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Friday, April 24, 2015

AUDIOBOOK: 'Slam' written by Nick Hornby, narrated by Nicholas Hoult


From the BLURB:

'There was this time when everything seemed to have come together. And so obviously it was time to go and screw it all up.'

Sam is sixteen and a skater. Just so there are no terrible misunderstandings: skating = skateboarding. There's no ice. Life is ticking along nicely for Sam; his Mum's got rid of her rubbish boyfriend, he's thinking about college and he's met someone. Alicia.

Then a little accident happens. One with big consequences for someone just finding his way in life. Sam can't run (let alone skate) away from this one. He's a boy facing a man's problems and the question is - has he got what it takes to confront them?

Written by: Nick Hornby
Narrated by: Nicholas Hoult
Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
Unabridged Audiobook

‘Slam’ was the 2007 contemporary young adult novel from Nick Hornby, and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since Hornby said this very intelligent thing about YA books:

“I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal, and as a consequence, I’ve discovered a previously ignored room at the back of the bookstore that’s filled with masterpieces I’ve never heard of.”

I always feel like hugging that quote.

So, ‘Slam’ is Hornby’s first and only young adult book to date – but now that I’ve read it (via listening on audiobook) I’m really crossing my fingers that he writes something else for this readership because ‘Slam’ was just so darn good.

It’s hard to pinpoint what I love most about Nick Hornby’s books. I’ve read most of them and most recently fell head-over-heels in love with his 2014 book ‘Funny Girl’ – and now that I’ve read his YA offering in ‘Slam’ I can safely say that a real strength in his writing for younger audiences is that he brings a lot of his adult sensibilities over. ‘Slam’, without giving too much away, is all about teen pregnancy from the perspective of 16-year-old father-to-be Sam Jones. Like with most of Hornby’s books, we first meet our protagonist from a place of “WTF have I done?!” and the rest of the novel is an attempt to untie the knots of their lives.

I must admit – I went in a little sceptical of a “teen pregnancy” book from the perspective of the teen father. Even as I count Angela Johnson’s ‘The First Part Last’ (which is on the same subject) as one of my favourite books of all time. What’s great about ‘Slam’ is that Hornby brings no preaching, tick-the-boxing “sorting teen problems” feel to this book. Hornby and Sam both know what a monumental fuck-up this is, and Sam is suitably terrified – especially because the men in his family have a history of repeating this particular mistake, and he’s well aware of the repercussions. This repeating of history also means that Sam sets himself up to be a better father than his own, who is uneducated and wholly uninterested in helping to raise his son.

I also wonder if part of my loving ‘Slam’ so much was the audiobook itself … it is narrated by actor Nicholas Hoult, who had a break-out role in the movie adaptation of Hornby’sAbout a Boy’ playing Marcus Brewer. Perhaps because of Hoult’s previous affiliation with the Hornby universe, he seemed perfectly suited to narrating Sam’s story – more likely though is just that Hoult is a fine, fine actor and as such a grand audiobook narrator. There’s real vulnerability in Hoult’s reading, even as he also hits those comedic marks perfectly. Because of course, this being a Nick Hornby book there are a lot of laughs interspersed throughout the quite weighty topic of teen pregnancy – from Sam’s conversations with an imaginary Tony Hawk, to the dreams he has of the father he will grow into.

There are many differences between a baby and an I-Pod. And one of the biggest is, no ones going to mug you for your baby. 

I loved ‘Slam’.  This is a really tender and funny portrayal of what happens when a teenage boy desperately wants to take responsibility for one of the biggest mistakes (and loves) of his life. Nick Hornby has long been a beloved writer of adult fiction with tricky characters butting heads against God-awful situations, and I was thrilled to discover that his YA turn is a similarly evocative exploration. Narrated by a young Nicholas Hoult (circa 2007), Sam’s voice shines through in all his earnest, shit-scaredness.

5/5

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The best way to change gendered reading habits


For the record – stories are for everyone, they have no gender.

A little something I wrote for Daily Life - and good timing too with the winner of The Stella Prize announced tonight! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Melbourne Writers Festival - 30 Under 30


Hello Darling Readers,

So I have some exciting news to report - I've been chosen as one of Melbourne Writers Festival's '30 Under 30' which is celebrating the Festival's 30th Anniversary by putting the spotlight on Melbourne's "next generation of writers," and I'm one of them! 

