Friday, April 29, 2011

Mixed Bag #36

Good morning friends! Here is my weekly collection of links to things that have interested or amused me - I hope you enjoy them:

image source: we ♥ it

♥ Gasp! The Emerging Writers Festival 2011 program has been released! I bought a weekend pass last year and loved it, so will probably do the same again and oh my goodness, there's a YA panel!!! (Yes I'm aware there is an over-use of exclamation points in this post). Who else is going?

♥ Look at these photos of book blogger Chachic's bookshelves! So much pretty!

♥ I'm more than a little bit in love with Kate's review of Where She Went

♥ Literary-inspired cakes at Cake Wrecks. I love the Alice in Wonderland cupcakes.

♥ Fabulous YA author Kate Gordon on Generation Y

♥ Awww, I love this article in which the Harry Potter cast and crew talk about their favourite moments from shooting the film series.

♥ My new favourite website - Clothes on Film, which analyses costuming choices in Hollywood films. I especially love the Pink Ladies post and the one on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Video: So it's not new, but it's new to me (my sister just showed it to me) - the literal trailer for Deathly Hallows Part I

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Popcorn - Movies about Music

Whilst I'm not very musically inclined (I'm pretty sure I've admitted before that the majority of my CD collection is just Broadway cast recordings) and I'm also 100% tone-deaf, but I still like living vicariously through other people's musical tastes and talents. Below are three mini-movie-reviews (100 words each) of some of my favourite films which heavily utilise the power of (rock) music. Feel free to share your favourite music-centric movies in the comments, as I love new film recs:

Bandslam (2009)
Directed by Todd Graff

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by Bandslam. I taped it ages ago on our digital box and promptly forgot about it until the long weekend. As the film’s marketing heavily featured stars from the Disney channel, I figured Bandslam was strictly for tweens and one to miss. It managed to combine an enjoyable mix of coming-of-age story, teen romance, laugh-out-loud moments (there’s an especially funny/awkward hair-stroking scene) and a sensitive take on real adolescent issues. There’s also plenty of rock talk, excellent narration (I do love a good voice-over!) and some strong musical numbers. Definitely exceeded my expectations.

Detroit Rock City (1999)
Directed by Adam Rifkin

Four die-hard Kiss fans make the pilgrimage from Cleveland to Detroit to see the band perform. Detroit Rock City is part road-movie, part teenage-boy-fantasy (sex, drugs and rock’n’roll) and all up, it’s a pretty great film. For those who are a bit reserved, I feel I should warn you that there is a significant amount of swearing, drug references, vomit, all-male stripping revues and sex in a confession booth (but in a film about KISS,are you really surprised?). Every time I watch this movie, I feel a bit sad as it’s really Edward Furlong’s last decent role before his legal and substance abuse issues.

Empire Records (1995)
Directed by Allan Moyle
This is one of my all-time favourite films. Empire Records follows one day in the life of the employees of a struggling, independent music store as they try and stop it from becoming a corporate franchise. There are also shoplifters, an overly-tanned pop star, failed suicide attempts and plenty of rock-talk. The film captures a really genuine passion for music, as well as the co-worker bond and anecdotes to appeal to anyone who has worked in retail. It’s also super quotable and has a pretty great soundtrack, so definitely check it out. (question – has anyone seen the re-released version with all the deleted footage added back in? I am curious...)   

Monday, April 25, 2011

City in Pages - Melbourne Part 3

image source: we ♥ it

Before starting this series, I didn't really think about how many young adult novels were set in my fair city of Melbourne, and I've really enjoyed picking up on the references to some of my favourite places (as well as learning about new ones!). You can read Part One and Part Two by clicking on the appropriate links.

Graffiti Moon - Cath Crowley
Published by Pan Macmillan, 2010

Crown Casino
So this is a bit of an assumption, as I don’t think it’s specified that the casino mentioned in Graffiti Moon is Crown Casino but guesstimating from some of the events of the book and the fact that a famous psychic is visiting, I’d say Crown is a possible setting (sorry if I’m wrong Cath!). The Crown complex is huge (the size of approximately two city blocks) and according to Wikipedia, has over 2,500 slot machines!

