Tag Archives: Myke Bartlett

My favourite books from Reading Matters

Whenever I go to a book conference or there is a visiting author in town I like to make sure I read at least one of their books before I listen to them.  It makes me more comfortable meeting them and lining up to get a book signed if I know what they write like and the type of stories they write.  I had read quite a few of the books by the authors coming to Reading Matters but there were others that I just didn’t get around to.  Some of my favourite Australian YA authors were going to be there (Gabrielle Williams, Vikki Wakefield and Myke Bartlett) and I had read all of their books and loved them.  There were other authors, like Keith Gray, Libba Bray and Fiona Wood, whose books I had seen on the shelf at the library but never read.

The books below are my absolute favourites from Reading Matters.  These are all books that I highly recommend and that I think all teens should read.

The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams

When Dodie’s parents go missing just as final year exams are about to start, she convinces herself they’re fine. But when the least likely boy in class holds the key — quite literally — to the huge secret her parents have been hiding all these years, it’s up to Dodie, her sister, the guy from school, and two guys she’s never met before, to take on the challenge of a lifetime. So now Dodie’s driving — unlicensed — to Sydney, and being chased by bad guys, the police, and one very handsome good guy.

The Reluctant Hallelujah is quite simply one of the coolest, quirkiest YA books I’ve read!  The premise blew me away and Gabrielle took me on this wild road trip from Melbourne to Sydney.  Gabrielle had me laughing out loud one minute, crying the next and falling in love with her characters.  There were times I just had to stop and soak up what I’d just read and then continue on with the next step of the journey.  It’s one of those books that had a real impact on me and I won’t forget it any time soon.

You can read my review of Beatle Meets Destiny, Gabrielle’s debut YA novel.  It was also the first book I reviewed when I started blogging in 2009 – yes I loved it that much that I had to say something about it.

Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield

Seventeen-year-old Friday Brown is on the run—running to escape memories of her mother and of the family curse. And of a grandfather who’d like her to stay. She’s lost, alone and afraid.

Silence, a street kid, finds Friday and she joins him in a gang led by beautiful, charismatic Arden. When Silence is involved in a crime, the gang escapes to a ghost town in the outback. In Murungal Creek, the town of never leaving, Friday must face the ghosts of her past. She will learn that sometimes you have to stay to finish what you started—and often, before you can find out who you are, you have to become someone you were never meant to be.

You can read my review of Friday Brown here.

Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett

Sadie is sixteen and bored with life in Perth. It’s summer, and lazing on the beach in the stifling heat with her cousins and Tom is a drag. Then something comes out of the sea.

Dark menacing forms attack an old man, leaving him for dead and Sadie wracking her brains to understand what she saw. Then there’s a mysterious inheritance, a strange young man called Jake and a horned beast trampling the back yard.

Sadie finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient conflict that is nearing its final battle, a showdown that threatens to engulf Perth and all those she loves in a furious tsunami.

You can read my review of Fire in the Sea here.

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

It’s not really kidnapping, is it? He’d have to be alive for it to be proper kidnapping.’

Kenny, Sim and Blake are about to embark on a remarkable journey of friendship. Stealing the urn containing the ashes of their best friend Ross, they set out from Cleethorpes on the east coast to travel the 261 miles to the tiny hamlet of Ross in Dumfries and Galloway. After a depressing and dispriting funeral they feel taking Ross to Ross will be a fitting memorial for a 15 year-old boy who changed all their lives through his friendship. Little do they realise just how much Ross can still affect life for them even though he’s now dead.

I read Ostrich Boys when I got home from Reading Matters.  I met Keith Gray and listened to him speak twice, and he was such a funny, witty guy that I just had to read one of his books.  Boy am I glad I did! Keith talked about how he writes books for guys and he wants to show that guys are emotional.  This certainly comes across in Ostrich Boys, as Keith introduces us to a group of guys who are going on a journey to do one last thing for their friend.  Blake, Kenny and Sim are all quite different and their personalities clash a few times on their journey, but they band together for their dead friend, Ross.  They face a few challenges, including lost train tickets, lack of money, and the police, and learn some difficult truths about each other.

I felt really connected to the characters, especially the narrator Blake, and Keith made me feel like I was right there beside them.  I loved the dialogue between the characters, which could be hilarious one minute and then serious the next.  There is a lot in this book about being a guy and our relationships with those around us. There were so many parts of the book that I really loved, but probably my favourite is when Blake is having a discussion with Kayleigh about friendship.  Blake tries to convince her that, even though they don’t buy each other presents and call each other every night, he knows his mates would be there for him if he needed them. 

You need to push Ostrich Boys into the hands of every teen you meet, especially guys.

And these are books that I’ve put on my TBR pile because they sound so good and the authors were really interesting…

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

A story about first love, friendship and NOT fitting in.

