allen and unwin

Anna Gare’s new cookbook ‘Eat In’

I don’t know about you, but I hate having to decide what to cook for dinner. I don’t mind the cooking, it’s the decision-making that drives me a bit batty… is that weird?

Coming up with new ideas for meals, that aren’t going to have me in the kitchen for hours in the evening (which, let me assure you, is never going to happen) can be quite challenging and that’s why I’m always on the look out for books like today’s title.

anna gareAnna Gare’s new cookbook Eat In (Murdoch Books) had me at page one, as it offered up a smorgasbord of great meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Anna’s introduction told me I was in the right place…

This book is about making simple yummy food with fresh ingredients. I really believe you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to make spectacular food. I get more excited when I cook something delicious with little effort, that I do when I make something fiddly and complicated.

Cooking, like love, does not have to be rocket science. It is a way of thinking, tasting and feeling that allows you to draw pleasure out of what could otherwise be ordinary. It turns a chore into a little party, or, sometimes, a big one. 

The best food is made at home, so Eat In and use some of my favourite recipes to indulge your cravings and treat the people you love.

And as I started flicking through the pages, I found myself tagging every second page. I’ll try that, I’ll try that, I’ll try that.

There’s an amazing smoked trout omelette, which I’m planning on trying this weekend…

omelette

and this delicious ‘pretty frittata’, ready for lunch (or dinner, or supper, or snack)…

pretty frittatta

If I’m not full from that yummy lunch, I’ll give either one of these a try – a semolina gnocchi with blue castello and spinach sauce or a really special beef burrito with green sauce and salsa. I think the kids will be happy with either of these, as long as I didn’t mention the spinach…

gnochi

Lastly, if I can fit even a tiny bit more in, I’d definitely like to try these lemon lime puddings. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll just start with these…

lemon lime pies

As you can see, Anna’s book is beautifully shot and the food lovingly prepared. The dishes look impressive but won’t do your head in with complicated instructions or too many tricky ingredients (just the odd special item here and there).

Cookbooks always make great gifts, and I’d think Eat In would be a particular hit with friends or family who are fans of the Master Chef franchise. Anna’s appearance on Junior Master Chef in 2010 introduced us to her love of cooking and won her many fans, and this book is a wonderful continuation of her work.

You can find out more about Anna Gare’s Eat In at the Allen and Unwin website, where you can also pick up a copy for yourself.

In the meantime, stay tuned, I might post photos of my attempts at the dishes above, if I don’t scoff them first!

 

Secrets: The Good House

If you’re looking for a book to gift to a bookish friend this Christmas, it sounds like Ann Leary’s The Good House (Allen and Unwin) might be just the ticket! Thanks to Jennie for this great review, wonderful teaser for a intriguing story…

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Ann Leary is the author of a memoir & two novels, The Good House (Allen and Unwin) being the second. I was unfamiliar with her work until now, but will be seeking out her previous books.

the good houseThe Good House is written in the first person, the voice of our protagonist Hildy Good. Hildy is a woman in her 60’s, a divorcé, a mother of two daughters, a grandmother, a realtor & an alcoholic.

She lives in the small town, Wendover Crossing, where she was born & raised. Her family indeed trace back eight generations in the town, with her eighth great-grandmother one of the accused witches tried & hanged in Salem. Due to this piece of history it is generally rumoured by locals that Hildy herself has psychic powers, a rumour she likes to play with.

Hildy makes it her business to know everyone else’s business. She shares an office building with the town Psychiatrist, Peter Newbold. She confidently  tells him that she can learn more about a person by walking through their house than he can in a session with a patient.

We enter Hildy’s life two years following an intervention by her daughters regarding her alcoholism. This is, of course, not a reality that Hildy accepts! She’s not an alcoholic! She enjoys a drink or two at social events like everyone else. Well, there may have been a DUI, but that was just one! And phonecalls to people late at night – she just likes to chat with her friends after a few drinks, she’s a gregarious person, it’s lonely in her house when she gets home!

Despite her very rational, heartfelt arguments, her family talk her into a 28 day Rehabilitation session at Hazelden Clinic.

