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Monday, February 26, 2018

Just Finished Rereading...Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr

I got this for reviewing from Allen and Unwin ages ago. In the end, I did an interview with the author instead. Since then, it has been shortlisted for the CBCA Awards and won a Prime Minister’s Award. Both are well deserved. A reread made me appreciate this even more.

At the time, my entire fascination  for Minoan bull dancing came from Mary Renault’s classic The King Must Die. That was about Theseus and a wonderful book it was! I’ve read it over and over and had to buy it in ebook because ebooks don’t fall apart.

But it was very different from this novel. The heroine, Aissa, is the daughter of the Lady of a small Greek island during the Minoan era. Her mother panicked when she was born with an extra thumb on each hand - not perfect! - and, after her husband cut off the thumbs to save the child and drowned, ordered her to be killed by the midwife. Instead, she was brought up first by a family that had lost its child, then as a kitchen drudge when her adoptive family were carried off by raiders. At thirteen, she goes to Crete as a bull dancer, trained to do acrobatics with the sacred bulls. So far, nobody taken as a tribute has ever returned from Crete...

The fantastical elements are wonderful, as Aissa finds that, despite her elective mutism, she can “call” everything from dragonflies to bulls and even, in one scene, humans.

But the story is believable. The author knows about the behaviour of bulls, having lived on a dairy farm for twenty years - and about acrobatics and children. Mary Renault’s Theseus is eighteen and has already fought in battles and been a king. He manages to be a very good bull dancer because he is small, agile and light. And that’s fine. I have seen an adult trainer from Australia’s Flying Fruit Fly (children’s) Circus as a very athletic Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

But I’m betting he started early. Some years ago, we had a Circus program at my school, to teach kids to do some simple acrobatics, then perform for the school. The students were all young, Years 7 and 8. None of them had ever done anything like it before. Yet within a few weeks they were doing amazing things! Young bodies are more flexible than older ones; it’s not for nothing that Olympic “women’s” gymnastic teams are made up of little girls.

Wendy also feels that as a sacred activity, the bull dance would be more than just entertainment. It’s an act of worship. It doesn’t happen every week, only once a season, in connection with a religious ritual. The trainers try to keep you alive by training you as best they can, and anyone not likely to make it as a bull dancer is weeded out and sent to be a palace slave. But there is to be no cheating. When Aissa saves a dancer by calling the bull in her mind, the Mother(Queen and High priestess) is furious. And unlike in The King Must Die, in which every team has its own bull, in this one, the bull is sacrificed at the end of the bull dance. There are herd bulls, but the fastest children are sent out to capture a wild one for the dance.  And, as the knowledgeable author says, sometimes the wild ones are less dangerous than the tame bulls, which know what to expect.

I think I enjoyed the book more this time than the first. I appreciated the large chunks of verse that seemed odd the first time. I cared about the characters.

I’m very glad that I no have this in ebook. I think I’m going to need it. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Book Blogger Hop: Hardcovers - With Or Without Covers?

This week’s blog post theme in the Book Blogger hop asks, “Do you read your hardcovers with or without the dust jacket on?”

Goodness, what an odd question! Not really something I would normally spend an entire blog post on, but not a bad idea to muse on hardcovers in general. It’s more of an issue in the US, I suspect, where they publish a lot of hardcovers. Nothing of mine has ever been published in hardcover except one overseas edition of Your Cat Could Be A Spy and it didn’t have a dust jacket. Most books here start off in paperback and stay there. Most hardcovers with dust jackets are non fiction or adult books. Most children’s hardcovers don’t have a dust jacket.

Looking through some of the replies on other blogs, I haven’t yet seen one that keeps the cover on, for fear of damaging it. Some like the look of a hardcover on the shelves.

I’m a librarian. Dust jackets are there to protect the book. If you buy it for a library, you cover it in plastic - problem solved! And most hardcovers I read are borrowed from my local library. In fact, I’m reading one now, Barbara Hambly’s Drinking Gourd, the latest Ben January historical whodunnit. I just had to lug it with me, because I’m enjoying it so much, but I don’t often do this. Too heavy!

