May and Tales of (M)O(u)ld: Busy busy, mould and book grief. Observation Notes 103-104 and Reading Notes 44-45.

May has been a challenging month with very little pleasure reading. Once again, I am using SuperWendy’s TBR challenge theme for May “Tales of Old” to guide my post.

Observation 103: Same old same old back to being busy busy. Between running workshops for the road safety organisation that I work for (hmmmm – did I mention this weird and out-of-the-ordinary new career move???? I don’t teach driving LOL I instruct on the affect of emotions/moods on driving decisions), I have been teaching a citizenship and communications subject at the university, and I was a tad preoccupied with the Federal election (well….how could I not be happy with the new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – he is my local member, he is not a right-wing misogynistic theocratic liar, and his first visit as the new PM was to Marrickville Library, the cultural heart of the community. He did not go to the pub or to a church but instead went to the most inclusive public space dedicated to keeping people informed. I think this speaks volumes as to the evolved role of 21st century libraries as secular, participatory and social meeting places for the exchange of public knowledge but it also speaks volumes to the new approach our change of government is heralding). All this busy-ness has meant that I have not read any books or magazines or anything at all close to pleasure reading. Even my viewing is nearly at zero – a bit of Mike Myers’ The Pentavarate (meh), a couple of Season 2 episodes of Bridgerton (hooked but waiting to binge-watch the rest), and I could only get through 20 minutes of Senior Year (Rebel Wilson can only play one character, right?).

Observation 104: Tales of Mould. Sydney (and much of the East coast of Australia) has been deluged in a La Nina. There have been devastating floods across the state, especially in the north at Lismore, and on the outskirts of Sydney. I don’t know anyone who has not had some sort of water damage, either from leaks, mud, but mostly the mould that is growing everywhere. As I am allergic to mould, I am knocking myself out with fans and heaters trying to keep the house dry, but it has been hopeless. Clothes have mould, shoes have mould, couches have mould everywhere. Some I have washed and treated, others I have happily discarded. It doesn’t help that my kitchen has had water leaks. Every time it rains, I put out towels and blankets to soak up the water. On the worst day we had over 20 leaks. The walls are stained and so is my ceiling. I can’t fault our insurance company who ensured we weren’t in danger but any repairs understandably have to wait while more urgent cases are dealt with. But the absolutely worst discovery of all, was finding my books in the sunroom/study have mould shot throughout them. Devastatingly, I threw out over 400 books. I may have cried.

Reading Note 44: My Book Grief. Like so many avid readers, I tend to keep my books, especially those which hold meaning and significance for me. Shelved throughout my home, they give me comfort. Many were gifts. Many I have read and reread and rereread and travelled with and slept with and swatted with and marked with and just relished in the memories they gave me. Some were gifts and others were inherited, inscribed by myself, by friends, by my parents-in-law. Many were read to my sons who pawed over them, sucked on them, chewed on them, drew on them, read on them. Hours and hours, days, months, years and decades of my reading life – novels, true stories, comics, travel guides. All marked with mould. They were too far damaged to keep especially with the impact they could have on my asthma. They are all now in the recycling bin. Here are just some photos to memorialise my book grief:

A Truman Capote Reader: I remember my older sister buying this book. We shared a bedroom at the time and we kept our books in this large white bookcase with glass sliding doors one of which was broken. In the same week she bought this book, she was given a second copy which she told me I could have. I remember starting with Breakfast at Tiffany’s as I had seen the movie. I then read through all the rest of the short stories, I have only vague recollections of them, with the exception of Capote writing about Marilyn Monroe

Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Hot Chocolate: I can’t recall who recommended I read this book but I know that it was well before the 1992 movie was released. Take note that the book has its original title, its later editions (and the movie) being called Like Water for Chocolate. I always was annoyed at this change in the title. The recipe in the book is all about using water rather than milk for hot chocolate. This recipe intrigued me as my Θείο Νικολάκη (Uncle Nikolaki) made hot chocolate in his coffee house in my mum’s village in this way.

