Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ten Mile River

You wouldn't think that 'Ten Mile River', by Paul Griffin, would be his debut novel. But it is - a strong accomplished read that perfectly captures the life and language of New York City teenagers.

Ray and Jose are living rough and on the wrong side of the law. They were both brought up in foster homes and consider themselves closer than brothers. They are surrounded by shady characters who generally try to take advantage of them.

Like Jerry, for instance, who manipulates them into stealing cars. On one memorable occasion the boys' efforts go pear shaped as Ray swerves a stolen car to avoid hitting a squirrel, leading to their apprehension. Jose's struggles with the English language are a constant source of amusement throughout the novel.

'You go right, I'll' go left,' says Jose as they sneak around an empty house. They both go right.

Or when Jose describes an employer they both respect as a 'father figurine'.

Amidst the rough and tumble of their lives is Trini, the beautiful but incompetent hairdresser, who Ray adores but who ends up going out with Jose.

I didn't want this book to end, and look forward to further novels by this author.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Out for Blood

The novel Out for Blood, written by Alyxandra Harvey, is the third book in the Drake Chronicles. It is classified as a novel for young adults and focuses on the story on Quinn Drake, a vampire, and Hunter Wild, a vampire hunter, as they struggle to protect their families and friends from the Hel-Blars whilst trying to deny their attraction to each other. In this novel you experience the story from the point of view of both Quinn and Hunter and witness how their attraction to each other begin to grow in the midst of all the danger and schemes surrounding them. While the novel is a romance it is also full of a lot of action that will keep you entertained.
I found this novel very interesting and it has now become one of my favourite novels to read. This novel is unique to other novels I've read because the female lead is not weak and dependent on the male to protect her. Rather she is head strong and very capable in defending herself and her loved ones all on her own. This novel is action packed and filled with romance, action and a hint of comedy. A very good read for those who are into vampires and action.

T.N (work experience student)
Endeavour Hills Library

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Interview - Alice Pung

Alice Pung’s first book Unpolished Gem won the Australian Book Industry Book of the Year 2007, and was nominated for numerous other awards. Though Alice's books are sold as 'adult' fiction/biography, as a young writer, and because schools take her books on as texts, I thought her interview belonged here. I hope you enjoy it!

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

I first discovered my love of books when I started reading Judy Blume in Grade Four. I loved authors who wrote stories about children, teenagers and young adults who were entirely believable characters - with real thoughts (as opposed to ‘right’ thoughts and actions all the time), and yet a certain turn in circumstances would catapult them into making difficult decisions or take them to dangerous fantasy places. I read John Marsden, Sonya Hartnett, Robert Cormier, Lois Lowry and Paul Zindel.

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 wrote when I was young as a way of taking myself away from a life I didn’t particularly understand. Popular culture, and television, and even most of the books I was reading - aside from the authors mentioned above - were putting forward a certain vision of what things were like for young adults - it was either extremely depressing or peppily gleeful; nothing like growing up behind a carpet factory where you return home from your private school every day to an entirely different sort of world, populated by another language and set of rules and responsibilities. To me, books were an ultimate escape.

Most of my stories are about small joys and disappointments, and I focus on characters more than anything else. What makes a person the way they are? I am interested in writing about families, because they are often the biggest influence on you before you have any sort of real power or independence of your own; and yet our nuclear lives are kept so private. I hope that no one sees my work as ‘ethnic literature’ or reads every sentence I write as a reflection on ‘culture’, because I write about people, not concepts.

I hope that people can identify with the quirks and fallibilities of my characters, because I write about people I love. That can make me feel very vulnerable at times, but what is the point of doing otherwise? Anais Nin once said: If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.”

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

I love reading for pleasure. And I like to get carried away in a story, just as I did when I was younger. I try not to analyse other people’s work so much. It ruins a good story.

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

I love Anne Tyler for her magical evocation of domestic scenes which are so miniscule and yet so loaded with that familiar admixture of love and annoyance. I love Elie Wiesel for his personal narrative about the Holocaust. Helen Garner for not flinching from bad sights and yet finding that tiny dust mote of beauty and truth in sordid happenings. Toni Morrison for her strong voice with its undercurrent of anger at injustice.

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

It depends whether I am travelling to do some writing or travelling for fun. If I was travelling on a holiday I would take a Jodi Picoult book. I think she’s an excellent writer and a page-turner. But if I was travelling as a writer, I would take my Collins Dictionary, as heavy as it is.

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

When I care about or am intrigued by the characters and want to know their ultimate fate. I don’t care if they are holy saints or unpleasant tossers. If the characters are struggling with something that matters to them, then that’s worth reading.

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

When characters come to quick and easy epiphanies. That pees me off.

If you had to list them, what would be your ‘top ten’ reads of all time (excluding the classics) and why?

Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

Marcus Zuzak, The Book Thief

Elie Wiesel, Night

Ajahn Brahm, Who Ordered this Truckload of Dung

Shaun Tan, The Red Tree

John Pilger, Tell Me No Lies

Primo Levi, If this Is A Man

Dr Suess, Hop on Pop

Paul Zindel, A Begnolia for Mrs. Applebaum

Robert Cormier, Fade

You’ll just have to read them to find out why I love these books. :-)

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

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I should have read it ages ago. And of course, Shirley Shackleton’s The Circle of Silence, which won the Walkley Book of the Year last year.

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?

Although I hope new technologies will encourage more people to read, I think people will always love the feel of real books printed on trees.

