DrScrabblette and DrFriendless are Sharing the Shallows – He Reads/She Reads Special Edition!

DrScrabblette is such a phenomenal woman. She is the first academic I taught for at university and she has since become a dear, dear friend. We talk about everything from reading and culture and information and life and il/literacies and her dog whispering skills and just her incredible ability to connect with every one she meets. Her students love her, and I have to say that this love is highly deserved as she knocks herself out for them. Through DrScrabblette, I have met DrFriendless a few times, and he too is an open and giving person who, despite his chosen pseudonym, is very friendly and always interesting.

DrScrabblette and DrFriendless

University academic and computer wizard, sharing a celebrity dog named Samantha.

Dog leaning on paper and pen

Can you describe yourself?

We started sharing bookshelves in 2006. She didn’t know how to read at all until she was ten. Homeschooled until ten on her Indian grandmother’s fantastic stories, myths, and legends, she has a lifelong obsession with fairytales and retellings. Once she learned to read, she consumed a lot of beautifully illustrated Russian Fairy Tales from Soviet bookstores, Tinkle magazine, Archie comics, Amar Chitra Katha stories, and Mad magazine, alongside tons of pulp fiction and cartoons in Tamil magazines. After completely skipping several phases of reading “chapter books” and YA fiction etc., she read Future Shock at fifteen, and has never stopped reading since.

He misspent his youth reading Enid Blyton, then heroic fantasy, then classics and literary fiction. Then he learnt French and read French classics and “polars” – noir detective stories. He read “The Hobbit” and the first couple of volumes of Harry Potter to his son when he was young, and the son grew up to read Chuck Palahniuk. These days he just reads computer texts, but has aspirations to write when he grows up.

She introduced him to Robert Coover, Indian mythology, and Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, and the son to Ryu Murakami. Both are avid players of tabletop board games, and he loves reading the rules diligently whereas she just likes breaking them.

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

DrFriendless: Well, it’s the web of course, for as long as I can keep my eyes open. Lots of computer code, the StackExchange help forums, cloud service documentation, programming language documentation, email, news, and so on. Sometimes I rebel against the machines and pick up a book instead, but usually I fall asleep very shortly thereafter. I do buy some computer books in hard copy because I can leave them lying around where they remind me that I should be reading them. My Kindles tend to get lost for months at a time, and the books on them only get read if I’m on holidays.

DrScrabblette: I reckon I spend every waking minute reading something: email, blogs, social media, online newspapers and magazines, academic articles, books, and a lot of student work. I also read a lot of book reviews from Publishers’ Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, LRB, and NYRB, a habit from decades spent as a bookseller before I became an editor, publisher, librarian, and then academic. I can only sleep six hours a night, so my poor eyes are a bit tired at the end of the day. Since the movies I watch are mostly subtitled from languages other than English, I end up ‘reading’ movies too. Being a very text-oriented person, I turn on subtitles even for languages I’m fluent in. I even prefer reading a play before watching it on the stage. I listen to a lot of public radio and podcasts, although it’s been awhile since I ‘read’ an audiobook. There was a time when I did a lot of that, while I did a lot more driving than I do now. I always dread the day when I might lose my eyesight, so I try to keep an eye on audiobook technologies, and still prefer devices with a tactile QWERTY keyboard to touchscreen. I have a lot of books and audiobooks on my Kindle, but when I pick it up, I end up just obsessively playing Scrabble against the computer.

Two people from Castle

What or who is your joyful reading (guilty or otherwise) pleasure?

DrFriendless: Since I taught myself to read French, I really love reading French novels or history. I tried “Swann’s Way” (the first volume of “A la Recherche de Temps Perdu”) but that was too hard for me at the time. “Le Comte de Monte Cristo” was great. Sadly it takes concentration to read French, and a Leo Malet novel has been sitting untouched by my bed for months. If the Malaussene Saga by Daniel Pennac ever makes into English, everyone should read it, that was truly a joyful read.