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

“It was just Dad and me and Gully living in the flat above the shop in Blessington Street, St Kilda. We, the Martin family, were like inverse superheroes, marked by our defects. Dad was addicted to beer and bootlegs. Gully had ‘social difficulties’ that manifested in his wearing a pig-snout mask 24/7. I was surface clean but underneath a weird hormonal stew was simmering. My defects weren’t the kind you could see just from looking. Later I would decide they were symptoms of Nancy.”

This is the story of a wild girl and a ghost girl; a boy who knew nothing and a boy who thought he knew everything. And it’s about life and death and grief and romance.

All the good stuff.

Run by Tim Sinclair

Dee lives for parkour, and the alternate worlds he invents to escape his mundane life. He knows the city better than anyone-the hidden spaces at night, the views that no one else sees, from heights no one else can scale,. With parkour, he’s not running away. He’s free.

But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. And soon Dee is running for his life, running for real.

Run is an unmissable, paranoid thriller – genre fiction meets literary verse novel.

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Reading Matters 2013 – Highlights #7

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Gender less – Myke Bartlett, Libba Bray and Fiona Wood unbox identity

This was the session that stuck with me the most.  Each of the authors had very valid points of view and it was really interesting.  The topic of ‘girl book’ vs ‘boy book’ bothers Libba Bray.  There’s the connotation that if it’s a ‘girl book’ that boys don’t need to be concerned about the female experience, and if it’s a ‘boy book’ that girls don’t need to understand males.  Libba suggested that ‘if story is about connection and pushing down barricades, why would we want to limit that?’  She asks teens to question the status-quot and think for themselves.

Myke says that he set out to ‘write a book that includes a strong female, but I didn’t think that would exclude male readers.’ He wanted to write a character that was more realistic, with inner strength.  He would like to write a book with a male character to explore what it’s like to be a male (I’m going to keep harassing Myke about this because I want to read this story).

When the authors discussed book covers, Myke suggested that the cover for Fire in the Sea was probably telling boys that it’s OK to read, even though it has a female main character.  Libba Bray hyperventilated over the cover for Beauty Queens, but calmed down when she appreciated that it was mocking the headless female cover trend.  Fiona Wood wanted gender-neutral covers for her books, Six Impossible Things and Wildlife.  The idea behind her Wildlife cover was ‘the selfie.’  Fiona suggested that publishers need to come up with covers that ‘present an inclusive normality.’

A quote from Libba Bray sums this session up perfectly – ‘readers need the full ROY G BIV of emotional experience. We’re stuck on what boys want and what girls want. We just want good stories.’

 

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YA Authors Assemble – Reading Matters is nearly here!

I am buzzing with excitement because in a few days some of the best YA authors around will gather in Melbourne for Reading Matters and I will be there.  I’ve wanted to go to Reading Matters for years and registered as soon as I possibly could (without even knowing which authors would be there).  In the past they’ve had some incredibly cool authors, including John Green, so I knew they would have some amazing authors this year.  When the author lineup was announced I was actually jumping up and down with excitement!

I will get the chance to meet some of my favourite Australian YA authors and some great international authors too.  My suitcase will be packed with books to get signed and I’m sure to come back with a few others.  Some of the authors I’m most looking forward to meeting are Morris Gleitzman, Vikki Wakefield, Gabrielle Williams, Myke Bartlett and Keith Gray.

These are just a couple of the sessions that sound totally awesome:

  • Everyone’s a critic – Myke Bartlett, Alison Croggon and Morris Gleitzman on setting their stories free.
  • You can’t say that! – Parental guidance recommended with Libba Bray, Vikki Wakefield and Gabrielle Williams.
  • Gatekeepers – the good, the bad and my mother – Keith Gray

I’ll take lots of photos, try to Tweet as much as possible and will blog about my favourite sessions when I get home.

Melbourne here I come!

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Win Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett

Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett was the winner of the 2011 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing.  I loved it and gave 4 out of 5 stars (you can read my review here).  I also interviewed Myke here on the blog today too, which you can check out here.

Thanks to Text Publishing I have 2 copies of Fire in the Sea to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address below.  Competition closes Monday 6 August (NZ only).

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Interview with Myke Bartlett, author of Fire in the Sea

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Myke Bartlett, winner of the 2011 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, and author of the fantastic Fire in the Sea (you can read my review here).  I asked Myke a few questions about Fire in the Sea, his characters and his writing experience.  Thanks Myke!

1.  What inspired you to write Fire in the Sea?

Being a teacher, really. There’s nothing better than seeing kids excited about books and I started feeling a bit envious about the attention other authors were getting. I was determined to write something exciting and challenging that students would enjoy. I think I also really liked the idea of YA fiction being gateway fiction. These were the stories that would, hopefully, get kids hooked on good quality books. If they were reading something good when they were young, then they might demand better when they were older.