A.C. Weisbecker’s Cosmic Banditos: This was a library discovery. The collection librarian where I worked was a total book snob and would snort if I suggested he purchase any romances but he was 100% on board for buying kitsch, weird, absurdist novels for me when I would find them reviewed in the international trade publications. I was deeply amused by Cosmic Banditos and its premise of a band of drug runners in Columbia having stolen a physics professor’s suitcase. They discover his textbook manuscript which they proceed to read and then debate over quantum physics and the meaning of life. I bought this copy for myself, and years later found out that the book had a cult readership having failed in bookshops but having taken off in US army barracks once Weisbecker sent his remainder copies to troops. At least, this is what I recall – it has been thirty years so I am happy to be corrected.

Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife: I’m quite sure that I first saw this book being reserved, borrowed, returned at the library where I worked on the circulation desk every Sunday while I wrote HTML code for the district “virtual library” website in 2002-2005. These were pre-web2.0 days and I was writing and coordinating content for this site, an early iteration of work-from-home with the first manager of the project which was slammed by the manager who took over. She was infuriated that I coded at home and insisted I sat in a library office to do the exact same thing. Sound familiar??? Anyway, these were book-slump, reading desert years when I had babies and I read nothing at all. Between running from this job to my TAFE library educator job (community college for the non-Australian readers), and taking care of my sons, reading was a past pleasure until, one day, I have no idea what compelled me, I sat down and read The Time Traveller’s Wife in the one sitting. I started some time after lunch and I finished it at 3am. It was the first novel I read in 7 years and it was enough to fire me up again, starting me on a book binge that propelled me into further study.

Gary Larson’s The Far Side: These Far Side anthologies belong to my husband who is forever amused by Gary Larson especially the cow comics. Absurd and anthropomorphised animals going about having human lives, Larson’s quirky and gentle humour held such an appeal for both of us, and both these books were early dip-in-and-out reads for us, though I don’t think we had done so for over a decade.

Spalding Gray’s Monster in a Box: As a young uni student in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I depended on cheap and free movies for much of my entertainment. One place I would frequent was the long ago shut down Valhalla movie theatre, halfway down Glebe Point Road in Glebe. I would go and watch cheap pics there all the time, often on my own, and often with no knowledge of what I was going to watch. On such a day, I sat down in the Valhalla, and on the screen came a talking head, ruminating on love, life and himself. A one-and-a-half hour documentary that sent me into indie bookshops in search of Gray’s books.

Tama Janowitz’s American Dad: I loved Janowitz’s books. I know I had read all of them, but I only own one. The pity is, that as much as I recall loving her books, I do not recall anything about them. The sense of the book is greater than the story it told.

Hugh Lunn’s Over the Top With Jim: An Australian journalists childhood memoir, I remember loving Lunn’s writing style. At a time when Australia was venerating Clive James’s childhood memoirs (which were ok but a tad boring in comparison to his TV show at that time), Lunn shined gently for those who wanted someone who actually liked and lived in Australia rather than Clive’s Aussie who has escaped Australia reflections. I also threw out Clive James’s books but I didn’t take photos of them.

Amanda Filipacci’s Nude Men: Though I enjoyed it at the time, I think that this book can’t have aged well. I recall a messed up sex scene and I am too scared to revisit the book for a reread. Not all favourites need to be reread, right?

Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary: No, I will never reread this book. But I wanted the symbolism of it on my shelf. The book that shifted so much understanding of women back in the nineties.

Various classics: I threw out many tattered, moist classics. I guess I should be upset but knowing that I can download digital copies free from Project Gutenberg or buy cheap new copies, I wasn’t really fussed. I’m much more upset about the out-of-print books I had to throw out.

Reading Note 45: Four decades of reading life. There were so many other books that I didn’t photograph that have now been sent for pulping. Children’s books, with Where’s Wally being thrown away alongside Babette Cole, Roald Dahl, Nick Sharrat, fairy tale retellings and so many others. All my travel guides from my carefree intrepid years. Those tomes with dog-eared and tattered pages. Some water stains. Some oily stains. The occasional food and coffee stains. Pen marks and highlighters, some sticky post-it notes, my trips around Europe, the shops I chose, the accomodation I chose. These books showed my reading life trajectory, my fleeting interests, my impulse buys, my keeper buys with their marginalia, these books showing my life route, my travel maps. It saddens me that I had to throw them out. I did not feel the same grief when I discarded my old e-reader.

Oddly enough, though all these mould ridden books sat side-by-side with my Mills-&-Boon collection, it was the other books that were affected. Fortuitously, all but 5 of the romances were fine. Not even a spot of mould. A lot to be said for good paper stock.

