Thursday, 27 January 2011


By Kate Brian

Lila Beckwith has the perfect life. She has the looks, the body the popular group of friends, the perfect boyfriend and is about to throw the party of the year.

There’s only one thing in her life that isn’t perfect and that’s her 8 year old brother Cooper.

First he tells her parents about the party. Lila is forced to cancel it- putting her perfect social image at risk, is grounded and better still her parents now refuse to buy her a car which she was promised.

Secondly Cooper and his friend Tyler take off on a cross country adventure. Lila now has to work with Tyler’s brother Beau to find the boys and bring them home before their parents find out.
And thirdly Beau is Lila’s ex boyfriend. He has an obvious lack of fashion sense, hosts an ‘I hate the world attitude’ and thinks that Lila is fake and self absorbed. And she’s stuck in the car with him for two days straight. Could things get any worse?

Full of fun and mischief Ex-mas is a great read for anyone who loves teen romance stories.


Tuesday, 25 January 2011


'The Greengage Summer' by Rumer Godden is one of my all-time favourites; a beautiful and perceptive coming-of-age classic that I have read and re-read. Perfect summer reading.

'You need to learn...what I cannot teach you' said Mother. And so, she and her brood of five children travel to rural France so the children can see firsthand the graves and sacrifice men and women made in the battlefields of World War One.

And in a way the children do learn, too, as they spend the summer in southern France.

But the lessons are not what they expected.

To begin with, the children's mother becomes ill and the children are largely left to their own devices when they reach France. Around them are an assortment of adults who are unlikely parenting substitutes.

Days turn into weeks and a mystery unfolds in which the children become unwitting participants.

Rural France is stunningly portrayed. The descriptions of the summer, the orchards, the river, the minutiae of hotel life will have you almost living and breathing a piece of France.


Taylor Swift- Speak Now

'These songs are made up of words I didn't say when the moment was right in front of me. These songs are open letters. Each is written with a specific person in mind, telling them what I meant to tell them in person.'

Speak Now is the adequately named third album from singing sensation Taylor Swift and it sees an evolution of Taylor’s skill as a singer-songwriter. Critics say that Swift is undeserving of the accolades she’s received, she doesn’t have the strongest voice out there, but one cannot discredit her song writing skills, showcased on Speak Now.
Once again Swift is singing about life, love and boys although this time the songs come from personal experience rather than her fanciful ideas of love. Many public questions are answered on the album; ‘Innocent’ was inspired by the incident of the VMA’s last year. Taylor also offers an apology to ex Taylor Launter in ‘Back to December’, a beautifully constructed ballad. She slams John Mayer (who would have believed that!) in ‘Dear John’, using the electric blues style that John Mayer’s is the master of, to convey her message. Some have dubbed this her best song yet. ‘Better than revenge’ is a scathing attack on ‘an actress/ better known for what she does on the mattress.’ OUCH! ‘Mean’ sticks to her country roots while sticking it to all her critics out there but my personal favorite is ‘Never grow up’, an ode to mothers, daughters and the innocence of youth (have a listen below).
Speak Now is Swift growing up she experiments with different styles, rhythms and emotions. Some songs may not appear to be ‘Taylor’ made but it’s good to see her spreading her wings musically. What makes Taylor Swift such a sensation in the music world is the fact that she intelligently connects with her audience with open and honest lyrics making you feel like a friend rather than a fan. At twenty Taylor is just at the beginning of her career and it must be said that greater things are to come for this singing superstar. But for now Speak Now is out and it’s one album that is worth the hour of your time (yes it runs for an hour and four minutes) it takes to get through the collection of 14 songs.

Courtney :)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Author Interview - Wendy Orr

Photo by Roger Gould

Wendy Orr's junior novel Nim’s Island has been published in 24 countries around the world. In 2008 it became a Hollywood feature film starring Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin and Gerard Butler. Her latest release is the picture book The Princess and her Panther. Raven’s Mountain, an adventure novel for middle grade readers, will be published by Allen & Unwin in February.

What authors/books did you read as a child? When did you first discover your love of books?

The love of stories, books and being read to goes back earlier than I can remember; the passion for reading books for myself – and perhaps the start of wanting to write them – wasn’t till I was nearly 7. We lived in France, so I’d learned to read and write with rather boring French readers. However one night before we moved back to Canada, my parents left three ‘Dick and Jane’ readers on my bedside table for me to find. I’ve never forgotten the thrill of reading real stories in my own language!