The entire town of Wendover Crossing know that a 28 day disappearance from town means that Hildy was in rehab. So, at every public function thereafter, Hildy is a cheerful teetotaller, knowing that every eye in town is upon her!

This is where our book of secrecy begins. A labyrinth of secrets involving several people in this close knit town.

Very early on we learn that Hildy has, as many alcoholics do, two lives. She is a veritable puritan at social events. She is funny, occasionally does her psychic tricks at dinner parties & “reads minds”, she is the perfect guest.

When she gets home to her two dogs however, she indulges in her ritual visit to her cellar & her secret supply of wine where she imbibes in “1 or 2” glasses. It is more like one or two bottles & she happily walks with her dogs to the nearby lake, strips off & plunges nude into the water. It is her beautiful escape.

Hildy feels she is putting on a pretty charade but is happily maintaining her alcoholic lifestyle.

The serious secrets start leaping from the pages from this point. As Hildy knows everybody in Wendover Crossing, she knows the details of very many family lives. She detects any changes very quickly. She also becomes friends with a new couple in town & a confidante to the wife.

The beauty of The Good House is in the descriptions of the town & the people through the eyes of Hildy who knows both intimately. It’s a colourful cast of characters in this small town & Hildy brings them all beautifully to life in exquisite detail.

There is Frankie, briefly Hildy’s High School beau, who tells it like it is and plays a large role in the town; Callie & Patch with their autistic son Jake who desperately want to sell their house (which is severely damaged by Jake’s outbursts); Peter Newbold, who she also knows from school & Rebecca McAllister, new to town but quickly close to Hildy.

The strength of the developing secrets in the book lie in the fact that we are strongly invested in these people. The Good House is gripping, wonderfully detailed & funny. Sometimes laugh out loud funny (which I did!). I wanted to turn the pages as fast as I possibly could by halfway through the book as secrets became exposed. I eagerly read to find out how each piece of the puzzle fitted together.

The ending has profound implosive impact as it all comes together. Unbelievably a massive surprise awaits us at the very end.

I highly recommend The Good House. It’s a lovely light read, gripping & funny. A good stocking-filler for the readers in your life.

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You can find out more about The Good House, by Ann Leary here…

 

Suspend Your Disbelief: Strange Bodies

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s instantly attracted to pretty much anything bearing the name Theroux…

Whether it’s a book like The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux, a documentary by his son Louis, or a novel by author Marcel Theruox, the name is synonymous with quality, compelling storytelling, and more than it’s fair share of quirk.

strange bodiesMarcel’s most recent novel, Strange Bodies (Faber) is the first of his novels that I’ve read and I couldn’t put it down. I wasn’t quite sure where it was taking me, how it was going to pan out, but hey, that’s half the fun of reading isn’t it?

It’s an unusual premise, presented as matter of fact…

Nicholas Slopen has been dead for months. So when a man claiming to be Nicholas turns up to visit an old girlfriend, deception seems the only possible motive.

Yet nothing can make him change his story.

From the secure unit of a notorious psychiatric hospital, he begins to tell his tale: an account of attempted forgery that draws the reader towards an extraordinary truth – a metaphysical conspiracy that lies on the other side of madness and death.

As with most good magic realism, the bizarre is unapologetically posited as as mundane, the reader’s ability to suspend their disbelief is assumed. I find this type of reading really liberating – the requirement for me to relinquish control and go with the flow of the narrative, accepting these facts exactly as they are presented – is a wonderful type of escapism.

The main protagonist, Nicholas is a complex character. He is earnest, honest and hardworking and yet he is somewhat unlikeable in his awkward single-mindedness. Regardless, as I’m sure was intended by the author, I couldn’t help but feel his frustration and despair acutely, as he tries to reconnect with those he loves, both before and after ‘the procedure’…

“In all the startling discomfort of coming to my senses in a new carcass, I don’t recall a more agonising moment than this. All the shame and the pain and the pitying eyes of strangers. My awareness of myself as weak and hopeless. What made it harder was my perception that while I was broken and tearful, Leonora was speaking with a voice of reasoning tenderness. I was the one clinging to a fantasy about our marriage as insane as Roger N’s delusion that Mossad has implanted a radio transmitter in his brain.”

