Tag: young adult

Book Review: Audacious by Gabrielle Prendergast

Book Review: Audacious by Gabrielle Prendergast

Audacious by Gabrielle Prendergast Orca Book Publishers, October 2013 RRP: $19.95 You know me, dear blog readers. I can’t ever say no to verse novels. I love them. I adore them. I can’t get enough of them. Any genre. Any target audience. I don’t care.…

Book Review: Soulmaker by Nadine Cooke

Book Review: Soulmaker by Nadine Cooke

Soulmaker, Nadine Cooke, 2012.  $2.99 USD (Smashwords ebook) $11.99 USD (Amazon) It seems fitting that with the Australian publishing and bookselling industry discussing ebooks and self publishing over at Isobelle Carmody’s Greylands launch site, I should read and review an up and coming Australian author’s…

This Month We Talk About… Ebooks

This Month We Talk About… Ebooks

This month the great eVolution debate is here courtesy of beloved Australian author, Isobelle Carmody. Never one to bite off more than she can chew, she has decided to independently re-release her 1997 novel Greylands as an ebook with a bang. Enlisting the help of web designer Min Dean in creating an E launch like no other, not only is the month long ebook launch designed to introduce new readers to Carmody’s world, it aims to encourage serious discussion about the ebook revolution.

There are many debates online and elsewhere about the future of books of course; debates about the book selling and publishing industries role with the rise of self publishing and ebooks; debates about the death of the hard copy book; cries of Brave New World and technological terror, cries of civilisational progress… but never before has there been such a concentrated and academic discussion all in one place. Each day of the month Isobelle has enlisted a different author, editor, agent, essayist, poet, student, teacher, book seller, book publisher or librarian to write about an aspect of the pros, cons and potential innovations of the ebook. Comment on a post and you instantly go into the draw to win your own ereader, signed copies of Isobelle’s books as well as some audio books!

You don’t need to be interested in Isobelle’s books or want to win a competition to participate. With advice and discussion on ebook formatting, self publishing, kindle and other ereader types, the future of picture books as ebooks, enhanced ereaders, interactivity and reading, creative possibilities and the ereader and much, much more, this is a month all writers and readers don’t want to miss!

Interested? Today’s guest post is by respected Australian steampunk author, Richard Harland. Previous posts by Helen Chamberlain, Nick Bland, Sophie Masson and Alex Adsett can be viewed by clicking links on the side of Richard’s post. The website itself will self destruct when the month is up, but all posts and comments will be archived on Isobelle’s blog.

An interesting and informative forum for discussion, this is the month the Australian book industry talks about ebooks…

Click here for the link for today’s post by Richard Harland: http://greylands.theslipstream.com.au/2012/07/pop-ups-playaways-and-cruising-for-kindles-richard-harland/#comment-136

Click for more information on the website’s purpose, Isobelle Carmody and Min Dean here: http://greylands.theslipstream.com.au/

This blog post was compiled by InkAshlings independently of the Greylands ebook launch. Any mistakes are my own. Specific details about the Greylands ebook launch are located on the website. 

Book Review: Metro Winds

Book Review: Metro Winds

Metro Winds, Isobelle Carmody, Allen and Unwin Publishers, 2012. RRP: $24.99 Australian. Metro Winds is beloved Australian fantasy author, Isobelle Carmody’s second major short story outing. A collection of 6 short stories, unified by common themes of travel, metamorphosis, identity, love, loss and transformation, this collection…

Book Review: Song of the Sparrow (2007)

Book Review: Song of the Sparrow (2007)

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell is a difficult book for me to review. A revisionist retelling of Elaine of Ascolat, which aims, much like Marion Zimmer Bradley did with The Mists of Avalon, to put the women of Arthurian legend at feminist…

Sydney Writer’s Festival 2012: A Neverending Story: Fantasy Worlds Panel with Isobelle Carmody, Justine Larbalestier, and Scott Westerfeld

Sydney Writer’s Festival 2012: A Neverending Story: Fantasy Worlds Panel with Isobelle Carmody, Justine Larbalestier, and Scott Westerfeld

Yesterday I took notes at the Sydney Writer’s Festival on this panel, so I thought I’d write up a post for those that couldn’t make it. Any mistakes in the notes are my own, as no recording devices were allowed. I tried to only scrawl down things relevent to fantasy generally, rather than parts where authors spoke very specifically about their own work.