My shelves are now bare. I’ve cleaned them with vinegar and detergent as I have not been able to find oil of cloves anywhere. Now to decide what I can risk putting on these shelves.

Grumpy March: Time Poor, Graduation, Too Many Dates and Wham!: Observation notes 100-101 and Reading Notes 41-42

So I have already established that this is my year of pretending to not taking part in  Wendy the SuperLibrarian’s TBR Challenge however I am still using her monthly themes to for my end of month blog post. And March has been a mean, moist, mlerhe of a month.

Observation Note 100: Time poor grumpy. Somehow, I have gone from languishing in lockdown to high speed pre-Covid busy in the space of a month. I was able to secure some sessional teaching at my university for a subject that I haven’t taught before (I have previously studied a very early iteration of it), I am continuing to run workshop on road safety for a not-for-profit organisation and of course there is the day-to-day running around for family and for my research project (see Observation Note 98). Just this week, I have been in contact with over 360 students in my classrooms and often I am the only person with a mask on (so I go full on with my n95). As my body is out of practice with the high pace, most days when I get home, I collapse on my sofa, too exhausted to do much other than groan. That said, I have managed to read a few books

Reading Note 41: Reading regrets, I’ve had a few grumpy. I tried and somehow managed to plod through Rebekah Campbells’ 138 Dates: The true story of one woman’s search for everything. I was so intrigued by Rebekah’s true story of needing for to find love for herself having spent 10 years alone, hardly ever dating. She had found love when she was younger, however she chose to explore life rather than commit herself to her boyfriend from when they were teens – this becomes a constant thread in her book because he truly symbolised lost love and lost chances for her, making it difficult for her to move on. I was really sympathetic to her decision at that young age, and as her story of finding love in her thirties unfolded, this decision impacted so much of her life trajectory. I really wanted to like this book, which is why I continued reading it where with other books I would have given up but sadly, it just didn’t work for me. I would argue that it was long, it was way too wordy, it brings up again my usual whine about traditionally published books which ramble to reach a certain page length. Perhaps it would have held my interest more if it had been 150 pages rather than over 400. And even the blurb felt too long and tiring. It wasn’t too bad a book, it just didn’t rock my boat. While I was reading this book a mosquito landed on the pages and I was about to squash it but remembered the book was a library loan so I stopped myself and the mozzie flew off. I turned off the lights and I tried to go to sleep with a mozzie buzzing in my room. I pulled my sheet over my head so I wouldn’t get bitten (if the pandemic wasn’t enough, and cataclysmic floods weren’t enough, we have a mosquito causing Japanese encephalitis crisis in Australia) but I felt the weird flutter of mozzie wings in my eyelashes. I flayed my arms and in a Ralph Macchio Danielson move, I caught the mosquito between my thumb and pointer finger…in the dark…and squashed it . This was the most interesting part of reading this book.

Observation 101: A graduation ceremony…at last not so grumpy. Having graduated a year ago, my university had not had any ceremonies over the last two years. They finally had a large ceremony for all the 2019, 2020 and 2021 graduates. I am surprised at how much I absolutely needed this ceremony to take place. The rituals and symbolism of hearing my name being called out was so important to me. I had a tinge of sadness at some parts of the rituals having been changed. There is no longer the handshake and the public handing over of your award. I understand why that physical touch needed to be removed so as to protect the health of the person giving the award to hundreds of students. You know, due to this scourge of a virus. Though all that needed to be removed was the handshake, they could have still handed the testamur to students without having any contact. However, the same concern was not extended for the health of the staff member who handed me my PhD in the gowning area. I guess some staff are more expendable than others. This made me grumpy.

