Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mixed Bag #2

Ready for some more linky goodness?

♥ Kidlet talks Swear Words in YA Fiction - a very interesting piece with some fantastic discussion in the comments

♥ Steph Su tells us What's Missing in YA Lit

♥ Steph Bowe lists 5 Ways to Bore a Teenaged Reader

♥ Melbournians rejoice! The Emerging Writers Festival Program for 2010 has been launched!

I rejoice because in less than a week, Will Grayson Will Grayson, the book I have been waiting nine months for is going to be released! (In case you didn't pick it earlier, I'm a huge John Green fan. I am also very fond of David Levithan)

John Green reading from Will Grayson, Will Grayson

♥ extra awesomeness, John and David reading from Will Grayson, Will Grayson together

♥ the lovely Jess of Start Narrative Here reviews Will Grayson, Will Grayson, as does Steph Bowe


Monday, April 26, 2010

By My Bedside #5

By My Bedside is part of In My Mailbox - a weekly book meme, created by Kristi of The Story Siren.

So, wow I actually managed to clear some junk off my bedside table, so today BMB actually comes from my bedside! Anyway, here is my reading list for the week, guarded by Soda Pop the pony (all titles come from my local library - my book buying ban is still in force another week).

Generation Dead - Daniel Waters (for a possible feature)
Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Airhead - Meg Cabot
Never Slow Dance With A Zombie - E. Van Lowe (for the same feature as above)
Pool - Justin D'ath
The King of Whatever - Kirsten Murphy
Will - Maria Boyd
Luna - Julie Anne Peters

What are you reading this week?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fiction to Film - Hating Alison Ashley

The Fiction
Author: Robin Klein
Publisher: Puffin Books, 1984
Length: 182 pages
Genre: Junior Fiction

Erica Yurken, referred to as Yuk or Erk by her peers, considers herself a big fish in a small pond. Yuk is stuck slumming it in Baringa East with her eccentric, decidedly bogan family, whilst harbouring dreams of a life of fame and fortune. She is the star pupil (and a bit of a hypercondriac and know-it-all) of Baringa East Primary, until the arrival of new student, Alison Ashley. By all outward appearances, Alison Ashley is perfect and the teachers and other students dote on her, to Erica's chagrin. Yurk declares Alison her enemy, and things come to a head at the annual Grade Six Camp.

Now I have something to confess - I was (or if I'm really honest with myself, probably still am) a bit of a Yuk. I can remember so clearly the first time I read this book - it was at the start of Grade Six, and I also had a teacher who was very much like Baringa East's Miss Belmont. Looking back I was probably a bit of a know-it-all (like Erica) with a penchant for exaggeration, and was desperate to please this teacher (urgh, okay enough embarrassing trips down memory lane). Anyway, I loved this book, and it lead me to read many of Robin Klein's other novels. On a related note, when researching this post, I discovered something very sad. In 2005, Robin Klein suffered an aneurysm rupture which she survived, but left her unable to write anymore. A great loss in Australian Childrens literature.

Ten years later, they made it into a film.

The Film
Director: Geoff Bennett
Screenwriter: Christine Madafferi
Release Date: 2005
Cast: Saskia Burmeister, Delta Goodrem, Jean Kittson

Ok, I had a lot of difficulty with this film, and this post. I wanted to like it, I really did. The first time I watched it was pretty painful. There was a lot of second hand embarrassment involved. So then I went and re-read the book (the first time in at least five years) and got a bit of a fresh perspective. Then, went back and watched Hating Alison Ashley a second time and it got a little better and was able to understand some creative decisions. Anyway, hopefully this has come together in the post.

Our heroine, Erica Yurken, also known as Yurk, is played by Saskia Burmeister. I have to say, I think she does a pretty impressive job with what she's given. She is able to capture the full emotional range of the role, and also has the ability to play up the less-serious (to the point of being cringeworthy) moments of the film. Film Erica should be supremely annoying, but Burmeister makes her quite endearing. I do however feel like the connection between Erica and the viewer isn't quite there (to the extent that I would count it as a key reason for the box office failure of the film), though it's more of a screenwriter/director issue.

