love dual-person narratives and Earls and Sparrow certainly don’t let the reader down and the novel is full of big belly laugh moments! After reading this, “box mechanic” is my new favourite expression.
Somebody's Crying - Maureen McCarthy
Publisher - Allen & Unwin
Publication Date - September 2008
Length - 371 pages

It’s been three years since the horrific event that devastated an entire community and changed the lives of Tom, Alice and Jonty. Each have tried to move on since the unsolved murder of Lillian Wishart, but this summer the three characters will reconnect, revisit their pasts and attempt to deal with chilling crime that tore them apart.
To be honest, I didn’t love Somebody’s Crying as much as Queen Kat, Carmen and St. Jude or Chain of Hearts, but this is still an intriguing story (I love a good mystery) and is surely to be devoured by diehard McCarthy fans.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta

The Facts
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Penguin
Date: March 2010
Length: 336 pages

The Fiction
From Goodreads: Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.
But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.  And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

Firstly, I have to admit I was a little bit nervous before reading this. I had very, very high expectations and was scared that The Piper's Son wouldn't be able to measure up to them and to Saving Francesca (which I loved and connected very strongly with). Despite this, I was looking forward to being reunited with Tom, Frankie and the rest of the gang, and finding out what happened to them following the events of Saving Francesca.

Of course, I shouldn't have worried because once again Melina Marchetta has delivered a novel which submerges you into the lives of her characters and full of beautiful, heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud moments (maybe I shouldn't admit this but I got teary just flicking back through the book when composing this review). I am a big fan of Thomas Mackee. Something drew me to him in Saving Francesca and was thrilled to be able to explore his story. Whilst some of his actions and attitude in The Piper's Son are a bit questionable, there is something so inherently likeable about him - that Marchetta reminds us of throughout the novel (I was discussing this book with a friend and we both called Tom 'a loveable dickhead', which I think captures him pretty well).

I was a little bit uncertain of the Georgie/Tom alternating chapters (which is silly because it's fairly well known I love split-narratives), but it worked so well - I felt the stories were able to balance each other out - like Georgie's pain over the loss of her brother may be followed by sharp, witty e-banter between Tom and Tara. I also found the third-person narration a bit off-putting at first (mostly because I've been so use to the first-person style of Marchetta's earlier works), but again, I quickly came round to it and it worked.

As I mentioned earlier, there are so many beautiful and heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud moments in The Piper's Son - I loved any scene with the chaos of the Mackee-Finch clan together under the one roof, and anything involving the Saving Francesca/Union hotel gang. I also loved the inclusion of emails in The Piper's Son - they were all so incredibly well done (I sometimes find that they don't always function effectively as a narrative device), but once again, perfect.

Whilst I still hold a special place for Saving Francesca, I found The Piper's Son to be exactly what I needed at the time of reading. It is a more adult read than Marchetta's other works, (though will surely be enjoyed by teens), and I definitely appreciated this (having been seventeen when I first read SF and am now in my early twenties, like Tom and Frankie). I loved being able to return to such well-written, developed characters and see how their lives have unfolded (for both the better and worse). Another insightful novel from Melina Marchetta, one of my favourite reads of 2010 so far.

Melina Marchetta will be appearing at the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival at the following panels:
How I Write (Monday August 30) and The Piper's Son (Tuesday August 31).

Monday, August 23, 2010

By My Beside #14

By My Bedside is part of In My Mailbox - a weekly book meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren. I haven't done one of these for a couple of weeks as I've been finishing off older to-read titles. Anyway, here's my lovely little pile of books (purchased by me, unless stated otherwise):

Pink - Lili Wilkinson
This is Shyness - Leanne Hall
Six Impossible Things - Fiona Wood
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins ( I know, I know - I'm totally late to the party with this one)
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy 6 - 10

Here are my five Things That Make Me Happy for this week, as part of completing my 43 Things List:

6. Nice manners
image source: we ♥ it
My parents were always really strict on manners when I was growing up, and I can really appreciate it now. Especially having worked in the customer service sector for more than five years, I can tell you that politeness and nice manners are always remembered.

