Welcome to Smugglivus 2011! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2011, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2012.
Please give it up for Adele, everybody!
A big thank you to the ladies of Book Smugglers for inviting me to be part of their Smugglivus celebrations. I always buy books ferociously around this time of year, not because of Christmas sales but due to the recommendations made by their guest bloggers.
I thought I would feature my favourites from the year with an eye on some Australian goodies that may not have been dangled in front of your noses.
Three Faves of 2011
All I Ever Wanted – Vikki Wakefield
In an industry populated by teens in dystopian or parading around in wealthy settings, it was enormously refreshing to read a story about a girl just trying to escape her life. Mim lives in an impoverished suburb surrounded by family members who deal drugs. It’s not the life she wants, or would ever choose. She’s getting out, if only she can escape the predicament she’s finds herself in when her mother makes her pick up a package. While the subject matter sounds raw, Wakefield’s writing is infused with a gentle turn of phrase with a lovely appreciation for honesty and humour. A beautifully realised Australian debut.
Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins
I love contemporary YA. I love romance. I love Lola’s two dads. On their own this isn’t enough but Perkins followed up on the success of Anna and the French Kiss with this lovely exploration of identify, friendship and courage. Perkins’ work makes me feel – happy, horrified, sad – and this cannot be underplayed. She’s taken a premise that is often viewed as shallow fluff and given the characters heart, depth and emotional resonance.
Lord of Scoundrels – Loretta Chase
Something a little bit different. When I want a break from YA, I read a historical romance (though Sarah MacLean manages to mesh the two beautifully in The Season). My go to romance blog, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, recommended this oldie (1995) as a must. I didn’t regret it. The way to this snarky wench’s heart is through repartee and boy did Chase bring the goods. These two characters don’t get to know each other by staring into each other’s eyes but by a constant stream of heated, sometimes funny, dialogue. Sebastian is the perfect reformed rake with a tarnished childhood (you will want to hurt his parents) and Jessica is feisty, fiercely intelligent and totally in lust with the oaf. So much fun that I cannot believe it is contained in a book.
Most Anticipated in 2012
The Wrong Boy – Suzy Zail (Walker Books Australia)
A Hungarian Jewish teen is taken to Auschwitz where her talent playing piano is leapt upon by the camp’s commander. Stationed in his house every day to play upon request she starts having feelings for his son. This book could go two ways and I am hopeful that it will impress. Zail’s family history is irrevocably tied to the atrocities of WW2 so I have a feeling this book will be one to hoola-hoop the heart.
The Howling Boy – Cath Crowley (PanMacmillan)
To be honest, I don’t know that much about The Howling Boy other than a few choice morsels Crowley dropped at the Publishers’ Showcase last month. What I do know? It’s Cath Crowley which means 1) each sentence will be a pure piece of loveliness, 2) each chapter a phrase will blow your mind and 3) you will be emotionally entangled with all characters from woe to go. What I know for sure? Duel protagonists, a mystery and a romance. If you haven’t read Graffiti Moon yet…what the heck are you waiting for? It will make the time pass more quickly.
Broken – Elizabeth Pulford (Walker Books Australia)
Another Australasian title Broken details a girl’s decent into her thoughts and memories while in a coma. What makes this one different? About half way through, the girl is drawn into the world of her brother…which is depicted in graphic novel form. I don’t know about you but I might have to fight someone to get a copy.
I am going to cheat my three recommendation self-imposed guideline and say that I am terribly excited to read Michelle Cooper’s FitzOsbornes At War (Random House Australia). It is the final title in the Montmaray Journal trilogy and I cannot wait. One of the best historical fiction series I have ever read.
Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast
I love listening to writers discuss their craft. While I live in Melbourne now and have the opportunity to attend many of these discussions live, this wasn’t always the case. I love listening to screenwriters on the CSM podcast discuss their method in crafting character, intriguing dynamics and authentic dialogue. Sometimes actors and directors chime in too but I am all about the author. My favourite? Bert V. Royal discussing his untraditional means of writing Easy A (hint, it involves wine). It is hilarious – beware if listening on public transport.
