Thin Space, Jody Casella, (243 pages) Ever since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side. But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead. (Goodreads)
First Lines: “Marsh”
The light was bright. Glaring. I tried to turn my head, but a sharp tug locked me in place. Ugh! Something was clamped between my lips. It snaked down my throadt so I couldn’t breathe. I jerked my hands, wating to claw whatever the hell is was away, but someone’s fingers curled around mine and held them down.
“You’re Ok, Marsh.”
Man Made Boy, Jon Skovron (361 pages)Sixteen-year-old Boy’s never left home. When you’re the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride, it’s tough to go out in public, unless you want to draw the attention of a torch-wielding mob. And since Boy and his family live in a secret enclave of monsters hidden under Times Square, it’s important they maintain a low profile.Boy’s only interactions with the world are through the Internet, where he’s a hacker extraordinaire who can hide his hulking body and stitched-together face behind a layer of code. When conflict erupts at home, Boy runs away and embarks on a cross-country road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, who introduce him to malls and diners, love and heartbreak. But no matter how far Boy runs, he can’t escape his demons—both literal and figurative—until he faces his family once more. (Goodreads)
First lines: In the beginning, there was zero. And then God said, let there be one. Computers, Internet, phones, text messages – our entire digital lives can be broken down into code. And any code can be simplified into birnary And binary is nothing but a string of ones and zeroes. At each moment, a choice. Yes or no. Everything we create, everything we do, everything we are, comes down to that. It is so simple. And so beautiful.
The Darkest Path (320 pages)A civil war rages between the Glorious Path–a militant religion based on the teachings of a former US soldier–and what’s left of the US government. Fifteen-year-old Callum Roe and his younger brother, James, were captured and forced to convert six years ago. Cal has been working in the Path’s dog kennels, and is very close to becoming one of the Path’s deadliest secret agents. Then Cal befriends a stray dog named Bear and kills a commander who wants to train him to be a vicious attack dog. This sends Cal and Bear on the run, and sets in motion a series of incredible events that will test Cal’s loyalties and end in a fierce battle that the fate of the entire country rests on him. (Goodreads)
First lines: When I woke up in the examination room, I was handcuffed to the bed. A loop of steel circled my right wrist, holding it fast to a guardrail. My left arm lay throbbing at my side, the skin swollen taut from where Sergeant Rhames had broken my wrist with a baseball bat.
How I became a ghost, Tim Tingle (141 pages)Told in the words of Isaac, a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears, HOW I BECAME A GHOST is a tale of innocence and resilience in the face of tragedy. From the book’s opening line, “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before,” the reader is put on notice that this is no normal book. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac s talking dog, Jumper. The first in a trilogy, HOW I BECAME A GHOST thinly disguises an important and oft-overlooked piece of history.(Goodreads)
First Lines: Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before. I am a ghost. I am not a ghost when this book begins, so you have to play very close attention. I should tell you something else. I see things before they happen. You are probably thinking “I wish I could see things before they happen. Be careful what you wish for.”
Seeing Red, Kathryn Erskine (344 pages)Life will never be the same for Red Porter. He’s a kid growing up around black car grease, white fence paint, and the backward attitudes of the folks who live in his hometown, Rocky Gap, Virginia.
Red’s daddy, his idol, has just died, leaving Red and Mama with some hard decisions and a whole lot of doubt. Should they sell the Porter family business, a gas station, repair shop, and convenience store rolled into one, where the slogan — “Porter’s: We Fix it Right!” — has been shouting the family’s pride for as long as anyone can remember? With Daddy gone, everything’s different. Through his friendship with Thomas, Beau, and Miss Georgia, Red starts to see there’s a lot more than car motors and rusty fenders that need fixing in his world.When Red discovers the injustices that have been happening in Rocky Gap since before he was born, he’s faced withunsettling questions about his family’s legacy.(Goodreads)
First Lines: Folks don’t understand this unless it happens to them: When your daddy dies, everything changes. He’s not around anymore to teach you how to drive a truck when Mama isn’t looking, or tell you man stuff that J isn’t old enough to hear, or listen to you holler when you’re mad and say, “I hear ya, son,” while he lets you figure out what you’re going to do about it.
