Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Road Trip Wednesday - When I was Young

   Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival, hosted by YA Highway. For more information go HERE

This Weeks Topic - What books were you obsessed with as a Kid?

This is such a timely question for me!

On my first trip to check out how Waterstone's Children and Teens department compares to Barnes and Nobels what book should I find prominently displayed?


Back Home by Michelle Magorian. My very favourite book from when I was young. I admit I let out a little shriek and grabbed it.

I am so happy this book is still being read, and loved, and promoted because it is just wonderful.

The main character Rusty is sent to the US during WW2. The story begins when she returns home and finds she doesn't fit in. I vividly remember loving that Rusty used all these strange words, like trunk for boot.

It was also the first book (that I remember reading) that dealt with the themes of home and family and identify. Themes which still fascinate me and which I love both reading and writing about.

Have any of you read Back Home?


I also adored her other WW2 book, Goodnight Mr Tom, which was made into a film starring John Thaw in 1998. If you can find it on DVD get it, is it wonderful. Even thinking about the last scene makes me tear up.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Six Things on Sunday

1) Hello from the UK! We're just about settled in and recovered from jet lag. Although as the clocks have just gone forward that's messed us up again. It's only an hour, but it feels like 5!

2) On the upside, I am now living in one of the most gorgeous villages in England. Rolling hills, lovely pubs, village greens, ponds, and the most wonderful church. Which has a very beautiful and atmospheric graveyard - it's enough to make me want to write a ghost story.

3) Talking of stories - I have just started a new one. For two reasons a) it's been nagging at me since Christmas and b) the computer, containing the dreaded, soul destroying WIP, is in the Unaccompanied Air Freight. Which DHL have helpfully misplaced, it may be at Heathrow, in a warehoue. It may be in Atlanta - who knows - not DHL anyway.

4) Also in the UAF are some ARC's I need to review (and really want to read!), so I really hope DHL finds it quickly. Until then I have been reading The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook - it's very funny.

5) It has come to my attention that not only have I barely read any UK YA, but I follow no UK bloggers. Can you help me out? Recommendations of Brilliant British Book Bloggers and Brilliant British books would be highly appreciated.

6) Um. . .yes . . .I don't actually have a six. This was meant to be a Friday Five post but, I mean, I lost a whole hour this weekend.

Well it's nice to be back. I missed blogging and I missed comments (hint, hint!). Please do leave those  Brit recommendations - thanks.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Goodbye DC

Things I have loved and will miss



Friends, living in our neighbourhood, The National Zoo,  Hank's Oyster bar, Central, The National History Museum, driving over the Key bridge, Barnes and Noble, Two Amy's pizza, The Cherry Blossom Festival, driving past the White House, the National Christmas Tree, the Botanical gardens train display, road trips, Diane Rehm, Kojo Nnamdi, This American Life, George Town Cupcakes, pumpkin spices lattes, Wholefoods, jumble cookies, the colours of the trees in Autumn, going to the beach, snow, skiing, the AU campus, Politics and Prose, our local park, driving past the hospital and knowing that's where my son was born, red birds,  summer, Shenandoah National park, the Cheaspeake, crabcakes, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, my local library, Ihop, the way the moon looks, accents.


I'm sure there are a million more things big and little that I will miss. I feel so lucky that I got to live in this amazing city.

I don't know when our internet will be up and running in the new house, but I will be back. Until then hope you all have a good book to read.

Alexa 


xx

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Beloved Bookshelf - Part Two

The first half of this post can be read here


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - well of course :)

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett - makes me laugh and laugh. This books is the ultimate pick me book.

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers - mean girls are so not my thing, but I truly adore Parker and I also adore Courtney Summers wonderful writing.

The Secret Society Girl Series by Diana Peterfreund - Amy's one of my favourite main characters, plus there is secret societies and Poe :) 

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - one of the most perfect books ever written. I mean how can you not love a book that begins. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.


Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony - the first book by a dear friend of mine. This one is super special.

How to Breath Under Water by Julie Orringer - these stories are so real and heart breaking. My favoruite is Notes to My Sixth Grade Self.

