ShallowreaderBingo February card

Here’s a new card for Shallowreader Bingo! As her prize for winning, two of the boxes have been contributed by A Willful Woman who scored a second bingo yesterday. And my sons contributed two boxes too, even though they are not playing. They say that they have genetic rights.

In the meantime, join in and play!

Shallowreaderbingo February card

My January reading (with shallowreaderbingo shout out)

It’s the end of the first Shallowreader Bingo month!  A Woot woot! Shout out to A Willful Woman who won this month’s bingo call – head over to her blog to see her winning entry. She won with Laughter, As You Wish, Hero/ine, MnomMnomMnom and used Red for her wildcard. If you have been playing, let us know in the comments which boxes you scored and what you read and there is a new bingo card out on Monday!

As for me, despite not getting any of bingo boxes in a row, I read several books that matched the squares. Here are my notes on them:

Food WhoreFood Whore: a novel of dining and deceit

by Jessica Tom

Bingo Squares: 7 Deadly Sins and MnomMnomMnom

Tia Monroe, a post-graduate student in New York City finds herself ghost writing food reviews for restaurant critic, Micahel Saltz. I wasn’t convinced by how she was caught up in Michael’s fraudulent behaviour, her ethics were (obviously) questionable which culminated in Tia having to reveal all her misdoings and making amends. I think I would . Overall a good read with a view of how reviews can make or break a restaurant.

 

Moone Boy: The Blunder YearsMoone Boy: The Blunder Years

by Chris O’Dowd (yes – the actor) and Nick V. Murphy

Bingo Squares: Red (errmmmm – yep, there is red on the cover)

This book was funny and weird and made me laugh. I loved the whole Imaginary Friend (IF) story and I love love loved IF Loopy Lou even though Martin (the protaganist) didn’t.  I also loved the distinctly Irish voice and culture that is woven through this book.I’m usually wary of celebrity authors but this one is an absolute treat. If you can pull off an Irish accent, it would make a particularly awesome bedtime reading story.

 

 

 

The Santorini BrideThe Santorini Bride

by Anne McAllister

Bingo Squares: It’s a secret, Baby (comma optional)

Theo Savas and Marta Antonides accidently shack up on Santorini. I love this book. It’s sharp and funny. I adore Anne McAllister’s American Greeks and particularly their fear of their Greek mamas. One day I will write a proper review for this favourite book but for now I just recommend you find yourselves a copy. An absolute keeper. I reread it for the umpteenth time and still love it.

 

 

 

 

Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon BoxPrincess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox

by Julia Donaldson

Bingo Square: Shiny Sparkly Glitter

I enjoyed this book but I really missed Julia Donaldson’s signature rhymes and rhythms. I ADORE the glitter on every page.

 

 

Innocent on her wedding nightInnocent on her Wedding Night

by Sara Craven

Bingo Square: Frisson

Sara Craven seems to specialise in female protagonists in their late teens who are compelled to marry the older man who has known them since childhood. At once uncomfortable yet compelling. I enjoyed reading this book. Quite the cinderella story filled with misunderstandings and a lack of communication resulting in intense, unrequited love tension. Even the appearance of what I initially perceived as the “other woman” was a beautifully orchestrated plot device that was needed to deliver the impact of Laine’s teenage immature reactions on hero Dan’s life. And Dan was oh-so sweet. This book is a Craven gem.

 

 

 

