Shallowreader 2017 wrap up

It is that time of the year that I look back and feel as though 2017 flew by. And I can honestly say that this year did not fly by. This year dragged. It dragged, not in a slow and cumbersome way, but more in the way of falling off the back of a billycart as it hurtles down a hill and your arm is stuck and your body just bump bump bumps all the long way to the bottom of a ledge. This is not to say that it was an all bad year. There were times that the billycart slowed enough for me to smell the daisies and watch the wonder that is our world come together and be great.

Firstly, some personal notes: I started this year with a semester’s break from my PhD. I had some personal issues that I needed to work through and the break was very good for me. I took on teaching Digital Literacies at a pathways college and I reallllllly struggled. I usually engage well with students (I have a teacher satisfaction *ahem is this really a true measure ahem* score of over 4) but I stumbled through the 2 semesters I taught. My score remained high, I loved my subject, my students mostly got through, and my colleagues and workplace were fabbo. But I didn’t find my footing so I have turned down subsequent offers.

I also had a whole lot of out of the ordinary experiences. My fave aunt visited from Greece, as did my Swiss cousins. I saw Sandra Antonelli TWICE!!!, I went to Tasmania for the first time, I travelled with friends, I bought a brand new little car, I got my first ever mani-pedi, I took sedatives to fly (making flights sooooo much more bearable), I went to the US and to Canada where I met Miss Bates and Jessica Tripler and MaryLynne and SuperWendy and Ana and many fabulous American and Canadian reader friends and this just made me incredibly happy (I have had a post about my trip languishing in my drafts for months but I promise I will post it tomorrow!!!).

I returned to my PhD in second semester with a whole lot of writing, peer reviewing, two conferences and two journal papers (one which is still pending). On top of this, my husband ended up in hospital for a week at a time on three different occasions over the space of three months. It was a rather difficult time, and I apologise now, but this has been the reason for my lack of blogging since July. Life sometimes is that hurtle on the billycart moment.

My husband’s health has slowly become better (just as my asthma decided to amp it up, but hey! that’s just another story) and we are back to our summer swimming and sun lovin’ ways. Despite the horrifying politics of the plutocrats and neoliberalists in the world, I actually feel much happier and settled on the eve of 2018 than I did this time last year. I hold on to hope for a kinder world, and I am pretty much pleased with my own lot in life.

 

In this past year, I have had so many wonderful people show me their kindness, their generosity, their largesse, their wonderful sharing ways.

This past year, I looked up a lot and I loved the sky and I loved my city and I loved my family and, just in general, I loved my life. And you can’t really ask for much more than that.

My Year in Reading

This is my first year in a long time that I have mainly read long essays and avoided books. I have reached a critical stage of my PhD that keeps me from engaging too deeply in fictional worlds. This will continue until I finish my thesis. At first, this had me panicking as I feel it is a professional requirement of librarians to read constantly so that they can best serve their borrowers. But I have come to terms with the fact that I will just need to do all my catching up once I have spare time again (haha!). Surprisingly, of the scant 68 books I did read, my top 4 (pfffft! 5 is so last year) were all audio books which is probably an indication of where my headspace is. And another surprise is my lack of romance fiction in my fave books. Sadly, this year, not a single one managed to meet my expectations of a top read. But I also had a surprise favourite read. But more about that at the end of my post.

Of the books that I did read, (for a complete list here is a link to my Goodreads 2017 books) my favourites were:

Angie Thomas's The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas; narrated by Bahni Turpin

Recommended to me by Jessica Tripler, and borrowed through my (now expired) New York Public Library card, I listened to this audio book in two straight days. I was engaged, and crying and saddened and heartened. It took my breath away. I’m not going to even bother with a long review except to say YA meets Black Lives Matter in one of the best, most impactful stories I have read in a long time.

Aziz AnsariModern Romance written and narrated by Aziz Ansari

Our whole family is a big fan of Aziz Ansari. We first saw him as Tom Haverford in Parks and Rec and since have watched him doing stand-up comedy and in his own show Master of None. Since I was looking for an audio book that would appeal to both my husband and me for our long drive through Maine to Quebec, I went with this one. I thought it was going to be a celebrity attempt at fiction, but instead I found an incisive sociological  study into the modern dating habits of people in the 21st century. It was funny and informative and I highly recommend it.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride written and narrated by Cary Elwes (and a host of other actors from the movie)

Back in 1987, my friend Kathy and I went and saw The Princess Bride at the movies on the strength of Robin Wright who was a favourite of ours on Santa Barbara, an under-appreciated snarky soap opera. We loved the movie. I have been proselytising about it ever since. It ended up being my litmus test for the guys I was interested in dating. And thankfully, even though he was doubtful and cynical about the weirdo girlfriend who attended Barry Manilow concerts and watched Princess movies, once he watched it, Husband absolutely loves it too. As do our sons and our whole household is built on the quotes from this movie. So it was without hesitation that when I saw the book at my library, I borrowed it. I read the first chapter and enjoyed it, but then life got busy and I returned it unread. While I was on holidays, I downloaded it and discovered that it was infinitely better. Narrated by Cary Elwes who played Wesley/The Dread Pirate Roberts, in the movie, he also had all the other actors narrate their contributions, as well as Rob Reiner. The making of the movie sounds wonderful, it feels as though everyone just loved being there. Behind the scenes seems to be as good as the actual movie. It was such a delightful, fun listen that I think all fans of the movie must get this audiobook.