DrScrabblette: When I really need some cheering up, I pick up a trusty Wodehouse and read about the adventures of Jeeves and Wooster. My other guilty pleasure is a book of poetry, Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, that I received from my high-school English teacher when I was fifteen — I can always read a quick poem whilst waiting for a bus or in a doctor’s waiting room. I now have a digital version of it for convenience. My all-time favourites are Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and also the Romantics. My guilty pleasure is that I love reading magazines, sometimes cover to cover: the New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Monthly, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, Harper’s, Esquire, GQ, Sports Illustrated, and even the gardening, home decorating, and cooking magazines at the hairdresser’s or doctor’s offices. Where else can you read the philosopher Ortega y Gasset on the mania for sports, Dr. Karen Hitchcock’s writings on the medical profession, or the creative nonfiction of John McPhee, Joan Didion, or Tom Wolfe? I don’t subscribe to physical newspapers anymore, but I still do subscribe to several hardcopy magazines with longform stories.

Do you have a favourite storyline or plot? And do you have one you will not read?

DrFriendless: I think the Belgariad (David Eddings, 1982) was the beginning of the end of fantasy for me. Once I realised that the world existed solely so that the characters could visit all of it in an epic fashion, I lost interest in the genre. That was unlike Tolkien, say, whose world’s existence was independent of the stories he told in it. So I moved onto “true stories”, where the motivations of the characters and the world they live in were real. Like, for example, “The Time Traveller’s Wife”, which is a wonderfully true-to-life story. So I won’t read epic fantasy, particularly if there’s a map in the front, and omigod never if it’s the first of 5 volumes. By the way, given my opinions on the genre, believe me when I tell you that “A Game of Thrones” is wonderful stuff.

DrScrabblette: Anything goes, so long as it is fresh or weird. I am also a big fan of short stories (Aimee Bender and Maile Meloy are current obsessions). I’ve been through a lot of literary fiction with no discernable plot at all, lots of works in translation from across the world (contemporary Italian writers like Marta Morazzoni, Paola Capriolo, and Alessandro Baricco are my favourite)  and also a lot of genre fiction over the years: Cold War thrillers, Spy novels, Legal thrillers, Science Fiction, Horror, Westerns, Detective fiction, Magic Realism etc., but my favourite category is Metafiction. I love retellings of Shakespeare (Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike), Odyssey (Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood), Arabian Nights (Arabian Nights and Days by Nagouib Mahfouz, When Dreams Travel by Githa Hariharan, Chimera by John Barth), and the Mahabharata (The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni), one of my perpetual obsessions.  Whilst I like books with ancient supernatural creatures, I’m not a big fan of the modern fantasy genre, especially those with swords and sorcery, and witches, wizards, and mages etc.

Why do you/don’t you use a public library?

DrFriendless: I don’t need one. Our house is full of unread books. When I got into manga a few years ago I would go to the library and read Usagi Yojimbo, but generally I can survive on years of accumulated Amazon purchases. Buying a book from Amazon can be cheaper than the bus fare to the library.

DrScrabblette: I am a library academic with a bit of library anxiety for physical libraries, an after-effect of too many unpleasant encounters with librarians at the British Council Libraries in India, but I force myself to hang out in libraries and use them as much as possible. My current local library is the Balmain Public Library and I have a stack of books and videos I need to return this weekend! My favourite public libraries are mostly in the U.S. though.

Do you RUI? If so, what?

DrFriendless: Of course, but only the same stuff as always. A much bigger determinant of what I read is whether I’m relaxed or not. If I don’t have work to do or errands to run, I’m much more likely to pick up a book and have some fun. I guess I tend to become under the influence if I’m watching TV of an evening (damn you David Attenborough, you’re ruining my liver!) so reading is not practical at the time.

DrScrabblette: I am a bit of a teetotaller these days, but even when I could drink alcohol, I preferred to drink tea while reading. When under the influence, I’d rather dance to loud music. That said, I have a friend who reads books whilst driving. A bit scary, but not as dangerous as texting while driving.

Do you have a favourite reading spot?

DrFriendless: Yes, on the bus going to work. As I no longer have a long bus trip to work, I don’t get much reading done. It’s a sad state of affairs.

DrScrabblette: Bed, recliner, dining chair, computer chair or anything that is not moving. Not on the beach. I’m too busy watching people. I simply cannot read on planes, trains, automobiles, or ferries either.

Toilet reading?

DrFriendless: Yep. What else would I do there? Ideally I can find a Kindle. Most recently it has been a beginner’s guide to REST API design, which was cheap on Amazon, and poorly written, but has taught me a surprising amount which previous research did not.

DrScrabblette: Never. Unless it’s the graffiti in a public bathroom. Growing up in a family with one toilet, this is not something I even understand. I’m in and out in no time. Sometimes, I get a bit of shut eye and rest my tired eyes.

