24 December 2008

Hark we herald 2009

The final frantic festive preparations are upon us.

Hurry, scurry: procure elusive present for aunt who has everything, wrap extra gift and place under tree for unexpected guests, slip empty-handed into seafood and fruit emporiums and return laden with delicious items, bake assorted treats, clink glasses with friends who appear at door for quick pre-family cheer, count presents again, wrap another extra unlabelled gift, dip into nibbly items just to check freshness and suitability, order bread to be collected from bakery tomorrow morning, engage in fridge tetris with prepare-ahead food and chilling beverages, sing carols to maintain festive spirit, clink another glass, put feet up, consider that more could be done tonight, but there's always that sliver of time tomorrow, wonder if the issue is over-catering or hungry guests, ring family member to check they have collected ham, count guests and try to reconcile with menu, realise under-catering is only likely if cousin arrives with whole new previously unknown tree of family, clink glasses, close eyes just for a second...

Oh - hello 2009!

And it begins with a lovely bunch of books for the young people to read on their long lazy days:

Wombat & Fox Thrillseekers by Terry Denton
Best friends Wombat & Fox are back in a third book, and this time they have a list of WILD and DANGEROUS deeds. What can possibly go wrong?

Girlfriend Fiction 9 Bookmark Days by Scot Gardner
Avril falls in love for the first time with the boy next door ... problem is, his family and hers are bitter enemies. A Romeo and Juliet story set in sheep farming country.

Girlfriend Fiction 10 Winter of Grace by Kate Constable
At a peace rally, Bridie and Stella rescue a cute Christian boy. He introduces Bridie to a whole world she never knew existed.

In the City by Roland Harvey
Roland Harvey's witty, slapstick style brings the city to life in vivid detail.


23 December 2008

SB takes the cake

It had a wood pile.
It had a dog kennel (with dog and dog bone).
It had a fence and gate posts and a little path to the front door.
It was a thing of beauty...

and then we ate it. (And it was good!)

Really outstanding work, SB.

PS If you are into gingerbread and/or Tove Jansson's Moomins, you will die of love for this.

19 December 2008

Sound the trumpets

Happy news! A made-of-awesome new YA novel is coming soon to the House of Onion: The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

It's written by the divinely talented Mary E Pearson of California who is a card-carrying member of the blogosphere.

Here in the House, advance reading copies were like those popular library books, with wild waiting lists and battered covers. They passed with speed from hand to hand as Onion after Onion joined the I Heart Jenna Fox club.

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox wakes up from a coma following a terrible accident and remembers nothing...

What happens next is utterly engrossing. Deliciously full of mind-bending questions about ethics and humanity. And above all - unbelievably addictive. But don't just take our word for it. See here and here for a taste of what the peeps are saying about the US edition.

The French, the Germans, the Dutch, the Finnish, the Latin Americans, the Japanese, the Koreans and the Chinese are also welcoming Jenna Fox into their hearts. And the film rights have been snapped up, too. Woot!

Mary, a warm welcome from the Alien Onions - we can't wait for Feb 09 , when our edition of Jenna Fox will make her way out into the world.

18 December 2008

Let us have lists

As we have said before, we love a list.

So here are our Top Ten book characters who have successfully made the transition from page to screen:

1: Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride
2: Mr Darcy from Pride & Prejudice
3: Holiday Golightly, Travelling from Breakfast at Tiffany's
4: Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird
5: Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs
6: Dan Humphrey from Gossip Girl
7: Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones's Diary
8: Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders
9: Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
10: The vampire Lestat from Interview with the Vampire

*Honourable mentions to:
Aragorn from Lord of the Rings,
Kurtz from Heart of Darkness (Apocalypse Now)
Dickie Greenleaf from The Talented Mr Ripley
Rick Deckard from Do Androids Dream, of Electric Sheep (Blade Runner)
Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series

Who's on your list?

17 December 2008

Mini missive

Dear Words,
We're sorry we had that little quarrel. You know that we could never really leave you, don't you? Here's a small token of our affection.
with love,

Words that aren't onomatopoeias but sure sound like what they mean:
almost any of you sl- words: slippery, slide, slap, slick, sleazebag, slimy

Words that don't sound anything like what they mean
pulchritudinous (until reclaimed by Justine)
dessert (although 'pudding', on the other hand...)

Any others?

15 December 2008

All Worded Out

We've dealt with a lot of words this year.
Thousands and thousands of words.
Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands.
Millions of words have passed over the desks and through the hearts and minds of the Alien Onions.

Pictures to the rescue!


Christmas in the House of Onion

A wee taste of something exciting that Mr Terry Denton is preparing for us

Christmas at an Onion childhood home.