Montague St

Across the Yarra and off the Westgate freeway, you have Montague street to take you though South Melbourne and through to Albert Park. You can also find the Montague St Deli here (mmmmmm).

Also mentioned: Camberwell train line, National Gallery, and Monash University
My review of Graffiti Moon can be found here.
Graffiti Moon fans should also check out this fantastic post from Adele at Persnickety Snark, which looks at all the artwork mentioned throughout the novel.

The Good Daughter - Amra Pajalic
Published by Text Publishing, 2009

St Albans
Despite growing up (and still living) in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs, I have a certain fondness for St Albans as my great-aunt and uncle used to live there (having emigrated from Leeds and the Netherlands respectively) and we had a lot of family Christmas lunches at their house. Here’s a video of Amra talking about her own relationship with St Albans.

Highpoint Shopping Centre
Known colloquially by some as ‘Knifepoint’, Highpoint Shopping Centre is hailed as the “centre for fashion in the West”. Thanks to Wikipedia, I also discovered it is Victoria’s fifth biggest shopping centre (to which I am now intrigued – Chadstone is obviously number 1, but what are number 2, 3 and 4? Any other Melburnians have insight to share?). Being a North-East gal, I haven’t been to Highpoint, but I did recently read that in 2013 it will be home to the first David Jones department store in the region.

King St
Smack-bang in the middle of the CBD and at night, home to the hub of Melbourne’s strip clubs (as well as many non-nude bars and nightclubs).

Also mentioned: Sunshine Library, Thornbury, and Flinders St station
You can read my review of The Good Daughter here and be sure to check out Amra's website.

Halfway to Good - Kirsten Murphy
Published by Penguin, 2009

Chapel Street
Home of the Jam Factory, upmarket boutiques and ‘Chaps laps’, Chapel St is one of Melbourne’s best-known shopping strips. I tmostly try to avoid Chapel St as much as possible (too many people, not enough parking and most shops are out of my price range!), but personally, my favourite thing there is the Chapel Street Bazaar, where you can literally spend hours poking through all things weird and wonderful – vintage movie posters, old homewares, collectables, clothes and other interesting and kitsch tidbits. It’s like one huge second-hand shop.

Lazy Moe's
Whilst it could just be coincidental, but there are a number if Lazy Moe's in Melbourne (so one of them could be the one frequented by Jacqui and Anna in Halfway to Good) - you can find your own Lazy Moe's in Tullamarine, Oakleigh, Maribrynong and Forrest Hill.

You can also read my review of Halfway to Good here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bookshelf Project

I've been putting off re-organising my bookshelf for at least the last six months. I decided that yesterday (Good Friday) would be the day I'd finally do it, as I had no excuses not to. So after an epic sleep-in, I started the painful process of pulling everything off my shelving unit (an Ikea Bitrade bookcase next to an Expedit unit).

I forgot to take a 'before' photo, but here are the contents of my bookshelves when emptied onto my floor:

I didn't actually think I had that many books and magazines until I pulled everything off the shelves! Everything here is in loose piles whilst I was trying to work out an organising system (I like my books grouped by genre, which isn't as aesthetically pleasing as by colour, but makes it easy to find things).

The empty shelves waiting to be filled with booky goodness! (I also keep my stereo and small CD collection on my shelves, which takes up 2 spaces, which was a bit annoying to work around)

First shelves filled: L-R my Puffin childrens classics and owl money box, Harry Potter series and my Roald Dahl books, Anne of Green Gables collection and my hardback childrens books, stero.
Row 2 - Australian YA (the first shelf is alphabetical by author, the second shelf is for Australian series/authors I own more than one of their novels).

Next to my Aussie YA are my favourite international YA titles (John Green and the David Levithan/Rachel Cohen collaborations) and my small CD collections (I won't lie, it's mostly movie soundtracks, Broadway cast recordings and everything Ben Lee ever produced). The below shelf has all my zombie books (though am missing Daniel Waters Kiss of Life).

