Thursday, December 11, 2014

Celebrate Reading YA Conference Recap

Last month, I attended the Celebrate Reading YA Conference held at The Literature Centre in Fremantle, Western Australia.

The Literature Centre supports local and interstate authors and provides writing workshops for students across Western Australia. For more information about what they do, visit their website.

Authors in attendance and speaking on panels were: John Marsden, Melina Marchetta, Vikki Wakefield, AJ Betts, Lucy Christopher, Michael Gerard Bauer, JC Burke, Anthony Eaton, Kirsty Murray and Matt Ottley. As expected, many of us fan-girled over meeting John.

Class Photo! Authors and Lit Centre staff. 
A better photo can be found on their website.

If anyone is interested, click here for a look at the panel sessions.

Anna, from the Centre For Youth Literature in Melbourne, was prolific at tweeting. Me, not so much. Here are some of my favourite quotes and comments from the conference.

Trying not to fan-girl too much in front of John

One of the conference highlights was a screening of Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Ottley. Matt has composed music to go along with a reading of the picture book with his illustrations complimented effectively by a symphony orchestra and seventeen-year-old opera singer, Nina Baumer, as well as narration by sixteen-year-old Kyle Green. 

Created as part of The Literature Centre's The Sound of Picture Books, the video is a remarkable and emotive experience that shares the story of an Australian family placed in the position of refugees. While the book was already an important piece of work, the music and narration adds another dimension and left the audience speechless. Hopefully Matt will eventually make it available on YouTube because it is something everyone should watch, but for the time being it is only available at The Literature Centre's bookshop or via Matt's website under Store > DVDs. I highly recommend it.

I got the chance to speak with Melina about the progress of the On the Jellicoe Road film. She's written the script, which was a struggle, but she is now very happy with it. Melina recently wrote a blog post about it here. Currently searching for funding, Melina will share any news as soon as she can. Follow her blog to be the first to know. Melina also let slip that she would love to film it in the southwest of WA. I can only hope this happens so my friends and I can road trip down south (from Perth) and check out the filming!

And Melina is also writing her first adult novel, which sounds intriguing...

"a thriller set in London revolving around two bombings, thirteen years apart, and the impact it has on the family of the accused." - from Melina's blog

Catching some Fremantle sun with Vikki

We also got a little snippet from Vikki's new book. Get excited!!!

I think I have about four or five pics with Amanda from different events :)

I got to meet Lucy! Have you read Stolen? You should.

Thank you to all the authors who shared their stories, knowledge and inspiration over the weekend and a massive thank you to all the staff at The Literature Centre and the volunteers who helped make the Celebrate Reading Conference a wonderful two days.

PS. Stay tuned for post-Christmas signed giveaways from the conference :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Celebrate Reading YA Conference - This Week!


It's been quite a while since I last blogged and for that I apologise. But I am still here. My work load this year has been crazy (pretty sure I said that last year. Who knew it could get worse?!) and it all just became too much to blog and put in the kind of effort I like to with uni. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right. Right? So sadly, the blog has been on hiatus for most of the year.

Editing my MS at uni last week

But! The semester has three weeks left and then I am all yours again. In the meantime though, I bought tickets earlier this year to attend the Celebrate Reading YA Conference at The Literature Centre in Fremantle (That's in Western Australia, only 30mins from Perth).

I am so beyond excited because some of my favourite authors will be speaking, providing insight into Australian YA literature, which as you guys know, is kinda my thing! It is a two-day conference with each author speaking multiple times. In my eyes, it pretty much can't get any better with John Marsden, Melina Marchetta, Vikki Wakefield and A.J. Betts attending. But it does, get better I mean. Kirsty Murray, J.C. Burke, Anthony Eaton and Michael Gerard Bauer will also be speaking. I mean, seriously!

So to get to my point, the conference is this Friday and Saturday and I will be posting on Facebook and Twitter over the two days with all the awesome stuff that happens.

