Just a tad hot, the TBR and Nancy Mitford love

I can’t help but start this post with Oh My God! But there is a lot of “hot searing burn holes through your skin” heat in the sun at the moment. So much heat that it is near impossible to function. I truly mean this.

We have had months of hot nights where the temperature rarely dips below 27C and the days are just awful. “How awful could it be?” I hear you ask.

Sweating man fanning himself

Well, 45C for three days running is pretty fucking awful.

My car temperature hitting 48.5C (a friend’s reached 52C only half an hour from my home!) is pretty fucking awful.

road which is on fire

When animals en masse are dropping dead out of trees, it is pretty fucking catastrophic awful. Poor bats. Continue reading

La La Land: dancing, romancing and in-story copyright

/rant

I went to the movies over a month ago. I don’t get to go all that often but when I saw the trailer for La La Land I was instantly enamoured and I knew that I needed to see the movie. I love musicals! I have an incredibly high tolerance for even the ones that make the worst-of list. I love Grease 2, I love Xanadu, I love Mamma Mia and dammit I love The Pirate Movie so much that I own it on DVD.

It takes A LOT for me to hate a musical and the TL;DNR is that I hated La La Land.  It promised much but it delivered little. The hero/heroine (should I even bother calling them this) Seb and Mia were so forgettable that I couldn’t even remember their character names and I had to look them up just to write this post.

And the spoiler is early in this one so look away if you don’t want to know more…

Moulin rouge routine

 

Continue reading

Dear Reading, It’s not you, it’s me – TBR Challenge 2017

I am in a fiction reading slump. It is the slumpiest that I can remember since the black hole years back when my sons were babies and the only thing I read were the clues in my Christine Lovatt’s Crossword books. This makes for a very lacklustre start to Wendy’s 2017 TBR challenge – January theme of We Love Short Shorts.

The last book I finished reading was on the 15th of December and I can directly attribute my lack of interest in reading anything at all to the death of my student, my husband being in hospital, my lovely cousins visiting from Switzerland and this hot horrid heat hell called Summer.  Last night was so awful that it did not drop below 30C/86F. In heat despair, I got into my car at 4am with the engine on just to cool down in air conditioning (the plus side to this is that I listened to another chapter of my everlasting audiobook – see my last post).

My last post of the year where I searched for the good things in the year was incredibly helpful as it dragged me out of some of my sadness. I have had several swims, my house is looking tidy and lovely and I have been writing some words towards the PhD. But the ludic reading has fallen by the wayside. I have started many books but I have not managed to proceed beyond Chapter 7 in any of them. This is definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

I didn’t love my “short shorts”, and many of the books were quite long however my reading of them was definitely cut short (heh – see what I did there? There are many ways to link to Wendy’s theme of the month!). The books I partially read are:

Summer Skin Kirsty Eagar

Summer Skin

by Kirsty Eagar

Yeah. I know. Everyone loves this book. This book is now out of print. This book is due for US release in 2018. Fanfare is yes. *sigh* I’m up to Chapter 7 and I am already bored.

It’s not you, Summer Skin.

It’s me.

 

Under the boss's mistletoe by jessica hart

Under the Boss’s Mistletoe

by Jessica Hart.

I thought a sweet romance will do the trick. I’ve heard lots of praise for Ms Hart. But one chapter in was enough for me.

It’s not you, Under the Boss’s Mistletoe.

It’s me.

 

 

Cowboy's Christmas Miracle by Anne McAllister

The Cowboy’s Christmas Miracle

by Anne McAllister

This was going to be a reread. What better way that to get out of a slump than by rereading a favourite book by a favourite author. But I couldn’t get past Chapter 2 of this book. It felt navel gazey.

It’s not you, The Cowboy’s Christmas Miracle.

It’s me.

 

 

Fantastic Man by PhaidonFantastic Man: men of great style and substance

edited by Emily King

When a super groovy compilation of portraits, profiles and essays  from a magazine on stylish, gorgeous men, with few articles longer than 4 pages, you know you have some hardcore reading slump happening.

It’s not you, Fantastic Man.

It’s me.

 

Boyfriend by Christmas by Jenny StallardBoyfriend by Christmas

by Jenny Stallard

This was a bit of a 10 Ways to Lose a Guy (love this movie) rip off with the main (writer) character being told by her editor that she must get a boyfriend by Christmas and so start her adventures in drunken hookups and regretful relationships just to find the right guy was always there. I read the first 7 chapters and skimmed to the end.

Sadly, with this book, it was definitely Boyfriend by Christmas.

It was not me.

There are at least 15 books in my TBR that I couldn’t even get through the first page but I am not going to bother with listing those. I am stalling my break up with books for now. I think I will need to curate my next choice. I have Tessa Dare’s Do you want to start a Scandal waiting on my shelves and I am going to venture into the world of crime fiction (SHOCK! HORROR! The genre I am least likely to read!) by giving Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness a go purely on the strength of her being the 1980s teen romance author Janet Quin-Harkin who wrote my absolute favouritest Sweet Dreams EVAH! Ten Boy Summer.