7. Baking
image source: we ♥ it
I'm not much of a cook, but I do love to bake. When I started this blog I used to post recipes and pictures of my baking, which I hope to start up again soon. Plus, there is nothing nicer than the smell of cakes baking in the oven to put you in a happy mood!

8. Musical theatre
image source: we ♥ it
I am a self-confessed musical theatre fanatic. Musicals make me insanely happy. I love the way they transport the audience into a world where people sing everything they can't say aloud, and where no one minds if you spontaneously start dancing .

9. Dr. Spencer Reid
Matthew Gray Gulber is the reason I started watching Criminal Minds. Dr. Spencer Reid is all kinds of adorable - he's smart, unintentionally funny and wears grandpa cardigans!

10. Good coffee
image source: we ♥ it
Do I really need an explanation?

What makes you happy?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mixed Bag #15

Good morning blog-o-sphere! Here is your weekly dose of links, albeit a small serving this week.

image source: we ♥ it

♥ Nathan Bransford tells us how to write a novel

♥ Durham Univeristy is now offering a course in Harry Potter studies

Top 10 Contemporary Books You Should Read from In Which A Girl Reads

♥ If you haven't already, run to Persnickety Snark to look at the final rankings for her Top 100 YA Novels list. I now have a huge reading list that will keep me busy for a while!

Forever Young Adult has the Hunger Games drinking game

♥ Everyone's favourite Golden Girl, Betty White has a two-book deal!

♥ Jessica Rudd, the daughter of ex-PM Kevin Rudd, launches her fiction debut (which only days after release, is already onto it's second print run).

♥ An interesting (though I found it a bit scary) article from NY Times - What Is It About 20-Somethings?

Remember how excited I was to see Scott Pilgrim vs the World last week?
Well, it was awesome and I've rounded up some of my favourite articles about this kick-arse film:

Five Reasons Behind the Failure of Scott Pilgrim (opening weekend box-office failure, not fail-at-life-failure)

♥ OMG, Scott Pilgrim vs Springfield! It's Scott and the gang as Simpsons characters!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fiction to Film - Youth in Revolt

The Fiction
Author: C. D Payne
Publisher: Broadway Books, 1996
Length: 516 pages

From Goodreads: Youth in Revolt is the journals of Nick Twisp, California's most precocious diarist, whose ongoing struggles to make sense out of high school, deal with his divorced parents, and lose his virginity result in his transformation from an unassuming fourteen-year-old to a modern youth in open revolt. As his family splinters, worlds collide, and the police block all routes out of town, Nick must cope with economic deprivation, homelessness, the gulag of the public schools, a competitive type-A father, murderous canines, and an inconvenient hair trigger on his erectile response–all while vying ardently for the affections of the beauteous Sheeni Saunders, teenage goddess and ultimate intellectual goad

I originally bought Youth in Revolt because I heard about the upcoming film and wanted to have read the book before seeing it. I had a mixed response to the novel. Most of the parts I didn't connect with/liked about Youth in Revolt (the continous references to thunderous erections, masturbation techniques and generally discussing women as sex objects or dogs) were probably because I'm not a precocious teenage boy. Nick Twisp is, however, a surprisingly likeable character (well, I slowly warmed to him) and his exploits, based solely on the desire to copulate with one Sheeni Saunders, are quite amusing (albeit completely over the top).

The Film
Director: Miguel Arteta
Screenwriter: Gustin Nash
Studio: Dimension Films
Release Date: January 2010
Cast: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi

I was quite surprised that the film was made by a studio. It would have been a difficult and challenging novel to adapt for a mainstream, commercial audience (it definitely had more potential for cult status as an independent film). In their favour, however, Dimension took the strongest plotline and ran with it, and it worked on screen.

For me, the biggest reason this film worked was the use of Francois. In the novel, Francois is used quite briefly (Francois is Nick's imagined alter-ego - Francois being the name predicted by Sheeni's of her future husband). On screen, Francois is bought to life and gets some of the film's best jokes (for me, hearing Michael Cera talk dirty was hilarious in itself). Francois is everything Nick is not - sweet-talking, seductive and very, very bad.  

