Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review: Night World 1 & 2, Secret Vampire, Daughters of Darkness by L.J. Smith

The Night World isn't a place. It's all around us. It's a secret society of vampires, werewolves, witches, and other creatures of darkness that live among us. They're beautiful and deadly and irresistible to humans. Your high school teacher could be one of them, and so could your boyfriend.

The Night World laws say it's okay to hunt humans. It's okay to toy with their hearts, it's even okay to kill them. There are only two things you can't do with them.

1. Never let them find out the Night World exists.
2. Never fall in love with one of them.

These are stories about what happens when the rules get broken.

Hear that? That's the sound of a shiver going up my spine. For the newbies: I love L. J. Smith! With an undying passion that hails from my early teen years. Recently I bought all the original Night World paperbacks to reread before Strange Fate is finally released (July 6)--and I just checked, and they're all first editions, yippee! How awesome are the covers?

Night World #1: Secret Vampire (1996)

The pain was something Poppy couldn't ignore. The diagnosis was death. There was no hope--until James appeared in the darkened hospital room. James, her best friend and secret love, the handsomest boy in El Camino High. But this was a James she didn't know, menacing and yet irresistible as he offered Poppy the gift of eternal life. Only he could open the door to the Night World, and spirit her into its lonely, secret universe. One dizzying kiss and she can see into his soul. She finds that he has always loved her. They're soulmates--but can she follow him into death ... and beyond? It's a desperate choice, and Poppy's time is running out.

Secret Vampire
I read umpteen times as a teenager--because I owned it, not because it was my favourite of the series--so I'm reviewing it from memory. It starts rather bluntly:

It was on the first day of summer that Poppy found out she was going to die.

Smith has wonderful economy when it comes to words. She establishes character and setting with just a handful of sentences, laces them with some clipped dialogue and the odd adverb and you're on your way. (That's right, she's not afraid of the dreaded adverb, and she makes it work, too.) She's got to squeeze multiple points of view, characters falling in love, "the realisation" moment and a good dose of Night World danger into just over 200 pages.

Sercret Vampire is the perfect place to start this ten-book series: two main characters, two rules to break, two big reasons to break them. Poppy has to deal with the fact that vampires, werewolves and witches are real, the boy she's loved forever is Lamia (a born vampire) and whether she wants to die or live as a vampire. James has his work cut out for him keeping her transformation a secret otherwise they'll both be executed. That's what adds the spice of danger to these books: the laws enforced by the Elders. It's always teenagers (or two hundred-year-old vampires who look like teenagers) breaking the rules, which gives it this high school-with-death feel. But no boring classes getting in the way of mind-melding and blood drinking and romantic pink hazes.

This is a cute, romantic, slightly predictable but entertaining introduction to the Night World. It's worth reading these books in order as characters often reappear in later books. An important character is introduced late in Secret Vampire. His name is Ash and he is Lamia, and as fundamental about the Night World rules as they come. Humans are vermin, werewolves are second class citizens and so on. Plus, he gets off on tormenting girls and is whole-heartedly in favour of execution for the rule-breakers. Bad news for Poppy, right?

Keep Ash in mind as we turn to ...

Night World #2: Daughters of Darkness (1996)

There's something strange about the new girls in town. Briar Creek, Oregon, has never seen anything like the supernatural grace of Rowan, Kestrel, and Jade, three sisters who move into the dilapidated old house next to Mark and Mary-Lynette Carter. Mark is obsessed with Jade--but she and her sisters have a secret. And when Mark and Mary-Lynette follow them into the woods one night, they are plunged into a nightmare beyond their imagination. Because the sisters are fugitives from the Night World, and their brother Ash is hot on the trail behind them. He's ruthless, gorgeous, and he has orders to bring the girls back at all costs. And when he sees Mary-Lynette, he decides to take her, too ...

Daughters of Darkness is a whodunnit as well as a paranormal romance. Someone's killing great-aunts and torturing goats in this small town, and Mary-Lynette is going to find out who. The three sisters are on the run from an Night World enclave on an island that sounds like a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sect: quaint dresses, arranged marriages and few outside influences.

And then Ash pops up. What an arsehole! Blustering about being the head of the family, sisters must obey him, blah blah blah. There's scope for some massive character development here. And look--who turns out to be his soul mate? Guess, just guess! Ooh it's too delicious ... Soul mates in L.J. Smith books means soul mates. It's inescapable, which means very little time is devoted to the characters actually falling in love. They touch, and BAM! You can't criticise any of Smith's books for saying that a pair fell in love too quickly and too easily, because in the worlds she creates, that's the way love works. Which means that we can just get on with the story--and I must say this is rather refreshing. (But characters can resist being soul mates, which is one of the juiciest Night World character arcs.)

In fact, I can't criticise these books at all. They move along at a fair clip, the characters act in believable ways and say things that should be said, when they should be said--none of this infuriating pussyfooting around subjects in order to drag tension out that lesser authors revert to. Not once while reading these books do I feel like tearing my hair out and shouting at the heroine "Just ask this question! Now!" or "Why on earth do you think that you stupid cow? Get with the program!" L.J. Smith prides herself on writing strong female leads and that's what she delivers. They might all be devastatingly beautiful, but they aren't dumb, and they get things done.

Night World books are top trash, beach pop-corn, pure entertainment.

Happy New Year everyone!
See you in 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Companions of the Night, Vivian Vande Velde

A trip to the laundromat in the middle of the night lands Kerry in what seems to be a gang war. But it's no gang that has a young man, Ethan, tied up and beaten; they're self-professed vampire-hunters and they insist Ethan is a vampire. Assuming they're all mad and this poor boy is about to die right before her eyes, Kerry helps Ethan escape, setting in motion a series of events that put her and her family in danger from vampires and vampire-hunters alike.

It's time to get out my Zimmer frame out, put on my crotchety grandma-voice and say "When I was young, vampires were vampires and girls knew how to handle them!" We had "bit lit" in my day too, and this book is one of the genre's finest examples.

Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde was published in 1995. I would have gotten to it around 1998 when I was fourteen, and I loved it. I reread it yesterday while at the beach and I am extraordinarily happy to say that that I got even more enjoyment out of it this time around. (I recently hunted down a first edition hardback. It's sitting beside me in all it's gold-embossed glory and shall find its home next to my extra special edition of Lord of the Flies in the Pretty, Pretty section of my bookshelves.)