I was also deeply disappointed that the PhD graduates were not given a seat with all the other academics which use to be the protocol that was followed. We were just led back to our seats amongst all the Bachelors. This was disappointing. I’m not angry or devastated or anything like that. I am fine with traditions changing. But it further dimmed my expectation for ritual on the day. Though I mention them, they are small grumps. There was still ceremony. My supervisor carried the mace into the great hall. There were majestic gowns and graduate colours. It was lovely to have my bright red gown – reserved only for PhDs. It was lovely to be sitting amongst the bachelors in their Uluru capes over their black gowns, just as I had worn exactly thirty years ago at my first graduation. These were my over-riding feelings on the day. I was happy and enjoyed myself. I was happy that my sons and my husband were all well enough to attend. One of my sisters came to the graduation too, however the other two are ill with Covid and my mother is in isolation due to living with one of my sisters. I wanted my mum to be there. But at least she could watch the livestream. I also managed to find a beautiful pink and floral dress. Over the past month I have bought five dresses, and returned three, in my obsessive search for the “perfect dress” for the “big event”. I felt like I was in a Betty Neels novel. LOL. It wasn’t until after the ceremony that I realised that I had chosen a dress worthy of Penelope Featherington from Bridgerton. It is indeed, very pretty. This historical romance moment was suited to the day, for as Kat from Bookthingo commented, the graduation event was the “PhD equivalent of an HEA with an epilogue”.

A lovely epilogue, at that.

Reading Note 42: Last Christmas. I received a copy of Andrew Ridgeley’s memoir Wham! George and Me from my son, last Christmas (LOL). There is so much going through my head having only finished reading this book a few hours ago. As a teenager, I liked Wham! for all their fun and happy songs, and of course their heartbreak songs. Though I desperately yearned for a “Choose Life” t-shirt (I never got one), I wasn’t a fangirl in the sense of buying all their albums (I bought none), or queuing for concert tickets (I attended none) though I did get to see Andrew Ridgeley spin some discs at The Polish Club in Sydney’s Inner West (back in the not-cool-to-live-here days) and to this day, I always get up and dance when Wham! or George Michael songs are being played. So reading this book was a given. An excellent and insightful present from my son (brownie points!).

This is a gorgeous, heartfelt story of Andrew and Georgios/Yog, two boys who became best friends at school and started a band together. I loved Ridgeley’s stories of how they would make up dance routines in their bedrooms, that they would skive off school to go to London clubs and record shops, that their aim was to have fun. I loved Ridgeley’s description of their songwriting, and I was so saddened that he took a back seat to George. I loved his description of their clubbing antics, their incredible fast rise to fame. But most of all, I love that this book is a love dedication to a deep friendship. Andrew Ridgeley writes “Undoubtedly, George was my best friend. And I’ve not had as strong a bond with any other chum since then….I’ve discovered that type of intensity is harder to rediscover as you get older”. This floored me. The loss of friendship and the inability to find new ones is something that thwarts many older people, and reading about it happening to Wham!, and having seen it unravel through the tabloids over the years, seemed to make it even more heartbreaking as there wasn’t even the privacy of being able to hide the pain.

I need to let you know that I cried so hard at the end of this book, that the top of my n95 mask got sopping wet as I was reading it on the bus home from work. This book had me sobbing in public and I didn’t care to stop reading so as to preserve my dignity. There is something so poignant about their early boyhood friendship and Andrew Ridgeley captures their youthfulness in this book. I love that he wrote that they wanted their band to symbolise fun and joy and happiness. I didn’t even realise how much Wham! captured and were successful in their aim. Wham! with its cheeky wink to pop culture comic book art, just made me feel happy. As they say in Wham Rap

Take pleasure in leisure, I believe in joy!

Do! you!

Enjoy what you do?

If not, just stop!

Don’t stay there and rot!

I think I just need to put Wham! music on high rotation so I can stop being grumpy and embrace joy again. Time to give up the rot.

Graced with books: Observation notes 95-96

Observation Note 95: Collecting the books of others. In May of this year, I responded to an FB notice from romance researcher Donna Maree Hanson offering her romance collection to interested romance researchers. I was fortunate enough for Donna to have said Yes to my response. However, due to the 3 month long Sydney lockdown, as well as some other logistical issues, it took many months to finally get the books to my home this weekend thanks to my lovely husband who was working interstate and was able to pick the books up on his way back home.

Donna refers to these books as The Grace Collection which I think is so apt and lovely as I feel that I have been graced with the care of over one thousand romance novels. Donna too had received many of these books from someone else, a reader who had been collecting them for many years. Donna has also added many of her own books to this collection and as the new owner, I am not able to differentiate between readers and owners. At least not yet. But there are lovely markings on these books that are so familiar to me; the books with second hand books shop price tags, with library discard stamps, with spots and dots and lines and circled page numbers, broken spines and unbroken spines signifying books bought and read, as well as books bought and left unread, a readerly quirk so many of us know deeply. I have already seen books from the early 1970s and a few from the late 2010s. I am interested to see if the collection is overwhelmingly 20th or 21st century category romance publications – Mills & Boon, Harlequins of all lines, Loveswept, Silhouettes and Candlelight Ecstasy. All up, the Grace Collection had 7 plastic crates/containers, 3 archive boxes and two plastic bags of books. From what I can see, there is no other paperwork that accompanies the books. I have already gone through every container. Storing these books will be another blog post altogether!

