Saturday 31 August 2013

Author Interview: Jillian Larkin

The fantastic Jillian Larkin, author of the Flappers trilogy. I absolutely loved the first book, Vixen, and getting to interview Jillian has made me eager to finish the series and find out how Gloria, Lorraine and Clara get on.

1. What is it about the 1920s that appeals to you so much?
Growing up, I absolutely loved the film Thoroughly Modern Millie. I watched it over and over so many times that my mother was forced to ban it from the house! It was flms like this and novels  such as F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (which I’ve literally read over a dozen times) that made me fall in love with the time period. The 1920s were also such a spectacular time for women and teens. Prohibition changed the nation, making rebellion more acceptable than ever. Women gained independence, and were able to express themselves more freely and make their own choices. All of these aspects – plus the glamorous fashion, dangerous speakeasies, and deliciously fun slang – makes it such a fun decade to write about.

2. Which of your heroines is most like you: Gloria, Lorraine or Clara?
This is difficult because I see a small part of myself in all of my characters, but I’d have to say Gloria. When first playing around with the idea of writing The Flappers series, I already knew I wanted to write about a nightclub singer. I sing myself, but knew that I’d rather write about a singer than sing for a living. Gloria was created through combining my love of singing and my love of the Roaring 20s. I also see myself in Gloria because she desires to pave her own path in life rather than follow one that has already been decided for her. I feel every girl, myself included, can relate to wanting to break the mold and follow one’s own dreams.

3. Most Jazz Age novels seem to be set in and around New York. What drew you to Chicago?
As a New Yorker, I have a special love for the City, which is why the series ended up in the Big Apple by the second novel, Ingenue. However, I also feel Chicago played an important role in the marvellous world of the 1920s. The Green Mill, Jelly Role Morton, and Al Capone all became famous in Chicago. The city was bursting at the seams with scandal, glamour, and jazz just as New York City was at the time. it felt like the right place to kick off the story, and new York the right place to end it.

Quick fire round!

1. Favourite word?
It’s hard to choose from all the great flapper slang I’ve learned over the course of writing The Flappers, but I’ll say my favourite word/phrase is ‘the cat’s pajamas’.

2. Current obsession?
Baz Luhrmann’s revival of The Great Gatsby! I love how Luhrmann and Jay Z put a modern twist put a modern twist on a timeless classic. I still find myself watching trailers and interviews from time to time (and Google-ing the incredible costumes)!

3. What are you reading at the moment?
I have actually been reading a journal-style book on the TV writing world entitled Hello, Lied the Agent by Ian Gurvitz. Packed with humour, the book wittily reveals shocking facts about the inner workings of the entertainment industry. It’s fascinating how many sitcom ideas are pitched each year in the brutal competition to get a show on the air! I’d recommend this read to anyone in writing and/or Holloywood.

That sounds like a really interesting read! Thanks so much Jillian! The final book in The Flappers series, Diva, was released May 2nd by RHCP.


Friday 30 August 2013

Every Day - David Levithan

Pages: 371
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Release Date: 29th August 2013
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn), Are We There Yet?, Wide Awake, Naomi & Eli’s No-Kiss List (with Rachel Cohn), Love is the Higher Law, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), The Lover’s Dictionary, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (with Rachel Cohn), Invisibility (with Andrea Cremer), Two Boys Kissing

Every day I am someone else. I am myself – I know I am myself – but I am also someone else. It has always been like this.

Each morning, A wakes up in a different body. There’s never any warning about who it will be, but A is used to that. Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

And that’s fine – until A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because A has found someone he wants to be with – every day...

With every book of David Levithan’s that I read, I fall more and more in love with his writing, his ideas and his stories. Every Day was no exception.

There’s no doubt that Every Day is beautifully and thoughtfully written. There aren’t many protagonists that usually stand up to the weight of ideas and thought processes that Levithan doles out, but as usual, A did it perfectly. He is, after all, a soul and a mind, not a body. It made me think in a way I had never before: you are not your body. Your body is a casing; a way of presenting yourself to the world; the thing that defines how you will be viewed by the world, regardless of what lies underneath. It’s obviously something that you know but it’s a hard concept to grasp and really see until reading A’s story.