His physical and emotional pain throughout the novel is raw and quite terrifying, yet the book itself remains quite humorous. The comedy is black, obscure and entertaining.

Interestingly too, I learnt a great deal reading this novel. Marcel is obviously incredibly expert in the field of literature and history. His knowledge of the eighteenth century lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson is beyond thorough, and his appreciation for random trivia relating to writers, texts and vintage health conditions is impressive. He had me googling names and references throughout the whole novel and I was fascinated as, page by page, I picked up random facts that I’ll probably never use again, but enjoyed completely.

Strange Bodies is a fascinating book, especially suited to those who love magic realism or who love shameless literary name-dropping (which, as it happens, I do). I’d say, take a look at this literary, science fiction, black comedy, high brow, fantastical novel – you won’t be disappointed.

You can find out more about Marcel Theroux’s novel at the Allen and Unwin website here.

 

Apple Tree Yard

Today’s review from Kate had me intrigued… what kind of book could have you wondering on your own decision-making, and not just that of characters in the book?

Here’s what she thought of Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty (Allen and Unwin)…

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I always love getting new books to review from Mandi, as I never know what I am in for when I begin reading. Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty was no exception, and it actually got me thinking about what makes us make the decisions we do….

apple tree yardWhat makes one woman who has a seemingly perfect life make one rash decision that changes her life forever?

Yvonne Carmichael is a geneticist, highly respected and regarded in her field who, one day , for no apparent reason other that a look from a stranger makes one very rash decision that leads to diabolical consequences.

He kept looking at me as he rose to his feet, if we had met before, the look might have said, ‘oh, it’s you’. But we hadn’t met before and so it said something entirely other – but still with an element of recognition, I looked right back, and all was decided in that instant, although I didn’t understand that for a very long time.

And so begins a torrid, unconventional love affair with a man as mysterious as he is captivating. Yvonne seems to lose all sense of herself and the life that she has built with her husband and becomes blind to the inconsistencies and elusive behaviours of her lover. Her actions spin out of control and lead to a vicious assault and unexpected violence that sees her facing murder charges along with her increasingly mysterious lover.

Part psychological thriller, part exploration of human nature and morality Louise Doughty has written a true page turner. From the streets of London to murder the trial in the Old Bailey the story is gripping.  As the story unfolds you can’t help but wonder why the main character is doing what she is doing and how it can all turn so horribly wrong. It made me what to shake her and say ‘can’t you see what he is doing’!!

This is the seventh novel by Louise Doughty, her last Whatever You Love, being short-listed for the Costa Novel Award and long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has won awards for radio drama and short stories and is a cultural commentator for UK and international newspapers and broadcasts regularly on the BBC.

I’d definitely recommend this as a fast-paced, sometime perplexing read which would suit lovers of thrillers and crime fiction alike.

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You can find out more about  Apple Tree Yard on the Allen and Unwin website, and more about the accomplished author, Louise Doughty here.

Behind the Scenes: The Fence-Painting Fortnight of Destiny

If you watch a bit of TV, you’ll know that each station has its own stable… old faithful journalists, presenters and comedians who get wheeled out whenever the execs have a new idea. For Channel Ten, for many years it was Rove McManus. His old mate Peter Helliar still gets an airing here and there. Andy G aka Andrew Gunsberg aka Osher Gunsberg is a favourite and James Mathison is about to get another stint, this time on morning TV.

One familiar face that’s been a little more sporadic in her appearances is the very witty Meshel Laurie. She’s popped up in spots for years now – on Rove Live, The Circle, Can of Worms – but it’s not been until this year that she’s been given her own regular seat at the desk. Funny, sometimes cutting but always clever, Meshel has sat on the panel of Ten’s new This Week Live. Although it’s finished up for this season, I hope they’ll consider another run, it was pretty good, thanks in no small part of Meshel.

meshel laurie

Now, you might be wondering why on earth I’m going on about TV shows. Well, it’s because I’ve recently read Meshel’s memoir The Fence-Painting Fortnight of Destiny and in short, a lot of Meshel’s recollections focus on, and in some ways go to explain the fickle nature of Australia entertainment – TV, radio and the comedy scene…

‘As I look back over my life, I see great lessons learnt from revered spiritual teachers, but also from friends, strangers and even the odd junkie prostitute. I remember moments of enlightenment that arrived with a bang, and moments born of the self-reflection only true boredom can provide. I made a few decisions while painting a fence once. Those decisions turned out to be very noisy indeed.’