It is not the first time that I have taken on another person’s romance novel collection. Many years ago, Merrian Weymouth graced me with a large part of her collection, the majority of which still sits on my romance shelves. They are literally romance shelves as I bought them from the now long-gone Burwood Book Exchange. This fabulous second hand bookshop on the Burwood Road was nine parts romance fiction and one part all the other fictions – a cornucopia of romance fiction closing in on you as you walked down their aisles. I would travel there multiple times a year to swap out my books while searching for new ones. Like so many romance bookstores, Burwood Book Exchange closed down early in the 2010s. I didn’t know the owners well so I never found out if it was due to the massive shift in romance readers moving from print to ebooks or something else but their closure impacted my own access to new-to-me books. I returned nearly weekly in those closing weeks, buying books and books and more books, hoarding for those desolate years ahead of me (LOL I’m so dramatic) with a dearth of access points for second hand print books (a dearth that continues – woe is me). In the last days before the shop closed I asked about their shelves and I managed to secure two shelves which are in my study/sunroom and house a third of my romance collection. I merged Merrian’s collection with my own sizeable one, sending any doubles I found to other reader/collectors, paying Merrian’s kindness forward which is what I hope to do with doubles from The Grace collection. My long term goal is to find an academic library that wants this collection for their own repository and book researchers – lofty dreams as I aim high, an unemployed ideologist in this awful era of higher education decimation and the freefall of humanities and sociology faculties in universities across Australia. With over 40, 000 university staff having been stood down or made redundant since 2020, my aim is like a smidgeon of hope. A way to keep going forward. In the meantime, I am going to sort through the books that I do have and hopefully make sense of all my holdings.

Observation Note 96: Work should stay at work unless you aren’t working and you are keeping a pandemic at bay. I have always resisted the urge to catalogue my own books. There is embracing your profession, being a boffin to its practices or just letting every aspect of your work permeate you every hour. I chose to leave my work at work (something that some people no longer can do). As I don’t consider reading for pleasure to be a core skill for being a librarian (shock! horror! let’s discuss this later!), I happily keep a list of all my reading over at Goodreads (included as a widget on this blog) as I choose to not consider it to be work (bear with me as I have many contradictions). I’ve often balked at the thought of keeping records of what I own, wanting it to be my reading that is my focus rather than an inventory of materials to which I can apply my professional cataloguing skills. I like having a separation from my work practices, and I kinda like sorting my books by colour as it is such an amusing anathema to so many people, as though aesthetics are not part of book production and the reading experience.

So, in embracing my inner (former? out of work? not even looking for this type of work? call it what you will?) librarian and finally documenting my own books, I have also decided to not use any apps or library specific websites to store this information. I looked up some suggestions and just got too tired of reading all the T&Cs, and all the ways that my data was going to be mined as business intelligence. I feel all data-mined out. Instead I am going to use a simple spreadsheet saved on my computer not on any cloud and I will see how I go from there.

Meanwhile, enjoy some photos of The Grace Collection from when it arrived at my home.

Tubs and boxes of category romances in the boot of the car.
Boxes in the boot of the car
The tubs and boxes of books placed on my verandah, the verdant greenery of my front yard framing the photograph.
The Grace collection on my front veranda/h

Trying to read and my verandah: Observation Notes 89-90

Observation Note 89: Trying to Read. I spent a few hours today reading on my verandah. Or at least trying to read on my verandah. The activity on the street was more interesting than my books on the go. The neighbour across the road was telling my neighbour from a few houses away how the lockdown suits her. I squinted, trying to look through the christmas bush that obscures my view, and I noticed that she was no longer using her cane. That’s nice. It’s good that she isn’t struggling to walk anymore.

I hear a car gently beep and I knew before I even looked to the West that my courteous neighbour with the kickass four-wheel drive must be leaving his driveway. He always beeps as he leaves. I used to think it was sweet that he was signalling to his wife and kids that he was going but then my husband pointed out to me that he does that even when they are in the car with him. He beeps to warn pedestrians that a car is pulling out of the driveway. I think that is even sweeter.