The rest isn't as perfectly organised (I have too many sub-categories of books!).
Next to zombie books are my YA series/paranormal, followed by more YA, then my travel and marketing books. This was probably the section I culled the most books from, and now have a handy 'to swap' pile.
Bottom row - classics and plays, biographies and non-fiction, then adult fiction.

This is the Expedia unit. The top part, I usually use as a dumping ground from random papers/receipts/junk but I cleared off the crap to make it my 'to-read' pile. I picked up those cute bookends at one of the Borders closing-down sales for a bargain price and am excited to now show them off.
On the shelves are my film books and more Hollywood biographies, then my collection of Frankie magazines. I need to buy a few more magazine holders for the last shelf, but then that will be home to my other magazines and Voiceworks collection and a few coffee table books (on far right).

Phew! I'm glad I finally got around to doing this, as I must say my shelves look quite spiffy now. I've even managed to clear some space for new books! Anyway, how to do you organise your books? Feel free to share pictures in the comments, or on your blog, so I can drool over your books!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Snack Size #15

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but contemporary Australian young-adult fiction is my go-to genre of choice. This selection of mini-reviews (at 100 words a pop) highlights three of my favourite recent reads, all contemporary Aussie YA with female protagonists.

Raw Blue - Kirsty Eagar
Published by Penguin Australia, 2009
274 pages

Wow. I can’t even say all I want to about this except can Kirsty Eagar pack a punch or what? Raw Blue is the story of Carly, a young woman who slaves away working at a beachside cafe to fund her surfing addiction. For Carly, the ocean is the only place she’s able to forget about the event which has drastically shaped the last two years of her life. This is such a powerful debut novel and Eagar’s writing is honest and haunting – I found myself thinking about the novel for weeks after my first reading. Add it to your list now!

Saltwater Moons - Julie Gittus
Published by Hachette, 2008
272 pages

I was kind of blown away by this book! Saltwater Moons is the coming-of-age story of seventeen year-old Sunday ‘Sun’, as she completes her final year of high school and discovers the truth about love, lust and loyalty. The novel surprised me in many ways (one being that Sun is from my tiny town!), the other being how openly Gittus writes about sex and sexual desire for young women (refreshingly honest and real – I’ve said before, I think this is an area that’s a bit glossed over in a lot of work). The poetry throughout the book is gorgeous, and the characters are achingly real.

Chasing Boys - Karen Tayleur
Published by black dog books, 2007
244 pages

Ariel’s life has just been downsized. She’s moved to a smaller house, to public school but is struggling to move on and come to terms with her father’s actions. I thought that El’s family situation was handled with care and I liked that Tayleur didn’t gloss anything over. There are also cute boys, friendship dramas and a sizeable dose of teen angst. I read Chasing Boys in one solid hit and it’s an enjoyable read. Also the movie references throughout, as El and her friends play the film-scenario game, definitely made the book for me (c’mon, are you really surprised?).

Monday, April 18, 2011

By My Bedside #24

Good morning! Here's a glimpse of the books currently sitting on my to-read pile. By My Bedside is part of In My Mailbox, created by Kristi of The Story Siren.

The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness (I read Knife of Never Letting Go last month and am hooked!)
City of Bones - Cassandra Claire (I'm planning on attending a Cassandra Clare event in Melbourne next month, so I really should get started on reading some of her work...)

Where She Went - Gayle Foreman (I'm currently re-reading If I Stay before I start this)
When You Wake and Find Me Gone - Maureen McCarthey (love her! I think I need to do an entire posts or series of post dedicated to her work)

What are you reading this week?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mixed Bag #35

Good morning friends! I know it's been a bit of a slow week here - I am working my butt off at non-blog-related things and promise I'm very sorry about neglecting you all. Anyway, here is a little collection of things I have enjoyed this week:
image source: we ♥ it

♥ Congrats to all the CBCA Book of the Year nominees! You can read the full list of nominees and notables here. You can also read my reviews for the following books nominated for the Older Readers Short List: Graffiti Moon, Six Impossible Things and The Piper's Son.

