While You Were Reading

When it’s cold and rainy outside there is nothing better than curling up on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea*. Having seen While You Were Reading all over social media, I finally gave in and picked up a copy so I could do just that. While You Were Reading is writer duo Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus’s second book together after The Book Ninja.

There’s just something heart-warming about reading rom-coms in familiar settings.  Seeing these conventional rom-com women in locations I could easily find myself in gives the story just that touch more authenticity than reading something set in another part of the world.

Beatrix Babbage is on the cusp of thirty and she’s just ruined her best friend’s wedding. It was an accident, but she’s ruined Cassandra’s life and now Cass won’t even speak to her. Feeling alone and wanting to give Cass space, Bea packs up her life and moves to Melbourne, an hour away from her sister who she gushes to   about her new marketing job—isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While struggling to come up with slogans for toothpaste and trying to move past the office misogyny, Bea befriends local barista Dino, whose strong skinny lattes and quotes bring light to her new life.

Alone and disconnected, Bea tries to branch out, going to slam poetry events and exploring Melbournian bookshops. In The Little Brunswick Street Bookstore Bea picks up a second-hand copy of Meeting Oliver Bennett, a book that can only be described as life changing. The book is filled with annotations from its previous owner and Bea quickly falls in love with them. Desperate to the find the writer, Bea creates an Instagram account to help her find them. But the quest is short-lived and Mystery Writer pops into her life as if it were fate. His name is Zach and he works as an editor for a local publishing house. Bea is a goner – how could such a perfect man exist? And better yet, find her? It’s almost too good to be true! And maybe it is.

As much as Bea fits your traditional romantic heroine stereotypes she also takes a step back, proving to herself and the reader that despite wanting love and affection she is her own person and needs both space and fulfilling relationships with others. I think the focus on the importance of surrounding yourself with good friends is a great lesson in this book. It can be so easy to go along with what someone else wants and never consider what you want.

While I love Ruth and Philip, Martha is one of my favourite characters. Both Bea and Martha are completely at ease with their toilet-stall relationship. Everyone, no matter the industry, needs someone to vent to at work – even better if you share similar interests like Bea and Martha with their love of Jane Austen. Later in the novel when Bea bumps into Martha again it seems the perfect time for their real friendship to kick off, not just as friends but as business associates. Martha teaching Bea how to run her accounts is a great example of women helping women, and each woman in this novel is autonomous and motivated by their own goals, whether their goals are business, sustainability, or revenge.

This is a book for every book-loving romantic, with literary allusions aplenty!

 

* Ideally your cup of tea should be of the never-ending variety and forever comfortably warm. If anyone finds said cup of tea, please let me know where I can get one.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Archenemies

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer is the second instalment of Renegades trilogy. Told in dual perspective between Nova (Insomnia/Nightmare) and Adrian (Sketch/Sentinel), two star crossed lovers on the opposing sides of justice. This instalment picks up immediately from the first book, with Nova continuing her mission to infiltrate the Renegades, the superhero organisation she blames for the murder of her parents. Under the guide of the Anarchists, her adopted family, she continues to learn the secrets of this powerful organisation to bring them down.

The sequel introduces Agent N, a drug which can sap the powers of any Prodigy (those with superpowers) deemed to be abusing their powers. This plot is coupled with the growing attraction between Adrian and Nova, which had taken the backburner in Renegades, who are simultaneously trying to make sure nobody uncovers their respective alter egos, including each other.

One thing Meyer does incredibly well is writing action scenes. Each action scene is heart-pounding, fascinating and unputdownable. The last third had everything we’ve come to expect from a tale of superheroes; action, secrets and betrayal.

Unfortunately, it took far too long to get to that point. This trilogy was originally meant to be a duology and it felt as though by creating a trilogy, Meyer must pad out the sequel. Having read the last book a year ago it was hard to remember every single alias and actual name of over twenty-five characters. Not to mention their superpowers. It became a process of having to recall and constantly flip to the character list every few minutes which interrupted my enjoyment of the book, where as Meyer should have spent the time to reintroduce the minor characters readers may have forgotten about.