If you want to find out more about the conference, you can visit the website here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Title: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
Author: Melissa Keil

Release Date: 1st September 2014

My Rating: 5/5

Alba loves her life just as it is. She loves living behind the bakery, and waking up in a cloud of sugar and cinnamon. She loves drawing comics and watching bad TV with her friends.

The only problem is she’s overlooked a few teeny details:

Like, the guy she thought long gone has unexpectedly reappeared.
And the boy who has been her best friend since forever has suddenly gone off the rails. 
And even her latest comic-book creation is misbehaving.

Also, the world might be ending – which is proving to be awkward.

As Doomsday enthusiasts flock to idyllic Eden Valley, Alba’s life is thrown into chaos. Whatever happens next, it’s the end of the world as she knows it. But when it comes to figuring out her heart, Armageddon might turn out to be the least of her problems.

In A Nutshell:
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is a feel-good story with apple strudel, comic books, great friends, and one very adorable, swoon-worthy boy.

My Review:
Alba’s life has always been about her and Grady (besties since the day they were born), comic books, her illustrations, her mum’s bakery, and Eden Valley. But that all changes during the summer after she finishes year 12. 

One of my favourite things about The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is Alba’s friendship group: Grady, Eddie, Caroline, Tia and Pete. The six of them are so close and even though they like a multitude of different things, they are a strong group that is always there for one another. Anyone would be lucky to be in a group like theirs. Unfortunately, with the summer holidays upon them, decisions have to be made. 

Grady and Caroline are desperate to escape their small town and know exactly what they want: for Alba and Tia to go with them. But Tia’s not so sure, especially since her boyfriend Pete thinks he wants to stay in Eden Valley. And Alba, who used to think she had it all worked out, is having second thoughts. Does she stay in Eden with her mum and the bakery, or head to the city with Grady and a potential art-school placement? The prospect of going their separate ways at the end of the year is one that many teens deal with each year, as is the anxiety of what direction their lives will take. 

Adding to the excitement is Armageddon, which a once unknown YouTuber has predicted and declared the only place that will survive is Alba’s town, Eden Valley. Suddenly their valley is filled with outsiders believing the world is about to end on New Years Eve and they are going to party until the end comes, and then have a front row seat to whatever is left. 

For Alba, it all becomes too much when her quiet town turns into a version of Woodstock and the publicity brings back an old friend, now a daytime soap star. Daniel’s arrival sends Alba’s group into a little spin and creates a wedge between Alba and Grady’s once unbreakable friendship. With so much uncertainty in her future, Alba holes herself up in her bedroom illustrating her new character, Cinnamon Girl, and avoiding having to make a decision. Change isn’t always easy, and for Alba, it’s all happening at once.

The potential end of the world mirrors their own personal unknowns for what the future holds, making it the perfect setting to decide what really matters in life and where happiness is found, sometimes in the most unexpected places. From the author who gave us Life in Outer Space, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is a feel-good story with apple strudel, comic books, great friends, and one very adorable, swoon-worthy boy.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Harry Potter Party!

It all started with a letter...

Last night I was lucky enough to be one of twelve guests to attend dinner in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. Hosted by Bryton Taylor of Food in Literature, we dinned on food found throughout the Harry Potter books and marvelled at the talent, time and effort that Bryton put in to recreating the world of Harry Potter. Throughout the night which was attended by friends (many who are book bloggers and food bloggers), we constantly discovered new details that added to the authenticity of the night.

I'll let the pictures tell the story but a great night was had by all.

What are we studying this year?

Advanced Potion Making, anyone?

Preparing potions

Plenty of supplies in the potions storeroom

Thankfully, Snape was not present.

As usual, the ceiling was bewitched to resemble the night sky.

Don't forget to speak clearly when you travel by Floo Powder.

Dobby stopped by for a visit.

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened...
...but never fear, Professor Sprout has some
mandrakes that are almost ready.

