Reading Notes: 13-16 and Observation Note 53

I am going to combine SuperWendy’s TBR topic with my Reading Notes this month. Hopefully this works well enough that I can repeat it through the year. The topic is Short Shorts here are some are various books I have been reading including one romance novel.

Reading Note 13: Home inspiration. I read through two interior decorating books in succession that had been languishing in the library TBR for only a month. Both heavy, hard back books printed on substantial paper stock. The sort of design books that costs a lot and you are loathe to put in any discard pile for years to come.

The first I looked at was The Kinfolk Home – an offshoot from the magazine by the same name, it purports to support the “Slow” movement. It was definitely slow. So slow that I got bored of both the pictures and the stories of the families that lived in these homes. I am Marie Kondo’s nightmare, I am not a minimalist. I believe that design lovers are now referring to people like myself as being “maximalists”.  I love vibrant colour and a home filled with books and curios, art and bibelots reflecting the life adventures of the occupants. Which is the opposite of what this book contains. All beige, grey, linen and black. Perhaps the slow movement requires homes to be uncluttered so as to encourage contemplation. I found no joy in the sleek interiors but I certainly can understand that someone who has the opposite approach to my own desire for home aesthetics would love this book.

In contrast, Little Big Rooms: New Nurseries and Rooms to Play In was delightful and full of colour and deep understanding of how a home works when young children need to feel that they are completely in the home, and not an adjunct design that could at any time disrupt an adult space. Even though my own children are now (young – ahem) adults, there were elements of young children’s play design that reflected how I used our own home space when they were little, albeit with a much tinier budget. I loved this book.

Reading Note 14: Quasi rural romance. I praised Penelope Janu quite a lot last year. In December I read On The Right Track which has the hero from In at the Deep End’s hero’s twin brother.. I enjoyed this book espite my deep dislike of horse racing. The book isn’t as rural as the book cover lets on. I liked the movement between the Southern Highlands and the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. But I do like my story telling a bit tighter than most standard novels, and though it was well done, I found that the storyline on the 25 year old crime that may have been committed that the international-man-of-mystery-spy hero was investigating through the whole book dragged on just a tad. And there was just such overriding sadness in this book especially with the complex (and thankfully unresolved and unapologetic) mother who had rejected the heroine Golden at birth with her grandfather raising her. I also liked heroine Golden’s lovely relationship with her sister.

Observation 53: Sunday Librarian no more. I have resigned from my library job. This took months (and could I say years) of contemplation. 2019 had sickness find both my husband and me this year. Tiredness, illness and the need to complete studying have led my decision. Having worked 11 of the last 18 years as a regular (weekly with the exception of annual and sick leave) Sunday Librarian across 3 different employers, I am now looking for a Monday – Friday job. I have paid my dues in LibraryLand and no longer can bear sacrificing every weekend. I don’t mind if I am asked to do a rotation of one in four, or one in three but I cannot take on weekend work as my standard weekly contracted hours again. In light of the work that women do, I have willingly taken on these roles because it helped facilitate my family’s decision to do tag-team parenting as well as supporting my study regime. But it is now time for future thinking and my future involves weekends not working. Considering that the majority of public library work that is advertised these days have a Monday-Sunday clause, I am not sure if my future includes public libraries. Watch this space.

Reading Note 15: David Sedaris. Last night I saw David Sedaris do a reading of his essays and diary entries at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney. I am long a fangirl of both Sedaris, and the theatre which holds such special memories for me as it was one of Sydney’s two Greek cinemas back in the 1970s and 1980s. Sedaris was, as ever, funny and erudite – his observances so sharp, his loyalty to his family, his wry love of his boyfriend Hugh, his love of jokes – I just lapped it all up. I especially love that he does book signings where he sits for hours talking to people. Two hours of waiting in line, John and I were 4th from the end, when we finally got to speak with him. He signed our books, I gave him my Greek cinema trivia (to which he was surprised) and then he offered me the remnants of his T-bone steak for my dogs. I hesitated for a moment before turning him down. I may be a fangirl, but I draw the line at taking an author’s food remnants home with me.