Meyer attempts to tackle difficult topics such as what leads disillusioned people to the wrong side of justice. What happens when the line between good and bad seems grey? Yet she does so in a heavy-handed way which makes the reading didactic and preachy. There are no subtleties as we see Nova and Adrian question every move made by the Renegades and bring to light the moral issues with a plethora of rhetorical questions. The idea of the villain infiltrating the good guys is an interesting concept but not when it is used to beat the reader over the head with a constant pointing out of the flaws of the good guys. Nothing is left for the reader to think about for themselves as it is all laid out for them.

It was refreshing to see Meyer go beyond the common clichés of the superhero genre in Archenemies, a pitfall she had not managed to avoid Renegades. This may be because there was a greater emphasis on the romance between Nova and Adrian and the loyalties that their bond might test, to both themselves and their families. Personally, the action scenes were much more engaging, and the romance should have taken the backburner again.

 

3/5


Words by Georgina Banfield

I Hate Cheesy-Romance Films. I Don’t Hate 10 Things I Hate About You.

10 Things I Hate About You is the best thing to come out of the 90’s.

I’m biased. I fully admit it.

I don’t like cheesy rom-coms because they bore me. But Ten Things I Hate About You isn’t like other rom-coms and you can pry it off my laptop hard drive from under my cold dead body. I’m making the assumption that you’ve watched this movie – but if you haven’t, do yourself a favour and see it. No one can argue with its engrossing story, excellent soundtrack, great cast, and the dynamite duo of 90’s Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.

Ledger wears shiny pants, Stiles gets covered in paint and laughs about it – my uselessly bisexual self can’t handle it. I watched this movie so many times that my plan for an ideal date still revolves around the idea of spontaneous paintball that ends with us rolling around in the hay kissing. Don’t ask me how you can plan ‘spontaneous’ paintball, I’ve never worked that out.

When Valentine’s Day rolls around, with its inevitable emphasis on watching romantic films with your significant other, I always get to thinking about what a ‘romantic’ film actually is for me – beyond, of course, the self-insertion wish-fulfilment appeal of watching attractive people fall in love on a screen.

I think what draws me to the paintball scene is not the actual paintball or the kissing, but rather what the paintball and the kissing represent. It’s a moment between two people who let themselves be vulnerable idiots for and with each other. Throughout the film, we see Kat and Patrick fall for each other, making themselves vulnerable and finding that they’re accepted and understood by one-another.

It’s impossible to go on without mentioning the scene where Patrick hijacks the announcement system to perform ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ for Kat on the bleachers, complete with band accompaniment and dorky-fun dance moves. It’s a funny, cheesy, dumb-ass act and by no means is it a moment of swooning violins. But it works as a romantic gesture because of the vulnerability implicit in this act of ‘sacrificing himself on the altar of dignity’. There’s something real sexy about someone making a fool of themselves to make you laugh; making themselves vulnerable for you and hoping that you embrace and accept this part of them. There’s also something real sexy about Ledger’s singing, but that’s a given.

Arguably, it’s the mutual act of seeing and being seen by one another that allows for Patrick and Kat’s paint balling scene. It doesn’t matter that they act foolish in front of one another in this scene, because it’s already been done in front of everyone else. Patrick and Kat can just be in the paint balling scene – they don’t have to worry about maintaining the pretences and walls that everyone has one some level. They’re just two people throwing paint, rolling in hay, and falling in love. Now that’s what I call romance.

Romance is more than just the funny easy parts though, it’s also emotional vulnerability – and there is no better moment of emotional vulnerability that the titular scene where Kat reads her poem to Patrick in front of the entire class. It would be easy for Patrick to scoff, to maintain his image and security by mocking her feelings. But he doesn’t. In that moment he sees her (metaphorically) laid bare and completely accepts her. Her vulnerability is embraced and then returned with his own. It kills me every time.

If I ask for nothing else within romance, I ask to be accepted in my vulnerability. It might lack the passions of Pride and Prejudice or the high-drama of The Notebook but 10 Things portrays this so well. Forget angsty speeches in the rain or sexually charged touches. People letting themselves be vulnerable and not thinking of how they’ll look doing dumb stuff with the other person is where it’s at in romance. Bury me in roses and call me Cupid, because that melts me into a little puddle of goo. If, like me, you hate cheesy cliches but you want to watch an appropriately valentine-y movie, then crack open some hay bales and don your best 90’s clothing because 10 Things I Hate About You is calling your name.