Alice's second book, Growing Up Asian in Australia, is studied as a HSC and VCE text, and her latest book, the newly released Her Father’s Daughter was launched at this years Melbourne Writers Festival. Find out more about Alice here.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Planet of the blog

I have recently seen the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes and I must say it made me go bananas. You can spend millions of dollars on CGI and special affects all day that’s well and good, but you get a bunch of angry apes together with vengeance in their hairy heart and you got me by the short hairs my friend. The story line is the prequel to the Planet of the Apes and of course shows those obnoxious humans treating apes with behavior that would make workers at the RSPCA cringe. I don’t blame them for wanting to take over humanity, the moment you shove vaccines and put mascara in me I would do the same thing. You really are on the apes side in the film, and get that warm fuzzy feeling when you see apes throwing people left and right with the brain of a 3 year old but a the strength of a 300 kilo body builder. Never the less the strongest point in the movie was the “ohh... that’s why” moment you and you’re buddies share in the cinema piecing the puzzle together which had started in 1968.

Rudi Bakaal, Work experience student (Hampton Park)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Wish Me Dead

I stumbled upon Young Adult author Helen Grant several years ago when I read 'The Vanishing of Katharina Linden', (also reviewed on Quicksand) and have been singing her praises ever since.

Her latest novel, 'Wish Me Dead' is as enticing a read as her last novel, and does not disappoint. Helen's writing is distinctive and fresh.

The setting for 'Wish Me Dead' is Bad Munstereifel in Germany, and there is a wonderfully strong feel for the country in her language and descriptions.

The protagonist is shy Steffi, who nearly always goes along with whatever comes her way. For instance, taking over her parents bakery...not a career of Steffi's choosing but she seems unable to stand up for herself. Within her peer group, too, Steffi is not forthcoming. The trouble begins when Steffi and her friends go to the local 'haunted house' for a bit of fun. Whilst there, they put a hex on Kara Klein, who is the local celebrity folk singer. Wishing her dead is seen as being akin to cursing the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny: faintly sacrilegious and almost certainly ineffective.

Events unfold and hexes are placed on largely irritating community members left, right and centre. And those who have been hexed start to die or disappear...

As with her earlier novel, Helen manages to weave an absurdly wicked death scene into the story, involving Kara Klein and her favourite cherry streusel dessert.

Great writing, entertaining story.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Vote 1! The Inkys 2011

The Inkys are back for 2011!

The Inky Awards are Australia's own teen choice book awards, which began in 2007. Previous Gold Inky winners have included Simmone Howell, James Roy, Randa Abdel-Fattah and Lucy Christopher.

The shortlisted titles (listed below), were selected by the judging panel of last year’s Gold Inky winner Lucy Christopher (Stolen), Kevin Lee and four teenagers from across Victoria and New South Wales.

The nominees for the Inky Award 2011 are:

Gold Inky (Australian book)
All I ever wanted - Vikki Wakefield
Black painted fingernails - Steven Herrick
Graffiti moon - Cath Crowley
Silvermay - James Moloney
This is shyness - Leanne Hall

Silver Inky (International book)
The body at the tower - Y.S. Lee
Clockwork angel - Cassandra Clare
Dash & Lily’s book of dares - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
No and me - Delphine de Vigan
Where she went - Gayle Forman

Voting is now open and closes midnight October 14 at

If you haven't read them yet, click on the link and place your free hold to collect from your library, so that you can!

Winners will be announced on October 25 at InkyFest, taking place at the State Library of Victoria.

So make sure your opinion is counted by getting your votes in now!

Who do you think should win?


Monday, 5 September 2011


IF I STAY by Gayle Forman

This is all too much for a seventeen-year-old girl to have to decide. Why can’t someone else decide this for me? Why can’t I get a death proxy?’

This novel is about choices. The everyday choices we make in our lives, but also the toughest choice 17 year old Mia will ever make.

That morning Mia had it all. A happy family consisting of a rock chic Mum, an ex-punk rocker now teacher Dad and a cute younger brother who made her laugh. She had a boyfriend, a best friend, and her music. Life was hers for the taking.

In an instant it’s all gone. Mia, lying in a coma, must now decide whether to take the easy way out and die. Or fight for her life. But what life?

I must admit I found some of the characters in this novel a bit ‘too idealistic’ yet it poses a very interesting question.

If in one moment you lost your entire family what would you do?

Vicki from Pak

Sunday, 4 September 2011


Imagine a world where abortion doesn't exist and even children born from unwanted pregnancies are found homes.

Imagine this same world is then in need of 'spare parts' for those who are injured or disabled in some way.

Imagine that a way is discovered that both these things can happen and that no lives need to be taken to do so.

Come to the world of Neal Shusterman's Unwind, where parents can sign their child's singular existence away, between the ages of 13 and 17. Such children are taken to harvest camps, where - when the demand arises, they are 'unwound' and broken off into smaller sections, to meet the need for body parts - hence remaining alive, if no longer in one form.

Join Connor, Risa and Lev, whose paths cross in escaping this fate, as they struggle against this 'not quite' death sentence and meet others along the way, some who would save them and others who would deliver them to their legal fate.

Unwind is a scary but entirely believable vision of what our world could be, if good intentions are blinded to true consequences. You can't help but relate to the main characters and what they are going through, supporting them all the way.

Escape, terrorism, havens and relationships all mix well together to make this an enthralling read.


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