This book is what I call a perfect novel, which is how Peter Carey describes Helen Garner's The Spare Room (2008). In my opinion, a perfect novel tells you what you need to know and no more; it's purpose is to both entertain and provoke; it's set over just a handful of days or weeks, and is necessarily brief; there is just enough back story and no drawn out ending, but the reader can "see" the characters' pasts and futures; it is lyrical and evocative without tying itself up in elaborate language or metaphor; between the lines, the author is conveying great meaning: the book is more than the sum of its parts.

A perfect novel is complex simplicity. But even more important than that, it is a representation of reality, of how the author believes things to be.

This is all rather grand to say about a piece of YA vamp fiction. I'm making Companions of the Night sound like some painfully self-conscious piece of literatshaah, and it isn't. This is a very fun and exciting adventure book; but on top of that, Vande Velde raises very important questions about responsibility, lies, and life and death.

While I love it when authors raise Important Questions and such, I also like it when my heroine isn't dafter than dust. Kerry Nowicki breaks that awful dichotomy between weapons-drawn kickass-machine and colourless rescue-me maiden. Vande Velde borrows heavily from the girl-next-door trope to create Kerry, but it's done with sensitivity and intelligence.

Then there's the vampire. Ethan is manipulative and a brilliant actor--as you'd expect from someone who's had to pretend to be human for centuries. He's an accomplished liar and rational to the point of callousness; scornful of humans but fascinated by them at the same time; hedonistic, secretive and capricious. He's not mopey or Mysteriously Drawn to anyone or insufferably romantic and Tortured. If vampires were real, they'd be like Ethan Byrne.

I know some people find the end of this book unsatisfying. To these people I say phooey! There was only one way to end this book that didn't compromise the characters or throw the author's intentions out the window. In my opinion, it's perfect and also deliciously open-ended.

Companions of the Night is an excellent book that uses monsters--both human and otherwise--to examine what humanity is. Comparing it to the books of the current vampire craze created by Stephenie Meyer is an interesting exercise; in contrast, the vampire craze of my YA years was created by Anne Rice--who wrote of a thoroughly different species of vampire.

The laundry owner grabbed hold of Kerry's shoulders and shook her. "You don't understand," he said to her. "He isn't human. He isn't alive."


Kerry was looking at Sidowski, but the own said, "Him," nodding toward the boy.

"What?" she repeated.

"He's a vampire," the owner answered. "One of the living dead. He kills people to feed on their blood."

Their prisoner shook his head, wearing an expression of horror on his face that probably mirrored her own.

Roth took him roughly by the jaw, forcing back his lips to reveal canine teeth that were slightly longer and sharper than normal but certainly nothing to get alarmed about.

A vampire, Kerry thought. They think he's a vampire and they're hoping very hard that I'm not one, too.

It wasn't enough to step into the middle of what looked to be a ritual execution between rival gangs or druggies or international terrorists. She had to fall into a next of grade-A crazies.
*Spoilers in comments!*

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fine in '09

I've already related some of my favourite reads of this year and what's making me ga-ga for next year on The Book Smugglers. This post will be about the best books I read this year regardless of when they were published. For more a more '09-focused list, check out my post on the Smugglers.

I can't recommend the following books enough! Follow the links for my reviews.

The Death of Grass, John Christopher
Teach Me, R. A. Nelson
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Poison Study, Maria V. Snyder
Z for Zachariah, Robert C. O'Brien
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

The Chrysalids, John Wyndham
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Ice, Sarah Beth Durst

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
The Ask and the Answer, Patrick Ness
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card

The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Crank, Ellen Hopkins
The Monstrumologist, Rick Yancey

Monday, December 28, 2009

What a load of #!*%: Swear words in fantasy books

My main characters are a cranky pair and they're often finding themselves in sticky, violent situations. Naturally they want to let off a little steam by having a good cuss. But I'm having a world of trouble getting the right words in their mouths. One is a noble-born sixteen-year-old girl who rather resents the prissiness that's expected of her and picks up dirty words with glee and alacrity, and the other is a low-born but highly educated man who's a little bit proper but doesn't mind letting rip when something really awful happens.

Getting the cussing right is something I'm struggling with. There just aren't enough words for the right situations. I've got exclamations like "rot", "pigswill" and "blood and piss!"; "what the Deuce/blazes" (for snottier bit characters). Then there's the handy insults "Go swive a goat" and "son of a donkey's turd". All these I'm very happy with. But they only go so far.

Plenty of writers get around this by making up their own curse words, such as Battlestar Galactica's "frack!" "fracking hell" and "go frack yourself" and James Dashner's "klunk-head", "go shuck yourself" in The Maze Runner. The problem with made-up curse words is they can sound a bit naff. I don't really want to do this.

Then there's the fact that the world I've created is secular, so my characters can't take the lord's name in vain, damn anyone to hell or swear by Zeus's armpit or some such. They do, however, refer to the heavens and describe things as hellish. In fact, hell has sneaked in several times and I'd rather like to get rid of the bloody thing (said the sinner to the saint, hehe...) I've been watching the fantabulous series Rome recently and they have some mighty colourful swearing, such as "by Juno's c#%$!" and "I pull a hair for what my mother will think". Actually, that second one could come in handy. I shall appropriate it.

But the one curse word that I love, that I use all the time myself, that pegs Lharmell as being written by an Aussie and couldn't be less appropriate (in an anachronistic sense; propriety be damned) is "bloody". I bloody love saying bloody. It's the Aussie adjective. There are infinite uses. "What the bloody hell is going on?" "Not bloody likely." "Bloody hell!" "I can't bloody stand it." In fact, I don't think there are two words in the English language you can't use it between. You can even use it in the middle of words, as in "Abso-bloody-lutely". Such a happy, versatile curse word it is. (Apparently "bloody" came from "bloods", which is eighteenth century slang for a noble person. "Bloody drunk" meant "drunk as a blood" or "drunk as a lord". And I suppose that lords did drink a bloody great deal.)

But "bloody", along with "f---" "b----" and "c---" do not have a place in fantasy literature. I don't believe there's anything wrong with these words in urban fantasy, for example, or contemporary realism, but they just stick out as wrong wrong wrong in fantasy lit.