 

Words by Taeghan Buggy

Bound for Sin

Bound for Sin is the second of Tess LeSue’s Frontier of the Heart series. Set in the same dusty ye-olde West as its older sibling, Bound for Eden, Sin is a fun, smart, historical romance. Widowed, broke, and desperate Georgiana Bee Blunt advertises for a capable frontiersman for the purposes of matrimony. Her late husband has left her with a gold claim that is attracting all kinds of unwanted attention from all kinds of men. As a result, the eldest of her five children has been ransomed, which leaves Georgiana under the thumb of some extremely unsavoury characters. Matt Slater, the younger brother of Bound for Eden’s enigmatic love-interest Luke, finds himself saddled (no pun intended) with the task of transporting her and her rambunctious brood across the desert.

LeSue has a talent for characterisation: the laconic and grouchy Matt is a perfect foil for the prim and proper, Georgiana. Georgiana’s many children are also rich and delightful little people. The henchmen of the sinister Hec Boehm provide at times comic relief and tension. A particular delight was the return of Deathrider, a Native American from the first novel. His sharp wit makes him an extremely good verbal sparring partner for Matt. This novel is heftier than most romances but its characters are home to much more interior life than your standard Mills and Boons Western, which makes the trade-off much easier.

Plot is another of LeSue’s skills: she has crafted a Shakespearian-like series of charades and miscommunications that is both funny and clever. The reluctant deal struck between one of the henchmen and Matt, wherein Matt would pretend to be engaged to the leading lady and then break it off with her once they reached California, making room for the henchman as the obvious next choice as her new spouse had me laughing out loud. It’s also obvious LeSue did her due diligence with research – the characters spend almost too long arranging supplies and wagons for their long sojourn to California, particularly if you, like me, have already read Bound for Eden, which has a similar plot structure. I also found that the delicate slow-burn romance between Georgiana and her new frontiersman fiancé got a little bit lost in the novel’s high stakes drama and funny antics. Although, that said, LeSue definitely makes you root for the two to have a proper happily-ever-after.

3.5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

 

‘Dinner Night.’- By Taeghan Buggy

Frida eyed the instant coffee on the counter with distaste. She’d chosen it especially just to make her lover laugh.

‘Eugh, instant coffee? Tastes like death,’ Death would say, and then they would waggle their eyebrows suggestively until both they and Frida broke into giggles that turned into kisses.

But Frida didn’t feel like kissing right now.

It was her mistake, honestly. She should know better than to look at her clients and make an emotional connection with them. Her job was to toss them, mind and soul, into the void and then leave them; their bodies held somewhere between a shout and a sigh. It wasn’t for her to know if they lived, returning from the void with something more or something less to them, or died. But she’d pitied the last one. She’d liked him even. Her payment for that job had been the instant coffee, the only thing she’d wanted from his apartment. He’d been twenty-two and had felt worn at the edges like an old pair of blue jeans.

But clients died, like he had died, and when you were dating Death, inevitable consequences ended up messily personal.

Frida prodded at the pesto pasta she’d made for dinner. The fork was unenthusiastic in her hands. Pasta tubes flopped over each other in the bowl.

Sometimes she hated being able to see in sundersaatum; the hidden wave of colour on the light spectrum. If she couldn’t see the world through that weird twist of dark-light, she wouldn’t have her job. She wouldn’t have this life where she alone could see the connections that anchored minds and souls to bodies and be able manipulate them. She wouldn’t be able to sever those threads.

Then again, if she couldn’t see in sundersaatum then she never would have fallen in love. She’d never have spent her nights tucked up against Death’s sure, steady, self.

Frida didn’t hear the rattle of keys as Death let themselves into the apartment. The clomping of their work boots on the floorboards was, however, unmissable.

‘Evening lover,’ Death said with a smile that faded as soon as they saw Frida’s expression.

‘Hey, Dee.’ Frida tried to summon a smile but couldn’t. She could barely look her lover in the eye.

Today Death looked like a woman in her thirties; short hair and strong hands. They looked like the kind of person who’d do what needed to be done. Death always did what needed to be done. Death tucked a hand into the pocket of their coveralls, shoulders slumping as they said, ‘This is about that soul of yours today.’

