Fangirl Have I Loved

I read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl a few weeks ago but it was one of those books that I needed to rest in my mind before I discussed it. I thought I was going to read a sweet boy-meets-girl-who-writes-fanfic young adult book. I was already aware that there was a buzz around this book coming from readers who I trust with their recommendations. I expected humour, angst, family conflicts, coming of age, new friendships and romantic interests. And this book had plenty of all those ingredients in the story of Cather, her relationship with her twin sister Wren and their first year in college and how Cath copes when Wren decides that she no longer wanted to share a room with Cath, who is the quieter, more reflective twin.

Fangirl and Jacob Have I loved

 

The story is told in the third person from Cath’s perspective (I love 3rd POV). Cath struggles to adapt in her new college environment, worrying about her father being alone, having issues with her mother’s abandonment when she was young, meeting her new roommate, Reagan, and her friend, Levi who seems to spend all his time in their dorm room, as well as the freshman pressures of negotiating classes and group assignments. Cath has come to college as a fanfiction writer with a strong following, with fans waiting for regular updates to her story around a Harry Potter-like fictional series with Simon Snow as the central character and his nemesis, Baz. Despite her success at writing fanfiction, Cather’s writing professor considers this writing to be plagiarism and Cath struggles throughout the book to find her authorial voice. Cath’s fanfics punctuate every chapter of Fangirl and the changing relationship of Simon and Baz runs parallel to Cath’s life.
This alone would have made a wonderful read but part way through the book, Levi (the perennial hangaround friend) is assigned Katherine Paterson’s Jacob Have I Loved for one of his class readings and Fangirl completely came together for me. Jacob Have I Loved, which won the 1981 Newbery award, is a story of twin sisters Louise and Caroline. Told in the third person from Louise’s point of view, Louise is the quieter, more introspective twin. The story runs with the biblical parallel of Jacob and Esau and their contest for being the first born. The twins’ grandmother is shrewish and mean and Louise, who was the stronger twin to the ailing weaker Caroline, keeps being reminded that being the older twin is not a reward. “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated” from the bible showing God hated Esau, the hard working older brother who sold his birthright to his more cunning younger brother for a plate of lentils.
I felt that Rowell depicted twins Cather and Wren in much the way that Paterson depicted the struggles between Louise and Caroline. Neither of them claimed the position of first born as they were a C-section. Nonetheless, Cath observes that “Wren was bigger. She was stealing my juice or something” placing Cath in the role of Caroline and Jacob. In the bible Jacob and Esau do not reconcile, and in Jacob Have I Loved, though Louise finds love from her parents and romance, she and her sister remain distant. Perhaps I am reading too much into the inclusion of Jacob Have I loved in Fangirl but I felt as though Rowell wrote her own fanfiction for these twin sisters who should have been able to be happy, to be linked together in a story that I always loved but felt saddened by the ending. Cath says at the beginning of the book “Having a twin sister was supposed to be like having your own watcher. Your own guardian”. These two sisters negotiate their own relationship and rather than be pulled apart, they too find happiness. I loved this.

Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.

Certainly, this book captures this feeling of not being cheesy for me. Cath gets happiness in this book. Happiness with Levi, with her sister and eventually with her ability to write. This intricately woven story was a pleasure to read and I highly recommend this book.

Temptation

*SPOILER ALERT WARNING*

Every now and then, I read a category romance that blows me away. Charlotte Lamb’s Temptation has done that for me. This book is written in two distinct sections. The first is set in the calm, sheltered beauty of the Yorkshire Dales and the second is set primarily in busy, civilized London.

Linden had only been seventeen when Joss crashed into her life. Naively, she offered him her friendship and trust. In return, he had aroused emotions in her she was too young to handle, wrenching her from childhood to womanhood in a few startling days.

When he left her, Linden realized that she been ruthlessly used. Her love for Joss had been almost worshipful. His love had been a savage devouring–taking and never giving. His love had destroyed her-just as she would now destroy him!