Toilet stall covered with grafitti

Ladies’ restroom at The Elephant Room, Edinburgh

Romance fiction of the Happily Ever After (not the love tragedy) kind – are you a Lover or a Hater and why?

DrFriendless: I’m pretty much a hater. I enjoy novels which contain insights into human behaviour – for example, “The Time Traveller’s Wife” was a beautiful love story which put very real people into an unreal world and described the consequences. My life experience has been more akin to that story than any form of Happily Ever After. If I can’t trust the characters to behave realistically, I can’t trust the story at all.

DrScrabblette: I don’t have a strong opinion on this as far as books, and it really depends on the story. I recently read some romance fiction by Kavita Kane as the characters were based on The Mahabharata. When I was a teenager, I was really into the love tragedy kind actually, and wanted to grow up and be like Miss Havisham from The Great Expectations, but now I’d rather be the storytelling  Sheherazade, living happily ever after ‘until there came to them the One who Destroys all Happiness.’








.Can a romance/crime/super/etc hero be the driver of a hatchback?

DrFriendless: Absolutely! In fact I despise James Bond and all of his Aston Martinis and nonsense. I want an engaging story to be set in a realistic world, and Bond tends towards “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, which bores me senseless. Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh, or Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Ramotswe, or Maigret, or Miss Marple, are much better heroes.

Having said that though, I don’t think I’d be focusing on the heroic romantic aspects of the hatchback, as there really aren’t any. I’d be going for product placement kickbacks, to be honest. And I would recommend to the driver of the hatchback to stay well away from the village of St Mary Mead, it’s a dangerous place.

DrScrabblette: Of course! That’s the best way to travel with man’s best friend. Also, I would like a hero who drives a pickup truck with a motorcycle in it and is prepared for an off-road adventure at short notice. And another one who has a scooter with a sidecar like my father did. And another with a Jeep, like my uncle did. And yet another with an aircraft. After all, my ideal heroine is Draupadi who had five husbands all at once, for no one man could match her talents and intelligence, or meet all her demands. And they rode the chariots of the gods  :-).

 Relief from the DashAvatar Temple (500 CE)  in Deogarh, India. Draupadi (far right) with her five husbands, from the Mahābhārata.

Relief from the DashAvatar Temple (500 CE)  in Deogarh, India. Draupadi (far right) with her five husbands, from the Mahābhārata.



Gabby is Sharing the Shallows

I first met Gabby at the Australian Romance Readers Convention in Sydney in 2011. She was in a group of young university students who were attending and I clearly remember sitting around the hotel foyer laughing with this bright, young woman. And this pretty much cpatures my every meeting with Gabby. Whether we would bump into each other at uni, chatting on Twitter, when we would go out for drinks with friends or whether we were at an author or romance fiction event, Gabby makes me laugh with her funny stories, her chaos life and her all round fab presence.

Gabby sitting holding her coffee. Her face is obscured as she is incognito Gabby @penneclearwater

Incognito: Possible Spy

Can you describe yourself?

Gabby is a mess of human who experiences way too many emotions and can’t seem to moderate the volume of her voice. She loves friends to lovers tropes and has a complicated relationship with a lot of authors that she finds problematic but can’t stop reading. Because of that, she complains a lot but usually does so with a good heart. Gabby used to work in publishing but switched to a job that she can’t talk about because she may or may not be a spy. Shhhhhhh.

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

BOOKS BOOK BOOKS. I used to spend on average 2 hours a day reading which was mainly on public transport. But then people kept laughing at me for not being able to drive so I got my license and it ruined my life. Now I barely scrape in 2 hours a WEEK. Save me. Continue reading

Willaful and Hub are Sharing the Shallows – She Said He Said special edition!

I am so excited with today’s Sharing the Shallows! It is my first partners who read QandA! Willaful and I met later on in my online Romancelandia discussions. I often found myself in overcrowded twitter discussions with her and I would see her excellent reviews popping up on several blog spaces. We finally followed each other quite a few years ago and we have since been in practically daily contact with each other which gives me great comfort. We chats about all things readerly, about our bingo reads (ahem!), the occasional other topics, and happily, I think that our romance fiction world view seems to be closely aligned. I have never met her Hub but I am pleased that he agreed to take part in this fab Q&A 

Bookshelf with Willaful and Hub's handsWillaful and Hub

Blogger and Husband

Can you describe yourself?