I read on a forum that swear words not about gods, sex and excreting just don't cut it as swear words. What are your favourite swear words or pseudo-swear words?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater

When a boy at school is killed by wolves, Grace finds "her" wolf on her doorstep, shot, bloodied, and in human form. He is the wolf that saved her from the wolf pack in a distant winter of her childhood. His name is Sam, and he has been watching her. But winter is coming on, and it is likely the last year that Sam is able to take human form.

The language Maggie Stiefvater uses to describe cold, wolfy winters is beautiful. If Shiver was an exquisite painting or delicate piece of bead work that you could gaze on for a few minutes, it would be perfect. As a book of nearly 400 pages, it falls short of being satisfying.

While beautiful, there is an emptiness to the language, and this emptiness is carried over to the characters. Grace and Sam's first meeting goes like this:

I could have screamed but I didn't. I could have fought, but I didn't. I just lay there and let it happen, watching the winter-white sky go gray above me. (page 1)

And then from Sam's perspective:

I saw it happen. I didn't stop it ... I saw muzzles smeared with red. Still, I didn't stop it ... What was wrong with her? If she was alive, why wasn't she struggling? ... I thought she was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen, a tiny, bloody angel in the snow, and they were going to destroy her. I saw it. I saw her, in a way I'd never seen anything before. And I stopped it. (page 3-4)

Really, why wasn't she struggling? It's never explained. There has been criticism that Grace is an enfeebled heroine or that she's dangerously stupid. I didn't see evidence for either of these things, but I didn't detect much depth to her character, either. Take away her longing for her wolf, and she is nothing. Oh, she cooks. Conversely, take away Sam's longing for Grace and he is nothing. (A habit of composing corny lyrics is not a personality trait.) This works somewhat for Sam as he has no future as a human. Grace, however, does, but there's no sense of the person she wants to be apart from The Girl With Sam. And it is this that makes large parts of Shiver rather dull.

Shiver is a beautiful painting made prose, but without the depth of characters that makes for a truly satisfying and engaging read.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

In My Mailbox (17)

First of all, I'm over on The Book Smugglers talking about my favourites of 2009 and my most anticipated of 2010. Drop by and say hi!

This meme is hosted by The Story Siren.

Tome of the Undergates, Sam Sykes (ARC from publisher). April UK/Australia, February US.

Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the Shict despises most humans, and the humans in the band are little better). When they’re not insulting each other’s religions they’re arguing about pay and conditions.

So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don’t go very well. They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates – a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don’t want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out.

Full of razor-sharp wit, characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunging the reader into a vivid world of adventure this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century.

I hope everyone had a fantastic day yesterday! I certainly did, and now the kitchen is a total mess. I think I might eat out and see Zombieland today.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Readying for the Christmas Apocalypse

Christmas, brought to you by the itteh bitteh kitteh committeh

It's done! The preparations for the day when no shops are open. Twice a year the supermarkets close here, and twice a year I'm struck to my core with fear. What if I need a barbecued chicken? What if I need tonic water? WHAT IF I NEED GENERIC SUPERMARKET BRAND LOW-FAT POTATO SALAD?? As my mother used to say when I was in high school whenever I exhibited signs of going soft, a pioneer woman I would not make. Rot. I bloody would. I'd just have to take Organisational Skills 101 first.

The pantry and fridge are groaning under the weight of food and drink and Zapp and I have made so many trips to the supermarket our knuckles are now dragging along the ground. (We don't have a car, which means lugging everything home by hand. The perks and downfalls of urban living.) Much of the weight comes from, er, liquid. In the form of sparkling Shiraz. Heaven forbid we should run out of booze on Christmas Day. My brother and his girlfriend are bringing reinforcements, but you never know.

The lunch menu is thus:

  • To begin, mini toasts spread with cream cheese and dill, topped with smoked salmon.
  • Roast lamb with all the trimmings. I was overcome by fear at the butcher and bought two legs. I don't know why. One would have been perfectly adequate. The second leg is now wintering in the freezer.
  • For dessert, a maa-aa-aasive Christmas cake that Zapp's parents sent over from NZ, Irish Cream ice-cream, and fresh cherries.
The meal will be thoroughly lubricated with very cold sparkling Shiraz and dark New Zealand ale. Sparkling Shiraz is my favourite Christmas drink. It's like the Australian equivalent of drinking mulled wine, and rather festive.

What about decorations, you ask? No Christmas tree pics? Nope, there are no children to amuse. We will be having a scream-free, sugar-high-free, tanty-throwing-free Christmas. Though I do reserve the right to have a wail if necessary, as it's in my apartment all this swilling and eating will be going on.

Finally, I would like to share with you a very special Christmas song that is sure to be enthusiastically rendered at Carols by Candlelight events in Australia tonight: Rolf Harris with "Six White Boomers". Be warned, it is made of corn.

Happy Holidays! Have a fantastic day, whatever you're doing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Review: The Maze Runner, James Dashner

Thomas wakes up in the dark, unable to remember anything about his past or who his is, other than his name. He emerges in the Glade, where inmates, teenage boys like himself, have organised themselves into a complex social structure and adopted their own slang. Every day, runners traverse the maze beyond the walls of the Glade, trying to find a way out. By night, the walls to the Glade close, protecting the boys from the Grievers who roam the maze. Thomas isn't sure why, but he's determined to become a maze runner. And then a girl arrives, and everything changes for the Gladers.

There's something about prison slang, that coarse camaraderie that identifies newbies from old hands. It's fantastic to read when it's done well, and James Dashner writes great dialogue. When Thomas finds himself amongst the Gladers, we know as much as he does about his situation, which is roughly nothing. Each boy is as memoryless as Thomas, but the time they have spent in the Glade has allowed their personalities to establish themselves. I often enjoyed reading about Minho, Newt and Chuck more than I did about Thomas, simply because they seemed more real.

The setting is the most vivid part of this book. I loved the image of the runners returning from the maze at sundown, exhausted from trying to solve it. I love mazes themselves, real or fictional; from the bizarre, Escher-like stone maze in Labyrinth, the freezing terror of King's/Kubrick's maze in The Shining, to the minotaur that dwells at the centre of the Cretan labyrinth in Greek mythology. One could write essays upon essays about the symbolic meaning of mazes, but they are, in and of themselves, pretty darn cool. Dashner has created a doozy. The monsters that roam the maze after sundown, the Grievers, are unfortunately on the lame side. They are giant slugs with Swiss Army knife attachments. I could not get scared for the kids when the Grievers came around though Dashner tried very hard to make them monstrous. Gross yes, scary no.

