Monday reading: 16th of January

Monday is my one long commute day where I either drive or travel to work for over an hour each way. I have decided to share my Monday reading each week.

Photograph of the car radio textI’ve been listening to Connie Brockway’s Highlander Undone for over 2 months and I have only just hit the half way point. This is indicative of how little time I spend in the car on my own. I will only listen to a chapter if I know that I can hear a whole chapter in a drive.

I have the usual audiobook driver quirks: I make excuses to go for drives, I sit in the car for an extra ten minutes until a chapter ends, I drive around the suburb pretending to look for a parking spot even if there is a perfectly good one in front of my home. It is an illness. Audiobookitis.

Photo of the audiobook cover for Highlander Undone by Connie Brockway.As for Connie Brockway’s Highlander Undone, I’m really enjoying Napoleon Ryan’s narration of this story. This is my first Brockway and so far I am not disappointed by the story or by the storytelling.

By the half-way point in most audiobooks I am desperately looking for a print copy of a book to get away from other grating storyteller (yes – I am looking at you Michael Page) which disrupts my own internal voice that is trying to process the novel. I guess that I am of the St. Ambrose school-of-internalised-reading rather than St. Augustine’s text-needs-to-be-read-aloud approach.

Napolean Ryan’s narration is nuanced, smooth and enjoyable. I’m not especially enthused by the voices he puts on for his female characters but they are okay and not too annoying. He is not as good as Nicholas Boulton but that is an especially high bar. I will however seek out more of his performances once I finish this book.

As for the story, so far it is deeply engaging…but I think I will wait to finish listening to the book before I discuss it further. At this pace, I am sure there will be more Monday posts on this book.

This copy of Highlander Undone by Connie Brockway was borrowed from a NSW public library.

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Belated Bingo – October

It’s over a week late but here are some of the books I read for October Bingo and their corresponding Bingo Squares. Better late than never!

Marrying Winterborne by Lisa KleypasMarrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas

Bingo Square: From Beyond the Grave

I’m missing the Lisa Kleypas fan club gene so the best I can say is that this book was okay. I was really interested in Rhys Winterborne as he seemed such a standout hero – he wasn’t part of the ton,  he was a self-made man, Welsh, etc etc. Marrying Lady Helen Ravenel is his way into society but of course she has her own secrets that she feels she can’t reveal – and all of these are secrets of her dead parents whose lives impact and control her even from their graves.  Sadly, once the “Shock! How will their love overcome this doozy of a problem” was revealed, I felt that Winterborne hardly appeared in the story until the very end where instead of  an emotional punch I got a rushed love declaration. Hmmm. Certainly not a keeper.

Say you love me by Johanna LindsaySay you love me by Johanna Lindsey

Bingo Square: Fester

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Michael Page. As this is number 5 in a series I got completely bored with all the fabbo*snark* characters from all the previous books having full chapters focused on them rather than on the main story. This ALWAYS FUCKING BORES ME!

The premise to this novel is that the heroine, unbeknownst to her aunt, decides to be a martyr for her family and agrees to be sold at a brothel as a mistress to pay her uncle’s debts to save her younger sister. Fortuitously, hero boy was passing the time in the foyer (while his cousin found his “girl”) when he saw the auction and his arch evil nemesis bidding on the frightened woman so to save her he buys her and since he buys her he might as well get down and dirty with her.

But then love hits him.

And then he discovers she was always a lady.

And then he declares that he is glad she was forced to be sold at a brothel otherwise he would never have met her and frankly he is a festering wound just like the festering sick dicks that the convoluted plot included.

Yeah. But no.

(Please note that this book is suffering from 1990itis which is a period of historical romance reading that I could barely countenance).

The good greek girl by Maria KatsonisThe Good Greek Girl  by Maria Katsonis

Bingo Square: Stripped

How could I go past a title like this one. I knew nothing about Maria Katsonis and her memoir when I picked it up off the new book shelf at my library but within a couple of chapters of reading I felt totally stripped of my defences and I sobbed sobbed sobbed at her difficulties growing up in a culturally different world from her Greek migrant parents which included struggling with both her cultural identity and sexual orientation especially the fracturing of her relationship with her father when a community member reveals that she is a lesbian to her parents resulting in an act of violence against her. Maria Katsonis starts her story from when she is heading to Harvard to study public policy to being institutionalised with mental health problems whilst her pre-Harvard life is presented in flashbacks.