Along with 29 other truly fabulous, writerly individuals - MWF wants to send us to writers Festivals around Australia and overseas, but we need your help to do it! 

A Pozible crowd-funding campaign has been set up to support the 30 Under 30, with a target goal of A$30,000 to be reached by May 9! 

If you would like to pledge to this campaign, that would be awesome. You can donate as little as $2 (which is totes tax deductible, yo!) or as much as $1,000+ (woah, moneybags!) 

MWF explains exactly how the donated money will be used: 

"Melbourne Writers Festival is a not for profit organisation, and funds raised will go directly towards benefiting these 30 young Victorian writers through flights, accommodation and travel per diems towards various literary festivals globally and nationally."

I love books and writing and there's no other industry I'd want to be in, but it can be a struggle trying to forge a path in the Arts world. 

Richard Bach once said; A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit. Well, y'know sometimes quitting is mighty tempting - but then something like the #MWF30 comes along, and just that recognition of your work that is done in solitary, can be quite lonesome and you assume is going by unnoticed, can be enough to keep fuelling your imagination and ambition. 

I'm truly grateful to Lisa Dempster and the entire Melbourne Writers Festival team for this recognition and opportunity - and if you wanted to help all of us by donating to the crowd funding campaign, well that would be amazing and much-appreciated. 

You can check out the MWF 30 page here 
and donate to the Pozible campaign here 

Thank you! 

Friday, April 10, 2015

'Lumberjanes' Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen


From the BLURB:

Five best friends spending the summer at Lumberjane scout camp... defeating yetis, three-eyed wolves, and giant falcons... what’s not to love?! Friendship to the max! Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together...and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! Not only is it the second title launching in our new BOOM! Box imprint but LUMBERJANES is one of those punk rock, love-everything-about-it stories that appeals to fans of basically all excellent things. It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gravity Falls and features five butt-kicking, rad teenage girls wailing on monsters and solving a mystery with the whole world at stake. And with the talent of acclaimed cartoonist Noelle Stevenson, talented newcomer Grace Ellis writing, and Brooke Allen on art, this is going to be a spectacular series that you won’t want to miss.


This is ‘Lumberjanes’ Volume One, collecting issues #1-#4 of this popular and amazing comic book series released by Boom! Studios and created by Ross Richie and Shannon Watters. The idea for ‘Lumberjanes’ came from Boom! Studios editor Shannon Watters approaching writer Grace Ellis with an idea to create a girl-centric comic series, from there Brooke A. Allen was bought in for initial character designs and Noelle Stevenson as a co-writer (the eagle-eyed amongst you will recognise Stevenson's artwork from Rainbow Rowell's 'Fangirl'). 

A single eight-issue story arc was originally planned, but the series received such critical acclaim and fan-response was so huge that it’s now an ongoing series (hallelujah!).

Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five besties enjoying their summer at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniguigul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types – Miss Quinzella girls are known as ‘Lumberjanes’. But as the summer starts unfolding, the Lumberjanes of Roanoke cabin (love this reference, btw!) get the sense that something fishy is afoot – there’s a weird Bearwoman, talking foxes that warn them of “the kitten holy”, sea monsters in the lake and yetis in the woods. The Lumberjanes intend to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding their summer camp – and all while upholding the Lumberjanes Field Manual!


This series is the best. THE. BEST! I can’t even put into words the awesomeness that is ‘Lumberjanes’ – it’s like ‘Goonies’ with an extra dose of fantasy in the adventure, there’s a Buffy’s Scooby-gang sensibility, and doses of magical realism that at times reminded me of Karen Russell’s short stories (like ‘Haunting Olivia’ – because I could totally see these Lumberjanes going crab sledding!).


Let me see if I can breakdown the awesomeness of this series, shall we? There’s Jo, the cool-headed one of the group who uses math, science and logic to help get the gang out of sticky situations (she rocks the Fibonacci sequence in one ‘Goonies’-esque escape scene that totally rocks!).


April loves taking notes, making lists and puzzle-solving. She has a flair for the dramatic, adores a good pun and while she’s physically the smallest of the group, she dominates at arm-wrestling.
Molly is a skilled archer, but sometimes worries that she doesn’t contribute enough to the group – she wears the hell out of a Davy Crockett hat, and is a great cheerleader for her friends.

