Little library thoughts

Every morning, I walk past a little library. I have been doing this for the past 2 years. When it first started there was an excited sense of discovery. I found lovely books on a daily basis. I scored 2 Julia Quinn books, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s biography, complete box sets of M*A*S*H, Darren Shan (autographed!!!!). In return, I would place much loved doubles and clean new books that I did not have the time to read.

 

Little Library - November 2012

Little Library – November 2012

 

 

 

Last year, this little library was so popular that many in the community would leave all their books, whether they fit in the box or not. AT first , they were still interesting and new. But slowly, the selections became less appealing, the books much older, much tattier. They looked less like books one wants to share and more like books that have sat on a shelf, unread, unloved, faded, dusty, musty and booklice ridden. They made me itch.

 

Little Library - December 2013

Little Library – December 2013

 

This morning, I walked past the little library which has now been in its place for more than two years. I see it daily. It leans heavily. I rarely open it. Today I had a book I intended to leave in it. I opened the hatch. The books in it look like they have sat there for months on end. Unchosen. Unread. Unvetted. Last night it rained. A heavy soaking rain. The books in the little library looked sad. Damp at their edges, stacked without thought, crammed to fit as many as possible. At the foot of the little library lay a soaked, broken cardboard box. Old books strewn, pulpy, dank, saddened. On a closer look, even if they had not been drenched by our daily summer rains, none of these books held much appeal. Unremarkable university texts, aged – not in that beautiful way that old books can fill you with joy, but in that yellowed, coffee-marked, yeeros-splattered, 25th-reprint, I-would-never-take-this-filthy-to-touch-book-to-bed-with-me kind of way. Some resident must have been moving out and not knowing where to empty the books they did not want to take with them decided to will them to the community. I have no doubt that the lovely community that takes care of the little library I walk past daily will clean it up and, for a short while at least, interesting titles will reappear. But for today, I walked on. I didn’t leave my book. I continued to my work and left it on the staff table with a note “free to a readerly home”.

Little Library - December 2014

Little Library – December 2014

 

 

Little Libraries is a trend. It is a beautiful trend. Serendipitous book discovery. What has the person before me left for me to discover? This trend of a little library is the idea of crowdsourced book distribution, community reading and that only reading choices that are exciting will be shared. There is the mistaken idea that you are sharing and discovering in the books that others love. I hate to be a killjoy here but no-one gives away their most beloved books. They only give away the ones that did not resonate. The ones they did not enjoy, did not connect with. In hope, people donate these books to others rather than put them in a recycling bin. Librarians everywhere will attest to this statement. There is so much guilt associated with disposing books. I include myself in this group guilt accusation – I have only ever thrown books smeared in banana into a bin (another story altogether). There are cries – similar to those of your mother trying to get you to eat your overcooked cauliflower by reminding you of all the starving children in the world – that so many people would benefit from these discarded, unwanted grotty tomes. I disagree. I don’t think anyone will benefit from tattered, old books smeared with oil stains. If you are in such dismay about literacy provision, put your money on the table and buy exciting, new, clean, thrilling books to donate and not your dirty, pestridden ones.

In a little library, there is the mistaken idea that you are not restricted by a gatekeeper’s selections. This too is rubbish. There is always a gatekeeper. Anyone who has placed or taken an item out of a little library is a gatekeeper as they have already made purchase decisions that have impacted on what is placed in the library for others to take. It’s just that there is no official selection process guiding community gatekeepers. I have no problem with this – we do not need everything in our lives to be chosen against a checklist. It is the claim that there is no gatekeeper that I dispute. Try filling little libraries with religious, political or flat-earthers propaganda and I am sure that the unofficial community gatekeepers will start monitoring the content of their little libraries.

In theory, everyone in the community takes care of a little library. That there is no official caretaker or gatekeeper however has its downside. This discovery that a little library, does not need someone to care for it, tend to it, weed it, clean it, organise it appeals to those who search for ways to make cuts to strained budgets. If a little library can function on the goodwill of the community then a larger library can be run the same way too. But what happens when your library goes from being filled with interesting selections to being a dumping place for unappealing books sodden with rain.

