Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What caught my literary eye this week.....

  • This new (or perhaps I should say latest) illustrated edition of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. It looks gorgeous, and to be honest, I'm really a fan of anything or any edition that keeps pushing Peake's books into the limelight. When I first discovered this trilogy, and Peake's writing, in my first year of university, I felt like my mind had been blown open by the most intense amount of creativity and ideas and just plain gorgeous, amazing writing. How had I never heard of this man and his books before? These books, to me, are genius. I would even say illuminating. Cannot talk them up highly enough.
  • Australian fantasy writer Sara Douglass passed away today, age 54. She was the author of the Axis trilogy and more than a dozen other books that have sold millions of copies worldwide. She twice won the Aurelius Award for Best Fantasy novel. Douglass was something of a queen in fantasy literature, but also an academic, and what I always loved the most, a woman who was more than willing to share with others her thoughts and advice on writing. She was one of the first authors I latched onto in my teens when I went through my fantasy-book stage (I still occassionally get resurges every now and then - but never as strong as I did then - the awesomeness of the LOTR movies has got something to answer for). Loved Douglass' characters, loved her attitude, loved her books, and love what she did for the Aussie fantasy genre.
  • ABC radio station's plans to change the format of the The Book Show program, on Radio National. I hope they don't mess with it too much - Aussie radio needs that focus and coverage on books and literature. The Book Show helped make many early-morning work days that much more bearable and I would hate to see it messed around with.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Literary Musings

"It's a bit magic, the sea, I think; put its call in you, and forever after it can tweak you by the nose, by that smell, any time."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Night Lights Wins

I know it's a bit overdue, but I just have to share my excitement over Kyle Chandler winning the 2011 Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama series. When I saw this in my news feed a few days ago, yes, I probably did give an embarrasing little fist pump.
But so well deserved - Chandler and Connie Britton as  his wife Tami were just so wonderful - they are my favourite husband and wife team on television and their relationship was portrayed beautifully. I love how Coach Taylor could be so stubborn but cared so much about his family and the team and the individuals that made it up. I love that he could be so inspiring and so moving, and I love all his little funny moments - when he snuck in a few snarky words or a look it was gold. I love Friday Night Lights and I love Coach Taylor and this win was just the perfect way to end the series.

Friday Night Lights writer Jason Katims also won for best writing.  
For all those who have not yet jumped on the Friday Night Lights hype, it will be well worth your time and emotions. It is like if you had the best, most awesome, most hilarious, most inspiring, most touching YA series that you just couldn't put down - I think I seriously watched a whole season in about two days once.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Night Fairy, by Laura Amy Schlitz

First published by Candlewick Press in 2010

There is something very satisfying about holding such high expectations for a book, for quite a long time, and then having them met. The Night Fairy was like that for me. When I first saw it in the bookstore last year, it looked like a classic, it looked like it would be good and something I would enjoy reading. I am not sure exactly how a book ‘looks’ like a classic, but this one did. And I say now that it reads like a classic, without really knowing why – it’s just a feeling you get, I suppose. I really enjoyed The Night Fairy and think it does everything right.

Young fairy Flora is a night fairy, out enjoying the night and her beautiful wings when a bat comes along and accidentally and regretfully bites them off. Flora must then learn to live and adapt to life without wings, discover what she is capable of, and find out that the world can be very big, unfair, and dangerous, and she must do whatever it takes to survive.

The writing in The Night Fairy is simple, but I say deceptively, because there is a lot on stuff going on behind the gentle, lush descriptions and easy language. The writing flows, and it flows wonderfully. We drift towards each part of the garden and each new adventure/discovery and the writing is funny when it needs to be, thrilling when it needs to be, and tender when the moment requires it. There is never a distinctive shift between these changes, it just is, and for me this is the best kind of writing.

And how wonderful it is to see a fictional fairy with so much personality – I think she is a wonderful heroine for young girls. I love that she is feisty and stubborn and even sometimes quite boorish, but still has such a capacity to learn and admit when she may be wrong, without having her morals and beliefs compromised. She is resourceful and smart and determined, but still has compassion and the ability to look beyond her initial misgivings. This was especially prominent in the way she learned to overcome and understand the source of her greatest fear. I also liked how she subtly learned that there is more to her relationships with other creatures  than just what they can do for her in return – Schlitz lets it play out quite winningly and naturally but leave all schmaltziness at the door.

The backyard setting is great, and the way we are introduced to it from the perspective of a fairy not even the size of two acorns. I love when this technique works well – I think it is also a great and imaginative way of teaching kids to think outside the square.

The Night Fairy was a winner for me, and one I would reccommend for every school library. Smart, charming heroine, beautifully simple writing, rich imagination and a story that can teach us things in the best kind of way. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's all about ME

Whooooooo I just signed a very wonderful piece of paper called an Agency Agreement ... which means I now have a lovely Literary Agent to call my own.

Nothing to get excited about yet, but a very much appreciated, sought after, and magical little bit of news nevertheless.

But ohhhhhh I am well aware the hard work has just begun ...... I'll let you know when I get that $1,000,000 advance ;)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Undine by Penni Russon

First published in 2004 by Random House Australia

I really love Penni Russon. I have done a few writerly things with her and found her a really fantastic teacher; seen her on some panels and regularly check in with her lovely blog, Despite this, I have never actually read one of her novels. I’m not really sure how that happened, but I saw Undine at the library about a month ago and snatched it up.

Undine is a coming-of-age story that mixes contemporary YA with some magical elements and a little bit of mythology. Undine is sixteen, and going through a bit of a rough patch with her usually beloved mother, Lou. She keeps hearing a voice: Undine, Undine, it’s time to come home. She has also found herself the recipient of some unusual and frightening powers, and with the sudden attentions of not one but three guys. Her best friend and next-door-neighbour Trout is the only one who really fully understands her powers and can help, but the unreciprocated crush he harbours for Undine makes things a bit complicated. When Undine finally follows the voice, she finds it harder and harder to not give in to the power inside her ... which may just have consequences for everyone.

Russon is a lovely writer. Her prose here is dreamy and whimsical and matched quite perfectly to Undine’s experiences. It is also quite elemental, by which I mean the prose kind of snatches bits of the sky and the earth and the air and sensation and feeling and loops them in and out of the paragraphs. There is an ease to reading this book.  A few times I thought it was a little overdone, specifically with how Undine was feeling, but then again it does mimic that kind of angsty disconnection of the teenage years.

There are some cute characters – I love Trout and his endearing awkwardness and I loved little Jasper – he was so very cute without being annoyingly cutesy. Undine’s other two love interests were okay but I kind of wished that not every boy Undine encountered fell in love with her. I understood why Russon may have written it that way but stories where the main character has to deal with all these people being in love with her (gosh, that’s just so darn hard ;)!!!) do tend to annoy me a little bit. Lou was quite fabulous, though – great portrayal of conflicting emotions and not just stereotyping her as a ‘mother figure.’

A nice little coming-of-age story, paired very well with the magic elements and an overall theme of water and the ocean. I agree with some other reviews that the plot could have been filled out a little bit more, and the way Undine’s magic actually works, but I guess that’s what the second and third books are for.