Comedian and radio and TV personality Meshel Laurie was once Michelle Laurie, whose story begins in Queensland. Michelle survived her Catholic schooldays but by Year Nine had morphed into Meshel, who daydreamed of moving to Melbourne – home of Dogs in Space and the back room of the Espy.

Meshel’s insider’s perspective on the 1990s comedy scene is intimate and more than a little surprising. She paints a picture of a close-knit environment and tells before-they-were-famous stories about up-and-comers who are today’s household names, and about the kindness of comic superstars she encountered along the way: Dave Hughes, Julia Morris, Rove, Wil Anderson, Wendy Harmer and others. We find out about the workings of an inner-city brothel, what it’s like to be ‘the girl on Rove’ and how fence-painting can help save a life.

We love our comedy, stand-up is admired and supported, you just have to watch how the city comes alive around the country’s Comedy Festivals. Still, audiences are transient, our attention fleeting. Popularity can fade, as can an entertainer’s favour with agents and promoters if they don’t play their cards just right…

I must have been an arsehole during that season of ‘Diary Belles’. I don’t remember being one, and I just couldn’t bear to ask anyone directly, but I must’ve been to have been passed over like that. It was an incredibly painful lesson in what happens when I count my chickens before they’ve hatched. I wish I could say I learnt my lesson, but I’ve had to learn it so many painful times since then that it’s just embarrassing. 

Like any good memoir, The Fence-Painting Fortnight of Destiny drops plenty of names (it’s a veritable who’s who of Australian comedy) and shares plenty of behind-the-scenes insights into the Australian entertainment industry. Meshel is brutally honest, mostly about herself and sometimes about others. As we know, those who laugh loudest on our TVs tend to struggle the most with demons off-screen and true to form, Meshel is absolutely no exception…

I was in that kind of depression that makes you feel like you’re in the bottom of a very dark hole. It’s so dark down there that you can’t see anything to cling onto, or any foothold to pull yourself out, and every thing you grab for crumbles in your hands. Eventually your energy flags from the struggle and you start to consider just sitting down, closing your eyes and waiting to die. I tried everything that had worked for me in the past. I exercised and ate well, I listened to relaxation tapes and got plenty of rest. I tried to find some hobbies, learn a language. I wrote and performed a comedy festival show, and I even started taking drugs again, although this time around they were antidepressants prescribed by my doctor. Nothing made a difference. I was really sinking this time, and I didn’t know what else to try and pull myself back up.

I googled ‘Buddhism Brisbane’.

The prose in most memoirs can be a little clunky, it’s difficult to get the pacing of  remembered story exactly right, but overall Meshel has done a pretty good job. It’s nicely readable, inherently hopeful and easily relatable (largely due to the familiar names and places). It was really interesting to find out a little bit more about what makes this funny lady tick.

If you’re a fan, you’ll love this book. If not, it’ll still hold your attention as a cracking tale of a rise, a fall, and a rise again, against the backdrop of Australian TV and radio.

If you’d like to find out more about The Fence-Painting Fortnight of Destiny visit here, and you might also like to visit Meshel’s blog here.

 

Breaking Point: Ambition

At our last reviewer get together, TBYL Reviewer Narelle grabbed today’s book the first chance she got, sure that she’d seen it some place before. And indeed she had…

Originally published in the 80s Julie Burchill’s Ambition has been recently re-released by Allen and Unwin in order, I can only assume, to attempt to satisfy the appetites of a new generation of readers who, in 2013 discovered an insatiable desire for erotic adventure.

No taboo is left unbroken, no fantasy left unfulfilled in this shocking expose of the lengths to which one woman will go become editor of the UK’s bestselling tabloid.

