Friday, May 17, 2019

Books from the past

I was talking to a friend the other day about reading, and happened to mention that one of the things I liked about romance when I was a teenager was that they were quite empowering books. She went silent (as in, I can't believe you read romance!) so I proceeded to tell her what I meant, specifically that there's a lot more to it than the romance. There are other things at play here, such as overcoming past difficulties, challenges with the family, things that lead into the conflict that will rear its head between the protagonists and get in the way of the Happy Ever After.... So much more.
But enough of that, and on to these so-called empowering books of mine.
A lot of these novels revolved around careers, hence the empowerment thing of being independent, following your dreams, moving out of home, getting a flat, managing your finances and paying your bills, and all that grown-up stuff.
One of the series I adored as a girl were the Sue Barton books.
They followed the young Sue Barton through her student nursing days, progressing up the career ladder in nursing, getting married and having a family. I liked the whole notion of them, of the camaraderie of the nursing schools, and all that. They were great books, a great series.
Then there were the career novels such as Janet Carr Journalist, and Jill Kennedy Telephonist. They
were English, and being a Kiwi, one had plans to travel to England but one I never actually did. (I am still waiting for that experience.)
Clearly these stories are from a time when the 'telephonist' was a career option. Nowadays, who would know what one even is? Was it even such a great job? Well, it was for Jill Kennedy, I suppose, but I'd have to dig out my copy (yes, I am 99% 50% sure I still have it in a box somewhere) to find out about it all. Of course, the journalist thing, as in Janet Carr Journalist, well, that appealed hugely because I loved reading magazines that had sailed all the way over to New Zealand from England, and of course there was Fleet Street, the place to go and be a journalist. I probably set my sights a bit closer to home in Wellington, where they published the Dominion and the Evening Post newspapers, but like my trip to England, that never eventuated either.
And neither, it must be said, did a career in nursing.
I think I'll dig these books out and see what they're like now. I could read them on the bus to work. What a hoot, a middle-aged chook reading Sue Barton on the bus. Yes, I am totally up for that.
~ Joanne

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Autumnal reads

Ah, reading. Perfect all the year round, but even better in the best seasons of the year, autumn and winter, hence the picture of some wintry trees in the Manawatu.
I’m starting back at the beginning, and I’ve read the first Jack Reacher, Killing Floor. It went with me on the bus to work, to the staff room for my breaks, on the bus back home, and at home. Boy, it was gripping. However, I did do one bad thing in that I had to skip to the end to see what happened to Reacher’s love interest, Roscoe. I just could not face reading the second half not knowing if she made it or not. I had to be prepared, I’ll say no more on that (Yes, I'm a failure when it comes to suspense.) I also decided I should read Pride and Prejudice. I hadn’t watched the Colin Firth TV series, but I had seen the movie with Keira Knightley and rather (very much) liked it. I especially liked Donald Sutherland as the pop. What a character. So I dragged out a copy of P & P determined to read it. But I couldn’t. There I was thinking I’d become an Austen girl, going around quoting bits, wearing Austen fan girl T-shirts, but I just couldn’t. This is terrible, so I think maybe I should read one that I haven’t seen the movie of. I recall that once, a long time ago, I got out the TV series on DVD for a blitz, and only watched one episode. Maybe there’s actually no point, I don’t know. I did read a new author, however, that I totally loved,  Illona Andrews. It was a novella called Magic Steals, in an anthology. In fact, I read it on a short flight recently, and was hooked. Could not put it down.  I'm not an urban fantasy paranormal reader really (an exception is Nalini Singh’s Psy Changeling series) but I totally loved the novella, and Illona Andrew’s writing, and I've got some in a series to get stuck into soon, just ready and waiting. I am also one day going to really stop saying "I am not an urban fantasy reader" because clearly... I am!! I just haven't read a lot of it - yet!
~ Joanne