And if that doesn’t work – I have Dog eat Dog – an AC/DC biography waiting to be read. In this heat, I might as well read about the men who rocked my 80s as I physically feel like I am on a Highway to Hell.

Burning sweltering man gif

Finally – my fave 2016 titles

It is summer here in Australia and I absolutely adore spending time on the beach which, of course means hardly any motivation to blog. But I finally came up with a very short list of my 2016 favourite reads:

When a Scot Ties a Knot by Tessa DareFavourite Novel 2016

When a Scot ties a Knot by Tessa Dare – I love epistolary romance, I love kindness and vulnerability. This book had both. I have to say that Logan and Maddie were my absolute favourite hero/heroine of the year. A definite keeper and rereader.

 

Favourite Series

Chance Sisters series by Anne Gracie: In order of preference (though there is little room between them as I really enjoyed every single book):

The Winter Bride by Anne GracieThe Spring Bride by Anne GracieThe Winter Bride

The Summer Bride

The Spring Bride

The Autumn Bride

The Autumn Bride by Anne GracieThe Summer Bride by Anne GracieThese were such delightful stories despite the 4 sisters harrowing circumstance that brought them together and having them choose to present themselves as sisters. There is lots to be said about class, women’s lack of agency and worries for their future both within society as well as their interpersonal relationships. It also throws a strong light upon the bonds we make not only with our blood sisters but the women we befriend. My only complaint was the lack of continuity in Freddy’s story (Winter Bride) from the first book to his story.
That said, Freddy and Damaris’s story was my absolute favourite, starting out all sweet banter into a heartbreaking story.

Favourite Picture Book(s)

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito – A child seeks silence in the busyness of a loud city when he comes across a wise man that teaches him how to find it. As someone who has tinnitus and a frustration at libraries with a ra-ra-let’s-get-loud agenda, this book has stayed with my everyday actions where I am now seeking the silence in the gaps. Gorgeous!

Pirahnas don't eat bananas by Aaron BlabeyThelma the Unicorn by Aaron BlabeyPirahnas don’t eat Bananas and Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey – How can I go past a book that has a child belly laughing over and over and over again (thank you lovely nephew of mine). Nothing like the word “Bum” in a story. And also Thelma who is pink and sparkly and famous. Everyone should meet Thelma. I had to read this book to my niece four times back-to-back because that is what Thelma does to all of us. Pink Sparkle dust to all of us.

My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and James FoleyMy Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen – Zombie pet rabbits terrorising a family all said in verse. I cannot describe how I felt on first reading this book. Kudos to the publisher for taking a risk on this book. It was just something else and I love it.

 

Favourite Non-Fiction

The good greek girl by Maria KatsonisThe Good Greek Girl by Maria Katsonis – I cried and cringed and related to so much and then didn’t relate but certainly empathised to all the rest. I try to avoid caught-between-two-cultures stories as this theme was constantly thrown at me when I was at school (ugghh! Teachers othering you and that awful patronising “let’s help you deal with the weirdness of your culture” Bull Shit) so I kinda take a big step backward from those stories. But this one grabbed me, was candid and I read it in 12 straight hours no sleep just crying. Exhausting and excellent.

Favourite Absurdist fiction

Lynne Graham's The Sicilian's Stolen SonThe Sicilian’s Stolen Son by Lynne Graham

Good/Evil Twin surrogate baby and stolen identity story that gave me my As-if-o-metre. Seriously soap opera-ish. Seriously crazy. Seriously good.

Lynne Graham’s 99th book was absolute excellence!

 

Favourite Game

ShallowreaderBingo! was just a whole lot of fun. I will be launching a different reading game (though rather similar) in a couple of weeks….keep watching for it!

 

If you would like to look at the whole 180 titles, here is my Goodreads link (unaffiliated) in order of star ranking. I am also not going to do a blurb for each book. They were all good for many different reasons.

My at-a-glance reading statistics for 2016 were:

180 books or 32, 174 pages

73 novels

4 audiobooks (3 of which I sought out the print copy to finish the book at my own pace)

56 picture books

40 non-fic books including 14 interior decorating books

4 Junior fiction

1 Young Adult

1 Graphic novel

I haven’t done a break down of female/male authors because the men lose out big time – at least with my novel reading – I read 1 by a male. Though there is a lot more balance in the female/male authored Picture Books. I also have only counted the DNFs that I progressed beyond Chapter 6.

To be honest, my aim for 2017 is to read fewer books. I found myself reading to escape rather than to enjoy. In the second half of the year, I found myself feeling flatter and flatter after every book I read through (including picture books). This does not make a happy reader. So for 2017 I have chosen to detach from needing to read all the things. I’m just going to let things languish on my TBR. Some books need to mature before being read. Here’s to fewer books for me! Happy 2017 reading. Meanwhile, here’s to happy swimming!

Fairlight Beach, Sydney.

Fairlight Beach, Sydney

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