Easter thoughts

It’s Easter, and I am sitting at my mum’s place while my nephew and niece sleep and the rest of my family attends the midnight service. It is my favourite church service of the year. The church yard is filled with hundreds of people chatting – Greeks can be irreverent – until the priest comes out of the church spreading the Holy Light and everyone starts singing Χριστός Ανέστη (Christ has Risen). It is a sea of flickering lights as everyone has a lit candle and the Resurrection hymn is beautifully sung by hundreds of people in unison. Though I’m not at church, my mum’s home being only 100 metres away means that I can hear faint voices carrying up the hill. Easter is filled with rituals for my family and surprisingly, this year we will be forgoing one of our most steadfast traditions. We are not having a midnight feast. This is great for our digestive systems but sad that there is no offal soup to be had.

 

(Note: I can hear the bells ringing. It is midnight).

As much as we are doing away with the midnight feast we have slaughtered our annual lamb which will be cooked on a spit and we will be having egg wars, albeit with difficulty. Earlier, I discovered my mum’s painted eggs have been cracked already.

Cracked Red Eggs

 

My mum had left the eggs on her dining room table and her younger grandchildren got excited and started cracking them. It is funny but it reminded me of a terribly sad story that my dad would tell me:

 

My dad was not a fan of hard boiled eggs. At Easter time, our whole family would  be laughing and cracking our dyed red eggs to see which one of us would have the uncracked egg and be the ultimate egg victor, Dad would tell us the story of his first cousin whilst keeping a cautious eye on those of us who were ravenous.

His family had come home after the Easter Sunday mass with the Holy light in hand, ready to partake in a feast after the long midnight service. Candles lighting the short walk from the village church doors to their home. The cold spring air sounded with cheers, phosphorus lightly tingeing the air. All the children laughing and joking – similar to our laughing and joking – walking behind their parents, the elder of whom stood at the threshold of the house, his candle held up high scorching a cross into the door beam in hope that it will bring the household fertility and plentiful fruit. From the road they could still hear the chanting of “Christ has Risen” as they slowly filed through the home into the kitchen to find my dad’s cousin dead on the kitchen floor, mouth agape, with a glimpse of a boiled egg pressed behind her blue lips.

According to my dad, she had run home before her family. She was hungry after forty days of lenten meals, fasting from all animal products for the cleansing of her body and soul. She was hungry and happy as she skipped past the chanters and their candles sure that she would not be discovered. Her mother had prepared, in her opinion, hundreds of eggs. If she had but one before the others came home no-one would know. And quickly she peeled the red dyed shell and as she grasped the egg in her fingers she heard her family at the door. She heard their voices so she quickly put the egg in her mouth, swallowing to hide her trangression but the egg was too large. She gagged, she gulped and the air stopped. She fell to the floor, looking toward the door, terrified to be found though terrified to not be found. Sadly, her hazy sucking choking terror found her first.

The family had been ready to have a joyful midnight feast in the Lord’s name for He had risen but He had taken their daughter with Him.

Even though my dad died many years ago, I find myself keeping a wary eye on his grandchildren as they run about cracking eggs every year. My own son, named after my dad, is the most gluttonous of all the kids when it comes to eggs so I gently caution him by telling my dad’s cousin’s story.

This has been an indulgent post. It has no mention of books, romance or libraries but it does have a story that is always in the peripherals of my Easter thoughts.

Χριστός Ανέστη.

Commuting and podcasts

It’s that time of the month again. I’ll be on Linda Mottram’s The Blurb on 702 ABC Sydney talking about podcasts on Tuesday at aroundabout-ish 10:30-ish am AEST.

Last year I started commuting long distances again for the first time in over a decade. I discovered that reading on trains had changed. I no longer had to dodge the selfish broadsheet reader, there were definitely fewer (print) book readers but a lot more music listeners, particularly devoid of any sense of train etiquette play-that-tinny-music-loud boy, than back in my “good ol’ days” of walkmans. And there are lots and lots of smart phone and tablet readers. I was never all that big on reading on the train to start with. I have always been a social bunny and I tend to meet people on transport and strike up friendships with them (I met my husband John in his car while scamming a lift to a train station, I met my son’s godmother commuting on trains & buses to get to uni and one of my closest friends is @MereJames whom my husband met while commuting to work by train). Sadly most people aren’t as open to meeting people on transport and I only made one new friend on the train last year so I had to have back up reading with me.