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright; narrated by Pamela Dillman

My all-time favourite kids author is Elizabeth Enright. The first book I ever read by her was The Saturdays, the first of The Melendy Quartet – a family of four siblings, Mona, Rush, Miranda and Oliver living in New York City in the early 1940s (the book was a contemporary publication at the time) with their father and their housekeeper/nanny Cuffy. The kids decide to pool their allowances and each Saturday one of them gets to have a New York City adventure. I ADORED this book as a kid and have reread it many many times. So when I saw that I could borrow an eaudio copy, I did not hesitate. I downloaded that baby in a zzzzzzip! My delight in this family and their Saturday adventures continues. Time has not withered this story. Pamela Dillman’s narration is lovely and lilting, though I always thought that the family’s surname was MElendy not MeLEndy (Dillman’s pronounciation).  Another excellent listen!

I need to acknowledge all the wonderful responses from friends and family who have taken part in Sharing the Shallows. When I first thought of it, I decided I wanted to do a year’s worth of posts. I drew up my list of 52 people and I am still slowly working through it. As it stands, I have posted 38 responses. The weeks that I didn’t post were usually due to ill health or travel restrictions. I have decided to continue posting until I get 52 responses. So far, very few people have said no, and most people have been so incredibly gracious with their thoughtful, funny, irreverent look at their reading. I am thanking all the people who have shared my shallows this year. I looked forward to receiving all your emails; I loved reading them; they all made me laugh.

With complete and utter sincerity, you have given me my absolutely favourite reading for this year. You have all been way more interesting than the books I read and enjoyed. You are all tops. Those of you who have contributed and those of you who have read along. You all have blood worth bottling and you are all my hatchback heroes and heroines.

 

 

 

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GrowlyCub is Sharing the Shallows

GrowlyCub is another of my Twitter reading friends whom I first met when I started tweeting in 2009. Apart from her savvy romance fiction knowledge, I found GrowlyCubs tweets about her cats, life in the US and her subsequent move to the UK, always engaging. I have really felt the difference since she has moved as the timezone differences highlight why I have fewer Twitter from the UK. We still, occasionally cross paths, and I especially enjoy her photos from her historical romps and dances around grand homes.

GrowlyCub beanie with Putney's The Rake and The ReformerGrowlyCub

@growlycub

Translator, currently working for a localisation quality assurance company for games in London aka I play games for a living which can be way less fun than it sounds lol

Can you describe yourself?

GrowlyCub is a Jill-of-all-trades who is interested in many subjects from history, language and architecture to science like genetics and evolution, which made it hard to settle to any one career because there is always something else new and exciting going on that needs to be explored. She has two and a half degrees (Academically Trained Graduate Translator from Germany, a Master in Arts of Teaching Foreign Language and a half degree in biology/genetics from two US institutions), has worked in business, international education, taught foreign language to American college students, bred and competitively showed Maine Coon cats in CFA and TICA and worked in a museum before returning to her original career as a translator.  German, with Croat blood on her mother’s side, she moved to the US in 1998 and stayed for 17 years before relocating to London in 2015 where she had planned to settle for life until Brexit made that impossible.  GrowlyCub is currently evaluating countries for future permanent residency and would love for people who read these pages to tell her why or why not she should consider theirs. 🙂 Continue reading

Allyn from Bookgroup is Sharing the Shallows

In only the way that the temporal ground-rush that is Christmas can do, I have missed posting my friend Allyn’s shallows twice! So though belated, I introduce to you another of my fabulous bookgroup members. Allyn is always seen with a well-thumbed, doorstopper of a book in hand, wherever he goes. Even though we don’t see him anywhere near as often as we used to, we still enjoy his occasional attendances and his messages back to the group through his proxies. And I have to say that every library staff member across the world would also attest to the same “saddest task”. It slays us and it is something that no-one ever prepares you for in library school. It slays me even more that Allyn had to do this to romance novels *sob*

A room full of books with the side of Allyn's face in the corner of the photographAllyn

Can you describe yourself?

Forty-something who wants to stay thirty something. Grew up with a mother and a grandmother who were voracious readers.

IT consultant/contractor, currently stay-at-home father of two very energetic children.

What is your main reading medium (books, blogs, games, news, etc) and how much time do you spend reading a week?

A tie between news and blogs, and books. Somewhere between one and two hours a day, so about 10 hours a week, mainly because I fall asleep before I get a chance to read to much at night ..our children like dinner around 5 in the evening, and by the time they are asleep, I can barely manage to brush my teeth, let alone get lost in a book. Continue reading

Kristine (K) is Sharing the Shallows

It has only taken me until December, but I have finally worn down my work friend, Kristine (K) to write to the Shallows. I have worked with many lovely library people in my life, but none have made me laugh as much as Kristine (K). She sees the funny quirks in every library moment and you can hear her laughter peal across the library – this may not be good if you are trying to do some studious studying, but it is definitely good for staff, and especially me as it makes work an especially happy place.

