Tim Bisley: You got anything special planned for today?Daisy Steiner: I have got a bit of a project, actually. I'm going to be as inactive as I can in order to really get into the psyche of someone unemployed, not just vocationally but cerebrally, to see if the predicament of enforced passivity exacerbates itself. You know, does inactivity breed laziness?Tim Bisley: Are you going to write an article about it?Daisy Steiner: No, I can't be bothered.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
2. Other projects, which are still in development but are nonetheless exciting.
3. Fully embracing my brief break from the novel and brain-hemorrhaging on lots of America's Next Top Model.
4. I am convinced that America's Next Top Model (or ANTM) is perfectly equipped to break you down to your simplest components so your brain can be rebuilt from scratch. Like sniffing coffee beans to clear your sense of smell after too many perfume samples, or Pol Pot's Year Zero*. People have just laughed at me when I told them of my activities. But it is WORKING. Last night I read half a book (The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. Soul-lifting, mind-blowing and also just sweet). I owe it all to Tyra Banks and her torture of girls in the hopes of becoming America's. Next. Top. Model.
*Candace Petrik does not endorse Pol Pot or any other dictator, comments here are made due to a poor sense of humour and are not the opinion of the writer or any publisher who decides to give her heaps of money in the future.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Ingo came to my attention a couple of years ago, when lots of girls around the age of 11 kept coming into the store asking after the series. Ingo is the first in the series, a rather clever little piece of work about a girl whose name is unfortunately Sapphire. She and her brother are convinced that their missing father isn't dead and is instead in the underwater land that humans can't reach without drowning, Ingo. Sapphire finds herself increasingly drawn to this place, and to the Mer that inhabit it. It really isn't half bad, though a little meandering at times. The way Sapphire is called by the sea is particularly vivid. Dumore definitely captures that playfulness, the search for adventure and magic. There are three more books. I'm curious to see how repetitive it's going to get.
I am Number Four. I was expecting this to be as painful as Gone by Michael Grant, but the two writers who put this book together are not so sloppy. It's the story of Four/John Smith and Henri, his guardian. They are from the planet Lorien, which was invaded when John was a child. Eight more children and guardians escaped to earth, a magic bond created by a Lorien guardian to make sure they can only be killed in a certain order (hence the number in the title). John is next. The Loric kiddies are waiting to develop their powers or 'Legacies', while evading detection by the alien race that invaded their planet. This race wants them dead, and may indeed be planning to invade earth as well. One day, the nine of them intend to fight back and regain their home planet.
It's certainly colour-by-numbers teen fiction, make no mistake. This is book onc in what will surely become a profitable franchise. You've got all the boxes ticked here. Obligatory love interest that isn't at all interesting and not quite believable, all the plot points adding up to a big finale. Some wooden repetition work with the dialogue that is supposed to be meaningful. Example: at one point in the middle of the book, Henri gives some speech to John about how there's always hope. And towards the end, near the final battle, John parrots this back. Cue violins, then dramatic battle music.
It's not the worst book, not by a long shot. The action sequence is a bit dull, the bully turning into a good guy at the end underdeveloped. There's more problems but there's no point listing them, because they're common problems in teen action books. 'Pitticus Lore' can write. It's even moving at times. But it just feels like it was made in a YA factory. I will read the next book, which is more than I can say for Michael Grant's painfully bad Gone etc series. But it's missing something important. Maybe it's hope. Or possibly just depth.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Now to The Poisonwood Bible. This is a brilliant book. I am about, what, ten or so years late for a review? It's been out since 1998. I'm sure many people have raved more eloquently than I can about how cleverly she captures the voice of each female narrator in the Price family and how vividly she depicts The Belgian/newly 'independent' Congo during the unrest in the 1960's, as well as showing missionaries at their worst. But the ending I find a little baffling. She continues the story for several decades after the family's traumatic exit from the Congo. And while it is beautifully written and provides some important details for character development, I do wonder how essential it was for her to continue the story so long after the major events. I'd have thought it would have worked better with the whole thing framed inside that major story line/setting. It's almost like having one false ending, and then a slowly-moving second one showing the family's life after, (something found a lot in Wes Anderson films...)
Though that's just my opinion, it's still a wonderfully layered book and I'm only this critical because the standard she is setting with it is so damn high.