‘Not mine,’ Frida refuted immediately. Sure, she’d split them from their earthy cases, tossed them into the void they’d asked for so badly, and then left – but they weren’t her souls. She couldn’t think of them like that. She prodded the pasta again. It was now lukewarm.

‘Frida, you can’t keep doing this.’ Death said, running a hand through their silvery crop of hair in a way that spoke of frustration. It wasn’t the first time Frida had brought it up and guilt spiked in her stomach. ‘We work the wrong jobs to make it personal.’

‘I know, I know, and I’m sorry. It’s just- I pitied him, Dee. I liked him.’ Frida sighed, ‘It’s just… hard sometimes.

Death went very still.

‘But, not too hard, right?’ Death said carefully.

Frida winced immediately, rushing over to take Death’s hands and squeezing them tight. ‘Dee no, of course not, not like that, no.’

She could just kick herself. Death had a fragile history with commitment. Many flirted with them, but not many actually wanted to stick around. Oh sure, Death kept everyone eventually, but they also lost them in the end.

‘It’s just been a hard week,’ Frida confessed. Misery swelled as she said, ‘I found a message from my mother, she doesn’t know why I don’t come to visit for the holidays anymore.’

Her voice trembled, and tears threatened. It was too hard seeing her family and knowing what she knew now.

‘Oh honey,’ Death said, immediately pulling her into a hug. Frida relaxed into it. Death gave the best hugs. It always felt like they’d never let her go no matter what.

Death ran a thumb under Frida’s eyes, gently wiping away the tears.

‘Okay lover, that pasta’s cold and I think we both deserve some comfort food. Why don’t you settle on the couch and go I’ll order takeout, hey? Sound good?’

Frida nodded into Death’s chest and Death tilted her chin up to press a soft kiss to her lips. About to pull back, Frida’s little job-payment caught Death’s eye. A glimmer of dirty humour grew on the corners of their lips.

‘Is that… instant coffee?’ Death’s disgust was betrayed by the smile they couldn’t quite hide as they said, ‘You know it tastes like Death, right?’

 


Words by Taeghan Buggy

tiggyTaeghan Buggy is a writer, a poet, and a performer. Her work tends towards emotional gut punches and dangerous words. Taeghan’s immersion within ‘Arts Culture’ includes the New Wave Audio Theatre project, Flinders’ Speakeasy Creative Readings, and Adelaide’s open-mic poetry scene. You can find Taeghan on Twitter.

‘Bleeding Hearts’ by Annalise Timms

A pleasant humming sound emitted from within Pots and Pansies, a small flower shop run by Vivian Finley. The store was filled with a wide variety of colour, in the form of tulips, peonies, gerberas, lilies, roses, succulents, carnations and much more. It was a Tuesday afternoon and Vivian had just finished sweeping the floor when the wind-chime on the door jingled merrily. She quickly wiped her soil-covered hands on her apron and brushed her messy brunette hair out of her face as she glanced up at the young man. The first thing she noticed was his warm smile, followed by his kind, shining, green eyes.

‘Can I help you?’ Vivian offered as the man looked around the shop, surveying the displays of bright floral bunches and twisting leaves.

‘Yes, please,’ he nodded. ‘Do you have any bleeding hearts?’

‘Yes, I got them in this morning, actually,’ she replied. ‘I’ve got a few different arrangements if you want to look at size and prices,’ she added, gesturing to one of the tables.

Vivian found bleeding hearts to be very intriguing flowers. They were perceived as a symbol of strong romantic love, and had a very unique appearance, looking nothing like the family of poppies they belonged to. Each stem was lined with dark pink heart-shaped flowers that hung down in a neat row. The small hearts folded up at the bottom, revealing a small white tear-drop tip that made it seem as though the hearts were bleeding.

It didn’t take the man long to decide which bunch he wanted before bringing it to the counter. He had chosen a small arrangement wrapped in baby pink cellophane and brown twine, tied in a small bow.

‘Could I please get a tag too?’ he requested, nodding to the small decorative tags for sale.

‘Sure, what would you like on it?’ she asked, picking up a pen.