11 December 2008

Vale Dorothy Porter

I came late to poetry. I discovered it by accident. I walked into a bookstore looking for crime fiction. Comfort reading. Light. Fast. Dangerous. Fun. I browsed. I can’t remember why I picked up The Monkey’s Mask, but as soon as I read the blurb, I was hooked.

It began: ‘You are about to do something you have never done before.’ It boasted a missing person, murder, deception and a tough, unforgettable streetwise female P.I. ‘You will find yourself reading the crime thriller of the year.’

Excellent. Exactly what I was after. But I had read selectively. I had missed all the clues – and they weren’t hiding: ‘It’s poetry. It’s unlike any poem you have ever read.’ I did not see these words. I’d never heard of a verse novel. It was crime fiction. End of story. I bought the book. It fell open at page 4.

‘It’s poetry.’ I think I said it out loud. I looked around furtively to see if the bookseller had registered my disappointment. Then I read the poem on the page it had opened to.

I’m female

I'm not tough,
droll or stoical

I droop after wine, sex
or intense conversation

The streets coil around me
when they empty
I'm female
l get scared.

(from The Monkey’s Mask, Dorothy Porter, Hyland House 1994)

She had me at hello.

Some years later I went to a lecture by Dorothy Porter. She said there were four things you must do before reading your work in public.
1: Rehearse
2: Rehearse
3: Rehearse
4: Be fantastic.

It sounded like life-lessons. She read her work. She was fantastic.

Afterwards, I felt like I was wearing red shoes and had clicked my heels together. I skipped and swooped past the fountain in the Carlton gardens. I was the kind of student who wore my cynicism on my sleeve, and Dorothy Porter had inspired me to skip, at night, through the park; she showed me what poetry could be.

Oh the things that we DID see

So... you know how we mentioned the waterskiing out the front of the House of Onion?

Here's proof!

Good work, Bruno. Nice capture! (Apparently that's what the serious photographers say to each other.)

09 December 2008

A few open letters...

Dear Compound Adjectives,

On the surface, your rules seem so simple and easy to follow, but underneath you are confusing and convoluted. Why?

A possibly ignorant but willing-to-learn editor
Dear Adverbs,

I am writing to inform you that we can never be friends. I admit that used appropriately (See what I did there?) you can add to the richness and flow of a piece of writing. But the simple fact is: I don't trust you. You have a nasty habit of ganging up with your friends and stealing all the thunder from the poor innocent verbs.

An editor dashing hurriedly out the door to hungrily wolf down her lunch
Dear Participle Phrases at the Beginning of a Sentence,

Listening to your lack of rhythm, I quickly lose interest.

Dear Split Infinitives,

Don't listen to them. I will boldly go where ever you wish to lead me.

To edit
Dear Microsoft Word Grammar Check

You suck.

Dear Australian Pine Trees

Why do you have branches that grow straight upwards and are thus virtually impossible to hang decorations on? Perhaps you should take a leaf (as it were) out of your northern cousin the fir tree's book. Horizontal branches only, please. It would be appreciated if you could have this implemented by next year.

A Concerned Tree Trimmer

08 December 2008

The season of spending

Not sure how to answer KRudd's call to spend our way out of the economic crisis?
Books, we say, buy books!
Here are some tips to help fill the Christmas stocking.

for the older readers:
Somebody's Crying by Maureen McCarthy. We love Maureen. We love the way she makes us feel her characters truly exist, and that if we just turn the right corner at the right time of day, we might even run into one of them. And this one is brimming with suspicion, guilt, love and redemption. Here's a taste.

for the teenage girls:
the Stephenie Meyer Twilight books are far too big to lug to the beach (they are best enjoyed curled up on the couch so if there is to be any swooning over Edward*, one doesn't have far to fall) so we say: hello Girlfriend fiction. There are already eight out now - and two more coming very soon - don't they look GOOD! They do go so well on the beach, and there's a cartwheel on the cover of this one.
(We do like a cartwheel). Pitched perfectly for 13-16 year old girls

for the young fellas:
they're fast, they're funny and they're books especially for boys. The OK Team 1 & 2 by Nick Place, The Detachable Boy by Scot Gardner & The Dog that Dumped on my Doona by Barry Jonsberg. Laugh out loud fun for boys aged 7-12.

for the littlies:
Peka-boo The Smallest Bird In All the World by Eliza Feely - a loud and lively book about friendship and finding your voice - and at the end you can all dance the fluttering skippity with seed-cracking gusto.

