Friday, July 30, 2010

Mixed Bag #12

image source: we ♥ it

Morning blogopshere! Here is my weekly collection of links (pretty much anything I've found funny/interesting/weird) to keep you busy over your morning (or evening) coffee. Enjoy!

♥ The Boston Bibliophile has the first part of her upcoming series on The Essentials for a Home Library

♥ Pope Benedict XVI publishes a children's book

♥ For all the Gleeks, check out this sneak peek of the upcoming Glee novelisation. Whilst it's no secret, I'm kind of a huge Gleek (and I know I'm not the target audience for this novel) but it does not read well. It sort of looks like it's been taken from Fan

♥ Ohhh, look at this little girl's adorable reading nook! More cute reading spots for kids - I love decor blogs.

♥ The Wakefield twins from Sweet Valley are making a comeback! Sweet Valley Confidential revisits Elizabeth and Jessica, who are now twenty-seven and not on speaking terms. I'm looking forward to seeing how Francine Pascal breathes new life into the series. You can sign up to read the first chapter here.

Girls on Film: Ellen Page, Gender and Cinematic Sexuality is an amazing read from Cinematical.

♥ Have you been following Adele's Top 100 YA Novels? You should! Be warned though, this blog will make your to-read list grow enormously!

♥ Speaking of awesome, butt-kicking girls, Jamie who is responsible for The Seventeen Magazine Project I posted about last week has a new site Teenagerie - dedicated to analysing and critically discussing all things related to adolescence.Jamie says "my hopes for this blog are that it will be productive in promoting discussions surrounding the important questions about adolescence, which range from What are today's teens really like? to How accurate is the media in portraying these representations?"  

♥ One of my favourite films, Heathers, has been adapted for the stage, to debut at Joe's Pub in September.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Comment Challenge Week Four

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Here's the round-up of my fourth week participating in Megan of Literary Life's Comment July Challenge. I've decided for the last three days of the month, I'm going to give myself the personal challenge of doubling my daily comment target (going from five up to ten), so you may see me around sharing the comment-love.

July 22

July 23

July 24

July 25

July 26

July 27

July 28

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Snack Size Reviews #7

They're back! A selection of bite-sized reviewlettes at 100 words apiece. This week I picked three titles I read earlier this year, all of which involve teenage boys and examine male identity and sense of self. Enjoy:

Sprout - Dale Peck
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2009
Length: 288 pages
Sprout is the story of an openly gay teenager, Daniel ‘Sprout’ Bradford, living in rural Kansas and his entry into a personal essay writing competition. Through his essays, we learn about Sprout’s deceased mother, his alcoholic father and his house (covering completely in vines and surrounded by tree roots), and his wry observations are insightful and amusing. However, I found the scenes between Sprout and Ty, a young man with severe emotional issues, to be intense, confronting and quite haunting – quite a change in tone. Peck’s coming-out and coming-of-age narrative manages to be both humorous and heartfelt with a lingering effect.

After - Sue Lawson
Publisher: Black Dog Books, 2009
Length: 288 pages
Callum, or as he used to be known, CJ, gets shipped off to live with his maternal grandparents in the country, following a horrific event involving his best friend. Callum now must face life in a new school, in a small town with family members he’s never known. Whilst he uncovers secrets of his past and family history, Callum is also forced to deal with the plaguing after-effects of recent events. Sue Lawson has written an incredibly authentic voice in Callum – his anger, hurt and fractured sense of self is skilfully handled. After is a fresh and engaging Australian teen story.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
Publisher: Little, Brown, 2009
Length: 288 pages
Arnold Spirit (better known as Junior) shakes things up at the Spokane Indian Reservation by choosing to attend an all-white and non-reservation high school. He finds himself stuck somewhere between two ‘tribes’ – being unable to fit in at school due to his background, but also shunned by his old friends at the Reservation for breaking with tradition. Alexie’s writing is raw and honest, you truly feel for Junior, who along with being cast as an outsider, struggles with racism, poverty and a number of family issues. There are some lovely moments of humour though, predominantly through aspiring cartoonist Junior’s comics and sketches (drawn by Ellen Forney).