 

My Epigenetic Legacy

In my last blog, I listed Rob Lowe’s Love Life as one of my favourite books from 2014. I was especially moved by his discovery of his family history about which he says “I believe we’re all influenced by our epigenetic legacies”. He goes on to say “I am the son of my grandfathers. I sometimes imagine I feel them in my blood guiding me” (page 159). These two sentences have not left my mind. I twist them and turn them. I play with their meaning.

Epigenetic Legacy.

What is my epigenetic legacy?

How is it that the granddaughter of two illiterate women is a doctoral student researching the treatment of and attitudes towards romance fiction? Does their blood guide me? How did their blood impact my parents, and in turn, how did my mum and dad’s blood impact my life? Though my grandmothers were illiterate, their children were/are not illiterate. The few opportunities to learn to read were grasped by both my parents.

My mother, who mostly reads biographies, has the most incredible ability to read textiles. Her schooling was minimal as she was born in the Pindus mountains of Northern Greece in 1938. Her childhood was heartbreakingly difficult, losing her dad and five of her siblings due to World War 2 and the Greek Civil War. She first attended school when she was 11 and by 13 she had moved to attending textiles training. My mum can spin and dye wool, tat, embroider, knit and weave with incredible skill.

A tapestry my mum made of a gypsy woman meeting with St George

A tapestry my mum made of a gypsy woman meeting with St George

Once, my mum, while travelling home on a train for twenty minutes, examined the complex knitted jumper the person in front of her was wearing. She came home and within two days had completed a replica of this jumper from memory. It was similar to an Arran Isle pattern. She had no need for the written instructions. Her understanding of patterns and spatials and technique was sufficient. Though my mum taught me to knit and to embroider, I am an amateur, coarse in my needlework execution.

This is a legacy that I do not feel running in my blood.

My mum, like her mum, is incredibly kind and forgiving. My mum never falls out with people. She lives by the adage of “turn the other cheek”. I try to be kind but it is easier to fall out with people.

I would love for this to be my legacy.

My father was a huge reader. He surrounded himself with books. Like many men of his generation, he read every volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica from cover to cover. He read philosophy, Ancient Greek and Latin texts alongside Georgette Heyer, Auntie Mame and Peyton Place.

This is a legacy I can relate to, one that I feel running through my veins.

Like my mother, my father had a difficult childhood, too. He was born in 1928 on the day that the plague killed all of his parents’ 500 animals. Their livelihood was destroyed while my grandmother was giving birth. Dad would joke that his mum would say that he brought “The Curse” to their home. He, like mum, grew up in the Pindus mountains though much further south in Central Greece in the prefecture of Evrytania. His village is a tiny Shangri-la in Agrafa that would be snowbound and isolated for at least six months of every year. My father was curious and interested in learning. The local priest allowed him access to the church bible and my father learnt to read in his church. My dad had the bible memorised. By the age of seven, his mother gave him away to work on a farm to make money to help the family. He would go home on the fortnight for a few days. He was smart and found himself working in a shop in Lamia by the time he was 11. My grandfather, having lived in New York for ten years, taught my father a smattering of English phrases which he used to communicate with British and Australian soldiers. In April 1941, Germany bombed Lamia and my dad, a terrified 13 year old was running in the streets looking for a place to hide. Australian soldiers grabbed him and hid him for several days until it was safe for him to leave.

This moment became my legacy.

My father never spoke ill of his parents giving him away to work. Ever. He was matter of fact about it. “We were poverty stricken, what else could they do. There were 8 of us”. My father’s older sister was given to her godparents who rather than put her to work, sent her to school but as a boy, he needed to bring money home. Dad would say “My father would cry and didn’t want to give us away but my mother was much more practical”.

Is this practical blood guiding me? How is this my epigenetic legacy?

Eventually, my grandmother’s practical nature saw her murdered. The judge who presided on the day my dad and his father took her case to court, six years after her death said she was a victim of war. My dad said murdered. He called it a crime. She was stoned and kicked to death in a town square. She was seven months pregnant, returning to her village after cleaning the monastery where her brother-in-law was the High Abbott. There were some horrific atrocities in these mountains. There were stories of mass killings, not by bombings but by gathering people together and throwing them off a cliff, live. War crimes. My grandmother was a sole killing. She was travelling without a permit (it was as far to travel to get the permit as it was to go to the monastery and doubled her journey) and a couple of people decided to make her an example – to show others what the consequences of not getting the proper paperwork would be. She was not a victim of a war crime. She was a victim of crime. Both are terrible, both leaving their impact on subsequent generations.