It’s a saucy adult read, but as you’ll see below, Narelle was most definitely of the opinion that this novel is also a compelling story, in retrospect almost a period piece, over and above the raunch…

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“I’m sick of breaking bimbos – it’s no fun, no challenge. Strong, hard career girls – they’re the new filet mignon of females. Girls like you. Oh, I’m going to have fun breaking you, Susan.”

ambition

Tobias Pope ruled his communications empire with fear and loathing – his employees feared him and he loathed them. But he may have met his match in Susan Street, the young, beautiful and nakedly ambitious deputy of his latest newspaper acquisition. As they fight, shop and orgy from Soho to Rio and from Sun City to New York City, getting what she wants – the top job – seems so simple. If she doesn’t break first.

Susan Street has the editorship of the Sunday Best, a London tabloid with rising readership, firmly in her sights.

Having done time in the deputy chair, she’s more than ready to take over – until the sudden death of her boss. With a new and fearsome owner in Tobias Pope, Susan suddenly has to prove her fierce ambition and willingness to do anything to secure the covered role.

Susan makes a Rumpelstiltskin-like bargain with Tobias, agreeing to perform 6 unnamed tasks. If she can complete them, the job she wants so desperately will be hers. Tobias sets out to “break” Susan and make her question just what she will or won’t do in the name of Ambition.

Though Julie Burchill’s novel is set and was written in the late 80’s, her sharply drawn portrait of modern workplaces, relationships and dilemmas is as relevant now as it was over 20 years ago. Reminiscent of Lee Tulloch and Candace Bushnell, Ambition is a rollicking read that offers both rampant escapism and biting social commentary.

If you’re looking for a read to take on holiday, on the train or even just to take you away from the world for while, go along for the ride with Susan Street – it’s a highly enjoyable one, fabulously adult – in the author’s own words, “…even now, it makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like Anne of Green Gables.”

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You can find out more about Ambition here…

 

Meeting Christie Thompson

Last night, we held another great online event, this time chatting with Christie Thompson, author of the striking coming-of-age novel Snake Bite (Allen and Unwin). Christie joined us on Facebook, where we were able to find out more about what compelled her to write this gritty novel and how Canberra locals have reacted to her portrayal of their suburban landscapes.

In case you weren’t able to tune in on the night, here’s a transcript of our chat with Christie…

TBYL: To start off the questions tonight, a broad one… Christie, can you please give us a little insight into what compelled you to write Snake Bite?

0_Thompson_ChristieChristie: I was thinking big. I wanted to write a coming-of-age story that would define a generation of teenagers. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded in doing that, but the novel is definitely very contemporary and it captures a pretty specific moment in time. It is also quite pertinent to what teenage girls are going through now. I was reading a lot of pop-feminism, like Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs and Emily Maguire’s Princesses and Pornstars.

TBYL: Did you speak with teenagers themselves?

Christie: I was also influenced by the way television portrays sexuality in young women. Shows like Jersey Shore and Ladette to Lady influenced the voyeuristic tone of Snake Bite, so that was my ‘research’ more than talking to teens. But I live in a group house with people around my characters’ ages. So that helped in capturing the tone.

TBYL: The ‘moment of time’ component was very interesting I thought – very contemporary, but as a reader I could also identify with some of the the Mum’s time-markers (music, tv etc). Was that deliberate?

Christie: Yes, it was deliberate. The 1990s, when Jez’s Mum was a teenager suddenly seems like a lifetime ago, even though Helen is only 33 (in 2009). It makes older readers realise the significance of time passing, and that there are currently a new generation going through the same things we went through in prevous decades.

TBYL: I found that absolutely fascinating Christie, although it made me feel a little old!

Christie: It makes me feel old too, Mandi. I am closer in age to Helen than Jez, which helped in making the references to the 1990s authentic!

TBYL Reader, Andy: Christie, I’ve read a few conflicting reviews about your book. I haven’t read it yet myself. What I would like to know is what was your initial target age group for this book and did it change once you finished writing it?

Christie: I’m not sure what conflicting views you are referring to, but am very interested to find out! Snake Bite was written as adult literature, not YA. That was my intention, and hasn’t changed. You will find it in the adult section, not in young adult.