And now for the titular Alison Ashley. Delta Goodrem's performance as Alison Ashley was pretty heavily panned for being "wooden" and "detatched". I can't totally disagree, but yet I can't think of who else would play the role better. I mean at the time of production and release, Delta was certainly Australia's golden child (having appeared on our most popular soap, fought cancer, and had seven Aria number-one singles) and I suppose it would have made sense to cast her as the perfect Alison Ashley.

Whilst her performance (or lack of) is fairly bland, I have to point out that so was Book Alison Ashley - she is given liberal dialogue and on page, more time is spent describing her perfect clothing and school lunches, than developing her personality (not a criticism of Robin Klein, but putting it out there that the voice and focus is definitely on Erica). Anyway, I feel she completely looked the part, and kudos to the costume unit for her fantastic outfits (they could have made her really bland, but her floaty feminine pastels set her apart from the 'unrefined chaos' of the rest of Baringa East High).

The biggest difference in Hating Alison Ashley from page to screen, is the conscious decision to move it from being a children's story to a distinctly Young Adult film. I feel this change has both pros and cons. I do question how well the film would have worked with pre-teens, and I can understand why they slated it as more of a girly teen flick (it was released following the success of Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Mean Girls, and in the same year as Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants). A teen film is certainly easier to market and I think they relied on the fact that a lot of Australian teenagersa would have already read Hating Alison Ashley. Anyway, just my thoughts, as I'm sure others others may think this is one of the film's biggest downfalls.

There is a bit more of a detailed discussion of Hating Alison Ashley's page to screen journey, screencaps and some random ramblings under the cut.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

YA Community Thanksgiving

Adele from Persnickety Snark came up with the excellent idea of a YA Community Thanksgiving: in which book bloggers are encouraged to share what they enjoy and appreciate about YA blogosphere. Yay! Another lovely suggestion from Adele. So even though I'm a very new blogger (at just over a month old, MGF is a newborn in blog-time), I still wanted to share the love and write a bit about my experiences so far!

Image Source: Volume 25 via A Beautiful Mess

Finding other people who love YA as much as I do: has made me realise that it's ok to still exclusively borrow from the YA section, despite being twenty-two. And the YA blogging community has the best taste in TV too (yay for teen dramas)!
Book recommendations!: Bad for my bank account but so hard to resist!, The YA blog-land is great at highlighting the best reads and has lead me to some of my favourite books (for example, I discovered Simmone Howell through Persnickety Snark and Steph Bowe). Actually a big chunk of the books I've read this year have come from recommendations or reading lists of YA bloggers and authors who participate within the community.
Finding niches within a niche - I love that everyone in the community has their own interests which filter through their blogs: Kate shares my love of a good Melbourne coffee and makes excellent cafe recommendations and Kristi of Story Siren has such fun, unique features like I'm Just Not That Into You)
Level of support: recently a few YA bloggers had some problems with plagarism and it was fantastic to see how quickly people got on board to support them and spoke out on the issue.
Down-to-earth authors within the community: since joining the YA blogging community, I've found a lot of YA authors to be super accessible (the power of social networking!) and lovely. I never would have thought I'd be able to meet and tweet people who have written some amazing books.

*Snaps for everyone!*

Anyway, it was so fun to give thanks to this community! Though I'm still a newbie, everyone I have communicated with, has been very friendly and welcoming. I'm definitely hoping to become more involved in the YA community.

Thanks for all of your inspiration, humour, encouragement and positivity!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mixed Bag #1

So, I'm trying out another new feature. I wanted something where I could share articles, interviews, reviews or any other tidbits that I found interesting or funny. I also thought it might be a fun way to highlight great pieces from other writers and promote other bloggers. Anyway, hope you enjoy (and seriously, let me know what you think).

Books and Breakfast TV - William Kostakis writes a thought-provoking and passionate open letter to Sunrise about their new book club segment. Whilst obviously I'm very interested in the relationship between fiction and film, I still love reading new works and discovery something exciting and engaging in new and unestablished authors

The Nicholas Sparks Formula - Nicholas Sparks criticises Shakespeare and Austen for, in his opinion, apparently just re-writing the same story. ONTD retaliates

Showtime Drops Hero - I reviewed Hero in March and really liked it. I actually think, executed well, it would make an awesome series (admittedly, I originally was quite stuck on it being a film, but after some thought I think TV format would work better and allow us to go beyond what Moore deals with in the book). This article stems from a mention in the New York Times.

