Thanks to a few extra bus trips last week I managed to catch up on my NaNoReMo reading schedule, finishing four novels.
The first was Same difference by Siobhan Vivian, which I'd wanted to read since Persnickety Snark's review. It didn't disappoint.
Emily is ready for a change. She's been in the same town with the same friends for a long time...and none of them really understand her art. But when she goes to Philadelphia for a summer art institute, she suddenly finds like-minded people. One in particular, Fiona, intrigues and challenges her. But there are some things Emily is going to have to find out for herself...
As a reader, I could really relate to Emily's conflict between the comfort of the people and places she'd grown up with and the urge to step into the breech in the big city with her new artist friends. It also made me want to visit Philadelphia, if only to see The Waterfall for myself.
As a writer, I thought Vivian really captured the feeling of being forced to choose which direction you want your life to go in, and the fear and exhilaration that accompany that. I also loved the way artworks, art theory and art processes were woven throughout the book. I can't wait to read Vivian's other books!
I must admit that Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan is not a book I would have picked up in a bookstore and paid full price for.* But after I'd read it, I wondered how it ever ended up in the remaindered pile in the first place.**
Gusty Peterson, the hottest bimboy in school, is always thinking I’m sick, as in totally gross to look at. Not that it matters, since I don’t have a crush on him or anything. And Mallory, my first real friend since forever, has disturbing romantic ideas about me and my ginormous gazungas. Ask me if I’d rather not know these things...
I’d probably be a lot better off if I weren’t psychic after all...
As a reader, I loved that this book has quirkiness by the bucketload, particularly 'Journeys', the alternative school that the protagonist, Kristi, attends, and Jacob Flax, who I couldn't help picturing as The Geek from Sixteen Candles. It took me a while to warm to Kristi, but as the book progressed I was more and more drawn to her.
As a writer, Vibes was a lesson in effectively taking a character from being pretty unlikeable to someone who readers connect with, because they have such a deep understanding of everything that's happened to make her the way she is. When I started reading, I was worried that Kristi's psychic abilities were a bit of a paranormal cop-out for her 'seeing' everything, in a telling-not-showing way, but my concerns were misplaced.***
The Vietnam War was one of the only high school history topics that really interested me,**** so I was keen to read Pamela Rushby's When the Hipchicks went to war.
The sixties are in full swing and going to a war is the last thing on Kathy's mind. For sixteen-year-old Kathy, it's all about miniskirts, the Beatles, discos and her fab new boots! The world is rapidly changing, her brother is fighting in the Vietnam War and her best friend is protesting against it. Kathy simply wants to live life and experience a world beyond her suburban existence. So when the chance comes for her to dance with an entertainment troop in Vietnam, she slips on her boots, walks away from her convent school and heads off to war.
As a reader, I was really interested in Kathy's perspective of the war as an 'opportunity' to escape her day job as a hairdresser in the suburbs. Whenever I think about Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War the first thing that comes to mind is the conscientious objecters, so it was fascinating to read something told from another viewpoint.
As a writer, I was tremendously impressed by Rushby's meticulous research, and her ability to translate the 'facts' of that research into a very readable book. It was a real eye opener into the experience of women at war.
My last book for the week was She's with the band by Georgia Clark, finished at 11.47pm last night.
Life never starts when you think it will. When I turned 15, I figured I'd be tossed the keys to the city, make out with a hottie, and have a modest parade thrown in my honour. But all that happened was that I got out of doing the washing up. The day we moved to Sydney was supposed to be the start of the new Mia Mannix - confident, charming, taller. But so far, it sucked.
As a reader, I liked that Mia was a pretty cool and confident character, who seemed to know what she wanted, even if she wasn't certain how to get it. Her fast moving world of muso and artist friends kept the action moving at a cracking pace.
As a writer, I thought Clark brought her experience as a musician and music journalist to the fore, both in the narrative and in the book's hip playlist. It made me wish I'd had a cooler career before writing!
All in all, it was a great week of reading, even though - as with NaNoWriMo - there were times when I wished I could slow down and enjoy the ride rather than race to the end for the sake of meeting my NaNoReMo goal.*****
This week I'm neck-deep in revisions for Little Sister and only have one bus trip planned, so I may have to try to schedule some reading time...what a great excuse!
*I think mainly because of the title. Vibes is up there with 'moist' and 'gusset' in my list of words that aren't dirty but sound like they should be...
** unless others were also put off by the name?
*** to say any more would be a spoiler, but trust me, it's none of that and very, very clever.
**** I know, it's some kind of writerly sacrilege to not be a history buff, but all the rote learing of dates and facts really put me off at an early age.
***** which is to read 12 books in November.