Twitter was a favourite read, as usual. I downloaded some audiobooks from my local library but none of my choices resonated with me. So I decided to venture into the world of podcasts. There were a couple I enjoyed and I now subscribe to. Philosophise This was first. It is a really simple to understand introduction to (you guessed it) Philosophy. Starting with Pre-Socratic western philosophy, Stephen West covers the stoics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Eastern philosophy, Daoism, Buddha and the Hellenistic era (so far). It is not on a regular schedule but it is well worth waiting for.

I’ve tried a number of book podcasts and my favourite by far is BookRiot. Recommended to me by Jessica from Read React Review I enjoyed their discussion. It wasn’t too literary or not literary enough. Their book discussion was filled with news that I had already read online about in Bookland and though I didn’t particularly agree with all their views, it is refreshing to listen to their show. I really love their off-shoot podcast show called Dear Book Nerd hosted by Librarian Rita Meade/@screwydecimal. Dear Book Nerd is a Dear Abby column for the Bookish and she discusses ways to solve your book dilemmas.

The Podcast that has really grabbed me is Welcome to Night Vale. It is fictional community news radio broadcast. Night Vale is a small town in south-west America where every conspiracy is true. Dogs are not allowed to walk in the dog parks, there is a glow cloud, where books stop working and creeping fear comes to town. Radio announcer (whom fans call Cecil after the actor who narrates the Podcast) is in love with beautiful scientist Carlos. I love how the fandom explodes fortnightly with great fanart and fanfiction particularly fanning the Carlos and Cecil ship. Tumblr is an awesome space to watch this all happening. This show is surreal and absurd with a wicked sense of humour and a disturbing aura. It is like the Twilight Zone.

There are 43 episodes so far but it has not been hard for me to pick a favourite: It is episode 28 called The Summer Reading Program. There is nothing I like more than a creepy librarian story and thankfully Welcome to Night Vale only has sinister creepy librarians. The town is in panic because the library, after a 30 year ban, has relaunched the Summer Reading Program which had been cancelled

Citing lack of tax payer funds

Extreme danger posed by books

The peril of exposing children to librarians and

The “incident” that precipitated the ban that older residents call “the time of knives

The relaunch finds children missing, library doors disappearing and a flesh eating reading bacterium. How can anyone go past a podcast that promises menacing librarians :)

Though I no longer am commuting as far as I was last year, I am still exploring podcasts. I distrust the app store recommendation algorithm and much prefer to hear from other readers/listeners so hit me with your podcast faves! (and don’t forget to listen in on Tuesday).

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.

4. Though Logan was much more settled, more responsible but despite his control the vision of Veronica’s sex tape was still enough for him to lose his temper.

Growl no shirt

Growl no shirt

5. Kristen bell ripping open Logan’s shirt. Growwwwwwwl! And the rest of that scene. The way that man kisses! And then they are at it, standing up…against the wall! Well, hello Mr Strong Thighs!

6. The reprisal of  the Epic speech! OMG! I loved that it was brought out again. In Season 2 the day after he says the speech Logan claims that he was too drunk to remember the night before. IT WAS 9 YEARS LATER AND HE REMEMBERED. DAMMIT! HE REMEMBERED. He had bullshitted and I am happy to think that he held back from Veronica when they got back together as teens as he always must have known it was not their time.

Growl no shirt gasp

Growl no shirt gasp (in case you missed the image the first time)

7. Dick Casablancas is still funny and still sad and pulls at my heartstrings. His matter-of-fact mention that he is a medicinal user of marijuana user flags that he is still dealing with his own devastating losses and his complicit involvement.

8. The mystery was great. The beefcake was awesome.

Beekcake

9. Leo D’amato YAY! (Is this due to my New Girl Schmidt crush? Who knows?  Who cares? The banter was great).

10. Veronica’s dad YAY! (Best narky TV dad evah!)

11. Mac and Wallace YAY! Though I really wish there had been a stoush between Mac and Madison St Clair. As changellings I wish that story line was brought to the fore again.

12. I don’t think it was necessary to bring Piz into the movie. Piz did not move the plot forward at all. If anything it weighted the story down. Any boyfriend would have done the job.

13. The snark was still there. Loved the snark. Rob Thomas and Dianne Ruggiero – you are dialogue Gods!

14. I like the fact that Logan had to go and that 180 days won’t keep these two apart – though in my head he dies while on this tour. There is no HEA in noir.