There was much that I could relate to in Maria’s life and in my life. Her deep seated Greek-Australian-ness resonated with me. This is a struggle that I publicly dealt with at a young age both in print and in film (I had a short film documentary made about my “struggle” for identity when I was 10 which was aired repeatedly on national TV in 1980 – I hated this experience and the long term impact it left). Being torn between cultures and finding oneself is a writing theme that is quite common in Young Adult fiction (I’m looking at you Melina Marchetta), comedians are still making fun of these difficulties (vile fucking Nick Giannopoulos). However, just like Magda Szubanski’s Reckoning, this was a serious, middle aged woman struggling with mental illness and depression due to displacement and the long term impacts of generational and geographical problems. I wept because I certainly don’t have Maria’s courage to try to write to deal with the divide that she talks about (and that I certainly still struggle with) and I sit in awe of her fluid writing and heartfelt prose.

There is a monster on my holiday who farts by Tim MillerThere is a Monster on my Holiday who Farts by Tim Miller

Bingo Square: Dutch Oven

The title is self explanatory. A kid on a road trip with his parents is totally convinced that the monster travelling with them is letting off silent and deadlies. A wise uncled told me that you can gage a child’s intelligence and social awareness by the age when they start denying that they farted. The earlier the fart lie, the smarter your child. So I find it totally amusing to find a picture book totally based on fart denial and being stuck in a closed space, unable to escape the steamy, fruity expulsions of intestinal air monsters. Car farts are totally banned in my household. Especially when we are on an expressway where you can’t wind down the windows. Ewwww. Hilarious picture book.

Abigail the Whale picture bookAbigail the Whale by Davide Cali and illustrations by Sonja Bougaeva

Bingo Square: But then I thought about the game AND Delight

Abigail is learning to swim but is teased by the other children for being large. Abigail’s imagination allows her to take charge of her own swimming skills and oh my what a gorgeous picture book. The sublime illustrations capture the deep emotions that Abigail is experiencing especially with the body issues and fat shaming she is subjected to. Abigail’s approach to overcoming her problems is just delightful. I loved it. One of my favourite for this year.

All the books mentioned in this post were borrowed from a public library in New South Wales.

Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm and my TBR: Favourite Trope

It is time for SuperWendy’s TBR challenge again and this month the theme is Your Favourite Trope. Let it be known that there are lots and lots of spoilery spoilers ahead so look away if you one day plan to read Flowers from the Storm.  You have been duly warned….

Flowers from the Storm by Laura KinsaleFlowers from the Storm

by Laura Kinsale

narrated by the sublime Nicholas Boulton.

He’s a duke. He’s a mathematical genius. He can’t talk and he’s locked in a lunatic asylum. Only a modest Quaker girl can reach him, but when she helps him to escape, she’s swept into his glittering aristocratic world, her life torn apart by his desperate attempt to save himself.

 

I really love Secret Baby Tropes and though I would not list it as Numero Uno trope (which is Friends to Lovers) it is however the trope for which I have read a TBR book for this month.

I’m reallllly late to the Flowers from the Storm party. I have known about this novel since forever – how could I not with Kat Mayo as one of my borrowers. But I dragged my feet. I have read Kinsale’s The Prince of Midnight and (shameless name dropping here) had a rather interesting twittversation with Kinsale about its ending back in the early twitter days of yore.   Continue reading

The ditty of Lyon Redmond

Wendy the SuperLibrarian’s TBR challenge for this month is a series catch up book.

I read The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long. Unlike many other readers I know, I have not read every other book in the series. I have read Between the devil and Ian Eversea (which I enjoyed) and I have also read  What I did for the duke (which was fab!). Maybe I am cheating and its not really a series catch-up in only reading 3 in the series (I own another 3 which I will get to eventually). From the first book in the series, the reader knows that Lyon Redmond has gone missing and that Olivia Eversea pines for him. Their storyline is hinted at throughout the series, thus building up the anticipation for their coming together. Perhaps due to having only read 2 books from this series, I didn’t have that long drawn out vested interest in the “missing” Lyon Redmond storyline that spanned all 11(!) books in this series. And though I was certainly interested, it is just as well I didn’t care all that much! But first, the blurb:

imageBound by centuries of bad blood, England’s two most powerful families maintain a veneer of civility…until the heir to the staggering Redmond fortune disappears, reviving rumors of an ancient curse: a Redmond and an Eversea are destined to fall disastrously in love once per generation.
An enduring legend
Rumor has it she broke Lyon Redmond’s heart. But while many a man has since wooed the dazzling Olivia Eversea, none has ever won her—which is why jaws drop when she suddenly accepts a viscount’s proposal. Now London waits with bated breath for the wedding of a decade…and wagers on the return of an heir.
An eternal love
It was instant and irresistible, forbidden…and unforgettable. And Lyon—now a driven, dangerous, infinitely devastating man—decides it’s time for a reckoning. As the day of her wedding races toward them, Lyon and Olivia will decide whether their love is a curse destined to tear their families part…or the stuff of which legends are made.

