Monday, March 29, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

Do you like to eat when you read? I know I do! I love curling up with a book, cup of tea (yes, I'm a bit of a Nana) and something sweet. Anyway, last week I was home alone and decided to do some baking while I had the place to myself. I have a huge sweet tooth and love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and so decided to try out a new recipe mixing my loves in cookie form!

The result was pretty good! I was a little nervous as I modified the recipe a bit and just hoped for the best.
I will say this recipe is almost more shortbread-ish and I'm more partial to chewy cookies, but you can eat them straight from the oven (eep, like me) or warm them up in the microwave first.  

The recipe, complete with pictures (excuse my food photography skills, they kind of suck) is below.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bass Ackwards and Belly Up

The Facts

Authors: Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
Publisher: Little, Brown
Date: 2006
Length: 386 pages

The Fiction

Best friends Becca, Harper, Kate and Sophie are all armed with high school diplomas - ready to take shake off suburbia and head to college. Except a secret, a speech and a sleepover ends in three girls deciding to instead spend the next semester pursing their dreams.

Whilst Becca goes to study and ski at Middlebury University, perfect Kate turns down Harvard and heads on a European adventure. Sophie plans to take on Hollywood and Harper is staying home to write the Great American Novel and serve coffees. Through the course of the novel, we track their individual and collective journeys of friendship, romance and self-discovery.

I enjoyed Bass Ackwards and Belly Up, though having been a huge fan of Anne Brashares Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series, I did feel like I already knew the story format and could predict what was going to happen. Actually I noticed a few parallels between the Belly Up and Sisterhood girls (in short Harper - Carmen, Kate - Lena, Sophie - Bridgit, Becca - Tibby). It also seemed to 'check the boxes' of a few YA cliches - not necessarily in a bad way as they are all relatable and identifiable, but I definitely felt I had been down this same (fictional) road before.

I think the overall idea was really strong - that having the courage to throw off tradition and expectations to follow your own path is a positive one, and I liked that each girl gets a bit of a reality check as well. I did feel a bit unfulfilled with the ending, though at the time of publication the sequel, Footfree and Fancyloose had already been planned, so perhaps a lot of these narrative issues are resolved more fully then.
had already been planned

Overall, Bass Ackwards is an enjoyable read and would probably go down well with fans of Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and Jodi Lynn Anderson's Peaches series.

Monday, March 22, 2010

By My Bedside

This week, By My Beside actually comes from my desk, as my real bedside table is already covered in another set of books (though in saying that, I did have to shove an awful lot of stuff onto the floor before taking this picture). Anyway:

- Death by Bikini - Linda Gerber
- The Dressmaker - Rosalie Ham (borrowed from my boss who recommends it highly)
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - Bryan Lee O'Malley
- Youth in Revolt - C.D Payne

Hopefully it's also a good mail week this week! I've been wanting to read the Scott Pilgrim series for ages and can never find volume 1 in Minotaur, so I bought #2 and am waiting for 1 from Ebay. I'm also a huge fan of Edgar Wright who is making the film adaptation (with Michael Cera starring as Scott Pilgrim) due out this year, so I wanted to read it first. I also made my first (probably of many) order from Book Depository as I was interested to see what their service was like (so many film books, so cheap!)

Happy reading! :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fiction to Film - Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

The Fiction
Authors: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2007
Length: 192 pages
Genre: Young Adult fiction

One night. One gig. One question. One kiss. One adventure.
"Would you mind being my girlfriend for the next five minutes?"

Down, dumped and not wanting to look totally pathetic in front of his ex, bassist Nick asks a random girl, Norah, to momentarily act as his girlfriend after a gig. They share a kiss, which leads to an electrifying night of drunks, driving downtown in a Yugo, drag queens and the search for a secret performance by Where's Fluffy - the pair's favourite band.

I know I tend to gush on here, but I love this book. I mean, really love this book. As in this book is one of my all-time, no questions asked, favourite books. Therefore, a film adaptation was always going to be a tricky one for me. Now I'm usually a fairly sympathic book-to-film kinda girl, but I won't lie, I was super worried about what Sony Pictures was going to do to it.

The Film
Director: Peter Sollett
Screenplay: Lorene Scafaria
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: 2008 (or supposedly 2009 in Australia, though I'm fairly certain with the exception of an advanced screening at the Melbourne Moonlight Cinema, it did not show here).
Cast: Michael Cera (Nick), Kat Dennings (Norah), Ari Graynor (Caroline), Jay Baruchel (Tal)

As it turned out, I don't think I needed to have worried too much. Don't get me wrong, the book is still infinetely better, but the film is still very awesome. As far as adaptations go, it ranks pretty highly in my opinion - whilst not page for page (or frame for frame), it still definitely captures the essence of the novel that I loved. I'll go into more detail and share some of my best/worst moments below.

Hope you liked my first Fiction to Film review - I'm hoping to make it a regular feature on here!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Author Appreciation Week

I found it via YA-blogger-goddess, Persnickety Snark, but the concept originally came from Heidi R. Kling's Livejournal. Go forth and appreciate!