Now, as I am wont to do I also have imagined Logan and Veronica on the When Harry Met Sally chair…

When Logan!Harry met Veronica!Sally

When Logan!Harry met Veronica!Sally

Veronica: “The first time we met I was roller skating”

Logan: “You were. You were very cute but I was going out with your best friend”

Veronica: “Who was murdered”

Logan: “By my dad”

Veronica: “Yeah….. That was awkward. But we both know that you are more like your mum.”

Logan: “So then I hated Veronica”

Veronica: “And I hated you”

(Logan & Veronica’s shoulders lean harder against each other)

Logan: “She was constantly snarky. She was funny and didn’t pull any punches. Even though I hated her she was the only person that was not afraid to talk back at me”.

Veronica: “We finally got with each other but then we broke up as I got with my ex-boyfriend who was his best friend”

Logan: “Which sucked. I liked my best friend. I was fine losing a girlfriend…”

Veronica: “But then we got together again.”

Logan: “After more deaths”

Veronica: “And a bit more blood. There may also have been an explosion and some trauma. But we had a short time that we were happy”

Logan: “But then we broke up again”

Veronica: “And then Logan belted the shit out of my boyfriend and another student and I got caught breaking and entering and it was time to leave Neptune. We both left but not together”

Logan: “No. We weren’t together for 9 years”

(silence as the two stare into each others eyes with sadness)

Logan: “So anyway, I seem to have some bad karma and my girlfriend gets murdered nearly 10 years to the day that my former girlfriend died. I called Veronica because I knew I would help me. Few people trust me even though I have worked hard to get rid of my bad boy reputation”

Veronica: *snorts* “Yeah. Some bad boy. You’re a marshmallow. Logan calls me, and I thought it was a knock over case. I popped over from New York to help him. And when I saw him in his uniform I swooned but deep down inside  I am dying to call my boyfriend – yes the same one he beat up years ago – and break up. There on the spot. I’m very black and white on the fidelity issue.” (Logan nods with just a touch of fear in his eyes)

Veronica: “We went to the reunion”

Logan: “There was a fist fight”

Veronica: “I broke up with my boyfriend”

Logan: “There were car crashes”

Veronica: “And two more deaths”

Logan: “Some radio frequency breaches”

Veronica: “And lots of long drives”

Logan: “And it all fit”

Veronica: “And it all came together. It just felt right”

(At the same time:)

Logan:  “It only took 4 days”

Veronica: “It took us only 4 days”

Logan and Veronica: “…and 10 years”

I loved this movie. I loved the vibe in the packed out theatre (lucky me – I spent hours refreshing my movie tix screen and managed to buy tickets for the opening night) with the audience cheering and applauding favourite moments. It is a rare day that a cancelled TV series has the opportunity to bring closure to characters so many fans love. I am glad that, though Veronica and Logan got closure, the story was left open ended. Veronica is addicted to the underbelly of life. And I am looking forward to the books.

PS I cannot promise that this is my last Veronica Mars post. I am an addict.

 

Fannish anticipation of books and movies

Last week I listed the movies that have stayed with me and I observed that three of these movies originated as books. I have been thinking a lot about this. What is the primary driver for reading and watching?  Some movie adaptations are wonderful – The Shawshank Redemption, some are OK - High Fidelity, and some movie adaptations are not successful – I’m looking at you The Time Traveller’s Wife. For me, The Outsiders was the first shock of a movie that was not faithful to the book (they don’t always have to be but some sting more than others) so I was tread gently when a favourite is being adapted for a different medium. 2014 is a cracker year for movie adaptations - here is a list.

But I am going to single out 2 books/movies because their cult status and their respective fandoms are epic. Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, bloodshed. Well…not really ruined but certainly hearts broken.The two books are The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and the Veronica Mars book The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