Parents Still Hate The Catcher In The Rye - Amelie Gillette of The AV Club's Hater section speaks about the ALA's Top Ten Most Challenged books in 2009. Interesting - I was really surprised with some of the results. My high school studied two of the listed books (To Kill A Mockingbird and The Chocolate War) as core texts in English.

Andrew McDonald interviews Penny Tangey - current blogger in residence for the Inside a Dog blog, McDonald interviews Penny Tangey about her debut novel Loving Richard Feynman, which is nominated for the CBCA 2010 Book of the Year for Older Readers.

♥  Persnickety Snark interviews Sarah Dessen - one of my favourite YA bloggers, Adele of the amazing Persnickety Snark, interviews one of my favourite YA authors, Sarah Dessen.

Steph Bowe tells us How To Write a Bad (Teen) Romance - I love Steph's posts! Though as a ginger ninja myself, if I ever wrote a book, I'm pretty sure one of my main characters would most definitely have to be a redhead (don't you guys know we could be extinct in a hundred years!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

By My Bedside #4

So I've now joined Kristi from The Story Siren's weekly meme 'In My Mailbox' as I realised By My Bedside is pretty much the same idea. I'm still going to call it By My Bedside for now though as I don't really get any books in the mail (unless I buy something through ebay or Book Depository, which I have banned myself from doing for the rest of the month). All the books I read/feature right now are either my own copies or borrowed from my local library.

I decided to officially participate in IMM because I always love seeing what other people are reading (I'm a super nosey person).

It's a super big one this week as I had some time off the last few days and so went to the library a few times. I kind of went a bit overboard, but at least now I can't complain about having nothing to read!

Stack One (left)
Film - Rumble Fish (just because I've wanted to see it for a while)
Film - Persepolis (based on the graphic novel of the same name by Marjane Satrapi)
Film - Hating Alison Ashley (re-watch)
Film - Towelhead (re-watch)
After - Francine Prose
Invitation Only, Confessions and Untouchable - Kate Brian. (I read Private last month and was surprised to see the next three books all on-shelf at my library)
I Was Told There'd Be Cake - Sloane Crosby

Stack Two (right)
The Lottery - Beth Goobie
Screw Loose - Chris Wheat
Ex-Mas - Kate Brian
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters - Jane Austen  & Ben H. Winters
The Zombie Queen of Newbury High - Amanda Ashby (re-read for possible feature)
Always Mackenzie - Kate Constable
Falling From Grace - Jane Godwin
Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks - Ethan Gilsdorf (my major undergraduate paper was on TV fandom, and I'm kind of interested in this from a spectator's point of view)

So, what are you reading?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Snack Size Issue 1

Woah! A new entry? Shocking I know. I'm still trying to get into a blog routine and sort out the things that I actually want to write about. I've been doing some thinking (possibly dangerous) about what and how much I read, and not to brag, but it's a reasonable amount. I also thought about the selection process in terms of which books I wanted to feature. By reading, I come across stories that I enjoy but don't know if I necessarily want to write a whole post on them (not that they aren't good, but I mightn't feel I have enough to say about them). I want to write about stories I am passionate about, and keep examining the relationship between YA and film/TV.

Now, I still want to include all the other things I read in some way, so I'm trying a new mini-review method. Each week, I'll write a snack-sized review of a book, no longer than 100 words. In my experience I work out pretty early on from a summary or review if I actually want to read something, and maybe others do too. Hopefully this will help me get more creative and succinct with my writing. Think of them as tasty, bite-sized bookish treats!

Being Bindy - Alyssa Brugman
Published by Allen & Unwin, 2004
204 pages

Uh-oh! Bindy’s best friend has transformed into a fully fledged Mean Girl, having discovered boys, make-up and joined the popular clique, leaving Bindy far behind. She’s also forced to stick-out unpleasant ‘bonding’ weekends with her divorced mother. Brugman is excellent at capturing the confusion and changing emotions of being a teenager. This is an easily accessible book for early teens – dealing with popularity, peer pressure and parents. I especially liked that that the story features such an awesome, positive father figure and that Bindy’s mother is the weekend parent who has trouble relating to her child.