Monday, July 26, 2010

By My Beside #12

By My Bedside is part of In My Mailbox - a weekly book meme, created by Kristi of The Story Siren. I haven't done one for a couple of weeks as my local library is closed for renovations (so I've had to make special trips to another one to get some new reading material), and I've been trying to hold back from buying so many books at the moment (don't know how long that will last as I just placed a Book Despository order ....) Anyway here's my To-Read pile for the week:

Letters to Leonardo - Dee White (library)
The Lonely Hearts Club - Elizabeth Eulbeg (library)
Tomorrow All Will Be Beautiful - Brigid Lowry (library)
On The Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta (bought)
The Radleys - Matt Haig (won through Text Publishing newsletter)

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thankful Sunday

So, I haven't been the best blogger this week - I've been feeling pretty tired and just a bit down in general. Since I've spent my Sunday afternoon watching TV and just thinking about things, I thought it might be nice to do a picture post about things that I am grateful for or have made me smile this week (because I'm all about trying to keep positive):

Big Bang Theory
I picked up the first two boxed sets of BBT for $30 at K-Mart earlier in the week. Even though I've already seen every episode and the show is repeated regularly on TV and Foxtel, I like being able to watch six episodes back-to-back if I feel like it. It's just fun and easy to watch. I also find myself oddly attracted to Wolowitz, which I tweeted this week (I'm still not sure why ...)
image source: we ♥ it

Is there anything better than lovely cups of tea during winter? Even better is when the tea is accompanied by baked goods or biscuits!
image source: flickr

Melina Marchetta's The Piper's Son
I loved this book! I was a huge fan of Saving Francesa, so was really looking forward to revisiting Tom Mackee, Francesca, Justine and Tara again. A couple of my friends and I have recently started a book club and we picked this as our next novel. Really the book club just an excuse to regularly catch up for coffee and to talk about bookish things, but we had a lot of fun this week dicussing The Piper's Son and Melina's other works (particularly as we all studied Looking for Alibrandi at school).

Melbourne Writers Festival Tickets
I'm now officially attending the festival! I've purchased my tickets to some events in the Schools Program (to see some incredible YA authors like Melina Marchetta, Lili Wilkinson, and Jacyln Moriarty). I'm still trying to work out what I can see in the rest of the program. Check out their website for the full program and to buy tickets.

The Temper Trap
I went to see them perform at Festival Hall last night. My friend's friend bailed, so I offered to go instead, despite only knowing a couple of their songs. I'm glad I did as the show (including the two supporting acts - The Joy Formidable and No Mercy) was fantastic and made for a fun night out.

What are you thankful for this week?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mixed Bag

Good morning blogosphere! Here is your weekly dose of links to posts, video and anything else that has interested or amused me this week:

♥ This is definitely my favourite new discovery of the week, thanks to the amazing Adele posting about this video series on Persnickety Snark. Alex Reads Twilight is hilarious! This is so fun and quotable. Watch him discuss the first chapter here.

♥ William Kostakis' has written a brilliant response to Alexandra Adornetto opinion piece for The Age about teenage boys. Kostakis says "by all means, crawl into a book for your wish fulfillment, but don’t measure guys up against fantasies unless you want to be consistently disappointed". An excellent post, I urge everyone to read.

♥ Lili Wilkinson has also written a hilarious letter responding to points in Alexandra's article.

♥ An older video but along the same theme - John Green on Romance for He also reviews Twilight and New Moon here.

I'm really glad to find that other people have pointed out that Edward Cullen should not be held up as perfect-boyfriend material. I'm surround by girls - intelligent, well-educated, articulate and generally awesome girls - who are smitten with this fiction character (I reiterate with elaborate hand gestures 'fictional character') and I don't get it. Sorry, but in my mind any guy who watches you sleep (without you realising), is emotionally manipulative, withholds sex and messes with your car so you can't visit your friends, is not really the kind of guy who want to go out with.

♥ Brad Pitt has been cast in the film adaptation of Max Brooks' World War Z
♥ Julianne Moore's children's book Freckleface Strawberry is to be turned into an off-Broadway show
♥ Jordyn of Ten Cent Notes discusses writing well-developed male characters in YA fiction
♥ Cristen Conger from one of my favourite podcasts, Stuff Mom Never Told You, has an awesome video demonstrating tips from Cosmo magazine on 'How To Attract A Man'
♥ Fashion blogger Tavi writes an open letter to Seventeen magazine
♥ Speaking of Seventeen, read about Jamie's Seventeen Magazine Project - in which she spends a month living in accordance to the advice of the popular magazine

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This Lullaby

The Facts
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Hodder, 2008 (originally by Viking Juvenile 2002)
Length: 384 pages

The Fiction
From Goodreads: When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn't mess around. After all, she's learned all there is to know from her mother, who's currently working on husband number five. But there's something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy's rules. He certainly doesn't seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can't seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy's starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