Tiny, by our Jen castles and Steve Otten, is a wonderful book about a red heeler on a road trip - an excellent gift for anyone with a spirit of Australian adventure or a soft spot for dogs.

for a touch of Christmas (with things to make and do):
the wonderful Roland Harvey's Big Book of Christmas - a treasure chest of Christmas stories around the world, treats to bake, stickers (!) to stick, gifts to make and carols to sing up all the Christmas cheer you need to get you in the swing of the festive season.

and for the adults:
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan - we are so proud of this wonderful book by our Margo - and it's thrilling that people all over the world are saying such lovely things about it. Oh, so many accolades already - slip over here to sample the many words of praise.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. David Marr described it as THE great Melbourne novel. You've probably seen all the glowing reviews, or had someone rush up to you and say: Oh. My. God. I just read Christos's book, it's amazing, I couldn't put it down. But if not - here, here and here are a taste of what the peeps are saying about it.

And if that isn't enough to get you champing at the bit to gallop on down to your local book store to help spend the economy's woes away - here are a whole host of other terrific Onion gift ideas.

Happy wrapping.

*Just for the record, we understand that there is a lot of swooning over Edward, but the Onions are Team Jacob.

05 December 2008

oh, the things that we will see

Out the window, something extraordinary caught our eye. It was unexpected and brash and laced with danger: young gentlemens water-skiing in the cathedral fountains. For serious!

There are three big rectangle pools, and the water-skiing involved a rope and a 4WD and we suspect some kind of winch contraption, and they water-jumped over the low wall between each pool. They did it several times - and they did tricks! They had us standing on our desks and clapping. A tonic for our Friday afternoon flat spot. Oh, how it swept the glums away!

We've got the glums...

... well actually, that's not strictly true. It's more that wispy melancholy that sometimes seems to waft in on the warm breeze at this time of year. (Must be because of all the all the end of yearness that goes on; one Onion has even been known to get a little choked up when TV shows she doesn't watch, or even like, all start going on hiatus.)

We are stoking our light-blues by reading:

1) Frank Cottrell Boyce musing on Philippa Pearce's last book, A Finder's Magic.
'This is goodbye, not just to fiction, but to life and family and home - which explains why this pretty, light-hearted fable has such a powerful elegiac undercurrent. All Pearce's books have this strange, unobtrusive power... Every ghost story, most religions and a good deal of modern physics are about the persistence of what is past. But hardly anyone has described it so powerfully and eloquently as Pearce'
2) Felicity Dahl talking about life with and without Roald
'Children still pitch up unexpectedly at his Buckinghamshire home, Gipsy House in Great Missenden, where Felicity, 69, lives. 'It's just awful because they look over the gate and say, "Roald Dahl lives here doesn't he?" And I say, "Well he did." "Oh, has he moved?" And I have to say, "No, he died."'

3) The 10PM Question by New Zealand author Kate De Goldi. Funny, funny, funny and a little bit heartbreaking.
'Tuesday the 14th of February began badly for Frankie Parsons. There was no milk for his Just Right. There was no Go Cat for the Fat Controller, so the Fat Controller stood under the table meowing accusingly while Frankie ate his toast.'
(It's already a bestseller in NZ, but it's not out in Aus till February, so you'll just have to wait a bit.)

4) The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald, a graphic adaptation by our Nicki Greenberg
'And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it.'

03 December 2008

Save Our Stories

Quickly, quickly go forth and save your favourite characters.
The Gift of Reading Project is all about the idea of keeping imagination alive through reading.
We like that in a project.

It seems to be a fairly dramatic approach though. And a bit scary: seeing Peter Pan old and infirm, his spirit slipping away. And Cinderella hooked up to a drip suggests she might just have partied a little too hard at the ball. But the flutter of that red cloak. Oh, Little Red Riding Hood. Quick, pick up a book; read, read against the dying of the light.

But it's not an entirely new idea. Let's not forget Puff the Magic Dragon. The song begins so sweetly, it's upbeat and full of magic and frolicking - but poor old Puff is in for a sad fate...
A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. oh!

Oh, Puff. I believe...

01 December 2008

’tis the season...

...for cherries, for birthdays, for cake.
(oh, I know it's always the season for cake, but I was following Obama's lead, using the tricolon for effect, and cake is clearly the most powerful way to finish any sentence).

Anyway, it always feels like true summer when the first cherries of the season appear, all red and plump and ripe with juicy goodness. A sure sign that it's time to dig out that ole Christmas spirit and swing into the festive season*.

But it's been birthday season here, and the very clever cake-maker certainly knows what to do with a cherry or thirty. Oh, hello Cherry Tart.

So 'yes we can' have cake (complete with hearts and stars and candles and a mighty fine number). Omnom.

And not so very long ago we were fortunate indeed when the cake-maker-in-waiting baked a half-century special: Butterscotch Apple Spice Cake served with butterscotch sauce (yes - that is butterscotch sauce, not gravy!) and ice-cream and cream and yoghurt and candles, and even balloons.
Hip hop happy.

*now that it's December we can happily talk up the whole Christmas spirit thang without fear of rule-breaking.