Despite my mixed feelings about the novel, I did enjoy watching the film. It's definitely a difficult story to compress - originally set in three distinct sections - and Gustin Nash seems to strike a successful balance of hormones and humour with is screenplay adaptation. I found that the streamlined narrative allows for greater character development (giving the very talented cast some moments to highlight their comedic skills).

I'm a sucker for creative opening credits and Arteta did not disappoint. I loved use of claymation!

As usual there are more movie stills and some further discussion under the cut.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dreaming of Amelia - Jaclyn Moriarty

In preparation for the Melbourne Writers Festival, I'm going to review the works relevant to each event I'll be attending. First up is the newest title by one of my favourite authors:

The Facts
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: November, 2009
Length: 526 pages

The Fiction
From Goodreads: Amelia and Riley have transferred to Ashbury for their final year of school, and everyone is completely obsessed with them. Glamorous, talented and totally devoted to one another, the two of them drift through school in their own world. But there's more to the couple than meets the eye - they have secrets. And some of them are dangerous to share. As Riley starts to lose his grip on Amelia, the repercussions affect everyone around them. It is a spellbinding story about ghosts, secrets, madness, passion, locked doors, femme fatales, and that terrifying moment in the final year of high school when you realise that the future's coming to get you.

I was very excited to read Dreaming of Amelia as I've been a huge fan of Moriarty's earlier novels, especially Finding Cassie Crazy (published internationally as The Year of Secret Assignments), and was particularly looking forward to revisiting Lydia, Emily and Cassie.

What I enjoyed most about Dreaming of Amelia is the way Moriarty plays with the elements of gothic fiction and incorporates them into a contemporary Australian setting. Being a bit of an English Lit nerd at uni, I picked up on connections to Jane Eyre and Mysteries of Udolpho. I also loved, as I do with all of Moriarty's work is her writing style itself and the way she crafts quite complex narratives using a variety of written forms (Dreaming of Amelia features HSC essays, memos, letters, poetry and blog entries).

Whilst I did find Dreaming of Amelia harder to get into (I started reading the novel months ago and put it down at some point and was obviously distracted by other books) and didn't have an immediate connection with it like I felt with Feeling Sorry for Celia and Finding Cassie Crazy. Once I got about 100 pages in though, I felt like it picked up speed and from then on, was unable to put it down. As much as I enjoyed being re-immersed in the friendship of the three young women, what I loved about this novel is the introduction of Riley and Amelia. Their plotline is probably the most complicated and Moriarty carefully teases us with tidbits about these two mysterious (and supposedly highly-dangerous) teenagers, so that their story falls into perfectly into place in the novel's final third.

Overall, I found Dreaming of Amelia to be a clever and intriguing read. Like The Betrayal of Bindy McKenzie, some of the plotlines border on the side of very far-fetched , but the characters are so likeable and engaging, that even the most over-the-top narratives work. It is quite long for contemporary YA (and I must admit, I skimmed some of the Toby/Tom sections - but only because I was so hungry for more on Riley and Amelia), but it's ending is worth the reader's patience.

Jaclyn Moriarty will be appearing at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Tuesday, August 31st for The Writing Life and Growing Pains.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy 1 - 5

As some of you may know, this blog originally came about from my 43 Things list. Recently I added a new personal challenge on there, one which I've seen a lot of other people list and that is to Find 100 Things That Make Me Happy. Anyway, I thought to help me work on my list and to share some positivity in blog-land, every Sunday I'll share five things from my list and invite anyone else who who's interested to do the same (either in the comments or on their blog). Let's get started!

1. My family
Even though they can drive me insane, all the good things about them far outweigh the bad.

2.  Reading
This will always be my favourite thing to do.

3. Getting mail
image source: we ♥ it
Receiving mail in the post makes me very, very happy. I'm usually the person to bring our mail in and excitedly rip open anything addressed to me, even if it's only boring bank statements.

4. Pushing Daisies
Watching an episode of this show is like taking a big happy pill. Everything about it makes me smile, especially the costumes and amount of detail that goes into the sets. That and it always makes me want to bake pies.