When did you first realise you were a writer?

When I sat at the coffee table and began writing, “Glossy the Horse or Shetland Pony,” when I was seven. However I didn’t believe I was an author till “Leaving it to You” was shortlisted, many years later!

What do you hope your readers will take away with them from reading your books?

I’m never sure about this question… I’d like them to take away a feeling of their lives being enriched in some way; depending on the genre, I think that means of having lived in someone else’s shoes or been captivated by the fun of word play and story.

Do you find it difficult to read purely for pleasure?

No; when I find a good book I am quickly immersed in it – but I can’t read something that I feel is sloppily written.

Does everything you read come under your ‘writer’ microscope?

I suppose my answer above means it does, but if the book’s good I am simply swept along with it and enjoy the fact that someone has written so well. If I don’t enjoy a book that has had rave reviews I do often spend a long time pondering why I can’t agree, and where I think it’s gone wrong.

Do you have to avoid reading certain types of fiction while writing your own?

Not any more; I used to be more easily swayed when I was still finding my own voice. However when I’m starting a new book I often can’t read any fiction for a week or two.
Does what you read while writing have an effect on what you write? In what way? I don’t think it affects what I’m writing at that moment, but every book one loves and gets involved with must bleed into the subconscious to some extent.

Name five authors or books that have influenced or inspired your own writing in some way?
Mary Renault; Rosemary Sutcliff; Rumer Godden; The Queen’s Music; Mary Poppins

If you were travelling and were told you could only take one book with you, what book would it be and why?

Possession by AS Byatt – because it’s very long, has three different story strands, and requires deep reading. Also I love it!

What makes a book ‘too good to put down’?

Involvement with the characters, and truly caring what happens to them.

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

Sloppy writing; repetition that should have been edited out, or stereotypical characters that I don’t care about.

Do you have a favourite author? Who is it and what is it about their writing that draws you to them?

Probably AS Byatt, because of the depth of her stories and the beauty of her writing. However you can’t please all the people all the time: I felt that The Children’s Book had so many side stories and lectures that she could have edited it down by a third.

What was your 2010 ‘best read’? What was it that made it number one?
It’s between Cassandra Gold’s Museum of Mary Child, which was beautiful, engrossing, and highly original, and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance (which is quite old but I hadn’t read till now) – I was totally engrossed by the characters, story, and writing, and felt that it prepared me for a visit to India far better than any non fiction every could have.

What do you think of the non-traditional publishing methods – eBooks etc? Do you think the new technology will encourage more people to read? Do you think there’s a future for print books?

I think there’s a future for print books, but maybe more in the way that there are still beautiful hardcovers around – maybe it will be just the books that we really care about and want to keep physically. My sample of one is my daughter, in her 20’s, who’s found she’s reading a lot more since she’s had an iPad, partly because she travels a great deal and so can take several books with her for any flight. As well as reading her way through the classics, if she sees a review of a book that sounds interesting, she purchases and downloads it immediately. (Whereas I’ve often forgotten the review by the next time I go to town and into a physical bookshop!)

Wendy started writing seriously in 1986, with her picture book Amanda's Dinosaur. In 1993 Leaving it to You was shortlisted for the CBCA awards, junior readers; Ark in the Park won the same award in 1995. Peeling the Onion, based on a serious car accident Wendy had in 1991, was widely published internationally, with awards including the CBCA Honour Book, older readers, in 1997, and an American Library Association Book for older readers. LOST: A Dog Called Bear, the first of the Rainbow Street Animal Shelter series, will be released by Henry Holt in the North American spring 2011. Find out more at

Monday, 17 January 2011

Bad Boy + Good Girl = Perfect Chemistry

What happens when your heart refuses to listen?
What happens when your head refuses to conform?
What happens when you challenge everything you’ve been told you are?
Alex Fuentes and Brittany Ellis are about to find out!