‘To the most beautiful person in the world,’ he answered. ‘Love, Elliot.’

‘How sweet,’ Vivian said softly, tying it around one of the stems.

When she handed Elliot his change, he didn’t hesitate to drop the coins into the tin she had on the counter, collecting donations for cancer research.

‘Your family?’ he asked, looking at the framed photo beside the till. The photo was from two years ago, and showed both of her parents kissing her on the cheeks, while her younger brother, Eugene, ruffled her hair.

‘Yeah,’ Vivian replied quietly. ‘That was opening day.’

‘It’s a nice photo.’

After he walked out, Vivian sighed. Whoever received the flowers would be extremely lucky, indeed, and there was no denying the nagging sense of envy that filled her chest. She did not believe in love at first sight – no, that was preposterous – but as she thought of the goofy smile that lit up his face, she couldn’t help but hope that she would see him again.

__

The following Tuesday afternoon, Vivian was trimming the lavender roses, although she was struggling to concentrate properly due to how fast her mind was racing. Despite how quiet the day had been, she had been feeling anxious ever since the fight she had that morning with Eugene, now twenty years old.

Their parents’ recent divorce had put a significant strain on their relationship, causing fights to erupt between them over the smallest issues. That morning, Eugene snapped at her for using the last of the milk, and it had escalated to a shouting match, in which they ended up blaming each other for the divorce. Of course, none of it was true, but Vivian had not had time to make up with Eugene before she had to rush to work.

The argument had just been playing over in her mind all day, so when the wind chime suddenly clanged to life as Elliot entered the shop, she jumped, causing her fingers to slip, and instead of cutting the stem, she accidentally sliced her finger. Vivian swore loudly, quickly trying to find something to clean her finger with.

‘I am so sorry! Are you okay?’

‘N-no, it’s fine, my fault for being so clumsy,’ she stammered.

‘Here,’ Elliot offered her a handkerchief.

What millennial carries a hanky? Vivian thought to herself, biting back a grin when she saw a tiny rose stitched in the corner.

Elliot held Vivian’s hand closer to him so he could get a better look at her injury, causing her breath to hitch in her throat slightly as his warm touch sent tingles down her arm.

‘It looks pretty bad…’ he murmured. ‘I think you might need stitches.’

‘I’d rather a Band-Aid,’ Vivian laughed nervously.

‘I’d rather you made sure your finger is properly treated.’

‘Well… I’d rather you let me make poor choices to avoid my fears.’

‘Okay, fine,’ he gave in with an eye roll. ‘But, I’ll be back next week, so if it’s infected, I’ll have to chop it.’

‘My hero,’ Vivian snorted. ‘Thank you… do you want this back?’ she asked tentatively, holding out the bloody handkerchief.

‘You keep it,’ he laughed. ‘I’ll see you next week, Vivian.’

As he walked out again, she wondered how he knew her name, but quickly smacked herself as she remembered she was wearing a name badge. After realising she’d had a successful conversation with Elliot without making a total fool out of herself, Vivian did a happy jig, however, it was short lived when he burst back in, catching her off guard.

‘I was just, er, running on the spot – gotta keep fit, right?’ she chuckled nervously.

‘I forgot the flowers,’ Elliot laughed awkwardly.

‘Bleeding hearts?’ they asked in unison.

The two broke into bashful smiles as Vivian nodded.

‘Just over there.’

When Elliot returned to the counter with a small bunch in hand, he asked for another tag, with the same thing written on it as last time: ‘To the most beautiful person in the world, Love Elliot.’

Vivian tried very hard to ignore the sinking feeling in her chest as he walked out once more, knowing that that person was not her.

___

For many weeks, Elliot continued to visit her shop every Tuesday afternoon, each time buying the same flowers with the same tag. With each purchase, the two would get to know each other that little bit more and Vivian knew that, what once was a teensy little crush, was now a steady, throbbing ache in her heart, slowly swallowing her whole.

‘Who are they for?’ she managed to ask as Elliot placed another bunch bleeding hearts on the counter, many Tuesdays later.

Contrary to what Vivian expected, Elliot’s face fell, his green eyes immediately losing their shine.

‘My gran,’ he answered grimly.