Hideous love, Stephanie Hemphill (293 pages)An all-consuming love affair. A family torn apart by scandal.A young author on the brink of greatness.Hideous Love is the fascinating story of Gothic novelist Mary Shelley, who as a teen girl fled her restrictive home only to find herself in the shadow of a brilliant but moody boyfriend, famed poet Percy Shelley. It is the story of the mastermind behind one of the most iconic figures in all of literature: a monster constructed out of dead bodies and brought to life by the tragic Dr. Frankenstein. Mary wrote Frankenstein at the age of nineteen, but inspiration for the monster came from her life-the atmospheric European settings she visited, the dramas swirling around her, and the stimulating philosophical discussions with the greatest minds of the period, like her close friend, Lord Byron.(Goodreads)
First lines: I am Mary. I want to be a beauty, but I am not. I want to be free, but I am not. I want to be equal, but I am not. I want to be favourite, but I am not. I want to be loved, yet I am not.
The counterfeit family tree of Vee Crawford Wong, L. Tam Holland (357 pages) When Vee Crawford-Wong’s history teacher assigns an essay on his family history, Vee knows he’s in trouble. His parents—Chinese-born dad and Texas-bred Mom—are mysteriously and stubbornly close-lipped about his ancestors. So, he makes it all up and turns in the assignment. And then everything falls apart.After a fistfight, getting cut from the basketball team, offending his best friend, and watching his grades plummet, one thing becomes abundantly clear to Vee: No one understands him! If only he knew where he came from… So Vee does what anyone in his situation would do: He forges a letter from his grandparents in China, asking his father to bring their grandson to visit. Astonishingly, Vee’s father agrees. But in the land of his ancestors, Vee learns that the answers he seeks are closer to home then he could have ever imagined.(Goodreads)
First lines: Dad was like China, full of sad irony and ancient secrets. There were the words he used to describe the country he had abandones, and they were full of philosophy and poetry, like him, and I didn’t understand them at all.
This is a subject that we have been thinking about for a long time. There are so many contenders that fit into the title of epic ladies (and really, if you try hard enough, you can find something epic about most characters) and we wanted to do the subject justice so consequently this will be a long post. So sit back and enjoy this collection of our favourite ladies in literature. We love them all for various reasons – we want to be them, we want to have the adventures they have, we want their unbearably adorable love stories – but mostly we think they’re cool chicks that we would be friends with if we met them.
Historically, resiliant young women have always been present in children’s literature. Predominant, some may argue. From the likes of the Paper Bag Princess (by Robert Munsch) and Clarice Bean (by Lauren Child) in picture books through to the truly intriguing and resourceful girls of children’s literature, they are everywhere. This is our, far from complete, list of epic girls that we shelve in children’s but are always inspirational reading.
Jo from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Sara from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mary from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Katy from What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
Lottie and Lisa from Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kästner
Heidi from My Father’s Daughter (originally published as Father’s Arcane Daughter) by E.L. Konigsburg
Meg from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Pippi from Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Bobbie from The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
Leslie (and May Belle) from Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Anne from The Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
Rebecca from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Over the course of the past year or so we’ve introduced you to a lot of our favourite epic women of young adult literature. Here’s some of them that we’ve mentioned before:
Our admiration for Karen Healey has been mentioned here. We love her heroines because they are ordinary young women who find themselves in a dangerous situtation where, when faced with the option of fight or flight, they choose to fight. They make mistakes, they get things wrong, they doubt themselves, they’re beautifully flawed but they still choose to take on the dangers of the world just ’cause it’s the right thing to do. We hope we could do that given half the chance.
We mentioned these epic ladies in this blog post and this one. Quite honestly, we’ll keep recommending these books until you all read them. Kristin Cashore’s heroines are born extraordinary but it is their actions that make them epic. All three are extraordinary in very different ways, all epic for different reasons, but who are all embarking on major ’save-the-world’ quests. All three go through a transformation as they work out who they are, what their place is in the world, and accept the power they have (in this case, a literal power that no one else has).