2.  Had the story been bubbling in your head long before you submitted it for the Text Prize?

I think I had the basic idea about Jake in 2009. But I didn’t start writing it until 2010, as I was working on something else. The actual writing was incredibly quick and painless, probably about six months in total on the first draft. It was a near run thing to get it in on time to Text. I think I posted it off on the last possible day.

3.  How did it feel to win the Text Prize?

Unreal. In every sense of the word. I’d written the story specifically to win the Text Prize, so I suppose I felt as if I had achieved exactly what I’d set out to do. That was a great week. And then the editing process began… Which was also great, to be honest.

4.  Mythology plays an important part in Fire in the Sea.  Do you have a special interest in mythology and ancient cultures?

I’m probably much more interested in the real world, actually. But I was obsessed with that stuff as a kid. When I got older, I was more interested in ghosts and folk legends and things like that. Things that seemed like they might almost be real. That’s my favourite area of fiction — you know, through a glass darkly stuff. The sense that there might be a monster under the bed, or vampire bats in the fig tree. I think I drew on my memories of mythologies because they’re really where storytelling started. They were the first big blockbusters. Who wouldn’t want to borrow a bit of that genius?

5.  Who was your inspiration for the character of Sadie?

I don’t know if I should say. There’s a lot of me in there, really. All that standing at the edge of the world, gazing at the horizon stuff. That’s me. That was me growing up in Perth and dreaming of the world outside. There’s quite a lot of my youngest sister in there too. All the difficult, dogmatic bits! No, my sister is pretty awesome (not that I’d tell her), so I probably borrowed of Sadie’s better qualities.

6.  Why did you decide to set the story in Perth?

Because it felt like the sort of place where you’d never expect a story like that to be set! I wanted to tell a big, Hollywood-style story in a small place at the end of the world. Growing up in Perth, I would have loved to think that life could be exciting where I was, instead of thinking adventures only happened elsewhere.

7.  Which of the ancient ones are you most like? 

Ooh, tricky! Well, I’m quite fond of Agatha. When we make the TV/film version, I’d love my aunt Nicola Bartlett, who’s an extraordinary actress, to play her. I think I gave Jake some of the seriousness and the old-mannishness that I had at that age. I was in such a hurry to be old. I dressed like an old man. It’s only now that I am (relatively) old that I’ve started dressing like a teenager.

8.  Do you plan to return to Sadie, Jake and the ancient ones in the future?

I do. They will return! As of today, I’ve written about six chapters of the sequel. Writing is either sheer pleasure or sheer pain (it changes on a day-by-day basis) but it feels pretty exciting to me. There are new (old) monsters, old (new) friends and possibly a car chase. If you can do a car chase in print. Can you? I’m about to find out.

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Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett

The wonderful people at Text Publishing (based in Melbourne) launched a fantastic new award for authors across Australia and New Zealand a few years ago, called The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing.  This prize has introduced me to some of my favourite authors, including Richard Newsome and Leanne Hall.  Last year they chose another very deserving winner of the prize, Myke Bartlett with his book Fire in the Sea, which has just been released.

Sadie is sixteen and bored with life in Perth. It’s summer, and lazing on the beach in the stifling heat with her cousins and Tom is a drag. Then something comes out of the sea.

Dark menacing forms attack an old man, leaving him for dead and Sadie wracking her brains to understand what she saw. Then there’s a mysterious inheritance, a strange young man called Jake and a horned beast trampling the back yard.

Sadie finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient conflict that is nearing its final battle, a showdown that threatens to engulf Perth and all those she loves in a furious tsunami.

Fire in the Sea is a story of gods, monsters, curses, immortality, war and the normal teenagers who get caught in the middle.  Myke Bartlett grabs you within the first few pages and you get swept away in the story, not wanting to surface until you get to the very end.  It’s one of those stories you want to devour all in one go because the writing is just so good and the action never lets up.  There’s something for everyone in the story, from mythical creatures and body-swapping gods, to a genie-like demon who grants wishes and a lost civilization.  There is plenty of violence and blood and guts to keep the guys interested, especially when the Minotaur is involved.

I love how Myke has weaved mythology into the story.  I can see Fire in the Sea appealing those teens that have enjoyed the Percy Jackson series because of the way that Myke brings gods and monsters into the present day.  Even though you don’t see the gods, you get the impression that they’re watching everything happen and will intervene if or when the time comes.  The feel of the story also reminded me a little of Maurice Gee’s Under the Mountain.

Sadie is a strong, feisty heroine.  She doesn’t seem to care what other people think of her and is prepared to do what she thinks is right to save the people she loves.  She get caught in the middle of a war that they didn’t want to be involved in, but she handles the situation incredibly well.

The ending of Fire in the Sky left me wanting to read more about Sadie, Jake and the ancient ones, so here’s hoping Myke continues their story.  If you’re looking for a fast-paced story, filled with action, adventure, fantasy and mythology, Fire in the Sky is the perfect book.

4 out of 5 stars

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