Monday, May 31, 2010

winter artwork...

The pic is a little blurry as I took it with a camera rather then scanning it in (don't have an A3 scanner). I used felt tip pen and my Derwent Artist pencils - love my pencils :). I often draw these little critters in my scenes rather than cartoon people. They're kinda a cross between a monkey and a teddy bear.

Here's a few close up's cropped from the picture:

It's winter here tomorrow :) Despite my snow pic, winter in Coffs Harbour is mild. We're still in shorts and t-shirts and when I walk along the beach, there's always someone swimming in the surf (and that someone will never be me. I'm happy to wait until summer). I've only seen snow a couple of times ever - when I lived in the Blue Mountains as a child. And it was cold (I had to wear gloves!). And kinda dirty (not pretty blue and purple like I've drawn it) but very very cool. 

And, despite it being winter - the next three books in my YA TBR pile all have summer in the title:
  • Endless Summer - Jennifer Echols - pumped for this one!!!* Plus, it's two books in one - 'The Boys Next Door' and the sequel, so 600+ pages of Echolite Pleasure :)
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han - I have high expectations for this (due to universal rave reviews). One girl, two brothers, one summer, I'm feeling it already...
  • Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler (recommended to me by a friend who has the best taste in all things YA...)

Tomorrow, I'll announce the winner of my Top Ten YA post - so leave a comment if you want a chance to own a copy of a book off my list. (I'll use The Book Depository - so open internationally)

x Naomi

*I am not an exclamation mark kinda girl - but! Jennifer Echols!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
Reasons Why I loved it:
  • I loved Clay's voice (a fantastic male protagonist.)
  • I loved the premise and fresh twist on a suicide themed book
  • It was compelling and I found the pacing to be pretty much spot on
  • I was surprised by just how moved I was by the end of it. It's one of those books that tell such a good story that I didn't even realise until the end just how strong and impacting the overall message was
  • I'm in awe of how the book masterfully handled the darkness and tragedy with hope and I felt kinda empowered by the end of it (haha - cheesy, I know)
  • It was original and all the characters felt grounded. It didn't feel cliché.
I know this is one of those love/hate books. Obviously, I'm in the love camp :) But I do get why people can't connect with it.
  • Those that say Hannah was vindictive/calculating/cruel to leave the tapes behind. Really, her voice does not come across as calculating, cruel, spiteful or vindictive. And imposing those ideas onto her is kind of mixing up the character with the premise. I know she did make the tapes - but I think it was an awesome way to explore one girls act of taking her own life and the little things that impact on it. So I didn't get too worked up on the reasons behind the actual making of the tapes, sometimes I think you're best just to flow with the premise and read the story.
  • There are also those that say the reasons why were stupid and incidental. Hmmm. In some ways, that's highlighting the message. Really, most victims of suicide don't have some HUGE major revealing Hollywood reason why they took their own life. Suicide isn't about that. It's about a state of mind. Losing hope. Little things aren't so little anymore.
  • Then again, if you don't connect with Hannah's voice, I guess you don't connect...
As a writer, there's lots to admire about how well Jay Asher handled the story. It can't have been easy to write: The way he handled setting around town with the listening of the tapes. Juggling Clay's story as well as Hannah's voice. The non-chronological time line (trust me, I once tried to write a non-chron = fail). The fact that it reads so effortlessly just shows how well crafted it is. I know I'm looking forward to his next book.
I've also read that agents are looking for more books like this: Using an idea that is quite prevalent in the YA market (suicide) but has a fresh angle/twist. As a reader, well, I just liked it. I did take a while to warm into the story and at first I was unsure about Hannah and how I felt about her (but I loved Clay from the start - he's just an all-round great guy), but somewhere along the line, I started to really care about Hannah. I even started wishing that she hadn't really killed herself after all and somehow, it would all work out for her...
You should check out the official website for the book, which is very snazzy and also list all the awards it has won.
Which cover do you like best?
US - with Hannah on the swing
UK/Australian - with the soulful grey tones. (I have this one.)
I like them both. I think the UK matches the mood of the book and Hannah looks how I imagined her*
But, the US one has a swing on it - so that gives it an edge :) And I think I'd be more drawn to pick up this version in the bookshop than the UK one.
* Although, you know, I guess I imagined her like that b/c I saw her on the cover first ;)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Love You Hate You Miss You - Elizabeth Scott

