January reading 2023: Reading Notes 52-57

I’ve had a busy month of reading – 30 books – a book a day except for the book I was reading on 31st – I was at the 60% mark but the working year has finally kicked in and I was too busy writing workerly things to be able to finish. It has been an odd two months, as I have had no work yet I have been negotiating new teaching contracts in the in-between times. In the next few weeks, I will be going from relax-á-vous to hectic again. I will cherish the past few months of reading constantly. An opportunity I doubt I will re-experience for a long time. Meanwhile, here are my favourites from January:

Three book covers for: Feral City, Salonica, and Pineapple Princess.

Reading Note 52: Jeremiah Moss’s Feral City: On Finding Liberation in Lockdown New York. A memoir and observation of New York City once the privileged and rich fled, leaving behind those who couldn’t and those who didn’t want to leave their home. Moss explores his city in 2020 on his bike, through protests marches, with shared music and community, as the hidden and marginalised emerge from their homes to fill the void left by the “hyper-normals”. He writes about the symbolic violence “that moves through normativity, deployed through sudden movements, a certain walk, a flick of the eyes, a smirk”. He describes the smirk as a splinter biting skin, one of those invisible filament you feel but can’t quite see, a fibre of glass. The smirk is contempt,  the hallmark micro-expression of hyper-normativity, it is a doing, and we are the done to”. Though Moss is discussing the contempt of a “normal” passing him by, his words cut deep into my thoughts as they clearly explain my own dislike of the “smirk” which I had not been able to articulate as clearly as Moss does. This was a striking book examining power and queerness and community in the face of pandemics and oppression. It certainly makes you question the “return to normal” push.

Reading Note 53: Mark Mazower’s Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews: 1430-1950. A long history of the multicultural, polylinguistic and polyethnic city and its changes over the centuries to a city that is unrecognisable from even a century earlier. Maxower writes in his introduction that “Change is, of course, the essence of urban life and no successful city remains a museum to its own past”.  The homogenisation of this cosmopolitan city is slowly unravelled by a compelling narrative. A week later, I am still smarting and feeling the grief of the Great Catastrophe, with the awful consequences of the population swap of Turkish and Greek people, forced from their ancestral land, It doesn’t escape me that today is the 100 year commemoration of this devastating period in history which continues to have reverberations across the world. Following this was the devastation resulting from the German occupation in World War II and their eradication of the Jewish citizens of Salonica. This was a sombre read, and I will definitely be seeking out more books to read by Mark Mazower.

Reading Note 54: Sabina Hahn’s Pineapple Princess is a funny, glamorous, tasty, bug-filled picture-book with sass and delight. I love this story. Buy it for your kids, your friends’ kids, your libraries and your storytimes.

Two book covers for Cultish and Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass.

Reading Note 56: Amanda Montell’s Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism explores the language that is used by cults – from fringe religious sects to yoga and exercise crazes and the cult of retail. Montell focuses upon the power of language used to entice and compel people into cults. Montell also provides the tools of understanding the difference between a fad, a religious groups and the cray-cray. I listened to this on audiobook with my husband and we were constantly stopping it to examine our own response to charismatic people, as well as thinking about the people we know who sadly have been consumed by organisations and movements that mimic cults, causing them harm and by default, causing harm to their loved ones.

Reading Note 57: Lana del Rey’s Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass is a beautifully produced audiobook of del Rey narrating her poetry. Just play it on auto-loop. It is wonderful.

ShallowreaderBINGO! April Edition!

It’s the end of April, Easter is upon us (Orthodox folks) and Valancy has won this month’s ShallowreaderBingo!!!! Hurrah! Hurrah! May there be rejoicing!

giphy (1)

Meanwhile, I continue to lose at my own game. But read, I did. Here are the squares I scored:


Lady Bridget's DiaryLady Bridget’s Diary

by Maya Rodale

Bingo Square: Dear Diary

This is the first of Rodale’s new Keeping Up with the Cavendishes series. The Cavendish family is from America. The brother has inherited some duke-ish title so the whole family has packed their bags and moved to the United Kingdom where they struggle to fit in. The duke’s sister Lady Bridget keeps a diary where she reveals all her feels for the Ton and especially horrible Lord Darcy who ends up being her lurve but not before her diary is stolen and a big, dark secret is at risk of being revealed. There are aspects of this book that I loved (one day I even found myself kissing the pages I had just read!) yet the overt Pride and Prejudice parallels annoyed me and the who Team USA brought love to the UK sentiment grated. It is hard being torn in two directions with the one read.

I borrowed this book from a public library in New South Wales.
Continue reading

Returning to lifelogging my reading

At the beginning of this year I decided that I was going to give up recording my reading on Goodreads. I have failed. I am a GoodReads addict.

When I was a kid, I was a casual list keeper, including one of all the books I read. I say casual because after an earnest beginning, faithfully writing down every title I read, I would forget my list until months later when I would call on my powers of recall and I would try to add to it again. Inadvertently, I would lose my list (probably my incredibly neat mum would put it somewhere I could never imagine searching for it like my own desk drawers) and after some time I just gave up on my list keeping. That is, until 2007, when I discovered the social aspect of list keeping. This is the only lifelogging I take part in. I don’t have map my runs (haha – make that walks), I don’t have a fitness logger (I probably should) but I do map my reading. Continue reading

Kiss Me, Katie: A TBR Challenge Review

This month’s challenge is to read a book in your TBR that was recommended to you. Rather than a single title, I decided to read an author that has been recommended to me. My sister loves Jill Shalvis’s novels and has been recommending them to me for many years. I have a stack of them on my shelves at home, both her early category romances and her later contemporary romances – including her latest release. Rather than reading her latest release – which has only been on the TBR since Christmas – I decided to start with Kiss Me, Katie! which in America was released in 2000 as a Harlequin Duet (which seemed to focus of romantic comedy) along with Shalvis’s accompanying novel Hug me, Holly! I read the Australian publication of Kiss Me, Katie! released as a Sexy Harlequin Mills & Boon. Katie is a cautious, sensible accountant working for a flight company and Bryan is a maverick, pilot who also performs stunts for the same company. The two are attracted to each other but Katie does not want to be with someone who is a risktaker.

Kiss Me, Katie  US Duet cover and Australian Sexy cover

Kiss Me, Katie
US Duet cover and Australian Sexy cover

For me, category romances are the most perfect narrative form for romance stories. At their best, they are tightly written with little superfluous prose and hardly any annoying secondary characters cluttering the two protagonists path to love. Kiss Me, Katie! appears to be Jill Shalvis’s 21st novel (and from what I can tell, her 21st category romance) and it would be another five years before she released her first standalone romance. Continue reading

Swoooooooning and entangling

So I’m back on ABC702 Linda Mottram‘s show tomorrow. It looks like this will be a semi-regular gig (once or twice a month). For the most part, I will be using the ReadWatchPlay monthly themes for the reading I will review on her show. Which is fab fab fab for tomorrow because February is SmoochRead!


We are talking love!

We are talking Swoon!

We are talking Mills & Boon! (wellll….not really. Not this time. It did rhyme though)

Colour Me Swoon: The heartthrob activity book for good colour-inners, as well as beginners

by Mel Elliott

Colour Me Swoon

Colour Me Swoon

How does one go past a colouring book of hearthrobs. Continue reading