A NeverEnding Story was facilitated by freelance reviewer and interviewer, Joy Lawn. Isobelle Carmody is the author of multiple speculative fiction novels and short stories for young adults and adult readers. She is most famous for her Obernewtyn Chronicles, but she has received many awards for her other work, most recently, for her children’s book The Red Wind, also illustrated by Isobelle. Justine Larbarlestier is author of the Magic or Madness trilogy, and debuted with her realist novel, Liar. Scott Westerfeld has written Uglies, Midnighters, and more recently a trilogy of steampunk novels beginning with Leviathan.

Joy: What is speculative fiction and which sub genres have you chosen to write in?

Justine: Everything that isn’t boring- world’s that I’m unfamiliar with. I’ve written Team Human with Irish author, Sarah Rees Brennan.

Scott: World’s with new rules- alternative world’s which really captivate the reader. My latest book, Leviathan, is steampunk.

Isobelle: As a kid I didn’t have tv, or travel, and I lived on housing commission. For me, speculative fiction was anything set in new locations that were unfamiliar to me, like Peru or somewhere, but I also don’t like to label with specific genres.

I like to think that I use certain tools and utensils when I write a story, and for me, speculative fiction embodies the tools and utensils I always come back to.

Travel is really important as a writer. It takes you out of your comfort zone and strips you back to who you really are. My new collection of short stories, Metro Winds, is about mental journey’s, and the metamorphosis caused by travel. You reinvent, and reintepret yourself and your worldview when you’re travelling. Speculative fiction really suits exploring these ideas.

For me, speculative fiction is really about personal philsophical questions. Speculative fiction is speculative.

Joy: What are some key themes in your books?

Isobelle: In Obernewtyn, it’s about why human beings are both so great, and capable of so much greatness, and yet so terrible? What makes humanity the way it is?

Scott: In Leviathan, I wanted to write about airships and tanks, and once I knew that, my setting kind of defined both my genre, and even themes to some extent. Life is super, super messy as it is, and I wanted to explore people’s responsibilities to the world and each other, in terms of the social class and hierachy of World War One, and relationships between poorer and wealthier people.

Justine: My books kind of just grow. I don’t have an outline, they happen. My books are about appearance vs. true personality, and about how people are raised, with the grandmother/granddaughter relationship explored in one of my books. It’s about generational difference.

Joy: Do you toy with realism?

Justine: Yeah, in Liar.

Scott: In So Yesterday, but I found it difficult.

Isobelle: My partner gave me a story for Metro Winds as a birthday gift. He found a miniture circus, and I was so jealous that I wasn’t… only he would find that kind of thing. I used that in one of my short stories in Metro Winds [InkAshlings: The Dove Game]

Well- fantasy comes out of reality- it always leads back to us personally. Speculative fiction isn’t fact, but it IS truth, and they are two different things.

[InkAshlings: Such an interesting point raised by Isobelle here. I had an argument with my history lecturer once about history as a form of story telling which tells the same sort of ‘truth’ as a fiction writer, based off the fact/truth difference. Essentially, don’t historians and authors do the same thing, in revealing truths about the human experience, but using different tools? I would have liked to have heard more on this from the panel]

Scott: In the Ugly Series, eveyone turns beautiful at 16. That story came from a friend who lived in LA after New York, and emailed us about a trip to the dentist. The dentist asked him in all seriousness about a 5 year dental plan, with appearance the emphasis, not health. What if everything was about appearance? was my central question for that series, but that came out of realism, out of reality.

Justine: I’ve used biographical stuff in my stories too, facts from my childhood. I used to live near an Aboriginal settlement, and that has crept into my writing. You can’t write out of nothing. That’s the fun aspect of being a writer. It’s a constant surprise.

Isobelle:  You can also get revenge. I got revenge on a teacher I hated in school, I was so scared of him. I used his name, and described him as bald and ugly, and then one day I actually bumped into him! I tried to avoid him, but he came over and told me how proud everyone was of me!!! He even mentioned how happy he was that I’d used his name, even if the character wasn’t like him at all!!!