So, question answered and now - why buy a hardcover in the first place? They are more expensive - as a librarian, I have only ever bought them when kids were reading the series and they were on the CBCA shortlist. Some publishers, I’m quite sure, publish them that way around the time when the shortlist is announced so that you have to buy them! With a budget as tiny as mine, you try to get the best value out of it.

They are heavy. I can’t carry one around with me when I travel. Imagine being in the middle of an exciting story and having to leave it at home. And school kids also find it hard to take hardcovers home in their school bags.

They take up more space on the shelves. A bookworm like me needs to cram as many books as possible on the shelves.

BUT... they are more attractive. You can create special editions more easily than in paperback.

They are easier to read while eating. You can put your book down, open to your page, instead of having to hold it up with one hand and eat with the other. Or you can put it open on a book stand, like mine.

And they last! I have a tendency to read and reread favourites. My paperback copy of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather is just about to fall apart. I can cover it, which will help, but the pages will still fall out if I’m not careful. I do have it in ebook, but it’s sad!

So, those are some of my thoughts on hardcovers. I do have some on my shelves because they were on special at the time, or I got them for reviewing, but not many. And I’m largely moving to ebook, which I can carry in my tote bag by the hundred!

What do you think? Hardcover or paperback? Or both? 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Girls Who Save The World!

What with the amazing young woman, Emma Gonzalez, and her friends, taking action against the gun lobby, and Malala Yousoufzai only a few years ago, standing up to oppression, I couldn’t help thinking about some world-saving girls in the YA fiction I mostly read. 

See, while contemporary fiction is still quite often about family and friends and whether or not to trust the cute bad boy, fantasy and science fiction, especially dystopian, needs someone to literally save the world and the someone is usually a girl. 

There are so many, I can’t name them all, and you’ll notice that one of these I have mentioned, The Hate U Give, is a contemporary, and the world the heroine saves is not literally the world, but her courage inspires more than her own community.

So, off the top of my head, here are a few books I have read whose main characters are inspirational world-saving young women! There are more, plenty more, but these are books I have read in recent years.

Let’s start with the obvious one, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Katniss lives in poverty in the poorest District of her world, which is what’s left of the United States, with her mother and sister. Each year two “tributes”are chosen by lot from each District to go to the Capitol and take part in the violent TV reality show, the Hunger Games. Only one can survive. Anyone who gets on that train to the Capitol will be wined and dined and dressed in designer clothes... and has about a one in 24 chance of coming home. Alliances are formed, but in the end, even your fellow tribute from home either has to kill you or die. Katniss is strong and athletic and can us3 a bow because she has been sneaking out into the forest to get game that will help her support her family. When her little sister’s name is pulled out, she offers to go in her place. There is something of the story of Theseus here, but no prince/princess to help. Katniss is brave and unselfish and by the end of the trilogy she has - yes, saved the world. The evil isn’t only on one side and Katniss refuses to let herself be used for rebel propaganda when she knows what even the supposed good guys on her side are doing. 

Lyra Belacqua in the His Dark Materials trilogy is younger than Katniss, about twelve or thirteen. She lives in an alternative universe where everyone has an external soul, a “daemon”, in the form of an animal. She starts off in Oxford, at the University, where she has been raised. She could have gone on playing and being a child. But there is more going on in this world than it seems and Lyra finds herself involved in a war, one where those who seem to be the good guys aren’t necessarily good, and where some villainous characters end up being good. And yes, Lyra saves the world. Read it, if you haven’t. 

Hermione Granger In the Harry Potter series may not be the Chosen One, but it is her brains and quick thinking that help save the wizarding world. True, she isn’t the only one and, let’s face it, Harry is the Chosen One for a reason. But without her, Harry would very likely have been dead well before the  end of The Deathly Hallows. It’s nice to know that you don’t have to be physically tough to save the world. 