Twilight by Stephanie Myer - yup I'm a twilight fan and proud of it. These books just suck me in and I can't make any protests. Plus, Twilight lead me to YA so I am eternally grateful for that

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - well you can't have a list and not have Harry P. This is my favourite of all the books. It was when this book came out that the series exploded (in the UK) and every person you saw was reading a HP book. I'd love to say I was in from the start, but I bought the first one when I saw everyone with this one. I also remember I was reading HP and the Order of the Phoenix when I moved to Mexico and HP and the Deathly Hallows on my honeymoon. 


So the Beloved Bookshelf pile kind of surprised me. Books that I love and highly recommend didn't make it and books that I've barely looked at in years did. I think as well as being outstandingly wonderful books, that completely pull you in, Beloved Books also remind me of a time or place or person, and that's what makes them extra special. 

So do tell me. What's on your Beloved Bookshelf?

* in case you were wondering I kept way more books than this :) But that would be much to big a list!


Beloved Bookshelf - Part One

As we are moving back to the UK on Friday (hyperventilates!), we have been getting rid of things.


Our current house has three floor to ceiling bookcases that take up one wall of the living room. Books were double stacked and crammed in. Therefore, books were high on the list of things that needed to be sorted out and donated. I knew this was necessary, I knew the books I gave away would bring pleasure to other people. But I really don't like getting rid of things, especially books.


On my first attempt I stacked up nine books, compared to my husband's four boxes.


Umm yeah.


I needed a better strategy. So instead of clearing books out I started sorting them into books I couldn't bare to part with under any circumstances (i.e the beloved bookshelf books). Books I loved, Books I liked. . .you get the picture.


So I thought I'd share what's on my Beloved Bookshelf with you guys.


In no particular order


The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford - two utter gems of books. I re-read them regularly. They've just been re-issued I urge you to read them.


His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. - LOVE. THESE. BOOKS! The characters, the world building, the plot. Everything is wonderful. I even liked the movie. My favourite is The Subtle Knife.


Cross Stitch (or Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon - oh la sigh, Jamie! Plus fun time travel shenanigans.


The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen - my first Dessen book and it blew me away. So much so that I didn't read anything else by her for over a year because I just didn't think she could match it. She can, by the way, but this remains my favourite.


Perfect You By Elizabeth Scott - yes, I am a huge fan of all her books, but this one holds a special place in my heart because I read it about five times while I was pregnant. It was like my book craving :)


China Blues by Pamela Longfellow - I picked this book up in a sale when I was still at school and fell in love with the characters and the setting, San Francisco! It's sadly out of print because it's such a great and interesting book. I also firmly believe that Kit set me up to always fall for the nice, best friend guy in books :)


Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta - yeah I've probably said enough to last a life time about this book. But one last time, with feeling, Saving Francesa equals my perfect reading experience!


Bunnicula, Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight by Deborah and James Howe - three books I still own from when I was very small. Clearly I have had a thing for vampires for a long time (even in animal form). If you have an eight year old get these for them, or just read them yourself. Like a Pixar movie they have humour for children and adults. Chester the cat kills me!


Hideous Kinky by Esther Fraud - an absolutely gorgeous books set in Marrakech and told from a five years old perspective. It sounds like it shouldn't work, but it does so, so well.


This is getting long so part 2 tomorrow

Monday, 7 March 2011

Book Review: What my Mother Doesn't Know & What my Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones

I have Nomes of InkCrush and my local library to thank for introducing me to these fabulous books.

Nomes, because she wrote such a lovely review, calling these books ones curl up with on a Sunday. My library because the fabulous liberians always do such lovely displays.

These two things came together when I was dashing into the library to pick up some books (browsing is no longer an option with the toddler in tow) What My Mother Doesn't Know was on display and I thought, yes I just fancy curling up with that. So I added it to the pile.

I opened it up that afternoon after putting my son down for his nap and suddenly it was time to get him up again. What My Mother Doesn't Know is a book that effortlessly sucks you in. I wanted to read slowly to enjoy the words, but I also wanted to read very fast to know what happened.

