The Valentine’s Day post

I’m not a reader of romance novels. But threads of romance often weave their way through all sorts of stories — from action/adventure to science fiction; from YA to grown-up stuff. So, in honour of today being Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d reminisce about some literary romances that I found to be particularly memorable.

Aleksandar is the Prince of Hohenberg and he’s on the run from his own countrymen. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, and she’s a girl disguised as a boy. Deryn very quickly starts to fall for Aleksandar, but Aleksandar doesn’t even know that Deryn is a girl. This “will they/won’t they” relationship is strung out over the course of three YA steampunk novels by Scott WesterfeldLeviathan, Behemoth and Goliath. Needless to say that things work out for them in the end. Yay!

Sticking with the steampunk theme, we have Colbert Porpentine, grandson of a giant juggernaut’s supreme commander, and Riff, one of the Filthies, a sub-class of people who live in the juggernaut’s lower decks. Separated by class, education and even revolution, their love for each other still brings them together in Richard Harland’s Worldshaker and Liberator.

Casting my mind back to my late teens, I remember reading about a teenage boy from the wrong side of the tracks, John Fell, and the mysterious, manipulative older woman, Delia. It’s not a match that’s destined to succeed, in ME Kerr’s Fell, but there is a lovely scene in which John makes French Toast for Delia that is emblazoned on my memory. For that scene alone, I consider it a memorable romance.

Rickey and G-man are two boys growing up in New Orleans. The odds are often stacked against them, but they make things work, and they stay together and they follow their dream of opening a restaurant together. I’ve followed the adventures of these two likeable guys over the course of five novels (The Power of X, Liquor, Prime, Soul Kitchen and D*U*C*K) and numerous short stories by Poppy Z Brite. I’m sad that their adventures are over, but very pleased that they had each other.

At the other end of the scale is an utterly doomed romance that doesn’t even really start — rich bitch Eliza Boans and nice guy Neil Fernandes in Shirley Marr’s Fury. If only Eliza had opened her eyes to see what was right in front of her all along.

Finally we have Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Now, Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are memorable to me for a very different reason to all the others. Reading this book at Uni, I took an intense dislike to these two characters. In fact, you could say that I HATED THEM BOTH with a passion. And I have no qualms about saying — they deserved everything they got.

And so on that note, dear readers, I will bid you all a fond farewell and a happy Valentine’s Day. 😉 If you’ve got a favourite literary romance you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment.

Catch ya later,  George

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Fabulous Foodie Fiction!

Food, glorious food! I love cooking and I love eating. I enjoy trying new recipes and I delight in modifying old ones. I will often browse through the pages of a cookbook, looking for inspiration. But inspiration does not only lie in recipe books — many a time it can be found in the pages of fabulous foodie fiction.

My earliest memory of food in fiction is, of course, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss. This timeless children’s book with amazing, crazy rhymes had me begging my mum to feed me curiously coloured culinary cuisine (gotta love a little alliteration). In more recent times, after I first read the book to my daughter, and she requested green eggs and ham for dinner, I made a spinach and ham quiche. It had eggs, it had ham, it was green — mission accomplished!

We need to jump to my late teens for my next memorable foodie fiction experience. The book was ME Kerr’s Fell, a YA novel about an ordinary teenage boy who enrols in an elite private school under an assumed name, where a mysterious club known as the Sevens wield more power than they should. Within its pages, the main character cooks French toast for his would-be girlfriend, providing step-by-step instructions. I had never eaten French toast before — but after reading the description in the book, I went off and made some. And I have been making it as an occasional breakfast treat ever since.

In more recent times I have become enamoured of Poppy Z Brite’s foodie fiction, set in New Orleans. Brite made her name with horror novels such as Lost Souls and Drawing Blood, but came to eventually change her writing focus. She’s written a series of novels following the adventures of Rickey and G-Man through the restaurants of New Orleans. These are the type of books that make you hungry as you read them. And they make you want to cook with alcohol, as Rickey and G-Man establish their restaurant, Liquor, where every dish on the menu has at least some alcohol in it. Very inspiring!

Brite’s Rickey and G-Man appear in a number of short stories as well as the following novels:

I’ll finish up this post with a quote from one of Brite’s short stories — “O Death, Where Is Thy Spatula” from the collection, The Devil You Know — which is not actually a Rickey and G-Man story:

“The main thing you need to know about me is that I love eating more than anything else in the world. More than sex, more than tropical vacations, more than reading, more than any drug I’ve ever tried. I’m not fat—I’m actually quite slender—but I can’t take credit for any kind of willpower or exercise regimen. The truth is, I’m not fat because I only finish eating things that are really, really good, and there just aren’t that many of them in my opinion. I love eating, as I say, but I’m picky as hell. A French pastry, ethereal manifestation of butter, custard, and chocolate, designed like a little piece of modern architecture? I’m there. A slice of cold pizza? I might nibble at it until my hunger headache goes away, but no more.”