♥  I'm loving the book trailer for Lili Wilkinson's upcoming novel A Pocketful of Eyes. I can't wait to read it!

♥ I love these posts by Megan and Adele about their blogging stats - I have some pretty funny search key terms from my blog (such as 'cool story bro' and 'Tyra Banks').

♥ The Wheeler Centre has just annouced their winter program!

♥ For anyone in the US and wanting to read some amazing Australian YA fiction, you should check out Missie's Go Aussie Book Tours

♥ Ohhh so pretty - a photoshoot inspired by Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat books.

♥ I have the biggest girl-crush on Agent Lover and am totally diggin' her picks for Top 10 Movie Makeover scenes

I'll leave you this week with some advice from John Green:

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Girl Meets Cake - Susie Day

The Facts
Title: Girl Meets Cake (published in the US as My Invisible Boyfriend)
Author: Susie Day
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books
Date of Publication: April 2009
Length: 240 pages

The Fiction
From Susie's website: 15-year-old Heidi’s stuck at the boarding school for crazy drop-outs where her parents teach, with only a cake-shop Saturday job to escape to. When her coupled-up mates assume she’s got a secret boyfriend, she can’t resist agreeing! Enter Gingerbread Ed, a sexy lovemuppet with a motorbike. He’d be perfect, if he actually existed. But now her friends are sending him all kinds of revealing messages… and ‘A Real Boy’ knows the truth. Will all those little white lies destroy her chance at real romance?

Oh Heidi! A fangirl after my own heart! Heidi Ryder is such a likeable character – I found it really easy to connect with her, and Susie Day has given her this brilliant, funny lingo and language quirks that I loved. One of the highlights of Girl Meets Cake, for me, are the scenes in which Heidi has these imaged dialogues (and the occasional tango) with Mycroft Christie, the decidedly Doctor Who-ish hero from her favourite show. These bits are so fun and enjoyable to read! Because really, who hasn’t fantasised about liaisons with their TV crush (c’mon .... Bueller? Bueller?)

There’s also Heidi’s group of friends – Ludo, Dai, and Fili-are a little flaky but enjoyable to read and feel age-appropriate. I’m also rather fond of Teddy and Betsy – the mother-son-tea-serving-team from the Little Leaf Cafe, Heidi’s after-school job.I also love that Heidi gets it wrong – (and she gets it really wrong at times) and her wannabe detective antics throughout the book tie many storylines together nicely.

Of course, as I’m a total theatre geek, the whole subplot involving the school production (a musical version of Twelfth Night! But in the 80s! Set at a nightclub! With lycra!) and which Heidi’s whole friendship group are involved in, really appealed to me. Even though it’s a a small detail, but I adored the costume descriptions for the show (oh my goodness – the Tron inspired lycra jumpsuits = genius!). Susie Day really made me want to see this play - though I kind of imagine it to be like Hamlet 2 and Rock of Ages' love-child.

Another thing that appealed to me about Girl Eats Cake (besides the fandom-loving heroine and the sparkly-theatre bits) was the use of social media and the role it played throughout the novel. I’ve been really interested in this lately, and have been thinking about the role of social media and the internet in YA fiction (I find it interesting that some texts utilise it and others ignore it, which seems to be a deliberate choice as it obviously plays such a big part in today’s teen, with some stats here). I’m now on a bit of a hunt for more books in which social media/life online plays a critical part in the narrative, so if you have some favourites (or books where you think it really doesn’t work), let me know in the comments!