‘Y-your gran?’ Vivian repeated in shock.

‘She’s in hospital… brain cancer,’ he sighed.

‘I- I’m so sorry,’ she breathed.

‘It’s not your fault,’ Elliot shrugged. ‘It’s looking a lot better though, they think the treatment is finally working.’

‘That’s great!’

‘Yeah… I told her about you, too… she wants to meet you, actually.’

In that moment, Vivian was struggling to breathe slightly, too overcome by a range of emotions to notice the pink blush that had coloured his cheeks.

‘I better hurry though,’ he added, glancing at his watch. ‘I’ll see you next week!’

__

But Elliot did not return next week, or the week after that, and the extra bleeding hearts Vivian had ordered were left to wilt and die when no one bought them. She worried what had happened to him, until he came in a week later, although he was hardly recognisable. His hair was a mess, he had large bags under his eyes and there was no smile on his face. Vivian didn’t even know what to say to him, but he spoke first, his voice hoarse.

‘I need more bleeding hearts… do you do funeral arrangements?’


IMG_4140Words by Annalise Timms

Annalise is a young writer and poet from Adelaide. She is in year 11 at high school. She enjoys reading, writing, being a social hermit and staying home with her pets. Last year, her work was published for the first time in the SAETA Spring Poetry Festival Anthology.

CRUSH- Stories about love

Confession: I do not often read romance but when I do I usually enjoy it.

Crush is an anthology of romance stories which centres around the concept of the word ‘Crush’. The term itself has multiple definitions, these definitions are used to divide the book into four distinct sections:

  1. An intense infatuation
  2. To cease or crumple by pressure
  3. To hug or embrace tightly
  4. A crowd of people pressed together.

In each of these sections are stories which explore the ideas of each definition. In doing this, the reader can choose a story more suited to what they feel like reading at the time.

There is a stigma surrounding romance fiction, which claims it has little to no literary merit. It’s usually dismissed as ‘chick-lit’. The stories collected in Crush demonstrate a wide range of writing styles and genres blended with romance. There is fiction which is clearly for everyone, for the LGBTQ+ community, for people who like experimental writing, and for those who prefer the literary variety. There is a diversity to this anthology which brokers an appeal to a wide audience. Romance is a part of almost everyone’s lives to some degree or another. When it comes to real life we don’t dismiss it. You don’t have to be a certain age or gender to experience it, just as you don’t have to be a certain age or gender to enjoy romance fiction, and you certainly don’t have to be ashamed of showing your support for the local, emerging artists who have contributed to this book.

Crush brings together a variety of talented writers who are both local and international. Quite a few Flinders current and past students are also featured in the anthology. Recent Hons. Graduate Simone Corletto and PhD Candidate Jess M. Miller worked with Amy T. Matthews (chair of the 2016 ‘Ain’t Love Grand’ conference in Adelaide), and Midnight Sun’s Lynette Washington to compile and edit the book. With a wide range of both local and international contributors, Crush is a must read for anyone involved in the Adelaide writing community.

With stories that verge on traditional, literary, and experimental, Crush has something to appeal to everyone. Women loving women, women loving men, men loving women, and men loving men. Relationships beginning and relationships ending. Good dates and bad dates. A wide variety of experiences tied together by the central exploration of love.

I’m not going to try and pick a favourite story in the anthology because they are all fantastic in their own way. Full of passion and wit, they offer both warmth and scepticism where it’s needed most.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, love forms a big part of our lives. The writers of Crush have interrogated this in their stories. We see people just like you and me fumbling through life searching for the thing that will make them feel valid and loved.

This is a potentially perfect book for those of you looking to escape into the world of fiction without the hassle of committing to a full novel. While romance is not normally my cup of tea, Crush provides something for everyone so why pick up a local anthology and read the both online and from local retailers.

As a special treat, selected authors will be sharing their work at The Jade on Thursday 16th November. Come along to The Jade, 142-160 Flinders Street, for a chance to meet Michelle Fairbarn, J. R. Koop, Michelle Oglivy, and C.J. McLean, hear them read, and show your support for local writers.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

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Crush is available in stores now. At the special reading event at The Jade on the 16th of November copies of Crush will be available for the special price of $25. For more information check the Facebook page.