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As the book blurb indicates Linden falls in love with a much older man, Joss. The book begins in a dreamlike idyll in the Yorkshire Dales. The protagonist Linden has led a sheltered life with her emotionally distant father, and in a Catholic convent in Italy for her schooling. She is a few weeks from turning 18 when the male protagonist, Joss, tumbles into her life. He is 39 but very little is revealed about him in the first half of the book. There is a strong relationship building between these two and all the while the reader is reminded that Linden is still young. You see the struggle that Joss has keeping away from Linden. In the same scene that he calls her a child, he is also kissing her. Afters sleeping with her he leaves her for he is married. Circumstances bring Joss and Linden to having sex and it is after this that he leaves and the reader (and Linden) find out that Joss is married. Devastated Linden becomes near suicidal, her actions harming her father physically. After a long recuperation she heads to London to study and she meets a lovely young man. She has a slow courtship with him and heads to his home to discover that he is the son of Joss. At this time she avows her revenge to hurt him (Joss) and break him the same way he hurt her years earlier (oh! Yes! It is a revenge book). Continue reading

Reasons I love the Veronica Mars movie (with a bonus Logan!Harry met Veronica!Sally scene)

One of my favourite romance tropes is the old love rekindled. You know the one – they couldn’t get along, they were too young when they first got together, they somehow betrayed each other, they went separate ways…yet they find love many years later.

A fortnight ago, after months of squeeeing and anticipating, I went and saw The Veronica Mars movie. My take away is this:

Veronica Mars Movie

1. Logan and Veronica were ready to jump each other from the moment they laid eyes on each other (and the audience was ready to jump them).

2. I’m glad they went for 9 years with no contact. I really loved that Logan and Veronica broke up at the end of season 3. It was too soon for them to be together. They were still teens who had gone through too much crap.

smoulder smoulder smoulder

smoulder smoulder smoulder

3. I’m glad that Logan joined the Navy. Though he looked odd in the uniform he obviously found peace through the discipline of the armed forces. He was a teenager hell bent on self destruction. It sure beats they hell out of Logan finding peace with a Yogi or scented candles. 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!

YUP!

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

Mos for Ros

There aren’t enough moustaches in romance fiction.

I’m not talking about beards here – there aren’t many of them either but they certainly turn up in romance novels more than mos.

I’m not talking about the scruff either. That five o’clock shadow is a mainstay on romance covers as well as in the books themselves.

I’m talking about the hairy splendour on an upper lip.

Google image hot guys screen shots

It should not come as a surprise to any of you that I am a fan of hirsute men. I have previously blogged about my love for chest hair in romance novels. So you will understand my need for more facial hair on male heroes (heck – on female heroines too). So here we are in the last week of Movember and the moustachioed hero is nowhere to be seen in current romance fiction. This disappoints me somewhat. In a time where the mo is seeing a resurgence and during a month of raising awareness for men’s health, while our friends, husbands, sons, boyfriends, colleagues subject us to a month of flinching in order to raise money for prostate cancer and mental health for their brethren, our romance heroes are walking around bare lipped or just plain scruffy.

My thought is that if our menfolk can don the pink polos for cricket, football and any number of events to raise money for breast cancer and other women’s issues then the romance industry should step up to the plate and put those ticklers on their protags and their book covers by November 2014. Come on romance fiction industry!

Meanwhile, I did a really scientific survey of my own bookshelves. Now I have a large, and I mean LARGE collection of romance novels and, of all the books that I own, only 3 had moustachioed men on the covers. I pulled them out and scanned them for their mo descriptions:

A Time to Love by Jackie Black“Ross’s mouth would have smothered it before it was half-uttered. She inhaled sharply as she felt his mouth close over hers, the silky tendrils of his mustache providing a shield for both their mouths and giving a shuddering intimacy to his kiss that Ellen would have sworn was impossible”.

A Time to Love by Jackie Black

This guy is pretty special. He is a rarity amongst romance heroes. He is blond. A blond hero with a blond mo. But this mo has tendrils. Tendrils make me think of curls and lengthy mo curls, even if they are blond, just makes me think of the heightened possibility of cereal caught in a mo. I’m not a fan of this description.

Next up:

Passion's Song by Johanna Phillips“He turned her face, and she could feel the soft, silky brush of his mustache, then his mouth, against her cheek. It was more than she would bear”.

Passion’s Song by Johanna Phillips.

Nope. It’s more than I can bear. Silky brush just screams length. Length = more cereal. This is the only description of Lute’s mo in the whole book. I didn’t feel the author’s commitment to his facial hair the way I would have liked.

But then we have Margaret Way’s House of Memories

“You always loved power,” she said, her throat pulled tight.

“Agreed.” The curvy mouth twisted beneath the black, rakish moustache. “Once I even loved you. But that was another lifetime.”

YES! I love that description! I want more!