John Green
(Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns)

Words probably can't express how much of a huge fan I am of John Green and his work, but I suppose I'll try anyway.
- He writes dynamic and engaging young adult fiction. His books are well-written and incredibly relatable. They are funny and awkward and incredibly touching and I pretty much recommend them to someone on a weekly basis.
- I especially love how well he writes supporting/best friend characters, who can often be overlooked or kinda two-dimensional. The Colonel, Hassan, Ben and Radar are all fully fleshed out, amazing characters who could really each carry a whole book of their own (personally, I would love love love a whole book about Hassan!)
- He is a huge advocate of teenage literature
- He is an all-round awesome dude, who is insanely funny. Seriously, I shall include just one of my many favourite You Tube clips to back this up.

Kathy Charles

I also really, really wanted to include an Australian author. I can remember the exact moment when I first read about Kathy Charles. I was sitting through the home/office of my boss and saw a review for a in one of The Age supplements. I have to admit I usually skim or even skip book reviews in most newspapers, but something grabbed me straight away. Amazing cover - check (I am a sucker for lovely cover art, and it has bitten me in the bum ... Prep I'm looking at you....), Australian author - check, book about non-cookie cutter teenagers - check, oh and wait, all about HOLLYWOOD DEATHS? One of my own favourite, semi-morbid interests!!!! I ended up purchasing Hollywood Ending straight after work and finished devouring it that night.

Why we should all be appreciating Kathy Charles
- Hollywood Ending is an amazing debut novel - quirky, funny and poignant and in my Top 3 Favourite Books of 2009.
- Her characters are incredibly endearing and relatable. Hilda and Hank, in particular, had one of the greatest, most touching relationships, I have read about in a while.
- Her blog is always the first place I check when I hear a celebrity has died (or in the case of Corey Haim, her facebook was the first to alert me).
- She has her own action figure!
- Her next book is going to be about serial killer art! I cannot possibly be the only one who is totally excited about that?
- If you are in Melbourne, she will be reading at the Wheeler Centre on April 12th with Michaela McGuire, Mic Looby and Penny Tangey. I'm psyched to go and have already picked out my outfit (just kidding ... but not really)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hero - Perry Moore

The Facts

Author: Perry Moore
Publisher: Corgi Books, imprint of Random House
Date: 2007
Pages: 428
Genre: Young Adult

(it's such a striking cover! yes, unfortunately I am somewhat shallow and do pick a lot of my library books from going 'ohhh pretty...')

The Fiction
Thom Creed has secrets. Big ones he is forced to hide from everyone around him. It doesn’t help that his father is a disgraced superhero who has been publicly shunned by the League (the body of superheroes responsible for contemporary justice and do-gooding). Thom doesn’t fit in at school and has been kicked off the basketball team for weird epileptic fits. Just when he’s about to run away to save his himself and his father from public humiliation, he is invited to train for the League. Another secret he must keep. There he is put on a team of outcasts – Scarlett the fiery girl with her own secrets, Typhoid Larry who can’t get close to anyone (without making them physically sick) and Ruth, the wise old woman who breaks the archetype. Hero is an engaging story of love, secrets, growing up and redemption which nicely combines the action of a graphic novel and the personal development journey of young adult literature.

I picked this book up almost solely based on the striking cover and ended up really enjoying it. It’s actually the second book I’ve read this year centred around male adolescent identity and sexuality (the first being Sprout by Dale Peck ) and it was fascinating to note the reoccurring issues and similarities between the two. I probably preferred Hero solely due to the superhero and villain/Watchmen type world Moore creates. It made me wish I knew more about comics/graphic novels and superhero lexicon as I’m sure for every reference I got, there was probably another twenty I missed. The whole masked superhero motif works perfectly as a symbol of identity – though it is interesting to note that Thom doesn’t really seem to wear a costume and cape (but possibly has the most to hide). Moore creates an engaging father-son relationship, which for me ended up being my favourite part of the book (and made for a memorable ending), though I did feel some other sub-plots were not as fully executed as they could have been.

Thom is an interesting protagonist and I did feel myself draw to his story. I did want to know more about his power and did wish he had been portrayed as more accepting of himself (trying not to give too much away here!) and that could have ultimately lead to a stronger, more fulfilling piece. There were definitely parts of Hero I could have done with more of (his father’s own career, the League – pretty much every League character could have had their own spin-off - like the gloriously accessorised Galaxy twins - and Perry Moore does a lot in such a short space). In saying that, Hero is still a definitely worthy read.

Perry Moore apparently has a film adaptation in the works, and a sequel on the way – I’d love to find out what happens to Thom, Scarlett, Typhoid Larry, the League and even Golden Boy a few years down the line. Also from his website, Perry Moore has an intriguing list of homophobia in comics (from the amount of superhero slash on alone, I’m amazed there has been so few gay characters in major comics) which also makes for some very interesting and thought-provoking reading. It can be read here.