Endings are hard, full stop. They're even harder for those of us who are working on our first manuscripts. It doesn't matter how great your beginning is, or even the middle, if the end falls flat. The ending is the last thing readers are left with. It's your chance to bring the whole thing together, to reach back to the beginning and prove you know what you're doing.
Let's hope I do know what I'm doing.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I found out about a self-published author who has been doing really well. There's been some noise on the net about her lately, just because her success began through the medium of ebooks on Amazon.com and the media obviously find this fascinating, given the state of the book industry right now. Her name is Amanda Hocking.
From what I can tell, she isn't a very accomplished writer. At least not yet. Her books fall under the YA category, but I wonder if it happened by some kind of default due to the writing quality and the fact of young characters? The one and a half books I read came across as pretty juvenile in style and substance - some people incorrectly assume YA doesn't need to be particularly clever or deep. Being a writer myself, close to finishing my own first novel, I was curious. I mean hell, let's be honest, we all love a good news story about writers making it big. She offers her ebooks very cheaply on Amazon, so I downloaded Switched for 99 US cents.
I don't have room here to adequately describe all the flaws in this book. They seem to be the standard kind you find in the works of novice writers: simplistic plot twists, poor dialogue, shallow character development, bad evocation of setting and place. Terribly written action sequences. Lack of skill in creating a sense of anticipation and mystery, with information revealed too slowly, the main character strangely unaware of obvious things. There must be something to it that keeps you reading, for I did read the whole thing. It is an interesting concept at least (about Changlings), though not at all an original one. But there is so much lacking in the execution that it isn't enough to save the book.
People have a tendency to bring up Twilight whenever another successful YA novel comes to light. But in her case, there are clear parallels, simply due to the poor writing quality. The above could be said about all of the Twilight books. The only difference that I can see is I am not offended by Amanda Hocking's politics. I don't feel particularly wonderful writing a harsh critique on her stuff, only because I think she's quite awesome. She writes pretty candidly about her experiences as a writer trying to get published on her blog, and she seems like a fairly cool person.
But I don't know if I will ever get it. Why do badly-written books do so well? It makes me think that all my effort to write beautiful sentences and evocative setting is for nothing. That I could do just as well if I spun a lot of cliches together and had the girl get the guy in the end.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
The second important circumstance was that Annie Proulx released a new book, Bird Cloud. The third important factor in my demise? Amazon UK is doing a free-shipping thing to Australia at the moment. And I was unable to resist. I am part of the problem. But that's why I bought Bird Cloud from my local independent book retailer. So you see, it all has a perfectly reasonable explanation. But I still failed. Oh well.
I have learned to be more thrifty and I do intend to be more careful with my finances and will not be adding books at too crazy a rate to my scary, scary pile. Which is good because of my potentially unstable employment situation.
On to the reviewing. I am only half-way through Bird Cloud, but it is so far very much like an extended episode of Grand Designs. If Grand Designs were written by a prize-winning author who is able to subtly evoke the beauty in her geographical surroundings. Bird Cloud is a memoir about Proulx's connection to place and her search for a home that truly represents her. She talks a little about childhood homes and former dwellings that had too many flaws to be livable in the long term. The familiar Grand Designs staples are there though. The house she dreams about for the Bird Cloud property is complex, with found metals, an unconventional shape and an isolated location. Problems arise early, with builders almost impossible to source. The architect lives nowhere near her and she herself lives a distance from the property, while also having to travel out of the country frequently. This isn't a fast-paced, tell-all memoir. It is a wonderfully meandering book that shows you all the small things in her rural surroundings that Proulx draws from for her creativity. It is, in short, a chance to follow her thoughts and see into the mind of a fascinating writer.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Mostly it's a mixture of happiness and sadness going on at Borders right now, at least mine. Sadness at the possibility/probability of change. Happiness because I love all the people I work with. How many people can say that? Not many, I think. Sadness at the idea of not working with them, because as corny as it sounds, they're a little like a family to me.