Joy: Is that the teacher in The Gathering?

Isobelle: Yes. The Gathering.

Justine: I hated a girl from school, and wrote her into my book.

Joy: Can you tell us a bit about your individual writing process?

Isobelle: Scott sounds organised- you know, perfect histories, languages, maps, charts. Are you?

Scott: Yeah- well… kind of…

Isobelle: I didn’t even have a map for Obernewtyn. The publishers told me I needed one and I had to go back and figure one out. Anyone in the audience who has read Obernewtyn will know how sketchy that map is.

I’m chaos, I don’t take notes, in my mind it’s fluid. Writing it down in plans ruins that fluid creativity.  Sucking the world up is natural, and I do that. It’s like fly paper, you suck things up and it sticks in your brain till you need it.

Scott: The little details had to be correct for a World War One steampunk setting. I did loads of research. In writing, you find out what you don’t know. Like zippers? When were they invented? Wikipedia tells you that, but not when zippers were filtered down to Scottish orphans, did orphans wear zippers in WW1? and I needed to know that. Wikipedia didn’t tell me that.

Research can give narrative. I went on a zeppelin ride as research in Germany, and I found out important minor details, like how balanced the craft has to be, and how carefully people have to move on and off a zeppelin. I needed to know that for Leviathan.

Justine: [InkAshlings: Justine talked about the difficulty of working with another author but I didn’t catch all of this or get it down] Sarah plans everything, she knows the entire plot of novel’s she hasn’t even written yet. It’s mind blowing, and I can’t work like that.

Isobelle: Yeah… but has she written these books yet?

Justine: No… but she has used this method to publish books before.

[Isobelle looked pretty incredulous here. It was quite funny.]

Justine: We had to use a rough outline to compromise. We set ourselves a challenge. I wrote a chapter, and then Sarah discussed it with me, and reworked it, and then we switched and did the same thing forwards and backwards for every chapter. We even kept a catalogue of how many times we laughed reading each others chapters [InkAshlings: Sarah and Justine wrote the paranormal romance comedy, Team Human, together]

Isobelle: [Pulling all kinds of faces] That would kill me. That would absolutely unravel me as a writer.

Justine: Yeah, but it wasn’t my book. It was unique. I’m not sure I would ever do it again. Liar was carefully structured after I wrote the entire manuscript. I used a new program, I hate word… if I ever met Bill Gates… I’m joking. Anyway, I used scriptnet, because I wrote small sections at a time, and replaced sections. I could move index cards around on the computer using scriptnet.

Isobelle: I typed my first book on a type writer. You’re young. I hand write with an ink pen and paper. [to the audience] who here does that still?

[Joy asked for a show of hands on who used scriptnet, word, and wrote by hand from the audience here]

Isobelle: This is really showing my age [upon the lack of handwriting hands in the air]. Actually, I have this funny story. I met a young fan once, and he actually asked me, when was the world black and white? He actually thought the world was literally black and white in the olden days.

[Lots of audience laughter]

Joy: Have you ever created a fantasy world that failed? And what did you do about that?

Justine: I got fired on a ghost writing job once- too many cooks. There was the publisher, the packaging house, the author, the ghost writer, and then me. There were too many contradictary instructions. The world building rules got hopelessly confused.

Scott: I’ve had bad ideas- For example in The Extra’s, I wanted to write from a male perspective, and the book was due in a month. I realised that the male protagonist’s sister was experiencing the entire story, so I asked my editor if I should rewrite the story from her POV. I had to rewrite the world from her perspective in a month because I was seeing my world from the wrong place.

Isobelle: Perfect people are boring in stories. You need them to have flaws.

Joy: You’ve all written about vampires. What makes yours stand out?

Justine: I’ve read loads on vampires- I love and hate them. Dead people walking around freaks me out, it would be so cold, and creepy and horrible, touching a vampire isn’t sexy. The romance aspect repels and compels me. I mean, wouldn’t the vampire smell? They’re dead!

