A quick TBR Challenge post

I have missed several of this year’s TBR challenges. This one is going to be a series of quickshots at a couple of books I have read this year. So quick I can’t even be bothered putting up book cover photos.

And there will be SPOILERS so some readers may want to look away! Continue reading

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Reading: Notes 1-7

As SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge topic for this month is Series, I have decided to list a series of reading notes on romances and other reading that has been sitting on my TBR shelf for many months.

Reading Note 1: Impulse Reading. There is too much impulse reading in the world. Just because a book is a new release, or has just hit the bestsellers list, this is no reason to dive straight into reading it. Sometimes, a book needs to wait. This is why I love SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge. I don’t think of books that have been on my TBR as languishing, as much as they are maturing while I get to them. There are many books that I have read long after their publishing date that have not aged well due to their time on the TBR, or due to the long wait until I have come to the end of a reservations list. I have become accustomed to waiting for books. As a librarian, I never feel that I can read a book that has reservations on it before the actual borrowers who have been waiting in line. This inevitably means that I need to wait until the reservation list diminishes (not a particularly easy thing). I also do not like the pressure of reading to a deadline. This also means that I miss the review flood, and I often find myself writing about books long after they have been released. The subsequent notes are all of books that have been waiting on my shelves, or that I have waited for patiently through library reservations.

Reading Note 2: Cry laugh. Over the years, I have found myself moving further and further away from reading male authors. They don’t appeal to me. I love my fiction to be filled with heartfelt emotion and somehow – and this will be a gross generalisation – men’s novels feel cold and observant, removed from the joy and exhilaration of emotional writing that I love reading. The authors whose works I have tried to read in the past year seem to be more about how clever they are as a writer rather than how well they can tell a story and I feel as though I am being talked down to as a reader. Is this the author as mansplainer perhaps? The exception though is David Sedaris. His writing fills me with emotions. I don’t know if it is partly due to our shared 2nd generation Greek diaspora experiences, his absurd sense of life, elves, language, family and Summer. All contribute to my love for his writing. After 42 weeks on reserve, I finally got Sedaris’s Calypso on audiobook from the library. The first time I listened to Sedaris on audiobook, I was laughing so hard that I had to pull over from driving as I couldn’t see the road from my tears. With Calypso, I had to pull over and park the car as once again, I was crying. But this time, it was in sorrow. Sedaris’s slow revealing of his sister Tiffany’s life and suicide and his own relationship with her, cut me deeply. Calypso. Such an innocuous story in his series of essays of life unravelling with his surviving four siblings. To quote him upon discovering the turtle he would feed was being fed by many others: Continue reading

Observations: Notes 18-30

Every few months, I will post a series of observations that I have collected during that time.  I work 4 days a week, study 2 days a week and faceplant every Saturday so it has taken me a while to write . It is unrelated to my previous Observations post. 

Note 18: Mum. My mum was ill for most of 2018. The first half of the year she was constantly in hospital, so in the second half of the year we were all on edge. She wasn’t ill enough to return to hospital, however pneumonia in octogenarians is quite serious. As mum says, every other funeral she attends is due to older people succumbing to pneumonia.

Note 19: Photographs and Mum. I would spend the occasional weekend with my mum, whenever my sister who lives with her was away, as I didn’t want to leave her alone. Mum would just cough uncontrollably for the majority of the time that I was with her. The more she coughed, the more she became distressed. To distract her, I would pull out her albums. Her photographs have aged over the years, but going through them calmed her coughing. She would tell me of her friends, her aunts, the young children in the photos. Continue reading

The Wedding Date: Same(ish) titles; different books

I was a slacker last year for the TBR Challenge and only posted the one time. This year, I plan to post monthly even if my posts are short. So seeing that the topic for January is We Love Short Shorts  I have added two short(ish) reviews rich with spoilers of two books with The Wedding Date  in their title for my first SuperWendy 2019 TBR Challenge.