Two AcrossTwo Across

by Jeff Bartsch

Bingo Square: Hero/ine

A fake wedding crossword romcom. This novel opens with teens Stanley Owens and Vera Baxter meeting and tying at the National Spelling Bee. They meet again every year as champion alumni and when they are 18 they decide to stage a fake wedding – Stanley to get away from his controlling mum and Vera because she loves Stanley. Their fraudulent relationship is on again and off again over many years before they reconcile through the crosswords they construct. The novel is well-written and well-structured however, it lacked the emotional punch that I expect from a book whose central premise is romance. The hero and heroine were SUPASMART which, of course, sets out this book from other romances, because, you know, high IQ protags=High IQ readers=romance (oooops! rom-com) that is different from all the others – excuse my momentary snark. I guess I am a frustrated reader. What should have been a fabulous read ended up being mediocre purely because there was more attention placed on how smart (at studies/dumb at life) both Stanley and Vera are but they remain distant and detached even at their supposed lows and highs and the book is lacking in emotional complexity. To be fair, this is a first novel for the author and romance fiction is incredibly hard to achieve this emotional complexity particularly as the line between sincerity and sentimentality can be tipped much too easily. Craft and storywise, this is a fine read and non-readers of romance fiction will love it.

 

The Sara Craven and Anne McAllister novels are old keepers that I bought at the time of their publications. I borrowed the rest of the books from a public library in New South Wales.

 

 

MORE Lynne Graham to kick off the TBR challenge 2016

My pleasure reading disappeared in December of last year. After posting my 2015 Favourites at the beginning of the month, though I planned on continuing reading, my physical self took a big long sigh, caught a summer virus that left me in bed for 3 weeks during which I didn’t pick up a single book. So, just like bike riding and swimming, when I reentered my reading shallows I did so with my favourite type of reading – category romance novels by the venerable Lynne Graham which luckily also matches the “We Love Shorts” theme for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge 2016! I read Graham’s interconnecting novels The Greek Demands his Heir and The Greek Commands his Mistress, featuring the consecutive romances of two Greek half-brothers Leo and Bastien Zikos and their English rose heroines Grace Donovan and Delilah Moore.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 2.41.27 PMThe Greek Demands his Heir

“Don’t be silly, Leo. Strangers don’t get married.” Leo Zikos should be celebrating securing a perfectly convenient fiancée, but it’s left him cold. Instead it’s stranger Grace Donovan’s impeccable beauty that fires his blood. So he decides to pursue one last night of freedom… But that night and the two little blue lines on the pregnancy test that follow blow Leo’s plans apart. Now he must break with his fiancée and marry Grace. She might resist marrying a man she barely knows, but Leo will claim his legacy and has all the riches and influence he needs to ensure his demands are met!

Grace Donovan, a medical student who is indebted to an uncle and aunt who gave her shelter (but not much love) from when she was eleven, has been coerced to go on a holiday to Marmaris Bay in Turkey with her spoilt cousin Jenna. She is a tagalong and once her cousin hooks up with a guy, Grace finds herself sleeping in their hotel’s foyer. After several nights of this, her cousin insists they go clubbing where she catches the eye of club owner and Greek billionaire Leo. The sparks fly, Leo (unbelievably) claims that he cannot dance but hells yes he is up for one last hook-up before he marries Marina, his betrothed. The reader meets Marina in the opening chapter and already knows that their engagement is a business agreement between two friends who have agreed that having intimate liaisons with others until they actually marry is fine. Leo, considering his hook up with Grace as a one-night stand doesn’t mention his engagement to her. The two of them get down and boogie and oooopsies! the condom they are using breaks. (In classic Lynne Graham dry delivery) Leo accuses Grace of “straining it” because…you know…her virginity was so tight the latex couldn’t take it.

Their night of fantasy is just that: sex, banter, ridiculous riches and smartmouthed heroine putdowns before they go their separate ways. Then the book’s action starts when Grace discovers that she is pregnant and her aunt kicks her out of her home. Abortion, we find out, is not an option for Grace. Not that she condemns it but she is keenly aware that her own mother refused an abortion and she is grateful for her life. She chooses to keep her baby but this does mean that her own studies are put on hold and due to her unhappy family circumstances she finds herself marrying Leo. But then she meets Marina and Grace is despondent to discover that she slept with a betrothed man. Where for Leo the line was marriage, for Grace the line was commitment.

Silly, sentimental, romantic dreams, utterly inappropriate dreams for a woman of her age, intelligence and background to have cherished: the dream that a man could be decent and honest and trustworthy

It is from here that Leo has to recover. Grace’s dreams were not those of riches and an attractive partner, they were not of material belongings but of integrity in one’s partner.