Ask Alex Fuentes who Brittany Ellis is and he’ll tell you she’s a blonde, stuck up rich kid. Brittany Ellis would tell you that Alex Fuentes is a gang banger and drug dealer with no hope. But when paired up for chemistry class these two are about to find out how wrong they are. Brittany has a sick sister and a complex with being ‘Perfect’. Alex is the man of the house,jumped into the ‘Latino Blood’ to protect his family and trying to stay as clean as is possible while in a gang. It doesn’t take them long to realize that the other is not what they expected. Soon they find themselves impacting one another’s lives in ways they never imagined

A romance tale this Perfect Chemistry is, a modern day Romeo and Juliet, but Elkeles takes the story one step further by exploring the pressure that teens feel to fit into their ‘roles’ deemed for them by society and the ‘roles’ they want to play for themselves. The story takes a while to get going and I’ll admit the characters in the beginning appear one dimensional but give this book a shot and you’ll find a beautifully written tale about a boy and girl falling in love and discovering who they are.

Next in the series is Rules of Attraction and if you fell in love with Alex just wait until you meet his brother Carlos. Check out the trailer for Rules of Attraction below.

Courtney :)

The sky is everywhere

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, follows a girl whose sister has recently died. It shows the weeks after the death where Lennie falls in love and tries to get a grip on life. It has amazing poetry throughout it (she scatters her poems across town) and is really deep and meaningful as well as funny.

It's well worth the read!

Shelver - Narre Warren Library

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Author Interview - Sherryl Clark

Have you ever wondered what writers read? I decided to ask some authors to answer that very question and more. This is the first in a series of author interviews to come during 2011.

Enjoy! - Lisa.

Sherryl Clark is an Australian writer who writes mainly for young readers - her latest book Meet Rose (the 1st book in a new series Our Australian Girl published by Penguin) is due for release on Jan 31st.

What authors/books did you read as a child? When did you first discover your love of books?

I basically read everything I could get my hands on! My country school got boxes of books from the School Library Service every three months, which was never enough for me. I joined the town library when I was about 11, I think, and went berserk. Favourite authors were Arthur Ransome, TH White, Malcolm Saville and, yes, Enid Blyton. But the big winner was the Narnia series – my sister gave me ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ first and I was hooked.

When did you first realise you were a writer? What do you hope your readers will take away with them from reading your books?

I didn’t start writing seriously until I was close to 30. That was also when I went back to school and did an arts degree at Deakin, with a major in Literary Studies (and writing). It took longer than that to feel like a writer, though. Publication helps! I hope that a reader will love the world and the characters I’ve created, and want more – more books, by anyone. If I can help a child to become a keen reader, I’m happy. With my adult fiction, I guess I want a reader to take away more than just what’s on the page, something to think about. A big challenge as a writer.

Do you find it difficult to read purely for pleasure? Does everything you read come under your ‘writer’ microscope?

I do read for pleasure all the time. I’m a reading addict. If I am somewhere where I have to wait and I have nothing to read, I get twitchy! I do read as a writer all the same, although I’ve been doing it for so many years that it’s like a computer program running in the background – it logs on when I read something I think I can use in class, or learn from.

Do you have to avoid reading certain types of fiction while writing your own? Does what you read while writing have an effect on what you write? In what way?

If I’m writing something historical (like my pirate novel) I avoid similar kinds of novels in that age group, but I’ll maybe read a Bernard Cornwell just to see how he manages the factual detail, and how he weaves it into the story. That feeds into what I’m writing on a craft level, but I think I read so much that no single book influences me. However, I have written the start of something a couple of times and then realised it’s too close to a book I’ve read, so I’ve had to throw it out.

Name five authors or books that have influenced or inspired your own writing in some way?

“The Bone People” by Keri Hulme was a book that changed the way I thought about books and how they could be structured. Billy Collins’ poetry always inspires me. Sharon Creech’s verse novel “Love That Dog” was what led me to writing verse novels for kids myself, I think. Michael Connelly – he’s a crime writer who talks about “the telling detail” in setting. I also like James Lee Burke for the same reason – great details and settings.

If you were travelling and were told you could only take one book with you, what book would it be and why?

To be honest, I couldn’t pick just one. I couldn’t stand having to slave over Proust or James Joyce because I felt I should! And once I’ve read a book, I rarely ever want to read it again. These days, I’d cheat and take an e-reader and a power source and about 1000 books on the one device.

What makes a book ‘too good to put down’?

