ShallowreaderBingo! December

The end of the year is upon us! Hot hot hot summer is upon us! For some friends, cold cold cold winter is snowbounding you. How on earth is it the end of the year? And such a crappy year too. But let’s make December cracking!

For all who have played throughout the year – thank you so much for playing and continue to play on!

And for all that have meant to play – Join in!

Row 1: Light One Candle; Morpheus; December; And then came the rain; Hohoho. Row 2: Tycoon; Irony; Pet; Just the one you want; Luxurious. Row 3: Hot Summer Nights; Seeking Refuge; My Love; Moist; He sees you when you're sleeping. Row 4: 12; Driedel; Christmas joy to all; He sees you when you're sleeping; Self Care. Row 5: Comes but once a year; Emotional Rescue; Thank you for playing; At the end of the rainbow; Adieu.

Rome and a cracking romance novel

I adore Mediterranean holiday romance fiction (oh the absolute joy of rewatching Come Semptember or Gidget goes to Rome) and I really enjoyed Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger (the sole novel – I ignored the rest of the series) so when I saw Roman Crazy  on the New Book display stand at the library, it was an auto borrow. To add to that, the cover art is all levels of awesomeness. This mashup of chick-lit (meh), Sex in the City lit (bleh) and romance (yeah) worked on many levels for me though there is some nitpicking to be had. But first, the blurb:

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina BocciRoman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds—and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man—the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and—hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new again romance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

So the book opens with Avery discovering her husband Daniel “balls deep” in his secretary. Despite an intervention by Daniel’s mother for her to just accept his infidelity, Avery chooses to no longer be a part of the twin-set-and-pearls-country-club-set and flies off to Rome to hide out in her best friend’s apartment. Continue reading

How low a hero

I took another long haul train ride two weeks ago. $45 interstate fares have a tendency to mobilise me so I hopped on a 14 hour train to Queensland and visited the hatchback-hero-denier-and-in-all-other-ways-wonderful woman Sandra Antonelli and then hopped on another (2 hour) train to stay with amazing Rachel Bailey, both of whom are writer friends who put me through the thinking and writing paces to get my scholarly brain functioning.

Just as 2016 has been a shit and rubbish year for many people – from political recoil, particularly with the heart-wrenching realisation that the citizenry of the world prefers racist, bigoted, lying narcissists as their leaders (thanks Australia for Turnbull, Hanson and Roberts, thanks UK for your vile Brexit and OMG-that-horror-story-that-Stephen-King-couldn’t-imagine-yet-YA-could USA) to the loss of musical greats (David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Prince), I have had a few of my own personal problems that surmounted to PhD writing meltdown. These long train rides during October and November have served me well in providing thinking and reading time. Though my main activity on the train rides has been university work, I did have enough travel time that I was also able to read some fiction. And on my northbound journey, I found myself grappling with Maisey Yates.

But first, the blurb:

Carides's Forgotten WifeCarides’s Forgotten Wife by Maisey Yates

Greek billionaire Leon Carides has it all: wealth, power, notoriety, even a wife—though he’s never touched his convenient, innocent bride. Then an accident rids this damaged, debauched playboy of his memories… 

Leon remembers nothing, except his wife’s sparkling blue eyes. Now the desire he feels for Rose overrides the gaps in his past, making her impossible to resist! But when his sins catch up with him, can Rose forgive the mistakes of the man he once was? Or will Leon lose more than just his memory?

Continue reading

If there’s a ghost from yesteryear in it, is it a historical?

It is Wendy the Super Amazing Super Incredible Super Sensational Librarian’s TBR Challenge and this month and the topic is historical romance. I would like to ponder – just briefly – if a contemporary set book has a ghost from the World War 2 era  in it, does it qualify as a historical even though there are barely any flashback scenes? I will answer my own question here and say no but then again, if a book has a ghost in it, I am already needing to stretch my As-if-O-Meter (well….not really as I love ghost stories), so I am asking that this incredibly tenuous link with barely-a-hint-of-historical novel is applied to Lisa Kleypas (historical novelist extraordinaire)’s Dream Lake which is one of her few contemporary set books.

I very nearly claimed Kleypas bankruptcy last month. I had read Marrying Winterborn and though it was okay, it certainly didn’t thrill me enough to merit spending time with another 300+ page book. Time is of essence and there are many books to be read! I have read only 4 of her novels over the years and though there is a lot of Kleypas love not only in the interwebs but also at my library where, despite having many of her titles, it is a rare day for there to be more than 2 on the shelf at any one time, to me, she is a “yeah-she’s-kinda-allright” read. She is an author that I would not binge read. Yet here I was, reading her twice in a row. And why? Let’s just say that I love a good ghost story so how could I go past a ghost romance!

First, the blurb:

Lisa Kleypas - Dream LakeDream Lake

by Lisa Kleypas

They say that opposites attract. But what happens when one has been devastated by betrayal and the other is so jaded that his heart is made of stone? Enter the world of Friday Harbor, an enchanting town in the Pacific Northwest where things are not quite as they seem and where true love might just have a ghost of a chance….