Though I have enjoyed the Pennyroyal Green series, unike Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, I did not feel compelled to buy them all in one fell swoop and then spend a month reading them in one breath. And it was particularly disappointing that this last book, the one that had been built up to deliver an explosive love story, rather than fireworks, delivers a partly spent sparkler.
Continue reading

Getting all “Pistols at dawn” over reading

I took Julia Quinn’s The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy to my bookclub meeting on the weekend and it caused a huge argument between myself and another member of the group. When she saw my book she was all: I can tell from the shape of the book that it is a throwaway read; there is nothing to learn from romance; You read it, it’s there, it’s fun but don’t try to tell me that it has the depths of Kundera etc, etc. I’m paraphrasing here. This was from a closecloseclose friend with whom I regularly argue on many issues that affect our lives. I also think she was deliberately riling me as she knows that I jump to the bait or as my dad would say Πεταγεσαι σαν πορδος απ᾽το βρακη/You jump like a fart from undies. It was fun seeing other people around us unsure as to how to react to our shouting. I won’t go into my response or her counter-responses here, (except to say – how can you judge a book purely by its shape? ‘Tis the content not the container!) however, I LOVE and ADORE that it was not the discussion of other reading choices but the reading of romance that brought shouting and dissension. There were fists being shaken to the skies and the thumping of tables and turned heads from all around. If we had white gloves with us, there would have been a duel challenge! The cafe owners, thankfully, did not intervene.

Julia Quinn The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy

Does it really matter which cover and shape I read?

I don’t think enough people get riled up enough over books to have pistols-at-dawn moments. I think this is what I love about some reading arguments (both online and offline). People getting angry over books. People being incensed by what others read, how they read, and where they find meaning. I certainly get incredibly angry at marginalising reading interests, judgmental statements about people’s reading choices, at assumptions of people having a lesser intelligence either because they do not enjoy reading or cannot read, and my blood absolutely boils when reader shaming is bandied about.

A big disappointment for me several years ago was seeing reading evangelist Neil Gaiman talk to a room full of librarians about the power of reading. I had read the transcript several months earlier and in my head I had a powerful, expressive voice driving home the importance of reading. Watching the video, I was crestfallen (and a tad bored). It was all very English and dignified, it was a measured speech completely lacking in any emotion. Some may say that this is how professional, mature people behave when delivering a speech to a room full of other professionals (and they might actually be right). Continue reading

My travel reading and a sense of setting

I’m rubbish at reading while on holiday. Where other people relax at the beach with a book, I reject all reading materials as I am either in the water swimming or racing around looking at every museum, shop, historical building that is close by. To add to this, my latest trip was a combination of work and play (I marked student assignments, along with PhD related conference paper writing and archive visiting), which even further lessened my reading time.

However, I did manage to read 5 novels while I was away (I won’t count the numerous picture books I read to my cousin’s kids). So for this blog only I will write about the place I read each book in as well as the book.

Alexander the Great statue in Thessaloniki

Alexander the Great statue in Thessaloniki

Before I discuss these other books I need to point out that I am both impressed and horrified that I have reverted in my reading habits. 4 years ago, I bought myself a SONY ereader and during an 8 week holiday I did not enter a single book shop and I did not buy a single book. All my reads were downloaded from my local library and Project Gutenberg. My luggage was liberated. Hallelujiah to more space for more shoes. But my latest trip has shocked me. Not only did I not use my tablet for reading but I found myself carting print books across the globe. Thoughthey are much more cumbersome, I love them soooo much more than ebooks. I can write in the margins (I don’t but I could if I chose to), I can dog ear pages (I do), I can litter my book with post it notes, bookmarks made of receipts, ticket stubs, serviettes and beer coasters. Each item becoming in itself a souvenir of the moment that I was reading. I am enjoying my reversion. I want a badge that says “Tried ebooks, didn’t work, print is my swag”. I also want to point out that I always forget to take photos when I am on holiday. I guess I am too busy being on holiday to document it. Continue reading