These incredible wartime heroines have had a post all to themselves before, which you can find here. We love them not only for their outstanding deeds of courage under horrific circumstances but also because they tell a deeply moving tale of friendship. So many of the friendships between women are depicted as competition, which of course at times it is, but we feel there’s a lot more to them than that. Elizabeth Wein set out to tell stories with friendship at the heart of them and she does such a wonderful job! We love these ladies because we recognise the best aspects of our own friendships in them and thus, they really do “infest your heart.”
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is another book that we will keep recommending again and again until you all read it. It’s that great. As we’ve mentioned here and here. Frankie is one of the most fierce, resiliant and independent teenage feminists we’ve ever read about, and we love her to bits. She’s not perfect though (the best characters never are) which makes her even more relatable. Just like Ruby. Where Frankie takes on the secret society at her school, Ruby’s just trying to work out the secrets of high school. She has an agonizingly funny perspective on the trials of friendships, parents and boys as she learns there is (thankfully) a world outside of high school.
We have already dedicated an entire post to the epic ladies of graphic novels (which you can find here) but we’re going to make a special mention to Superhero Girl from The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin-Hicks.
Superheroes usually have to deal with things like an arch-nemesis or a tragic past that inspires a life of crimefighting. Superhero Girl struggles with these things, as well as less intense superhero problems like forgetting to take her mask off. And some more everyday relatable problems like forgetting to update her mother on her life and accidentally shrinking her cape in the wash. In the process Faith Erin-Hicks creates the funniest, most down-to-earth, almost ordinary superhero we’ve ever seen and subverts all the tropes of superhero characters. We love her.
And now for some more epic ladies from young adult literature:
Eleanor from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park has been winning all kinds of “best of 2013” awards, and for good reasons. Eleanor, while she is described so uniquely, is so representative of how so many girls, including us here at the Teen Blog, have felt at some point in their own lives. We can’t help but feel just a little too close to the story. Eleanor faces a very rough home life which affects how she is seen at school – she is a complete outsider. But she’s tough. Eleanor bares it because she feels she has no choice. Despite the dire circumstances she finds herself in, she doesn’t let this define her. She is still able to let someone – a specific someone named Park – slowly, slowly into her private world where she no longer has to face her troubles alone. We love that Eleanor is one tough chick, but she knows that she can still reach out for help, and that doesn’t make her weak.
These books take on serious issues, eating disorders and rape respectively, without pulling any punches. Laurie Halse Anderson provides a powerfully honest perspective on these issues through resiliant protagonists. They go through hell, often feeling very alone, and come out the other side. They are stories about the importance of speaking out, about the power of words and they convey that message without falling into the realm of unbelieveable and preachy. The heroines of Speak and Wintergirls are relatable protagonists; love em or hate em, you’ll understand the pain they are going through. Trust us, reading these books is an emotional roller coaster but it’s definitely worth it and it’s a testament to Laurie Halse Anderson’s skill as a storyteller.
Gemma from A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
It’s kind of like a Victorian, elongated Gossip Girl, but with fantasy bits. Gemma Doyle has grown up in India, until she has a spookily true vision of her mother’s death. She is then shipped off to Spence Academy for girls in England, where she encounters an exclusive clique. Rejected by the group as well as her less glamorous roommate Ann, Gemma blackmails herself and Ann into the clique. After that things get weird and complicated because of an interesting mythology. At it’s heart though, this book is about friendship. It’s fulfills some of the tropes of girls at boarding school (which Enid Blyton encapsulated so exstensively) but along the way there is rollicking, and at times, terrifying adventure to cement Gemma’s friendships.
Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares
This is another we love because of the way friendship is portrayed between these equally epic ladies. The first (of four) Sisterhood books kicks off as the girls are about to part ways for the summer. In order to stay in touch they form the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, vowing to send the same pair of jeans (and news) to each other at their various destinations. Each girl goes on her own personal journey of discovery but throughout it she is supported by the Sisterhood. The loving support the girls give one another is why they are epic and why we love them.
Ash and Kaisa from Ash by Malinda Lo
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash, consumed with grief, is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Her only hope is that someday, in her dreams, the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted. However, Ash takes her fate into her own hands when, after meeting Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, she learns to hunt. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love. We love the eerie yet fascinating atmosphere Malinda Lo creates with her lyrical prose and richly described settings. She interweaves fairy tales and traditions of her own into the story and creates a world you will fall in love with.