Ok, so I am a fairly new recruit to the army of Sarah Dessen fans – I only read my first SD novel late last year, but have now read almost all of her work. Funnily enough, I had picked up This Lullaby twice before, but never got around to reading it (how silly of me!). I really wish I had read it (and discovered the rest of Sarah Dessen’s work) earlier because she is just that good!
This Lullaby is now in my top three Sarah Dessen novels. One thing I especially like is that Dessen’s protagonists aren’t always ‘nice girls’ and Remy is a flawed character. Remy Starr is a heartbreaker - she is super cynical when it comes to love and is almost exclusively the ‘dumper’ in her short relationships. Whilst I didn’t personally share her views on romance, she is a well-developed character and I happily followed her journey as a character throughout This Lullaby. Then there’s Dexter. Sarah Dessen writes fantastic male counterparts/romantic interests for her heroines. Dexter is charming, funny and lives for the moment. He is a romanticist, an idealist and is obsessed with dares. He is just as well-developed as Remy (and he has flaws of his own) and as a reader, you can appreciate their banter, cheer their interactions and hope that their relationship succeeds.

What I also really enjoy about Sarah Dessen novels is her ability to craft amazing, quirky supporting characters! John Miller, in my opinion, is one of the best. Honestly, I probably could have read a whole novel from his point of view (especially if it included drunken John Miller and Dexter antics). She is skilled at writing female friendship and enjoyed the tight-knit group of Remy’s friends – Lissa, Chloe and Jess – who all get some lovely moments, drinking Cokes in the Quick-Zip car park or lying on a trampoline in the middle of an empty block of land. Remy’s family – Jennifer-Anne and Christopher in particular, the girls at Joie salon and the rest of Truth Squad, are all given the right amount of space to appreciate them and allowing the reader to appreciate why they are so important to Remy.

This Lullaby is an enjoyable read. Admirably, Sarah Dessen doesn’t rely solely on a romance-driven plotline, to produce a story about love and relationships. She also deftly handles family, friendship, identity and ambition in a well-rounded work. Whilst I do find that there is somewhat of a pattern to Dessen’s narratives having read most of her titles, her style of writing is so charming and skill for creating quirky, engaging characters overpowers this. This Lullaby is surely well-enjoyed by loyal Dessen fans, and would certainly be a title I’d recommend as a read-first to newbies.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comment Challenge Week Three

image source: we ♥ it

Sorry for the blogging absence these past few days - am feeling a bit tired after the posting frenzy of Zombie Week. Anyway, here is the post round-up from my third week of the Comment July Challenge, set by Megan of Literary Life.

July 15
Hooked on YA Books - Review: Audrey, Wait!
Inkcrush - Covers: Audrey, Wait!
Once Upon A Bookcase - Guest Post: Simmone Howell
Tea Mouse - Waiting on Wednesday
Desert Book Chick - How to Write a Killer Book Review - Part VI

July 16
Literary Life - MWF Tickets
Just Your Typical Book Blog - Rock This! Thursday: Empire Records Edition
Frankie Writes - Damn the Man, Save the Empire! 
Mindful Musings - Review of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Mrs DeRaps Reads - My Favourite Genres

July 17
Steph Bowe - See me at Melbourne Writers Festival
Hooked on YA Books - Cover Compare Friday (14)
Inkcrush - Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin
Wonderous Reads - Review: 100% Gleek
Steph Su Reads - Author Interview with Cath Crowley

July 18
Persnickety Snark - Blogger Inquest (Adele)
Inkcrush - YA Movie News
Chachic's Book Nook - In My Mailbox
Good Golly Miss Holly - In My Mailbox

Apparently I only left four comments or forgot to jot down the link for my fifth! Whoops!

July 19
Bean There, Read That - Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
A Fanatics Book Blog - And Thus
From My Nightstand - In My Mailbox (1)
I Was A Teenage Book Geek - In My Mailbox (49)
DeRaps Reads - Summer Break Reading Challenge (9)

July 20
Literary Life - Rush Premiere + Comment July Challenge
Persnickety Snark - Alex Reads Twilight: Stephenie Meyer + Science = Wrong
The Story Siren - Forget You by Jennifer Echols
Overbooked - The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han
Daisy Chain Book Reviews - Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

July 21
A New Level of Nerdiness - Waiting on Wednesday
Literary Life - Vlog: In My Mailbox
From My Nightstand - One Week Anniversary!
Opinionated? Me? The Truth About Delilah Blue
Random Ramblings - An Education - Movie Review

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Zombie Week Wrap Up

Well it's been a fun week - I loved spending my time obsessing over all things zombie and spamming Twitter with random zombie facts. I hope some of you have enjoyed this themed week too, and maybe even gt you thinking about reading a different kind of paranormal YA story. Anyway, here's a rundown of the Zombie Week posts in case you missed anything:

Amanda Ashby - The Zombie Queen of Newbury High
Max Brooks - The Zombie Survival Guide
Brian James - Zombie Blondes
Carrie Ryan - The Forest of Hands and Teeth
E. Van Lowe - Never Slow Dance With A Zombie
Daniel Waters - Generation Dead
Daniel Waters - Kiss of Life