Mal looks like a punk-rocker, but she’s a Discovery Channel-aholic and is the very cautious member of the group, who will do anything to save her friends if they’re in trouble.

Ripley is the most energetic of the group – she’s got a mean karate-chop and does a great ‘fastball special’. She’s like a can of fizzy drink that someone’s just shook up and is completely hilarious.

These protagonists are so darn brilliant and diverse, I adored each and every one of them. And then there are the secondary characters who also kick-butt: Rosie the camp director whose like a tattooed rockabilly mama-bear, and Jen the Roanoke cabin's scout-leader who takes her job and protection of the girls very seriously.


I also loved that two of the main characters have a budding romance that’s beginning to unfold in Volume One – Molly and Mal have some completely adorable scenes of timid attraction, and I can’t wait to see where they lead because I’m already shipping them so hard!


This comic series is funny as all get out – there’s a testosterone-fuelled male camp director who’s like a caricature of misogyny, proclaiming he’s going to “catch a fish by wrestling it away from a bear!”. And the way these girls take every challenge (be it lake-monster, wrestling statues or crazed scouting lads) in stride is both admirable and brilliant.

‘Lumberjanes’ has set a new benchmark for comic books with me – I can see myself becoming an annoying spruiker of the series to anyone and everyone who’ll take reading my reading advice! I’m so in love with this series, and totally kicking myself that I wasn’t aware of its existence sooner so I could have bought each issue as it came out. As it stands I’ve now got to wait until October, when Boom! Studios will be releasing Volume. 2 …


5/5

Monday, April 6, 2015

'Lion's Share' Wildcats #1 by Rachel Vincent


From the BLURB:

Abby Wade has a dangerous secret.

Two months ago, she disobeyed an order, but instead of kicking her out of the Pride, Jace offered her a job. Since then, she’s been battling a completely inappropriate crush on the young, hot Alpha. But when accepting his job offer seems like the only way to keep her skeletons safely in their closet, Abby doesn’t hesitate.

Jace Hammond has a big problem.

A rogue is slaughtering humans in his territory, and he must eliminate the threat before the entire shifter species is exposed. There could not be a worse time for Abby to accept a job he only offered as a boost to her confidence. Abby is smart, beautiful, and resilient—more than enough to distract any man from the mission. Unfortunately, she may just be the worst enforcer ever to hold the title.

As they hunt the killer, Abby’s secret becomes a threat to Jace’s authority and to her own life. But the real danger is the grip she has on his twice-shy heart.

‘Lion’s Share’ is the first book in a new paranormal romance series from author Rachel Vincent. It’s an independent spin-off of her ‘Shifters’ urban fantasy series (so she’s releasing it herself, not through and publisher), and Vincent explained the finer details in her January newsletter:

Note from Rachel Vincent (included in her January 2015 newsletter): While the Wildcats books are set in the original Shifters world and involve many characters you already know, this spinoff series will be romance, rather than urban fantasy. What's the same: The world and its rules. The action. The political landscape. My "voice" as a writer. What's different: Each book will follow a different couple, and each story will be told from both points of view. Up first? Jace and Abby.

Vincent’s new ‘Wildcats’ series actually kicked off with a short story called ‘Hunt’ which is all about Abby Wade getting caught up in a dangerous kidnapping gone awry – and it’s really important that you read ‘Hunt’ before ‘Lion’s Share’ because that story definitely forms the basis of the book’s storyline, and especially Jace and Abby’s first spark …


I will say that I didn’t think ‘Hunt’ was great, and I was dubious about going into ‘Lion’s Share’ after reading that short story. But I’m really glad I stuck with it, because I didn’t realise how much I’d missed this world until Rachel Vincent threw readers right back in it.

Last book ‘Alpha’ came out in 2010, and I remember at the time having serious reader-whiplash over the conclusion of Faythe’s story … particularly around her romantic decision between Jace and Marc. That aspect of the finale never sat well with me, partly because Vincent had done such a great job of keeping readers (and Faythe) guessing about which guy she’d pick – and in the end I just really wanted to know what became of the guy she didn’t choose … which is where ‘Lion’s Share’ picks up.