When I finished later that evening I immediately downloaded What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know on to my Kindle. When I finished that I went online and bought both books.

Why?

Because these are books I want to keep by my bedside and dip into.

So that probably tells you everything you need to know about how much I love these two books.

But

Here's some more. Just in case.

Every single page contains a gem - the kind of sentence or phrase you want to roll around in your mouth because it sounds so lovely, or write down because it so perfectly encapsulates a feeling.

Sonya Sones makes you feel so much, and care so deeply, with so few words - it's magical.

Like me you may have been scarred by having to study William Blake for a whole year (I mean seriously there were no other poets?) and therefore think verse novels are not for you. You would be so wrong, take a chance, trust me!

Nomes was right - these are perfect sunday afternoons. Think roaring fire, hot chocolate, hours gone in a flash afternoons.

Such lovely characters.

They're funny.

And sad - you know I love that mix.

They made me remember being a teenager so well, all the little things and the big things. Like this -


It's not that I'm boy crazy.
It's just that even though
I'm almost fifteen
it's like
my mind 
and my body
and my heart
just don't seem to be able to agree
on anything.



These books are Just. Magical.

Sonya Sones has a very lovely web site here and a new adult book out on April 5th The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus: A Novel about Marriage, Motherhood and Mayhem

Saturday, 5 March 2011

And the Winners are. . .

Fredamans

and A.J

Yay! 

I shall pre-order The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta for you both. Hope you enjoy it!



Congratulations



And I hope the rest of you will buy or borrow this fabulous book.

Here's the first line to draw you in.

The String slices into the skin of his fingers and no matter how tough the calluses, it tears.
(The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta)




And if you need to read some more about it then Melina Marcehtta has a guest post on Teen Reads today

Happy Weekend

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Interview with Melina Marchetta

I am so excited to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog today. Melina Marchetta is the author of The Piper's Son, Saving Francesca, Finnikin of the Rock, Looking for Alibrandi, and Printz award winning Jellicoe Road. She was kind enough to answer some questions for me.


Enjoy!

1) The Piper’s Son revisits the characters we all fell in love with in Saving Francesca. Did you always know you'd revisit these characters or did it surprise you, and can we expect to hear from anyone else in the gang, Jimmy for example (fingers crossed here for a yes)?

First, the easier question to answer (perhaps painful to you). There is no Jimmy novel but then again when Francesca came out in 2003 I would have sworn there was no Tom novel. So who knows in the future. For me the absence of some of the characters such as Jimmy, Siobhan as well as Joe Mackee and Tom Finch spoke louder than their presence so I kept them away.
I didn’t imagine I’d revisit the Francesca gang, but at the time I thought there could have been a Will story or one revolving around Tara Finke. Most times I begin writing a novel when a character comes calling and strangely, Tom came calling in 2008, 5 years after Saving Francesca. He’s been my biggest surprise.

2) The Piper’s Son is unusual because it is told from the split perspective of Tom and his Aunt Gerogie. Can you tell us why you decided to tell half the story from Georgie’s point of view, rather than say Tara’s or a contemporary of Tom’s?


Before I wrote Finnikin of the Rock I wanted to write a novel about a woman named Georgie Finch who had to travel to France to collect the body of her brother who died there tragically. That’s as far as I went. Finnikin came along and Georgie was just a memory of a character who didn’t work. One night I was watching a documentary about a group of Vietnam Vets returning to Vietnam to retrieve the first of five bodies left behind during the war. It was as if Tom Mackee sat beside me on the sofa that night and said, ‘That’s my family’s story and Georgie Finch is my Aunt.’ I don’t have writing moments like that but I love that I remember the very moment Tom came back into my head.

Georgie is of my generation and in every one of my novels the adults have had their story told through the point of view of the teenager telling the story (think Hannah in Jellicoe and Frankie’s parents in Saving Francesca). This time I wanted the adults to have a voice. Georgie and Tom are on the same journey. They’re stuffing up relationships, their grieving and they’re both trying to hold the family together. I also think they’re both really funny characters. I loved their scenes together and I love the fact that younger readers have enjoyed Georgie’s story as much as Tom’s. I think her relationship with Sam is as poignant as Tom’s relationship with Tara.

