Book Girls Who Break the Mould

BookGirlsWhoBreaktheMould

What makes our favourite female characters so special?  This roundup celebrates book girls who break the mould.  Some refuse to be restricted by gender roles.  Others teach us there’s more to being strong than acting tough.  All make great role models and deserve to be read again and again.  

Continue reading

Advertisements

My 3 Favourite Mothers in Literature | Mother’s Day 2016

BeFunky Design

It’s time to celebrate the wonderful women who raised us.  Take a break from brainstorming ways to show your mum some love, and remember your favourite fictional mothers.  Here are my 3 favourite mothers from childhood books:

Miss Honey | Matilda

Miss Honey is Matilda’s school teacher and eventual adoptive mother.  When Matilda’s biological family punishes her for being unique, Miss Honey embraces Matilda’s individuality.  She does everything in her power to nurture Matilda’s special talents and make her feel loved.  Her overflowing joy spreads positivity to her students.

tumblr_mxzyuu2Gdj1qdojzho1_400

Molly Weasley | Harry Potter series

Molly Weasley is fiercely protective.  She confronts danger head-on to keep her family safe.  Despite being a tough cookie, Mrs Weasley can also be tender.  Her knitted Christmas sweaters and home cooked meals keep her loved ones warm and cosy all year round.  When Harry visits, she makes him feel like part of the family.

molly-weasley-gif

Marilla Cuthbert | Anne of Green Gables

Marilla Cuthbert may not have signed up for motherhood, but she steps up to the plate when Anne Shirley comes to live at Green Gables.  At first, Marilla is stone cold and strict.  But as Anne warms her heart, she is surprised to experience love like she has never known before.  Sharing in Anne’s misadventures becomes the most rewarding part of her life.

anne-of-green-gables-movie-stills-06-1024x576

I hope this list gave you the warm and fuzzies.  Who are your favourite mothers in literature?  Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Photo credits: http://www.tumblr.com / http://www.wordpress.com / http://www.anneofgreengables.com

Book Review | Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

13259307TITLE: Fahrenheit 451
AUTHOR: Ray Bradbury
RELEASE DATE: October 1, 1953
GENRE: Sci Fi, Dystopia, Modern Classic
PAGE COUNT: 227


First published in 1953, Ray Bradbury’s timeless classic portrays a not-so-distant future in which literature is outlawed.  Guy Montag is a fireman, but instead of putting out fires his team is responsible for burning books.  A chance encounter and one impulsive act of rebellion are enough to change his world forever.

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door.  Burn it.  Take the shot from the weapon.  Breach man’s mind.  Who knows who might be the target of the well-read mind?  – page 77 Continue reading

My Romantic Reading List for Valentines Day 2016

Love is in the air this weekend!  To celebrate Valentines Day I’m revisiting my favourite romantic reads.  Some are old, some are new, some aren’t your average love story.  But one thing they all have in common is a talent for making me swoon.  What are you favourites?  Share below in the comments!

6867Atonement by Ian McEwan

Cecelia and Robbie are torn apart when Robbie is wrongly accused of rape and sent to the WWII frontline.  Through painstaking detail McEwan crafts a rich world around their star-crossed romance, weaving viewpoints and time periods together.  Atonement is heartbreaking but beautiful.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldUnknown

How can you talk about romance without mentioning this masterpiece?  Jay and Daisy’s romance is beautiful, but best of all is the writing.  Set against an intoxicating backdrop of 1920s opulence, The Great Gatsby paints a portrait of humanity more vibrant than life itself.  I am in love with its unforgettable language.

818z5OvvrWL._SL1500_Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is a story about finding (and learning to love) yourself.  Eat, Pray, Love isn’t your typical romance, but it IS deeply romantic.  Liz’s self-reflection and personal epiphanies touch upon every aspect of her world.  This book has enormous heart and soul.  If you’re alone this Valentines Day, Liz will inspire you to spend it loving yourself.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë9781471141638_hr

Another obvious addition.  Re-reading this book countless times made Cathy and Heathcliffe’s damned romance immortal to me.  I would agonise breathlessly over the claustrophobic house, the desolate moors, and the characters’ self-destructive wills.  Wuthering Heights is overpowering.