Veronica MarsSo I am starting with a book that I am anticipating, not one that I have read. Firstly, Veronica Mars who is a post-modern Nancy Drew TV series that was cancelled in 2007 after 3 seasons. This TV series kicks ass. Nearly 10 years later, it is fresh, the dialogue snaps and the tension! Ohhhh! The swooning, smouldering, LoVE shipping tension has watchers fanning themselves as they watch Logan Echolls, who is a vile, reprehensible rich boy win over every viewer and at times Veronica. The fandom around Veronica Mars has been incredibly strong over the years particularly with fanfiction as series 3 finished in an open ended film noir scene. The constant fan writing sparked with creator Rob Thomas who launched the most successful kickstarter in history and raised funds to make a reunion movie to give fans closure. The movie comes out next week but in an interesting twist Rob Thomas last week announced the release of a book – not a novelisation of the movie or series but a standalone story with a second book coming out later in the year. This is interesting that we have lived in a society that more often books are adapted to visual mediums yet with Veronica Mars the visual mediums have driven the need for the written word. I hope this is successful. I don’t think that adaptations in the reverse, that is film to print, have been as successful (or common) as adaptations from book to film. I would say that this book is now my most anticipated book for the year (along with Kate Rorick’s book adaptation of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries which is a modernised vlog adaptation of Pride and Prejudice creating a beautiful circle of adaptations).

The Fault in Our Stars

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 8.05.16 PMJohn Green more famous Youtube channels than for his 4 novels. Vlogbrothers, which is a weekly video exchange with his brother Hank Green has a fanclub (? does this term show my age) Nerdfighteria and his channel Crash Course where John delivers 10-12 minutes of history lessons and his oddly enjoyable John Green play FIFA14. His Tumblr – fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com and Youtube is always interesting and inspiring if not dizzying for the amazing speed that John Green speaks. The Fault in Our Stars which was inspired by the life (and death) of a Nerdfighter called Esther Earl. I approached ready TFIOS cautiously. There is a lot of hype around this book and I don’t often connect with books that are hyped. Also, here was another author I felt I knew. His weekly vlog with his brother gives me a connection I have only felt with twitter authors that engage with me. I’ve written about my trepidation on reading authors I’ve connected with online previously. I question whether I like their writing because I’ve already connected with their authorial voice. John Green is different in that I have never personally communicated with him but he is so personable on his vlog that you can be mistaken for thinking that he is talking directly to you not his brother (a vlog thang for sure). I certainly felt a connection with John Green’s voice so I wasn’t sure if it was going to overwhelm me in a piece of fiction. This is not a problem that I had encountered until only recently. And yes his voice was there, loud and strongly John Green but it worked well. And he too seems aware of his own voice with the presence of an author in the book itself. A pivotal character one could say that was so carefully balanced against what we may or may not know about John Green.

The Fault in Our Stars is narrated by a 16 year old Hazel Lancaster who has terminal cancer. Her parents force her to go to a teen cancer support group. At this group she meets Augustus Waters who also had cancer and is an amputee in remission. The story is sharp and funny with beautiful lines. The line that stood out for me, apart from all the romance, pain, illness and humour was”Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you”.

This is a book worthy of its hype and I certainly hope that the movie does it justice. I was expecting it to be like Barbra Conklin’s PS I love you but it was better (and that is a high achievement!!!!). It was as touching but it had so many other aspects to it. It discusses illness, the patronising way that people can talk about cancer, the snarky teens that make sick jokes as well as the authorial voice and love and scars. Did I fall in love with TFIOS? Well, it was lovely but I was not overwhelmed with feels like I know I would have been if I was reading it at 16. This saddens me somewhat. Like the edges of my feelings have been worn down by reality. I recommend this beautiful book. Go out and read it. And hopefully the movie will enhance it.

10 Movies that have stayed with me through the years

A while ago I was tagged to Name 10 Movies that have stayed with you through the years. It has taken me a while but I have finally done it. What stands out for me is that four of the movies that I have listed originated as a print fiction yet there are none that have gone the other way around.

1. Grease – The teen flick that beats all teen flicks. It is the ultimate. Cool kids, geeks, singing, car chases. It has it all. I know that it is all PC to criticise the movie for not being PC and for Sandy caving in to peer pressure but I view the movie differently. Grease is classic romance. Sandy and Danny like each other but they are both caught up on their image. At the end of the movie, it is not only Sandy that gives up her “good girl” image but Danny gives up his “bad boy” image. He letters in track for Sandy. He gives up his leather jacket for the letter jacket. He runs for her! HE RUNS!!! Yet all critics can do is focus on Sandy changing for him. Well, maybe Sandy changed for herself. Maybe she didn’t like living life to society’s expectations of what constitutes “good”. Does she inherently change because she dons the sparkly lycra? A wop-ba-ma-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-NO! She is still cute and giggly as she was at the begininning of the movie. And as for Rizzo. AWESOME! She’s already done and ditched the hero before the movie started. This movie stands out for me because it ultimately says, dress up the way you want, because it makes no difference as to who you are. People will laugh and say mean things regardless. Just do what you want.