2 people standing on either side of a door.The Wedding Date Bargain by Mira Lyn Kelly

When Sarah Cole finds herself in Chicago with two months to kill before her New York promotion goes through, she decides it’s time to take care of a few things—like the inconvenient issue of her virginity. Sarah knows the right guy for the job too: Max, the notorious lady’s man she’s been crushing on since college.

Max Brandt is all for a fling, just not with Sarah. She’s way too good for him. He walked away from her once, but it wasn’t easy.

Things are different now, and the plan is so simple. There’s no way either of them would do something as silly as fall in love…

I read/listened to this book 2 months ago. It was pleasant but infinitely forgettable. I can’t remember that much about the plot (other than what is outlined in the blurb above). It was very much a “The one that got away” plotline with the heroine regretting not having her chance at the hero long ago. She makes a decision to sleep with him before she leaves Chicago for a job in New York. There is a whole lot of navel gazing with questions of “should I” , “do I”, “does my career matter or love matter” etc etc. Continue reading

My 2018 year of reading

It is a sad state of reading affairs when the books that stand out the most for 2018 are the ones that annoyed me. I may have waxed lyrical in my previous post, unfortunately they were but 12 books out of my total reading. Unlike most annual wrap up, this is not a “Best of” list, instead I am going to write about the standout books that left a mark on me.

But first my annual reading statistics:

Books read: 94

Fiction: 37  including Romance fiction: 21

Books DNFd but counted: 10 (this means I threw in the towel after tolerating 100 pages of shite)

Audiobooks:  31

Children’s: 9 (this is abysmal as I usually will read 30+ picture books in a year)

Graphic Novels: 4

Non-fiction: 53  including Memoir: 13  Design: 15  Library/Reading Theory: 20

This last stat, my theory reading, is an indication of where my time was spent this past year. I am finding it harder and harder to sit and read print for leisure as I am so tired after leaving work and/or the study cave. Audiobooks saved my reading year as I listened on my commutes. Continue reading

One Big Huge TBR 2018 post

I have had a shockingly bad year in the review stakes. And I haven’t posted a single time for SuperWendy’s TBR challenge for 2018. And I think the only way I will be able to get back in her TBR good books so as to take part in TBR 2019 is to do one big TBR post to cover the whole of 2018. So here goes!

January 17 – We Love Short Shorts! (shorter reads)

This is not necessarily a romance, however it is about the love and broken hearts and breakups and wonderful couples separated due to someone dying. The Museum of Broken Relationships: Modern Love in 203 Everyday Objects by Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic. Using one of my favourite writing styles, the epistolary nature of this book with a few pages and photographs of objects held now at two permanent museums – on in Zagreb, Croatia and one in Los Angeles, California. There is also a touring collection. I adored this book. And I really hope that there is a sequel for unbroken relationships.

February 21 – Backlist Glom (author with multiple books in your TBR)

Molly O'Keefe covers with naked headless men showing pecs and abs.

Molly O’Keefe’ You Can’t Hurry Love and You Can’t Buy Me Love

I adore Molly O’Keefe but I rarely stumble upon her books so when I do find them, I read them straightaway. Though I don’t consider 2 books a glom, I am sneaking O’Keefe in here.

Continue reading

Observations: Notes 1-17

It has been a long time since I blogged so I have decided to write about my past 8 months in a series of notes. It is a long read without a photo in sight. The TL;DR is that lots has happened and I can’t guarantee regular blogging in the future.

Now for the long read:

Note 1: Offspring. In late January, my oldest son bought a one way ticket to the other side of the world. His plan was to spend anywhere from 6 months to a year overseas.

Note 2: Time. Like most people with an online presence, I try to manage the amount of time I spend online.

Note 3: Mediums of engagement. Since my son has been overseas, he has been communicating with me on a number of online social media (SM) platforms – both public and private messaging – on a daily (and sometimes several times a day) basis. He seems to love sharing his experiences with me which I like (except for when he is having a crisis and I am receiving panicked phone calls in the middle of the night and sure, one day they will make great stories to tell everyone when he comes home but I really don’t want the real-time tension of missed ferries and scary falling asleep on public transport just to wake up and find your wallet missing moments. Just give me the freakin’ funny story after the crisis is over, already!).