We [Sarah and Justine] wanted to explore the real cost of becoming a vampire, of losing your humanity. In this book [Team Human], vampires can’t laugh or cry.

Scott: I used research on cats. My take was the idea of cats/rats/bats as familiars, but also as carriers of vampirism in Peeps. It spreads to us, to cat lovers, that way. Vampires were parasites. It was the case of a cool book of science becoming an accessable story.

Isobelle: I hate horror. When I was 14, I was so scared of vampires. I used to wrap a towel around my neck, so that the vampire couldn’t bite me, and I shared a bed with my sister, so I used to push her to the outside, so the vampire would get her first. I’d pull the covers right up. There was no way that vampire was getting me!

I’m not a fan of horror, so I didn’t plan to write it. I got inspired by a sentence from an old battered guide book I found on Santorini. “Bringing vampires to Santorini is the same as bringing coal to Newcastle.”  I wrote a vampire short story inspired by that, and by the island setting. [Story in Metro Winds, called, The Stranger- IA] When I sent the story to my editor, it was really strange, because they got another story from a British author inspired by the exact same quote!

Well- the thing I do like about vampires is immortality. I like that idea. I like the idea of being around to see things happen. I don’t like the idea of everyone going on without me, without having any kind of impact [InkAshlings: Ha Isobelle! You have your own massive wikipedia page and published books. Stop worrying on this front] So yeah- I wrote a horror short story… but I don’t think I’d be likely to write in that genre again.

Three questions were solicited from the audience now, and I was first up.

InkAshlings: Do you think that because fantasy is removed in setting from reality, it allows you to talk with more ease about difficult issues in society, that maybe people wouldn’t normally want to talk about, or wouldn’t feel comfortable dealing with, in a realist novel?

Justine: Yes. I mean, especially in America, where there is a small, but very vocal book banning minority. I know so many people who wouldn’t have been banned if they had been writing in the speculative fiction genre. It’s less confronting maybe? Sad but true. I know someone who was banned for depicting a very G rated lesbian relationship. I guarantee if that had been fantasy, it would have been ok.

[InkAshlings: I didn’t actually intend the question to go down the censorship route but it was interesting anyway. I was more asking about the way that imagination allows for uncomfortable truths to be aired in ways that challenge a reader, in a way that maybe can’t happen in realist novels.]

The second audience question was directed at Isobelle, and asked about her series Little Fur, and its relation to fairy story traditions.

Isobelle: I wrote the Little Fur series after a big flood in Prague, and there were things everywhere, all the debris, and cracks in the pavement. I was walking with my daughter, and she asked me what was in the cracks, so I told her trolls, and she asked, ‘what kind?’ so I said, ‘big, scary trolls.’ It went from there.

Metro Winds is realist, but I use the ornate language of fairy stories to tell these realist stories.

Justine: Fairy stories are a huge influence on fantasy authors. Myths and legends, and fairy stories…

Isobelle: They use rich symbols that are repeated over and over again. When I asked (with Nan McNab) various authors to contribute fairy stories to our Tales from the Tower compilation [InkAshlings: The Wilful Eye, and The Wild Wood] they all said yes, without even asking about money and stuff. It’s just… they… fairy stories tap into something that resonates with the human psyche.

Joy: Any questions for Scott?

Audience Question: Where do you go visually for world building ideas and perceptions? How do you visualise a world?

Scott: I really learnt about the value of illustrations and designs. The collaborative value of working with artists really means… the story happens with those extra dimensions.

Thanks to all three authors, and to Joy, for such a great event! If you want to support Australian fantasy, and you liked what these authors discussed, why not check out their websites, and grab a book?

Soulless: Book One of The Parasol Protecorate by Gail Carriger

Soulless: Book One of The Parasol Protecorate by Gail Carriger

Sometimes you aren’t after a big fantasy read. Sometimes you just want something gentle, and funny and a bit silly. Soulless was all that for me. My friend gave me the best selling Soulless last year for my 21st, but my book backlist was so…

The Sending Book Review

The Sending Book Review

Isobelle Carmody’s The Sending is Book Six (Australian version) in her popular Obernewtyn Chronicles, Book One now itself a Penguin Classic. This review is therefore not pitched at new readers, but rather at those who are already invested in the series; people who are no doubt…

Obernewtyn Chronicles Review (Books 1-3)

Obernewtyn Chronicles Review (Books 1-3)

Hi everyone! I am finally back from my holiday hiatus which was much needed and great fun! So now it’s time for the book review someone way back when said they were interested in reading… Australian author Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles.