5. Going to the movies alone
image source: we ♥ it
I know some people find it a bit weird, but I go to the movies alone somewhat regularly. I usually go early morning or in the middle of the day and find most cinemas are practically empty.

What makes you happy?

Friday, August 13, 2010

League of Evil Exes

Guess what I'm going to see tomorrow morning?

I'm so, so, so excited! I've been looking forward to seeing this for at least seven months. I'm a big fan of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels and of Edgar Wright (and as much as I hate to admit it, a fan of Michael Cera) so fingers crossed this film is everything I hope it will be. Has anyone seen it yet? Are you a fan of the graphic novel series? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Mixed Bag #14

Good morning blog-o-verse! I'm up bright and early to deliver my weekly dose of linky goodness before I head off to work.

♥ Remember I had the Jacob/wolf clan inspired interior last week? Well, I think I think this would be more my style - Betsey Johnson's Eloise Suite at the Plaza Hotel (in tribute to the titular character from Kay Thompson's childrens books).

♥ The New York Times brings us The Kids' Books Are Alright - an essay on the growing popularity of childrens and YA novels with adults. Thanks to Kathy Charles for tweeting this!

♥ Pam from Bookalicious has a great list of a few books from 2010 that you should read. (whoops, clearly I'm slacking as have only read one of these titles!)

The first chapter of the Babysitters Club, if written by Bret Easton Ellis. I can't remember who tweeted this link originally, but thank you times one hundred for brightening my day.

♥ New John Green video blog - Grammar School with Snooki

♥ I adore this series from Design Sponge! Each week they pay homage to a movie with screencaps and clothing/lifestyle designs inspired by them. Sixteen Candles and Amelie are a couple of my favourites.

Holy Taco has 7 Roles Michael Cera Shouldn't Play. Check this out, if only for the captioned photos!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Snack Size Reviews #8

Once again I have a batch of handy, dandy mini-reviews (at only 100 words each) for your reading pleasure! Enjoy!

The Lonely Hearts Club - Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Penguin (in Australia)
Date: May 2010
Length: 300 pages

Penny Lane has sworn off boys. She’s sick of dating and tired of watching her friends change once they update their relationship status. So she starts a Lonely Hearts Club, where single girls at her school can hang out and support each other. Though sometimes found the general attitude of the female characters towards teenage boys to be a bit extreme (basically suggesting that all guys are jerks), I liked the emphasis on positive female friendships and it has a good message at heart. Eulberg’s writing style is pleasant to read and overall The Lonely Hearts Club is a fun novel with plenty of Beatles references.

Pretty Little Liars - Sara Shepard
Publisher: Harper Collins (TV tie-in edition)
Date: June 2010
Length: 304 pages

It’s been four years since Alison DiLaurentis, the Queen Bee of Rosewood Day, disappeared. Her four former best friends have all moved on. That is, until now, as someone is intent on bringing the girls’ long-hidden secrets to light - secrets known only by Alison. I can see why this series has become so popular – Shepard manages to achieve the right level of snark, sass and suspense to create an intriguing, pop-culture-savvy YA drama. Pretty Little Liars reminds me of Gossip Girl meets early Desperate Housewives. For me it was definitely a guilty-pleasure read and will sneak in Flawless soon.

Dreamland - Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin
Date: 2004
Length: 256 pages

Caitlin has never been able to measure up to her beloved older sister, Cass. After Cass disappears, Caitlin turns to the mysterious Rogerson Briscoe to help fill a number of voids in her new life. Ultimately Dreamland is the story of an abusive high-school relationship. It’s something I don’t think I’ve read much about before in YA, and Dessen mostly succeeds in handling the topic with insight and sensitivity. Dreamland is confronting and hard to read at times, mostly because of it’s realistic handling of domestic violence and drug use (without becoming an ‘issue’ novel). Good, early Dessen but not on my favourites.

Wednesday, August 11, 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 a sequel I've been eagerly awaiting and a young adult debut:

Beautiful Darkness - Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Published by Penguin
Australian Release - 10/12/2010

One night in the rain, Ethan Wate opened his eyes and fell in love with Lena Duchannes. His life would never be the same.