House of Memories by Margaret Way“Nick stood up and shouldered out of his half opened shirt, his powerful body superbly fit and hard. With the black tangle of hair on his chest and the buccanneer’s moustache, he looked enourmously virile, looking down at Dana from his commanding male height.”

I’m swooning!

Sure, I get it. Few mos look good, particularly when they are in the phasing in stage. I know. My husband tortured me through this process several years ago. Even fewer mos look great. But when they are done well, Oh Sweet Jesus!

Look at these men:

Eagles of Death Metal Mo

Eagles of Death Metal hot biker mo is hawt!

Picture 68

Tom Selleck’s Magnum mo is smokin’!

Village People

The Village People rock us all with a hat trick of Cowboy mo, Biker mo and hubba bubba Construction Worker mo.

Picture 72

Or you can just feast your eyes on Sean Connery mo, Johnny Depp mo or Jude Law mo – bring it on!

A Mo can look awesome. A mo can be sexy.

However, the George Clooney is always only one awkward trim away from a George Roper.

Picture 75

 

 

Amended a day later to add a photo of A Paul Rudd mo:

Paul Rudd

 

 

Dancing and Romancing

Dancing is awesome.

Dancing is sexy. The bass pumping, the throng of bodies moving to the beat at a club or a dance festival, a vibe that buzzes, hearts jolting, culminating in make out sessions, hook-ups, one night stands or the foundation of many a relationship. It is a feeling that is hard to describe and I can honestly say that I have as yet to read a romance novel that has nailed the dance scene.

Dance moves matter and they can make or break a budding romance. A poorly written dance move in romance fiction can completely throw me out of a story. Take Anne McAllister for instance. Now I adore her books. ADORE! She is an autobuy author for me, however…in this scene in “One Night Mistress…Convenient Wife” our heroine is yearning for the hero, they’ve been fuck buddies but the insensitive hero has yet to recognise that this is lurrve. They are at a wedding and our heroine is dancing with another wedding guest.

He moved fluidly, grinning broadly as he drew her with him, leading her easily, spinning her, moving her as efficiently as if she were a rag doll with no bones and no brains of her own.

Ummm. No. Just. No.

Lucy Ellis’s fabulous debut which gave us the line “I’m not your mistress. I’m your girlfriend” turning every convoluted Mistress title on it’s head (who on earth calls anyone a mistress in this day and age) has the hero Alexei taking heroine Maisy out to a supper club for a bit of dancing. Sure. This would be fine if you are in your 70s but they are in their 20s, in ITALY! Find a freakin’ club. Even villages in Italy have nightclubs!

I’ve read peculiar scenes where the couple go out for dinner and have a little dance on the dance floor with diners looking on, gyrating scenes, wanton dancing, ballroom dancing – and I am as big a fan of Strictly Ballroom as anyone but I do not find ballroom dancing hot and sexy (though if you do read Ainslie Paton’s Grease Monkey Jive). I don’t want to read about a couple lambada-ing (it’s the forbidden dance – so forbidden it should not be danced), I don’t want to read about dirty dancing, even Patrick Swayze looks daft doing it let alone someone trying to describe it in written form. And I certainly don’t want to read about the slow, sen-su-al dancing where the heroine wonders if that is his belt she can feel against her stomach or something else hot and ridged. Frankly, I read these scenes and I suddenly feel as though I am at Les Larbey and Margaret Bland’s Galaxy of Dance.

There is nothing more unsexy than an awful dancing scene. It nullifies any sense of romance, any sexual tension, any frisson that may have been present between two characters. Let me tell you about such an event.

Many many years ago, I had a double date with my friend Anna, her boyfriend and a friend of his. I had met this guy several times and I liked him. He was funny, he wasn’t hard on the eyes, he dressed well. He ticked most of the boxes. Anyway, the poor guy suggested a night out. As I was cautious about going out with a guy I had only met once or twice I suggested joining our mutual friends at a nightclub in Kings Cross that I enjoyed going out to. I turned down the offer of a lift and Anna and I drove and met them there. The night was going well. It was hot. The music was pumping. Everyone was getting their groove on. And then the guy I was with, the man I was on a crowded dance floor with, disappeared momentarily. Not “he walked out the door to go to the loo” disappeared. More “is that the strobe light or has a poltergeist stolen his body” disappeared. My eyes quickly glanced around and there he was, on the dance floor in a split formation just as he was coming back up with a full 360 degree twirl.

He looked at me as though to say “Have I got the moves for you, Babe”.

