Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Beauty Queens

'Beauty Queens' is a clever and zany novel by American author, Libba Bray.
The story begins when a plane, carrying a group of U.S. teenage beauty queen contestants, crashes into a secluded jungle island.
There are some survivors and these girls scramble to retrieve any objects they can from the crash (shoes, lip gloss, leg wax etc.)
Taylor (Miss Texas) becomes their leader ('y'all come on down and gather round, horseshoe formation!') She is determined that standards must be upheld and attempts to maintain pageant practice each morning.
Meanwhile, the girls are unaware that 'their' island is about to become the location for an illegal weapons trade, and some very dangerous people are already living there.
Then - a further complication - reality TV pirates show up. The pirates happen to be around the same age as the girls.....
There are many things to like about this book. On one level it operates as a parody of reality/TV shows. For instance, witty comments are made about the TV serial, 'Lost', and the novel 'Lord of the Flies.'
There is depth too. The girls begin to develop as individuals and begin to wonder if they needed an island to find themselves.
Happy reading!


Monday, 18 July 2011

Hate List

The hate list was my idea
It was just a way of venting
I didn’t mean for anyone to die…
Did I?

When Valerie and Nick stated writing their ‘Hate List’ it was a simple means of venting anger but when Nick used that list to pick targets in his shooting rampage on the school cafeteria Val’s life spiralled out of control. What happened that day? What happened to Nick, the boy she loved? And how did she not see the signs? After months in seclusion Val must now face the world, accept the role she played in the tragedy, her lingering feelings for Nick and her relationships with friends, family and enemies. Val is walking the journey between who she thought she was and who she will become.

Hate List is a startling and confronting novel about a tragedy that is fast becoming common place in our society. Brown bravely and faithfully tackles the sensitive subject, presenting all points of views. Despite the title I found that by the end of the novel I ‘hated’ no one. Nick is sympathetic as his plight through bullying at the hands of his classmates is relived through Val’s memories. Val’s guilt ridden journey endears her to the reader and even those kids who earned their spots on the hate list are not portrayed as ‘bad’ but just typical teenagers. Hate list is an honest and faithful account of life as a teenager and is a must read for every teen.

Courtney :)

Friday, 8 July 2011

Interview - Sue Lawson

Sue Lawson has been a teacher, radio announcer and producer, an attendant at the MCG, swimming teacher, shop assistant, nightclub DJ and babysitter. She now spends most of her time doing what she’s passionate about – writing, reading and being with young people.

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

My grandmother was an English teacher and my dad an avid reader, so I don’t remember ever being without books. Stories were my escape and education. I can remember weekly visits to the local library with my mum, brothers and sister where I’d borrow as many books as I was allowed.

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

Gosh it took a long, long time for me to realise I was a ‘real’ writer – probably not until after my fifth book was published. I am still very much learning the craft and feel like a bit of a fraud saying I’m a writer, but if I’m asked, I do say I’m an author. I hope readers come away from my books with a sense of hope and a stronger sense of empathy for others. I hope readers will be moved in some way – either to laugh, cry or be angry – and that they will have felt for my characters.

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

I do read for pleasure, but since I’ve been writing, I find myself stopping to admire a sentence, to ponder a twist, how a story is constructed or simply to marvel at a writer’s skill. I’m more appreciative of what goes on to create a book these days, and so probably approach reading with a little more reverence.

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?

Generally my reading life and writing life are separate. I write middle to young adult fiction, but read whatever appeals to me – adult, junior, middle, YA fiction, non fiction, magazines, and newspapers. Books influence me in that I may find a technique I would like to try, or they may show me a different way to approach a story. Newspapers, magazines and non fiction books can be a source of ideas – an image, idea or question may buzz around my brain like a mozzie, weeks after I’ve read about it. I know that deserves attention.

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

One book? That would be too cruel. Hmmm. Probably The Lord of the Rings (yes it’s a trilogy, but I’m counting it as one!) or To Kill A Mocking Bird.

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

Great, believable characters, a strong voice and an original idea.

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

I rarely put a book down without finishing it – but I will if the characters don’t grab me. If I don’t care about them, I find it hard to connect to the story. Having said that, I didn’t like the characters in The Slap much but finished the book and the story has stayed with me long after I completed it.

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

Again with the one? So hard! ;) Tim Winton (and Robert Drewe.) I love their style, voice, imagery and …everything!

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

Another toughie that I can’t keep to one…

Six by Karen Tayleur. Six is complex, yet simple, clever and confronting. Look, just read it!

The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins. What a brilliant idea and terrific characters. Loved the first two books, but not as keen on the third. Sinister, frightening and thrilling.

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’m a dinosaur and love books. I would hate to think there would ever be a world without them. To quote Jerry Seinfeld – ‘A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking ’

I have nothing against eBooks or their growth, but I prefer to hold a book. I find my eyes tire of reading the screen, so I can read a book for longer.

Do I think the new technology will encourage people to read? Yes I do. Kids are so computer wired now, I can see them preferring it, but I can’t see the total demise of the book either. A picture book on the screen just wouldn’t be the same.

Sue runs fun, positive, fast-paced workshops for students, teachers and adults. Her books include the re-released 'Diva' series and young adult novels, Dare You, After, Finding Darcy and the award winning, Allie McGregor's True Colours.

Find out more about Sue at www.suelawson.com.au

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

When You Reach Me

'When You Reach Me' by Rebecca Stead won the acclaimed Newbury Award in the US in 2010.

It is a delightful and clever story about family, friendship and time travel.

12 year old Miranda lives in a flat in New York City. Up until recently, she and her best friend, a boy called Sal, have been almost inseparable. Together they negotiated the tough New York streets to and from school.

But things are changing, and after Sal is inexplicably punched by a stranger, Sal has been avoiding Miranda.

Thrown in to this mix is Miranda's family situation. She and her mother live in a relatively poor area. They have big plans though, as her mother has finally been chosen as a contestant on the TV game show, the $20,000 pyramid. Both mother and daughter have ideas of what they will do if/when Miranda's mother wins!

Then there are the mysterious notes that Miranda has been receiving. Who has been leaving these notes for her?

Deft storyline that ties all the pieces of this novel together.


Monday, 4 July 2011

Exile- Rebecca Lim

Mercy is a wandering soul
Wretched from one body to the next
She never remembers anything, until now…

For those of you who haven’t hooked into this fabulous new series by a great Aussie author have a read of Mercy. Mercy is an angel exiled from heaven for a crime she can’t remember, doomed to repeatedly wake in the body of another never remembering the last life she lived. That is Mercy’s fate. All she knows is her beloved Luc and those keeping her from him. But this time something is different. Mercy has woken in the body of Lela Neill, a waitress conflicted over her desires to care for her sick mother and to be a young carefree woman, her memory is no longer evading her and soon she finds herself remembering the mortal boy Ryan, the possible key to her salvation. But who Mercy can trust remains a mystery. Her trust in her beloved Luc is wavering and her confusion about the eight, who condemned her to this fate, is strengthening. Exile reveals more of Mercy’s story as well as a band of colourful and engaging new characters. Best of all Exile ends with a BANG…literally!!!

I LOVED Exile, in fact I think I love this whole series. Lim has taken the supernatural genre to a whole new level with an engaging story, intriguing characters and great storytelling. What’s great about this series is its complete unpredictability. I honestly have no idea who Mercy is (though have twigged to who Luc is) or where this story is going. The ending of Exile had me totally shocked so engaged in the character that I too missed the little hints that were dropped about just what was going to happen. This is a superb novel from a great Aussie writer and one book that is defiantly worth the time to read.

Courtney :)

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