Leo is horrified at himself. Having considered himself to be a better person than his father who had maintained both a legitimate family and an illegitimate son and mistress,  Grace’s lack of respect for him and refusal to marry him infuriates him but also cuts him deeply for what else are romance heroes but men of honour. When Grace and Leo had their one-night stand, there were clean cut boundaries placed and Leo did not feel he was betraying Marina. Leo finds that he has to build himself up in Grace’s eyes.

Through fumbling and tripping over himself in his care for her, Grace discovers a man who has been struggling from a young age to reconcile himself with his father’s two families. He does not want this to be his own story. He refuses to be caught between a (business) marriage and a woman who has mothered his child. For him, integrity is building upon a relationship that he did not expect to have. In doing this, he discovers that he dislikes that Grace herself was treated as secondary in her aunt and uncle’s household and for the first time feels challenged as to his attitude towards his half-brother, seeing him from a different perspective for the first time. Leo does everything he can to give Grace a sense of family and this is how they build a deep love for each other.

My only issue with Leo was his claim that he could not dance and had no rhythm (yet I have no issue with the believability of a self-made Greek Billionaire in the last 5 years – hmmmmm). May I just point out, and I do this with strong Greek cultural knowledge, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A HOT GREEK GUY THAT CANNOT DANCE, DAMMIT! Greek men pride themselves on their dance skills. Those who don’t dance are those who don’t score with the chicks! Masculinities in Greece are performed on the dance floor. It’s all about the rhythm method *cough*. No rhythm on the dance floor = no rhythm between the sheets. Despite this, I really enjoyed this book.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 2.40.39 PM The Greek Commands His Mistress 

“I always get what I want…and I want you.” Making billions and bedding beautiful women couldn’t make Bastien Zikos forget the lustrous dark hair, haunting eyes and outrageous defiance of Delilah Moore. So Bastien has gone to great lengths to ensure that the one-and only-woman to have ever turned him down returns to him. If Delilah wants to save her father’s ailing business, she must agree to Bastien’s commands: be his mistress, wear his diamonds and wait for him in his bed! But what will this exacting tycoon do when he discovers that his sassy mistress is a virgin?

I really liked fumbling, bumbling Leo. I like those billionaires who trip all over themselves messing up the relationship that really matters. However, I disliked Bastien. Where his brother Leo is an alpha male, Bastien is an alpha brute. Having been first introduced to him in Leo’s book, some of his backstory explained his ruthless, arsehole ways, as he was the illegitimate son living with his father’s “nuclear family” home with a half-brother who despised him. This doesn’t excuse his horrid machinations to gain complete control of the heroine, Delilah’s life.

Bastien, having been rejected by Lilah 2 years earlier, in mwahahaha evil billionaire fashion, takes over her father’s company and threatens to have everyone fired if she doesn’t agree to sleep with him. Lilah, though calling him out at his suggestion for sex slavery, decides to be a martyr not only for her family but for her village too because, hells bells the closure of their factory could send their whole social circle into poverty. Lilah is given some Graham chin, its tilt getting higher each time she encounters Bastien the Brute. Bastien’s reaction when he sees Lilah flinch at his (creepy) suggestions is that “women didn’t shrink from him: they wanted him” (Italics are the author’s not mine). His arrogance shitted me off. Damn it. This is not a perceptive man, he certainly would not have noticed any other woman flinching. Later in the book when he slams into her bedroom there is hint of what every woman recognises – threat. He wakes her abruptly, she can smell alcohol on his breath and he is temperamental. His “Stop looking at me like that” and “I have never hurt a woman in my life” was small comfort for me the reader. Lilah may have bought it but his constant intimidation of her was unacceptable. As Lilah says he was “volatile” and volatile does not equal Hero in my opinion.

Lilah is funny though. Bastien’s whole revenge plot is based on her turning him down 2 years earlier when she called him a “shameless man-whore”. This upsets Bastien who pulls her up on this and points out that he had never been unfaithful to a lover nor indiscriminate and “While my values may not be the same as yours, I do have standards.” At this point Lilah softens her stance against him and the two start to talk rather that sneer and then sizzle with every interaction.

