I haven’t been able to get to my blog in a long time. I am in the midst of my ethics application at the moment, I am teaching Information and Media students at my uni as well as going out to my super sekrit public library casual job where I get to work on a public desk for a day a week. And that doesn’t even start on home life!
Working back in a library has been incredibly good for my reading mojo. I’ve never been an experimental reader when it comes to buying books. I’ve never felt at ease spending my money on unknown authors in case they are duds and only buy romance fiction keepers. But restricting myself to only reading romance has stifled my appreciation of the genre. I usually need to explore other books, fiction and non-fiction, to juxtapose it against romance fiction to which I always return to, and know that I can rely on it to deliver a satisfying read. The thrill of a well written book with deep characterisation is enhanced by my reading books that may or may not leave me feeling dissatisfied. But those dissatisfied reads are an expensive habit I do not have. I choose through serendipity, and I need a library to fully relax, browse and read whatever I come across without bookshop browser guilt (and let’s face it – picture books aside, it is nigh impossible to escape into a book in a bookshop). However, I am crap at using the library when I don’t work in it. My overdues pile up (I spent over $100 on fines last year) and I get paranoid that I, as a librarian, will be judged much more harshly that anyone else.
So now that I am back on a public library floor I am exploring again. Here I have short reviews of some of the books that I have read in the past month and I have several on the go. There have also been quite a few that I have stopped reading beyond a chapter (and I didn’t bother listing here). Life is too short and I have too much work on to slog through unnecessary reading torture.
Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen
This book took me by surprise. It is all sugar and sweetness and I love the fresh colours of the illustrations. A story of how the (anthropomorphised) Good Little Wolf transforms the Big Bad Wolf. The cloying, didactic sense I felt was swiftly dismissed in the last pages and I am now buying this one for my nieces and nephews *evil auntie grin*.
The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss
I enjoyed reading Tara Moss’s first foray into non-fiction. Part memoir, part feminist discourse, this was an easy read (which I always equate to being the hardest to write). Relating events throughout her life to feminist issues was a relatable way to discuss the many issues women experience. I think though, that my time on twitter and tumblr following feminist discussions means that none of what Moss had written was new to me. Much of it is part of the Twitter, Tumblr and a number of other online places discussions that many people including Moss take part in. What Moss has done here is collate these many ideas and discussions and related them to her own life and development making these ideas available to readers who are not online. I definitely recommend this book.
Manhattan Classic: New York’s Finest Prewar Apartments by Geoffrey Lynch.
I love coffee table interior design books. They are some of my favourite possessions. Most libraries do not purchase many books in this genre as they are pricey and they are also so heavy that most borrowers do not want to carry these heavy tomes home (thankfully, most libraries keep statistics on inhouse use books so their use is recorded). I wanted to mention this book because I actually borrowed it through my library’s ebook collection. It was a beautifully collated book, with floor plans, detailed information about the architects of each apartment and high gloss photography. The ebook experience was a lesser one. I yearned to turn the pages, to run my hand down a photograph, to take my time exploring the floor plans. Some interior design books have embossing and different paper weights and none of this was evident in the ebook version. Frustratingly, I had to enlarge every page to get a better look at the detailing of the plans or the photographs. However, I didn’t have to carry it onto the train for my one hour commute and I read it in bed with my coffee with no fear of staining its beautiful pages.
Graveyard Watch by S Carey
A Young Adult horror story. A young boy awakens confused about who he is and where he is. His parents explain to him he is sick and they give him medication. He sees a figure in the neighbouring graveyard eyeing him and digging a grave. As the creepy events unfold in this short story, my body had goosebumps. Carey’s description of seemingly normal situations were underpinned with a sense of eeriness. The protagonist does manage to get himself out of his dangerous situation into what he believes is a safer one. This book challenges a kid’s sense of safety both in their home and in their relationships. I loved it and gave it to my son to read. Upon finishing it he told me I was not a very nice mother.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Earlier this year I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Rowell’s Fangirl. Landline is more aimed at adults and didn’t satisfy me. This may be because my least favourite romance trope is “Marriage in trouble is saved”. The book has some interesting dynamics, balancing the male best-friend against her sometimes engaged and sometimes disconnected husband and there is a touch of fantasy that makes the reading more interesting. To be honest, I was left a little bit flat, so much so that even reviewing it properly feels fruitless. Sigh. I wanted to like it but at the same time, I did not dislike it.
Spoiled Brats by Simon Rich
This is a series of short stories about spoiled brats. I love absurdist writing and it is often difficult to come across weird writing that resonates. The stories were well written, enjoyable and yes, absurd but they were not particularly funny (not that absurd writing has to be funny, just that I had seen reviews lauding Simon Rich as funny and hilarious). There were some shorts that I loved such as his Guy Walks Into a Bar and the dark The Tribal Rites of the Strombergs. The stories were enjoyable, disturbing and were reminiscent (though not as absurd) of Mark Leyner’s writing. Oddly enough, they also reminded me of my son’s short stories – this is not a bad comparison at all. My son has been attending creative writing classes for over four years and writes some of the most crazy, bizarre, yet considered and well paced stories I have ever come across. I think that it is more a reflection that if Simon Rich can be published (and yes, I do know of the whole family all is in publishing so he kinda had a foot in the door anyway thing), my son’s current aspiration to be a butcher (!) who writes (Robert G Barrett eat your heart out) is not that unattainable.
Driving in Neutral by Sandra Antonelli
Olivia is a twice divorced woman who is having a career change from racing car test driver to a translator and Max/Emerson is her new employer – though neither of them are aware of this when they first meet when they get stuck in an elevator. I adored the cute meet in the elevator in this book. It was the perfect set up for the novel. As I was reading it, I could envision Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in that scene. From the second chapter though, I did struggle getting into the book. I think this was because I was reading the book in spurts (on trains and buses) on my phone and I really needed some reading immersion. Once I sat down at home to read it, I was much happier. I liked that Olivia had emotional baggage and that she thought in racing metaphors. I loved the hilarious fart scene in the book – so few books even allude to such body functions let alone in romances. And I also loved the sex scene. It was perfect. All tension and allusion and less sex description which these days is just over the top and tiresome. However, I found that there were too many secondary characters in this book that confused the story and felt superfluous particularly with the added confusion of the Max/Em/Emerson/Maxwell the male protagonist. I particularly love category romances for their brevity and lack of secondary characters which is why I tend to avoid longer novels so this might just be a reflection on me and not the book. I also felt the whole wedding/bridezilla setting went for too long – once again, that is a reflection of my reading preferences again. And I was perplexed by the bride’s speech patterns, using Ah/I as though she couldn’t make up her mind if she was a Southern Belle or not. But these are only minor distractions. The main thing is that I love Sandra’s zingy dialogue and pop culture references, something which has become an Antonelli trade mark. It is funny and believable. I also loved loved loved the “show don’t tell ending (which I know that others have not liked).
To add to all these books, I have read another 22 other titles (including a number of picture books, interior design books and six novels) in the past month. It was too many to try to fit in the one post and certainly the novels from Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Miranda Neville still settling in my mind.
Having gone through a reading slump for much of the year, reading less than 4 books a month, I am thrilled to have my reading mojo back.