Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brown Skin Blue by Belinda Jeffrey

My mum's skin is white, my skin is brown and I have a blue birthmark.  Two secrets rule my life.  One is something I need to know and the other is something I need to forget.  They won't let me go.


Some people say you can't death roll with a beast that has already survived a million years and live to tell the story.  Or can you? (from jacket copy)

Brown Skin Blue is one of those unassuming books that caught me unaware - by the time I had finished with it I knew I had read something extraordinary. 

Barry Mundy (who everyone calls Barramundy) has a secret - which the reader knows, but no one else does - it's a secret that means journalists are tracking him down and that gives him nightmares. A secret that robbed his childhood and a secret that has bigger ramifications that Barramundy has yet to discover. 

Barry (seventeen) is on his own in the hot town of Humpty Doo. He manages to score a job with Top End Croc Jumping Cruises - showing tourists the deadly crocs. He's living in Humpty Doo Hotel and keeps a piece of paper on his fridge - it's a list:
Teabag. Toucan. Stumpy. Lovejack. Boomboom. 
The five names his mother gave him - having nailed down the five possible men that could be his father.

Setting: The story takes place in Humpty Doo, in the Northern Territory. Just like the richness of the setting in Lucy Christopher's Stolen, Jeffries achieves a similar brilliance with immersing the reader in top end Australia, which is like a country of it's own with it's own breed of resilient and colourful characters. I've never been to Darwin or the Northern Territory so I really appreciated how well the setting was painted in my mind through Jeffrey's words.

Among the characters are the rag-tag crew working at the Top End Croc Tours and a girl, Sally, who likes Barramundy but also has her own secrets. 

Each character has their own story and Jeffrey doesn't hold back or sensationalise the way it is.

Tyson shakes his head. 'Dad left when I was a kid.'
The way he says it makes me feel cold and tight in my throat. he couldn't be more than nine of ten and I'm suddenly sitting beside him wondering how long it's been since he thought of himself as a child. It's like I'm sitting next a version of myself at the same age. Lost between a childhood that might never have been and a sea of nothing in between. Grown up and ground down too quick. p175
The plot unravels at a steady pace which did not quite prepare me for the astonishing climax. The story follows Barramundy while he's with the gang on the croc cruise, nights spent having drinks at Humpty Doo Pub and time in his room with Sally. He's wondering about his father and thinking about his mother who he left behind. And - he's trying to out-run childhood scars. 

Approaching the climax, I had a sudden sense of where Jeffery was taking the story and I wanted to stuff my fist in my mouth and not let it be true. All the threads came together so masterfully that to say it was poignant seems like too pretty a word for something so powerful.

"I'm a boy in a river of tears never cried and I have my own cards to play. I have been in this moment all my life.
There's one last story I have to let go of." p 197

"Riddick's the man I want to be. He's broken, he's done things he's not proud of, but he's had the guts to conquer everything. He's survived." p 103. 
Recommended: Brown Skin Blue is a book that could be read in schools - strong in themes such as identity, hope, belonging, community, family, legacy and forgiveness- it's a coming of age story unlike one I've read before. It's a story both tragic and triumphant that will linger long after the last page has been read.

Random stuff to love:
  • Character's names which added to a real sense of Australian Top End authenticity like McNabm Blue, Boof, and  Teabag Jones and Stumpy Johnson.
  • Crocodile facts. And other fascinating info snuck in at the ends of chapters. I mean, who knew? A grade Crocidile Skin is worth $7.40 per centimetre
  • The crocs all have their own personalities and stories that match their names.  There's Albert, Mavis, Bluster, Elvis, Robot and Scoop.