Somehow, Lynne Graham drags Bastien out of his horridness with the magic of caring Lilah and the revelation of his messed up childhood – a mother who did not care for him, being beaten up by one of her boyfriends as a child resulting in some deep wounds for this man. His rejection by his father’s family furthered his isolation, as did his short but powerful liaison with the ever-present Marina and you start to realise that he is like a cornered, fierce animal that attacks and protects the little that he has by scaring all around him. Lilah though is not cowered at all. She takes his behaviour and diminishes his rage, she stands up for him where others had never spoken up for him, she becomes as fierce in her protection of him as he was in his diminishment of her. It is this protection that changes him. For no-one had ever protected him before in his life. Respect for each other is a big thing for these two but sadly, Bastien will never have it from me.

I reallllly disliked Bastien. Even right at the end when all is lovey dovey and the power of Lilah has turned him into a (halfway) decent human being, I was not convinced that he would not turn alpha brute again sometime in their future. And why would I say this? Well, at the begininning of the book, Lilah tells him that she dislikes being called Delilah and to please use her shortened name but nooooooo Bastien knows best and at no time does he take to using her preferred name – not when they are having sex, not when they have their grand love declaration and sadly, not even in their 2-years-later-look-at-how-happy-we-turned-out-to-be epilogue. This one tiny sign, conceding to using her preferred name, would have changed the course for me with this book but it didn’t happen. Lilah deserves better. I hope she hooks up with someone nicer later in her life.

The Notorious Greeks series

Lynne Graham imbues her stories with an understanding of family and belonging. She may outwardly show billionaires and successful businessmen, innocent yet feisty young women but she underpins this with characters who come from troubled families and troubled childhoods, with worries that transcend riches and poverty. Her stories continue to shine a light on both the strengths and the weaknesses of adopted, foster and blended family dynamics. Where Grace and Bastien suffer from being the outliers in their adopted homes, Lilah’s conciliatory and loving blended family provides a counterbalance. Lilah brings understanding to Bastien that blended families can work and Leo finds discomfort in seeing his treatment of Bastien as equal to the rejection and manipulation that Grace suffers at the hands of the family that gave her shelter. Though Leo is unable to change her situation with her uncle and aunt, by the end of Bastien’s novel, the Zikos family dynamic has changed through the understanding that love brought to Leo.

The epilogue in Bastien and Lilah’s story is one that furthers the story beyond the two romances in this series. It is in the epilogue that we discover that Leo and Bastien have finally forged a friendship, giving their father his long hoped for family unity (of sorts) and as readers we discover that the overarching story is about these two half-brothers finally accepting each other.

 

Marina Kouros [SPOILER ALERT!!!!]

I would absolutely adore for Lynne Graham to write Marina Kouros’s own romance. Marina rules this series despite being a secondary character in both novels. She is confident, sophisticated and sharp alongside sympathetic and friendly. Though she is annoyed at no longer marrying Leo, she still helps out Grace in a way that is neither an “evil-other woman” nor a “best-friends-forever”. Marina’s reasons for helping Grace arrange her wedding are not selfless but a need to save face by being graciously involved. In Bastien’s book, we discover that she had a short affair with him and chose to have an abortion. Though her decision devastated Bastien who took her decision as a personal rejection, he remains protective of Marina, defending her and admonishing Lilah who spoke harshly to her. I did not feel that Marina was demonised for her decision,  Graham’s power and longevity as a romance author show her ability to broach topics that few others dare to mention and perhaps the only way that an author can test these waters is through their secondary characters. Marina was my absolute favourite of all the characters in these two books as her complexity is slowly revealed through small glimpses. She too has her own romance albeit off the page and only mentioned in passing. I hope her romance is one that finally goes to print as I would love to read her story, her deep thoughts, her reasons for aborting, her nuances and how she finally finds love. Romance fiction is a space that should represent the many stories of all types of women finding love and it is well beyond time that Mills and Boon had a heroine who has had an abortion.