I schooled my face while my soul screamed “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo”. I raised my eyebrows in a “Well, now we know that at least one of us is limber” look while my internal monologue was pulling together an exit strategy. We finished up the dance and I made the “I need help powdering my nose” signal to Anna and we departed subtly to the euphemism.

Upon the toilet door closing behind us, in horror I exclaimed “He did the splits on the dance floor”

“I know” she commiserated with me.

“We have to go” my voice was panicked.

“Absolutely. We cannot consort with such riffraff” Anna said (or kinda said something like that I am sure because that totally sounds like something Anna would say).

We walked out and found the guys. Mr DanceMoves came to my side and asked me if I saw him do the splits. I do recall answering “I certainly did see you”.

As per our agreement, Anna made excuses of tiredness, I made excuses of being her driver and we both made excuses that we were fine walking to the car without them and we left them both to tear up the dance floor without us. We got to the car, we drove down to Harry’s Cafe de Wheels and ate pie floaters while laughing about the most atrocious dance move evah. John Travolta on the screen is one thing but the reality of him on the dance floor is terrifying.

 

However, this is a scene I have read in many a romance but not with the positive pie outcome I had. How did the dance scene go so wrong in romance books? Why don’t we have more hot and sweaty clubbing scenes. Where are the music festival hookups?

Don’t give me bullshit that millionaires/made up royalty don’t club. Tell that one to Mary and Fred, Kate, Wills and Hazza.

Don’t give me bullshit excuses about cultural differences. Greek, Russian, Spanish billionaires are the leaders of the party throng, for what is Eurovision but the search for the best Europop song for the coming summer.

And don’t give me bullshit age excuses, that the clubbing scene belongs only in New Adult fiction. I have friends in their forties who regularly go to clubs and festivals. The only reason I am not with them is that I hate triggering my tinnitis. And I don’t have tinnitis because I danced at a supper club. I earned my tinnitis in clubs, discos and festivals thank you very much. Fabulous days and nights spent dancing to the pumping beats of UFO, Dig, JestoFunk, Beastie Boys, Chemical Brothers, and so many more. For it was the summer of 1994, dancing at Bondi Pavillion to UFO at Vibes on a Summers Day that I finally noticed one of my friends whom I had known for 3 years had THE best dance moves. He was a groover. He had the funk. And we danced the day away. And we got married 2 years later where we continued dancing with great friends and great music. And this only happened because John had the right dance moves and I didn’t need to buy another pie floater! (Happy Birthday John!)

I now want to read a romance with some quality pumping beats.

I am late to the Pride and Prejudice party or A long love letter to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I’ve never understood the squeeeeing or heart-fluttering fangirling over Pride and Prejudice. This is not to say that I didn’t like the novel. I really enjoyed it. I love Jane Austen. I have sat at her grave at Winchester Cathedral. I have visited the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. I have read her books. I haz done the Jane Austen pilgrimage as a bookish nerd is wont to do. However, I have never understood the obsessive collectors and viewers of all things Pride and Prejudice.

In fact, I didn’t considered Pride and Prejudice to be a romance. To me it was a snarky novel about social classes, relationships, women’s status, their lack of autonomy and the requirement to make a good marital match. Oh, I know that it is romantic but its subtle romance was lost on me as a 17 year old who had already spent the previous 5 years reading intense and focused romance in the form of category series romances. As an adult, I have read the many epistles and scholarly criticisms and journals dedicated to Pride and Prejudice and all that other cerebral stuff but deep down inside – there was nuthin.

I tried to understand the hero status that Mr Darcy inspires. Colin Firth, in the BBC series, looked like he had swallowed a bad oyster throughout every episode until that last scene when he deems it worthy a moment to crack a smile. He’s all muttering and mumbling. Jennifer Ehle’s portrayal of Lizzie Bennet is good but I never feel the connection between her and Mr Darcy – even in the wet shirt scene (and really?! What is the whole kerfuffle about that wet shirt? It isn’t that impressive. All I could think of was the squelching of wet socks in boots and the chafing of wet trousers when walking).

I tried again to watch Bridget Jones’ Diary but once again I was left cold. A ridiculous heroine misjudges Mark Darcy. Once again, Colin Firth has had a plate full of bad oysters until, once again, the last scene where, I will concede, he is a tad sexy with his “Nice boys don’t kiss that way” retort of “Oh yes they fucking do”. I came around a bit with the Knightley/McFadyen version of Pride and Prejudice which seems to be anathema to most fans and I’ve also watched the Laurence Olivier/Greer Garson version which was also ho hum. So you get it. Not a fan.