To make this review fair, I need to give you all a bit of background. I first read Obernewtyn when I was nine or ten for the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge. I was climbing the walls having to read the books off that list as few were fantastical. Isobelle’s was one of the only books on there other than Emily Rhodda and the absurdist Lemony Snicket. It was torture.

At nine, I found Obernewtyn absolutely terrifying. It is the story of a young girl living in a harsh post-apocalyptic world. Fear of radiation sickness and poisoning has led to a fear of those with paranormal abilities as a result of the earth’s previous destruction. Protagonist Elspeth is caught in a thriller situation as she is sent to the mysterious mountain retreat Obernewtyn. Everyone is afraid and no one wants to go there, but why?

As an older teen I came back and reread the series after my Mum bought me the three in one omnibus. It is now one of my favourite series and I even had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Isobelle herself once. When it comes to her books, I am therefore incredibly biased. The last book in the seven part series comes out sometime next year, and the sixth book The Sending came out October 2011. In preperation for these books, I have reread the chronicles again from the start.

In my opinion, Obernewtyn reads differently to the rest of the series. I suspect this is because Isobelle wrote it at 14. It is a series written in the first person, from a young adult’s perspective of being “the outsider” and I suspect too, this is why it resonated so well with young adults in Australia. The story is a fairly short, quick read and seems on the surface to be quite a straightforward fantasy/sci fi thriller. There are very interesting characters (I still sympathise immensely with Elspeth Gordie and have alot of love for characters like Cameo, Matthew, Sharna and Dameon) but the story seems thin for a sustained fantasy series.

When you read The Farseekers (Book 2), it becomes obvious that the story is much more complex than a mad scientist and experiments. Elspeth has a quest to fufil. She must seek out the weapons that destroyed our world following signs left by an enigmatic gypsy before the elusive “Destroyer” gets there first and sets off a second apocalypse. At the same time as this, Elspeth is caught up in the fight for the misfits at Obernewtyn to gain freedom in a repressive land. Elspeth’s journey with other misfits to rescue a Misfit Talent leads her to find the head of the Rebels in the land, to Henry Druid, councilman resister (but is he friend or foe?) and a little girl conjuring up frightening visions at a Beforetime library. Futuretellings (visions) of what will be and the intervention of the ancient Agyllian birds only adds to the epic feel of this second outing.

Ashlings (Book 3) is one of my favourite in this particular series. Talk of rebellion in the land is rife and misfit’s must find their place in this potential new land. But how can they prove themselves to people who have long viewed them as dangerous and corrupted? The slave trader Salamandar complicates matters, as Elspeth’s old enemy Ariel returns briefly. Is he diabolically mad yet harmless? Or are his growing relations with The Council, the fanatical Herder faction and Salamandar pointing to something more sinister? A journey to Sador might prove to the rebel leaders the value of misfit powers but at what cost? And just how many strands of past, present and future weave together to point towards Elspeth’s quest? She must find the signs to destroy the weaponmachines but in championing her fellow misfits, can she find the time for both?

The first two books may feel a bit slow but once this epic gets started, I truly believe it is one of the best of its kind around. I love the way that the past and future become so closely linked as Elspeth’s quest unfolds in a complex puzzle. I love the way that Isobelle doesn’t take the easy way out with the plight of the misfits and shows how black human nature can be, and yet at the same time, how astonishingly compassionate.

The Obernewtyn Chronicles are at once a cautionary tale of human kinds capacity for self destruction, a morality tale forcing us to think about how we treat people who are different, a tale of the ethics of having powers that others don’t have, a quest story involving talking animals, gypsies, powers, and cryptic clues, and finally, a story of a young woman growing up.

So if those things aren’t your cup of tea, this series isn’t for you, but if it is… what are you waiting for?