Sorry no The Food this time round - but I promise more baking goodness coming up!

Monday, March 8, 2010

By My Bedside

What is currently on top of my to-read pile:

- Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (re-read for upcoming entry)
- Bass Ackwards and Belly Up - Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain
- Spud - John Van De Ruit
- Some Girls Do - Assorted Authors
- The Dictionary of Omens and Superstitions (this has been sitting on my bedside table since late October. I kind of like to flick through it every so often - when I can't sleep or if I've had a weird dream)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finding Freia Lockhart - Aimee Said

The Facts
Author: Aimee Said
Publisher: Walker Books
Date: February 2010
Pages: 291
Genre: Young Adult

The Fiction
Freia Lockhart is struggling to fit in. Her best friend is trying to infiltrate the Bs (the Queen Bees of Westside Girls High) and her strict parents push studies over socialising. In an attempt to bond with the Bs, Freia auditions for the school musical, only to be banished backstage to control the lighting with Daniel, a loner and outcast from the local boys’ school. Freia is faced with the dilemma of choosing whether or not to force herself to fit in, or risk facing a friendship freeze-out.

Despite having read a lot of YA, this is one of the first books which I’ve been really able to relate to. There were parts that seemed to mirror my own high school experiences to any almost creepy extent (like dancing around my room to Kylie, not getting the hype of Pride and Prejudice and particularly Freia’s changing relationship with Kate and the Bs). Also, like Freia was able to escape and gain a sense of self-understanding and acceptance through working on stage crew, I felt like I had a similar experience with my media class and filmmaking projects.

Freia herself is a very likeable, very relatable protagonist with a great dry sense of humour – though from early on, I couldn’t help urging her to drop the Bs (who despite being uber-popular and “cool”, were of course completely boring and full-of themselves) and start hanging out with Siouxsie. I also enjoyed (and related to) Freia’s relationship with her parents. I could cringe at their fashion choices, get irritated with the seemingly over-interest in schoolwork and academic excellence, sympathise with their strictness and (now as an old lady of 22) be able to understand their concerns about Freia.

Aimee Said is able to capture many of the moments a lot of us go through as teenagers – feeling like an outsider amongst our peers, the desire to fit in, strict parents, catty girl comments and learning to take our own moments (like dancing wildy to The Ramones in the privacy of our bedroom, whilst kicking away all the anger and frustration of a crap day). She is also able to seamlessly weave in references to Pygmalion and Pride and Prejudice, subtly mirroring some of their themes. Aimee also sensitively tackles relevant teen concerns like cliques, female friendship, fitting in and self identity.

The Food
The clincher of the novel, for me, was the inclusion of the recipe for 'Freia's Best Ever Double-Fudge Chocolate Brownies'. Now I must admit, when it comes to baking brownies in the past, I've mostly stuck to a packet mix for convenience and because I found a pretty tasty one at my local supermarket. Not anymore! Aimee's brownie recipe is amazing! Pretty easy to follow and the result is awesome. Completely delicious and will definetely be keeping it for the future. (I cut mine into quite small squares as I love to eat them with a coffee, whilst my sister had larger ones and served them with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate topping).

Whilst initially the concept reminded me a bit of Lili Wilkinson's Pink, Finding Freia Lockhart definietely comes into it's own. It's a funny, touching and enjoyable read, which I've already passed on to my younger sister. Worth checking out for the brownies alone!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The First Step

aka why I'm writing this blog

So I've kind of been dancing around the idea of keeping a proper blog for some time now. I've been loyal to my LJ for a good five years, but I've wanted to create something seperate and more focused/less personal whining.

This year I've had quite a bit of spare time on my hands. My retail job gives me pretty miminal hours and I work once a week in an intern/assistant position in the publishing industry which I love. I've always been an avid reader and read a lot of fiction for work, so I decided to stop my brain from turning to mush and start writing!

What I hope to do here is produce regular reviews of children's & YA fiction, with a weekly focus on book-to-film adaptations (to combine my uni double major and movie addiction) and a bit of cooking thrown in as well! I'm no Bakerella, but I love to bake and look forward to sharing some of my culinary creations. Now, why YA fiction? Well, it's what I predominantly read myself - both for work and for enjoyment. I guess it started out of habit (I graduated high school, but never from that section of the library) and then as respite from some heavy-going Literature classes at uni.

My other main reason is somewhat connected to the valued and status based concept behind my other (currently on-hiatus) blog Simply the Best?. I do tend to feel that Children's and Young Adult fiction doesn't seem to be treated with the same respect and value as a lot of Adult Fiction. An interesting idea to consider, especially as a certain YA book about sparkly vampires has been featured on a number of best-selling lists as of late (though if analytical discuss of the text in question is anything to go by, perhaps that is why YA isn't taken as seriously!). Either way, this attitude is super disapointing as there is so much amazing writing in this area right now!

Anyway, I know there are some other fantastic YA based book blogs, and hopefully this can help share some of the love!