Reading Note 16: Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. I will do this book a disservice and just describe it as incredible and seminal writing that is necessary reading for all Australians and anyone who is interested in the colonial systems of displacing and misrepresenting the knowledge practices of first nations people. I am only half way through the audiobook for now, but I also mean to return to the print version which also has illustrations and photographs. Hopefully, I will write more about it next month.

I still have a way-high TBR. However, I don’t believe that the reading pile can every be completely read.

A quick TBR Challenge post

I have missed several of this year’s TBR challenges. This one is going to be a series of quickshots at a couple of books I have read this year. So quick I can’t even be bothered putting up book cover photos.

And there will be SPOILERS so some readers may want to look away! Continue reading

The Wedding Date: Same(ish) titles; different books

I was a slacker last year for the TBR Challenge and only posted the one time. This year, I plan to post monthly even if my posts are short. So seeing that the topic for January is We Love Short Shorts  I have added two short(ish) reviews rich with spoilers of two books with The Wedding Date  in their title for my first SuperWendy 2019 TBR Challenge.

2 people standing on either side of a door.The Wedding Date Bargain by Mira Lyn Kelly

When Sarah Cole finds herself in Chicago with two months to kill before her New York promotion goes through, she decides it’s time to take care of a few things—like the inconvenient issue of her virginity. Sarah knows the right guy for the job too: Max, the notorious lady’s man she’s been crushing on since college.

Max Brandt is all for a fling, just not with Sarah. She’s way too good for him. He walked away from her once, but it wasn’t easy.

Things are different now, and the plan is so simple. There’s no way either of them would do something as silly as fall in love…

I read/listened to this book 2 months ago. It was pleasant but infinitely forgettable. I can’t remember that much about the plot (other than what is outlined in the blurb above). It was very much a “The one that got away” plotline with the heroine regretting not having her chance at the hero long ago. She makes a decision to sleep with him before she leaves Chicago for a job in New York. There is a whole lot of navel gazing with questions of “should I” , “do I”, “does my career matter or love matter” etc etc. Continue reading

One Big Huge TBR 2018 post

I have had a shockingly bad year in the review stakes. And I haven’t posted a single time for SuperWendy’s TBR challenge for 2018. And I think the only way I will be able to get back in her TBR good books so as to take part in TBR 2019 is to do one big TBR post to cover the whole of 2018. So here goes!

January 17 – We Love Short Shorts! (shorter reads)

This is not necessarily a romance, however it is about the love and broken hearts and breakups and wonderful couples separated due to someone dying. The Museum of Broken Relationships: Modern Love in 203 Everyday Objects by Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic. Using one of my favourite writing styles, the epistolary nature of this book with a few pages and photographs of objects held now at two permanent museums – on in Zagreb, Croatia and one in Los Angeles, California. There is also a touring collection. I adored this book. And I really hope that there is a sequel for unbroken relationships.

February 21 – Backlist Glom (author with multiple books in your TBR)

Molly O'Keefe covers with naked headless men showing pecs and abs.

Molly O’Keefe’ You Can’t Hurry Love and You Can’t Buy Me Love

I adore Molly O’Keefe but I rarely stumble upon her books so when I do find them, I read them straightaway. Though I don’t consider 2 books a glom, I am sneaking O’Keefe in here.

Continue reading

Dear Reading, It’s not you, it’s me – TBR Challenge 2017

I am in a fiction reading slump. It is the slumpiest that I can remember since the black hole years back when my sons were babies and the only thing I read were the clues in my Christine Lovatt’s Crossword books. This makes for a very lacklustre start to Wendy’s 2017 TBR challenge – January theme of We Love Short Shorts.