Young witch Tiffany Aching is the heroine of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld children’s series. She does, admittedly, cause some of the problems she then has to solve,  but still... in the first book she goes to Fairyland to rescue her little brother, stolen by the Fairy Queen, and, while she’s about it, also saves Roland, the local Baron’s son. And she does it p, with the help of tiny blue men called  Nac Mac Feegles and a heavy frying pan. She develops and grows up as the series goes on. In the third book, Wintersmith, she really does have to save the world - well, her own world, anyway. And it was her fault that the Wintersmith, the spirit of winter, was making her area freezing cold, to impress her. She danced with him during an autumn ceremony when told not to move. But having done this, she gets on with saving her family and the rest of the community. She is such a delightful character! You might or might not like her if you knew her in real life, but if you needed looking after by the village witch, you’d be glad to have Tiffany on your side.

Starr Carter, in The Hate U Give, is a member of a small African American community, mostly poverty stricken, though I’d have to say her family is close to being middle class. They don’t have a swimming pool, though relatives do, but they seem to manage okay on Dad’s grocery store earnings and Mum’s job as a nurse. They must be, as somehow the parents manage to scrape together enough money to send the kids to an expensive private school. Starr does, like Alice Pung’s and Fiona Wood’s heroines(In Laurinda and Cloudwish), feel embarrassed at being unable to invite anyone over. But Starr has guts. One night she is in a car with a childhood friend. They are pulled up by a policeman for a minor issue and her friend is shot dead. And the policeman gets all the sympathy on TV!  This isn’t the first time she has seen a friend die; the first time was due to a drive-by shooting. She is definitely suffering PTSD. But when somebody has to go on TV to tell the real story, she gets on with it. She is terrified, but does it anyway. 

World-saving girl! 

Next: Aussie author Jaclyn Moriarty’s Madeleine Tully, the heroine of the Colours Of Madeleine trilogy. Madeleine lives with her mother in Cambridge, England, sharing home schooling with a couple of other teens. She is exchanging letters, through cracks in space, with Elliot, a cute boy in another universe. In his world, the Kingdom of Cello, colours - or, rather, Colours, can do weird things, including kill you. The weather is all over the place. You might have midsummer one day and snow the next. And most of the royal family is missing. He absolutely is not supposed to be communicating with our world, but he is hoping to find his father who, like the royal family, has gone missing. And people who come from the Kingdom of Cello to our world forget who they are. Some scary things are happening in Cello. Most of the trilogy is spent with Madeleine and Elliot trying to find the missing people; there is a deadline because the portals will only open at a set time and place. I will avoid spoilers here, but Madeleine and Elliot save the world - his world. 

Two short mentions of other books by Australian writers: The Twinmaker trilogy by Sean Williams shows what might happen in a world where Star Trek’s replicator and transporter are a part of everyday life - and it’s nightmarish! And the world is wiped out, but... a girl called Clair saves it. No  explanation here because spoilers, sweetie! Just get the three books. Jump, Crash and Fall. I think the US titles might be different, but find them, a truly amazing set of adventures of a world-saving girl. Like other world-savers, she doesn’t set out to do it, but does it anyway.

Garth Nix’s Sabriel is a girl at boarding school. She’s also, like her father, a Necromancer. Not the kind of evil necromancer who kills people to use their life energy for magic, but one whose job is to stop them from returning to the world of the living from the land of the dead, which is on the other side of a wall. She uses a set of bells to help her. Actually, it’s sort of steampunk and has a flavour of original era Dr Who. Anyway - world-saving girl! I’m afraid I have got behind in this series, must reread the original trilogy and then get on with the rest. 

What other world-saving young women can you think of? 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Blogger Hop: Me And My Favourite Characters

This week’s starter is a question about whether we ever act like our favourite book characters. That has to be a one-word answer: no.

But as it’s a post starter, I will instead talk about characters with whom I identify or whom I admire.

As a child, it was Jo March from Little Women. I was a girl who didn’t see why boys should have all the fun, and I wrote. In my case, it was on the beach rather than in the attic(we didn’t have one! We lived in a flat, though one not far from the beach).

And because I was reading Enid Blyton as well as American classics and Greek mythology, I identified also with George, the tomboyish girl in the Famous Five stories. I thought her cool! And she was the one with the dog, Timmy - what was not to like?