TBYL Reader, Andy: One review said it should be in schools as essential reading and another stated for early 20’s and older.

Christie: It contains quite a lot of swearing, drug/alcohol use and some pretty tame sex. I’m not sure if that will wash on the school’s curriculum, but I have given several author talks to school age kids (Years 7-12). It’s really not as shocking as Puberty Blues, though…They were 13 year old having sex in the back of panel vans!

TBYL: Christie, how much of the book is based on your own experiences of Canberra, and did you get much ‘push-back’ from the locals?

Christie: I have lived in Canberra all my life, but to be honest the book was less an examination of Canberra as ‘place’, than suburbia as place. In that sense, it really could have been set in any remote outer-suburban enclave. The locals have been GREAT so far! They are very interested to see their neighbourhoods in fiction and have been so supportive. Overwhelmingly the response has been that it is a bit of a negative representation of Canberra, but also very accurate!

TBYL: I thought that might be the case – have you had any feedback from readers regarding whether they identify with the place (and the players), even those not in Canberra?

snake biteChristie: I’ve had mostly good feedback, which is a bit annoying. As a writer, I really wanted to get a dialogue going, and be controversial. It seems people are just loving it. Give me more backlash, I reckon.

TBYL: Ha! I’m surprised that you’ve not got a little bit, it’s a pretty harsh picture that you paint.

Christie: Sure, it has been observed that it is ‘gritty’ etc. Maybe people are being polite? I wish they’d tell me what they REALLY think and I’d love to hear that it got a discussion going. For example the scene where Jez assaults the guy at the party…is she warranted in those actions? Is Casey really a ‘slut’? Does Lukey deserve Jez’s forgiveness? Does Casey?

TBYL: I loved the fact that Jez belted the guy! I’d love to know what other people thought. The ‘slut’ issue is so much more complex… I’d hate to be ‘slut-shaming’ but it’s pretty realistic that peers would label each other like that.

Christie: Exactly. I think it is a complex issue. I hate the term ‘slut’, but it is a term certainly relevant and ubiquitously applied by teenage girls.

TBYL: It’s really complex when Casey starts accusing Jez of being a slut. My immediate reaction was… ‘pot calling kettle black’ but then I felt ashamed of myself…

Christie: Or are they both warranted in exploring their sexuality in their own manner? It’s not clear cut… I tried hard not to be didactic, just to show my characters ‘finding’ themselves, so to speak…

TBYL: True. I think you balanced it very well.

TBYL: How do you feel about the ‘coming of age’ tag that is used to describe your novel?

Christie: That’s fine, really. The coming-of-age novel is a longstanding tradition in literature, although it is overwhelmingly from the male perspective. I believe there was a term called ‘bildungsroman’ (hope that’s right?) in German applied centuries ago to the male coming-of-age novel. The female perspectives are too few and far between, in my opinion. That is probably why my book has been so compared to Puberty Blues.

TBYL: I think you’re right, hard to think of others… I’m sure they must be out there though? Surely?

Christie: Looking for Alibrandi (very tame, though, and YA)… My Brilliant Career

TBYL: Did you consciously work to have Snake Bite help fill that literary gap?

Christie: No, not really, although I think it possibly does fill a gap! I’d always enjoyed the coming-of-age novel. It’s such an interesting time in one’s life, full of self-discovery and a really unique way of seeing one’s world, at that time!

TBYL: Did you want us to like Jez? I know that I did…

Christie: I hope people like her! She is a bit petulant at times, but also very dry, funny and vulnerable (despite her tough exterior).

TBYL: I’d challenge anyone to find any teenager who isn’t petulant at times!

Christie: Definitely. And who wants to read about characters who are perfectly sweet and nice and never have any conflicts! Not me!  I hope people can relate with her. I had a great time writing in her voice. She (and the other characters) became so real to me, it is almost like they are friends of mine. Does that make me a little mad? Maybe. When I finished the manuscript it was bittersweet. Great to have finished but also I knew I wouldn’t get to spend time hanging out with Jez, Lukey, Casey, Helen and the rest anymore…

TBYL: I’d be interested to know, who influences you as a writer? Do you have a favourite author/book?