The last book I finished reading was on the 15th of December and I can directly attribute my lack of interest in reading anything at all to the death of my student, my husband being in hospital, my lovely cousins visiting from Switzerland and this hot horrid heat hell called Summer.  Last night was so awful that it did not drop below 30C/86F. In heat despair, I got into my car at 4am with the engine on just to cool down in air conditioning (the plus side to this is that I listened to another chapter of my everlasting audiobook – see my last post).

My last post of the year where I searched for the good things in the year was incredibly helpful as it dragged me out of some of my sadness. I have had several swims, my house is looking tidy and lovely and I have been writing some words towards the PhD. But the ludic reading has fallen by the wayside. I have started many books but I have not managed to proceed beyond Chapter 7 in any of them. This is definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

I didn’t love my “short shorts”, and many of the books were quite long however my reading of them was definitely cut short (heh – see what I did there? There are many ways to link to Wendy’s theme of the month!). The books I partially read are:

Summer Skin Kirsty Eagar

Summer Skin

by Kirsty Eagar

Yeah. I know. Everyone loves this book. This book is now out of print. This book is due for US release in 2018. Fanfare is yes. *sigh* I’m up to Chapter 7 and I am already bored.

It’s not you, Summer Skin.

It’s me.

 

Under the boss's mistletoe by jessica hart

Under the Boss’s Mistletoe

by Jessica Hart.

I thought a sweet romance will do the trick. I’ve heard lots of praise for Ms Hart. But one chapter in was enough for me.

It’s not you, Under the Boss’s Mistletoe.

It’s me.

 

 

Cowboy's Christmas Miracle by Anne McAllister

The Cowboy’s Christmas Miracle

by Anne McAllister

This was going to be a reread. What better way that to get out of a slump than by rereading a favourite book by a favourite author. But I couldn’t get past Chapter 2 of this book. It felt navel gazey.

It’s not you, The Cowboy’s Christmas Miracle.

It’s me.

 

 

Fantastic Man by PhaidonFantastic Man: men of great style and substance

edited by Emily King

When a super groovy compilation of portraits, profiles and essays  from a magazine on stylish, gorgeous men, with few articles longer than 4 pages, you know you have some hardcore reading slump happening.

It’s not you, Fantastic Man.

It’s me.

 

Boyfriend by Christmas by Jenny StallardBoyfriend by Christmas

by Jenny Stallard

This was a bit of a 10 Ways to Lose a Guy (love this movie) rip off with the main (writer) character being told by her editor that she must get a boyfriend by Christmas and so start her adventures in drunken hookups and regretful relationships just to find the right guy was always there. I read the first 7 chapters and skimmed to the end.

Sadly, with this book, it was definitely Boyfriend by Christmas.

It was not me.

There are at least 15 books in my TBR that I couldn’t even get through the first page but I am not going to bother with listing those. I am stalling my break up with books for now. I think I will need to curate my next choice. I have Tessa Dare’s Do you want to start a Scandal waiting on my shelves and I am going to venture into the world of crime fiction (SHOCK! HORROR! The genre I am least likely to read!) by giving Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness a go purely on the strength of her being the 1980s teen romance author Janet Quin-Harkin who wrote my absolute favouritest Sweet Dreams EVAH! Ten Boy Summer.

And if that doesn’t work – I have Dog eat Dog – an AC/DC biography waiting to be read. In this heat, I might as well read about the men who rocked my 80s as I physically feel like I am on a Highway to Hell.

Burning sweltering man gif

If there’s a ghost from yesteryear in it, is it a historical?

It is Wendy the Super Amazing Super Incredible Super Sensational Librarian’s TBR Challenge and this month and the topic is historical romance. I would like to ponder – just briefly – if a contemporary set book has a ghost from the World War 2 era  in it, does it qualify as a historical even though there are barely any flashback scenes? I will answer my own question here and say no but then again, if a book has a ghost in it, I am already needing to stretch my As-if-O-Meter (well….not really as I love ghost stories), so I am asking that this incredibly tenuous link with barely-a-hint-of-historical novel is applied to Lisa Kleypas (historical novelist extraordinaire)’s Dream Lake which is one of her few contemporary set books.