Brown Skin Blue was short-listed for the 2009 WA Premier's Award
(The 2009 winner was Liar by Justine Larbaliestier)
Judge's comments: Belinda Jeffrey   Brown Skin Blue
Definitely for the older end of YA spectrum and quite gripping, Brown Skin Blue is topical and well written. There is some shocking content in these pages, but it is powerfully and appropriately drawn. This is challenging subject matter to write, and Jeffrey has handled it very well.
Brown Skin Blue @ Penguin
Belinda Jeffrey's Website

And a visual bonus, yay! So - here's a few pics of Humpty Doo:

Humpty Doo Hotel - where Barramundy was living

A snap from a Jumping Croc Cruise
 Thank you to Penguin Australia for sending me this review copy

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Shoe House by me :)

This is an A3 size pic I drew based on "there was an old woman who lived in a shoe..."

I wanted to do something a little bit different with it - so I flipped the shoe upside down and then crammed it with enough mischeivious looking critters that would flip out any old woman. Mostly, I try to make my pictures fun and colourful and a little bit crazy - which is what I remember loving to look at when I was a kid.

It's super miniture here - sorry :(

Some features my students have loved: I put number 27 on the mailbox and there's 27 critters.
Also, on the blocks on the front path I put all the letters from my family's first names (and coloured the blocks to match each person's fave colour)

My Sam-boy loves the guy on the pogo stick the best & the fish in the fish bowl. The pogo stick guy is also featured in some other pics of mine (and now that I think  about it, I often have fish randomly in my pictures too). I try to give each little critter their own vibe and personality.

I don't do perspective well b/c I've never learnt stuff like that - but once my art teacher told me that my naivety is part of my magic. I'll take that philosophy and use it to do whatever I like, yeah? Haha - love my art teacher who was so cool to me...

I draw for fun and get into it for seasons and then don't draw at all for months. But I am working on a new project at the moment. OooOooh...

I also hide sets of eyes and scatter bugs around

two dudes hanging on the washing line...

I like the guitar guy ...


Sorry for the poor quality. I didn't scan it - just took a photo and it's a little grainy...

Hope you're all having a grand week. The sun is brilliant here and the beach is sparkling.

x Nomes

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Give-away The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta...

So... what can I get that you want?

I'm talking one the best Aussie YA books not yet available anywhere else in the planet?

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

And yesterday I was cruising around my shops and bought one more copy for one of my followers...

I will post it to you wherever you live.

I don't know when it will be available everywhere else (sometime in 2011?)

And I don't know if it will have a different cover or not?

But there is no denying how HOT this Aussie cover is:

And it comes complete with our lovely British spelling.
Which means extra "u's" and less "z's" :)  So, you know, BONUS!

Here's the deal

My 200 Follower give-away (whoo hoo!) is because I love all you guys hard. And I wish I could send you all something.


For now there will be two winners. 

One winner will win a brand new sexy copy of Melina Marchetta's The Piper's Son (featuring Tom and the gang from Saving Francesca). Open Internationally
And the other winner can choose any book from The Book Depository to the value of $15 (Australian) Open internationally (to wherever The Book Depository ships)

our Aussie money :)

Please indicate in the form which prize you'd prefer to win...

Open until November 9, Winners announced Nov 10

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey have escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis.  All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is gilled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star . . .
Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes.  Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamours than she could have imagined-and more dangerous.  It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.
The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie.  But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.
Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall-together and apart.  From the New York Times bestselling author of THE LUXE come an epic new series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age (from publishers site)

When I got this book I was enticed by the cover - it sparkles and looks quite decadent and completely captured my imagination. I thought it looked like a fun and classy read, which *dun dun dun*... it absolutely is.