2. The Princess Bride – Really? I need to explain myself on this great movie? I judge people on the level of their engagement with Princess Bride. If you don’t get the humour – you’re dead to me. If you tell me that Buttercup is wimpish – I tell you that you have no empathy towards someone that is suffering depression. Every line in this movie is perfection. As is Wesley. As is the King and Andre the Giant and the best marriage celebrant ever that has people in the back row of every wedding saying “Go on! Say Twoo Wuv!”

3. When Harry Met Sally – Two Rob Reiner films in a row! Here is another movie that I know practically line for line. The friends to lovers trope is perhaps one of my romance favourites and I think that all books, movies and TV shows using this trope have this movie as a benchmark. The humour, the relationships, the fighting and that final love declaration are all so moving. And I love the vignettes throughout the movie of every couple’s own story culminating in Harry and Sally discussing their own romance. It makes you want a movie for all the people that went before them. Every time I read a romance I think of the couple as a vignette in When Harry Met Sally.

4. Nightmare on Elm Street  - I spent the whole of this movie scrunched in a ball horrified at the action on screen. It is the last horror movie I have ever watched. I refuse to scare myself every again. Life is scary enough without Freddie Kruger haunting me.

5. The Outsiders – Aside from loving SE Hinton’s book (have I told you that she has tweeted to me – BFFs for evs!), the making of this movie was my fangirl stage when there was no terminology for fangirls. I have boxes of teen beat, tiger beat, 16 and any number of teen mags with Matt Dillon, rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, C Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, Leif Garret, Diane Lane all telling me how this movie is my swag. I am too scared to rewatch it as an adult. 30 years later it could prove a dud! I need to Stay Gold.

6. Zoolander – I have watched this movie over 20 times yet I never ever stop laughing at it. Derek is awesome. My whole family walks around quoting him. One cannot cough without hearing the phrase “I think I have the black lung” and we struggle to take photos that don’t have us posing as Le Tigre, Magnum or Blue Steel. And we all are ambiturners.

7. For Your Eyes Only – I’m going to be unpopular here but Roger Moore is my favourite James Bond. He is cool, corny and my first ever Bond. And one never forgets their first (even if he isn’t the best).

8. Thomas and the Magic Railroad – This is an unremarkable film but it was the film that made me realise that what I considered a hohum moment of tension (Thomas disappears) can be distressing to a child. My son was a complete nutter for Thomas when he was younger. Every night he would line his trains around his bed to go to sleep and every day he watched 2 or 3 episodes. He knew every single train. So when he received the movie I did what all good mums do and used it as a babysitter while I cooked dinner. Towards the end, Peter came in and held my hand, his chin was wobbling and he had tears in his eyes. He told me that Thomas had disappeared. He was gone. I stopped cooking. Turned the oven off and sat with him, promising him that Thomas was going to be OK meanwhile hoping it had a US HEA style ending and not a U?European style “moral to the story is don’t fuck with magic trains” ending. Luckily for the producers, my distressed child had his fears allayed. And I learnt that I might just have to watch movies with him (thus began my decline in cooking).

9. Greek Movies at the Finos – I struggled with this one. I couldn’t decide between a crying movie (I sobbed sobbed sobbed over The Colour Purple and Cinema Paradiso) or another comedy (Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run or Mike Meyers Austin Powers). But the movie/s that stayed with me the most was the Saturday night double at the Finos Cinema in Enmore (now the Enmore Theatre). The Finos would run Greek films on the weekends. The first was a comedy and the second was a tragedy. There would be intermission so that all the smokers could go out on smoko and us kids would roll Jaffas in the aisles. It was a fashion parade, a pick-up joint, a Greek migrant’s groovy family night out. There was always an Aliki Vouyouklaki movie playing such as Golfo, Maria Pentagiotissa or the fab To Ksilo Vgike apo to Paradeiso. When the Finos burnt down in the 80s we were devastated. It curbed our Saturday night outings. Eventually they reopened and you could only watch from the dress circle while the charred seats on the theatre floor awaited replacement and refurbishment. The films and the film experience have stayed with me ever since.