28 Days Later - Danny Boyle
Dawn of the Dead (2004) - Zach Synder
Shaun of the Dead - Edgar Wright
Zombieland - Ruben Fleischer

Coming Soon
Rot and Ruin - Jonathan Maberry
Zombies vs Unicorns - Holly Black and Justine Larbaleister

Mixed Bag - Zombie Style

images from we ♥ it

MJ and his friends say thanks for stopping by Zombie Week!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kiss of Life

So after agonising about my Generation Dead review all-day yesterday, I decided that I'd try and do a quick review of Kiss of Life and share some more zombies-in-YA-love!

The Facts
Author: Daniel Waters
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: 2009
Length: 416 pages

The Fiction
Across the US,  newlydead teens are becoming unearthed and coming out of the coffin (literally). Many of them are meeting in Oakvale, a town with a growing of undead teenagers. However since the haunting events of Generation Dead, things in Oakdale are getting even more tense between the local undead teens and some of the traditionally biotic citizens. Phoebe is struggling to sort out her feelings for both Tommy and Adam, Pete is being punished (though under the watchful eye of a fellow zombie-hater) and the Hunter Foundation is continuing it's mysterious research and controversial tolerance classes. Unfortunately a group of rebel zombies - calling themselves the Sons of Romero - refuse to play nice with the 'breathers' and catch the attention of a religious, anti-zombie group who are detemined to see all the undead six feet under, for good.

(Apologies if this synopsis is a bit vague, but I'm really trying hard to avoid spoiling major plot points for anyone)

Instead of an in-depth (and possibly overblown) like the one for Generation Dead, here are the things I enjoyed about Kiss of Life:
† The changing points of view. I liked that we aren't tied down to a particular character or the main protagonist, and are allowed to get into the heads of a range of teenagers (both living and dead/undead). I found Adam's thoughts and his journey in Kiss of Life to be especially interesting.
† Phoebe seems less indecisive and is far more relatable.
† I found Tommy to be a bit boring in Generation Dead, but Waters uses a lot of blog posts and emails to capture Tommy's voice in this novel, which I felt gave us a far better insight into his character. He really comes alive (haha) in his blog mysocalledundeath
† More Karen! In my opinion, she is the most interesting (and creative) character in the series - made a zombie under unusal circumstances, she is really taking advantage of her second life. There is something really intriguing about her (can't wait for Passing Strange, if only to get more Karen!)
† I'm really interested in Taki and the Sons of Romero. I thought their 'campaigns' were actually really clever and well-incorporated into the novel. Again, hoping to hear more about them in Passing Strange.
† I really like the Waters style zombies. They have the traditional (Romero-esque) stagger and slow mannerisms, however their physical behaviour is improved by their relationships. One of my favourite things about these books is the inherent idea that zombies need love too!

After re-visiting the novels for Zombie Week, all I can say is that I really hope my copy of Passing Strange arrives soon.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Generation Dead

The Facts
Author: Daniel Waters
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: 2008
Length: 400 pages

The Fiction
A strange thing is happening to dead teenagers across America – they are not staying dead. The phenomenon has scientists baffled and people are getting angry. Generation Dead centers around Oakvale High School - home to a rising number of ‘living impaired’ students who find themselves at odds with some of the ‘trad’ teenagers. Phoebe Kendall is the heroine of the story, a goth girl who is sympathetic towards the plight of the undead and finds herself intrigued (and later romantically involved) with Tommy Williams, a zombie. There’s also her neighbour, the gentle giant Adam who is (not-so) secretly harbouring some strong feelings for Phoebe. Not everyone is as tolerant as Phoebe, and there’s a growing animosity, especially towards those students who take a tolerance class with the mysterious Hunter Foundation.

So I do think this novel/series is one you either enjoy or don’t. People seem to have quite strong feelings about it one way or the other, and I will say I’m leaning towards the first camp (I enjoyed it a lot), though did have a few issues with it (which I go into below). I liked the fact that zombies (oh even typing that feels wrong in this case – the living impaired) are handled with respect and sensitivity, even if this goes over-the-top at times. I found it interesting the way in which Waters uses zombiism as a means to explore segregation, hate crimes and civil rights in a contemporary setting. I would liken the series, in this aspect, to a YA version of Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series and in the same way; zombies have come ‘out of the grave’ and are now in the public eye and very much in the media.