It is my legacy to say murdered.

My dad, unfortunately, knew who her killers were as he went searching for his mother upon hearing she had been killed. He wanted to give her a burial so he approached some people who knew his family in the village where she had last been seen. The acquaintances he asked turned on him, beating him on his arms and his head with a plank of wood, breaking his collarbone and injuring him, the last words he remembered before passing out were those of other villagers dragging him away shouting “You killed his mother, you will not kill the boy too”. My father was 16 and his mother’s body has never been recovered. I bear my murdered grandmother’s name though she went by a nickname. I rejected her nickname when I first heard her story.

I had to make my own legacy. Epigenetics can only go so far.

Two semantic events have happened this week.

The first is that today marks twenty years since my dad passed away. Twenty years without his physical presence feels unbelievable to me, it is still a pain in my chest, its sharpness muted with time. There are times I wake from a dream where I have been speaking to him, holding his hand, arguing with his obstreperous ways and my dream has felt so real that I am startled to discover that he has been gone for so long. On the day of his funeral, my godmother held my hand and said that since the day her father died she has not felt complete, childlike happiness again. At the time I was upset with her. I wanted to feel that level of happiness that I had been fortunate enough to feel for 25 years. Sadly, she was right. For even when I was in the most euphoric state, playing and laughing with my kids and husband, in the tiny recess of my mind was a hint of sadness that my dad would never share these moments. My own parents must have felt their own tragic losses in this way even more so as their losses were due to unnecessary war and not due to illness.

The second is that earlier this week, several stories were released about the British involvement in Greece during the world war and the civil war. I am not a historian and nor am I going to try to explain the complexities of this terrible time in Greek history. I do suggest you read this article, though keep in mind that there are deep biases in reporting events even 70 years later. The strategies of the military and the politicians that drove these decisions have impacted my life for they impacted my parents lives. They both suffered during these two wars. My mother’s harrowing story is one that I will leave for another day. Today, But for my father, these wars left him with a need to leave Greece. Once the civil war ended, he applied to go to America as his father owned property in New York City. Upon finding out that NYC council had sold my grandfather’s property due to unpaid rates (my grandfather had left a caretaker to manage his home but lost contact with him during the war – the man had died) my father decided to migrate to Australia as it had been Australian soldiers that saved his life when he was a young teen.

My dad loved Australia. He became a citizen on the very day that he was eligible. He loved the 1950s insult of being called a “New Australian”. He was deliberately obtuse to its negative connotations saying “Did you hear that! They called me Australian!” He hated the move away from the term. Being called a Greek migrant instead of a New Australian meant he was no longer accepted as staying here permanently, there would always be a disconnect, he was forced to not identify with his new land, the land he called Paradise.

My dad sponsored several of his siblings to come and join him here and years later some of his other relatives came over too. My dad, like all people, had his faults. Among them was his lack of communicating. As much as he loved reading, he hardly ever bothered to write home. Often he would send cheques to his dad and on the back of them sign “I am well”. This devastated my grandfather who mourned the loss of his children to another country, an aunt who stayed in Greece told me. He would cry in the fields for his children and would cry that he wanted my dad’s words and not his money.

My parents met and married in Australia. When I was still young, one of the other relatives (not a sibling or aunt or uncle) was getting married. His was a love match to a beautiful Greek girl. My dad had met his fiancé and liked her a lot. She was happy and cheerful. As a family we went to the engagement party and chaos ensued. A relative of the fiancé was the person who had beaten my dad with a plank of wood. The person left the home from the back door insisting that the wedding be called off. My dad’s relative was distraught as was his fiancé. No reason had been given to them, just the demand to call things off. My dad pulled them both to the side and told them what had taken place 30 years earlier. But he finished by telling them that they must get married. It was imperative to get married. To break up because of someone’s actions before either of them had been born would be another crime, hate would simmer and there should no longer be hate.