In Greek mythology, I liked Atalanta, the huntress and only female member of the Argo crew. I would have loved to go on that adventure.

The years went by. I found other characters to charm me. Young Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird was a passionate reader like me. And that wonderful scene where she starts school and the teacher is annoyed because she can read already - my favourite scene! In fact, I read it in the Banned Books Week virtual readout on YouTube one year. Here’s the link! Sorry, no American accent, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it anyway. I remember in my first year of teaching doing that scene with my Year 9 English class. I started off the lesson with, “Who remembers their first day of school?” I wasn’t expecting the response I got. The first student to put up her hand said, “Yes, I ran away because my teacher was black.” That in its turn led to a babble of racist comments. I stopped it quick smart by turning on the worst offenders, all from the British Isles, getting indignant “Heys!”.

 “Whingeing Poms!” to the English boy. “Stupid Irish!” to the Irish-born offender. Another child, Welsh in background, said, “Well, at least nobody ever said anything about the Welsh...” I grinned. “Do you want to know what the English said about the Welsh?” She didn’t. So, that little scene from Mockingbird ended up with quite an interesting discussion about racism, after the racist sneers were over, though unrelated to the passage; a teacher has to grab any opportunity for a lesson, even if it doesn’t relate to the original lesson plan. I should add that they never did that again and we got on fine.

Lord Of The Rings has a number of characters I would love to know in person. Sam the gardener and cook takes ordinary, simple activities and makes them special. Who can forget his offering to make fish and chips for Gollum? Turning a newly-caught rabbit into a gourmet feast with a few simple herbs? Healing the Shire with his planting after the War of the Ring?

I think if I had read the book as a child I would have wanted to be Éowyn. In some ways, I still do, though if I had been Éowyn as an adult, I probably would have dropped the crush on Aragorn a lot earlier. I might have been disappointed, as a child, by her giving up the warrior thing to become a healer, but nowadays I think, “Hey, she killed the Witch King of Angmar! What could she do to top that? And when the war is over, what better way is there than to heal?” Even her husband, Faramir, never really wanted to fight, he did it because it was the only way to protect his people. He was a historian by preference. (And also a favourite character of mine!)

In Harry Potter, I do admire Hermione, without whom, let’s face it, the wizarding world would probably have lost its Chosen One very early!

But I relate to Ron. He is the truly Non Chosen one who  represents - Us! He is the Xander of the HP series. He does get his moment of glory in the first book, playing the deadly chess game in the underground chamber leading to the Philosopher’s Stone. Mostly, though, he is just there while Harry and Hermione get on with things, being, mostly, the comic relief. That would be me if I was in that world. He is very much an Everyman.

There are plenty more, but I’ll finish with a more recent character I’m fond of, Cath from Rainbow Rowell’s YA novel Fangirl. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction and what little I do read is children’s or YA. This is one of them. Cath is a media fan writer, as I used to be. She is writing under a pen name on line, as most fan writers do these days, and, unlike in my day, is read by thousands of people. Cath is working on a novel she must finish before it becomes just “alternative universe” when last book of the original series comes out. At the same time, she has all the problems of a kid starting university and worries about her father who seriously needs looking after! And Cath can write, not just fan fiction. I liked the fact that the author never sent her up for writing this sort of stuff. In fact,
I believe that people are already writing Fangirl fan fiction and Rainbow Rowell is delighted. And I am very fond of Cath!

Do you have any characters you relate to? 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Aurealis Awards Shortlist 2017!

So, here are this year’s shortlisted books for the Aurealis Awards! For my non-Australian readers, this is the annual Australian spec fic award. They are judged, not voted - I was a judge a few years ago, a fascinating experience. Our equivalent of the Hugos are the Ditmar Awards and a couple of states have their own awards, the Tin Ducks in Western Australia and the Chronos Awards here in Victoria.  

Congratulations to all those on the list. I admit that I’ve only read the short stories from the LoveOzYA anthology, but I see that Allen and Unwin has republished “Singing My Sister Down” as part of a collection of stories by Margo Lanagan. That one is a classic, but I have to say it’s not a story I could bring myself to read again, not because it’s a bad story - it’s amazing! That’s the whole problem. Too sad for me. It’s the same reason why I am not sure I can read Dan Simmons horror fiction again. He makes you care about his characters and then kills them off! 