10. Pillow Talk/Come September/Bringing Up Baby (obviously undecided for number 10 so they are all equal) These are classic romcoms. I adore Gina Lollobrigida in Come September struggling to bring Rock Hudson to heel. She is beautiful. Conversely, Doris Day and her prim and proper ways. I love the urban setting and the snappy dialogue of Pillow Talk taking down the rake. And then there is the incomparable Katherine Hepburn whose voice, laughter and poise made me want to be her. Dammit – I think all women want to be her.

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. The blurb reads

Hotties, hunks, heartthrobs, beefcakes, dreamboats, studs. It doesn’t matter what you call them, all that counts is that they make you go weak at the knees. But what are the chances of you getting up close and personal with David Beckham, Jake Gyllenhaal or Nicholas Hoult? Well here is the next best thing…

Colour me Swoooon allows you to caress the chiselled features of 60 of your favourite pieces of macho eye candy. From Aaron Paul to Zac Efron, all the guys are here and can’t wait for you to come and give them a damn good colouring in!

So get your felt-tips ready and make Ryan Gosling’s brooding face blush, run your fingers through George Clooney’s silver hair, stare into Harry Styles’ dreamy green eyes and – deep breath – touch up Bradley Cooper’s abs!

Line drawings are accompanied with trivia, crosswords, find-a-words and quizzes reminiscent of teen mags such as Tiger Beat and 16 and actually has a special 80′s Heartthrob section – swoon that Tom Selleck Mo! and Karocky kid bandana! A Quirky Hot team with Michael Cera and Chris O’Dowd and original swoonies Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. The book starts with Ryan Gosling (or course!) and includes squueeee worthy boy bands and other celebrities. I would have preferred a Tudors or Superman Henry Cavill (is that a blazer he is wearing?) but all the faves are in here. I’ll be starting with Patrick Dempsey. Mel Elliott’s book is perfect for doodling in during your metaphysical poetry lectures though perhaps too obvious for your weekly staff meetings. Mel Elliott has a number of books including Colour Me Good Ginger and the David Bowie Paper Doll. Colour Me Swooon is well worth cracking open my 96 Derwents.

PS For those of you who are offended by beefcake – Mel Elliott is all for equal opportunity objectification. Her new Colour Me Girl Crush is out in April. I can’t wait! I dibs colouring Salma Hayek first ;)

A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant

A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant

A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant

Back in 2012, I listed Cecilia Grant’s A Lady Awakened as one of my favourite romances of the year. I have since read A Gentleman Undone which I enjoyed and A Woman Entangled has waited on my TBR for nearly a year. The third in a series about the Blackshear family, this story was very much a yearning book for me. Here were two protagonists who yearn for respectability, upward mobility and acceptance from social circles they were not welcomed into, not due to any of their actions but through their family connections and the choices from their own family members. Usually in romances, couples are shown in overcoming biases, class barriers and other problems. We cheer for the hero and heroine and even though we know that there are obstacles in their future together we mostly know that they will triumph due to their love for each other. However, this novel is about the impact of such love matches on their families.

Nick Blackshear has been ousted from the ton due to his brother marrying a cyprian. Families do not want their daughters and wives to have contact with such a family and Nick’s prospects to enter parliament as well as his practice as a barrister has been affected. Kate Westbrook is the daughter of a similar love story, her titled father married her actress mother and has not been in contact with his family for over 23 years – a family that Kate is desperate to be part of as she wants riches, and barons and titles. Kate is narcissistic and I disliked her implicit feelings of shame for her mother, who she proclaims she loves yet I did not see this in her character. She has idealised the Ton in much the way people today may idealise celebrities. At one stage Kate thinks to herself that “She’d been a friend of gossamer substance…” and that “she was a shallow creature capable of wanting only things that were beyond her reach”. She certainly is a character of gossamer substance and she is shallow, more concerned with looks and class than of friendships and love at first. It is lovely to see her slowly realise that these were immaterial to her happiness, to her sisters’ happiness and her friends that do accept her and that she could be happy without the need for titles.

Nick himself struggles with how people view him in relation to his brother’s marriage. Nick and Kate have had a friendship for over 3 years but this book focuses on the handful of weeks from the moment that Nick declares that he has never felt brotherly toward Kate but as they are both tainted with relatives that have brought shame to their names they needed to focus on marrying well. Marrying above their station and not for love.

Even a man with honorable intentions…Even a lady whose ambitions depend upon her virtue…Even two people who are no more than friends by daylight can fall prey to the influence of a secret dark room.