A Bit About the Girls in the Book

Bright Young Things is told from three POV's, each in third person. The girls intersect in each others lives at different points of the novel.
Letty: Talented and dreaming of making it famous in Broadway with her stunning voice. She finds work in a nightclub and loses a some of her innocence along the way...
Cordelia: She leaves her man on the night of their wedding, runs off to New York in search of the father she's never met - an infamous, madly wealthy bootlegger (whiskey smuggler) who throws decadent parties.
Astrid: A flapper, rich and privileged and completely fun and likeable. She's just come home after boarding school, has a few drama's with her boyfriend, and thinks the boy working in the stables is particularly cute...  (Astrid is the girl on the cover)
Some thoughts from me 

This book is dazzling. It so perfectly brings to life an era that is a stunning backdrop for the tale of these three girls. It opens with a prologue that tells us about Astrid, Cordelia and Letty: one will end up married, one will be famous and one will be dead. OooOooh :)

I was thinking it would be one of those delicious guilty pleasure reads (which I absolutely crave sometimes). It was delicious, but it didn't feel like a guilty pleasure because it's so fantastically written.

There are two things that really impressed me about this book

1. Godbersen's gift at story telling. She takes three girls in one glamorous era and weaves their stories so effortlessly along. Each story had its own drama's and villains and complications and I love how the girls paths criss-cross together. Godbersen has a flair for capturing your attention and holding it.
2. The richness of the prose so suited to the era. The descriptions and dialogue and setting is all explored with a unique flavour that adds to the authenticity of the time - yet the story is not bogged down in world-building at all. In fact, it raced along so that there was never a blah moment.

As for the characters, despite the glamorous situations the girls are caught up in, at it's core, they are just teen girls dreaming big, wanting adventure, one crushing on the hot forbidden boy, another doubting her boyfriend's faithfulness, and above all, they're searching for their place in the world.

I love some of the ambiguity with a few of the guys - you are never quite sure if they are the good guy or the bad guy or somewhere in between. (Bring on the sequel so I can figure it out!)

One thing niggles at me: the entire novel takes place in just over two weeks, which does seem a little incredulous in hindsight, but didn't bother me while reading it as I was just getting swept along with it all.

Recommended: Godbersen really is a fantastic storyteller and if this premise captures you at all - you will not be disappointed with Bright Young Things. It's atmospheric and daring and fun and the twists and turns are always a little unexpected. 4 stars of delicious indulgence from me :)

Bright Young Things is available now

Bright Young Things is the first in a series. I don't read many series, but I think this one ends just perfectly - on a lovely-(ish) note for the girls, but also - argh... I need to know what is going to happen next. Especially regarding Thom (I'm rooting for him). 

Bright Young Things @ Penguin
Read the prologue

Watch the fashion shoot for the making of the cover below:

Thank you to Penguin Australia for sending me this review copy

US v Aussie Cover - Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares is the third book authors David Levithan and Rachel Cohn have teamed up to write. I was released in the US in October and will be released here in Australia in December... with a different cover.

Thanks to My Girl Friday who got me all psyched about it (but probably only half as pumped as she is herself)

US // Australian

I'm going with the Aussie one as it just looks arty and funky and a bit off-beat. And I am a fan of illustrated stuff, always :)

I like how the title on the US one is on the street signs, but it reminds me of a US-style Christmas Special for some reason. (US Christmas as in Australia we're sweltering in summer)

Which one are you feeling the love for?

And while I have your attention... two brand new fabulous blogs by Aussies for you to check out: 
Sydney writer Vee's Musty Pages and Brissy Girl Nic's Irresistible reads
Both already have reviews up of some of my all-time fave books:

I have some reviews coming too. But it's Saturday afternoon and I'm feeling ever-so-mellow and subsequently lazy :) Have a good weekend mateys

xx Nomes

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

Before I begin my review: here's the stunning trailer for Leanne Hall's debut This Is Shyness, which hit Australian shelves in August.

This trailer is my favourite book trailer ever. 

This Is Shyness from All Things Considered on Vimeo.
About the Book:

A guy who howls. A girl on a mission to forget. 

In the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn’t rise and the border crackles with a strange energy, Wolfboy meets a stranger at the Diabetic Hotel. She tells him her name is Wildgirl, and she dares him to be her guide through the endless night. 

But then they are mugged by the sugar-crazed Kidds. And what plays out is moving, reckless...dangerous. There are things that can only be said in the dark. And one long night is time enough to change your life.

