snake bite

Top 5 TBYL Posts of 2013

Before I forge ahead into a new and exciting year (2014 promises to be pretty wild), I thought I’d take a moment to crunch some stats and share with you the five most-read posts of 2013…

snake biteFirst up was With a Can of JD: Snake Bite featuring a brand-new coming of age novel from Allen and Unwin.

Christie Thompson’s Snake Bite pulled me forward, through a smoke-filled, booze fuelled suburban landscape towards, with equal likelihood, oblivion or redemption… You can read the full review here.


meshel laurieNext was Behind the Scenes: The Fence-Painting Fortnight of Destiny, a really popular post on Meshel Laurie’s memoir.

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… You can read the full review here.


new york cult recipesComing in third was my Hardcover Christmas: Five Titles, featuring five beautiful books that I thought might be good for Chrissy this year.

I think it’s been fairly well established that books make great presents, wouldn’t you agree? It must then be said that a wonderful hardcover book is possibly one of the best gifts that one person can give another. They’re readable, durable and substantial. They wrap so nicely, sit on the shelf so proudly, and can be enjoyed many times over… Read the full article here.


mwf2013To my delight, number four was my write-up of the Melbourne Writers Festival MWF 2013, Take 1. A wrap-up of the first Friday and Saturday of the festivel (my favourite time of year), this article was enjoyed by many.

Singer weaved a well-considered logic, making it pretty clear that all of us can and should strive to find a way to contribute to the improvement of the lot of the world’s children, those who are unwell or vulnerable and creatures with no voice to speak up for themselves. He stopped short at saying that we have a moral obligation to do so, but essentially… You can read the full post here.


wicked windFinally, at number five we’ve got another ‘compilation’ post, featuring three of the eBooks that I’ve reviewed during the year. Three eBooks, sure to please was a snap shot of some of the great fiction on offer in the electronic form.

The first thing that I noticed about this fun paranormal action-story is that it kicks off with a fantastic fight scene, featuring two tough women ready to save the day. A brilliant start, followed up by a really nice premise – it’s lead protagonist’s unique special ability – the ability to command the wind… Read the reviews here.
It’s been an incredible year, full of absolutely incredible books to read. My Reading Pile has not once got smaller than ginormous, and that, my friends, puts a massive smile on my face.

Thank-you to all – the writers, the publishers, the reviewers and most of all, the readers, for yet another spectacular year of That Book You Like…


Did you have a favourite TBYL post this year? I’d love to hear about it…


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!



Five fun things for this week…

I’m a bit scattered today, I’m booked in for a health-related-thingy (I’ll spare you the details) and it’s got my head a little all over the place. In an effort to get my thoughts in order a little, I thought I’d do one of my ‘five things’ posts today  – there’s lots of great things coming up.

jewelleryFirst up, if you’re looking for some goodies for the present cupboard, or indeed, a treat for yourself, the TBYL Store has a big jewellery sale going on at the moment. It’s here on Facebook and you can pick up an amazing range of great value pieces, many with free delivery. It’s on until next Tuesday!

Secondly, don’t forget that you’re invited to join us in chatting about this month’s TBYL Book Club book, The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane starting next Monday, 30 September and running through to Wednesday. If you’d like to join us, visit our Facebook page.

the night guestIf you’ve not read Fiona’s book yet, never fear, it’s available as a Penguin ebook here…

I’ll be posting my review and an interview with Fiona in the next day or so (all going well).

Next up, is our next TBYL Event, an online conversation with author Christie Thompson. Christie will be chatting about her new book Snake Bite (Allen and Unwin) on the evening of the 30 September 2013.

christie thompson college

I can’t wait, I loved her novel (you can read my review here) and am looking forward to hearing about where she got her inspiration for this sharp, witty coming-of-age novel.

You can RSVP here for the event!

The fourth thing to mention is that I’m going to spend some time on Pinterest. And Goodreads. And Instagram. If you don’t follow TBYL already, don’t forget to give us a click. Lots of pretty pictures and linky-links going on all the time.

currently reading

Finally, I’m going to be reading and reading and reading. I’ve lots of books on the go, here’s just a few…

It’s going to be a great couple of weeks, I hope you’ll join us!! Feel


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.


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.


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.