Mum and Dad at their 25th anniversary

Mum and Dad at their 25th anniversary

This story deeply impacted me, as well as my other relatives (I am sure we all have our own version of events and I have left a large part of the story out of this post deliberately). At no stage did my father welcome the person in his home and his relative and wife were always careful to keep the person away from my father and his siblings. There were other impacts which I do not want to write about. Suffice to say the relative and his wife are still married and still happy with children and grandchildren. I found my dad’s forgiveness on that day heroic and amazing. My mum continues his legacy (which was actually their joint legacy) in that these relatives still occasionally visit her and love her. Though they have slowly moved away into their own circles, their own children have friendships with my grandmother’s great-grandchildren.

When telling me this story – my dad only told it to me once as it was an incredibly painful recollection so perhaps time has touched my retelling – my father told me that he could not think of any better memorial for his mother than love and romance, not hate perpetuated. Romance, he said, “αγαπη” and love had to prevail.

I am so glad that Rob Lowe’s writing about his family history touched me so deeply. Celebrity memoirs rarely make literary “Best of” end of year lists yet they are read and loved by so many people. That I was able to write this story inspired by a book called Love Life heartens me. I am so often perplexed that stories of crime and murder and sadness are given a higher standing in our society than love and happiness. Both my parents have lived both these types of stories. I love that when they had  a deciding moment they chose romance. The value they placed on love, forgiveness and allowing future generations to have hope and happy futures is something that runs deep in my heart and mind and soul.

Stories of romance, kindness and heroism, whether written or spoken, are my epigenetic legacies.

My dad, Paul Veros, in storytelling mode

My dad, Paul Veros, in storytelling mode

In memory of my dad, I miss him terribly.

Dedicated to my mum, who remembers and tells us so many of their sad and happy stories.

I borrowed my copy of Rob Lowe’s Love Life from a NSW Public Library.

Fave 2014 reads

It is that time of the year again when favourite lists are put out for all to read. It is a bit early for me, as I feel that I have a whole month of reading ahead of me. But as I will be on 702ABC talking about my picks tomorrow, I thought I’d list my books from now. Having read over 80 books this year, I still feel I am reading well below my 2012 record of 367 books though I am up on last year’s effort. Of course, my PhDing ways do take me away from leisurely reading somewhat. If you want to look at my year’s reading here is my Goodreads list (though it is missing some titles).

FAVE READING 2014:

Picture book:

Supertato – Sue Hendra

Sue Hendra SupertatoA superhero potato fights an evil pea for supermarket domination. Funny, awesome and a guaranteed crowd pleaser amongst the under 5s (especially great because you get to use the sentence “This jelly tastes of pea” when reading to kids).

 

 

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Non-fiction:

Love Life – Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe Love LifeRob Lowe writes so beautifully that there are times that I stop reading and hug this book to my chest. Poignant essays about his life growing up in Malibu, his love for his children and his wife, his alcoholism, his family history (or what he so beautifully calls his epigenetic legacies), his career choices as well as stories about other actors and fame. It was a tad touch and go when he made one disparaging remark about libraries. I nearly had to break up with my fictional boyfriend but then I kept reading and I forgave him for his fleeting thought. This book made me feel so happy and allows me to feel good about all those TigerBeat and 16 magazines that I so fondly remember buying. Aahhh – nostalgia over my teen idol poster boys. These days I would be called a Fangirl. (And as  a pssst! aside – I do track the #rob lowe hashtag over at Tumblr for purely scholarly reasons).

Romance Fiction:

Just like every year – this was a difficult selection for me. Surprisingly, I didn’t read any category romances that have gained rereading status for me. This saddens me. Below I have listed my favourite for this year and two notables.

It Happened One Wedding – Julie James

Julie James It Happened One WeddingJulie James writes great contemporary romance. The female protagonist Sidney Sinclair awkwardly finds herself as maid of honour alongside best man Vaughn Roberts, a man she forthrightly turned down when he tried to crack on to her a few hours before they met officially when their respective siblings introduced them at the announcement of their impending nuptials. The story develops as the two need to get along while they are part of the wedding arrangements. They stop disliking each other, they hook up but Sidney and Vaughn acknowledge that they want different things out of life than the other is offering. This creates heartache for both of them. Julie James’s dialogue is sparkling, the internal character struggles and the well paced plot devices make this book a great read. This is a definite keeper and reread. I have a longer review in an earlier post (last one on my list).