This story – the first in a series about the only stray-run territory of the Werecats (currently in the process of being officially recognised by the alpha Council as a legitimate territory and not just exiled land) – is all about Jace and Abby. Jace, of course being the man that Faythe didn’t end up with …

When we meet him again, Jace is Alpha to tabby Abby – the young girl (not so young anymore) who was locked in a cage and brutalised during the ‘Shifters’ series. Abby has gone to school to study politics, in anticipation of one day taking over her father’s territory and marrying young enforcer, Brian whom she’s been engaged to for your years. But Abby doesn’t actually love Brian, and memories of the past are always just beneath the surface threatening to rise up … when hunters who know about the existence of werecats and pose a threat to her pride’s secrecy start winding up murdered, Abby becomes an enforcer in order to help Jace track the murdering stray cats down.

Though Vincent stressed that this new series would be more paranormal romance than urban fantasy, there’s still a heady dose of mystery and whodunit at the heart of this book, but the main focus is certainly on Jace and Abby. Jace seems off-limits to the young tabby – both because he’s her alpha, she’s engaged to another man and because she knows the tricky history between Jace, Marc and Faythe (she’s also borne witness to Jace’s bedding a multitude of human women in the aftermath of his heartbreak over Faythe). But after the events of short story ‘Hunt’, Jace had started seeing Abby in a new, mature light and Abby no longer wants to sit on the sidelines of her own life.

“I’m six months younger than you were when you came to the Lazy S. If you were a virgin at seventeen and a half, I’ll bite off my own claws.” 
How was it possible that seventeen looked so much younger on her than it had felt on me? I’d thought I was ready to conquer the world, one human girl’s bed at a time.

I really enjoyed Jace and Abby’s romance, even as I still would have liked more from Jace about the after-effects of his being rejected by Faythe, and maybe something of how Abby felt coming after the great and powerful Faythe in Jace’s heart. That being said, it was great to catch up with all the main players of the ‘Shifters’ series – to see where Marc and Faythe are at, and another young traumatised tabby called Kaci, the tabby stray Mercedes.

Abby is also a great leading lady. She’s not nearly as prickly as I often found Faythe, she’s very funny and rails against everybody’s perceived fragility of her as the victim of sexual abuse.

“How do you like your eggs?” she asked, as I began pulling travel mugs form an overhead cabinet. Which I could barely reach. Being short sucks.
“I take them as an unavoidable ingredient in cakes and brownies. Or fully grown in the form of nuggets or tenders,” I added with a glance into the backyard, where the rising sun was painting the east cabin with bright streaks of light.

Jace and Abby are hot. They’ve got a lot going against them – her engagement, his precarious alpha status not withstanding – and I loved how much friction this back-story gave them. Like I said, I wish there’d been more concentration on Jace’s head-space after Faythe didn’t choose him, and how Abby felt possibly being compared to Faythe but otherwise I thought their romance was a great balance of heat and heartache, and I definitely look forward to Vincent giving readers a sneak-peak at how Abby and Jace progress in future books …

I could definitely see who the next books will be focused on in this series, and I look forward to following those characters on their journeys too. All in all – I didn’t realise how much I’d missed Rachel Vincent’s series until she came out of the blue with this one, now I think I’m getting hooked.

4.5/5

Thursday, April 2, 2015

'Brothers Ink' series by Sarah Mayberry


***This is a combined review of books 1 & 2 in Sarah Mayberry’s ‘Brothers Ink’ romance series***

I have a new favourite romance author and her name is Sarah Mayberry. I first discovered her via one of her Harlequin titles ‘Her Best Friend’ which I inhaled in a day, and from there I’ve been reading anything I can get my hands on from this Australian romance author. I have become quite the fangirl, to the point that I flipped out when I met her at the recent Australian Romance Readers Convention (ARRC) – and, yes, she is absolutely lovely! I’ve been reading her so much lately that I haven’t been able to keep pace reviewing the books of hers I’ve been reading. Hence, why I’m doing a mega joint-review of the first two books in her latest series …

‘Brothers Ink’ is her independent erotica/romance series – first book ‘Satisfaction’ was released February 2014, and second book ‘Anticipation’ has just been released, and Ms Mayberry was kind enough to send me a sneaky advance copy to review.