Phew! Hopefully now you have have miles-long to-read lists overflowing with tales of our favourite epic ladies, and perhaps some of your own discoveries too. If you have some favourite epic ladies that weren’t on our list, or you just love the ones we have included, let us know in the comments!
Here at the library we keep tabs on which books and authors are most popular and we also create lists. So, here’s a couple:
Most Issued YA Titles, 2013
Most Issued YA Authors, 2013
Obviously the more books you’ve published the better your chance of featuring on this list (hello James Patterson), so Suzanne Collins has done well to be at number 5 with only 3 young adult books! The Hunger Games trilogy was borrowed 902 times last year, which is amazing really.
Into The River (summary below) is a Young Adult Fiction novel written by New Zealand Author Ted Dawe. The book has spent a lot of time in the spotlight over the last year, taking home the supreme prize at the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. The prize was the, recently renamed, New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year award and it is one of the most prestigious New Zealand book honours for authors. Ted Dawe was no stranger to this award ceremony having taken gongs for his previous work Thunder Road.
Into The River’s proverbial run of golden weather has recently hit a speed bump with discussions being had in relation to the books appropriateness. It has been reviewed by the Office of Film and Literature Classification and classified as R14.
This means that although libraries currently deem it a Young Adult book it is not suitable, nor legal, for distribution or supply to anyone younger than 14. At Wellington City Libraries it will now be kept behind the desk and only available for issue to individuals over the age of 14, even with parental consent it is still illegal for anyone younger than this age to read it.
For the full decision of the Office of Film and Literature Classification visit their recent decisions page
Into The River/ Ted Dawe
“When Te Arepa Santos is dragged into the river by a giant eel, something happens that will change the course of his whole life. The boy who struggles to the bank is not the same one who plunged in, moments earlier. He has brushed against the spirit world, and there is a price to be paid; an utu to be exacted. Years later, far from the protection of whanau and ancestral land he finds new enemies. This time, with no-one to save him, there is a decision to be made.. he can wait on the bank, or leap forward into the river.” (Back cover)
If you feel like you’re in need of a hair and makeup shake up, then you’re in luck!! We’ve just ordered the highly anticipated new beauty book from Dita von Teese:
While the book hasn’t hit our shelves yet, I do recommend you reserve it here. Miss von Teese has a strong style and her makeup is always impeccable, so I’ve no doubt that her book will be loaded with tips and tricks for those of us with… less beauty product prowess (like me!) This book is a must-see if you’re into the vintage vibe. Perfection.
The new book by E Lockhart (!), breaking free in Edwardian London, and “The Scarlet Letter meets Minority Report”.
We were liars, E Lockhart (May) – we’ve been waiting a very long time for the new E Lockhart book (Frankie Landau-Banks was 5 years ago!). May’s not that far away really. “A beautiful and distinguished family. — A private island. — A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. — A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. — A revolution. An accident. A secret. — Lies upon lies. — True love. — The truth.” (goodreads.com)
A mad, wicked folly, Sharon Biggs Waller – “Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist – a nearly impossible dream for a girl. After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse – or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?” (goodreads.com)
Uninvited, Sophie Jordan – an interesting new two-book series! “When Davy Hamilton’s tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS) – aka the kill gene – she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn’t feel any different, but genes don’t lie. One day she will kill someone. Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he’s not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.” (goodreads.com)
Nicola’s done it again! Here’s the next installment in her guides to the graphic novels:
Pulp was a word originally used to describe “the periodicals of the 1880s to the 1950s made from the cheapest pulpwood paper, the word came to have an expanded meaning; a dependence on formula and genre…literature concerned with sensation and escape.” (From The Encyclopedia of pulp fiction writers) Here, I’m using it to describe graphic novels that fall into ‘pulp’ genres: Western, crime, adventure, science fiction, and fantasy. So how are these books different from other graphic novels dealing with the same subjects? I’d say that ‘new pulp’ has a certain feel to it; they mostly focus on action and adventure rather than character development. That’s not a criticism: sometimes you just want to see a cowgirl shoot a zombie in the face. They are fantastic escapist reading. Although a reoccurring concept that pulp novels made popular was the “hardboiled” genre: a tough, cynical and realistic story set in a certain genre like western or noir.