Notable mentions: When it comes to historical romance picks, I really enjoyed Miranda Neville’s Confessions from an Arranged Marriage which was poignant. Forced/arranged marriages are not so far from our past and having two people miserably joined and finding their way to happiness really touches me. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

I also loved Victoria Dahl’s Looking for Trouble. This book has left me torn. I loved the characters, I loved LOVED the plot, I loved how on the mark Dahl’s librarian characters are in the workplace. However, I hated the last sex scene in this book. Not for its explicitness, which though it is a tad more detailed than I am interested in reading, it was well executed but because the hero calls the heroine “whore” while they are having sex. I found this confronting and I found it difficult to reconcile with these very troubled characters whose connection to each other resonated with me. I also appreciate that reading needs to sometimes shake you out of your complacency and this book (well, sex scene) certainly achieved this.

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Fave YA AND Fave Australian book:

The Love Oracles: Nymph –  Tonya Alexander

Tonya Alexander NymphIt has really been the year of Young Adult fiction both in heated debates and in books that have excited readers. The one I have chosen has not made a big splash but I think that the series will be a stayer.  I talked about Tonya Alexander’s Nymph earlier in the year. Merope is cast out of Mt Olympus finding her mixing it up with mortals. This first book in the Love Oracle series has laid the foundation for several story arcs that will continue over a number of books allowing for deep characterisation based on lesser known Greek myths – with a particularly strong focus on the female gods. I know, I know. As someone with a Greek background, this choice makes me a My Big Fat Greek Wedding cliche but I don’t care. Greek myths still thrill readers because they are such engaging, thrilling stories.

Fave #hashtag/blog reading issue:

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

We Need Diverse BooksRather than a fifth book, I have listed a reading issue. There is a move toward rallying for diversity in book awards, diversity in publications as well as diversity in writers’ festival panels. Earlier this year, my son came home stating that his English class was given a choice of 5 texts to examine. All five were written by white men, all having individual merit but the lack of diversity was concerning. There were no female voices, no indigenous writers, no-one that could challenge the world view of these students norms. My son’s class is the norm as this article on gender bias in HSC prescribed texts confirms. This need for diversity is an issue that will not go away. The conversation on Twitter, Tumblr, blogs and news articles is vibrant, interesting and has a number of voices from authors, publishers, literary critics, librarians and readers all contributing to this topic. To say that we need more books that show diversity in gender, sexuality, ethnicity and dis/ability representation is an understatement. . I recommend starting at the We Need Diverse Books website http://weneeddiversebooks.org/ and for regular updates following the We Need Diverse Books tumblr

 

Belated Book Blogger Blackout and Bullies

I am writing this post in support of the Book Blogger Blackout also known as HaleNo. A quick TL;DR for my readers who are not part of the online book community is that a few weeks ago The Guardian newspaper published author Kathleen Hale’s account of her obsession and consequent harassment and stalking of a reader reviewer who gave her a one star review on Goodreads. For those of you who would like more detail I direct you to Sunita’s Blogger Blackout post as well as Dear Author and BookThingo for  longer explanations.

 

Like Ms Bates, I too am small potatoes in the book blogger world. Not only that, but I do not post on a regular basis at all so any claim that I will not blog for a week would be superfluous. However, I do occasionally post thoughts on my reading of books both here and on Goodreads (something that I feel ambivalent about but continue due to laziness and a lack of a better alternative). In all the years that I have been making my reading accessible online I have accepted a handful of ARCs, each time making me feel awkward so I ceased accepting them. For a long time now I have only reviewed books that I have either bought for myself or borrowed from the library or from a friend. This is now my official policy.

 

As for Kathleen Hale’s stalker behaviour towards readers and the support that she has received, I am sad to say that this does not surprise me. People feel confronted when their work is criticised, they tend to get on the defensive. That Hale was given a platform from which to boast about her abuse of a reader and used defending her work as her excuse for her illegal behaviour is reprehensible. Every person who wittingly assisted Hale in her stalking of a reader is complicit in bullying. They are enablers. I was not going to weigh in on what I saw as a serious issue but one that I needed to steer clear of due to other pressing issues. But this kept niggling at me and I needed to exorcise it from my head to be able to move on with other work. (And yes, dammit! Any time that readers are attacked by the media I get angry – that is what makes me a readers’ advocate).