Lena is a Caster and her family is locked in a supernatural civil war: full of darkness and demons. On her sixteenth birthday Lena made a terrifying choice, which now haunts her day and night.
And as her seventeenth birthday approaches Lena and Ethan face even greater danger. A Caster and a Mortal can never truly be together.
Every kiss is a curse.
Ethan's next heartbeat could be his last.
It is their curse now . . .

I really enjoyed Beautiful Creatures so can't wait to read more about Lena and Ethan (and pretty much the entire township of Gaitlin who are so well-written). Also, I just bought Beautiful Creatures for my friend's birthday, so we'll probably read the sequel at the same time, which will be fun.

You - Charles Benoit
Published by Harper Collins
Australian Release 1/10/10

This wasn't the way it was supposed to go.
You're just a typical fifteen-year-old sophomore, an average guy named Kyle Chase. This can't be happening to you. But then, how do you explain all the blood? How do you explain how you got here in the first place? There had to have been signs, had to have been some clues it was coming. Did you miss them, or ignore them? Maybe if you can figure out where it all went wrong, you can still make it right. Or is it already too late? Think fast, Kyle. Time's running out. How did this happen?
You is the riveting story of fifteen-year-old Kyle and the small choices he does and doesn't make that lead to his own destruction.

You can't ignore the fact that You has a great hook. The cover is a bit Eclipse-ish but the premise has really intrigued me and am looking forward to checking out this psychological YA drama (written entirely in second person).

Which titles are you waiting for this week?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Melbourne Writers Festival Schedule

The most anticipated literary festival for Melbournians is fast approaching! I am especially excited because I didn't go to any events last year (This year I've been pretty organised and have already bought all my tickets for the Schools Program (which is where all the YA authors will be). Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to show you which events I'll be attending (and blogging about) and would love to hear about what events everyone else is attending. (Note: all event descriptions are taken from the Melbourne Writers Festival program)

Tuesday August 31st
The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta
Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave, and friends he used to care about, and a string of one-night stands, and favorite Uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world. Melina Marchetta's brand new novel delves back into the lives of Thomas, Tara and, of course, Francesca, but this time, it's someone else who needs saving. Melina discusses her life as a writer.

Growing Pains - Lili Wilkinson & Jacqui Moriarty
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.

Fading Twilight
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.

Wednesday September 1st
Virgin Voices: Fury - Shirley Marr
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? Prepare to be rocked by Shirley Marr’s debut novel, Fury, a tale of love, violence and blood – an ancient story of powerful women, re-imagined in a 21st century, Aussie high school.

Colonising the Internet - Shirley Marr and Steph Bowe
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.

Tickets for all events can be purchased here.

Fellow MWF attendees, am I missing out on something amazing? I could definitely fit in more events and would love recommendations. Who are you most looking forward to see?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fiction to Film - Derby Girl / Whip It!

So it's been a while since I've done a Fiction to Film post. A long while in fact, seeing as the last one was on Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and came out before the whole Lindsay Lohan GetInLoserWe'reGoingToJail-2010 thing. Anyway, they're coming back as a semi-regular feature and hope you enjoy them! Feel free to leave me recommendations in the comments.

The Fiction
Title: Derby Girl (also later released as Whip It)
Author: Shauna Cross
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Length: 240 pages

Bliss Cavendar feels trapped in Bodeen, a small and apparently uncultured Texan town, where she’s stuck waiting tables for her vapid classmates and pushed in pageants by her former beauty queen mother. That is until she secretly joins the local roller derby league, transforming into Babe Ruthless, a kick-arse, fast-skating jammer on the track.

Derby Girl is a fun and sassy work of contemporary young adult fiction. Shauna Cross' debut novel brilliantly introduces us into the world of all-things derby, which for me is the biggest selling point of the story. Derby has a fantastic indie feel to it and has created a supportive community of strong, independent women. I'd struggle to explain the history and rules of derby so please check out this page for a general overview. Anyway, roller derby works brilliantly as a way for Bliss, who doesn't fit into the moulds of a teenage Southern Belle to explore her identity and find her own tribe of supportive women.