One could argue that the Marvel/DC comics are ‘pulp’ but I think that, true to the original spirit of pulp comics, the graphic novels that I’ve described as ‘pulp’ come from smaller, more marginal publishers as the originals did.
Blake & Mortimer series
Blake and Mortimer are two British secret agents who fight against all sorts of nefarious international organizations. It started out in the Tintin Magazine, which explains the similar feel. In fact, Blake & Mortimer works as a rather more ‘grown up’ version of Tintin, although its plots sometimes have that rather ridiculous feel. The plot of the first volume, The Yellow M, involves the theft of the crown jewels. There aren’t any female characters apart from the obligatory stalwart housekeeper, although this is because the censorship laws were very strict! That being said, this series is a great, retro, escapist glimpse into very English world where men with great moustaches and drink tea while pondering their next move against the dastardly forces. Hilariously, though, the writer was actually Belgian.
The Rainbow Orchid: The Adventures of Julius Chancer, Garen Ewing
The Rainbow Orchid is an updated take on the adventure comics like Tintin and Blake & Mortimer. It keeps to the spirit of the originals, but without the sexism and racism that often marred a modern reader’s enjoyment of the original series. Again the drawing style is very familiar; it’s known as ‘ligne clarie’ (French for Clear line). There’s a certain uniformity to the way characters are drawn and shadow isn’t represented at all. It’s a very ‘cartoon’ style but it certainly works in this context! The story follows Julius Chancer, a historical researcher following the trail of the titular orchid, which takes him all over the world and into the path of some very dangerous people. It’s entertaining and fun.
The Sixth Gun, Cullen Bunn
For something a littler grittier, take a look at the series The Sixth Gun. This is an action packed Western with zombies and black magic and pretty awesome female lead. Becky lives quietly with her stepfather until a group of thugs come to collect something he’s been hiding; the sixth gun, a magical weapon that is reputed to have been one of six guns forged by the Devil himself. Finding herself pursued by otherworldly forces, Becky has no choice but ally herself to Drake Sinclair, a man who wants the guns for his own purposes…
Bloody Chester, J. T. Petty
Also a Western, but this one has a very different feel. Chester Kates is a teenager living on the fringe of society in the West. He takes a job to burn a deserted town to make way for the railroad, but it turns out to be not so deserted… Bloody Chester is as much about human frailty and greed, and shares a bleak cynicism with the works of Raymond Chandler, one of the greatest pulp writers of all time (and a writer that you should definitely look up if you enjoy this graphic novel). If I had to describe it, I would say it’s a “hardboiled Western.”
A historical fantasy, a contemporary fantasy, and two romances.
The Story of Owen, dragon slayer of Trondheim, E. K. Johnston (March) – This is getting great reviews by people saying it’s awesome, and like any great hero, Owen has a bard: “Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim’s fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!” (goodreads.com)
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han (April) – the new novel by the popular author of The Summer I Turned Pretty. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.” (goodreads.com) This sounds horrifying to me! If you do this, maybe don’t address the letters.
The Geography of You and Me, Jennifer E. Smith (April) – the latest from the queen of chance encounters (e.g. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight). “Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father. Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and – finally – a reunion in the city where they first met.” (goodreads.com)
The Ring and the Crown, Melissa de la Cruz (April) – “Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve? Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. But even with the aid of Emrys’ magic, Eleanor’s extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen’s Guard. Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie’s face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she’s always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she’s always dreamed of – the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only one rule that matters in Eleanor’s court: trust no one.” (goodreads.com)
We’re kind of assuming you know the big Aussie names like Isobelle Carmody, Odo Hirsch, Catherine Jinks (if only because we’ve raved about her before), John Marsden, Garth Nix and Shaun Tan (whose genius is mentioned here) to name but a few. Forgive us if that was too presumptuous. But it is for that reason that those featured in this post are the (possibly) lesser known authors from the land out West. For all the competition between our two countries, we are, in many ways, very similar. We’ve fought in wars together, we share a colonial history, a love of the outdoors, similar national past times, incomprehensible accents, a love of barbequed food … and the list goes on. Yet we often know very little about one another’s literature. Which is why, without further ado, we give you: R ‘n’ R’s Guide to (a few) Australian authors.