Both copies of these books were purchased as new releases from a department store in Sydney.

#shallowreaderBingo

I’m kicking off my 2016 year of reading by inviting you all to join me in a game of Shallowreader Bingo.

The rules are simple: cross the box as you read and when you get 5 in a row give out a Shallowreader Bingo call on either your blog, twitter or your favourite social media platform with a list of the items you have read. On the 29th of every month, I will put out a Bingo reminder and people can check their lists but I am happy for people to call #shallowreaderBingo whenever they like.

Note: This is a reading bingo game not only a book bingo game – I’d love to see poetry, news articles, essays, closed captions, twitter streams and, of course, books.  Participants who are already doing other challenges (like I am) should feel free to reuse their books here. I don’t want this to be a reading challenge but just a bit of fun. Be liberal with your interpretations of each category and let it be known that I turn a blind eye to cheating. You’ll find that my bingo squares are heavily skewed towards my preferred reading because that is the way I roll.

And what do you win; nothing but the sheer satisfaction of a bingo hurrah and applause and linkylinks from moi. Let me know if you are taking part and what platform you will be using and I’ll add your name to the bottom of this page.

PS A big thank you to Miss Bates for reading through my first draft and for her suggestions.

Shallowreader Bingo

Participants:

Feel free to participate without being listed. If you would like to be listed send me a message in the comments or ping me on Twitter

Miss Bates Reads Romance

Sandra Antonelli 

Willaful

Roslyn Groves

Jen Wilson

Fiona Marsden

 

 

 

Favourite Books for 2015 (and some 2016 books I look forward to reading)

I have had another slowish reading year with only 70ish fiction and non-fiction books. Though, there are a further 50+ picture books that I have read. I imagine that the closer I get to completing my thesis, this number will get lower. If you want a more comprehensive list of books I have read this year, click on the Goodreads dooblydob in the margin. I know that there is the whole of December reading to go but I am getting in early because I will be chatting to Linda Mottram on 702 about my picks today for the last The Blurb of the year.

I don’t want to call these books “the Best” as that is such a loaded term. Yesterday, I browsed through Penguins Best of 2015 and there wasn’t a single book on their list that I had read or that I wanted to read. I ask – best for whom? Instead, I am sticking with calling this list “My favourite”. I felt a little perturbed at the Penguin list, and then at the NY Times list. For a moment it made me question my choices. Am I that out of sync with the rest of society? And then I found Pop Sugar’s Best Books for Women 2015 and I relaxed. Lots of books that I had read and lots that sits on my TBR. Funny how I needed some validation for my reading.

Now for my faves (in no particular order):

Fave graphic novel

SuperMutant Magic AcademySuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Not really a novel in your traditional sense, this book is a collected anthology of Tamaki’s quirky webcomic that can be best described as a mundane Hogwarts without the adventure and amped up teen angst. It is dry, disengaged with a queer sensibility where the teen witches and mutants grapple with magic, board games, crushes and teacher expectations. Tamaki also writes atmospheric graphic novels as well as running a popular tumblr.

Fave celebrity memoir

Drew Barrymore's Wildflower

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

So many of us grew up watching sweet, young Drew Barrymore in ET. These stories from her life make me both want to hug her as well as want to ask her to go out dancing with me. She  is wild, funny and an absolute champion. I loved the section in the book where she has just become emancipated from her mother and she is sitting in her apartment, alone, aged 14 and she realises that she will need to educate herself because she loves reading.

An honorary mention to Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost). I haven’t finished it yet. Homeschooled (hippie parents who couldn’t find a liberal enough school for her in Alabama), computer mad, friendless, career driven. Felicity Day is internet famous and writes in such a funny, engaging way that she very nearly pippped Barrymore out of her place.

Favourite Romance
These were too difficult to choose from so I have had to go with two choices:

Playing by the Greek's RulesPlaying by the Greek’s Rules by Sarah Morgan (Puffin Island series).