194755Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

My final pick is a children’s book.  Mr Hoppy is desperately in love with his neighbour Mrs Silver, the owner of a disappointingly small tortoise called Alfie.  Mr Hoppy decides to make her happy by secretly swapping Alfie for a slightly larger tortoise every day.  Esio Trot is simple and completely enchanting.

I can think of many more that deserve to be on this list (fodder for next year’s Valentines Day post wink wink).  I hope you enjoy these romantic reads and spend your Valentines doing something special by yourself or with loved ones xo  

Photo credits: http://www.beautifulbookcovers.com / http://www.goodreads.com / http://www.books.simonandschuster.com.au / http://www.amazon.com

Best Books I Read in 2015

My favourite part of New Years is looking back on what I read the previous year. I flogged my Goodreads Reading Challenge by reading 44 books in total! You can follow this link to see my complete reading list (and feel free to ‘friend’ me so we can share recommendations).

I want to share with you all the books that wowed me in 2015. These are reads that I struggled to put down, that haunted my sleep, that refused to stop popping into my thoughts ever since. 

6334Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This dystopian story is about young clones bred for organ harvest. Although this sounds like the set up for a thriller, it is in fact a tender reflection on the characters’ emotional development from child to adult. Ishiguro writes beautifully and broodingly. Always subtle, Never Let Me Go has a lingering impact on your perspective of humanity.

T38447he Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Like Never Let Me Go, this is a social critique delivered through dystopia. In the future, the remaining handful of fertile women are allocated as birthing machines to the wealthiest men. Defiance has fatal consequences. The Handmaid’s Tale holds a mirror to society with its a prediction of the future. (Word of warning: if you have even the smallest seed of feminism in you, reading this book will make your ovaries explode.)

fight-club-book-coverFight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

This book is all grit and gore. Through deceptively layered storytelling, we watch as our narrator is trapped in the mayhem (pun intended) of a rising anarchist group. This psychological thriller is as wildly entertaining and it is terrifying.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis12800_12088bc3a1d7062e_b

Ask yourself if you’re ready to face the consequences of reading this book. American Psycho is genius, surely, but you can’t unread it. Patrick Bates is rich, handsome, and well-connected. He’s also a psychopathic killer. The style allows you to slip into his claustrophobic stream of consciousness, de-sensationalising his actions until torture seems as ordinary as neckties and business cards.

10956The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Now grown men, old neighbours reunite to remember the Lisbon sisters they worshipped in high school and try to understand the girls’ suicides. The changing of the seasons ties together this insidious story. While Eugenides’ tender narrative style is gorgeous, I feel that it’s the pervasion of colour and sound and smell that leaves the richest impression. When I remember reading The Virgin Suicides, I remember the deep orange of Autumn leaves and hear the beating of fish fly wings.

My Hundred Lovers by Susan Johnson13634670

I understood the importance of this book when I reread it for an analytical essay. On my first read I was stunned by its poetic style – by Johnson’s skill at making love to language. On my second read, it was deep and raw and intensely personal. My Hundred Lovers explores the first fifty years of a woman’s life through one hundred things and people and places she has loved – a concept reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film Amelie – all artfully layered within this unforgettable book.

51lyq4laGpL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Media’s twisted truth and the scary reality of mob psychology is the basis of this confronting book. Vernon Little is charged with accessory for murder after his best friend massacres his classmates in a high school shooting. Told from his uniquely irreverent first person perspective, Vernon God Little is equal parts hilarious and horrible.

So those are the best books I read in 2015. These standouts were insanely obvious because of how they changed my view of the world. I’d love to hear your reading highlights from last year. Write to me in the comments and if you’re on Goodreads I’d love to see your Reading Challenges.