Kristine (K)

Library Assistant

Can you describe yourself?

Library Assistant, amateur writer and life-long student of current beau – a horse called El Rocco.

When I’m not researching my writing, dancing with my handsome Rocco or drawing circles for reindeer puppets and singing to toddlers at work, you’ll find me coiled around a salacious historical fiction novel. When the moon is just right, I’ll take on a good literary fiction shortly followed by several Scottish romances filled with moody lochs and emotionally snared Scotsmen. Continue reading

Marijana is Sharing the Shallows

Marijana and I live in the same city, and I suspect in the same kinda part of the city, and yet we have never met in person. Not only do the two of us share many a romance novel discussion, but I find our views align politically too, and I much admire her sharp, incisive tweets on all matters. I am sure that one day, the two of us will meet but for now we will enjoy each other’s reading recommendations. Oh! And noted on Kleypas’s Wallflower series, Marijana.

Marijana's hand holding Jo Beverley's Deidre and Don JuanMarijana

@__Marijana_

Can you describe yourself?

Marijana rediscovered reading when she was on maternity leave the first time around. She started with the Russian classics, delved into the Bronte sisters (love!) and through chance discovered urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Through discussion boards and blogs, she picked her first historical romance, which was a Mary Balogh (she now knows that technically it was a regency romance).

She’s an unashamed book pusher (you HAVE to read Imprudent Lady) who loves to see what people on the train are reading (sadly, it’s rarely romance). She is also known to binge-watch TV shows, most recently Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

On twitter @__Marijana_. While not at her day job, she tries to wrangle her children and a husband, which can sometimes make work feel like a holiday. Continue reading

Anna Cowan is Sharing the Shallows

Many years ago, when Twitter was young, Anna Cowan and I would chat regularly. We would always talk romance fiction, or laugh at some bizarre world event. We didn’t have much of a chance of meeting as we live in cities that are 8 hours away from each other. And then, one day, Sarah from Smart Bitches came to a high tea in Sydney, and Anna surprised a whole lot of tweeps by hopping on a last minute flight to Sydney to join us. SHE FLEW TO SYDNEY TO MEET US!!! HOW CAN I NOT LOVE THIS WOMAN!!!! Suffice to say, we have met up on several occasions since, either when she has been in Sydney or I have been in Melbourne, and our meet ups are always, just absolutely always an absolute scream.

Anna Cowan's picture book shelvesAnna Cowan

diary of a(n accidental) housewife

@annacowan

Can you describe yourself?

Name: Anna Cowan, occupation: Writer, description: Anna is a writer and mum who lives in the hills outside Melbourne. She dreams and watches the weeds overgrow her garden at an alarming rate.

What is your main reading medium (books, blogs, games, news, etc) and how much time do you spend reading a week?

I suppose the very honest answer to that is: Subtitles of TV shows on my phone, and some shameful number of hours per week. 12? 15? I am an avid watcher of Korean TV, and when I say avid I really mean addicted. Why are they so good at TV? My attempt to get everyone else in my life addicted too isn’t bearing much fruit, but then no one listened when I told them to read Twilight, either. I look forward to saying I told you so. Continue reading

Rain Merton is Sharing the Shallows

Earlier this year, I had the absolute good fortune of having travelled to Montreal, Canada for a readers’ meet-up. There were many people I had already met online over the years at this meet-up but there were some I had never crossed paths with – and I need to ask…how on earth had I never met Rain!? We met on our first day walking around Montreal and spent the weekend having conversations on everything – education, plagiarism detecting software (and the detrimental effect on student outputs), Eastern Europe, women’s issues, politics, food, and, of course, romance fiction. I am so glad that I got to meet Rain.

Rain's black catRain Merton 

@RainMerton

Can you describe yourself?

Rain Merton has moved halfway across the world thirteen years ago and never regretted it once. In those past thirteen years, to keep with the pattern, Rain has moved across Canada twice, acquired two post-graduate degrees, two children, and, most recently, two kittens. Rain writes queer romance when not teaching college students, and prefers the personal pronoun “they.” Find them on Twitter (https://twitter.com/RainMerton), instagram (https://www.instagram.com/rainmerton/) or—very sporadically—FB (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012107086345).

What is your main reading medium (books, blogs, games, news, etc) and how much time do you spend reading a week?

Blame it on too much time in grad school, but I am a greedy and fickle reader when it comes to reading for pleasure. I usually have anywhere between five and ten books and audiobooks going at the same time, because I like to read in a variety of genres. There’s always at least a couple of romances in there, because they are my constant soothing companions. I read non-fiction, too; sometimes it’s life writing, other times narrative nonfiction for topical research, other times still it’s theory (aka my grad-school love).

I used to be a big news junkie, especially in grad school, as my research area is contemporary literature and cultural studies, but these days the news are overwhelming, so I filter them through social media. Continue reading