Willaful and her hub started sharing bookshelves in 1986. He introduced her to Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson. (Spider is the only one that stuck.) She introduced him to The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman and Season of the Witch by James Leo Herlihy. Hub’s magnificent readings of the first four Harry Potter books are probably the only thing that got willaful through about 18 months of 24 hour morning sickness. Though even now his Dobby voice is known to make her throw up. Continue reading

Paula Grunseit is Sharing the Shallows

Paula and I first met on Twitter in 2009 where we were constantly in publishing and book tweeting conversations. We finally met a few years later and found that we get on in person as well as we get on online. We are both in the library industry, but like ships that pass in the night, we have yet to work together as librarians. Maybe sometime in the future that too will come.
Balcony reading nook
Paula Grunseit

Librarian and author

Can you describe yourself?

Paula is a librarian/reviewer/writer/editor who likes to read a bit of everything. Genre bias really makes her cross.

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

Physical books, online news, literary and other magazines (I prefer the physical items not the e-versions although then there’s my storage issues), selected Google alerts related to libraries, publishing, various online newsletter subs eg from my writers’ centre memberships, libraries, other library and writing – related things that land in my Inbox, Twitter feed and links from Twitter. Not as much time as I’d like to. I’d like to spend less time managing my inboxes! Continue reading

Wade is Sharing the Shallows

Wade and I started following each other on Twitter early on in 2009. We were both in readerly circles and in bookish and pop culture-ish conversations that continue to this day. I think we have passed each other at book and blogger events here and there in the way that Twitter users do. Wade Bowmer has been part of the Hatchback Hero debate right from the argument’s inception.

Wade Bowmer wearing bear ears holding his cat sitting in his lounge room with a couch, sewing machine, bookcases, computer screen and colourful lights

Wade Bowmer/@staticstan

Can you describe yourself?

My name is Wade Bowmer and I program for a website for a living. I usually call myself senior developer and database wrangler. I also sometimes call myself writer or story-teller because being able to see how stories work in the world seems to be an uncommon skill.  But learning how stories worked has helped me rebuild myself after a terrible life event about a decade ago. It has also helped me make a lot of new friends, opened me up to a whole new range of thinking and made me (I think) a better person for it.
Other than that, I live with my cat in a rather cluttered little town house, with too many hobbies and not enough days in the week. And if you follow me on Twitter you will have to endure bursts of K-pop-related tweets. I also blog occasionally about writing at justaddstory.com.

Continue reading

Sandra Antonelli is Sharing the Shallows

I first met Sandra Antonelli on Twitter in 2009 where we were both taking part in the #badsongFriday posts. We bonded over our mutual love for glitter, glam and a sprinkle of kitsch. We then discovered that we had sooooo much more in common. We both loved romance fiction. We both love Mike Brady. We think poop and fart jokes are funny. And we are both married to men called John. And we both have a love for mini-foxies with Sandra influencing me to buy one through her fabulous loving tales of the late Budman. We live in cities far far away from each other so it is a total treat when we get to catch up in person. Sandra is one of my favouritest people ever. However, we will never agree on the topic of hatchback cars. We have been debating their sexiness (or lack thereof) online for many years and her answer today signifies that the debate will continue. Feel free to join in the argument! And yes – Question 10 in my Sharing the Shallows was put there for Sandra’s benefit.

Sandra Antonelli head shot

Sandra Antonelli


Can you describe yourself?

Reader, writer, movie-lover, coffee drinker, Dr. Sandra Antonelli is passionate about the portrayals of older women in the media and fiction. Her masters and doctoral work focused on the viability of mature aged-women as protagonists in romance fiction. Her research includes creative writing, popular culture representations of older women in the media, representations of age, and age marginalization in fiction publishing. She engages in public discourse on her scholarly and fictional work on a variety of social media platforms. Sandra likes fart humour and poop jokes, and is basically a 12-year-old boy trapped in a middle-aged woman’s body. She is the author of A Basic Renovation, For Your Eyes Only, Driving in Neutral and Next to You, romance novels that all position women over 40 as romance heroines. She is currently writing the In Service series, a romantic thriller-comedy featuring a middle-aged female butler and the spy who loves her. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter: @SandrAntonelli, and sandraantonelli.com. Continue reading

Valancy is Sharing the Shallows

It would be well over a year ago that I noticed a blog called Blue Castle Considerations begin to follow Shallowreader. I clicked over to the site and discovered the absolutely hilarious Valancy writing on all things romance and Anne of Green Gables and retro Mills & Boon with flare and gif savvy. I have since been fortunate enough to meet Valancy in person (even though she lives far far far far away in a far far far away land). She is funny and sweet and ever so insightful when it comes to reading and related things.