All this (lovely and makes this mother’s heart happy) communicating had to have a fall guy because, like all other social media interactions, it is a time suck. The fall guys: My blog, facebook (which I hate hence non-deserving of capitals) and to a slightly lesser degree, Twitter. The standup guy however is my Instagram which is my son’s SM platform of choice.

Note 4: Oh Twitter. So much promise. So much poison.

Note 5: Lurking is the new Tweeting. I lurve both LibraryLand and RomanceLandia on Twitter and I used to be fully engaged in discussion about all things relevant, irrelevant and irreverant in both these spheres as well as some scope creep into other corners of interest like travel, all things bookish and readerly, Greece, funny thingymajobs, politics and whatnots. However, life has changed and I have slowly become a lurker with occasional interactions. Where Twitter used to be a place where you could find your tribe and then spend time exploring and discussing your interests, this has all shifted and Twitter now is a place that has politics and protest at the forefront. Politics in 2018 is a toxic and shocking place. A place where I find myself constantly aghast at the temerity of politicians lying and manipulating and their terrifying hate-filled supporters and enablers. I find myself having to compartmentalise tweets as they come through: Fact, Opinion, Falsehood, Hatred. Each 280 characters becomes a stalled moment where I consider the impact of each word, where I need to undertake a source analysis so I can ascertain the credibility of the Tweeter and not only their particular life lens, but also how they may potentially react. To anyone. To me. Which explains my new tendency towards lurking.

Note 6: Being a fuck up in a knee-jerk world. I often think (worry) about how will people react if/when I say/tweet something ill-informed or something wrong. See, I live with my foot in my mouth. I say stupid things that in retrospect horrify me. I look back at things I have done and said throughout my life and cringe and wish I could take the words back. Things that I said at 16. At 26. At 36. Things that I said last month. Things that I said today. Getting older has not necessarily made me any wiser when I start prattling. I get a stupid nervous energy and I forget to just shut the fuck up. It is an affliction that many extroverts have. I like to think that there isn’t anything unique about me feeling this way. Which means that if I can fuck up, so can everyone else. We are all fuck ups together. If I see someone say weird, out of line shit, I like to think that I just shrug and wait to see if it is a hill they are willing to die on or if they just go “Ooops! Sorry!” or if they make an effort to change. However, I have seen people harassed, I have seen them torn down, I have seen (several) people I liked hounded and bullied to the point that they have left their online spaces forever due to things that they have done. And I don’t know if they are OK. And I worry about them. And true – what they were hounded or called out on was not good behaviour and there are consequences to bad behaviour. But frankly, no-one is perfect. Good people can sometimes do bad things and make mistakes. But we all learn as we go along and it is imperative that we are measured in our responses. Humans fuck up. I don’t know anyone, ANYONE, who hasn’t at some time in their life fucked up both big and small. I also think every person has the capacity to unfuckup in the future.

Example: A person I grew up with went to gaol for doing some pretty hardcore crimes. She has been out for over a decade. I bumped into her several months back. We chatted. We laughed. We talked about our kids. Where we live. What we do now. The big elephant in the room was totally ignored. As it needed to be. It was a polite, and rather warm conversation (from someone who was never ever warm in any exchanges that I recall from our youth). At the time that the elephant was happening, none of us abused her or trolled her. There was some talk amongst friends about the situation, and there was one incredibly kind friend who without falter visited her every single week despite having been victim to some of the crimes. So, after our short hellos, this person and I did not swap details or promise to catch up. That would not have been honest. But I was really glad she came over and spoke to me. It was a lovely and genuine exchange. It feels good to know that she changed her life over. And she is a nicer person from what I can see.

So the moral to Note 6 is that I can’t bear to see online attacks. They are not OK. They unnerve me. They are performed with such pious ferocity that I have noted the people who seem to relish in leading them and I keep farfarfar away from them. I don’t subscribe to behaviour being a good/bad binary. Humanity is too complex for that. Also, I am an idealist. I believe in HEAs and redemptive arcs. R U OK day is coming up. It is a day that people are encouraged to remember to check in on friends who may have mental health issues. If any of you personally have contact with someone who used to be engaged in the online communities that I am on (libraries and romance) who has been hounded to getting offline, please check in on them and ask if they are OK.