Did I mention there is also a cute bassist, sassy Arab-American best friend,  menial fast-food jobs, good music, shoplifting, swearing, and arch-roller-enemies? There's also quite a nice mother-daughter-relationship plotline that manages to have a lot of heart, without getting overly sappy and taking away from the rest of the sharp, snappy voice of the text. Whilst I had read this after already having seen the film, I couldn't stop thinking about how perfect the novel is for adaptation - the chapters are short and snappy, filled with a cast of quirky characters, insightful and funny narration and a game-structured story.

The Film
Director: Drew Barrymore
Screenwriter: Shauna Cross
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: October 2009
Cast: Ellen Page (Bliss Cavendar/Babe Ruthless), Marcia Gay Harden (Brooke Cavendar), Kristen Wiig (Maggie Mayhem), Juliette Lewis (Iron Maven)

I'm going to flat out say it that Whip It is one of the best book-to-film adaptations I have seen. Predominantly because the original text itself is so well suited for the film medium (and as author Shauna Cross comes from a screenwriting background and went on to write the screenplay for Whip It, that makes perfect sense).

So I'm going to try and give a detailed run-down of why Derby Girl made for such a good film:
Firstly, Bliss makes for a fantastic lead character. She's a bit of an outsider who feels trapped by her life in a hick-town, the daughter of a bossy ex-pagent queen and a passive furniture salesman. Now Bliss isn't your cookie-cutter kinda girl, she has a lot of spunk. Book Bliss has a very distinctive voice which really translates onto the screen through Ellen Page, who is perfect for the slight-but-sassy Bliss, with just the right mix of attitude and likeability.

I actually found Film Bliss to be more likeable than Book Bliss. Book Bliss, to me, sometimes came across as obnoxious and super-critical, particularly of her parents. Her attitude, especially on things like indie music and vintage clothing came across a bit alienating to the reader and the way she would, at times, treated her best friend Pash made me roll my eyes. Film Bliss is more toned down and Page plays her with determination and a nice hint of vulnerability.

The derby scenes of Whip It are just amazing. I feel like they definitely capture the spirit and excitement of roller derby (not to mention the bumps, bruises and bloods). As I mentioned above, I love the community, DIY, grassroots feel of the league and the games (sorry just checked the technical term - bouts) give the plot focus and structure. Drew Barrymore (in her directorial debut) does an incredible job at shooting derby with the style and importance of a classic sports film, but manages to maintain a sense of fun.

What also worked really well on-screen is the sense of sisterhood (without being an oestrogen love fest). Each of the Hurl Scouts are given a personality on film (the deaf but deadly Manson Sisters who were thrown out of the Women's Hockey League, a Whole Foods cashier and super-klutz Smashley Simpson). The film allows viewers to understand why Bliss is willing to deceive her family to play the sport she loves and spend time with such a kick-arse group of women.

For those interested, there's more discussion and photos under the cut, all of which is free from any major spoilers for both the novel and film version of Whip It!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mixed Bag #13

image source: we ♥ it

Hello blogosphere! As usual, here is my weekly round-up of links to anything that may have caught my fancy this week. Hope you all enjoy it!

♥ Entertainment Weekly has 20 Classic Opening Lines in books.

♥ Not to be outdone by his ex-wife, Peter Andre is writing a children's book series (I am a bit afraid!)

♥ I don't know if anyone else is a fan, but according to the AV Club, Mitch Hurwitz is apparently halfway through writing the Arrested Development film.

♥ Readings have up their list of book-to-film adaptations due in second half of 2010. Which are you most looking forward to? For me it's Scott Pilgrim of course and Tomorrow When The War Began.

♥ To celebrate Prop 8 being overturned, the LA Times has a list of Top 20 Works of Gay Literature.

♥ A great piece in Publisher's Weekly about crying in public. I've had to stop reading a few titles on my daily train commutes (most recently it was The Piper's Son) because I start to get teary.

♥ Tamora Pierce has a brilliant post on her writerly blog about why she writes girl heroes.

The Boston Bibliophile has up her Home Library Mission Statement up, as part of her home libraries series.

♥ Hold on to your knickers Twilighters, because now you are able to sleep in Jacob Black's bedroom! (Please note that Taylor Lautner is not included)

Happy Friday!