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

Comfort reading and librarian romances

It’s March and my fiction reading still has not taken off. I’m a tad busy at the moment (understatement) as I have my part-time librarian work, I have taken on teaching a new subject which is slightly shifted from my previous subjects, and of course I am still chipping slowly away at my PhD meanwhile I am continuing with my whole family’s habitual 2 episodes a night of How I Met Your Mother  (priorities peoples!) while trying to perform motherly duties, so there will be no self-flaggelation over my lack of recreational reading. That said, I still wanted to contribute to SuperWendy’s TBR this month as I really love the comfort reads theme so I dug out an old draft post I had started writing on my favourite librarian romances which are high up on my comfort reads list.

There are quite a few librarian novels and SuperWendy, who is also a romance reading librarian, has an ever-growing Librarians in Romance Novels page with over 125 novels listed. I’ve read many on her list but I’ll only discuss my favourites.

Karina Bliss wrote What the Librarian Did which became an automatic buy up for libraries with a Mills & Boon buying plan (ahem!) I think this was a favourite because we were all wondering “What did she do!?!?!”.

Let’s just say that Rachel Robinson was a great academic librarian but a little bit reluctant in the relationship game because, you  know, life decisions can sometimes suck and come back to haunt you.

But this book isn’t my absolute favouritest librarian comfort read…..

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

The Betty then is no better than The Betty now

I very nearly didn’t post anything for August’s TBR challenge even though Kicking it Old Skool is one of my favouritest topics in romance reading. I adore reading older romances especially from the 70s and 80s. I regularly reread old favourites and I also seek out titles from markets and op shops. My only foray into Old Skool romance this past month was revisiting Betty Neels.

Now let me start by telling you – nay showing you! how I felt about Betty Neels as a teenager:

Bored person slumping in their seat from the tediousness of what they are listening to

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I would see her books I could feel my skin crawl. Continue reading

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

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

Flowers from the Storm by Laura KinsaleFlowers from the Storm

by Laura Kinsale

narrated by the sublime Nicholas Boulton.

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

 

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

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

Zoe York: TBR Challenge

It is SuperLibrarian Wendy’s TBR Challenge time! This month the theme is Contemporary. I was at home sick with a rather nasty bug yesterday, I was feeling all alone and palely loitering in my bedroom – too tired to read but I did not want to watch anything either so I put out a call to twitter for romance fiction audiobook recommendations. Of course, wonderful tweeps everywhere gave me some crackin’ recs including a couple of recommendations for an author I had not heard of called Zoe York. I gave up on working out the intricacies of my eaudio account and downloaded a couple of her ebooks to read from the Pine Harbour series:

 

Love in a Small Town (Book 1)

by Zoe York

 Six years. Two break ups. One divorce. They should be over each other.

Rafe Minelli knows better than to tell his wife no, particularly since they aren’t married anymore. She can’t hightail it out of town, though, not when they’ve finally broken through the post-divorce cold war status quo. 

Olivia Minelli needs to leave Pine Harbour. It’s just too hard to see Rafe moving on without her—even if he says he doesn’t want to. But when a new and exciting job falls into her lap, she needs to choose: protect her heart, or take the new job and risk getting emotionally entangled with her ex-husband. Again. 



This story is a marriage reconciliation story. Rafe and Olivia have been divorced for two years but she still serves him his daily coffee at the cafe where she works. The story kicks off where he brings his one-night stand in for a breakfast. Olivia is angered and horrified but later finds out that he had not slept with her and in actual fact had remained celibate for their two years apart as he had not really wanted to divorce Olivia. This was quite a sad story of two people who had a strong connection yet did not know how to work through disagreements. I really liked that a lot of the moments of connection for the two was when they were slow dancing (Bingo!) – there is such an intimacy to slow dancing that you don’t even realise that anyone else is there. Their reconciliation story acknowledges that good sex does not mean that problems can be overcome but knowing that they can get past a fight without breaking up and perhaps needing some guidance in achieving this is an important part of Rafe and Olivia’s story. I enjoyed how they slowly came to trust each other again and really liked their connection. Continue reading