Two kids on a bicycle whiz past incredibly fast and a few slow moments later, four more young cyclists follow them with an adult who looked to be a mum coming from behind. My road is quite busy with traffic lights just six houses away that lead onto a busy(ish) thoroughfare. No big trucks traverse that road but there is constant traffic. I realise that I was a fearful parent, not allowing my oldest son to travel on that road and insisting he take the back roads to the bike track that would take him to school, and that it was not for me to judge the joyful and free parent giving her kids the opportunity for confident riding. Nope. I will not judge. In my defence, my oldest son one day ran into a telegraph pole and injured himself enough that I had to go and get him from school and deal with all the blood running down his neck. My youngest son has not ridden a bike since he was twelve when he was riding around his aunt’s farm, lost control on a downhill trajectory and catapulted over a six metre cliff, his fall being broken by a sole tree which, fortuitously, only just missed impaling him with a sharp scary looking branch which left a massive welt across his chest. I guess I have reasons to be a fearful parent.

The pony man comes past with his pony, of course. He rides his bike on thee footpath alongside his pony which has a brilliant rainbow coloured bridle. My dog Bo who has been rather bored with today’s passing traffic became rather animated. He started barking and barking. He does this every time the pony man comes past. It’s as though he can’t believe that any dog could be as big as this weirdass (pony)dog.

There were maskless joggers huffing and puffing which made me feel creeped out. Can’t they get themselves to a park and then huff huff huff? I had the misfortune yesterday to step onto the footpath as a huffing jogger exhaled on me. I want to shout at him “The Covid Bondi case was a 5 second exhalation and the chance person passing them got sick case! Can you just take care”. Once again, I feel like I am catastrophising.

A helicopter is hovering over my suburb. My husband checks the local FB page and everyone is speculating – are they searching for the mega-weddings which have been given exemptions or are they searching for queues outside the shops. They won’t find queues in this very proper suburb. Even the local supermarket is fully stocked with toilet paper where all across Sydney people are panic buying again. The people I live amongst show such restraint.

I hear a beep. My courteous neighbour has returned and this time he is reversing into his driveway yet people walking past are ignoring him and walking directly into the path of his massive car. Really???

Observation Note 90: Verandah. The thing about being in a lockdown (again) is that despite having a huge TBR, people watching on my verandah is infinitely more interesting than reading a book. When we were looking to buy a house back in 1999 one of our absolute must-have feature our home had to have was a verandah in the front of the house from where we could watch the street. This has continued to be one of the best ideas we had as we watch so many interesting people come and go.

We used to have a neighbour a few blocks away who had a fridge, a television and her sewing machine on her front verandah and she would work and watch, her sons often watching football, he husband tossing his worry beads. I envied her. I wanted her verandah too. I don’t have a powerpoint on my verandah but that certainly can be rectified. I do have my table and chairs.

My aunts in Greece have front verandahs. In Greece, the backyard is for your vegetable garden. The front yard is for family and friends. My aunt in my mum’s village had benches and chairs for all who would come and visit. Cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, godchildren, pappous and yiayias. I recall eating the most scrumptious avgolemono soup on her verandah. Years later, after she had passed away, her daughter-in-law and I were sitting on that same verandah when she called out to my uncle who was three houses away. She wanted coffee and he had the coffee machine. He brought it over with good cheer and we drank our morning coffee until another uncle called out that lunch was ready. Of course, we all gathered on his front verandah to eat.

When we first bought our house it was where we had our BBQ with our neighbours often joining us with beers and drinks. They were uni kids, with a revolving door of friends, parties and pet rats. They were polite and fun and helpful neighbours, fastidiously clean due to their severe dust allergies. They’d bring Thomas the Tank Engine videos over for the boys, and when they had parties they were annoyingly polite as when it would get late they would turn down the music only to then turn it up again when we complained that we couldn’t hear it well enough.

For a long time, my verandah was a dumping ground for sports gear – muddied shoes, stand-up boards, kayaks, oars, footballs and all the recycling collections. The entrance to my house was embarrassing. A rubbish tip in the making. “Close your eyes as you enter” was my wished for instruction for friends coming over.