Note 6.1: I wrote this note on the 21/8. That night, I was in a Twitter exchange where I frankly put my foot in my judgmental, unthinking mouth once again. I was taken to task in the nicest possible way. I apologised. We all laughed. We moved on. Twitter trust in humanity is being incrementally restored.

Note 6.2: Activism, protest and calling out bad behaviour is important to our society. It is important to be able to voice our concerns. But there is a thin line between this and turning into trolls. We must all take care in observing where that line is and not have a knee-jerk reaction and fuck up in a way that we may later regret.

Note 7: I still like Twitter. It still remains my regular social media platform of choice. At least, for now.

Note 8: Thesis and well-being. My 7 months of not blogging coincided with a slump (but not a complete standstill) in my doctoral writing, too. From February through to May, my elderly mum was crisis ill, and in and out of hospital for the majority of that period. Thankfully, I am one of four daughters, and we all had our own area of care and support that we tried to balance between us. I say this, because I would never claim that I carried a full care load. However, the assistance that I gave impacted my own time management with my studies. The consequences being, that I am only now recovering and slowly unravelling the complexity of my thesis work. In the next fortnight, I have to make several structural and conceptual framework decisions that I have been in discussion with my supervisor over. Returning to the blog seems to be giving me a way to work through these problems. On the mum front, she is much better. She is cooking complex meals again, and she is snarky, full of irony along with being all kind and giving, once again. I wouldn’t say that she has fully recovered, but she is certainly a lot more like her usual, contradictory self.

Note 9: Work. I still work as a librarian and I have once again turned down teaching. In the long run, I don’t know how turning down teaching will play out for me. University teaching is hard to come by but I will go crazy if I have 2 jobs, the thesis, being present for my youngest son who is in his last 3 months of his HSC (for the non-Australian readers – this is our state university entrance exams and compulsory secondary education leaving certificate), as well as helping my mum. I don’t have the competitive fire-in-the-belly and willingness to give up my sleeping and resting time that seems to be necessary to make it in academia, so I will need to worry about all that is my future after I finish the thesis. In the meantime, I continue to public-library to get through the study cave necessities.

Note 10: Library cards and library membership. When my Note 1 son went to England, he was given instructions to get himself a library card as soon he was settled and to share his details with me so I could borrow ebooks and eaudiobooks. As all good sons do, he ignored me. His girlfriend though gave me access to her library card. And I felt vexed. How could I use someone else’s card? Even though I had her permission, I felt that I shouldn’t be breaching library rules in such a way. It has made me reconsider library memberships and family access points and password sharing and privacy issues. When I pointed this breach out to her, she responded with a “Huh? But I have your Netflix account logged into my computer. How is this any different?” and I had a lightbolt moment and saw it her way. The library access, by the way, has been great.

Note 10: Narrative in my life. I will leave it to another blog post to discuss what I have been watching and reading but I do have some teaser notes.

Note 10.1: Netflix and TV: I love watching.

Note 10.2: I have not purchased a book since August 2017.

Note 10.3: The reading slump may be over, baby!

Note 11: Conferences. I decided at the beginning of the year to not present at anymore conferences until I finished my thesis. This has not been a decision that I have followed through on. Thankfully. I submitted an abstract to the Popular Romance Studies, the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance IASPR 2018 conference and I am so grateful that I was accepted. Even a week before the conference I felt that I needed to withdraw my paper as my debacle of a year had kept me from comprehensively formulating my argument but  I am so glad that I presented my paper. It was called “Nobody puts romance fiction in the corner: the cognitive dalliance of physical places and digital spaces in public libraries”. I am now trying to write it up so I can submit it for publication. Two weeks prior to IASPR, I also presented a seminar on my research for my university. I will eventually add both of these to my Journals page, but here is the link to Romance in the Margins should you want to watch it on Youtube. I have since also submitted to an Information and Library Science conference. All the submitting and writing and panicking about my content during June and July ended up energising me. I started downloading eaudiobooks to listen to on my commute to work. I listened to 12 novels in the space of 6 weeks. I also read a couple but that hasn’t been as easy as more of my reading time has been focused upon theory and research rather than leisure time.