It took until the 200th anniversary to finally get it, to finally see how wonderfully romantic the book actually is. And not only do I get it but I also am surprised at my score long obtuseness.

How did I not see that Mr Darcy is one of my all time favourite romance hero types – the suited up, billionaire CEO sitting on his high horse, lording it over his minions just to be brought to his knees by an unassuming, often much poorer and plainer but ever so sharp heroine that he initially barely deigns worthy of his time. Elizabeth Bennet, too, is my favourite romance heroine. She is not glitzy, glamorous, ditzy or quirky. She is smart, observant, quick to take offense at perceived slights and really funny. These two are fabulous together and I have finally seen the beauty and the romance of Pride and Prejudice due to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

To many of you who also follow me on Twitter this is not a surprise revelation. I have already blogged about The LBD elsewhere. I decided to wait until the last episode before posting my total adoration for this series but I couldn’t bear to post straight away – it has taken me a whole month to deal with my loss. Yes dammit. I have turned into one of those viewers who is grieving the loss of a favourite show. Go ahead. Judge me. Then judge me some more when I tell you that I have struggled writing this post for this month as it is difficult to pull together the many different ways this show has left an impression on me which is why the rest of this post will be a list of why I think this series is teh awesomesauce:

    Secondary Characters

Where in every other adaptation the secondary characters remained unexplained, their motivations left unknown or unrealised this adaptation fleshed out previously disliked characters giving them depth and humanity. From compliant Bing Lee, beautiful calm Jane, practical and insightful Charlotte, conniving Caroline, sweet Gigi, Fitz (my sons’ favourite character “Fitzie”) to the shallow, selfish party girl with hidden depths Lydia! Just a few quick words on Lydia – I honestly don’t think that there can be any subsequent production of Pride and Prejudice that doesn’t take into consideration this brilliant interpretation of a previously two-dimensional grating character. She very nearly stole the whole show. She finally made us understand the appeal of the fun, thoughtless sister. I’m possibly the only person who would have liked to see Lydia end up with George Wickham. I get that the moral to the story is that you don’t need to settle and in this day and age you certainly don’t need to stay in a dysfunctional relationship but – well, call me warped but Lydia became too subdued for my liking and the moralising of the consequences of sleeping around seemed stronger than Austen’s own writing expressed 200 years earlier.

    Lizzie Bennet/Ashley Clements

I have a girl crush on Ashley Clements. I don’t know where to start in praising her interpretation of Lizzie Bennet. She is the Lizzie Bennet that I wish all the other adaptations delivered. Her Lizzie just hands down trumps every other wimpy, soft-spoken, pursed lipped, ditzy dumbass version that I have seen. Clements slams you with snark and lampoons from Episode 1. She delivers a character that is observant and funny and sharp and someone you want as your friend. Her face is beautifully expressive whether she is recounting an event, taking the piss, yearning, crying or happy.

Lizzie’s depictions of family, friends and acquaintances are as caricatures. For the sake of a great story she overdraws the people she comes across in her life. She knows that she is not being truthful to her viewers about the people she is depicting. She admits to being 80% truthful…no make that 50% truthful. As a viewer you know that Lizzie is not an accurate narrator but as a narrator even she knows that she is not an accurate narrator. Hyperbole is her ruler but, just like her sister Lydia, she has a vulnerable side that you get a glimpse of in Episode 7 when she is retelling “The Most Awkward Dance Ever”. It takes 3 episodes for Lizzie to even bring up this event – a whole 10 days after the Gibson wedding. As a viewer you see that Lizzie Bennet was embarrassed and slighted publicly by William Darcy. A public that is a tangible one. One in the physical world of family, friends, neighbours and the whole community watching her being rejected. Lizzie Bennet then goes on to publicly embarrass and slight William Darcy in a virtual space – a space which she doesn’t perceive has the impact that reality does until Episode 61 where we see her hesitance to even meet William Darcy’s eyes.