At times, I found myself slightly frustrated with Generation Dead because I did feel that Phoebe could have been developed further. For a young woman who writes poetry and seems quite sensitive and introspective, I couldn’t quite understand why she was so confused and unable to understand her feelings for Tommy and Adam. I found myself actually preferring to hear the male point of view (from Adam and Pete) as they were more interesting - Adam is an easily likeable and relatable character – even if at times I wanted him to ‘man up’ and ask Phoebe out already. Though Pete is quite an unlikeable character, I liked getting into his head, as it allowed for a better-rounded novel. Kiss of Life also featured more Karen (my favourite and a far more intriguing female character – sorry Phoebe!), and as a result, I have high hopes for the third book, Passing Strange.

I do feel like Generation Dead is a bit to get through (there is a lot of set-up and back-story to fully comprehend the whole ‘differently biotic’ thing) and you don’t really get a sense of closure from the novel (the whole time I was reading, I just knew this story wasn’t going to be finished within the one book). As I mentioned above, I enjoyed the sequel, Kiss of Life more as most of the set-up is out of the way, allowing Waters to spend more time on the plotlines and characters I found to be the most interesting (Karen, Pete, Adam, Margi and the rising tensions between the living and the undead).

Overall, I really enjoyed Generation Dead and felt like it was an innovative take on  a paranormal romance plotline. Whilst Phoebe fell a bit flat for me (and I found Tommy to be kind of boring in this), the books are rounded out by a well-developed and engaging cast of supporting characters. Waters puts a creative spin on the zombie genre, and successfully addresses a range of important issues. I would recommend committing to the series if you do read Generation Dead, as the sequel reaches greater depth with character and thematic exploration in this very contemporary zombie drama.

Zombie Week - Mixed Bag

Your usual source of linky goodness this week, of course, is celebrating all things zombie! If you have any other interesting zombie-related reviews, articles or anything else - please share in the comments. I'll love you like a zombie loves brains!

How Zombies Work from the team at How Stuff Works. My favourite podcasters Josh & Chuck from Stuff You Should Know also have an awesome do zombies really exist podcast I recommend checking out.

5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen

† TIME magazine called it first - Zombies Are The New Vampires

† Tim Robey asks 'why do we love the undead?' - a great article I've been hanging onto for weeks!

† Charlie Higgins, author of The Enemy, talks about his love of zombies

† The AV Club reviews Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker. I have to read this!

† YA author Justine Larbalestier on why zombies rule

† The AV Club again, an awesome interview with the King of zombie films George A. Romero

† How can I not include greatest zombie music video of all time - Michael Jackson's Thriller. Here is the extended version of the video directed by the incredible John Landis. One of my life goals is to learn the Thriller dance.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Zombieland (2009)
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Screenwriters: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

Set sometime in the not-so-distant future, America has become nothing more than a post-apocalyptic wasteland due a nation-wide mad-cow pandemic. The infection leaves victims with “a swollen brain, a raging fever, made you hateful, violent and ... a really, really bad case of the munchies” (hence the zombies of Zombieland). Making his way across America is young Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) who has managed to stay alive so far because of his strict adherence to a set of survival rules (1. Cardio. 2. Double tap. 3. Beware of bathrooms). In his attempt to reach Ohio, Columbus meets fellow survivor, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson – and I realised I should mention that each character in the film is only referred to by their place of origin), who is not only an expert in the zombie-arse-kicking-business, but on a journey of his own (to find an untouched Twinkie). Their road-trip and zombie-killing spree is interrupted, however, when they are duped by a pair of adorable-but-dangerous trickster sisters, Witchita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin). Eventually the four survivors form a truce and decide to travel together towards the promise of the last zombie-free haven on the west coast, Pacific Playlands Amusement Park.

I love Zombieland (and apparently so do many, many others as it is the currently the top-grossing zombie film to date). Whilst I know a lot of zombie classicists prefer the slow-moving-serious-business zombies, I think Zombieland was the perfect contemporary balance of zombie lore, comedy and road movie. It is selectively and incredibly well-cast – I’m a huge Jesse Eisenberg fan anyway (and don’t try and compare him to Michael Cera!) and I was glad to see Emma Stone finally getting to play the bad-ass, tough-yet-vulnerable chick and show off her talent (because she is so much better than the awfulness of The House Bunny). Woody Harrelson and Abigail Breslin were the pleasant surprises for me – Harrelson in particular, who steals almost every scene as Tallahassee and has this perfect banter with Eisenberg, which they sustain throughout the film. The other thing I loved about Zombieland, and think it definitely helped set it apart, is the film’s use of titles and graphics.

It works perfectly as a method of reiterating Columbus’s rules for zombie survival, which I think adds to the broad appeal of the film (like with horror films, fans of the genre already know the ‘rules’ of what the character must do to survive – but this works as a great introductory tool for newbies too) and also gives it a video-game type quality. Also, the Zombie Kill of the Week moments are just priceless.