Christie: I love Australian lit, gritty realism stuff. Texts that tackle meaty societal issues and have good subtext that gets you thinking. Some of my favourites are Kate Grenville (Lilian’s Story, Dark Places) and I like Christos Tsiolkas, Michel Houllebecq, Tim Winton… So many authors… Of course the coming of age novel. And I love many classics too. Hemingway, Austen, Toni Morrison, Ian McEwen. My bookshelves are overflowing.

Today I bought a Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Harris and another Kate Grenville. I did a double major in English lit at uni and am *nearly* finished a PhD. Reading widely is enjoyable.

TBYL: What was the last thing that you read?

Christie: I am reading through Thomas Harris’s books. Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and next I’m be reading Hannibal. I tend to get stuck on an author and read heaps of their stuff. Recently was impressed by Joyce Carol Oates and Cormac McCarthy, so I will be seeking more of both of them!

TBYL: I’ll ask one last question. I always have to ask, what’s next for Christie Thompson?

Christie: I have so many things I want to do, and writing another novel is high on that list. I’ve got some ideas and just need to find the time/space/money to get another project off the ground.

It was fantastic to chat to Christie, and I can’t wait to see what she puts together for her next novel!

If you’d like to read the TBYL review of Snake Bite, you’ll find it here. If you’d like to pick up a copy of the book, visit A&U here…

And of course, stay tuned for our next online TBYL Event, coming up at the end of October!

 

 

TBYL Event: Chatting with Christie Thompson

Yesterday I reviewed the edgy, coming-of-age novel Snake Bite (Allen and Unwin) by Canberra-based author Christie Thompson. You can read my review here if you missed it…

As a follow-up, I’m really excited to announce that I’ve been able to book in an online chat with Christie on the evening of Monday, 30 September 2013.

christie thompson college

It’s another TBYL Event that’s free, interactive, and online – a great chance to get to know another fantastic Australian author.

Christie will be chatting on the TBYL Facebook page on the evening of Monday, 30 September 2013 and you can join us at 7:30pm to ask Christie questions, and get involved in in the conversation.

It’s going to be a great opportunity to find out a little more about Christie, and about her no holds barred brand of story-telling.

If you’d like to make sure that you don’t forget to tune in, you can RSVP to the event here…

 

With a Can of JD: Snake Bite

With so many books on my Reading Pile, I’m really starting to appreciate a book that I can power through in a day or two. I especially like it when I can move quickly through a novel because I’ve been completely caught up in the rush of the story.

snake biteChristie Thompson’s Snake Bite (Allen and Unwin) pulled me forward, through a smoke-filled, booze fuelled suburban landscape towards, with equal likelihood, oblivion or redemption.

Jez is seventeen and lives with her alcoholic single mum in a government rental in Canberra’s outer-suburbs, with little money or future prospects. As well as suffering from terminal boredom, Jez has got epic First World Problems: where is her next pill coming from, what will her first tattoo be, and how will she ever lose her virginity?

Recently Jez has been having weird feelings about her best friend, emo kid Lukey – is she just bored or does she really want him? And if she makes a move on him (how to make a move on him?), will that endanger their friendship? So when effervescent hipster Melbournite Laura moves to town and starts macking on with Lukey, what is Jez to do but seek guidance from sexually experienced next-door-neighbour stripper, Casey? At the same time, Jez’s mum hooks up with a local bartender, placing a strain on their already fragile relationship.

Over the course of one blazing summer, Jez runs a gauntlet of new experiences and discovers the real meaning of home.

As the story begins, the temptation is to dislike Jez. She’s pierced, snarky and often high. Her cynicism and detachment from her family and peers is fairly common teenage fare, and I wondered whether I was going to be bored by little more than a tale of typical teen angst.

I needn’t have worried – I wasn’t bored, not at all. A little appalled at times maybe, but never bored.

Fairly quickly, Jez reveals herself to be an beautifully written, endearing character. She’s not likeable because you feel sorry for her, although of course you might…

The front door was wide open, so was the flyscreen, but there were no lights on in the house. I whipped around quickly to check to see if Mum had driven home; her white Toyota hatchback was parked in the driveway. I took a few steps until I was standing just outside the front door.