I very nearly claimed Kleypas bankruptcy last month. I had read Marrying Winterborn and though it was okay, it certainly didn’t thrill me enough to merit spending time with another 300+ page book. Time is of essence and there are many books to be read! I have read only 4 of her novels over the years and though there is a lot of Kleypas love not only in the interwebs but also at my library where, despite having many of her titles, it is a rare day for there to be more than 2 on the shelf at any one time, to me, she is a “yeah-she’s-kinda-allright” read. She is an author that I would not binge read. Yet here I was, reading her twice in a row. And why? Let’s just say that I love a good ghost story so how could I go past a ghost romance!

First, the blurb:

Lisa Kleypas - Dream LakeDream Lake

by Lisa Kleypas

They say that opposites attract. But what happens when one has been devastated by betrayal and the other is so jaded that his heart is made of stone? Enter the world of Friday Harbor, an enchanting town in the Pacific Northwest where things are not quite as they seem and where true love might just have a ghost of a chance….

Alex Nolan is as bitter and cynical as they come. One of the three Nolan brothers who call Friday Harbor home, he’s nothing like Sam or Mark. They actually believe in love; they think the risk of pain is worth the chance of happiness. But Alex battles his demons with the help of a whiskey bottle, and he lives in his own private hell. And then a ghost shows up. Only Alex can see him, Has Alex finally crossed over the threshold to insanity?

Zoë Hoffman is as gentle and romantic as they come. When she meets the startling gorgeous Alex Nolan, all her instincts tell her to run. Even Alex tells her to run. But something in him calls to Zoë, and she forces him to take a look at his life with a clear eye and to open his mind to the possibility that love isn’t for the foolish.

The ghost has been existing in the half-light of this world for decades. He doesn’t know who he is, or why he is stuck in the Nolans’ Victorian house. All he knows is that he loved a girl once. And Alex and Zoë hold the key to unlocking a mystery that keeps him trapped here.

Zoë and Alex are oil and water, fire and ice, sunshine and shadow. But sometimes it takes only a glimmer of light to chase away the dark, and sometimes love can reach beyond time, space, and reason to take hold of hearts that yearn for it…

So Alex is a hard hero to redeem. He’s surly, he’s rude, he’s a drunk verging on becoming an alcoholic. He’s in the process of getting a divorce yet continues to have cold, hard, angry convenience fucks with his-ex wife. Alex goes to help his brother with a house he is restoring one day and finds himself saddled with a ghost who realises that Alex is the only human that can hear and see him. Enter Zoe who is sweet, shy and has also gone through a divorce due to her BFF husband realising he was actually gay. Zoe hires Alex to convert her grandmother’s home to make it habitable for old-age care.  The two of them constantly come into contact as he is repairing her home. Alex has had a difficult life growing up as the youngest child of 2 alcoholic parents so he keeps himself detached but he just can’t detach from Zoe eventually realising that he loves her (when it is nearly too late and he has a deus ex machina moment which could have been perfect if…. [MAJOR BLACK MOMENT IN THE BOOK SPOILER ALERT]

Tap dancing from Singing in the Rain

….there was an ambulance involved when there is an accident that has Zoe bawling and Alex dead….but there wasn’t and they all walked away from the scene. Now I could do a reader whinge and say “How believable is that?!” however my As-if-O-meter has totally embraced the awesome ghost that has partnered Alex everywhere for the past many months so I just add it as another notch on my believability scale and enjoy the love declaration instead.