‘Brothers Ink’ is the name of a high-end tattoo parlour owned by Brazilian twins Rafael and Eddie Oliveira. ‘Satisfaction’ has us meeting Rafael at the same time as local bookstore owner, Maggie Hendrick who’s heard good things about what this sex-God can do for women in the bedroom. This is important to Maggie, who has never been sexually satisfied– neither with herself or partners – and she’s banking on this kinky tattoo artist being the key that unlocks her door … but in a comedy of errors, Maggie meets the wrong twin and offers him a temptation like no other.
 And while she was at it, damn herself for being unable to enjoy the seduction of a lifetime without getting emotionally involved. Frankly, she was a disgrace to the Sex and the City generation. 
Satisfaction, Brothers Ink book #1

‘Satisfaction’ is all about Maggie and Rafael – the more straight-laced of the Oliveira twins, who is still nursing a broken-heart after his long-term girlfriend up and left him. Maggie is the first woman to turn his head since Lena trampled all over him, and he’s surprised to find himself responding to her in a way that both scares and excites him.

Second book ‘Anticipation’ is all about the more outgoing twin, Eddie – who has quite the reputation for heartbreaking himself. Eddie doesn’t do commitment, which is bad news for his best-friend and Brothers Ink tattoo artist Blue Sullivan, because she’s been in love with him for years … but a life in and out of foster homes means that Blue’s not about to give her heart to a man who can’t commit, and she’s certainly not going to lose the only family she has left for a bedroom romp (no matter how earth-shattering it may be).

I love, love, love this series. It’s a fantastic balance of erotica and romance with some complicated back-stories adding fraught emotional dilemmas for the characters. I can tell you (having now discovered Mayberry’s extensive backlist) that that’s one of her real strengths – interesting and intense characterisation that has you totally rooting for these characters.

Both Maggie and Blue have their own hang-ups that stop them from accepting and believing Rafael and Eddie’s attraction to them … for Maggie, it’s a lifetime being the one responsible for all those around her (her mother’s cancer diagnosis when she was a child means Maggie is always running doomsday scenarios in her head). While the death of her parents, and her subsequent stays in foster homes, has resulted in Blue enforcing tall walls that guard her heart against further devastation.

“I have never done this with another woman. Ever. But I’m willing to acknowledge that I have a past. So do you.” 
“Not like yours. I don’t charm people into loving me and then abandon them.” 
“That’s right – you don’t even let them get close enough to get attached.” 
“Because I don’t want that.” 
“Sweetheart, you want that more than anyone I know.” 
Anticipation, Brothers Ink book #2

Rafael and Eddie are not without their emotional blockades and intense back-stories either. Both brothers suffered after the loss of their beloved little sister (who now occupies a place on their bodies, in the form of a tribute tattoo) and while polar opposites personality-wise, both men have had incidents in their pasts that they need to overcome in order to accept Maggie and Blue’s love into their lives … or, at least fight hard enough to convince both women to accept them.

I just fell head-over-heels for these characters, and even from ‘Satisfaction’ I loved the camaraderie and sense of family that Mayberry evoked at the Brothers Ink tattoo parlour. I understand there are more books coming in this series – and with Brothers Ink as the pivot-point, I can’t wait to read more characters stepping onto the scene, and finding out about secondary characters that appear in ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Anticipation’.

The ‘Brothers Ink’ series also balances romance and erotica perfectly. These characters have real heat and friction between them – for Maggie and Rafael it’s the meeting of strangers who have an instant attraction, while Blue and Eddie’s romance is built on the solid foundations of a friendship and frustrations of unrequited love. The next character to be explored in the series is pretty heavily hinted at in ‘Anticipation’, her story lined up … and I’ve got to say, I can’t wait to see how this once-antagonist is transformed in a book of her own.

I’ve really only recently discovered Sarah Mayberry, but she’s already climbed the ranks to be one of my favourite romance authors. Her ‘Brothers Ink’ series is a fantastic introduction to her writing – an electric blend of erotica and romance, with intense characters that’ll make you blush and swoon in equal measure.

5/5


   






Monday, March 30, 2015

‘The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex’ by Gabrielle Williams


From the BLURB:

A rock chick.

An artist with attitude.

A girl with a past.

A party animal.

Four lives collide when one of the world's most famous paintings is stolen. It's a mystery that has the nation talking, but while Picasso's Weeping Woman might be absent from the walls of the National Gallery, in other parts of Melbourne the controversial painting's presence is being felt by Guy, Rafi, Luke and Penny for four very different reasons.