For a while I have been exploring this idea of the spaces we consider our reality. My interpretation of Lizzie Bennet at the beginning of the series is that Lizzie is detached from this virtual space. Particularly as a communications student her understanding of this medium as a virtual space unlike real life seems to make it OK to speak freely about family and friends once you have altered them, fictionalised them and you the viewer need to work out what aspects of the other characters are truthful. It is after Darcy’s first love declaration and subsequent argument about real events that Lizzie realises that Darcy is a man she has wronged. (And I love the strained look on her face when his objections to her mother and Lydia are also her objections to them). Thankfully for Lizzie, (and perhaps because he is a media communication CEO) he seems to have a similar understanding to her of the reality of the web as an unreal virtual space with somewhat unreal depictions and is able to dismiss her online comments about him. From Episode 60 Ashley Clements slowly turns Lizzie Bennet around from a seemingly oversharing, laughing storyteller to a more reserved person selective in her choice of words for the screen.

    William Darcy/Daniel Vincent Gordh

As you have read above, I have never been a fan of grumble bum Darcy. But for the first time ever, here was a Darcy that appealed. He is a snob. He is realistic that there are class differences in our world. Just as Lizzie portrays her worse self in Episode 60, Darcy too shows us his absolute worse. The beauty is that neither of them are reticent in their exchange. These two are equals who leave their exchange rethinking their approach to each other. From that episode onwards we get to see a softer, more considerate Darcy. One that starts thinking through his attitudes to people outside his usual sphere until the penultimate episode where he is a relaxed, happy man (well – he had spent a week getting it on). For what it is worth, I am not a subscriber to the Darcy has Aspergers theory. I do not like the need to medicinalise behaviour that society has decided is not the norm. Darcy starts the story as a total snob but he is also shy and this combination is the fab reason why it takes nearly a year and 3 minutes to get the girl. And can I say, Daniel V Gordh has the most beautiful sprinkling of silver in his hair. Be still my beating heart! Just what all distinguished, billionaire CEOs should have. And 16 year old me would be pulling apart my Tiger Beat mag and putting up posters of DVG.

To add to this, I loved all the Darcy and Lizzie episodes. There are minor niggling lines that I wish could have been refined. Lizzie is fine calling Darcy a “prick” but shies away from saying that she doesn’t want to be the girl that is sleeping with the boss (c’mon already – who says “dating”?) and Lizzie not acknowledging Darcy in the last episode (a phrase would have sufficed). This doesn’t detract from the fact that these two sparked off each other. They had tension, those deep gazes gave me flutters and it was wonderful to watch the online squeeeeeing from all the other fans and viewers.

    The Writers

How could I even think of writing such a love letter to this wonderful show without acknowledging the wonderful writers who adapted this 200 year old story. These writers went well beyond any movie or any TV series has previously managed. They wrote flawed, real characters. They understood Austen’s characters and that people change due to the people they know and meet in their life. The writers show us all the necessity for forgiveness and that it is possible to overcome our prejudices and change our perception of others. The transmedia fiction, the use of Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest gave us a deeper understanding of the main characters and allowed us to view them off-screen but still online partaking in a life that is the norm for all of us in this internet connected world. Understandably, production quality – great for a low budget series – did have its own challenges. There are sound quality fluctuations, Mr Microphone peaks at us in a later episode, beltless Bing, Darcy is not that crash hot a dresser for someone who is supposed to be in the 1% (seriously – a buttoned down shirt that isn’t buttoned down). These points though are inconsequential because the storytelling ruled.

The last episode was subdued and though at first I was disappointed with it, I now see it as the quiet farewell it needed to be. This was a journey for Lizzie and Charlotte. Two women finding their professional way in this modern world, each of them with different values and needs yet dedicated to their friendship. Thankfully, the writers were not constrained to only the videos and the transmedia fiction element delivered a wonderful epilogue on Twitter, at once funny, romantic and hopeful for the future. I truly hope we get to see the tweets in the DVD edition as I really feel they were key to the whole story. The writing, and the writers, are the absolute champions of this wonderful web series.

In the end, I invested countless hours in these wonderful characters. Gee they were fabulous! I have invested in the Kickstarter and I am so happy they have brought me to a new love and appreciation for Jane Austen’s wonderful Pride and Prejudice.

What!? You want more! Should my overly long letter not be enough here are a couple of links to read:

Goodby Lizzie Bennet, it has been… so good to see you

http://astillandquietconscience.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/goodbye-lizzie-bennet-it-has-been-so.html

Asian Americans in Jane Austen’s White Sanctum

http://rudegirlmag.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/asian-americans-in-jane-austens-white-sanctum/

Emerging from January

All month I have had a number of posts stewing in my brain yet I managed to not write any of them until now – so this is a super long blog post.