Girl Meets Cake is a fun, slightly fluffy read. I feel like I should say – don’t be put off by the UK cover (I know it’s a bit tweeny and I’m sure I’ve seen it at my local library a number of times without borrowing it), but I promise you it has some absolutely laugh-out-loud funny moments and is really quite charming.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Happy Things #56 - 60

Wow, it has been ages since I've done a Happy Things post! If you are new to my blog, I've been trying to
complete my 43 Things goal of listing 100 things that make me happy. Feel free to make your own list, or share your own happy things in the comments:

56. Finding lost things and rediscovering old favourites
This morning I was clearing up some things in one of my cupboards and found a stack of old CDs I had completely forgotten about (mostly musical theatre cast recordings), including my copy of the Rent Original Broadway Cast Recording. It made me feel kind of old - I first heard about Rent when I was about 15 and fell in love with the music from the show (and I listened to the CDs on a discman the first time round!). It's a great musical (I recommend watching the Rent Live on Broadway over the Rent film for those who want to see what the show is about).

image source: we ♥ it

57. Unexpected texts
I love getting random, funny texts from friends - you know the ones that are just completely unexpected and make you smile - whether it be a movie quote, or personal joke or someone's thoughts on last night's tribal council (yes, this happens a lot with me), sometimes something little like this just makes me day, especially on my commute home.

image source: we ♥ it

58. Travel
I'm in the early stages of planning an overseas trip for (hopefully) later in the year. I love travelling, and find that the organisation-freak side of me, is totally geeking out at the prospect of deciding where to go/see/eat/sleep. It's been nearly four years (!!!) since my first real holiday (I went to Europe alone), so I'm really excited about travelling again soon.

59. Louis Theroux
I think my love for Louis has been well-documented on Twitter/Facebook but has possibly been kept on the down-low here. I am a huge fan of Louis's documentaries (if I had to pick favourites, I'd probably say Louis and the Brothel and The Most Hated Family in America but they are all awesome) and I can't recommend them enough - and yay for Foxtel playing them in Australia on Saturday nights!

image source: we ♥ it

60.  Movie Trailers
I'm one of those nerdy people who insists on getting to the cinemas early so that I don't miss any of the trailers (despite the fact that I regularly watch new trailers on youtube, so by the time I go to the cinema, I usually know most of the trailers). I don't go to the movies as much as I used to, but I love that excitement and anticipation that a good trailer brings.

What makes you happy?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Polyvore Profile - Girl Meets Cake

I've mentioned before I'm not only a huge fan of Simmone Howell, but love her blog feature Anatomy of a Novel. It's from this feature, I heard of Girl Meets Cake by Susie Day. After reading Susie's guest-post (and realising her book had many things I love to read about - fandom, musical theatre and slightly-nerdy-but-awesome girls), I had to check it out! Girl Meets Cake is a fun read about boys, boarding school and baked goods. This week's Polyvore Profile was inspired by the novel's protagonist, Heidi Ryder.


♥ You can read the first chapter of the delightful Girl Meets Cake on Susie's website
♥ View the book trailer for My Invisible Boyfriend (the US title of Girl Meets Cake)
♥ For a fun time-waster, Susie has a Girl Meets Cake personality test

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Film Lover's Companion to Anna and the French Kiss

Pretty early on in my first reading of Anna and the French Kiss, I decided I had to do a Film Lover's Companion for it. Like Anna, I love film and I thought it would be fun to share a little bit about each of the movies mentioned in the novel.

It Happened One Night  (1934)
Directed by Frank Capra

Ok, let’s start with a confession – shockingly, I have not seen this film! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to track down a copy before writing this piece (but it is right at the top of my to-see list). Now seriously Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert – of course it’s going to be brilliant and if this clip is anything to go by, funny! (I do love a good screwball comedy).  
If you’ve seen It Happened One Night, please share your thoughts in the comments, and when I’ve seen it, I’ll add my own two cents here.

Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Directed by Frank Capra

I think I’ve said it before, but I absolutely love Jimmy Stewart. Love him! And there’s no denying that Mr Smith Goes to Washington is one of his best performances. Paired with queen of the screwball comedy, Jean Arthur, the film is all about patriotism and the power of the everyman. (Though I must admit I disagree with the tagline on the poster, because everyone knows that It’s A Wonderful Life is the greatest Frank Capra film of all time haha).