This was a cheeky, and perfectly written Mills and Boon that both adored and poked fun at the genre. Sarah Morgan is one of the highlighted author’s in the BFI’s love festival. Her M&B acts as an amuse bouche to her Puffin Island series which are all standalone books not published within the M&B line. This book was so fabulous. Heroine Lily is a self-soothing, post-grad archaeology student working 3 jobs to pay off her university fees who hooks up with Greek billionaire Nik whose house is one of the homes in her cleaning contract. Funny and smart with the expected absurdist plot line but with genuine emotions, sincerity that at no point becomes cloying or patronising. The narrative finds both of our protagonists realising the best of themselves through their time together. I put this book up there with Jennifer Crusie’s Charlie All Night – a category that is still being reprinted 25 yrs after its first edition. Link: to my full review.

Flirting with DisasterFlirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl

This was a perfect read for me. Dahl’s Isabelle West is a kind off fugitive who starts an affair with a US Marshall who discovers her murky past. The tension is high both with the build up of their relationship as well as the mystery behind Isabelle’s past. Betrayal and feminism are both common themes in Dahl’s writing. Her keynote speech at ARRA15 on International Women’s Day was rivetting. In Isabelle West you see these ideals of women choosing to not be passive, to not adhere to cultural expectations of what it means to be a woman. I think she excelled with this book. Link: to my previous review.

Fave Podcast

Get MortifiedAs much as I love Bookriot’s diverse author representation in their Reading Lives series, as well as the irreverance of Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb’s Chats 10 Looks 3, I have to give it to Get Mortified. Adults reading their cringeworthy teen diaries on stage.

Fave kids’ book

Princess in BlackThe Princess in Black by Shannon Hale

Great introductory level Chapter book about a princess who drinks tea and wears pretty dresses who is also a stealth ninja assassin. The first of a series, they are a lovely complement to the delightful Fancy Nancy series. Simple and funny and the Princess owns a unicorn called Frimblepants.

Fave Picture Book

This was such a hard pick! Every year there are stellar picture book choices.

When I see GrandmaWhen I see Grandma by Debra Tidball

A family visits their grandma who is in a nursing home with dementia. Her A beautiful book that illustrates the kids grandma lying in bed yet on the flip page you see her in her younger years full of life. Upon my first reading of this title, I cried my eyes out. Absolutely beautiful.

Fave Board book

Slow Snail by Mary MurphySlow Snail by Mary Murphy

This board book has the perfect amount of words (often picture books that are just turned into board books are weighty and inappropriate for the medium). The book design is glorious with an indented glossy silver snail trail that your fingers trace over bricks, shoes and through the house with only a few simple words per page describing the snail’s journey.

 

Some Reads for 2016

After the huge success of Anna Todd’s ID fanfiction I think we will be seeing more storytelling emerge from this space. My own fanfic interest is Elsie J Oxenham’s Abbey Girls that there is usually only one post a year  and I now of only one other fan (@MerrianOW) as well as Pride and Prejudice fics. I have been dabble reading here and there but nothing has really grabbed me this year. I think that the fanfics to watch for will be Mulder/Scully ships and the X-files and I’m going out on a strong limb and saying that there will be a spike in Jennifer Jones fics too. To add to that, I have a boffin-like interest in the tag-wrangling going on at Archive of Our Own and I think that we will see publishers adapt some fanfiction tagging practices which I despise and love in equal parts (perhaps the topic of a separate blog post).

I am currently at a Futures of Storytelling symposium. There are some amazing ideas being discussed about locative fiction which I think is going to change the way we engage with tourism. Some immersive, digital stories will emerge similar to Pry from earlier in the year. I’m still not convinced that these are much more than a slightly more sophisticated Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story but we are in early days and we have far to go. I am only a tad perturbed by the lack of discussion around the future of print.

YA – Zeros is a series that is cowritten between Scott Weserfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deboarah Giancotti. I also relish all the glitzy, pretty YA romance titles that are on the horizon (though there are way too many to list!).