Alex Nolan is as bitter and cynical as they come. One of the three Nolan brothers who call Friday Harbor home, he’s nothing like Sam or Mark. They actually believe in love; they think the risk of pain is worth the chance of happiness. But Alex battles his demons with the help of a whiskey bottle, and he lives in his own private hell. And then a ghost shows up. Only Alex can see him, Has Alex finally crossed over the threshold to insanity?

Zoë Hoffman is as gentle and romantic as they come. When she meets the startling gorgeous Alex Nolan, all her instincts tell her to run. Even Alex tells her to run. But something in him calls to Zoë, and she forces him to take a look at his life with a clear eye and to open his mind to the possibility that love isn’t for the foolish.

The ghost has been existing in the half-light of this world for decades. He doesn’t know who he is, or why he is stuck in the Nolans’ Victorian house. All he knows is that he loved a girl once. And Alex and Zoë hold the key to unlocking a mystery that keeps him trapped here.

Zoë and Alex are oil and water, fire and ice, sunshine and shadow. But sometimes it takes only a glimmer of light to chase away the dark, and sometimes love can reach beyond time, space, and reason to take hold of hearts that yearn for it…

So Alex is a hard hero to redeem. He’s surly, he’s rude, he’s a drunk verging on becoming an alcoholic. He’s in the process of getting a divorce yet continues to have cold, hard, angry convenience fucks with his-ex wife. Alex goes to help his brother with a house he is restoring one day and finds himself saddled with a ghost who realises that Alex is the only human that can hear and see him. Enter Zoe who is sweet, shy and has also gone through a divorce due to her BFF husband realising he was actually gay. Zoe hires Alex to convert her grandmother’s home to make it habitable for old-age care.  The two of them constantly come into contact as he is repairing her home. Alex has had a difficult life growing up as the youngest child of 2 alcoholic parents so he keeps himself detached but he just can’t detach from Zoe eventually realising that he loves her (when it is nearly too late and he has a deus ex machina moment which could have been perfect if…. [MAJOR BLACK MOMENT IN THE BOOK SPOILER ALERT]

Tap dancing from Singing in the Rain

….there was an ambulance involved when there is an accident that has Zoe bawling and Alex dead….but there wasn’t and they all walked away from the scene. Now I could do a reader whinge and say “How believable is that?!” however my As-if-O-meter has totally embraced the awesome ghost that has partnered Alex everywhere for the past many months so I just add it as another notch on my believability scale and enjoy the love declaration instead.

Happy dance - cartoon mice with love hearts

The romance story was relatively simple as the ghost arc is really where this novel’s complexity lies and this was beautiful woven through this story. The obstacles were all on Alex’s side with his struggles with alcohol, with going dry and his slow realisation of what it is to love. Zoe felt like a prop – a lovely one, a lovely character who does have some growth in that she finally takes a risk on loving. I absolutely loved the description of her sublime cooking and the magic it had on Alex’s soul. Alex’s ghost is pretty cool. The ghost at first is grateful to have someone to communicate with but when he realises it is ungrateful-and-hell-bent-on-self-destruction Alex, the ghost becomes snarky and rather bitter. Having lived for decades in a limbo, to see a living human being waste his time and self is frustrating. The relationship between Alex and the ghost, their sharp dialogue, their love/hate life/death and all in between just sparks up an otherwise yeah-okay romance. The ghost element was believable in this story (I cannot read most paranormal books as it crosses my As-If-O-Meter)  and the ghost too ends up having a schmaltzy ending (but of course and it was to be expected and it was very well orchestrated but well it still overstepped this romance reader’s schmaltz line). The ghost’s own closure and escape from limbo – though sweet – faded into the background for me in light of the friendship between Alex who drags himself out of his pending alcoholism and the ghost who finally comes to terms with his own errant ways when he was alive.

I do love ghost stories.

I sneakread this book which I took off Rachel Bailey’s shelves when I should have been working on my PhD while I was hiding out and using her home as a study cave. Shhhhhhhh! Nobody tell her!

The ghost and Mrs Muir walking off into the fog together as a door closes behind them

Belated Bingo – October

It’s over a week late but here are some of the books I read for October Bingo and their corresponding Bingo Squares. Better late than never!

Marrying Winterborne by Lisa KleypasMarrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas

Bingo Square: From Beyond the Grave

I’m missing the Lisa Kleypas fan club gene so the best I can say is that this book was okay. I was really interested in Rhys Winterborne as he seemed such a standout hero – he wasn’t part of the ton,  he was a self-made man, Welsh, etc etc. Marrying Lady Helen Ravenel is his way into society but of course she has her own secrets that she feels she can’t reveal – and all of these are secrets of her dead parents whose lives impact and control her even from their graves.  Sadly, once the “Shock! How will their love overcome this doozy of a problem” was revealed, I felt that Winterborne hardly appeared in the story until the very end where instead of  an emotional punch I got a rushed love declaration. Hmmm. Certainly not a keeper.