While this was a very good book, it wasn't a great book. Too little of Thomas's past was revealed. I find it difficult to love a story when I don't fully engage with the main character. Thomas hasn't won me over yet. (I was also frustrated by Teresa, but more of that below.) But there is the sense that later books in this series are going to get pretty wild, and I'm looking forward to them very much. Dashner has set up a lot of cool possibilities for The Scorch Trials, not the least being that the line between the good guys and the bad guys is deliciously blurred, and possibly non-existent. While my review seems a little reserved, I advise you to jump on the bandwagon early and read this book. I have a feeling book two will prove to be something special.

The Scorch Trials, book two in this series, will be available October 2010. (Gah, fracking series!!)

About Teresa. This is SPOILERY, so highlight to read if you've read the book, and feel free to discuss in the comments:

What the hell is with this girl? She's evil, right, working for the creators? There's that bit when she starts talking about the Grievers and Thomas pulls her up on it saying, "How do you know about them? You just woke up." I could have sworn she was just pretending to have lost her memory, but then in the epilogue the creator in her memo refers to the fact that Teresa did lose her memory and wrote "WICKED is good" on her arm to remind herself. Well, WICKED don't seem all that good to me, what with the whole killing children thing, but while I was sure she was a rotten spy the whole time I was reading this book, now I'm not so sure. But I am sure of this: I don't trust her one bit. Any thoughts on the matter?

The literary to-do list

I want to be one of those authors who tackles many genres and styles, different POVs and so on. A while back, Justine Larbalestier posted her literary to-do list: all the sorts of books she wants to write.

Being on submission is time to dream, so please indulge me. These are the books that I want to write and have published. Say, by the time I turn 30 (in five years). There's nothing like slapping an arbitrary deadline on dreams!

  • A YA fantasy trilogy. All going well, this will be the Lharmell trilogy. Progress: drafts of book one complete; book two (The Harmings) almost complete; book three (Queen of Lharmell) outlined.
  • A standalone urban fantasy. Progress: first draft one-third complete; the working title is Azrea. I'll be turning to this novel again as soon as I'm done with The Harmings.
  • A short, satirical YA novel presently called Validity about the modesty movement, which I thoroughly disapprove of for many, many reasons. I had just started it when inspiration for Lharmell struck.
  • A deep-space sci-fi with a teenage girl protagonist. In his book On Writing, Stephen King states that people love to read about other people working, and then joked why not write a novel about plumbers in space. I was immediately struck by the image of a curly-haired girl with a sour look, grease stains and a wrench. I don't think this was King's intention.
  • A Harlequin romance. Not one of these new HarlequinTeens, either. A proper, skinny paperback Mills & Boon. Maybe a historical romance. I think it would be so much fun, and how gorgeous are these covers?

  • A historical YA set in colonial Australia, perhaps during the gold rush on Central Victoria or outback South Australia.
You'll notice I don't have any plans (yet) to write a dystopian novel even though I adore the genre. By the time I get to writing one, I expect everyone's going to be absolutely sick of end-of-the-world scenarios. There are so, so many fantastic authors with dystopian novels out. I just can't imagine I'd do any better at this stage. Also, I believe that dystopian novels should concern themselves with a scenario that the author is genuinely worried about, and not just some illogical, futuristic hell-hole that vilifies a certain demographic that just happens to be the same demographic that the book's aimed at. *cough* Unwind *cough*

I hope to write, and hopefully finish (or have thoroughly outlined at least) most of these books in 2010. It depends on how Lharmell fares on submission, of course. But either way I'll be a busy girl next year!

What about you? What's on your to-be-published wish list?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Kissing Day Blogfest!

When I heard today was Kissing Day: A Writer's Tribute to Mistletoe I couldn't wait to join in. Kissing is just about my favourite thing to do! Kisses, especially first kisses between favourite characters, are so much fun to read and write about. I love how, especially in YA books, first kisses are these monumental experiences. I love when the author makes a big fuss of the first-kiss scene. It doesn't have to be done with rainbows and beams of golden light or the planets aligning like L. J. Smith does it, but I do like the writer and the characters to make it memorable. When there's been a great deal of tension been built up between two characters, I hate when the first kiss fizzles, or is done off-screen or off-handedly. (Sometimes it feels like I'm more enthusiastic about the characters' first kiss than they are!)

I'd love to share a kiss from my Lharmell trilogy. I've worked very hard on the kisses in these books. But I don't think I should talk too much about them as the powers that be might get cranky. Instead I'll share favourite kisses from books and films.

This first one is from The Secret of Dragonhome by John Peel, a YA fantasy from 1999. I remembered this kiss from when I read the book ten years ago, and it's the reason I tracked it down to read it again. Lord Sander sees people's future when he touches them; Melayne is the heroine:

He stripped off both gloves, and started to reach for her. Then he hesitated, obviously having second thoughts. There was a flicker of worry in his eyes. Melayne didn't let him back out--she gripped both his hands in her own.

Lord Sander gasped slightly, and his eyes went unfocused, as if he were staring at something a great distance away ... [He] jerked his hands free, and his eyes focused on her again. He looked shaken by his emotions, and his self control was badly damaged. Something had caused him great turmoil.

"What did you see?" She begged, scared.

"This," he replied softly. Then he gripped both of her shoulders, leaned in and kissed her ... She had no idea why he was doing this. The touch of his lips on hers, the strong hands on her shoulders, the scent of him--all made her giddy with emotion.

This next one is from Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park, my favourite Australian YA. It's a timeslip novel; Abby is from our time, and has been transported back to Victorian times where Judah is from:

"Ah, Abby love, don't go! Not to the grievous world you've described. Stay here with us."

His arms were around her. Her hat fell off into the water and floated away. His cheek rubbed against hers, and she put up her hand and stroked his face.

"Why, Abby. Dinna weep, you must not, what's there to weep about on this bright day?"

But she couldn't stop. A huge shameful gulping hiccup came out of her. Judah grinned.

"Don't laugh at me, damn you!" cried Abigail.

"Why, Abby--" he said, as though astonished. "My little one, my Abby."

Now, although Abigail had no regular boyfriend, she had had her share of kisses ... But this was quite different. Her body went off on its own, yielded and clung and moulded itself to Judah's, her head whirled, and so exquisite a melting sensation arose in her middle she thought she was going to die.

Death by kissing. What a way to go!