I love Grant’s complex characterisations, and the depth and knowledge that she pours into her world build. I thoroughly enjoyed her description of Nick’s work as a barrister and as I read her descriptions of the Old Bailey I discovered the Old Bailey online digital history project tweeting and tumblring out similar stories as in my novel. (this made for great cross purpose reading). I enjoyed watching these two characters realise their genuine affection for each other was love and that they learnt that there are people in society that will accept them for who they are and not who their family members are. I loved the sexual tension that built slowly through the book however I was disappointed that both Nick and Kate do have sex before they are wed. This felt unlike the two characters for me. I could have believed that they got carried away in a moment of lust but there was too much consenting for two people who were so hung up on doing the right thing, or more to the point, being seen to be doing the right thing by societal standards. I would have loved for these two to not have consummated until their betrothal (and perhaps shocking Romance readers by not having sex at all). This was the only thing that really didn’t sit well with me but overall I really enjoyed this book. Cecilia Grant’s writing is beautiful and lyrical and I was once again pulled into her narrative world. I will look forward to her next book (and I really hope it is Viola’s story).

I didn’t mean to have a hiatus….

It has been nearly 2 months since my last blog post. I really did not plan on having a hiatus but blogging ended up being my lowest priority over the summer. Since my last post I have been working on 2 journal articles that I need to submit, I presented my oral doctoral assessment (my written DA is due in a month), I baptised a gorgeous little girl – my first godchild who fortuitously also has my great-grandmother’s name, I went away to Manly for 2 short stays, we hosted Christmas for my husband’s family (my wonderful niece Amilia made me the cake in these photos for Christmas) and when I wasn’t frantically studying and preparing for my DA (my sons ate lots of junk this past 6 weeks) I hung out with my family for much of the summer. We have spent many nights playing Articulate and watching our latest fave TV series New Girl as well as old favourite episodes of Scrubs, Community and Coupling. I fell in love with Pitch Perfect and I have rewatched it numerous times (late at night, too-tired-study-too-tired-to-read viewing).

Cake by Amilia my niece

Cake by Amilia my niece

I even got to see 3 movies at the cinema. THREE! That is more than I had watched in the past 3 years! I loved The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which was a gentle, quirky dreamlike movie. I cried at the end and felt so happy that it was not a direct remake of the Danny Kaye version. I also saw The Anchorman 2 which I deeply disliked. The sexist humour grated on my nerves and I found myself grinding my teeth in frustration. It even coloured my love for watching Paul Rudd. I think my girl crush on him is waning as I truly hated This is 40. I also saw Frozen. What a visually splendid film. I loved the songs, I loved the animation and most of all I loved the story. So, in the words of Meatloaf, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

Unlike the last five years, I am not giving myself any reading challenge this year. I will continue to loosely keep track of what I read as I always need to refer back to books that become gossamer memories. However, my reading had become a race in 2012 and it has taken a whole year to recover.

My plans for this year are big. I will be going to Greece and England. I will be in Greece for the International Association Study of Popular Romance conference in Thessaloniki, Greece. I am looking forward to the conference yet ambivalent about visiting Greece. I deeply dislike flying (read terrified) and for the first time in 20 years I will be flying without my husband. My son is flying with me, and I both dread and welcome his presence. In my head I know that I am the parent, I should be reassuring him and being an example of how to overcome your fears. In reality, he has been primed as to his responsibility for an anxious, blubbering mother. Is this something a 15 (by then nearly 16) year old needs to shoulder? Can I ply myself with brandy until I am “How’s it going!” relaxed when he is underage and does not see me doing this in any other environment? According to him, a trip overseas makes it well worth his while. We will also be going to England so I can access the Mills & Boon archive for my research gathering. My reckoning is that 27 hours of flying in abject fear from Sydney to Europe merits exploring possibilities for my research beyond the conference.

I have been approached by ABC702 to present for Linda Mottram’s The Blurb once a month and I am looking forward to bringing some great reading suggestions to the radio crowd. But more on that in my next blog post (yep – you get 2 in one day!!!!!!)

Hopefully my blogging and writing will increase this year. I had a particularly slow year with only 20 posts in 2013 but just like my reading, I will not be setting myself a challenge. I already write a lot that I choose not to publish and I quantifying my published posts would disservice the importance of my private (not available online) writing.

Here’s to a good 2014! And have a piece of keki. Mnom!

cakepiece

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