I loved the sense that each day is a single snapshot, to be endured or to be savoured; it’s either too long or too short. It made me reflect on my own days and I continually wish each one away, minute by minute to get to the end of my shift at work. It’ a depressing ways to spend your days, especially in comparison to A. A lives a different life in each day and spends nearly every day in the second half of the novel feeding his love for Rhiannon and trying to find a way to make it work.

One of the standout elements of Every Day is something that I’ve come to expect from David Levithan: a strong but still understated view of gender and sexuality. A is genderless; identifying as either a boy or a girl, depending on which body A appeared in that day. A doesn’t fall in love with girls or with boys, but with personalities; love is love. I really liked the way that Rhiannon struggled with this as she was so used to the more rigid and socially conforming view of gender and sexuality. It added a realistic and genuine edge to a novel that could have been ridiculous if written by anyone other than David Levithan.

I loved Every Day and already looking forward to seeking out more of David Levithan’s novels. It’s so good to fall in love with an author who has a backlist...

Thanks to Electric Monkey for sending me a copy to review.


Thursday 29 August 2013

My English Literature Reading List

In the sixteen long years I’ve spent in education I’ve sighed in unhappiness with nearly every reading list I’ve been presented in English class. So many dry, boring classics and not nearly enough modern stuff, or ones that I’d actually like to read! So here it is, my English Literature Reading List:

Legendary YA
UK or US, they’re just phenomenal

Junk, Melvin Burgess - This book needs very little introduction. A dark, gritty and unflinching look at drugs, prostitution and the reality of life for some teenagers. It’s eye-opening and a really good way to open a discussion about boundaries in fiction, especially younger fiction, and even book banning.

How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff – One of my favourite books of all time, How I Live Now is a great book to launch a study of narrative styles. With no speech marks, sparse paragraphing and a near stream of consciousness narration, it’s unusual and a definite Marmite type of style that should inspire some conflicting opinions!

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson – In the media at the moment, rape culture and attitudes to women who have been the victims of it are being discussed, and it’s important that boys and girls alike

Graceling, Kristin Cashore – Being only a few years old, this hasn’t reached legendary status just yet, but I have no doubt that it will. With strong but subtle feminist themes this could help to stop some prejudice against genre fiction that seems to lie in academia. Modern fantasy can do everything that the classics do, but with a slice of relatability that novels from the Nineteenth Century just can’t.

Classics of English Literature

A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf – Last year I did an entire module on the writings of Virginia Woolf. She was a fascinating, extraordinarily clever and ground-breaking woman and writing. And yet I struggled with her books immensely; they were just that step too far for me, in elevation of ideas and in an ability to keep me interested. But this, I loved. A look at feminism, writing and authorship that I flew through.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley – This is probably the best book that I read while I was at school. I studied it for A-level and read it three times of my own volition. The ideas behind the novel are captivating, along with the writing and the imagery, and the creepy, gruesome moments will appeal to the boys as well!

The Island of Doctor Moreau, HG Wells – I hated this when I first read it and started studying it, but it grew on me. Moreau is twisted and captivating and his experiments throw so many things into question. It’s also short, fast-paced and full of drama and action.

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen – My very favourite Jane Austen novel. I love the Dashwood sisters, particularly Elinor, and they really provide an interesting family dynamic to discuss. That ties into many class and social constructions that I think is often overlooked in Austen’s work by some academics who see her as a romantic novelist.

American Literature
Anything goes form the US of A

The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald – I only read this recently, just before the film was released, and I fell in love with it. With an abundance of symbolism and themes, the exploration of the Jazz Age and the encroaching Wall Street Crash and Great Depression, The Great Gatsby would be a fantastic GCSE text for students studying the 20s in America in History. It’ll bring the whole thing to life.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – This has never been a set text for me and I just can't understand why. It’s a novel that everyone knows about and I still haven’t read it, though it is up next for my Blast From the Past feature. It’s said to be a remarkable coming-of-age novel that looks at racism in a new way.

The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger – Another modern American classic that I should have read by now but haven’t! The ultimate coming of age novel with a notoriously unreliable narrator, this should capture even the most reluctant person in the English class. Or so I’ve been told.

So there you go. I would have been overjoyed to have this reading list up on the board on in the handbook on the first day of the school year!