As you exit the Great Hall you can pay a visit to Herbology
where the mandrake are growing up nicely! 

The bathroom was complete with a recording of Moaning Myrtle
to keep us company and our very own stained-glass mermaid. 

"Is it illegal to drink and apparate?"

Find Bryton's Butterbeer recipe here.

If you haven't already found your way to Food in Literature, I suggest you check it out. Bryton recreates food found in books and often throws themed parties from which she shares how-to guides on her website. As a long time friend of Bryton's, I have been to many different parties and she just out-does herself time and time again. I don't know how she isn't working behind the scenes in Hollywood!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Title: Wild Awake
Author: Hilary T. Smith

Release Date: 1st October 2013

My Rating: 4/5

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.

In A Nutshell:
Intense, chaotic, messy and impulsive. For the most part, I loved Wild Awake. However I did have a couple of issues with it.

My Review:
I’m not quite sure how to review Wild Awake. It’s intense and chaotic, messy and impulsive, which is generally how you could describe ‘life’. For the most part, I adored Wild Awake, but it is also because of these things that I have issues with it.

Kiri and Skunk are both looking for answers in their own way. Both are trying to stay afloat in a world that likes labels and hiding truths. It’s a story about love, about trying to find beauty and purpose in life, and opening your eyes to experience everything that it has to offer.

Usually an exceptionally responsible seventeen year-old, Kiri’s parents have decided to leave her home alone while they celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary on a cruise. Kiri plans to spend her time practising piano, all day, every day. However, her plans go a little array when she receives a phone call from a strange man claiming to have some of her dead sister’s things. On a mission to reclaim these items, Kiri discovers that the ‘truth’ her parents told her about Sukey’s death, is actually a lie. And so begins Kiri’s search for answers.

What Kiri learns is something she struggles to comprehend and match with the memories she has of Sukey. Kiri goes more than a little ‘off the rails’ and it is here that my love for the novel lessens a bit. Kiri’s behaviour becomes quite drastic and she starts obsessing over everything, doing nothing in moderation and everything in excess. From her piano practice to her drug taking, everything is enhanced and done to within an inch of her life, literally. This is where I find it difficult to really accept the novel. In real life, Kiri would be dead from what she puts her body through. And while I love Kiri’s relationship with Skunk and how his mental illness is handled throughout the book, at the same time, Kiri’s erratic behaviour continues to get worse but she doesn’t really face any of the consequences of what could happen from putting herself in certain situations. I’m not fond of putting age recommendations on books but in this case I would recommend it for older readers (15+) purely for the maturity levels needed to process some of the dangerous situations Kiri puts herself in.

So, like I said, I have mixed feelings. While I love what the novel is about, and the beautiful relationship between Kiri and Skunk, I really wish there was a wake-up call or something for Kiri’s behaviour, at least more than the little we are offered in the second last chapter.

I’d like to leave you now with a link to Reynje’s review over at Wordchasing because I think it beautifully sums up Wild Awake, far better than I ever could, but I also think it is one of the best reviews I have ever read, for anything. 

"There are no mistakes, I realize – just detours whose significance only become clear when you see the whole picture at once."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim

Title: The Astrologer's Daughter
Author: Rebecca Lim

Release Date: 23rd July 2014

My Rating: 4/5

Avicenna Crowe’s mother, Joanne, is an astrologer with uncanny predictive powers and a history of being stalked. Now she is missing.
The police are called, but they’re not asking the right questions. Like why Joanne lied about her past, and what she saw in her stars that made her so afraid.

But Avicenna has inherited her mother’s gift. Finding an unlikely ally in the brooding Simon Thorn, she begins to piece together the mystery. And when she uncovers a link between Joanne’s disappearance and a cold-case murder, Avicenna is led deep into the city’s dark and seedy underbelly, unaware how far she is placing her own life in danger.

Pulse-racing and terrifyingly real, The Astrologer’s Daughter will test your belief in destiny and the endurance of love.