Check out the reviews @ goodreads 

My Review:

(Did you watch that trailer? ;) It's completely awesome.)

I had no idea what to expect from this book and now it's hard to tell you all what to expect. In some ways, it's perfect going into it with no idea, but here's a small taste...

This is Shyness reads like a contemporary novel but there are fantastical elements.
  • Such as: the suburb of Shyness itself. It is a place where one day, the sun went down, and it hasn't ever risen again. It's in permanent night-time, but right next door (over the border) - the sun's still doing it's usual thing.
  • It's still set in our world, with mobile phones and school and India and everywhere else. But it feels different.
  • The novel takes place over one night. 
  • There's are sugar-crazed kidds and tarsier's (wild monkey-type creatures)
  • It alternates between the POV of wolfboy (enigmatic, charming in an off-beat way, and hot ) and Wildgirl (fiesty, whimsical, a Girl You Will Absolutely Love) . Wolfboy and Wildgirl meet in a bar at night and end up wandering through the streets of Shyness and you never quite know just who they are going to bump into next.
Really these points still don't give any indication what to expect - but you should expect that you have never read anything like this book before.

It felt like a dream, reading this

One of those gorgeous dreams where everything is slightly different but you believe your dream world to be the truth. 
One of those dreams that when you wake up you hold onto it hard, not wanting to leave the magical dream behind, wanting to savour the taste and sound and feel and essence of it.
Like some dreams, it's occasionally a little bit dark and creepy and some parts don't make absolute sense as it's all unfolding.
This is a dream you want to be a part of. And it's the kind of dream you won't ever forget.

I couldn't put this book down - it's a classic example of a book transporting you to another place and time. 

It's also a writer's dream: prose that slips and slides over you in the most evocative of ways.
Descriptions and feelings nailed in a few well-chosen words.
Even the nondescript characters and locations are given their own distinct vibe.

Recommended: This is Shyness is a brilliant novel unlike any I have ever read before. Charming and fantastical, in some places, even cute - yet also gritty and scarily-feral in parts. It's a book for dreamers: imaginative and haunting and completely unexpected. Yay for novels that blow my mind while still making me grin. 4.5 stars.


Some of my favourite quotes below for those who are interested & to give you a taste of the gorgeous and funny prose:
I love Wildgirl

‘We’re going bowling?’ I can’t keep the disappointment of of my voice. Bowling is not badass.  
I watch Wolfboy look at the guitar, his yearning painted all over his face. It’s pretty adorable, even though I’d prefer he look at me like that instead. 
I smile to myself. 
He’s so hot. 
If the girls at school could see me in this fancy bar with this hot guy they’d throw up with jealousy. 

 Wolfboy is completely cool too - despite his gruff-tough persona 
My falling shadow looks ominous, even to me.   
There’s a pause so yawning I can’t help but think about what it would be like to lean in and kiss her, but if I’m getting the signals wrong then I’m about to destroy the best run we’ve had all evening. It’s been at least ten minutes since I’ve done or said anything stupid.  

Stunning descriptions that evoke great imagery in the simplest of lines:

The trees outside scrape their twiggy fingers on the glass as if they want to be let in. 
People grow couches and bikes and concrete in their front gardens instead of roses.  
Wolfboy whispers the password to the door, practically kissing the peeling paint. 

Random people descriptions:

The Elf is weedy, with lank blond hair and skin the colour of uncooked dough. 

Sebastein's bodiless voice is as dry and papery as his skin. 

The girl with the curly hair is a porcelain doll in army pants. Goatee guy looks half drowned in on oversized black jumper. 
Her daughter poses with a cardboard sword in one hand and a torch in the other. She wears a too-big tunic and a lumpy foil helmet. Her expression is halfway between goofy grin and ferocious battle-face.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Winner & Cool Book Campaign & Graphic Hamlet

Thank you for entering my Courtney Summers giveaway
There were 111 entries (!) and the winning number was #10 

And now for some completely unrelated things:

Penguin Malaysia recently ran a campaign advertising some of their "unputdownable" classics - in which they painted book covers onto peoples hands. I love this idea, so absolutely cool - The Railway Children is my fave (for the artwork on the boys hand - just amazing).