Bullying is, sadly, a discussion that crosses my family’s dining table on a regular basis. I will not go into details except to say that only one person in my family has been fortunate enough to not have experienced toxic, systemic bullying. To add to that one of us having been part of a successful group court case but the years leading up to that and immediately after it were harrowing. All three of us recognise the signs and behaviours of not only bullies but also the people that surround and support them (they are termed “Chicken shit followers” in my home). We also recognise the behaviour of those who should be able to stand up to the bullies but don’t either because they do not see a problem and consider complaints to be irrational and bothersome or because they are exhausted and defeated as the same battles keep occurring or because they are scared that they will be picked on next (we are somewhat forgiving of the last group). But what my family has learnt from our own personal experiences is that nothing gets resolved by keeping quiet. Be loud. Be heard. Report abuse and if the person you reported it to does not believe you, report it elsewhere. And importantly, if you see someone being abused, do not sit around and ignore it. I do believe in picking your battles and choosing to move on and protect yourself rather than fight. Life has too many opportunities to explore for anyone to waste their time trying to stick it to every toxic environment. This “move on” protects those who get bullied but our societies are less vibrant, less creative when their voices are silenced. To date (and to my knowledge), the reviewer in question has not spoken out. If she has moved on, I understand. How does one person who has a hobby they used to like fight a system as strong as a Big 5 publisher and news corporations like The Guardian?

It also makes me think that the traditional literary gatekeepers are nervous. For the author (with her familial, privileged, literary connections) to pick on one tiny review and to stalk and harass that reviewer and for these actions to be endorsed by the closed circle of literary review and commentary is another indication that these gatekeepers would love to revert back to the 20th Century where they had their closed, nepotistic enclave and readers were the adoring from afar masses who could be swayed by their words. If the literary elite can feel challenged and cowered by the small voices, the outlier hobbyists to the extent that they flex their muscle then I say that they are scared of our new breed of readers and I think we should take note. I say this because reader/reviewers, and in particular females, have been infantalised, mocked, taunted, dismissed, patronised, condescended to for centuries. HaleNo ends up being a fuck you to the establishment. A big fuck you to those who try to control reading and try to dictate to people how they should read. This control is unacceptable. The world has moved on and readers do not need guidance in how to perceive written works. Many readers have their own platform and the fact that many of them, like me, do not have a profit imperative is empowering and terrifying as they are motivated by qualities that cannot be quantified. Readers’ perception and criticism and analysis of someone else’s published work and their commodified thoughts are as valid as anyone who is in the embrace of literary circles. Even more so as they are the voices of the culture that surrounds us. The reader reviewer is the true critic for they are the embodiment of Raymond Williams’s Culture is Ordinary. They are the bus stops and the tea shops and the countryside and the world that we all live in and not those figures that live in their glass castles. Frankly, once the products of thought become exosomatic they are independent of the creator. Once they have been transferred from the mind and externalised into a book, story, article, vlog, audio recording, anything at all they are beyond the control of the creator, they are now in the realm of the consumer. It is unacceptable for the creator to harass the consumer for not liking their product. In the book reading world, every reader gets to have a say and should never be bullied.

We all know that it is scary to stand up to a bully but one loud voice at a time, we reader advocates can add our support. That is why I support HaleNo.

I’ve got my reading mojo back

I haven’t been able to get to my blog in a long time. I am in the midst of my ethics application at the moment, I am teaching Information and Media students at my uni as well as going out to my super sekrit public library casual job where I get to work on a public desk for a day a week. And that doesn’t even start on home life!

Working back in a library has been incredibly good for my reading mojo. I’ve never been an experimental reader when it comes to buying books. I’ve never felt at ease spending my money on unknown authors in case they are duds and only buy romance fiction keepers. But restricting myself to only reading romance has stifled my appreciation of the genre. I usually need to explore other books, fiction and non-fiction, to juxtapose it against romance fiction to which I always return to, and know that I can rely on it to deliver a satisfying read. The thrill of a well written book with deep characterisation is enhanced by my reading books that may or may not leave me feeling dissatisfied. But those dissatisfied reads are an expensive habit I do not have. I choose through serendipity, and I need a library to fully relax, browse and read whatever I come across without bookshop browser guilt (and let’s face it – picture books aside, it is nigh impossible to escape into a book in a bookshop). However, I am crap at using the library when I don’t work in it. My overdues pile up (I spent over $100 on fines last year) and I get paranoid that I, as a librarian, will be judged much more harshly that anyone else.