A reposing cat with a Kindle

Not so much a selfie, but rather the things that make reading perfect: Bed. Cat. Kindle. (That is Tansy, one of the cat overlords. She rules with a benevolent but draconian paw.)


Can You Describe Yourself? 

In search of sleep, sanity, & The Shire. Here to serve the cat overlords.

Co-creater of bolognese soup. It’s true. Even if Google doesn’t acknowledge it.

Lover of all HEAs.

Secret Disney Princess devotee.

Heyer aficionado.

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

Books and blogs. I spend FAR too many hours on both. It means less work, but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.

What or who is your joyful reading (guilty or otherwise) pleasure?

I cannot ever go past a fairytale retelling. Regardless of whether it is good, bad or indifferent. I will buy it. I will read it. You had me at Once Upon a Time.

6 Georgette Heyer book covers

Variety of Betty Neels coversGo-to comfort reads: Georgette Heyer & Betty Neels.

Secret Reading Addiction: Vintage Harlequin and Mills & Boon from the 60s, 70s & 80s. Alpha-hole males, punishing kisses, hateful face slaps and women who end up being married to anti-hero-turned-hero in a far flung country with nothing but jersey dress and fringed leather jacket to their name. So Bad. So Good. I will read them all.

A variety of vintage Mills & Boon coversDo you have a favourite storyline or plot? And do you have one you will not read?  

Did you know that Mozambique National Demining Institute has trained African Giant Pouch Rats to sniff out explosives?? Apparently they are cheap, small, efficient and tireless in their search.

Oh, sorry, my point? It’s a long bow, but that is pretty much me in my indefatigable search for any kind of book that has a romance in it. My favourite plot is anything, as long as it is leavened by an affaire de coeur.

Yep. I am that easy. 🙂

Why do you/don’t you use a public library?


Online libraries for ebooks and physical libraries for the smell of dust and sandwich wrappers mixed with that soupçon of frowsty damp. (or maybe that’s just my public library…?) Plus I love finding super old relic books that haven’t been cracked open in years.

Case in point: A 1986 compilation of the year’s cutting edge technology: featuring Walkmans, animated Etch-a-Sketch, Discmans and Nintendo NES… I die.

Do you RUI*. If so, what?

I have a super fine knife edge balance of 3 glasses of wine and imminent slumber;

I am a fall-asleep-er under the influence.

Photograph from an outside undercover place with a table, flowers and a glass of red wine looking out to a green lawn with some eucalyptus tress.Do you have a favourite reading spot?

See pic.

And Bed. Because beds are awesome. If everyone worked from beds, instead of offices, I feel that world peace would not be just something Miss Universe cited, but an actual, tangible possibility.

Think about.

You can’t get cranky in bed. Or throw a temper tantrum; it is always welcoming and never rejects you. Things that make you snap rage would hold no water against an ergonomic mattress and memory foam pillows. Bonus: super short commute.

Toilet reading:

No. Just No.

That is 23 shades of wrong.

POO germs people, they are a THING.

And that has suddenly made me want to completely rethink my public library usage.

So um…thanks.

Romance fiction of the Happily Ever After (not the love tragedy) kind – are you a Lover or a Hater and why?

HEA. Always.

I can manage a HFN too, but only because I do this while no-one is looking:


I cite previous Disney Princess & fairytale references. Life sucks too much already, I don’t need that kind of realism in my one legal form of escapism.

What would you give up reading for**?

Um. Nothing. Don’t tell my cats…but I really don’t think I could, not even for them.

Can a romance/crime/super/etc hero be the driver of a hatchback?

Being a driver of said hatchback, I do have a slight bias towards them; so YES, but with a caveat: Only if it has four doors.

NO self respecting hero can ever be knight errant with only two doors. Trust me on this. It is physically impossible. Not only does it make for the MOST UNGRACEFUL exit known to humankind; the doors are heavy and have a tendency to make sweepingly graceful closures on one’s behind. Or hand. Or foot. Or head.

Just saying y’all.