I also love the back cover details - imagine painting on the text! - so tiny and detailed and exact.

If I could have a book painted on my hands... Hmm... I have no idea which one I'd pick.

Maybe Nicki Greenberg's Graphic Hamlet?
For general coolness and adolescent angst.
Plus, the illustrations take my breath away.
I just love the energy and interpretation of it.

(And now I will drown you with images b/c i can't choose just one. Click on images for enlarged details)

Love this one below: Hamlet getting all dramatic in the "to be or not to be soliloquy"

If you could have a book painted on your hand, which book would it be?

...and this is a completely different concept to getting Edward tattooed on your body ;)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scout by Nicole Pluss

As the Scout sails from England, Kit Lovell cries for the life she is leaving and the life she could have had. Her father was a sea captain who went down with his ship before she was born. Now her mother is to marry a stranger, a lighthouse keeper in the remote colony of South Australia.
But it soon becomes clear to Kit that this voyage across the world's vast oceans is setting something loose inside her, something she doesn't understand. Her secret encounters with Angel, a mysterious young sailor, seem at one moment completely bewildering and at another crystal clear. And her friendship with the bold and brash young Clarissa is opening her eyes in ways she never thought possible.
Yet Kit's internal turmoil is nothing compared to the power of the sea in all its moods as the Scout's melting pot of passengers and crew sail into an adventure that will change all their lives forever (publishers site)

Scout is set in the 1800's and apart from a brief stop-over (about a third into the novel) at Rio De Janeiro, the events in the novel take place entirely at sea.

The descriptions are really vivid - the waves and sea-sickness, the decks and cramped quarters and the gentry living amongst the sailors - it was all painted so wonderfully.

The voice is distinctly from that era - a little bit formal, with this underlying quiet, amused humour in parts and it was easy to imagine the accompanying mannerisms and etiquette of the time. The narrative is like a re-telling, written as a journal after the fact.

The pacing is deliberate and it unfolds in such a gentle and compelling way that I was surprised to suddenly find myself completely sucked in. Hidden amongst the prose are such lovely little details - random intriguing pieces snuck into the story - often these are things I remember the most from stories:

  • what happened to the horse in the first storm - ooh - it was horrific
  • someone mentioning their first husband in passing: "He'd been desperately handsome but had stepped on a rusty nail and died"
  • details of cannibalism in shipwreck times (choosing which sailor to eat first, etc)
  • all the intricate back stories for each passing character are so finely woven

As for the characters: Kit (our charming protag) is loyal, quietly fierce, smart and observant and I love her story arc - by the end she is bold and full of hope, although scarred from all she witnessed.

The romance in it is understated which somehow gives it a genuine vibe and the scenes where Angel and Kit are together are a charming portrayal of a young girl experiencing feelings for the first time. 

There's also Kit's new friend, Clarissa, who I loved. She's wild and daring and works hard and pushes the boundaries. She's a lot of fun and her morals anatagonise Kit's mum...

As for Kit's mum. She's so concerned with what others think and with being decent and respectable that she'd rather starve than be thought to be greedy. The relationship between Kit and her mum is so deftly done - her mum will frustrate readers in her small-mindedness (I was especially ready to wring her neck in a particular scene in Rio De Janeiro) but somehow, all the little shades of grey are drawn in their relationship that lets you see how Kit's mum truly does care for her.

It has a bittersweet ending in some ways - but ends on great hope for Kit - who has endured so much and I think the impact of the journey will shape her character for the rest of her life.There is tragedy and deaths and it's haunting - the story itself is a re-imagining but based on research from real ships sailing to Australia.