3) Music plays a huge part in Tom’s life and in The Piper’s Son. Do you have theme songs for your books?


I have one playlist that ends up in the novel and another that I listen to in order to understand the character. This friend of mine who is in his 20s downloaded me a list of songs he thought Tom and his friends would listen to. I think that once you work out a character’s music taste, you work out something about them and what makes them different to each other.

4) What was your journey to publication like?


Very long. I was quite young when Looking For Alibrandi came out. I started writing it when I was 20 and it was released when I was 27. I was rejected about five or six times. Being published is not for the faint hearted or the lazy. You can find yourself re-writing a scene about twenty times. I remember the prologue of Finnikin nearly broke me whereas the Prologues of Jellicoe and The Piper’s Son stayed the same from the moment I first wrote them, give and take a word or two.

5) I heard you were working on a sequel to Finnikin of the Rock. Can you tell us anything about that and when we might be able to get our hands on it?


The sequel(s) are called Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn. Froi is probably coming out in Australia in October and Quintana in April next year. The first novel has one of those awful cliff-hanger endings, but if I didn’t do that, I think I would have compromised the story. Three years after the events in Finnikin of the Rock, Froi is sent to the enemy kingdom of Charyn to kill the King but of course nothing works out as planned and he begins his great journey finding out who he is. Froi’s been an amazing character to write because the only road for him is redemption after what he tried to do in FOTR and Quintana is probably the most insane character I’ve ever written, but a real treat to have in my head. I’ve made sure that the world of Lumatere ties in with what’s taking place in Charyn. At one stage I wanted to call it A tale of two Kingdoms because the story really belongs to both.





A huge thank you to Melina for taking the time to answer. I can't wait for the sequels to Finnikin of the Rock they sound amazing.  I'm also really hoping that Jimmy decides to sit down next to Melina sometime in the not to distant future or maybe Luca Spinelli :)

10 Reasons why you should enter my giveaway to win The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

(image from Weheartit -it just makes me think of TPS)


I am in deep, deep love with this book. It has a place on the beloved books shelf of my bookcase. It's a re-read every year kind of book. It's a book that lingers.

But, in case you need a little more convincing on why this is the must read book of 2011. Here's a handy list, because who doesn't love a list?

1) It feels real. I swear it's like I could get on a plane to Australia, find my way to Stani's, and there everyone would be. That's how you know you're reading  an outstanding book.

2) It has characters you root for, relate to, adore, and occasionally want to bash over the head with a frying pan. That's how you know it's real love ;)

3) You get to revisit the characters from Saving Francesca (what do you mean you haven't read it, get thee to a book store right now!)

4) It makes you laugh, and who doesn't like to laugh?

5) It makes you cry. Crying can be good - it's like rain and rainbows, right?

6) It breaks your heart.

7) But then it mends it.

8) Tom :) (and Francesca, Will, Tara, Georgie and Sam and Lucia)

9) It contains one of my favourite romantic lines of all time (of course it could just be me. Read it, see what you think).

10) It celebrates friends and family, in all their imperfect perfectness.

You can read my original review of The Piper's Son here and to enter my giveaway to win The Piper's Son go here.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Giveaway - The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

It's March, which means it's Spring, and also that in just eight days The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta will finally, finally be on sale in the USA - hoo-ray and about time!

To celebrate I'm having a The Piper's Son Week here on the blog. Kicking off with a contest!



I'm giving away TWO copies of The Piper's Son, which was one of my favourite books of 2010.


  • To enter - leave a comment on this post and a way for me to contact you.
  • I'll randomly select two people on Friday 4th March and then pre-order it for you.
  • You get TWO extra entries for Tweeting with a link to this post
  • You get FIVE extra entries for posting about it on your blog.
  • Thanks to The Book Depository it is open internationally :) 


That's it!

Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you why you MUST read this book!