After Vivian is dumped by a terrified Aiden in Blood and Chocolate after she reveals she's a werewolf, she foolishly tries to make him jealous by kissing Gabriel, her pack leader. Bad boys on motorbikes are so cliche, but Klaus makes it work oh-so-well for Gabriel.

Her breath caught in her throat when she spotted Aiden. He was staring right at her, mouth parted.

She ripped her gaze away and climbed off the bike. What do I do? What do I do? Against all common sense, she stepped up on the footrest and pressed her lips to Gabriel's. Oh bloody moon, I'm an idiot, she thought. It was meant to be a brief kiss to make Aiden jealous, over before Gabriel realised what was happening. She didn't expect the swiftness with which he encircled her waist with his arm. Suddenly she found herself half across the gas tank and crushed against his chesk, her feet off the ground, metal digging into her right knee. His practiced tongue parted her lips while she clung to him to stop herself falling. She felt the heat of him searing her through his shirt and smelled his musky scent growing rich and suggestive. Then he let her go, and she slid to the ground and staggered backward.

"His eyes smoldered beneath half-closed lids. "Don't use me," he growled. Then he revved his engine, echoing the threat.

My favourite on-screen kiss is in The English Patient. It's one of my favourite movies of all time, and if you haven't seen it, DO. Ralph Fiennes is blindingly handsome (in the scenes when he's not, you know, burned to a crisp) and Kristen Scott Thomas is the epitome of a graceful, cultured, and ever so slightly sad young woman. She's married (swoon!) to an idiot husband who just doesn't get her but Ralph Fiennes does (swoon!) and falls in love with her while she recites stories from Herodotus (double swoon!) They have some absolutely smoking scenes together, beautiful and tragic at the same time. Then World War II comes along and messes absolutely everything up, as wars are wont to do.

And then there's the kiss that never happened. The not-kiss that launched a thousand fan-fics. The kiss that I have been waiting TWENTY YEARS for, one which Return to Labyrinth volume IV better deliver or I shall die a thousand deaths. Apparently test audiences objected to a kiss between Sarah and Jareth in Labyrinth's ballroom scene as Jennifer Connelly was fifteen at the time. PRUDES. Isn't there a special clause when it comes to demigods of glam-rock drugging and pashing teenage girls? No?? WTF!

An even bigger WTF: Test audiences objected to the kiss but not THESE PANTS:

Priorities, hello?

Happy kissing day to all! *mwah*

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In My Mailbox (16): Just the fanciest book ever!

This meme is hosted by The Story Siren.

This week I left my job in publicity at an academic and non-fiction publishing house. It's been a wonderful two years there and it was my very first "real" job. But the position became part time and while it was good to have extra time to write, my bank balance wasn't looking so hot. I want to do a lot of travelling next year to see friends in faraway places. I kept telling myself that it would be okay because Lharmell will sell and that will pay for my trip. But I got sick of playing "What if?" On Thursday I had a job interview with a magazine publisher, working in subscriptions, and it went very well. (I've never had a personality test in a job interview before! Bizarre! Is this what the corporate world is really like?) Subscriptions is away from the production stuff I got to dabble in at my last job but at least I'll be keeping my foot in the industry door. It's also the sort of work that will stay at work, and not haunt me with typos at 4 am. (I hope.) Second interview on Wednesday. Wish me luck!

As a going away gift my boss gave me the most bee-yootiful Folio Society edition of Lord of the Flies by William Golding. It is a hardback with a slipcase (a slipcase! see? Fancy) and is beautifully illustrated.

Lord of the Flies
has one of those famous rejections stories attached to it. Originally it was twice as long and no one would touch it. Then finally some whizz-bang editor realised it was the second half of the book that really had something going for it and lopped the first half off.

I also got The Running Man by Stephen King (Bookmooch; I have never seen the movie and I was rather surprised to see Arnie on the cover) and Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar (for review; Piatkus, Australian released January 2010).

Stuff you should know about:
This week on the blog:
  • I'm about a third of a way through The Maze Runner and so far it's pretty great. Review up later in the week.
  • The best books I read this year, from Brave New World (1939) to Ice (2009).
  • Manuscript polishing: format, layout and editing quickie tips. Basically, stuff I learned from the slush at work.
I am either on holidays for two weeks, or unemployed. The second interview on Wednesday shall decide. Urk!

Poached eggs are calling to me. Happy holidays!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Downunder

Today I'm over at The Shady Glade talking about Christmas in Australia: what's unique about it, and what we cling to despite our ridiculously hot climate.

Check it out and tell me what you think!

My Christmas plans so far are having my mum, brother and his girl over for lunch. Zapp will do his usual: turn his phone off, drink copious beer and say "bah-humbug" if any so much as mentions presents, decorations or even trees. I shall lure him from his den with prawns.

Then I think we're going camping in Adelaide til new Year. Hello summer!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Books for Writers (3): How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card

After being absolutely thrilled by Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game I thought I'd give his How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy a go. At just 137 pages it's a short read but the five chapters cover those elements of writing that are unique or of particular importance to the speculative genres: the infinite boundary (what is and isn't sf&f), world creation, story construction, writing well, and the life and business of writing. (I skipped the last chapter as it covers things I've read elsewhere.)

Though this is a brief book Card covers interesting ground. I'm a sci-fi neophyte myself, but I have read a lot of fantasy, especially the non-epic, YA variety. If you're familiar with these genres a lot of what Card has to say you will know implicitly. For example, "the rules" of magic in stories: there must be some cost to the user; power can't be limitless. Because I don't know much about sci-fi I found many passages of this book very helpful--and Card spends most of his time discussing sci-fi rather than fantasy. For example, the rules of starflight. Chances are that if you are writing a sci-fi you're going to have your characters in space at some point, or they will have just landed, or someone will be arriving from far away etc. I don't know where else you'd be able to find a discussion of the various types of imaginary space travel and how they will affect story, but it's here in Card's book and worth buying the book for this alone. One thing that he stresses over and over again is that you're writing science fiction: the science must make sense even if it's physically impossible, at this point in time or any. He writes one particularly amusing passage about warp speed:

I haven't even touched on the silliest of space travel rules--the one used in the Star Trek universe, where the speed of light is no more a barrier than the speed of sound, and you only have to persuade Scotty in the engine room to really step on the gas to get four, eight, ten times the speed of light. This sort of stardrive shows such contempt for science that it's best to reserve it for light adventures or comic stories--or, of course, Star Trek novelisations ... Beware of anything that makes non-Trekkie readers think of Star Trek.