So now that I am back on a public library floor I am exploring again. Here I have short reviews of some of the books that I have read in the past month and I have several on the go. There have also been quite a few that I have stopped reading beyond a chapter (and I didn’t bother listing here). Life is too short and I have too much work on to slog through unnecessary reading torture.

Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen

Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shereen This book took me by surprise. It is all sugar and sweetness and I love the fresh colours of the illustrations. A story of how the (anthropomorphised) Good Little Wolf transforms the Big Bad Wolf. The cloying, didactic sense I felt was swiftly dismissed in the last pages and I am now buying this one for my nieces and nephews *evil auntie grin*.

 

 

The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss

I enjoyed reading Tara Moss’s first foray into non-fiction. Part memoir, part feminist discourse, this was an easy read (which I always equate to being the hardest to write). Relating events throughout her life to feminist issues was a relatable way to discuss the many issues women experience. I think though, that my time on twitter and tumblr following feminist discussions means that none of what Moss had written was new to me. Much of it is part of the Twitter, Tumblr and a number of other online places discussions that many people including Moss take part in. What Moss has done here is collate these many ideas and discussions and related them to her own life and development making these ideas available to readers who are not online. I definitely recommend this book.

 

Manhattan Classic: New York’s Finest Prewar Apartments by Geoffrey Lynch.

Manhattan Classic by Geoffrey LynchI love coffee table interior design books. They are some of my favourite possessions. Most libraries do not purchase many books in this genre as they are pricey and they are also so heavy that most borrowers do not want to carry these heavy tomes home (thankfully, most libraries keep statistics on inhouse use books so their use is recorded). I wanted to mention this book because I actually borrowed it through my library’s ebook collection. It was a beautifully collated book, with floor plans, detailed information about the architects of each apartment and high gloss photography. The ebook experience was a lesser one. I yearned to turn the pages, to run my hand down a photograph, to take my time exploring the floor plans. Some interior design books have embossing and different paper weights and none of this was evident in the ebook version. Frustratingly, I had to enlarge every page to get a better look at the detailing of the plans or the photographs. However, I didn’t have to carry it onto the train for my one hour commute and I read it in bed with my coffee with no fear of staining its beautiful pages.

 

Graveyard Watch by S Carey

A YoungGraveyard Watch by S Carey Adult horror story. A young boy awakens confused about who he is and where he is. His parents explain to him he is sick and they give him medication. He sees a figure in the neighbouring graveyard eyeing him and digging a grave. As the creepy events unfold in this short story, my body had goosebumps. Carey’s description of seemingly normal situations were underpinned with a sense of eeriness. The protagonist does manage to get himself out of his dangerous situation into what he believes is a safer one. This book challenges a kid’s sense of safety both in their home and in their relationships. I loved it and gave it to my son to read. Upon finishing it he told me I was not a very nice mother.

 

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow RowellEarlier this year I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Rowell’s Fangirl. Landline is more aimed at adults and didn’t satisfy me. This may be because my least favourite romance trope is “Marriage in trouble is saved”. The book has some interesting dynamics, balancing the male best-friend against her sometimes engaged and sometimes disconnected husband and there is a touch of fantasy that makes the reading more interesting. To be honest, I was left a little bit flat, so much so that even reviewing it properly feels fruitless. Sigh. I wanted to like it but at the same time, I did not dislike it.

 

Spoiled Brats by Simon Rich

This is a Spoiled brats by Simon Richseries of short stories about spoiled brats. I love absurdist writing and it is often difficult to come across weird writing that resonates. The stories were well written, enjoyable and yes, absurd but they were not particularly funny (not that absurd writing has to be funny, just that I had seen reviews lauding Simon Rich as funny and hilarious). There were some shorts that I loved such as his Guy Walks Into a Bar and the dark The Tribal Rites of the Strombergs. The stories were enjoyable, disturbing and were reminiscent (though not as absurd) of Mark Leyner’s writing. Oddly enough, they also reminded me of my son’s short stories – this is not a bad comparison at all. My son has been attending creative writing classes for over four years and writes some of the most crazy, bizarre, yet considered and well paced stories I have ever come across. I think that it is more a reflection that if Simon Rich can be published (and yes, I do know of the whole family all is in publishing so he kinda had a foot in the door anyway thing), my son’s current aspiration to be a butcher (!) who writes (Robert G Barrett eat your heart out) is not that unattainable.