Say you love me by Johanna LindsaySay you love me by Johanna Lindsey

Bingo Square: Fester

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Michael Page. As this is number 5 in a series I got completely bored with all the fabbo*snark* characters from all the previous books having full chapters focused on them rather than on the main story. This ALWAYS FUCKING BORES ME!

The premise to this novel is that the heroine, unbeknownst to her aunt, decides to be a martyr for her family and agrees to be sold at a brothel as a mistress to pay her uncle’s debts to save her younger sister. Fortuitously, hero boy was passing the time in the foyer (while his cousin found his “girl”) when he saw the auction and his arch evil nemesis bidding on the frightened woman so to save her he buys her and since he buys her he might as well get down and dirty with her.

But then love hits him.

And then he discovers she was always a lady.

And then he declares that he is glad she was forced to be sold at a brothel otherwise he would never have met her and frankly he is a festering wound just like the festering sick dicks that the convoluted plot included.

Yeah. But no.

(Please note that this book is suffering from 1990itis which is a period of historical romance reading that I could barely countenance).

The good greek girl by Maria KatsonisThe Good Greek Girl  by Maria Katsonis

Bingo Square: Stripped

How could I go past a title like this one. I knew nothing about Maria Katsonis and her memoir when I picked it up off the new book shelf at my library but within a couple of chapters of reading I felt totally stripped of my defences and I sobbed sobbed sobbed at her difficulties growing up in a culturally different world from her Greek migrant parents which included struggling with both her cultural identity and sexual orientation especially the fracturing of her relationship with her father when a community member reveals that she is a lesbian to her parents resulting in an act of violence against her. Maria Katsonis starts her story from when she is heading to Harvard to study public policy to being institutionalised with mental health problems whilst her pre-Harvard life is presented in flashbacks.

There was much that I could relate to in Maria’s life and in my life. Her deep seated Greek-Australian-ness resonated with me. This is a struggle that I publicly dealt with at a young age both in print and in film (I had a short film documentary made about my “struggle” for identity when I was 10 which was aired repeatedly on national TV in 1980 – I hated this experience and the long term impact it left). Being torn between cultures and finding oneself is a writing theme that is quite common in Young Adult fiction (I’m looking at you Melina Marchetta), comedians are still making fun of these difficulties (vile fucking Nick Giannopoulos). However, just like Magda Szubanski’s Reckoning, this was a serious, middle aged woman struggling with mental illness and depression due to displacement and the long term impacts of generational and geographical problems. I wept because I certainly don’t have Maria’s courage to try to write to deal with the divide that she talks about (and that I certainly still struggle with) and I sit in awe of her fluid writing and heartfelt prose.

There is a monster on my holiday who farts by Tim MillerThere is a Monster on my Holiday who Farts by Tim Miller

Bingo Square: Dutch Oven

The title is self explanatory. A kid on a road trip with his parents is totally convinced that the monster travelling with them is letting off silent and deadlies. A wise uncled told me that you can gage a child’s intelligence and social awareness by the age when they start denying that they farted. The earlier the fart lie, the smarter your child. So I find it totally amusing to find a picture book totally based on fart denial and being stuck in a closed space, unable to escape the steamy, fruity expulsions of intestinal air monsters. Car farts are totally banned in my household. Especially when we are on an expressway where you can’t wind down the windows. Ewwww. Hilarious picture book.

Abigail the Whale picture bookAbigail the Whale by Davide Cali and illustrations by Sonja Bougaeva

Bingo Square: But then I thought about the game AND Delight

Abigail is learning to swim but is teased by the other children for being large. Abigail’s imagination allows her to take charge of her own swimming skills and oh my what a gorgeous picture book. The sublime illustrations capture the deep emotions that Abigail is experiencing especially with the body issues and fat shaming she is subjected to. Abigail’s approach to overcoming her problems is just delightful. I loved it. One of my favourite for this year.

All the books mentioned in this post were borrowed from a public library in New South Wales.

ShallowreaderBingo! November

The November card is here!!

Any reading goes – novels, letters, lyrics, news, captions, blogs – the lot! Thanks to Kat Mayo for her winner squares contribution, my sons for watching How I Met Your Mother while I made up the sheets (spot the Barney Stinson influence) and my bookcase for inspiring me (spot the book titles!)

Join in and play!

 

Row 1: Smokescreen; Proposals; November; My Hands are Tied; Hahaha. Row 2: Undone; Dare; Cords; A Tempting Stranger; Captive. Row 3: Good Greek Girl; Suit up; Entangled; Queen; Moving toward the light. Row 4: 1996; Soulless; Scandalous; Flirt; Marshmallow. Row 5: Bosoms; Navy; Flower Boy; Awakened; Vintage.