Romance – Bollywood and Indian stories. Sonali Dev’s debut was phenomenal earlier this year and I have both her books on my TBR. And yay! there is also Kristan Higgin’s If You Only Knew to anticipate reading.

 

I’m feeling like a pig in mud :)

 

Pea Green Boat reflections

Just this past week, I was fortunate enough to attend a performance of Stewart Lee’s Pea Green Boat, not once but twice!

From the outset, I need to be clear that I am not, in any way, trying to write a theatre review here. I can barely structure a book review let alone dabble in critiquing immersive theatre. Let’s just call whatever this is that I am writing “reflections”. To add to that, I need to make a full disclosure and say that I have known Director Jim Fishwick for many years as I am friends with his mum and my son has been at school with his brother for gazonkadonks.

I loved Edward Lear’s Nonsense Songs when I was younger. They were weird and silly and enormously fun. One of the most famous, and delightful, of his poems is The Owl and The Pussy-cat which comedian Stewart Lee has appropriated into a darker, macabre tale of love and obsession whilst drifting pointlessly at sea. I love appropriated fiction. Whether it is posted up as fanfiction or fanart, whether it gets the rubber stamp of approval from publishers or production companies, there is something wonderful about a story that gets elaborated upon by many different storytellers. To add to that, every morning for this past month, I have woken up to my husband laughing at Stewart Lee youtube clips. I was already familiar with two major aspects of the theatre I was about to to take part in. In Jetpack Theatre Collective‘s reimagining of Stewart Lee’s reimagining of the Pea Green Boat, we the audience are cast afloat in a pea green boat, a real one.

Jetpack Theatre Collective's Pea Green Boat

Jetpack Theatre Collective’s Pea Green Boat

From here, the audience of three are addressed by the Owl (Hannah Cox)  who talks of her deep love for the Pussy-cat (Jim Fishwick), as inappropriate and species-challenged as their love may be. Meanwhile, the Pussy-cat sits behind us rowing across the water to meet the Turkey (Alexander Richmond) who is to marry them.

The first performance I attended was perhaps the most absurd experience I have had. Due to gale force winds, safety concerns kept the Pea Green Boat from being set adrift. Instead, the boat sat chained ontop of a trailer, in a carpark overlooking a supa-sekrit bay in Sydney Harbour. The two other audience members and I donned our lifejackets, climbed up a stepladder and into a boat where the Owl addressed us while we were all buffeted by racing winds that reached 90km/h. While we were clinging to our drydocked theatre, a limousine pulled up beside us and out poured a brace of bucks who gave us some serious side-eye as they walked to their rowers club while the Owl lamented at the impossible circumstances we found ourselves in. Indeed, it was impossible. The howling of the wind and the bongo playing bachelor’s party paired with my tinnitus impeded my ability to hear the show clearly. Instead, I relished in the absurdity of the situation I found myself in. Bizarre, gusty and amusing.

A few days later, I received a message from the Pussy-cat letting me know that there were a couple of spare tickets that I could have so I could watch the show the way it was supposed to be performed – on the water, floating at sea. I happily accepted his offer. A late afternoon on a rowboat while I had poetry orated to me is my idea of gorgeous. Once again, I donned my lifejacket, the boat was set adrift, clear waters, a brisk breeze and the setting sun provided the perfect backdrop as the Pussy-cat rowed while the Owl talked of her love. And what a beautiful, mismatched love! I could not think of a more wonderful way to experience this silly poem. We drifted on the water for over half an hour until we reached a picturesque peninsula. We audience three hopped out of the rowboat onto a sandy beach, our feet cooled by the water before being led up the hill, soft green grass underfoot, eucalypts swaying above us to hear the Turkey tell of the odd-paired marriage of sorts that he had officiated. Where the week before, I had not heard a word of the Turkey’s lines, this time, I heard every word clearly.

And this is where Stewart Lee’s interpretation of Lear’s nonsense poem fell apart for me. I have previously loved and delighted at the absurdity of the Owl and the Pussy-cat and Edward Lear’s allusion to seemingly impossible love being able to overcome all obstacles. I adore the ethereal joy, the lightness that I feel in the ending of Lear’s poem which I have always imagined to be followed with a wedding party of fun.