In A Nutshell:
An intriguing mystery set amongst Melbourne’s Chinatown.

My Review:
Having an astrologer for a mother and constantly moving around the country has never been particularly easy for Avicenna Crowe. Joanne is not a fortune teller or a psychic but can read what has been written in your stars from the day you were born. When Joanne reads her own stars and discovers her fate, she disappears without warning leaving her daughter desperate for answers. After contacting the police, the case is handed over to missing persons and Avicenna is faced with prepaid clients desperate for the answers Joanne promised them via their star charts. Avicenna reluctantly carries on her mother’s work, something she has always known how to do but shunned. Even though she just wants to sit in a pile of grief and despair while the police look for her mum, Avicenna decides to honour her mother’s rules of business. Unfortunately, in the process, she stumbles upon a decades old mystery and cold case, placing her in unexpected danger as well as uncovering secrets about her mother and father, and their families.

Set in Chinatown of inner city Melbourne, The Astrologer’s Daughter is gritty and dark but also hopeful and compassionate, simultaneously highlighting the importance of looking beneath the surface of appearances. For Avicenna, she built protective walls around herself long ago in order to avoid getting hurt, but in turn, because of these defence mechanisms, she ends up treating people the very same way she was trying to avoid.

I love a good mystery and I like how a lot of the story-points all tied together. I was a little dissatisfied with the ending and would have liked if certain aspects were elaborated on, however I can’t comment on these without including spoilers.

Overall I really enjoyed The Astrologer’s Daughter. The astrology aspect was interesting and the mystery of both where her mother is and the cold case, kept the story moving with intrigue. I would love to see more of Avicenna (and Simon) in a sequel and it did seem like there would be further opportunities to expand their storylines. Fingers crossed.

Thank you to Text Publishing for providing me with this review copy.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Notes From The Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Title: Notes From The Blender
Author: Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Release Date: 24th May 2011

My Rating: 3/5

Declan loves four things: Scandinavian death metal, violent video games, Internet porn, and Neilly Foster. He spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to talk to her, date her, maybe even brush against her chest in the hallway.

Neilly is naturally beautiful and a fixture at all the best parties (to which Declan is never invited). But in one horrible day, she gets dumped by her boyfriend, is betrayed by her former BFF, and walks in on her mom with some stranger.

Turns out the stranger is Declan's dad. And he's marrying Neilly's mom. Soon. Which means Dec and Neilly will be siblings.

In a hilarious, smart, and seductive romp, Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin take us on a journey with Dec and Neilly as they discover the true meaning of family.

In A Nutshell:
Notes from the Blender is a realistic novel about forgiveness, lust, betrayal and embarrassment. It contains conflicting personalities, a full spectrum of emotions and explores the changing landscape of a family. 

My Review:
The blurb kind of says it all. Told in the alternating perspectives of Declan and Neilly, Notes From the Blender explores the rollercoaster ride that happens when two families join together, made that much harder considering Dec and Neilly didn’t even know their parents were dating!

It’s a whole lot of ‘new family’ for Neilly with a second stepbrother also on the cards as her dad is set to walk down the aisle with his business partner, Roger. As for Declan, he battles internally and lashes out at his dad at the thought of his mother being replaced, who died when Dec was nine.

Aside from the fact that Declan’s dad and Neilly’s mum sprung the whole relationship and marriage thing on the kids without any warning, I think they are terrific parents. I really like the interactions not just between each of them and their biological offspring, but also their future stepson/daughter.

Dec and Neilly’s interactions throughout the story are not entirely predictable which makes for a nice change. There is also the valuable life lesson about not judging people before getting to know them which occurs not just between Neilly and Dec, but other characters as well.

Notes from the Blender is a realistic novel about forgiveness, lust, betrayal and embarrassment. It contains conflicting personalities, a full spectrum of emotions and explores the changing landscape of a family.
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