Me and Scout: 20 minutes north of where I love there is a shipwreck (which you can sometimes see depending on the tide) and also graves of unidentified bodies that were washed ashore. I know my kids are fascinated by the graves and me too - I like imagining the people and the horrific ordeal and the era and the sense of history I get when I'm  walking along the headland. I guess I have always been fascinated by stuff like this and Nicole Pluss brought a story to life so masterfully.

Recommended: Scout is an authentic and moving tale and I think many teenagers will be fascinated and quite taken with this account of sailing to Australia.  I really liked it - an intensely quiet read, rich in it's sense of history. I give it 4 stars :)

Scout @ Publisher's site
Extract (beginning of chapter one)
Scout @ goodreads
Interview with Nicole Pluss @ Between the Lines
Scout Review @ Between the Lines
Scout review @ The Book Gryffin

Scout was released Aug 30 2010 in Australia. Nicole Pl├╝ss is an award-winning Australian author of books for young adults, teenagers and children. visit her website.

Thanks to Penguin Australia for sending me this review copy

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eleven Contemp YA's I Insanely Must Acquire

My top eleven upcoming books (contemporary YA) that I am ridiculously hanging out for. None are available yet. Links go to goodreads for synopsis and release dates are all according to goodreads and either US or UK dates. I'm sure I'll be waiting even longer down here in Aus :)

There's other books I'm interested in but all these are must-reads for me.

Also, none of these are Aussie - I'll do an Aussie list later :)

Between here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott
May 24 2011

It's Elizabeth Scott (!) so I would read it no matter what - but the synopsis has me even more antsy for it and I love the quietness and hope in the cover.

10 Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
March 11 2010

As soon as I read the blurb I was hooked. Beyond hooked. I haven't even read it yet and I kinda wish I had written it. The cover! Mate, the cover! I want to be in it. Totally my kind of book. (Also, read and loved her book Dovey Coe about eight years ago - it won the Edgar Allan Poe Award)

The History of Luck by Jandy Nelson

No cover for this one. But anyone who's read The Sky Is Everywhere will know why it's on my list. Can't wait to slip into more of her prose.

Jan 1, 2011

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
April 19 2011

The sequel to If I Stay sounds brilliant. Set three years in the future and from Adam's POV - an older protag (20? 21?). I have a feeling I will love this book.
You Against Me by Jenny Downham
Dec 2 2010

It's been a few years since Before I Die and I know this will be a stunning sophomore novel well worth the wait. Plus I love UK YA - of which I have not read much. Hmm, any recs for more UK Contemp? :)
Amelia O'Donohue is So Not a Virgin by Helen Fitzgerald
Nov 1 2010

I love Helen's adult fiction and am psyched she's written a book for the YA scene. I'm hoping it has some of her signature black humour and wild shenanigans in it.
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
March 8 2011

I've heard this is Marchetta-esque and poignant and original. It looks stunning and literary and I know it's a book I could fall in love with.
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
Nov 2 2010

Mainly pumped for this b/c of some earlier hype. I've been burned by hype before but I think this one will live up to it or even supersede it. I'm ready to be blown away.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
May 10 2011

Sarah Dessen is just a staple, hey. I do like flopping down and sinking into it. I was a little disappointed with Along for the Ride (her most recent book) but I love the sound of this and she always conjours up swoon-worthy love interests.
Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler
Dec 1 2010

After Twenty Boy Summer I know I want to read anything Sarah Ockler writes. A new favourite author.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Dec 2 2010

One of my biggest waiting for books. I don't even know what to say but I TRULY CAN'T WAIT!

Are you planning to read any of these?
Is there an upcoming contemp YA you're pumped about that I haven't listed?
 (I am always always up for recommendations)

And... completely unrelated but

I stumbled across the German cover for Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls
and how stunning is it? 
I think it's my favourite out of all the diff versions
(my cover comparison post for Wintergirls)
Watch the German trailer for Wintergirls - Ooooh, quite ominous and beautiful