Zombieland is a fresh and fun look at the zombie genre and has by the far, the most commercial appeal of a zombie film since Shaun of the Dead. It’s fast-paced, funny and I think will strike a chord with even the most reluctant, non-zombie fans. I’ve also included a couple more (slightly spoilerish) caps of the film after the break, if anyone is interested. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Comment Challenge Week Two

image source: we ♥ it

Sorry folks - I've got to interupt the zombie party with my second week of comments from the Comment July Challenge (originally set by Megan at Literary Life). Here's my round-up of posts I've enjoyed and responded to over the last week:

July 8
Wordsmith Lane - Open Letter to Megan Burke of Literary Life

July 9
Making it Lovely - Family Photos
Presenting Lenore - Dystopian August
I Was A Teenage Book Geek - Review: Fortune by Megan Cole
Inkcrush - I Am Number Four
Food for Silverfish - Withering Tights

July 10
DeRaps Reads - Friday's Fab Five
YA Addict - Review of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Andi B Goode - New Ukelele Video
Chachic's Book Nook - Characters I'd Set Up with My Friends
Gala Darling - Mo' Money, Mo' Problems (Part Three)

July 11
Inkcrush - Sweethearts
Random Ramblings - Friday in Pictures
Start Narrative Here - Book Loot - Week Ending July 11, 2010
Food for Silverfish - The Radleys
Steph Su Reads - Review: I Now Pronouce You Someone Else

July 12
I was a teenage book geek - In My Mailbox (48)
Just Your Typical Book Blog - Sometimes I like to pretend I can bake
In The Hammock - In My Mailbox (30)
Persnickety Snark - Blogger Inquist - Steph Su Reads
My Life as a Magazine - Dawn Tan +Handmade Love+

July 13
Literary Life - Who Can Blog Properly?
Once Upon A Book Blog - Something About Summer
Daisy Chain Book Reviews - Interview with Anastasia Hopcus
Lost in Stores - Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
A Fanatic's Book Blog - "Me Mondays" July 12th

July 14
Random Ramblings - Top Ten Picks: Favourite Books to Movies
Oh My Books! Review - The Clearing by Heather Davis
Bean There, Read That - Cedar B. Hartley
Rhiannon Hart - Dystopian Challenge Review #3
A Beautiful Mess - 5 Tips for Bloggers

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Facts
Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Hachette Gollancz
Date: 2009
Length: 320 pages

The Fiction
Mary lives in an isolated, unnamed village which is bound by a series of rules. Their community is fenced in and heavily patrolled by the Guards – in order to keep out the hordes of Unconsecrated (zombies!) who lurk on the other side and throughout the forest. Having grown up hearing stories about life prior to the zombie invasion, Mary dreams of the ocean and the possibilities that could lie beyond the two paths in the fenced-off forest.

Until one day the safety of her village is compromised by an attack of the Unconsecrated and the ordered life Mary knew is thrown into chaos. Mary and a small group of those who manage to escape the invasion (including her brother, her betrothed, her best friend and the boy she loves), together enter the forest and travel along the mysterious path into the unknown to try and ensure their survival.

This is hands-down, one of my favourite books. Though I deliberately picked it up because I knew it was about zombies, I think it’s an engaging and enjoyable read regardless of your personal interest in the undead. It was essentially my first experience with zombie-themed young adult literature and I was amazed with incredibly high quality of the work (because let’s be honest, zombies are not know for their sophisticated background and literary prowess). Ryan has crafted a sophisticated post-apocalyptic teen story which combines action and suspense with an emotional core and resonant, contemporary themes. Oh, and we certainly mustn’t forget, there is also quite a heart-wrenching romance plotline and a love quadrilateral.

If you pick any novel from Zombie Week to try reading for the first time, I can’t recommend The Forest of Hands and Teeth enough. Even if you aren’t a zombie fan, the well-developed cast of characters, gripping journey and forbidden romance will surely sustain you as a reader.
An incredibly writing debut by Carrie Ryan (and just to encourage aspiring writers, the first manuscript for this novel came out of Nanowrimo).

Zombie Week - Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine to "spotlight upcoming releases".

Zombies vs Unicorns - Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier (editors)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Australian Release Date: September 21st, 2010

It's a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths--for good and evil--of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies.

Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

Ok, so of course I'm totally biased and will be Team Zombie, but am really looking forward to reading this and finding out which YA authors are fellow zombie-lovers. I'm not usually a huge fan of anthologies, but with all the YA-authory goodness, this sounds like a really fun read.