I'm glad someone told me this before I had one of my characters shouting, "Increase to warp speed ten!"

Card also covers made up words and languages and how to use them, the problem with metaphor in science fiction, and how quickly you can lose a reader by being sloppy. Because it's just so interesting, let me explain to you what he said about those last two.

The problem with metaphor in sf&f is your reader will probably take you literally. If you write, "She approached the door with leaden feet," a reader might assume the character's feet are made of lead. Card also has this to say about being sloppy and faking it:

Wherever you can be truthful, you should be truthful; if your readers can see that you're acting by a credo, they'll trust you, and you'll deserve their trust. But if they catch you faking it, and doing it so carelessly that you can easily be caught, they'll figure that if the story wasn't worth much effort to you, it shouldn't be much worth to them, either.

I'll go one step further with this: if your careless, you're reader will assume that you think he or she is stupid. Nothing enrages me more than action films that blatantly disobey the laws of physics: the nuclear blast that Indiana Jones survives by hiding in a refrigerator; James Bond falling over a cliff after his light plane and then catching up to it as they falls; in fact, just about everything in the James Bond universe. (Except Casino Royale. Casino Royale was brilliant and funny, and then that damn Russian (Russian?) biatch had to go and break his heart and we're back to wooden, Mr too-many-car-chases Bond. P.S. Daniel Craig=swoonarama.)

There's lots of insightful nuggets in this book. It's not a book on writing that you would read for pleasure as well, like Bird by Bird, but it's pithy and useful, as all good how-to books should be.

*scampers off to perve on Daniel Craig in those blue swimming trunks*

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

INTERN Spills: A behind-the-scenes look at a manuscript's journey through a publishing house

Today I am absolutely thrilled to present a guest post by INTERN. Who is INTERN you ask?

THE INTERN is the unpaid toiler on the publishing house floor, licking stamps, reading slush, and copy-editing your train-wreck of a manuscript (for free) because the "real" copyeditor is down with the genital crabs. THE INTERN wears mismatched socks, clunky glasses, the same shirt she wears every day and jeans she found in the dumpster. No bra—bras are expensive, and THE INTERN is unpaid. THE INTERN sees all, hears all—the tense phone calls, the well-oiled editorial meetings at which your manuscript is used as a receptacle for pretzel crumbs, the wheeling, dealing, and long hours of apathy that make publishing publishing. THE INTERN knows everything about—your ambitions, your secret shames. She knows you pee in the shower. Basically, THE INTERN has you dialed.

INTERN writes some of the funniest, incisive posts on publishing in the blogoverse. If you don't follow her already, you should start now. Find her here. And without further ado ...


Part 1: Getting from Slush to Desk!

If you have an agent, she’ll send your manuscript out to specific editors at different publishing houses. Different editors have different specialties—some love self-help and detest YA, some devour mysteries but don’t get memoirs—and a good agent will know the right editor to pitch for your project. Once your manuscript arrives at the publisher, it will be logged by the editorial assistant and dropped on that editor’s desk.

If you submit without an agent, the editorial assistant will log your manuscript and then put it in the slush pile. Everybody knows about slush piles (interminable limbo! sneering disdain!) so let’s move on to what happens if your manuscript is plucky enough to escape the first round of mass paper-recycling.

If an intern or editorial assistant comes across your query while going through the slush and thinks it has potential, she will write up a project summary or manuscript assessment. The exact format of a project summary varies by publisher, but it generally involves the following first impressions: what are the proposed book’s strengths and weaknesses, and does it seem marketable?

Once the project summary is written, the intern or assistant will put your manuscript on the appropriate editor’s desk. And once your manuscript is on an editor’s desk, you can look forward to…several more months of interminable limbo until that editor gets around to thinking about your project!

Part 2: Getting to Desk to Table!

So now your manuscript is on an editor’s desk, within touching and breathing distance (theoretically) of a person who (more or less) has the power to turn your project into a book. This is all well and good, but not a great improvement: where you really want to be is on the table at an editorial meeting, not sitting on a desk where your chances of being declined are still about 90%.

If the editor in question reads your query and doesn’t decline it immediately, she will either sit on it for a few months and then decline it, or sit on it for a while (perhaps requesting more materials from you, if she doesn’t already have the full manuscript) and then bring it to an editorial meeting.

An editorial meeting is where editors sit around a table and present possible projects. If your manuscript is on that table, it might get as little as five seconds of discussion (“Teen sleuths solve global warming?” “Nah.”) or as much as several minutes (“Teen sleuths solve global warming?” “Maybe! Check comp sales.”)

At this stage, most projects are still getting declined. If your manuscript isn’t declined after the first editorial meeting, the editor will poke around a bit, checking sales figures and calling up relevant people (marketing staff, the buyers for chain bookstores, etc.) and running the idea by them. Another month or two might sneak by before you hear from the editor again (that is, unless you and your manuscript are super hot and your agent has successfully incited a bidding war, in which case, hold on to your hat!)

Part 3: Getting from Table to Whiteboard!

If everything checks out and your project seems both appealing and profitable, an editor will contact you/your agent to make an offer. You/your agent might rally with a counter-offer. Eventually, you’ll either come to an agreement or storm off to a different publisher. Contracts will get drawn up and signed.

Now your manuscript has become a project of the publisher, and some bizarre shorthand version of its working title will get written on various whiteboards and dry-erase production calendars and six or seven absolute strangers will hustle to make sure your book (your own dear book!) is edited/copy-edited/coded/designed/typeset in time for its publication date.

Over the next year, you’ll hear from your publisher sporadically. They will send you copy-edited versions of your manuscript for your review, FedEx you the designed and layed-out pages, and gently (OK, ruthlessly) command you to expand to your Facebook presence so that a million “friends” will buy your book when it comes out.

Meanwhile, the intern and editorial assistant will be writing jacket copy for your book, seeking endorsements from other authors, and sending out galleys for review. At some point, boxes of your book will fill the office and everyone will ooh and aah over the beautiful cover.

Then the book will go on sale.

And that’s all there is to it!


Thanks so much INTERN! I can see where my manuscript is now: in limbo, gracing an editor or two's desk, perhaps even on a Kindle for some take-home holiday reading. That 90% decline rate freaks me out, but really, all I need is one little yes...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Coca-Cola, product placement and The Road

For those unfamiliar with The Road, at one point the man and the boy find a can of Coke and the man gives it to his son to drink as the boy has never tasted soft drink in his life.