Photo credit: http://www.goodreads.com

 

Classics Haul + Summer Reading List 2015

I went a bit overboard when I visited Dymocks in the city recently.  Luckily I had my loyalty card to take the edge off this blow to my bank account.  Check out the classics I added to my collection!  I reckon these make pretty amazing summer holiday reads.  

15798121Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Truman Capote’s novella was first published in 1958, but I’m going to hazard a guess that you associate the title with Audrey Hepburn’s iconic portrayal of Holly Golightly in the 1961 film.  I’ve never seen the movie so I thought this short book would make compelling holiday reading.  Its longstanding status as a masterpiece ensures me I’ll enjoy it.

lolitaLolita

Lo and behold this almighty classic (pun intended).  Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov has sat on my to-read list for years and I’ve only just picked it up.  This is a must-own for lovers of classics.  You can expect a review in the new year.

1573226521-01-lzzzzzzzThe Beach 

This 1996 bestseller by Alex Garland is a modern classic.  Like Breakfast at Tiffany’sThe Beach is well-remembered for its film adaptation.  I think this gripping and dark adventure story would make a great holiday read.  Maybe while sunbaking on the beach…?

Catch 22catch-22_cover

War stories are never high on my to-read list, but this 1961 classic by Joseph Heller demands attention.  Although Goodreads reviews are unanimous about this book’s genius, I’ve read many that admit it’s a challenging read.  Some day I will have to steel myself to take on this giant.

Rye_catcherThe Catcher in the Rye

Most of us are well acquainted with  J.D. Salinger’s 1951 classic from being force fed it in high school.  I’ve tried to read it once before but lost interest.  I think it was my sense of obligation that put me off.  However, a friend recently pointed out that I would enjoy this as a Vernon God Little enthusiast.  So here I am giving it another shot!

I hope my summer holiday reading list inspires you.  This is my last post of 2015, so have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Queensland Literary Awards 2015

I was honoured to be invited to this year’s Queensland Literary Awards.  The ceremony took place last night at the State Library of Queensland to celebrate outstanding writers over a range of categories.  Being in the same room as some of Brisbane’s (and Australia’s) most prestigious writers was way too exciting!  It was like author I-Spy, which is perhaps the dorkiest and coolest thing ever.

A Bit of History

After former premier, Campbell Newman, scrapped government funding for the Queensland Literary Awards in 2012, a passionate, not-for-profit association of volunteers rallied community support.  The I Love Literature campaign was born.  

May this year, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk brought back public funding for the awards, even creating a new category for a work of state significance, mentorship for writer’s development, and doubling the support for the young writer’s category.  Isn’t that really something?  It’s incredible to look back on how much support the awards have received from a community that realises their importance.

The Winners

Queensland Premier’s Award for a Work of State Significance (Prize: $25,000)

Winner: Warrior, Libby Connors

University of Queensland Fiction Book Awards (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The Golden Age, Joan London

University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia, Don Watson

Griffith University Young Adult Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The Pause, John Larkin

Griffith University Children’s Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay

University of Southern Queensland History Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: ANZAC, The Unauthorised Biography, Carolyn Holbrook

University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Merciless Gods, Christos Tsiolkas

State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Waiting for the Past, Les Murray

Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards (Prize: $10,000 Each)

Winners: Megan McGrath and Rebecca Jessen

Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The First Octoroon or Report of an Experimental Child, Andrew Booth

Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Aurora, Elizabeth Kasmer

2015 Queensland Writers Fellowships ($15,000 Each)

Winners: Inga Simpson, Krissy Kneen, and Karen Foxlee

The Courier Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: On the road…with the kids, John Ahern

SLQ 2015 Young Writers Award

8-218642-Logo-280x210-2Now, you may ask, why was yours truly invited to go along to this event in the first place?  I was one of four highly commended entries in the 18-25 category of State Library of Queensland’s 2015 Young Writers Award!