January was a culmination of several events for me. I have finally finished my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment allowing me to teach in the TAFE system. I used to teach at TAFE 10 years ago when I was not required to have a qualification beyond Train the Trainer. I found the teaching rather harrowing as there were times I was being handed the lesson plan 10 minutes before the class itself. With this certificate I feel much more prepared – now to pick up some casual hours!

I completed a 10 thousand word assessment for university. Even as I sit here all I can think is that there is so much more I wanted to write. I could have easily added another 5 K. I’ve since met with my supervisors who are trying to convince me to move from a Masters program to a Doctorate program. They keep saying “doctorate” as though it is a forgone conclusion but for me it is a much harder decision. I’m loving the study but I am finding the whole parenting/studying/working balance difficult.  As much as I would love to be a Doctor of Rrrrrromance in libraries I may just settle to be a Mistress of Rrrrromance in libraries instead.

I managed to get slammed by an anonymous blogger called Annoyed Librarian over at Library Journal. There seems to be a badge of honour amongst a few librarian bloggers such as @ScrewyDecimal and @Catagator who have also been slammed. I felt spesh. Am I the only antipodean to merit this treatment *preen*?  The slamming came while I was in the midst of my 10K assessment and TAFE resubmissions. As much as I wanted to get in there and comment again I was a very good student and focused on my assessments. In brief, the blogger made a number of derogatory comments about housebound romance readers to which I questioned her professionalism. In the slamming, she questioned public librarians and readers’ advisors professionalism and how she was “happy to have a little fun goading romance readers and writers”. And here is the irony. My aforementioned 10K assessment is about the marginalisation of ordinary culture by cultural institutions – namely libraries/librarians marginalising romance fiction: Romance fiction and its authors and readers. I came across the first post in searching for more current examples of librarians showing derision towards the readers of the most highly read fiction genre. Not only had I found more evidence for my paper but by her responding in the form of another blog rather than a simple reply she gave me even more material. Just as I was thinking that perhaps the library situation wasn’t all that bad she gave me plenty of fodder that was instantly added to my research.

By the time I had a moment to make my own comment a number of people had already made enough comments rejecting her blog stance against public librarians so I happily did not leave my own. But here’s the thing: when her blog was first pubished I had a number of people contact me – some through public tweets and others through email and Twitter DMs in support of my comments, which I appreciated. But the comments and discussion outside of the official website will not remain part of a digital record. The comments dismissing the blogger for not having the courage to write under her own name, the comments dismissing Library Journal as a credible opinion source in the industry due to their validating a”library troll”, and the incredulity that there were still readers of the blog, are not part of an official record. Researchers in 100 years will be going to the industry stalwart, Library Journal, but how they will connect to the conversation that is happening in other online forums about their articles, particularly discussions held elsewhere as most librarians are hesitant to post comments on LJ as they know they will be the next librarian to be ridiculed? What sort of legacy of information will allow for these informal (yet illuminating) conversation to be found. I’ve been told that there is research into this question but I have become the lazy researcher at this stage of January and I haven’t searched for more information. If I find some links I will post them on a later blog.

Since I finished writing my papers 10 days ago I have chilled out with my kids, I’ve watched lots of TV – reruns of Coupling, Scrubs, Friends, Big Bang Theory and Ben Stiller movies. I love Hank Azaria in Along came Polly saying “Rueben, look me in the eyeball” and the extreme sports corporate Bryan Brown. After 366 books in 2012, I have begun 2013 in fine form and I have read only 2 books The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville which was lovely and A Basic Renovation by Sandra Antonelli which was fab fab fab and I will be writing a separate blog post for next week. My family and I spent a lovely week in Wollombi in the Hunter Valley at my sister-in-law’s farm. We swam in the dam daily, we watched kangaroos grazing, we played lots of Wii and generally did the holiday pleaser of nothing much.