The following was posted as a comment earlier this afternoon in response to my film review of the film adaptation. In it I said

I saw this film with a friend who hadn't read the book and there was eye-rolling at the scene with the can of coke. It came off as terrible product placement in the film, unfortunately. I explained that in the book, that can of coke tells the reader several things: that this boy was born post-apocalypse and how long approximately it has been since the world fell apart. Because you're told this explicitly by Mortensen's narration at the beginning of the film, the scene is redundant and unfortunately comes off looking like advertising.

I asked the writer if I could repost his comment here and he agreed. From Solidarity Community News Melbourne, here's Ben's thoughts on the scene with the can of Coke:

I think it's useful to consider the ideological world-view of the film in trying to assess the use of Coca-Cola. In the book it may indeed serve the narrative by providing information about the birth of the kid and the recentness of the apocalypse, but - try as I might - I just can't see how this information couldn't have been conveyed in other ways. As you've pointed out Rhiannon, in the film it was already apparent from other narrative clues - not just the voice over but also in the flashback scenes with Charlize Theron. So narratively the Coca-Cola scene was redundant. What else was it about then?

Both McCormack and Mortensen claim the iconic status of the Coke can and its ability to signify something specifically American (consumerism? World-capitalist dominance? The singular, superficial language of brand identity?) were integral to their attachment to this narrative device in the book and film.

Mortensen said "we were approaching the day we were going to shoot that scene, which I was looking forward to, and they said, 'we're not going to be able to use Coke. We’ll have to use...Brand X soda or something.' I said that's not the same thing. Coke is so iconic around the world. It's a symbol, of America, of a certain way of life."

Meanwhile, McCarthy's take is: "Well, it just struck me. It's the iconic American product. The one thing that everybody knows about America, the one thing above cowboys and Indians, above everything else that you can think of, is Coca-Cola. You can't go to a village of 18 people in the remotest part of Africa that they don't know about Coca-Cola."

In the end, according to the article at the first link above, it was Mortensen lobbying a Coca-Cola executive about what a wonderful branding opportunity the film represented that resulted in the can of Coke actually being included in the film. Initially - so the story goes - Coca-Cola had been reluctant to allow the use of their product because it was going to be an R-rated film. (A curious story, as ratings are made upon censors viewing the final theatrical cut, not during the development and production phases, though in fairness ratings can usually be accurately guessed ahead of time given a story’s content).

Mortensen claims he told the executive "you’re going to get for free something that potentially is as good as having an ad in the Super Bowl". Considering how much the scene resembled a Super Bowl ad, it's quite plausible that there is more to the story which Mortensen has neglected to mention on the publicity circuit; that the scene was subsequently developed to satisfy the commercial interests of Coca-Cola more than to satisfy the narrative requirements of the film.

Regardless, I think that McCarthy and Mortensen are kind of tools if they really thought the Coca-Cola motif was *so* integral to the story because of its iconic connection to the American Capitalist Way of Life. It's kind of obvious given that we're looking at a post-apocalyptic scenario that this phase of history has ended - why do we need cheap, shallow reminders of its worst aspects to drive home the blatantly obvious? It's hard not to read their enthusiasm for the 'iconic' Coke can in fiction as implicit enthusiasm for Coca-Cola's global market and cultural dominance in reality.

Personally I am ethically, politically and spiritually opposed to the system in which brands, marketing and monopoly capitalism dominate lives and human cultures. I think the prioritisation of the Coke can could only have come from people who are more comfortable with this.

As I write this, I feel the film's ideology is becoming clearer to me. It essentially presents an argument for private property and the sanctity of the consuming, Christian, heterosexual, nuclear family-unit. Despite having really quite enjoyed the film at the time, I'm now not quite as enthused by it after all.

For those of you that have read the book or seen the film adaptation, what is your opinion? Was the can of Coke a theatrical device or evidence of our love of branding and consumerism? Was there any difference in the way the scene was presented in the book compared to the film?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card

At the age of six, Ender Wiggin is taken to Battle School. He's a Third, the third child in a family of geniuses and he might be the human race's last hope of survival against the invasion of the buggers. At the school, Ender devises battle tactics that no one has even dreamed of, all the while being manipulated into isolation by his teachers. If Ender is to become Earth's saviour, he must learn to count on no one but himself, no matter what the cost.

Be prepared for a rave: I loved this book. I loved the story and I loved the experience of reading it. I often bring up my current read in conversations with people and the titles I recite are usually met with a light frown, an "Oh, yes? No, I don't know it." (Unless they're a YA blogger!) But with Ender's Game, I elicited beatific smiles and knowing nods. "Ah, yes," they'd say. "Ender's Game. What bit are you up to?" Not since I read Shantaram by Gregory Roberts have I experienced this odd socialness that comes from reading a well-loved book. It's strange and pleasing to find that just about everyone you run into has read and loved your current read. It's also rather irritating to learn that they've been keeping a such a gem to themselves instead of telling you about it.

Being a Third in Card's imagining of the world is to be something less than human. Ender exists to fulfill the promise of his parents' genes. Though only six, Ender has learned to expect little love from his peers, an expectation that sharpens his battle instincts. He affects cold calculation and little mercy when it comes to stemming the violence directed at him, but inside he fears the worst: that he is no different from his cruel older brother, Peter. It is to escape from Peter, and out of love for his sister, Valentine, that Ender consents to attend battle school.

I was reminded of certain themes in The Hunger Games while reading this book: children being exploited by adults in violent ways. It's Ender's love for his sister, like Katniss's love for hers, that becomes the driving force behind his actions. And while Ender is busily devising new and thrilling ways to defeat his peers in the battle room in zero gravity, Valentine and Peter, back on Earth, are attempting to take over the world. Both geniuses themselves, they develop aliases and begin to publish political commentaries on the "nets". Double-thrill here: writers doing cool stuff! Geekfest overload!

There are as many heart-breaking moments as there are thrilling moments in this novel; the moments when you see not soldiers, but small boys and girls pushed to their limits and manipulated without their knowledge; Petra's (one of Ender's peers) desperate "Tell Ender I'm sorry! Tell him I'm sorry!" when she burns out mid-battle. Card tells his story simply and with dry humour--especially when the adults are speaking--one of startling complexity in regard to both its characters and political backdrop. There's always a danger that military sci-fi will stray into right-wing propaganda, but Ender's Game hinges on its morality: the terrible price of winning, and deeds that can never be undone.