All We Know of Love - Nora Raleigh Baskin
Published by Walker Books, 2009
208 pages

Fifteen year-old Natalie’s life has been permanently shaped by the fact that her mother abandoned her over milk and cookies five years ago. The story follows Natalie on a cross-country bus ride in search of her absent mother, for closure and for the end of a comment she made in the midst of walking out. It’s a novel of secrets and small stories from strangers, which slowly unravel as Natalie makes her way in search of answers. I felt more was revealed in the short vignettes from the people she encounters, than of Natalie herself, but still an enjoyable read.

Death By Bikini - Linda Gerber
Published by Puffin, 2008
240 pages

Aphra is outwardly living the dream life at an idyllic island retreat owned by her father. In reality, she misses the normality of her old life in South Carolina and her absent mother, who left her family years earlier. However, a murder at the resort and the arrival of a mysterious family (and their teenage son) spells trouble in tropical paradise. A murder mystery which combines romance, espionage and mother issues. Veered to the implausible end of the spectrum for me, but the sequel may clarify things. A light holiday read, perfect for the poolside (preferably with a cocktail – or mocktail – in hand).

Funny how these things work out - upon compiling this review for a seemingly random mix from my reading list, I realised all three books had the reoccuring theme of the absent mother and examined the role this played in the life of the female protagonist.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fiction to Film - Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants

The Fiction

Author: Anne Brashares
Publisher: Delacorte Press USA and Random House Australia
Length: 294 pages
Genre: Young Adult

Maryland teens Carmen, Bridget, Lena and Tibby have been best friends since birth (their mothers did pre-natal aerobics together) and are about to face their first summer apart. Carmen is visiting her absent father in South Carolina; Bridget is the starring player at soccer camp in Baja, Mexico; Lena stays with her grandparents in Greece; and Tibby's stays home for a summer job. The tie that is going to keep them together is a pair of pants - purchased by Carmen at a vintage store, which strangely fit all four girls perfectly. They decide to share the Pants (I feel like they should be a proper noun due to their importance in the story), travelling from girl to girl over the summer and bearing witness to a range of events, experiences and emotions.

The book is sweet, sincere, funny and touching. The characters are well-written, relatable and you truly share their individual (and collective) journeys.What I think I liked most about the whole series was the way it positively portrayed a strong sense of sisterhood and female friendship for a teenage reader (I do find a large portion of YA fiction seems to be more interested in frenemies and cliques).
So, I have some mixed feelings about this adaptation. Like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the Sisterhood series was one of my favourite books when I was in high school, so it again became the case of me being convinced that  everything in the books wouldn’t come out ‘right’ on the screen.

The Film
Director: Ken Kwapis
Screenwriter: Delia Ephron
Studio: Alcon Entertainment and Warner Brothers
Release Date: 2005

At the time the film came out (late June 2005 in Australia), I enjoyed it but didn't love it. Watching it again with a few years (and a degree in Cinema Studies) behind me, I now feel the filmmakers did a pretty good job at adapting a quite a difficult and heartfelt book with multiple plot threads and themes into a comprehensive (and sellable) film.

The four main characters are all pretty well cast. Delia Ephron has managed to pinpoint four fairly solid plotlines and successfully weave four seperate stories together. Most importantly, the film does capture the essence of the friendship and it is handled in a fairly realistic manner.
For a more comprehensive discussion and breakdown of the film vs the book, please keep reading below the cut (though there are spoilers for the both).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

By My Bedside

Whoops! Missed it last week, though the photos are probably still on my camera. Ah well! Sorry for the lack of posting lately - I got caught up in pre-Easter and Easter celebrations and un-fun things like work.
Anyway, here's a selection of this week's reading list (once again on my desk, not actually on my bedside table)

- The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants - Anne Brashares (for my upcoming Fiction to Film piece, which I've actually been working on for about a week)
- Loving Richard Feynman - Penny Tangey (re-reading for review and because Penny is appearing at the Wheeler Centre next week)
- Crackpot - John Waters (my favourite director! Thank you Book Depository for not charging me a ridiculous price for it)
- Spirit Sisters - Karina Machado (reading this as research for my other job)