Thursday, July 25, 2013

Noah Dreary by Aaron Blabey

Review

Aaron Blabey is one of my favourite picture book authors (you may know him from Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley or The Dreadful Fluff). Noah Dreary is his latest – a story about a boy who complains so much that his head falls off. What a hilarious concept. It's right in line with another of my favourites, When the Wind Changed by Ruth Park. I just love picture books that are cheeky and tongue-in-cheek, and that make a clever and engaging story out of a silly saying or idea.



I love the hilarious illustration style in Noah Dreary and it really compliments the story. The illustrations are at their best in the pages that depict all the things Noah complains about. The story is typical Blabey – quirky, irreverent humour, silly, familiar, and ultimately with a positive message. This is a book kids will love for the silliness, and parents will enjoy on a more adult level. Sublime.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt

Review

Song for a Scarlet Runner was picked up by me because I saw Julie Hunt was a Tasmanian author, and I am always interested to see what stories my old home state is producing. I was also a fan of Hunt's picture book 'The Coat'. I knew I would like Song for a Scarlet Runner because it fitted so perfectly into my favourite kind of book - middle-grade fantasy adventure, coming of age story, quirky, a quest of sorts. Hunt's book had all these things, plus two very important extras - humour, and a strong, independent, brave lead female character, Peat.

I loved the worlds that Hunt takes us into - from the boggy marshes with the cranky, crazy old Aunties; to the surreal nightmarescape of the Siltman; to the little villages and Town Hubs full of all sorts of oddball hustle and bustle. Peat's story moves along at a rapid pace, although I found I only truly got involved once Peat left the Overhang. I really enjoyed Peat's ambition and her desire to learn about the world beyond what she knows - she is inquisitive without ever being annoying or overbearing.

Hunt has created a charming cast of supporting characters. I loved the Aunties and their meddling, magical ways; I love Siltboy with his butterfly mind and lovable way of speaking (I have since read it is based on Anglo-Saxon poets). But my favourite character was by far the Sleek, who was naughty and infuriating, but one of those animal sidekick characters so completely lovable, I very near cared more about him than about Peat. Trust me, you'll love this guy and his attitude.

I thought Song for a Scarlet Runner was told in a lovely old-fashioned style, and I love the sense of adventure that runs through it. I also love that this is also a book about the magic and power of story-telling, and there is a strong folklore theme. Peat is a wonderful little character, and the story has a lot to say about courage and selflessness. I was thoroughly charmed by this book.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near

Review


Fairytales for Wilde Girls is a book I went from being thoroughly engrossed in, to thinking it was overwritten, to admiring the luscious descriptions, to feeling a little put off by easy sentimentality, to absolutely loving the bubblegum-goth inspired descriptions, to cringing at a little too much heroine idolising. And yet, Fairytales is a glorious mish-mash of old and young, sweet and bitter, light and dark, classic and unique - so I guess my mixed feelings are quite adequate. Ultimately I quite admire it. It's the kind of writing I was doing and wanted to do in all my own creative writing uni classes, but always felt repressed by students and tutors who wanted serious, hip, navel-gazing statements - 'serious' writing that could only be taken 'seriously' if it was socially and culturally 'serious'. Meanwhile I was writing about trees that uprooted themselves and set off on magical adventures to find water. Fairytales for Wilde Girls speaks to the unadulterated, dreamer me who just wanted my writing to be beautiful.


I do admire creative license when it comes to writing, and lush, creative imagery - although a few instances throughout the book I thought, just a little, it was trying too hard. This relentless style of imagery does suck you in, though, added to the delicious contempo-magic world of Isola. Can a book be gothically sweet? Yes, this one is. It is very whimsical. Although I wish the author had pared back a little when it came to the ending, and tying the story together - it was overly-described, and thus I thought some of the beauty of it was lost.

Fairytales for Wilde Girls is set in among all the things I love - magic, gothic, fairytales, folklore, faerie creatures, coming of age, wicca, secrets, escaping to fantasy places. I love the idea of the six princes, and of having faerie confidants that no one else can communicate with. There are so many ideas here, and they are tied together in a very enthralling way.

The only sub-plot I didn't really care for was Edgar. So Isola got her happily ever after? But for a book that had a very strong feminine, female-orientated focus, I didn't really think the book needed to end with a love declaration to a male character. That is very paranormal-romance for me, and I believe Fairytales was Isola's personal growth story, not a love story.