But Margo Lanagan is a wonderful writer, so don’t let me put you off. 

I seem there are two short stories from my old stamping ground, Andromeda Spaceways. Best of luck! 

I’ve finally downloaded Gap Year In Ghost Town, which the author has been promoting non stop on Twitter. I just didn’t get around to it till now - anything Michael Pryor writes is likely to be great fun!
Anyway, check out this list and let me know if you’ve read any of them and what you thought. 

How to Bee, Bren MacDibble (Allen & Unwin)
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, Jaclyn Moriarty (Allen & Unwin)
The Shop at Hoopers Bend, Emily Rodda (HarperCollins Australia)
The Exile, Jo Sandhu (Penguin Random House Australia)
Accidental Heroes, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)
Nevermoor, Jessica Townsend (Hachette Australia)

Action Tank, Mike Barry (Mike Barry Was Here)
Changing Ways book 3, Justin Randall (Gestalt)
Dungzilla, James Foley (Fremantle Press)
Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts, Craig Phillips (Allen & Unwin)
Home Time, Campbell Whyte (Penguin Random House Australia)
Tintinnabula, Margo Lanagan & Rovina Cai (ill.) (Little Hare)

“One Small Step”, Amie Kaufman (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“I Can See the Ending”, Will Kostakis (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“Competition Entry #349”, Jaclyn Moriarty (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“First Casualty” Michael Pryor (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
Girl Reporter, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Book Smugglers)
“Oona Underground”, Lili Wilkinson (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)

“Reef”, Kat Clay (SQ Mag 31, IFWG Publishing Australia)
“Outside, a Drifter”, Lisa L Hannett (Looming Low, Dim Shores)
“Angel Hair”, Deborah Sheldon (Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, IFWG Publishing Australia)
“The Endless Below”, Alfie Simpson (Breach Issue #02)
“Old Growth”, J Ashley Smith (SQ Mag 31, IFWG Publishing Australia)
“On the Line”, J Ashley Smith (Midnight Echo 12, Australasian Horror Writers Association)
The Mailman, Jeremy Bates (Ghillinnein Books)
Hope and Walker, Andrew Cull (Vermillion Press)
“Grind”, Michael Grey (Pacific Monsters, Fox Spirit Books)
“The Stairwell”, Chris Mason (Below The Stairs – Tales from the Cellar, Things In The Well)
“No Good Deed”, Angela Slatter (New Fears 1, Titan Books)
“Furtherest”, Kaaron Warren (Dark Screams Volume 7, Cemetery Dance)
“Hamelin’s Graves”, Freya Marske (Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #69)
“The Curse is Come Upon Me, Cried”, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Please Look After This Angel & Other Winged Stories, self-published)
“The Little Mermaid, in Passing”, Angela Slatter (Review of Australian Fiction Vol 22 Issue 1)
“Duplicity”, J Ashley Smith (Dimension6 #11)
“The Rainmaker Goddess, Hallowed Shaz”, Marlee Jane Ward (Feminartsy)
“Oona Underground”, Lili Wilkinson (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia).
The Book Club, Alan Baxter (PS Publishing)
“Remnants”, Nathan Burrage (Dimension6 #11, Coer de Lion)
“The Cunning Woman’s Daughter”, Kate Forsyth & Kim Wilkins (The Silver Well, Ticonderoga Publications)
In Shadows We Fall, Devin Madson (self-published)
“Braid”, Kirstyn McDermott (Review of Australian Fiction Vol 24 Issue 1)
Humanity for Beginners, Faith Mudge (Less Than Three Press)
“The Missing Years”, Lyn Battersby (Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #66)
“A Little Faith”, Aiki Flinthart (Like a Woman, Mirren Hogan)
“Cards and Steel Hearts”, Pamela Jeffs (Lawless Lands: Tales from the Weird Frontier, Falstaff Books)
“One Small Step”, Amie Kaufman (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“Conversations with an Armoury” Garth Nix (Infinity Wars, Solaris)
“Hurk + Dav”, Alfie Simpson (Breach Issue #01)