Roman Holiday (1953)
Directed by William Wyler

A Cinderella story in reverse, Roman Holiday follows a young European princess (Audrey Hepburn) who escapes from her royal duties to spend a day as a ‘commoner’ in Rome with an American journalist (Gregory Peck). Hepburn and Peck are both so charming and funny and share a brilliant chemistry. Roman Holiday was the first American film to be made entirely in Italy (thanks IMDB) and director William Wyler captures the beauty and excitement of Rome.  This film is so lovely and shows us how romantic comedies should be done!

A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Directed by Richard Lester

Viewer warning – if you are sensitive to high-pitched noises, there is a lot of fangirl squeals in A Hard Day’s Night, a comedy starring The Beatles. Made during the height of Beatlemania, the film follows the band on a trip from Liverpool to London for a TV show appearance. A Hard Day’s Night is full of brilliant comic moments, great one-liners, visual gags and of course, fantastic music (some of my all-time favourite Beatles’ songs are featured in this film). Not much more to say about this except check it out as The Beatles are amazing (and so funny - especially my favourite, Ringo!) and that Paul's evil grandfather creeps me out.

Sixteen Candles (1984)
Directed by John Hughes

Sixteen Candles is a brilliant coming-of-age story, that certainly holds a special place in my heart. Before the whole My Super Sweet 16 MTV phenomenon, Samantha Baker is just wishing her family would remember her sixteenth birthday, and her crush, the very-lush Jake Ryan (where, oh where are you now Michael Schoeffling?), to notice her. There’s also major family dysfunction with her older sister’s impending wedding and unwanted affections from Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) who is so clingy and yet so endearing. What still amazed me about this film is how well John Hughes writes teenagers (especially teen girls) and the way he captures teen concerns, interests and vernacular with affection and respect.

Rushmore (1998)
Directed by Wes Anderson

Oh Wes! His films are so fun to watch (he has the most incredible eye for detail and the aesthetics of all his films are just amazing). Rushmore is the story of an unlikely friendship between an eccentric teenager on scholarship at a prestigious boarding school (Jason Schwartzman) and a local billionaire (Bill Murray). The relationship sours when both realise they are in love with the same woman, and their feud escalates into a war of revenge. The film is full of quirky details (like all of Anderson’s work and every shot is so precise and styled, which I know sounds odd but looks fantastic on the big screen) and has a brilliant soundtrack.

Lost in Translation (2003)
Directed by Sofia Coppola

I feel like Sofia Coppola’s work tends to divide people (most I know feel really strongly one way about her films). I’m somewhere in the middle-leaning-towards-love side, as I think her films are beautiful and just stunning to look at, but I always feel a little bit disheartened at the end. Anyway, Lost in Translation is probably Sofia’s best-known film, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director (at the time, Sofia was only the third female director to even be nominated) and won for Best Original Screenplay. The film explores the lives of two lonely Americans (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johnansson) whilst staying at a Tokyo Hotel. I can definitely see how Anna related to the film during the early months of her time in Paris (feeling alone and isolated in a huge city of people and dealing with the cultural differences between Paris and Atlanta). It’s a sweet-yet-sad film (as I think all of Coppola’s are) and is just stunning to look at.
Loved Anna and the French Kiss? Try watching:

Before Sunrise (1995)
Directed by Richard Linklater

Like Anna and Etienne, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) have this brilliant, ongoing banter about everything from love and first kisses, to travelling, to travel, politics and religion. The film takes place over 24 hours and is romantic without being schmultzy (which is always one of my biggest worries with romance, and me having a cold and cynical heart haha. The screenplay for Before Sunrise is really fresh and original and is one of my favourites. (PS. If you watch and enjoy Before Sunrise, it's definitely worth checking out Before Sunset, to see how Jesse and Celine are doing ten years later!)
You might also like:

Films set in Paris: An American in Paris (1951), Funny Face (1957), How to Steal A Million (1966), Prêt-à-Porter (1994), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), Two Days in Paris (2007)

I'd like to think that once Anna got a bit more comfortable in Paris that she started watching more local films, as French cinema is amazing. French films I'd recommend (though excuse my limited selection - it's an area I'd love to explore more - so feel free to recommend me some more French films in the comments) are:
Rififi (1955),  Mon Oncle (1958), Le Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels, 1963), Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain  (2001), Paris Je T'aime (2006).