 

Driving in Neutral by Sandra Antonelli

OK. SoDriving in Neutral by Sandra Antonelli big huge bias alert for this one. Sandra has, over the years, become a great friend.  However, I wanted to discuss this book.

Olivia is a twice divorced woman who is having a career change from racing car test driver to a translator and Max/Emerson is her new employer – though neither of them are aware of this when they first meet when they get stuck in an elevator. I adored the cute meet in the elevator in this book. It was the perfect set up for the novel. As I was reading it, I could envision Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in that scene. From the second chapter though, I did struggle getting into the book. I think this was because I was reading the book in spurts (on trains and buses) on my phone and I really needed some reading immersion. Once I sat down at home to read it, I was much happier. I liked that Olivia had emotional baggage and that she thought in racing metaphors. I loved the hilarious fart scene in the book – so few books even allude to such body functions let alone in romances. And I also loved the sex scene. It was perfect. All tension and allusion and less sex description which these days is just over the top and tiresome. However, I found that there were too many secondary characters in this book that confused the story and felt superfluous particularly with the added confusion of the Max/Em/Emerson/Maxwell the male protagonist. I particularly love category romances for their brevity and lack of secondary characters which is why I tend to avoid longer novels so this might just be a reflection on me and not the book. I also felt the whole wedding/bridezilla setting went for too long – once again, that is a reflection of my reading preferences again. And I was perplexed by the bride’s speech patterns, using Ah/I as though she couldn’t make up her mind if she was a Southern Belle or not. But these are only minor distractions. The main thing is that I love Sandra’s zingy dialogue and pop culture references, something which has become an Antonelli trade mark. It is funny and believable. I also loved loved loved the “show don’t tell ending (which I know that others have not liked).

 

To add to all these books, I have read another 22 other titles (including a number of picture books, interior design books and six novels) in the past month. It was too many to try to fit in the one post and certainly the novels from Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Miranda Neville still settling in my mind.

Having gone through a reading slump for much of the year, reading less than 4 books a month, I am thrilled to have my reading mojo back.

 

 

 

 

 

Classic reads and their literary web series

shallowreader:

I’m a tad obsessed with web series and I was able to indulge myself in writing about my favourites over at ReadWatchPlay. Do you have any favourites or any suggestions for viewing?

Originally posted on Read Watch Play:

Classic novels that are adapted into 21st century web stories are a great way to experience old favourites or to introduce someone to a story they have not yet read as well as lead their viewers to the original text, making comments or to writing fanfictions and creating fanart. Last year, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries went on to win numerous awards inspired a number of other creators to write and produce their own favourites. Some of these series are from production studios and others are high school and undergrad student productions showcasing how awesome and creative teens can be! Web series highlights that productions are possible on a spectrum of budgets and ultimately, it is great writing that is at the core of all good stories.

  1. Nothing Much To Do is a New Zealand adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Beatrice and Bennedick spar wittily in this high school…

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Guest post: Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 67: Vassiliki The Flying Librarian

shallowreader:

I wrote a guest post on my fear of flying over at Sandra Antonelli’s blog. I was chuffed to be included in her “75 days of phobias” posts leading up to her new book release and further chuffed to see that I scored a rather dubious acknowledgment. I’m not sure whether to say thank you or not :D

Originally posted on Sandra Antonelli:

Driving_Final[3] 12.45.14 pmTo celebrate the upcoming release of my romantic comedy, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia— (arriving in 8 days!) I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series.  A massive thank you to everyone who’s been following along and everyone who’s joined in to share. As Olivia, the heroine in Driving in Neutral says to Maxwell the claustrophobe, “Everyone’s afraid of something.” My favourite librarian and Shallowreader, Vassiliki Veros, is sure as hell proof of that.

I blame all writers, booksellers, publishers, librarians, all of you. I do not blame you for my phobia, however I blame you for making it necessary for me to cope with my phobia.

planes

via Lefthandedtoons.com

I have aviophobia. When it comes to flying, I am not a particularly sane person. I fear it beyond fear. It completely fucks with my head. It turns a holiday into a nightmare, anticipation chewing at my…

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