What would you add? Do you disagree with any of my choices? What was your favourite set text at school/university?


Tuesday 27 August 2013

From Page to Screen: City of Bones

Adapted from City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Margaret K McElderry Books, 2007)

August 2013 

KEVIN ZEGERS ~ Alec Lightwood
JEMIMA WEST ~ Isabelle Lightwood
AIDAN TURNER ~ Luke Garroway
JONATHAN RHYS MEYERS ~ Valentine Morgenstern
GODFREY GAO ~ Magnus Bane

What’s it about?
Clary Fray’s mother disappears from there New York apartment shortly after she witnesses a murder in her favourite club. A murder that leaves no trace and committed by a beautiful boy and two others no one else can see. Clary is thrown into the world of the Shadowhunters as she hunts down her missing mother and her true heritage.


How does it hold up?
It’s been years and years since I first read, and then re-read, City of Bones. Some of the details are slightly foggy but the characters, world and events of the novel are still clear as day, but I think that not remembering the smallest of details was actually the best way to go into the film.

I was immediately captured by the gorgeousness of the film. From Clary’s brownstone to Luke’s shop to Pandemonium to the Institute. Oh, the Institute... Pandemonium was just how I imagined: sweaty, loud and infinitely cool. Everything else felt so much grander and more dramatic than I had imagined it and it was stunning. The sheer amount of detail was intricacy was mind-blowing. I almost felt like these were real places hidden away in New York City and not just film sets. The fact that it wasn’t even filmed in New York but Toronto didn't even really spring to mind until after the film. It had every evocation of NYC that I’ve imagined. 

The special effects were largely fantastic. The demons were brilliantly done and genuinely grim and creepy. I especially loved the reveal of how the Institute looks to those with the Sight; I would have been happy to have the camera just fixed on it for a few minutes. The scene in the greenhouse which was half set and half special effects, because of the invented flower species known only to Shadowhunters (yeah, I read the movie guide!), was gorgeous and romantic, but it also had a trace of Avatar about it with some of the floating lights effects. The scene as a whole was great though; it made me all gooey in the heart area.

Lily Collins was a brilliant Clary. She was strong, brave and independent and not at all annoying as is always a possibility with YA adaptations. She made the film feel as if the main goal was also about finding Jocelyn, Jace was just a bonus, when it definitely felt the other way around in the book. Oh, Jace. I fell in love with that boy such a long time ago. I have to admit that I was originally rather hesitant about Jamie Campbell Bower as he looked to sharp to be Jace. Then the shots started coming in and the trailer arrived and I knew. When he came on screen he was immediately Jace. The way he moved, dressed, spoke; his sense of humour and controlled facial expression; his reactions to Clary and strong love for his adopted family; even his damaging view of himself. 

Sadly, I don’t think Godfrey Gao did Magnus justice. Though he completely and utterly looked the part, there was none of Magnus’s age, wisdom, charisma and humour. I didn’t feel like Magnus’ character was made the most of. I did really like the hints at his future relationship with Alec, though. Everyone else was spot on. I actually didn’t release until I was in the car on the way home from the cinema, but the rest of the Lightwoods (Maryse, Robert and Max) weren’t even mentioned, let alone in the film!

All of that didn’t matter too much though, especially when it came time for the big reveal. Seriously, if you’re still reading this and don’t want to be spoiled, CLOSE THE WEBPAGE! One of the things I was most looking forward to was hearing the people in the screen who hadn’t read the book gasp as Valentine revealed that Clary and Jace were siblings. But nope. Before Clary and Jace even found out, we saw Hodge and Valentine discuss that Valentine was going to lie about it. I was so disappointed. I guess I can kind of understand why they did it, but not really. That twist is one of the biggest I’ve ever read and it’s one of the things that made me fall in love with the series and Cassandra Clare because it’s a brave and shocking choice. I’m actually really quite annoyed about it, you know...

Other than that (major) niggle, I thoroughly loved City of Bones and I’m trying to convince someone to come and see it again with me this week. I’m so glad City of Ashes is already in the works.

Rating: 8/10

Book or film?
The book, is my instinctual response, but I can honestly tell you that I’ve wanted to watch City of Bones again since the moment I left the cinema. And re-read the books.