Neither children's nor adult fiction, this book straddles multiple demographics. It's perfect for young adults. Those of you who are looking for a dystopian-esque novel to ease the ten month wait until the third Hunger Games book (oh, how shall we do it! Ten months!) should go out and get this book right now. I can't recommend it enough.

An excerpt from the end of chapter four:

One of the teachers near [Graff] said, "Is that the one?"
"God knows," said Graff. "If Ender isn't him, then he'd better show up soon."
"Maybe it's nobody," said the teacher.
"Maybe. But if that's the case, Anderson, then in my opinion God is a bugger. You can quote me on that."
"I will."
They stood in silence a while longer.
"The kid's wrong. I am his friend."
"I know."
"He's clean. Right to the heart. He's good."
"I've read the reports."
"Anderson, think what we're going to do to him."
Anderson was defiant. "We're going to make him the best military commander in history."
"And then put the fate of the world on his shoulders. For his sake, I hope it isn't him. I do"
"Cheer up. The buggers may kill us all before he graduates."
Graff smiled. "You're right. I feel better already."


A little xkcd humour for those of you who have read Ender's Game:


Review: Fire, Kristen Cashore

Fire is a monster, a girl so beautiful that she can mesmerise and influence those around her. She is the daughter of another monster, Cansrel, who used his abilities to the detriment of others and was the downfall of King Nax. Fire is determined not to follow her father down the same path. But war is coming to the Dells and Fire must decide whether she uses her talents to help King Nash, son of Nax. The commander of the army, Prince Brigan, has very personal reasons for distrusting Cansrel's daughter; her childhood friend Archer wants to keep her locked away from the men and monsters who constantly attack her; and Fire is unable to even answer one simple question: why does she exist?

Fire is set in a different kingdom to Graceling, one where magic manifests in the form of brightly coloured and mesmerising monsters. There are human monsters and animal and bug monsters, all with a taste for each others flesh. War is about to break out in the Dells and King Nash and his twin brother and sister wish Fire to help them gather intelligence by bringing prisoners before her to interrogate. But everywhere Fire goes are the giant raptors trying to kill her and the men of the Dells trying to attack her. Cashore quickly creates a sense of claustrophobia about Fire that negates any desire for the reader to envy her for her beauty; rather, the reader feels empathy and a strong hope for her happiness.

There's a wonderful scene early on in the book when Prince Brigan rides out with a contingent of men. They must get to the tunnels and away to where a village is being raided, but between the palace and the safety of the tunnels hundred of murderous raptors have gathered because of Fire, and they begin to attack the army. Bringing up the rear and in the most vulnerable position is Brigan. Full well knowing that Brigan hates the sight of her and that the raptors will attack her as soon as she appears, Fire rides out to distract them from the army, against everyone's wishes. It's a breathtaking scene and one that hooked me into the story. It promised everything I was hoping for: complexity, adventure, romance and a strong female lead.

Cashore follows through with each of her promises, bar one. There is a huge build up of tension between Fire and Brigan but I was somewhat let down in the end. I don't require romance in every book I read, but if the author goes out of her way to set up a huge rift between two romantically involved characters and it fizzles, I get very upset. Especially (and perhaps this is unfair) after Katsa and Po, the two characters from Graceling who were executed perfectly. (And for the girls like me who tend to fall in love with the male leads and like to argue endlessly about who is more worthy of their love, whom do I love more, Po or Brigan? The answer is Brigan. Though it's a difficult choice. Po is a darling. And probably better in the long-term. But who cares about the long-term when you have a crush!)

Silliness aside, it's the characters and the wonderful complexity of the story that make Cashore's books a delight to read. Fire would have gotten an all out rave review from me if it wasn't for the fizzle, but the romance was just one aspect of the story. The rest was amazing. Cashore will undoubtedly revive the fantasy romance genre which has been flagging of late, which I am very pleased about as that's what I love to read. And that's also what I write.

Cover notes: The UK/Australian one wipes the floor with the US one. I gasped when I opened the box, I really did.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In My Mailbox (15)

This meme is hosted by The Story Siren.

I've been somewhat prone to excess this week and this has naturally flowed over into my book buying...


  • The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Bruno Bettelheim. I saw an author talking about this book on a blog. It's non-fiction, and I'm very interested to know the psychological implications of fairy tales. It was published in 1977 and I think it may be out of print. There are lots of secondhand copies floating around. I got mine from Better World Books.
  • Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr (Book Depository). I'm hoping for a good romancy-Labyrinth hit from this series.
  • The Stepsister Scheme, Jim C Hines (Book Depository). A Smugglers recommendation.
  • The Guardians, John Christopher (s/hand bookshop). YA by the author of The Death of Grass, one of my favourite reads this year. This is the guy who wrote the Tripods books, which are so FREAKING rare that I'm going to have to get them imported s/hand from the UK. Ouch.
  • Love Bites, Lynsay Sands (ARC)
  • The Return of the Soldier, Rebecca West (s/hand bookshop). This was put out by Virago Press, a feminist publisher who in the 80s put back in print a lot of books from the early twentieth century.
  • Deathworld 1, Harry Harrison (s/hand bookshop). This cover I remember vividly from my childhood. It looks like a bit of a boysy sci-fi adventure, in a fun way.
  • So Much to Tell You, John Marsden (s/hand bookshop). The author of the Tomorrow series' first book.
  • Friday, Robert A. Heinlein (s/hand bookshop). My dad recommended this when I asked him about sci-fi for girls. My brother said "meh". We shall see ...
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith (s/hand bookshop).
  • The Death of Grass, John Christopher (s/hand bookshop). I needed to own a copy of this book.
  • Child of the Prophecy, Book 3 of the Sevenwaters Trilogy, Juliet Marillier (s/hand bookshop). I haven't read or bought copies of books 1 and 2, but it was only $2 and everyone raves about this author.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (s/hand bookshop). I haven't read this yet. I KNOW *blush*
  • Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey (s/hand bookshop). The first book in the Dragons of Pern series. I just found a four-leaf clover pressed between pages 96 and 97. Lucky!

This week I will WRITE. I will NOT SHOP.

Now I must run. Zapp is making egg and bacon sandwiches ...