Happy dance - cartoon mice with love hearts

The romance story was relatively simple as the ghost arc is really where this novel’s complexity lies and this was beautiful woven through this story. The obstacles were all on Alex’s side with his struggles with alcohol, with going dry and his slow realisation of what it is to love. Zoe felt like a prop – a lovely one, a lovely character who does have some growth in that she finally takes a risk on loving. I absolutely loved the description of her sublime cooking and the magic it had on Alex’s soul. Alex’s ghost is pretty cool. The ghost at first is grateful to have someone to communicate with but when he realises it is ungrateful-and-hell-bent-on-self-destruction Alex, the ghost becomes snarky and rather bitter. Having lived for decades in a limbo, to see a living human being waste his time and self is frustrating. The relationship between Alex and the ghost, their sharp dialogue, their love/hate life/death and all in between just sparks up an otherwise yeah-okay romance. The ghost element was believable in this story (I cannot read most paranormal books as it crosses my As-If-O-Meter)  and the ghost too ends up having a schmaltzy ending (but of course and it was to be expected and it was very well orchestrated but well it still overstepped this romance reader’s schmaltz line). The ghost’s own closure and escape from limbo – though sweet – faded into the background for me in light of the friendship between Alex who drags himself out of his pending alcoholism and the ghost who finally comes to terms with his own errant ways when he was alive.

I do love ghost stories.

I sneakread this book which I took off Rachel Bailey’s shelves when I should have been working on my PhD while I was hiding out and using her home as a study cave. Shhhhhhhh! Nobody tell her!

The ghost and Mrs Muir walking off into the fog together as a door closes behind them

Train travel, sexy baklava and a retro Anne McAllister romance: a running commentary

I was in Melbourne a few weeks ago. As a total wimp and the catastrophising human that I am, instead of braving a one hour flight each way, I caught the 10 hour train to and from Melbourne instead. On the return trip I reread an old favourite Sexy Mills & Boon by the wonderful Anne McAllister called The Antonides Marriage Deal  and I wrote running commentary while I read and travelled. All the photographs are my own taken with the thoughtful and precise skills developed over the years which my sons lovingly (I’m sure) call “The Veros School of Photography”.

Though I am posting this in time for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge, the only thing that is paranormal about it is the smokey jackaroo….

Oh. And a warning: FULL of SPOILERS!

You can fast forward to the end of the blog for the review part.

The TL:DR for this book is Tis Great!

The Antonides Marriage Deal by Anne McAllister

The Antonides Marriage Deal

by Anne McAllister

The Greek tycoon’s takeover…
Greek magnate Elias Antonides has single-handedly regained his family’s fortune. So when his father gambles away a vital share he’s furious! Elias now has a new business partner…stunning heiress Tallie Savas.

The terms of the deal…
Tallie’s eager to prove herself, but she hasn’t counted on Elias being so sexy. Elias has underestimated Tallie, and now wonders if he can make their business arrangement personal — as in marriage!

 

 

 

8:00am Melbourne

The Yarra River in Melbourne, AustralianI’m at Southern Cross Station having just received a text informing me that my train was being replaced by buses

Successful business man Elias Antonides is fending off phone calls from his mother, his sisters, his brothers and other business partners like a pro. He is deliberate in keeping his fickle father waiting on hold but is unable to shake him. His dad, as the majority owner of the company but totally inept of keeping it afloat, insists that his son who saved the family biz from bankruptcy meet with him. The two meet just for μπαμπα to tell Elias that he has sold off half the company from under him to a buy-and-destroy self-made Greek magnate Socrates Savas.

Socrates is an Old Skool Greek man who props up his footloose sons (as Greek sons are known to be ζαχαροπαιδα/sugar boys who dissolve if they aren’t treated as though they are something special – trust me on this) and dismisses his sharp and intelligent daughter Tallie as a possibility to work in his company and instead keeps trying to match her up with Greek dudes (that said, you get to meet Tallie’s brother Theo in The Santorini Bride and he is far from a ζαχαροπαιδο in his romance with Martha, Elias’s sister). Continue reading