Rot and Ruin - Jonathan Maberry
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Australian Release Date: October 5, 2010

A teenager grows up in a post-apocalypic, zombie-infested America.
Reviews from Amazon: "This is a romping, stomping adventure. And while most zombie novels are all about the brains, this one has a heart as well.? With the dead prowling all around, fifteen-year-old Benny Imura learns the bittersweet lessons of life, love, and family in the great Rot & Ruin.? Anyone with a pulse will enjoy this novel, and anyone with a brain will find plenty of food for thought inside."--Michael Northrop, author of Gentlemen
"George Romero meets The Catcher in the Rye in this poignant and moving coming of age novel set during zombie times." --Nancy Holder, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked and Possessions

Wow. Definitely sounds like my kind of story. I'm especially looking forward to a zombie YA novel with a male protagonist as every other story in the genre, that I've read so far, has been predominatly from a female point of view.
What upcoming releases are you eagerly anticipating?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Zombies Flicks

So I could fill up a whole week of posts just about zombie films (and that would only just be covering the work of the legendary George A. Romero, Godfather of the zombie film genre).  I decided to just pick a small selection of my favourite zombie flicks from the past decade (as I'll be focused on contemporary zombie narratives in YA fiction), so onto the movies!

Dawn of the Dead
Director: Zach Synder
Screenwriter: James Gunn
Release Date: 2004
Distributor: Universal Studios
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer

During a national zombie outbreak, a group of survivors take refuge in a suburban Milwaukee shopping mall. The group attempts getting the attention of rescuers without success and seem forced to adapt to life in the mall, with hordes of zombies desperate to get in. Whilst advertised as a remake of the 1977 Romero film of the same title, I feel this is more of a ‘re-imagining’ as characters, plot and even story elements vary (for one thing, the 2004 zombies are fast). I love this film – there is just the right mix of characters (a bad-arse cop, our nurse heroine, a douchebag with a yacht, a jack-of-all-trades romantic interest) and I like watching the dynamic between characters. One of my favourite sequences is actually totally zombie-free and is a montage set to lounge singer Richard Cheese’s cover of ‘Down With The Sickness’, which just depicts the survivors enjoying themselves, adapting to mall life and just living. These scenes provide the perfect balance between the action-packed, full-on, gorrific zombie-slaying. I will say this film is probably not for the squeamish (there’s a lot of blood and a scene with a baby which is kind of gross), but is amazingly well-shot and edited for a horror/zombie film (which come on, tend to have a B to Z grade reputation). Though depending on how you like your endings (hopeful versus truthful), be wary of the end credits.

28 Days Later
Director: Danny Boyle
Screenwriter: Alex Garland
Release Date: 2002
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston

Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes naked and alone in a deserted hospital. After walking the abandoned streets of London, he discovers a virus has swept through Britain and the nation was supposed to have been evacuated. He encounters a handful of other survivors on his way back to his family home, and discovers that whilst he’s been in a coma, the virus has infected and killed millions, turning them into highly-contagious ‘Infected’ who are quick to attack. Whilst Danny Boyle has officially started this is not a ‘zombie movie’, I feel that 28 Days Later uses more than enough accepted zombie conventions that you can’t deny it’s connections to the zombie genre. Regardless of which way you stand on the zombie/its-a-virus divide, it’s an engaging film – more on the serious side and really explores the consequences of a societal breakdown. The first ten minutes of Cillian Murphy walking through the desolate streets of London, past familiar tourist attractions which are now completely abandoned are hauntingly beautiful and at the same time, incredibly creepy. Again, I really liked the more humanising scenes – like a group of survivors on a decadent shopping spree in an abandoned supermarket. Also, the DVD gives you multiple ending options (do you want hope? Reality? Complete pessimism?). Definitely thinking person’s zombie – or should I say, apocalyptic – film

Shaun of the Dead
Director: Edgar Wright
Screenwriters: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Release Date: 2004
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost & Kate Ashfield

Shaun is a bit of a no-hoper – he’s just been dumped and seems destined to be stuck in a dead-end retail job and living with his unemployed, obnoxious best friend, Ed. That is until he must face a zombie uprising, and attempt to lead his family and friends to the safety of his local pub. Shaun is the everyman, a bit dumb (I mean, it takes him something like a whole half-hour to realise everyone around him is zombified) but full of heart, and Ed provides plenty of gags as the crude side-kick. They have no zombie-hunting qualifications except for video-game skills and still manage to take on a zombie army. Shaun of the Dead is fantastic because it not only plays homage to numerous zombies movies for the film buff viewer, but still manages to be fresh, funny and probably has the most commercial appeal of any contemporary zombie-themed film (up until the release of Zombieland last year). Even non-zombie-fans will surely enjoy this fast-paced comedy, full of visual gags and cracking one-liners.