I love that Random House (my own publishers) have the guts to publish something so unique, risky, and unusual. I don't know if I love it, but I love what it's all about

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ship Kings 02 Voyage of the Unquiet Ice

Review

I love this series. The Ship Kings is fast becoming one of my favourite modern children's series, along with Michelle Lovric's The Undrowned Child, and Helen Dunmore's Ingo (sensing a sea theme, anyone?) The second installment in the Ship Kings, Voyage of the Unquiet Ice, had me enthralled from the get go. If you seriously want adventure - good, old-fashioned adventure, but at the same time modern and fresh - then Ship Kings are the books for you.

Andrew McGahan is a great writer - he knows how to enthrall, how to invoke emotion, how to write beautiful passages that portray a character's feelings, without being pretentious and flowery. Voyage of the Unquiet Ice also benefited greatly from upping the pace a bit: one of the things I thought the first book had working against it. This book, however, is pretty much a non-stop adventure - it is thrilling and dangerous and pushes the characters to their very limits, and it perfectly captures the wonder Dow feels setting out on his first real adventure at sea.

Once again the descriptions of the ocean, and the connection people have to it, are wonderful. The descriptions in general are wonderful - once we get to the 'unquiet ice', McGahan throws us into the cold, the wet, the eerieness, the stillness, the danger, the terrible beauty of the icebergs. The atmosphere leaks onto the pages. The way Dow's life on the ship is described is very informative, but never dry.

I really enjoyed the characters in Voyage of the Unquiet Ice. They are a terrible, brutal, and fascinating bunch, and Dow is a great character to navigate the waters around them. I also found the political side to the story (something which generally loses me in fantasy) easy to comprehend and extremely interesting. Having ship kings politics play out in the background while Dow embarks on his adventures gives the story urgency and weight.

Read these books. Do it. You may struggle to get into them at first because they are quite dense - but persist, because they are fabulous. I haven't enjoyed such a well-written book since I read Seraphina last year. Can't wait until the third one.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

'How Can We Help' my new play at ETC

News

If you head on down to the Essendon Theatre Company (Bradshaw Street, Essendon) tonight you will see my short play being presented on stage by some very talented and very funny actors.

'How Can We Help?' is a short play I wrote for Essendon Theatre Company's second season for 2013, Whatever Comes Along. It is set in the waiting room of a doctor's surgery and follows the dramas and quirks of the five patients waiting to see a doctor, and of course the harried receptionist. It was heaps of fun to write and is even funnier to watch (although I did feel like a bit of a loser laughing at my own jokes!) Directors Rosalin Shafik-Eid and Rhiannon Dhummet have done a great job, and it is really fulfilling to see my words (and also some of my own waiting room experiences) turned into a story on stage.

The show season runs from tonight, 13th June, to Saturday 29th June. All details can be found on the ETC website (www.essendontheatrecompany.com). There are also two other short plays being presented on the night.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles 01) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Review

I chose Beautiful Creatures as my easy holiday read for a recent trip to Hawaii. 'Yes', I thought at the airport, 'A Ya gothic paranormal-romance read, that does sound like perfect escapism for a twelve hour plane trip, no stops.'

Hmmmm.

Instead, I wanted to escape the book. I read it through to the end because I do not like letting books defeat me, and I didn't want to miss out on a big reveal or anything that would happen that was so amazing it would make reading this book worth it.

My main problem with Beautiful Creatures is that it kind of sits at one level for it's one trillion pages (exaggeration). Nothing really happens. At least, I can't remember anything happening. The idea is a good one but the execution was kind of boring. The characters didn't grab me, in fact the only one I think who makes any kind of bang is Ridley.

And our two love interests - well, they don't have the smultzy teeney love stuff that I find commonly infuriating in paranormal YA, but they don't really have any sparks either. I honestly just didn't care how their relationship would end up by the end of the book; the stakes weren't high enough, and trying to connect their love story with the historical love story as played out by the ghosts in the locket - well, sorry, but I don't think much depth was added there either.

The writing is decent, the ideas great, the gothic atmosphere has a definite allure - but the story is dull. I understand there is a lot to build on in the future books, but I found Beautiful Creatures to be written a little lazily, and I don't have much inclination to follow the series through.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New Writing

Author news

I will have some exciting news soon about my next writing project. Stay tuned!

Also here is the link to a really beautiful review by Vicki Stanton, writing for Buzz Words. I love this review because she really seems to understand the raven and what I hoped to convey when I wrote the book. Thank you Vicki for your beautiful words. Link here: Buzz Words Review