“This Silent Sea”, Stephanie Gunn (Review of Australian Fiction Vol 24 Issue 6)
“I Can See the Ending”, Will Kostakis (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“The Wandering Library”, DK Mok (Ecopunk!, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Island Green”, Shauna O’Meara (Ecopunk!, Ticonderoga Publications)
Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)
Girl Reporter, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Book Smugglers)
The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales, Peter M Ball (Brain Jar Press)
The Silver Well, Kate Forsyth & Kim Wilkins (Ticonderoga Publications)
Beneath the Floating City, Donna Maree Hanson (self-published)
Singing My Sister Down and Other Stories, Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)
Please Look After This Angel & Other Winged Stories, Tansy Rayner Roberts (self-published)
Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, Deborah Sheldon (IFWG Publishing Australia)
Midnight Echo #12, Shane Jiraiya Cummings & Anthony Ferguson (eds.) (Australasian Horror Writers Association)
The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2015, Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene (eds.) (Ticonderoga Publications)
Dimension6: Annual Collection 2017, Keith Stevenson (ed.) (coeur de lion publishing)
Infinity Wars, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Rebellion/Solaris)
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 11, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Rebellion/Solaris)

In The Dark Spaces, Cally Black (Hardie Grant Egmont)
Ida, Alison Evans (Echo, Bonnier Publishing Australia)
Frogkisser!, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)
This Mortal Coil, Emily Suvada (Puffin UK)
Psynode, Marlee Jane Ward (Seizure)
The Undercurrent, Paula Weston (Text Publishing)

Aletheia, J S Breukelaar (Crystal Lake Publishing)
Who’s Afraid Too?, Maria Lewis (Hachette Australia)
Soon, Lois Murphy (Transit Lounge)

Crossroads of Canopy, Thoraiya Dyer (Tor Books)
Gwen, Goldie Goldbloom (Fremantle Press)
Cassandra, Kathryn Gossow (Odyssey Books)
Godsgrave, Jay Kristoff (HarperCollins Publishers)
Gap Year In Ghost Town, Michael Pryor (Allen & Unwin)
Wellside, Robin Shortt (Candlemark & Gleam)

Closing Down, Sally Abbott (Hachette Australia)
Terra Nullius, Claire G Coleman (Hachette Australia)
Year of the Orphan, Daniel Findlay (Penguin Random House Australia)
An Uncertain Grace, Krissy Kneen (Text Publishing)
From the Wreck, Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge)
Lotus Blue, Cat Sparks (Skyhorse)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Treasures Found While Cleaning Up...

Okay, my home looks like a hurricane hit it! It has for a very long time. I no longer have - or need - my day job, due to the fact that I can claim my superannuation and go right on living the way I want, so I have begun a massive clean-up, so that I can finally invite family and friends to visit again.

I've been sorting stuff I want from stuff I should never have hung on to. I've sorted rubbish from recycling stuff.

And while doing all that, I've unearthed stuff I had forgotten I had. Treasure! Books I had long mislaid, such as Simon Schama's history of the French Revolution, and Jack Dann's alternative universe novel The Rebel, set in a world in which James Dean survived that car crash. I'm reading both now. My five copies of Mythic Resonance. I asked for five copies instead of payment, which was not very much.

And photos. Family ones, in which my nephews and niece and my great-nieces appear as babies and toddlers. My nephew Max's first birthday party(he's turning twenty the week after next.). Max as a toddler, smiling at the camera, being allowed to hold someone's fishing rod in Portsea. Amelia, his sister, playing on the sand or sitting on her Dad's shoulder. Mum and me in Sydney, walking across the Harbour Bridge, gazing at the Opera House and the ferry from our height, Mum with the Three Sisters behind her in the Blue Mountains.

I can't share those with you, due to privacy reasons, but I also found another treasure - a CD full of photos from the one and only time I was ever a guest of honour at a con. It was the MSFC minicon in 2011, and I was invited when the person they asked first couldn't make it. But hey, they did think of me.