What are your favourite zombie films?

Zombie Week - Snack Size

Good morning blogsville! Once again I have a trio of tiny, tasty reviewlettes - all at a bite-sized 100 words apiece. Now being Zombie Week here at the blog, I think it's pretty obvious what each of these books have in common .... mmmm brains

Zombie Blondes - Brian James
Published by Square Fish, 2009
256 pages

Hannah is sick of being the new girl, so she’s hopeful when her father settles in Maplecrest, a non-descript small town. Maplecrest High is ruled by the football team and cheerleading squad (all of which are beautiful, blonde and deathly pale) and Hannah is eager to conform in exchange for popularity, despite being warned by comic book geek Lukas of their evils. Whilst I liked the idea of the themes and concept of Zombie Blondes, I felt they weren’t fully executed. I found Hannah unlikeable and a bit dull. The novel had the potential to be super-creepy, but for me fell a bit flat.

Never Slow Dance With A Zombie - E. Van LowePublished by Tom Doherty Associates, 2009
256 pages

When Margot Jean Johnson and her best friend Sybil skip the school carnival one Friday night, they also miss out on becoming mindless zombies. In return for the girls agreeing to help their principal keep the zombification of their school a secret, they receive the popularity perks they previously desired –until they must deal with the grave consequences of zombie infestation. Not my favourite zombie YA – I found Margot annoying and increasingly difficult to sympathise with. Also whilst this is more of a parody of the genre, the plot holes sometimes made reading a struggle. My favourite character, Baron, was underused and underappreciated. Light-hearted zombie fare.

The Zombie Queen of Newbury High - Amanda Ashby
Published by Penguin Group, 2009
208 pages

Mia is just your average teen girl – crushing on footballer Rob, and watching copious amounts of Buffy. That is until an attempted love spell goes wrong and she turns her school (including Rob and her best friend Candice) into zombies, all eager to devour their new Queen. Now she’s got to reverse the zombie virus and change everyone back by prom. Ashby does a great, fun take on zombie YA with a novel that pokes fun at zombie clich├ęs and is full of pop culture references. Mia is quirky and a believable heroine and Chase (supernatural investigator/hottie) is the perfect guy to help her avoid getting eaten.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Zombie Survival Guide

Before I get into the world of zombie fiction, I thought I'd kick off Zombie Week with the book I think every single zombie aficionado should own. Depending on how much you fear the possibility of a future zombie apocalypse (and if you are my brother, this book is your bible), you may define this work as fact, rather than dedicated fiction- I'm leaving this part to your call. Either way, this is one hell of a contemporary guide to kicking zombie-arse.

The Facts
Author: Max Brooks
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Date: 2003
Length: 272 pages

The Fiction (or More Facts if you feel that a zombie apocalypse is inevitable rather than a mere possibility or comical idea)
This is the most comprehensive and contemporary guide to protecting yourself from the living dead. Max Brooks has extensively researched everything from zombie physiology to modern weaponry and warfare in order to prepare this practical manual to ensure your survival in the event of a zombie attack.

The Zombie Survival Guide is broken down into six distinct sections, all made up of meticulous research, extensive testing, lab reports and first-hand accounts and designed to prepare readers against any kind of zombie attack. Brooks starts by giving an excellent rundown on the history of the zombie, the (fictional) virus that creates them and examines a number of zombie myths (there is also an excellent comparison between the voodoo zombie and the Hollywood zombie – an excellent resource for anyone interested in writing zombie fiction). He also rates various weapons and their effectiveness in civilian-zombie combat (not something I ever thought I’d be interested in learning about, but surprisingly interesting). Brooks also gives detailed discussion of how to best protect your home and family during a crisis, as well as the pros and cons of other places of protection. There is also a great, in-depth (and amusing) section on the benefit of being on the run during an outbreak. Brooks ends with a record of (fictional) zombie attacks throughout history (which is again, very well-written and engaging) and gives you an outbreak journal – for you to use to record any suspicious events.

Ok, so whilst this is a work of fiction, Brooks has filled this handy-how-to guide with a lot of common sense ideas and good survival tips (almost every character from any apocalyptic or zombie film could have benefited from reading this!). Whilst Brooks is faux-serious about potential zombie outbreaks and The Zombie Survival Guide is centred on what is essentially a pop-culture trend, he does manage to address many contemporary fears and concerns, which I think gives the book a wider appeal.

I can highly recommend The Zombie Survival Guide as a must-read for anyone interested in the living dead. It also makes a great, quirky gift for anyone with a good sense of humour or brothers/uncles/cousins who are tricky to buy for. I’ve given away a couple of copies and they always go down really well.