However, last year’s lockdown gave us the time to clear the sports gear, get rid of the piles of unused shoes, and we went back to that gorgeous dream of a social front verandah. Just like my neighbour. Just like my aunt in Greece. On my verandah I have had friends for lunches and coffees and cakes and beers and cocktails. The perfect distanced place once restrictions were relaxed. Four chairs separated by the table. Supping and distancing. Early this year, I bought a whole lot of potplants to make the verandah prettier. We had a neighbour come in and do some long-overdue repairs including pulling out a hardy flower that had found seed in the gutter that needed replacing. It is now in a pot lushishly flowering.

We’ve watched people come and go, cars rush by, emergency vehicles rush past and any number of dogs, cyclists and of course our local pony. It is the Inner West after all. With all that going on, how on earth can I be expected to read.

Another Storytime for the Apocalypse

It’s been a frantic year my friends. However, in a week’s time, I will officially be under examination for my doctorate as I will be submitting it in the coming days. To mark my submission, I am doing a reading about reaching a destination at the final 2020 Storytime for the Apocalypse. Dr Tilly Hinton, a “river enthusiast” whose scholarship is on the social history of the LA River, is a dear friend with whom I shared my doctoral space at university. So it is apt that I mark my last weeks of doctoral study in her virtual space of revelatory storytelling.

I know that my post here is very last minute, but I do hope that you are able to attend the reading. It is on Monday 30 November 7:30 -8:30 pm, LA time or Tuesday 1st December 2:30-3:30pm.

Here is the Zoom Link. us02web.zoom.us/j/85170824839

Thank you and hopefully I can start writing to my blog again very soon!

Vassiliki

(silhouette of Los Angeles)

Text: 
Storytime for the Apocalypse #13

Librarian Scholar Vassiliki Veros reads about setting out for your destination.
Actor, writer, director Toni Robison-May reads about the weather.
Art historian Meredith Lancaster reads about reaching further shores.
Ediotr and permaculturist Jessica Perini reads about what to do in dark times.

Storytime with the Storytime for the Apocalypse crowd

I’m popping in to let you all know that I will be doing a short reading at Storytime for the Apocalypse. Described by its wonderful host Dr Tilly Hinton as  “your monthly respite from all the complexities of life” and “that stories and community are the ballast we need when life gets rough”.

I have been grateful for her calm resolve in organising these readings since the pandemic began. I have been absent from my blog as I have found the world’s struggle with the outbreak of Covid-19 deeply upsetting. I spent the first two months completely unfocused and anxious about the situation at hand. This storytime has been a balm for me especially as it has Tilly’s thoughtful and kind touch in the way it is organised and presented. I feel honoured that I am on the guestlist for the next session where I am doing a reading alongside Dr Wade Kelly, Eames Demetrios, Richard Sanderson and Chris Schwartz.

The reading is on Monday 27 July at 7:30pm Pacific time/Tuesday 28 July at 12.30pm Australian Eastern Standard time. To attend you will need to join the mailing list to receive the link to log in: Go to  http://goodisbetter.net/storytime-for-the-apocalypse/#count-me-in to be added to the mailing list.

My teaser is that I will be doing a bilingual reading….

Image:Poppies in a field Text: Librarian scholar Vassiliki Veros reads about the earth's embrace; Actor and animal advocate Richard Sanderson reads about a parallel world; Community engagement proselytiser Wade Kelly reads about safe passage; Film aficionado Chris Schwartz reads about earth’s big reveal.

Tropes, Fire, Empire: Reading Notes 8-12

It has been a while since I have written about my reading, so here are some reading notes from this year’s reading selections with a particular bent towards settings. Just be warned, there are spoilers galore.

Reading Note 8: Tropes in cities. I really love a surprise baby trope as well as a one-night-stand-turn-up-to-your-new-job-to-discover-you-have-already-slept-with-your-new-boss trope. So icky in real life, so absurdly compelling in fiction. The Bachelor’s Baby Surprise is my first Teri Wilson book and I loved her writing style. The premise of the book is that heroine Evangeline Holly goes directly from a bad break up to a one-night stand with Ryan Wilde – a man who has just been voted the hottest bachelor in New York City. Though she gives him the brush off after their hook-up, six weeks later she finds herself employed as a sommelier at the hotel he jointly runs with his cousin. Continue reading

Food, Impulse and the Queen of the Castle: 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

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

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