Ursula Dubosarsky (pronounced Ersh-ala Doob-oh-sars-kee) is an enormously prolific writer, and award winner for that matter. A full list of the awards she has won can be found here on her website – if you’ve got time definitely go explore it! Of the forty or so books she has written, our favourites are The Golden Day and The Red Shoe. Both are set in Australia’s recent past (from the 1950s to the early 1970s) which Dubosarsky brings to life through her fantastic characterisations. Matilda, the funny, tough and fiercely intelligent narrator of The Red Shoe is one of three sisters whose father is mentally unstable and largely absent, their mother is possibly in the thrall of his brother, and a headline-making Russian spy defection is taking place next door. As well as the mystery of what is happening next door, at the centre of the story is a family secret that no one will talk about or acknowledge but is quietly tearing them all apart.
The Golden Day has a fantastically ambiguous ending (fair warning). As the Vietnam War rages overseas, in a year that begins with the hanging of one man and ends with the drowning of another, eleven schoolgirls embrace their own chilling history when their teacher abruptly goes missing on a field trip. Part gripping thriller, part ethereal tale of innocence lost, The Golden Day is a poignant study of fear and friendship, and of what it takes to come of age with courage. We love all of Ursula Dubosarsky’s books but especially these two because the richly drawn characters create an intricate web of individual and family psychology. If you need more of a reason than that, Dubosarsky has a gorgeous use of language, making her work a pleasure to read.
Margo Lanagan is primarily known for her dark fantasy short stories, some of which are influenced by folktale. Black Juice was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, won two World Fantasy Awards and the Victorian Premier’s Award for Young Adult Fiction. It’s a collection of 10 short stories that will (according to the publisher) delight, shock, intrigue, amuse and move the reader to tears with their dazzling imaginative reach, their dark humour, their subtlety, their humanity and depth of feeling. Yellowcake is another collection of hers and she’s featured in collaboration collections such as Zombies Vs. Unicorns. If you’re after a longer work of fantasy then try Sea Hearts which features the sea-witch Misskaella who on, remote Rollrock Island, discovers she can draw a girl from the heart of a seal. So, for a price, any man might buy himself a bride; an irresistibly enchanting sea-wife. But at what cost? Perhaps you’re looking for some more realistic fiction? Then try The Best Thing which is your traditional love story (girl meets boy from the other side of the tracks, their parents disaprove, her friends don’t understand her, they’re faced with a challenge to overcome) but with a something extra that comes from Margo Lanagan’s skill as a writer. All of her writing will entertain and move you in equal measure with her stunning use of language and the emotion it conveys.
Melina Marchetta is incredible! Although not hugely prolific, her books are consistently award-winning. Her first novel, Looking For Alibrandi was awarded the Children’s Book Council of Australia award in 1993 and her second novel, Saving Francesca won the same award in 2004. Looking For Alibrandi was made into a major film in 2000 and won the Australian Film Institute Award for best Film and best adapted screen play, also written by the author. On the Jellicoe Road was released in 2006 and won the WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award) voted by teenagers in Western Australia in 2008. It also won the US Printz Medal in 2009 for excellence in YA literature. This was followed up by Finnikin of the Rock in 2008 which won the Aurealis Award for YA fantasy, The Piper’s Son in 2010 which was shortlisted for the Qld Premier’s Lit Award, NSW Premier’s Lit Award, Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, CBC awards and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Just as a personal aside, all her books are in our Librarian’s Choice section as well. On the whole, we would class her books as ‘realistic fiction’ with the exceptions being the ‘Lumatere Chronicles‘ which are fantasy.