Coming up, I am going to be on a romance panel on Valentine’s Day with Isolde Martyn and Jane Austen Society journal editor Joanna Penglase to discuss 200 years and the romance focus of Pride and Prejudice. I’m really excited to be involved in such an event seeing the pretty much universal appeal of the book. I’m pretty sure I have been asked along to bring in the contemporary romance tie-in. Though I liked Pride and Prejudice when I first read it I have not been part of the fandom. I have not reread it (but plan to before the event) and I don’t think much of Colin Firth. My husband really wanted to give our oldest son the middle name of D’Arcy, after his great-g-g-g-g-g-g-grandfather D’Arcy Wentworth, to which I objected as I wasn’t all that chuffed at naming my son after a highwayman despite the fact that he came good upon coming to the colony of New South Wales as the second fleet’s doctor and as a free settler (oh – the irony as my son tells me he would have loved to have D’Arcy as his name). In my research for this panel  I discovered the Lizzie Bennet Diaries just to discover my favouritest ever Darcy. I have become obsessed with this vlog and transmedia fiction. I follow the characters on twitter, I read Jane’s Tumblr and Lydia is totally understood. And the whole “Socially Awkward Darcy” meme is fun. And most importantly, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries have given me that jolt in my stomach. That feeling that romance readers get when they come across a couple that you know should be together, and despite the fact that I know there is a happy ever after, the anticipation that only a good adaptation and dramatisation can affect, that feeling that perhaps these two will not get past Regis’s point of ritual death. I do love the well retold romance.

Crying

As a readers’ advisory librarian, you get asked for book recommendations that are sometimes quite difficult to find. For me the hardest was finding romances that would not make my borrowers cry. Read more about my experience over at Love2Read.

Schmoozing with a Smart Bitch and a vulgar amount of name-dropping

Up until last week, I had not attended a high tea since 2000. 12 years ago I had the good fortune to attend a high tea in the Queen’s Ballroom whilst journeying through the Whitsunday Islands along the North East coast of Australia on a leg of the millenium world cruise of the QE2, as one does. There were marvellous sandwiches, petit fours and loose leaf tea served in fine bone china teacups. It was all very very proper. A string quartet played while well-dressed couples danced to music from the early twentieth century when I was asked if I would like to dance and I found myself doing the cha-cha with a gentleman host beside the Queen’s bust.

This is a travelling highlight for me and I had not felt the need to go to another high tea as it would be a hard act to follow. But last week I finally attended one as Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books was attending along with a number of romance readers, writers and bloggers. It was a loud and raucous afternoon spent with some fabulous women and a lot of fun was had by all. Sarah Wendell was in Sydney as an international guest for the inaugural Genre Convention and I was fortunate enough to be asked to be on a panel discussion with Sarah. The panel was called Not Just a Narrator where, along with Sarah, speculative fiction author Kirstyn McDermott and Harlequin Escape managing editor Kate Cuthbert, we spoke about the many people who promote books and reading, on and offline, from authors, bloggers and librarians *cough* yours truly *cough*. I spoke about the collaborative work NSW librarians and the NSW Readers’ Advisory group are doing to promote readership in developing their monthly themes, facilitating a monthly twitterchat group and blogs Love2Read2012 for the National Year of Reading and next year’s readwatchplay. As the sole librarian speaking at the convention, and only my second non-library talk, I was eager to see how libraries fit into the broader reader, author and book industry discourse. In my opinion, the library aspect was well received and it intersected well with the blogger and author experiences being relayed by the rest of the panel. I think that we need more librarians being part of readers conventions, literary festivals and book fairs as there is a natural overlap for these industries.

The convention itself was fantastic. With a swathe of amazing Australian authors discussing their readership and their craft, the atmosphere was exciting. I heard several of the speakers discussing that we are in an era of writing abundance and it was evident with the number of aspiring, emergent and established authors present and the fabulous editors and publishers that enable their work to be distributed broadly. There were so many fabulous people I spoke with such as Anna Campbell, Shannon Curtis, Christina Brooke, Kat @bookthingo, Rosie @fangbooks, @Rudi_Bee, Kate Eltham, Peter Ball, Denise Rosetti, Bronwyn Parry, Nicky Strickland, Kylie Mason, Haylee and Lilia from Harlequin, Caitlyn Nicholas and many more (and my apologies if I didn’t mention you).

However, I cannot be blasé about Sarah Wendell. Sure, I’d be much cooler if I didn’t gush all over her on my blog. But I have never been a cool kid and I think Sarah was lovely and funny and so generous with her time despite her concerns for her family and friends in the wake of hurricane Sandy. Back in 2008, I gave a Romance 101 presentation at the NSW Readers’ Advisory annual seminar where I introduced the Smart Bitches blog (and a number of other romance literature resources) to over 140 librarians. So to find myself four years later, onstage speaking with Sarah has been a career highlight.

There was no Queen’s ballroom or Queen’s bust, there weren’t any views of the South Pacific or tropical islands and there were no gentlemen hosts or string quartets. But we did have Tim Tams and lamingtons, and there was snark and there was awesomesauce. And it ranks up there with my high seas high tea cha-cha.