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Halfway to Good - Kirsten Murphy

The Facts
Author: Kirsten Murphy
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Date of Publication: June 2009
Length: 336 pages

The Fiction
From Penguin: It's the first day of Term One, and Luke and Anna are on opposite sides of the student-teacher divide. School is the last thing Luke feels like - how can he feel halfway to good when his father is sick, his mother is sad and his older brother is painfully present? Anna's life still revolves around love, friendship and homework, but she's a graduate teacher now. Can she cope with a bullying co-worker, a persistent ex-boyfriend and a class of unforgiving Year Elevens, and still find time to help Luke?

Last year I read Kirsten Murphy’s The King of Whatever and was pleasantly surprised at her enjoyable writing style and the way she wrote such an accessible male protagonist. Once again, Kirsten has completely charmed me with her most recent novel, Halfway to Good.
The novel focuses on Anna, a new graduate teacher from a close-knit (and completely chaotic/loveable family) and Luke, a likeable Year 11 student who’s trying hard to keep a brave face whilst hiding some heavy stuff. We follow both Luke and Anna, and watch as their lives surprisingly intercept both on and off the schoolyard (though I feel like I should make this clear so people do not get the wrong kind of idea – it is not THAT kind of student-teacher relationship). I liked that the two perspectives weren’t built into the structure of the book (it’s not a dual-narrative in the style of Will Grayson, Will Grayson or Good Oil) but instead is a bit more fluid and Murphy’s writing allows the reader to move effortlessly between the two.

As an older-reader (well, older than the intended audience), I especially connected with Anna – particularly as she is the same age as me, and a number of my friends have just started their first teaching positions this year (which freaks me out a little, as that means it’s been 5 years since I was in high-school!). I also thought that the age difference allowed for some really interesting comparisons and will appeal to a wider range of readers.

An aspect of the novel I really loved was the way it drew attention to some issues I feel are under-represented in YA (at least in my own reading experience) – particularly anxiety in young men and workplace bullying. Both were treated with respect and care, given insight and offered solutions, without ever feeling preachy or alienating.

Again, Murphy has also crafted a cast of realistic supporting characters – with my particular favourites being Alex, Luke’s smart-arse best friend and Anna’s (slightly dysfunctional) siblings, Ben and Georgie. The way all of the characters interact is so engaging and fun to read (Kirsten Murphy is brilliant at wry observations and sharp, unpretentious banter). We also gain some pretty amusing (and also a little scary) insights into the inner-workings of the high-school staff room, which I found to be rather entertaining.

Halfway to Good manages to be the perfect balance of laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly touching. Definitely worth reading and I highly recommend also checking out Kirsten Murphy's other novels (I'm still trying to track down a copy of Raincheck on Timbuktu but am sure it won't disappoint).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mixed Bag #34

Good morning friends! Here are links to posts throughout the week that have entertained or interested me. I hope you enjoy them:

image source: we ♥ it

♥ Kristi at The Story Siren has an interesting discussion piece about Authors & Bloggers (including bloggers who want to write, does blogging sell books and industry perceptions of book bloggers).

♥ Rusty's guest post at Heaven, Hell and Purgatory - Book Reviews on Zombies in YA

Kitlit talks High School Hierarchy in YA Fiction (I'd love to read more YA with more of a fluid community or books which explore schools who take a different look at social status, like David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy)

♥ I love this Stacked Books post on the covers for V.C Andrews' Flowers in the Attic throughout the ages (I went through a V.C Andrews stage when I was about 14 ... don't judge). I still really want to do a Fiction to Film post on this too (the movie is so awful/hilarious).

♥ Megan at Literary Life tells you how to find out about book launches (I am really resolving to try and attend more this year and push past some of my social awkwardness).

♥ Could Chloe Moretz be Prim in the upcoming Hunger Games film?

And as is my new tradition, I shall end with a video - I love this song and think the film clip is pretty lovely too.

Happy Friday!