Note 12: I miss my weekly swimming. I can’t swim in pools due to the chlorine, so I haven’t had a swim since May. One day, I may brave the elements and go swimming in Sydney’s (relatively mild) cold. But it won’t be happening this year. When I grow up to be retired, I will never Winter again. I will spend every June through to September in the Northern Hemisphere. Life goals!

Note 13: I am fucking grumpy. I continue to attend my reading group. We are 17 years strong and I still enjoy attending. We just did Happy as a topic and, in line with all our reading decisions, we have thoughtfully decided to base our next 6 meetings on the rest of the seven dwarfs. Grumpy is up for September which suits me just fine as I have become a really grumpy person. Really really grumpy. Just ask the kids who catch my bus after school. I’m a fuckin’ grump. I growl at teenagers. I shush kids in the library making noise (dammit – the high school kids are studying and they really don’t want to deal with 3 year old playing chasings while their carers give zero shits). I could blame grumpy on the thesis. I could blame grumpy on being tired of parenting. But as a good friend pointed out to me, maybe I am just grumpy and no one else needs to be scapegoated.

Note 14: How on earth did I become a dog person: I now accidently own 2 dogs. We have owned Cleo – a mini fox/Jack Russell terrier who is crazy wired up and very clingy. Then we had an emergency foster dog come to us through a friend six weeks ago. His name is Beau and he is a chihuahua/Jack Russell terrier who is also crazy wired up and very clingy. And since we found out that he is now going to stay with us forever, we have renamed (?) him to Bo. Beau is too highbrow for plebian me. Bee-Oh is much more my pace. Bo as in Bo and Hope. Bo and Luke Duke. Sydney FC has Bobô – not Deyvison Rogério da Silva. Bo is popular culture. Beau needs pampering whereas Bo does not pretend to be anything other than a dog with a propensity for destroying pillows.

Note 15: Ineptness. I have two parcels sitting in my car waiting to be mailed. They have been there for over 9 months wrapped and with stamps applied. One day they will get mailed. This has nothing to do with my blog post and everything to do with my career choices. I will never commit to running an online store. This is more an aside than a note.

Note 16: The Blog. I am considering restarting Sharing my Shallows. My aim was always to get 52 responses and I am still a few short. Meanwhile, I have a wonderful one waiting waiting waiting patiently. Perhaps I will post it one Saturday.

Note 17: Home again: After 8 months away, my son is returning home in a few weeks. Let’s see if it frees up my blog writing time. I must say, I have loved that he has communicated so beautifully with me while he has been away. He has sent us photographs and livestreamed places to us. Every photo he sends, I save to my phone’s gallery. He calls as much as he writes. Postcards are overrated. Instant messaging is my friend. My chatty young child had all the chatter educated out of him through the weird system that gets called school these days. He became a very quiet boy from early on. His travels have brought him back to me. Early on in his travels, he told me he prefers talking to messaging. But those years of communicating through text alone have given him some wonderful skills in articulating his thoughts. I may have started this post discussing how I don’t want to be in the real time tension but I was wrong. I fucked up. I have changed my mind. I am glad that I get to talk to him when he has something funny to share or when he is lonely. I am glad that when he was alone in Southampton port at 10pm with no money with modern technology, his dad and I were able to help him get onto his ferry to the Isle of Wight where family was waiting for him. He was not left stranded. His funny “I survived” did not involve him being huddled up and freezing in the snow in some doorway. The internet and social media, for all its online hate and chaos is still a strong and enabling force. And it remains an important part of my life. I know that I will continue to use my blog as my online home even if the curtains are only occasionally opened, and Twitter will definitely remain as one of my online public spaces.

I thank you for reading to the end. I will aim to do a write up of my reading and watching in another future post. But looking at my track record this year, I commit to nothing.