Maureen McCarthy writes wonderful stories about young women in their late teens and early twenties. We particularly love The Convent which follows the hidden and intertwined lives of four young women as they face difficult, life-changing, impossible choices during the 1920s, 1960s, and the present. Peach is 19 and pretty happy with the way things are. But when she takes a summer job at a café in the old convent, her idea of who she is takes a sharp turn into the past. Where once there were nuns, young girls and women who had fallen on hard times, Peach discovers secrets from three generations of her family. It’s incredibly warm and real, intense and provocative, and tackles questions of fate and how the choices we make ripple and reverberate through time. Maureen McCarthy’s earlier novel Rose by Any Other Name similarly features a young woman on a road trip of discovery (quite literally) struggling with family dynamics and growing up. Somebody’s Crying however takes on an entirely different subject matter. A murder in a country town is the backdrop for the story of three young people, Alice, Tom and Jonty, who are bound together because Alice’s mother was murdered and Jonty is the suspect. They’re all wonderfully compelling reads because Maureen McCarthy really is a master storyteller.
Patricia Wrightson was an Australian writer of several highly regarded and influential children’s books. We’ve got a number but the ones we class as Young Adult is “The Song of Wirrun” series which include The Ice is Coming, The Dark Bright Water and Behind the Wind. Patricia Wrightson’s reputation came to rest largely on her magic realist titles which were among the first Australian books for children to draw on Australian Aboriginal mythology. The most famous of her books to do so is The Nargun and The Stars which is set in Australia and involves an orphaned city boy named Simon Brent who comes to live on a 5000 acre sheep station called Wongadilla, in the Hunter Region, with his mother’s second cousins, Edie and Charlie. In a remote valley on the property he discovers a variety of ancient Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime creatures. The arrival of heavy machinery intent on clearing the land brings to life the ominous stone Nargun. The Nargun is a creature drawn from tribal legends of the Gunai or Kurnai people of the area now known as the Mitchell River National Park in Victoria. Other creatures featured in the story include the mischievous green-scaled water-spirit Potkoorok, the Turongs (tree people) and the Nyols (cave people). Her 27 books have been published in 16 languages. Furthermore, for her “lasting contribution” as a children’s writer she received the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1986.
You’ve heard of The Book Thief right? The award winning, brilliant, tear jerker that has been translated into over 30 languages, as well as being made into a film? Well, all of Marcus Zusak’s earlier work has been just as wonderful. He started his writing career with The Underdog (which took a seven years to publish) which is about down-and-out 15-year-old Cameron Wolfe, his family and the girl he falls for. It’s not a book that takes on huge social issues but rather explores a family dynamic and the trials of growing up and falling for a girl. It was followed up by Fighting Ruben Wolfe and also When Dogs Cry – technically, a stand alone companion novel.
Then there is The Messenger, which also features a down-and-out character, Ed Kennedy, but whose story is something completely different. Ed is standing in a bank queue when a robbery takes place. He accidentally foils the robbers’ escape, and is proclaimed a hero. Shortly after, he receives an Ace of Diamonds in the mail. The ace is from an unknown source. On the ace is written a list of three addresses and specific times next to each one. These represent a series of tasks that Ed must complete. He does so successfully and is rewarded with more aces and more tasks. The last card is a Joker and has his own address written on it. Ed was the ‘guinea pig’ of an experiment to see if an ordinary (very unsuccessful) man could perform the impossible and give hope to the world that this generation is not useless. Ed, who had always thought of himself as pathetic and second-loved to his brother, discovers that he has the ability to change lives.
If you’re a fan of Marcus Zusak then get excited, there’s a new book called Bridge of Clay. Although that said, he has been writing it for ten years and it was supposed to be released two years ago 🙁
Foureyes : New Zealand street style / Alex Blanco … [et al.].
Foureyes is a street style blog run by four fashion and photography loving guys, you’ve probably heard of them by now. I guess they have one of teh most influential fashion blogs in New Zealand and one of the only blogs that focuses on street style photography. (Check it all out here). NOW they have a book, which is actually pretty cool. Therre’s some quirky stuff in there (do people really dress like that? In Auckland apparently? Good for them I say).
I don’t read that many NZ street style blogs. The most obvious one is good old Stuff’s Daily Street Style (in the Life and Style section). Photographers from around NZ feed into that – such as Street and City Photos (which i don’t really like, too ernest) and Femmehysterique (which is from Dunedin, refreshingly different). Do you have any good suggestions?