Life, love, art and one giant party intersect in this offbeat comedy about good intentions, unexpected consequences and the irresistible force of true love.



‘The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex’ is the new young adult novel from Australian author Gabrielle Williams.

So I had the absolute pleasure of reading this story when it was still a manuscript, and now it’s in my hot little hand as a finished book and I need people to know that it’s one of my favourites of 2015, and should be on everyone’s must-read list.

Allow me to explain …

This book opens with a history lesson;

On 2 August 1986, a group calling itself the Australian Cultural Terrorists stole one of the world’s most iconic paintings – Picasso’s Weeping Woman – off the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria and held it to ransom, demanding an increase in government funding for artists in Victoria. The painting was the subject of an international manhunt involving Interpol, Scotland Yard and the Australian Federal Police. 
The Australian Cultural Terrorists were never found.

Pretty cool, right? You can definitely see how this little slice of Aussie history got the wheels churning in Gab William’s very clever, writerly mind. The theft of The Weeping Woman has its own Wikipedia page and everything – and is even more intensely fascinating because there’s so many question marks hanging over the whole episode (that’s where Williams steps in with some creative licence for this story!).

‘The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex’ is narrated by an omniscient narrator, as we follow the four very different characters of the title (Guy, Rafi, Luke and Penny) each of whom is in some way touched by the disappearance of The Weeping Woman. I almost don’t want to say too much about any of the main characters, because it will give too much away about how each of them fits into this mystery puzzle like pieces of a jigsaw. I will say that through these four young characters, Gabrielle Williams explores everything from school atrophy, grief and mental illness, single-parenthood and egomania.

And while the whole story hangs on a famous piece of artwork – from one of the forefathers of Cubism, no less – the book isn’t necessarily about the transcendence or even the beauty of art. Instead it looks at a darker side of the profession and imagination – at the pursuit of beauty no matter the cost, and the manic-drive to create that which is in our heads, even at the day-to-day, hand-to-mouth struggle of most artists. There are even some very funny interludes in the form of letters-to-the-editor, where people complain about the ugly impenetrableness of art – and these had me laughing-out-loud.



I’ve got to say, Gab William’s exploration of the darker side to the art world is utterly refreshing. I’m currently struggling to chew my way through Jandy Nelson’s Printz-winning I’ll Give You The Sun which is lovely but full-to-bursting at the seams with talk of the magical, healing properties of art creation and appreciation and I’ve got to say … I roll my eyes at a lot of it. Going from that book to Gabrielle Williams’ is like taking a big gulp of refreshing, no-bullshit air. I especially appreciate Gab William’s frankness because the pivot-point of her novel is Picasso’s Weeping Woman, and there’s even some exploration here of the “great master” as kind of a misogynist – it feels like there’s some Guerilla Girls politics subtext in this book, for the way a male-driven art world is portrayed in none-too flattering light against the women who are sometimes trodden on in their pursuit of greatness.

I also loved this book for the reason I love most of Gab William’s books – Melbourne. From her first Beatle Meets Destiny to The Reluctant Hallelujah, I always love seeing my city through Gab’s eyes on the page. And Melbourne of the 80’s through Gab’s eyes is pure enjoyment;

The Crystal Ballroom was all sticky carpet and cigarette smoke and body-slamming music. The Withers had come and gone, and John Lydon (ex-Johnny Rotten) had just taken the stage. He gripped the microphone in his fist and yelled, ‘God Save the Queen,’ out to the audience, riling them up and making Penny feel chalky and brittle. She hadn’t realised punk was still such a big thing in Melbourne. She thought it had died back in the late seventies, but apparently not. Not if the spiky, safety-pinned crowd at the Crystal Ballroom was anything to go by.

I also loved ‘The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex’ because it’s a young adult book edging towards New Adult. There are characters in their early-20’s here who are so relatable for all the ways that their life is still hanging onto the dregs of childhood, and they have some tough times ahead that nudges them more fully into adulthood … but the same way that Gab takes the glowing sheen off the art world, she likewise portrays both teen years and early-20’s in equal hardships, highlighting the many ways we can all stand to grow up a little bit more.

I love ‘The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex’. I loved it in manuscript form, and now that it’s a finished book I love it even more. I can’t even begin to tell you how much you need this book in your life right now.

5/5