Okay… that’s it! I’ve got to go and eat now. Baked Isigny Ste Mère Petit Camembert with blanched garlic, thyme, a sprinkle of pepper and doused in red wine… served with crusty bread and washed down with the rest of the wine. Mmmmmmm! Check out the recipe! What are the rest of you eating? 😉

And tune in next time when I’ll write about… something… don’t know what yet… can’t think of anything else other than the Camembert… mmmmm… Camembert… mmmmmm…

Catch ya later,  George

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Books with bite

Vampires seem to be the in thing at the moment. Almost everyone is going ga-ga over the Twilight books and there is now a glut of teen vamp fic. Hollywood is, of course, cashing in on this, with numerous pointy teeth films and tv shows gracing our screens. For a bit of a laugh, check out the trailer for I Kissed a Vampire, a musical web series.

DraculaVampire fiction has been around for a long time. The first vampire book I ever read was Stephen King’s Salom’s Lot. It remains one of my favourites. Since then, I’ve read the occasional bit of vamp fic, including the granddaddy of them all, Dracula (which is well worth a read, even if you’re not into vampires). The one that really sticks in my mind, even though I read is about 13 years ago, is Poppy Z Brite’s Lost Souls. She has an interesting take on the vampire mythology. Her vamps are a separate species and breeding with humans results in each successive generation being less vampiric. The oldest vampire in the book can eat or drink nothing but blood, has pointy teeth and can be harmed by sunlight. The youngest is a bit of a goth — sunlight won’t hurt him but prefers to go out at night; his teeth aren’t pointy and although he doesn’t need to drink blood to live, he does come to develop a taste for it. There’s a lot more to it, but I’m working from memory here.

I’ve always thought that what this world really needed was some good vampire books set in Australia, preferable Melbourne (my home city). A number of years ago I read Vampire Cities by d’ettut (yes, d’ettut is the name of the author… pseudonym perhaps?), which was partly set in Australia. I remember thinking it was a weird, arty sort of book and that vampires weren’t actually the focus. It mustn’t have made much of an impression on me as I can remember nothing of the story.

More recently, I read Narrelle M Harris’s The Opposite of Life, which is set in Melbourne. I LOVED this book. It’s got lots of blood, dead bodies and pointy teeth and yet it’s a very atypical vampire story. The heroes are a geeky librarian and a slightly podgy, daggy vampire who wears loud Hawaiian shirts.  The book makes marvellous use of its Melbourne locale and is worth a read for that alone. Harris is writing a sequel… I can’t wait. Check out my review of The Opposite of Life.

Solace & GriefI also recently read Solace & Grief by Foz Meadows. The author calls the book an “urban fantasy” rather than a vampire novel. The main character is a vamp, as is the main villain, but there are other supernatural characters as well. It’s a young adult novel set in Sydney (not as good as Melbourne, but hey, at least it’s in Australia) and it’s got quite a different feel to it from any other vampire book I’ve read. It’s been getting some great reviews and with good reason – it’s a really good read. It is the first book of a trilogy called The Rare. Book 2 is currently in the works… definitely one to look out for.

There are probably other Australian vampire books out there. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never made a point of searching them out. The ones I’ve read were those that I happened across. So if anyone out there has any recommendations, I’m all ears… um… err… teeth?

Tune in next time for another vampire post, this time with the assistance of authors Foz Meadows and Narrelle M Harris.

Catch ya later,  George

Hello world!

I have been um-ing and ah-ing about blogging for some time now. You know, the usual sort of self-doubting questions most writers indulge in every now and then. Should I do it? Will I have enough things to blog about? Will I have enough time to do it? Will anyone out there actually read it? The part of me that wanted to blog was beginning to win out when this Boomerang Blog opportunity presented itself. I took it as a sign from … um … someone. And so here I am, inflicting my thoughts upon the unsuspecting denizens of cyberspace.

I have a cluttered mind and a cluttered bookshelf, so there’s a high probability of randomness on this blog. But I’ll start off by stating some of my literary likes so that you’ll have at least some idea of what may show up in my posts.

I love picture books. I have two young daughters, so I read a LOT of picture books. And guess what? Picture books aren’t just for kids.

I love science fiction and fantasy and horror (although not the blood and guts, splattery type horror). I quite like vampire fiction… but I feel the need to say that Twilight is not my cup of tea. Edward who?

I write books for kids and teens. I read lots of books aimed at kids and teens. Man, there’s some amazing stuff out there aimed at this market. So I’ll probably write about these sorts of books a fair bit. And I’ll probably write about the process of writing as well.

My favourite Aussie authors include Richard Harland, Carole Wilkinson and Terry Dowling. My favourite o/s authors include Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite and John Christopher. I’ll most likely write about these people and their books at some point.

And now for a list (I like lists). My favourite books from 2009:

Oh, one more thing… I’m a Doctor Who fan. Yes, I know — it’s a tv show, but there are Doctor Who books as well, so you can be guaranteed of at least one Doctor Who post at some stage. So just deal with it!

Right! I think that’s enough for my first post. Tune in next time, when I’ll tell you all about my clutter.

Catch ya later,  George