It's been seventy-five days. Amy's sick of her parents suddenly taking an interest in her. And she's really sick of people asking her about Julia. Julia's gone, and Amy doesn't want to talk about it. No one knew Julia like she did. No one gets what life is without her.
No one understands what it's like to know that it's all your fault.
Amy's shrink thinks she should keep a journal but instead, Amy starts writing letters to Julia. And as she writes letter after letter, she begins to realize that the past holds its own secrets--and that the present deserves a chance. from front flap
It's no secret that I am huge Elizabeth Scott fan. She is so diverse in what she writes. If you were to read Something, Maybe, you'd think she was a quirky, light-hearted rom-com kinda author. My librarian recently read Living Dead Girl and was astounded when I said her other work is often funny and sweet. Living Dead Girl so haunted my fave librarian that she is scared to let young teenagers read it :) Love You Hate You Miss You is edgier than some of her other work (nothing like Living Dead Girl though) and it's one of my favourite reads this year.
On first appearances, LYHYMY may seem like a cliche story-line: girl's vibrant best friend dies, girl is somehow responsible, girl seeing a psych and trying to move on with life. The thing Elizabeth Scott does best is take a ordinary situation and not only make it startlingly original, but also infuse it with real, living breathing characters.
LYHYMY is extremely readable. I was effortlessly turning the pages. It got me from page one where I instantly fell in love with Amy's voice. She's honest and refreshing and she worked her way into my heart.
Amy's parents are portrayed awesomely. Unlike many novels, her parents are together and happily in love. So in love in fact, that this in itself is a source of conflict for Amy - who makes three a crowd. I love how this impacts on Amy's decision in seeking out that belongingness with Julia.
And, although Julia was her bff, not all is as it seems - as the title suggests*. Friendships in teen years are complicated and the more you get into the book, the more you see the shades of grey in their relationship. As the book opens, Julia is already dead - yet Scott weaves in back story so brilliantly that you never feel like you are being taken out of the moment. For a dead character - Julia is contagiously vibrant and alive :)
Of course, Scott always has the most crush-worthy of love interests, and she out-did herself with Patrick. He is the quiet, mysterious type. A lot of love interests win over fans hearts by witty lines, looking hot, being romantic, etc, etc. Patrick is more of a typical teenage guy. He stares out the window. A lot. Sometimes he doesn't even talk. When he does, he's not trying to dazzle anyone. Despite Amy's first person POV, Scott really lets us peak into Patrick's soul and he is a fully fleshed out character, with his own set of problems, that you can't help but love. And, just like Scott doesn't write cliché characters, she also knows how to masterfully write those URST** moments. There's a few lines in there you can re-read to try and absorb how she does it.
So, you know, just a heads up that there's a bit of hotness in there :)
Here's a typical Patrick moment:
It was Patrick. He was leaning against the wall, only not so much leaning as looking like he wanted to press through and get outside, get away. For some reason, I thought about asking him if he was okay, and even took an almost-step towards him, but before I could he looked at me and the expression in his eyes sent me walking away as fast as I could. p.151
Elizabeth Scott is also the master of showing, and her understated style of writing only serves to heighten the moments. Sometimes less is more:
When he (Patrick) did, his hand touched mine, and I felt something, a strange, sudden jolt inside of me.
I used to act annoyed whenever Julia talked about Kevin and how she felt a spark every time he touched her, but the truth was, I knew exactly what she meant after that night.
He must've felt that jolt too because he said, "Oh," quietly, almost startled. p36.
It's a novel about friendship and grief and guilt and identity and love. It's an honest story about a girl - you see her bad choices and why she made them. And, it's by Elizabeth Scott, so, obviously, it's a must-read.
For more mature teens - touches on alcohol, drugs, sex and some occasional language.

*It's the coolest title, yeah?
** URST - confession here - I saw this acronym everywhere for a long time before finally figuring our what it meant :) Yeah, I'm out of the loop on the lingo. Un-Resolved Sexual Tension.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer

When Miranda first hears the warnings that a meteor is headed on a collision path with the moon, they just sound like an excuse for extra homework assignments. But her disbelief turns to fear in a split second as the entire world witnesses a lunar impact that knocks the moon closer in orbit, catastrophically altering the earth’s climate. Everything else in Miranda’s life fades away as supermarkets run out of food, gas goes up to more than ten dollars a gallon, and school is closed indefinitely. But what Miranda and her family don’t realize is that the worst is yet to come. Told in Miranda’s diary entries, this is a heart-pounding account of her struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all–hope–in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar time.
(blurb from Amazon)
I've only ever heard good (and positively raving you-must-read-this-book) reports about Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It so I was pumped to finally have a copy to read. And you probably can't tell in the picture here, but the cover is textured, so you can feel the craters on the moon (like braille) -- so it feels cool too :)
The story of the-beginning-of-what-could-be-the-end-of-the-world is told by sixteen-year-old Miranda in diary format. Her voice is compelling in a way that makes you feel like you really are reading a teenage girls diary. It's a book you sink into - it doesn't open with a bang, and even when catastrophic events start occurring, it isn't overly dramatic. The story moves effortlessly from event to event - a snowball effect that seamlessly shows the deterioration of civilisation as we know it.
It's startlingly real and once I was into it, I didn't want to put it down.
I love all the characters - Miranda's family are all fully fleshed out and flawed in the best of ways. I love how Miranda and her mum fight a lot but also love each other fiercely. There's a chocolate chip scene with Miranda and her mum that I read wide-eyed, it really highlighted all the pressure that they were under.
The only part that niggled at me was the way Miranda's friend, Megan (a Christian), was portrayed. Megan and her minister were fanatical and extremist and made me cringe (and want to punch them in the head, in a friendly-Christian-kinda-way). I guess there's always going to be nutters out there... :)

Famine and earthquakes and tsunamis and floods and death and may sound like a depressing read, but ultimately, it really made me crazily grateful for the life I live now. It showed me the small things that we all take for granted. And how courageous humans can be when survival is constantly threatened.
I am a major fan of all things convenience and leisure :) - forever grateful to be born in Australia and not a developing nation. So, if a mega meteorite ever hits the moon in my lifetime, I hope I would be as awesome as Miranda. I'd kinda like to go wild chucking things with feverish abandon in my trolley at the supermarket*...but pretty much everything else would suck.
Life As We Knew It will definitely appeal to boys as well as girls and I give it a G rating for content (possibly PG for mature themes) - also suitable for Middle Grade readers, but adults will love it as well... like me :)
What would be the most self-indulgent thing you'd include in your trolley if it was your last shop ever?
Oh, and they ate a lot of cans of tuna**. Not my idea of a good time.
*I guess there's nothing stopping me from indulging in a frenzied moment in the supermarket right now?
**Was tuna even intended for human consumption?
Don't forget to comment on this post for your chance to win :)