‘Mum?’ I called. ‘MUUUUM?’

I hooked one arm around the doorframe and ran my hand along the wall inside the house, searching for the light switch, and turned on the front hall light.

‘Mum?’ I pushed the front door open a little wider; I was half shaking and I was aware of my full bladder.

‘JESUS!’

The first thing I saw was Mum’s strappy sandals, strewed half a metre apart in the front hall. The next thing I saw was Mum’s bare feet, at angles, underneath the archway that separated the front hall and the living room. My heart leapt into my mouth.

‘Mum!’

Frantic, I kneeled at her side. She was fully clothed, belly down on the carpet, her arms at her sides. I leaned close to her face. I could hear her breathing. And I could smell the alcohol on her breath. Bundy and Coke.

…but because it’s pretty obvious that she’s asking questions, considering the logic of her ‘friends’ and in her very low-key, introverted way, challenging some of the expectations that her group have of her and of other girls of her age. I was cheering for her, desperately hoping that she’d pull back from the brink and take advantage of the opportunities that would seem to be being presented themselves to her.

Snake Bite is set in Canberra, but I think the depiction of the outer suburbs could be transferred into on pretty much any state. It’s not pretty, has more than a hint of bogan about it and is clearly somewhere that Jez and Lukey want to escape from. The story is set in summer, and I could almost feel the heat coming out of the pages. The weather, the summer clothing, the music and hot nights set up a most immersive reading experience.

Somewhat predictably Christie Thompson’s Snake Bite has been compared to Kathy Lette’s Puberty Blues. It did remind me of Kathy’s book, and it’s hard not to compare Jez and Debbie and the often reckless behaviour of their peers. Still, I actually like Christie’s novel much more than I liked Puberty Blues. I think Snake Bite is essentially much more positive, a more hopeful story.

It’s a gritty, sweary and sweaty coming-of-age novel, that leaves you feeling, basically, kind of good…

If you’d like to find out more about Christie Thompson’s Snake Bite visit the A&U site here.

 

The Comfort of Lies

I’m welcoming another brand new TBYL Reviewer today, Katie Haden. Katie is a fellow book-lover, adores the classics and can’t wait to tell us all about how she’s reading differently with TBYL.

Today Katie is sharing her thoughts on the recently released The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers (Allen and Unwin)…

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I’ll admit, when I started reading The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers, I was a bit sceptical. I’m not a huge fan of traditional ‘chick lit’ and I tend to stick to the safety of the classics. But… if you’re like me, have no fear: in this novel Randy Susan Meyers takes you on a journey that is so personal and intriguing you won’t want to put the book down.

comfort of liesSet in Boston and surrounds, the book is as much a story of the city and its history as the people that call it home. Three women, from different areas, backgrounds and lifestyles are drawn together as the result of an affair six years ago. Tia is young, and gave up her daughter for adoption after having an affair with Nathan. Caroline, a doctor is the adoptive mother of Tia’s daughter, and doubts her ability or love for motherhood; and Juliette is Nathan’s wife, who discovers the truth about Tia and sets out to uncover all the facts.

All three women have different stories to tell. Some readers have said that when reading this book, they didn’t understand the point of view of one, or even two of the characters, but I loved all of them. They gave me a chance to see the same situation from three very different perspectives. I personally loved the character of Caroline, because she represented a voice that is often drowned out or too scared to speak up: the woman who isn’t sure about her instincts. Offering a unique perspective from the eyes of an adoptive mother, Meyers tackles the challenges of motherhood and work, and the guilt that sometimes comes from trying to choose both. Juliette similarly has to make decisions about her home life in order to fulfil the role of what she sees as the ‘perfect wife and mother’, while Tia must confront her past in order to move forward.

Overall, I think Meyers is showing the reader how deciding to tell little lies to protect people may at times be the right decision, whereas in other circumstances it may prove to be the worst possible course of action. All three main characters lack confidence and this in itself is one of the greatest challenges they must overcome. The Comfort of Lies has a powerful message about finding your voice and sharing a truth that should definitely be heard.

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If you’d like to find out more about The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers visit here…