Lee’s reinterpretation of this ending, however, is macabre and dark. Sad and blighted. Although it was brilliantly written, and although it was beautifully performed, I was saddened yet unsurprised, that once again, a romance imbued with happily ever after joy was twisted into a cynical, nihilistic end. This is what is celebrated in our society and I suppose, to those who embrace literary fiction, this is hardly a failing.

Overall, I loved watching this quirky, funny piece of immersive theatre. Both the land and the sea shows were brilliantly realised. They embodied the absurdity of Lear’s original poem while embracing the twisted darkness of Lee’s deconstruction.

Pea Green Boat has completed its successful Sydney season. There are several professional theatre reviews that you can search for on the interwebs. Jetpack Theatre Collective post their upcoming events on their Facebook page.

 

The Owl and the Pussy-cat is the first poem in Edward Lear’s Nonsense Books. It is out of copyright and available as a free download from Project Gutenberg.

THE OWL AND THE PUSSY-CAT.

I.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey, and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar, “O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, You are, You are! What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

II.

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing! Oh! let us be married; too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?” They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the bong-tree grows; And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose, His nose, His nose, With a ring at the end of his nose.
The Owl and the Pussy-cat

III.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.” So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon; And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon, The moon, The moon, They danced by the light of the moon.

 

Jetpack Theatre Collective's Pea Green Boat

Jetpack Theatre Collective’s Pea Green Boat

My current library haul

I’m talking about my library haul with Linda Mottram on ABC702 this morning. Catch up radio will have the show on for the next 7 days (I’m on in the last 20 minutes) http://www.abc.net.au/sydney/programs/702_mornings/

My library borrowing is quite different to my book buying habits. At the library I feel at ease to borrow items that I would hesitate to expend money upon as they may be unknown authors, unknown TV shows or just unavailable. Here is my pic taken with my precision skills which my sons caption “The Veros School of Photography” – it is a family gift:

Library Haul November 2015

My own haul from last week:

3 DVDs:

Currently Watching:

The Mindy Project – I’ve been binge-watching Mindy Kaling’s 1st season with my son. She is very funny and I love her perspective.

Waiting:

  • Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing – Shakespeare retelling FTW!
  • The Thick of It – I am in the mood for some sweary Malcolm Tucker

Books:

Currently reading:

Anne Gracie’s The Spring Bride – the 3rd of a Quartet (but the first that I am reading). A young lady in georgian England who had a poverty-stricken upbringing only wants a stable and rich marriage to keep her from ever being poor again. Then she falls in love with a spy while she is betrothed to a duke. I’m early in the book but I already love it. This is also my only Australian author from my current haul.

Waiting:

  • Dani Collins x 4 Mills & Boon: An Heir to Bind Them, His For Revenge, The Russian’s Acquisition and A Debt Paid in Passion  – as one of Miss Bates‘ readers called them, they are the amuse-bouche of reading. I am binge reading her backlog. I discovered Dani Collins earlier this year and she has already become a favourite.
  • Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist – a man with 4 wives has an affair. I rarely read books written by males so I approach this one with trepidation.
  • Megan Hart’s Vanilla – I have heard lots about this NYT bestselling author but have never read any of her books.
  • Jo Baker’s Longbourn – Pride and Prejudice from the servants side of the story. Another retelling. I do love appropriated fiction.
  • Lynne Segal’s Out of Time: The Pleasures and Perils of Aging – because, you know, this goes with being menopausal.
  • Ann Beattie’s The State we are in – short stories set in Maine, USA because one day, I will meet my dear Twitter friend Jessica Tripler who always sends me fab pics of her drives around Maine.
  • Jenny Colgan’s Resistance is Futile – because I liked the cover. Pink and Orange.

 

Whether I will eventually read/watch all of my haul is unknown. But I adore the promise of each one of my choices.

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