I only found out a week ago that my children’s short story ‘Eyes and Ears’ had been shortlisted.  It was surreal seeing my name projected up onto the same screen as some of Australia’s great writers.

All of the highly commended and winning entries are available to read online.  Please go check them out!  My fellow finalists are all beautiful writers and so deserve this recognition for their work.

15 – 17 Category 1,500 Word Short Story (Prize: $2,000)

Winner: The Washing of Iniquity, Rosie McCrossin

Runner up: Cher PereClara Harin Lee

Highly commended:

18 – 25 Category 2,500 Word Short Story (Prize: $2,000)

Winner: Surface, Grace McCarter

Runner up: January Days, Faith Mudge

Highly commended:

So there you have it!  There are so many books I need to add to my to-read list after hearing about the finalists.  Several of my lecturers and tutors at QUT had shortlisted books, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.  

Expect another post soon all about some the ceremony and the people I had the honour of meeting.  It was an amazing night.  

Important Links:

Queensland Literary Awards

State Library of Queensland

Banned Books Week Sep 27 – Oct 3 2015

From September 27 to October 3, Banned Books Week rallies people together to celebrate and defend the freedom to read.  

CP_tCsRWIAIWoTz

Banned Books Week was founded in 1982 in response to the massive increase in challenges to books.  Since then, over 11,300 books have been challenged and even banned and removed from the shelves of schools and library.

Check out the American Library Association’s catalogue of the most frequently challenged books over time. It’s scary to see how many of our best-loved classics have been challenged.  These are books that have inspired and shaped the way we see the world over centuries.  Can you imagine a world in which they never made it to our shelves?

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
38. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
57. Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
66. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

would love to hear what you think.  What banned or challenged books have impacted you and why?  Can you imagine life without them?  Write to me in the comments to share.

How to Learn Writing Tips & Tricks from your Favourite Author

Ever wished you could write as well as your favourite author?  The best thing my writing course taught me was how to train myself to write better by reading great books.  The wisdom of your favourite author is right under your nose … literally.  

JK-rowling_2352316k

Guess what, you can even learn from the amazing JK Rowling herself!

Here are some steps you can follow.  I’ve added examples to show how I’ve used this process to improve my own writing.

1. Identify an area to improve on in your own writing

What specifically would you like to work on?  What areas do you struggle with or wish to do better?

My example: The dialogue between my twelve-year-old characters didn’t sound as natural as it should.

2. Choose an author who does this thing well

Can you name an author you love who does this particular thing well in their writing?

My example: I knew that JK Rowling writes well-paced and convincing children’s dialogue, so she’s my go-to girl.

3. Pay attention to stylistic choices when you read

Read your chosen author’s writing and pay attention to what he or she is doing on a sentence level.  If you look closely enough, you should be able to spot the techniques and language choices the author made in achieving their goal.  This is stuff we readers often don’t notice or imagine just happened effortlessly.  Tip: Ask yourself what patterns does your author have, and does he or she ever break them?

My example: After reading a scene from Harry Potter, I noticed that JK Rowling uses several techniques to write natural-sounding dialogue: 1. she varies the pattern of turn-taking, 2. the characters each have a unique-sounding voice, 3. she uses a vocabulary that matches the age of the characters, and 4. she breaks up chunks of dialogue with action and description to add flow and variety.

4. Apply this to your own writing

Now that you know what your favourite authors are actually doing, you can learn from them.  Play around with the techniques and see if they help you to solve your problem.

My example: I knew that my dialogue could be improved by using some of JK Rowling’s techniques.  I tried varying the turn-taking, making my characters sound more distinct and age-appropriate, and adding short descriptions to break up chunks of dialogue.  These techniques made my dialogue sound much more natural.  Problem solved!  Not to mention, I just took a writing lesson from the great JK Rowling herself!

Write to me in the comments if you would like more examples for using this process.  I’ll happily help if you get stuck trying!