I don't really have anything more to say, I don't particularly want to dissect the whys and wonder about the health of the publishing industry. I think I'm getting sick of reading about it. And as someone foolhardy enough to be completing her first novel, I don't want to crush my creative spirit. Things are getting interesting right now in the land of book-selling, and not just for us. I am curious about the future. Let's leave it at that.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Thanks to the kindness of my managers at work, I borrowed The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. It's definitely entertaining, not always for the right reasons. I think the same part of me that enjoys true crime enjoyed the extremism exhibited in her parenting style. But to my thinking, it's not so much a how-to book on parenting than a memoir about pride, ego, humility and the search for a third way. It is evident pretty early on that her one-size-fits-all 'Chinese parenting' model can't be applied to every child, let alone both of her children. Only one child responded well to it, while the other rebelled constantly, causing her to eventually concede that there had to be a middle ground between the 'Western' and 'Chinese' models of discipline. It's certainly written with a lot of humour, and in a very self-aware voice. It makes me think that all the controversy was drummed up to fuel book sales. And she is pretty extreme at times, so those wanting to read it in order to get angry at her will find what they're looking for to an extent. But it is by no means black and white.
Next up, I finally read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
Friday, February 11, 2011
During my bed-ridden days in the last week, I didn't get to do much reading, though I got through most of Carol Topolki's 'Do No Harm', which is meant to be about a good doctor gone bad. I thus expected a trashy read that was somewhat entertaining. It wasn't as trashy as expected, though the 'madness' wasn't very cleverly conceived. The child's isolation was well-drawn, but as an adult, her 'imaginary friend' is such an obvious way to show the crazy. Split personality? Or just a lazy way to personify all the things wrong with her? I gave up just before the doctor went bad (and I am led to assume, maims patients in a way that messes with their reproductive abilities), so I cannot comment on the lack of subtlety in representing mental illness as the plot leads to its climax. There's something in the writing I found nauseating and exhausting - and not in an entirely good way. But because I never intend to finish it, I will never know if it was my illness or the book being simply mediocre.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Highlights so far on this most noble journey.
1. Borrowing a book from work. Reading said book. Returning said book the following day. The book was 'The UFO diaries' by Martin Plowman. I really really wanted to buy it, but since I have now read it the feeling of intense desperation has gone. Obviously. Yes, the book contains the word UFO. Judge all you like, it's still an awesome book. The author studied UFOs and those who believe in them (in the past and present) for his PHD. The book contains a lot of philosophical insight into the phenomena of this belief, as well as the entertaining journeys he made to the USA and South America in search of UFO connections. Imagine going up to a stranger and asking 'so..uhhh...are there any UFO hotspots in this area?' This book contains such odd conversations. Gold.
2. Today I walked PAST Dymocks and didn't go in.
3. I am intent on finishing 'Truth' by Peter Temple finally. Even though it is an amazing book, it is written in a pared-down style that is pretty sparse at times. This style does not invite dipping in and out of the book and is best enjoyed reading all at once, from beginning to end. I have not done this, but read the book in between various trashy true crime novels, young adult fiction and celebrity biographies. Peter Temple deserves better, evidently.
Tune in next time for more book-obsessive hijinks.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
I guess I went a bit crazy last year, got a bit excited about books. And you know, books are exciting. Pat me on the back. But there's a line. I think I crossed it. Call it scary consumerism, because that's surely a part of it. Another problem is the fact that I work in a bookshop, so temptation is never very far away. But there are only so many books a person can read at once, and when you continually add books to that towering mess of literature in my room it becomes a bit of a cycle that needs to be broken. The solution? Feb Fast! I don't drink, at least not very much. I can go half a year without remembering to drink alcohol. But I am using the month of February to slow down the book consumption. It's about treating books with a little more care, and not just as objects to keep consuming and adding to my pile. It's about reading the ones I have. It's about not acting like the consumer equivalent of a jack russel.
Rules: I have to have rules, because otherwise this is not going to last long. I am not allowed to buy any books for myself in the moth of February. But if it is someone's birthday or whatever, I am allowed to buy them any present I like. This includes a book. I am not allowed to buy a book and pretend it is a present, read it and then give it. That is bad. I am allowed to borrow books. Borrowing won't be a problem, because I tend to think fearfully of my book pile when I add something to it that I have to return within a time-frame, so I only tend to borrow when I know its going to jump the queue and be returned soon. And thus, I don't borrow books very often.
So. It is the 1st of February. Wish me luck.