Characters that intrigue me, that I care about, who have interesting things happen to them both outside and inside. Plot on its own is not enough, language and style is not enough. I think I like diving into other people’s (characters’) lives.

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

Boring or unlikeable characters. My pet hate is the male character in his late 30s who has just discovered life sucks and can’t deal with it. I think I just dislike characters who are pathetic or apathetic in some way. I can’t wait 250 pages for them to get a grip!

Do you have a favourite author? Who is it and what is it about their writing that draws you to them?

At the moment, my favourite is Kate Atkinson. I’ve just read the four Jackson Brodie novels and loved both her style and voice. Also her range of characters and how she weaves their lives together. She always surprises you and yet everything works.

What was your 2010 ‘best read’? What was it that made it number one?

“Case Histories” by Kate Atkinson – it’s great when you discover a writer whose books you haven’t read before and you love their writing. And you know there are more to come! (See above)

What do you think of the non-traditional publishing methods – eBooks etc? Do you think the new technology will encourage more people to read? Do you think there’s a future for print books?

I hope there’s still a future for print books! I hope we’ll continue to have print books for kids for a very long time, especially picture books. Books can be really precious possessions, things to hug and put under your pillow! But I’m moving to ebooks myself for several reasons – one is that books are just too expensive in Australia. $36 for a paperback! And a lot of them I no longer want to keep on a shelf as I have no room, so having them digitally will mean I think I’ll actually buy more, as long as the e-versions are cheaper. Also I’m the person who’s always over my luggage weight at the airport because of my books, so an ebook reader will be a bonus there, too. But books I want to keep, I’ll buy in print. I’ve heard of people reading ebooks and then buying the print version to make sure they never lose them. Print books just feel more permanent and real to me.

Sherryl started writing poetry and adult fiction in the 1980s. Her first children’s book, The Too-Tight Tutu, was published in 1997, and she now has more than 40 books in print. Her verse novel Farm Kid won the 2005 NSW Premier’s Literary Award for children’s books, and her second verse novel, Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!) was an Honour Book in the 2008 CBCA Awards. Other recent titles include Motormouth, One Perfect Pirouette and her picture book of poems, Now I Am Bigger. Her books have been published in Australia and overseas.
Sherryl teaches in the Diploma of Arts – Professional Writing and Editing at Victoria University TAFE. Her website is at

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Skate, scoot and ride

Cardinia Shire Council Youth Services presents

Date: Sunday 30 January 2011
Time: 10am. Registrations at 9am
Where: Pakenham Skate Park, PB Ronald Reserve
John Street, Pakenham (Melway ref: 317 8E)
Entry: $5 for ALL categories, U13, U16 and OPEN
Participants must wear helmets and bring their safety equipment.
Skate, Scooter and BMX professional demonstrations on the day PLUS
Council’s MYBus.

Entry forms available online or
contact Council’s Youth Services on 1300 787 624.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Annexed: Life with Anne Frank

“How can I tell of this?” I ask her in despair.

“Put it into words,” she whispers, “and begin.”

“Are there words for this?”

“What else have we?”

And so I begin.

A thirteen year old girl and a sixteen year old boy enter a secret annexe where they will spend two years of their lives in confined isolation. They clash at first; she’s a darling and he’s a sulk but before long the pair are unexpectedly falling in love. This is the tale of Anne Frank and the boy she loved, Peter van pels (van daan in Anne’s diary). Over 31 million people have read Anne’s version of their blossoming love story, Dogar delivers a possible representation of what it was like for Peter being ‘Annexed’. How did Peter feel about being hidden, being Jew and what did he feel for Anne?
Sharon Dogar tells Peter’s story on two fronts, the first being the two years in hiding and the other Peter’s last days in the concentration camp. Both stories are intermittently entwined to emotionally impact the reader to the horrors these kids ( as well as others) incurred during the holocaust. Peter is constantly asking ‘Do you understand?’, and although only those who lived it can truly understand it, if even then, Dogar’s account is fresh look at one of the most horrific events in recent history.
Although I knew how the story ended, having read Anne’s diary and other materials, I was still gripped to the very end of this novel, because although on the face of it the novel is fiction ‘this is not a story. This is the truth. These things really happened.’ (even if maybe they didn’t happen to Peter.) Annexed is compelling, devastating and tragically honest. This is one book that cannot go unread.

Courtney :)

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