The previous podcast ceased to be (while still available on iTunes) late last year but it has morphed into this one. Presents the same in depth discussions, some retrospective panels and many glimpses into the film making process.
Now Showing podcast
If you just like movies and don’t want to listen about the craft, just the end result, this is a beauty of a podcast. Three people discussing a movie in depth for a hour. Usually they are represented by a super fan, an ambivalent and a newbie and they always look at films that are more mainstream and pop culture influenced. I so love hearing their discussions that I have listened to podcasts on films I will never watch. The humour is brilliant, as is the honesty. The worse the movie, the greater the entertainment factor. Their podcasts are clumped into retrospectives – The Halloween movies, Marvel adaptations, Phillip K Dick adaptations – which are fun to listen back to back to back.
Instead of looking at my favourite movies of 2011 (let’s face it, it’s been a crappy year) I have chosen to select three movies that truthfully examine young adulthood. I love them dearly and I hope you might too.
All the Real Girls
Want to see (an un-quirky) Zooey Deschanel before she found a hairstyle that worked for her? Written by Paul Schneider and David Gordon Green, All the Real Girls is an examination of a small town bad boy who falls for the good girl (who happens to be his best friend’s sister). This 2003 film is small, quiet and unexpected and I am still under its spell eight years after seeing it for the first time. The stress of first love, the difficulties in communicating your feelings accurately, the sting of judgement – it’s all wrapped up in here. This movie will punch you in the gut and you’ll go back for more…willingly.
Can’t Hardly Wait
It’s not rocket science but this 1998 movie came out as I was finishing up high school. All the archetypes of high school cliques are represented but it is the small moments of connection that they make, bridging differences, which I love. Also, the soundtrack is my high school years in one hit. I think I love this movie for Seth Green’s slow transition from wannabe gangsta-lothario to genuine guy and the scarily brilliant use of a Guns ‘n’ Roses song. Lastly, watching anyone have icing licked off their face is a laugh inducing moment.
Liv Tyler plays a nineteen year old virgin who travels to regional Italy to discover more about her poet mother. She is absorbed into a feisty English-Italian family and others as she finds out about her mother’s past, reconnects with lost love and wanders around in beautiful environs. It has been one of my favourite movies for the past fifteen years (the soundtrack too) but I’ll be the first to admit that it can be slow and won’t be for everyone. Tyler is very raw, Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack are typically excellent and you’ll see young Rachel Weisz and Joseph Fiennes at the start of their careers.
Fave Young Adults on the Idiot Box
If you love John Hughes, if you love earnest teen viewing with a healthy sense of debauchery and punchy dialogue, then this is the show for you. I was skeptical when the show launched but quickly it wrestled my heart and I became its most devoted pimp. While the premise isn’t new or flashy, it’s all about the delivery. Jenna is an awkward (natch), everyday girl who is struggling to find her place until an accident brands her with an identity she never wanted. This accident is the catalyst for much tomfoolery, heartbreak, confrontations and a triangle where you like all parties equally because they are all fleshed out (have mercy!)
This UK show produces more swearing than a guy in his twenties playing x-box but unlike the latter, you will LOVE it. Five kids undertaking probation work get hit by a storm that causes them to develop powers. But unlike any other incantation of this premise, these kids don’t become heroes, they’re just making do. Misfits is deceptive in how deeply it explores issues such as gender equality, class and socio-economics and even religion, because you never feel the anvil. The anvil doesn’t come, instead you’re presented with five real people with insecurities who are lumped together due to circumstance. Before I make it sound too deep, let me say that I have laughed out loud to the point of choking watching this show.
In the depictions of young people, Parenthood has picked up where Friday Night Lights left off. Haddie, Amber and Drew are the most complex, nuanced and real teens on television and I love them all dearly. Whether it be the breakdown of your first love relationship, the disappointment of not getting into college or awkwardly asking your older sister how to kiss – it’s all heart wrenchingly familiar, touching and sometimes smile inducing. I toss and turn between who I like more but all three actors (and the writing staff) have done a wonderful job of depicting authentic teens with real problems. Lastly, if you haven’t seen Mae Whitman or Sarah Ramos turn on the waterworks, you haven’t lived.
Thank you for having me, ladies!