Have a look at this.

I didn't even remember getting this CD -ROM, but someone must have sent it to me. Nice, eh?

This is what you get for doing a tidy-up. And there's plenty more I hope to share with you. I promised my Mum I would bring along the album into which I put those photos when I go there today. The family will be there to share and enjoy.

Have you ever found something you thought was gone for good? Or forgotten you had?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Compulsory Valentines Day Post - Adapted Romances

A couple of years ago, I did a Valentine’s Day post. Time for another.

Right now, on Goodreads, people are talking about their favourite romantic reads. It has got away a bit from the original theme, which was about fiddling with beloved romances. But hey, who cares? It’s fun!

I’ll be writing about how people fiddle with famous romances, though. Just a few!

I have a confession to make: I have an unfinished version of my YA version of  Much Ado About Nothing on my computer - time to get back to it...

Shakespeare certainly gets played with - and why not? He played with other people’s stories himself. Plus his stories are so very good! I haven’t seen Gnomeo And Juliet, but imagine Romeo And Juliet with garden gnomes! And don’t forget West Side Story, that amazing dance musical with the lovers being from opposing street gangs! I’ve always liked that cheeky young man Mercutio better than Romeo anyway, and in the film version he was played by dancer Russ Tamblyn. I remember reading a short story, wish I could remember who wrote it or where I read it, told from the viewpoint of Rosaline, the girl Romeo gatecrashed the Capulet party to see. She thinks Romeo is a puppy, but does fall for Mercutio. And she manages to arrange a happy ending with a bit of magic, bringing back the lovers and Mercutio - Tybalt’s bronzed head ends up on Rosaline and Mercutio’s mantelpiece...

These days Shakespeare and other classic writers end up in YA fiction and film. Ten Things I Hate About You brings The Taming Of The Shrew to an American high school. In it, Kate has a very good reason for hating boys - in particular a certain boy. This being modern times, she isn’t “tamed” as such. It is a good idea for a romantic comedy in some respects, ie the younger sister can’t date till the older one is dating, so get her a boyfriend.

She’s The Man is one I used to show my Year 8 students when I was doing an intro to Shakespeare. It takes Twelfth Night to a boarding school soccer team. Viola disguises as a boy when her twin brother goes overseas and joins the soccer team at Illyria high school because her own girls’ team has been scrapped. A very funny film! I made the kids research Twelfth Night so they would get the jokes.

And what about Pride And Prejudice? Apart from all the adaptations, it became Bride And Prejudice, a Bollywood musical. That was delightful. The Bennets become the Bakshis. Mr Darcy is an American who has come to India with his Anglo-Indian friend, whose name isn’t Bingley, though I can’t recall the character’s name. Darcy is investigating the possibility of opening a chain of hotels in India. I liked that they managed to rescue the Lydia character before she got into any real trouble - and she punched Wickham! (Johnny Wickham in this film). Lady Catherine De Burgh was Darcy’s mother, not his aunt, and was the head of their firm.

Another Austen romance was also translated for teens - Emma became Clueless, set in America among wealthy families in California. And very funny it was! That film has becone a classic in its own right, don’t you agree?

Over to you - do you have a favourite book or film adaptation of a classic?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Book Blogger Hop - Who Have You Met?

Okay, this week’s question for book bloggers is ... which writer s have you met? And where did you meet them? 

You’re kidding, right? Mind you, the web site where I found this question had an impressively long list. It’s just that I can’t remember them all. I’ve been at so many conventions and children’s lit events and library conferences that they blur together. And the writer community in Australia is not big. Chances are that sooner or later you’ll run into most of them, especially if you’re in children’s or SF fandom. 

But I’ll just mention a few off the top of my head. They are all people I’ve actually spoken to, or had speak to me personally, not just those I’ve heard. It narrows it down a bit and even so, there are plenty more I won’t have mentioned.

Off The Top Of My Head

Robert Bloch - at Cinecon in Melbourne. Very pleasant! And funny. I remember him sitting with us one evening and chatting. As he was leaving, he turned to the most silent member of our group and said, “You talk too much!”

Jack Dann - various conventions over the years. Delightful man! Very friendly, calls everybody his pals.

Juliet Marillier - I attended her fairy tale workshop at Swancon. A very knowledgeable lady! She really know her fairy tales and uses them in her writing.We’ve been in occasional email contact since then and she has been interviewed on this site. 

Justine Larbalestier - at SF conventions. 

Susan Cooper - at a library conference in Hobart. But I couldn’t speak, too overwhelmed with fan girlishness.

Jan Needle - same conference. A very funny man who looks a bit like Harlan Ellison and writes depressing YA fiction! 

Melina Marchetta - at a YA event at the State Library. I got a hug for giving her such a good review - well deserved! 

Margo Lanagan - various conventions. Stops for a chat. Nice lady! 

George R R Martin - at a tiny convention in a motel in Melbourne many years ago, just before he finished Fevre Dream. That was before anyone except SF fans had heard of him and he sat chatting with us all in the motel foyer. We couldn’t afford him now! 

Queenie Chan - graphic novel writer and illustrator who lives in Sydney these days. We did a panel together at Continuum. Lovely lady! 

David Gerrold - at two conventions, Con Amore in Queensland and one at a small convention in a suburban motel in Melbourne. Very enjoyable company; a couple of us took him out to dinner and interviewed him for a fanzine. 

Terry Pratchett - was kind enough to speak to the children at Aussiecon 3. I was running the children’s program. I also met him briefly at a Discworld convention in Melbourne. 

Some children’s writers

Morris Gleitzman- the new Aussie Children’s Laureate, whom I once chatted to at a Penguin Books evening, when I had to admit my students had chosen to hear Andy Griffiths instead at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. That was rectified last year when we went to hear him. Different kids. 

Andy Griffiths, Felice Arena - two true gentlemen! I met them both at the YABBA Awards. 

Gabrielle Wang - at various book launches and SCBWI events.  Lovely, gentle lady, the author of beautiful fantasy for kids.

Anna Ciddor - various children’s literature events. Most recently at the Jewish Writers Festival. Author of The Family With Two Doors and a lot of Viking-themed children’s fantasy novels. A funny, delightful lady - and I went to school with her husband! 

Ellie Marney - Reading Matters and Continuum. She writes about a teenage Holmes and (female)Watson in modern Melbourne. A fellow schoolmarm. 

Michael Pryor - various conventions. My favourite of his fiction was a YA steampunk series called The Laws of Magic. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Roll Of Drums... The New Children’s Laureate Is...

 ...Morris Gleitzman!

A wonderful choice! I have been reading his beautiful, gentle books for a long time. They range from funny to deeply sad, sometimes both at once. He creates characters we readers can care about. My favourite, of course, is Felix from the Once series, but there are plenty more. I have yet to encounter a Gleitzman hero or heroine I didn’t find worth loving. Which makes it sadder when a character dies. When they do, though, it happens for a reason. He doesn’t just say, “I think I’ll kill someone off to make it more exciting.”

Last year, I took some students to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival to hear him speak. It was a delightful morning and several of them bought copies of his books to get signed. One young man hadn’t read his work, but was intrigued enough to start reading Once the next day in his literacy class - and became a fan.

And, see, this is the thing - I’ve known kids ranging from reluctant readers to passionate ones to love his work. In recent years, at my library, the Once series has been the most borrowed, but I remember a very reluctant reader who loved Boy Overboard, Gleitzman’s tale of a refugee boy and his family on their way to Australia by boat. I give kids who love that one the sequel, Girl Underground, in which a girl doing a school assignment works to help the hero of Boy Overboard escape from a detention centre.

We used to have Two Weeks With The Queen as a Year 7 text. A boy sent to England to stay with relatives because his little brother is dying tries to get the Queen’s doctor, who must be the world’s best, to come home to Australia for his brother. While he is there, he helps a gay couple, one of whom is dying of AIDS, to spend time together, with a “borrowed” wheelchair. (That one made a rather nice play which I saw at Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival with a gay friend.)

Anyway, I’m thrilled to hear of this choice and I wish Mr Gleitzman a terrific two years in his job.