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Reading Round Up

What have I been reading of late?
Just finished a book "Murder at an Irish Wedding" by Carlene O'Connor. I picked it up at the library because it was on a
display of Irish books over the St Patrick's Day weekend. So many good books on that display, too, and with the exception of Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchy, most were authors I hadn't read before.
Case in point was this book.
It was fun, laugh out loud in a lot of places, very witty, un-put-downable, and with an intriguing murder to solve. Great cast of Irish characters. I want to go around now saying Feck and Jaysus but I spose I shouldn't. I could dig out some 'Father Ted' though.
I'll be looking for the other books featuring sleuth, Siobhan O'Sullivan
Also read, was a charming Debbie Macomber featuring her angels, Shirley, Mercy and Goodness. It dealt with gritty topics, including teenage pregnancy and youth suicide.
I had a few DNFs (Did Not Finish) but a lot of it is you have to be in a certain head space and tbh, I just want light reading that is entertaining and fun with great emotion in it, and a Happy Ever After.
I was thinking of that this past week, following the attacks at the  mosque in Christchurch.
In that vein of entertaining and fun and really, what is comfort entertainment, I avoided TV and re-watched a few movies, that I just love, however many times I watch them:
Tootsie, Morning Glory, and Kate and Leopold.
~ Joanne

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


I was recently involved in helping with an exhibition on George Bernard Shaw, ie he who wrote Pygmalion, and then adapted it for the screenplay of My Fair Lady, of which he won an Academy Award. I didn't actually make the exhibit, as it was curated by a famous chap in Ireland, and I was just involved with setting it up. Tomorrow I have to take it down and ship it off to another part of this fair land, where it will be for a week before it is shipped off somewhere else. 

It has been a fascinating experience for a number of reasons. One, I got to work with the Embassy of Ireland who organised the display (Shaw was Irish)  and seeing as a fair number of us Kiwis have some Irish in them, cool. In fact, according to my sister's DNA test, we have something like a quarter Irish so am pretty happy about that, although my  mother's been saying that for years about the Irish. I also got to read up on George, and what a character that chap was.
Most fascinating to me was how he created his GBS persona and how when he visited New Zealand in 1934, the nation was intrigued beyond belief with the famous visitor. Shaw was the first global celebrity of the modern age, totally self cultivated, the media ran daily reports on his travels, and Shaw himself was most happy to oblige..
I researched and wrote a post for a local heritage blog, link below, on the man himself and the visit. It was one of the funnest most fun things I've written and I could have gone on and on and on with Shavian quotes. It was a  nice change of writing from the romance. Sadly (although not sadly as its rather fun) the head space is now taken up with researching and writing an article for a NZ historical journal and I do not cope well with multi-tasking on that score, only so many brain cells left to work with there, so the romance is once again on the back burner until this article is finished and then, work on the current book will continue.
Here's the link if you'd like to take a look at GBS in NZ...

Thursday, March 7, 2019


This weekend just gone I had a road trip in the South Island, heading down to Dunedin from
Restricted viewing aka cheap seats. Pretty decent.
Christchurch to see the Eagles in concert.
We stayed in the city and walked to the stadium, a half hour or so walk, and when it finished, back again with all the thousands and thousands of people in the late hours. I even bought a T-Shirt.
Music is an interesting thing, isn't it? I hadn't really listened to the Eagles much since I was in my late teens, and to be honest, I wasn't even planning to go until about six weeks ago when one of the whanau (family) said, "Come down to the South Island and we'll go."
I was totally in.
The concert hadn't sold out so getting a ticket wasn't a problem. Ditto the cheap airfares.
BUT... oh my golly gosh... accommodation was an absolute bitch!
Everywhere it seemed had filled up or a fortune was being demanded. And for two gals who like to do things on the cheap, there was no way I was paying for a bed that cost more than the concert ticket and the airfare combined and doubled.
I wondered if something else was happening in Dunedin that weekend to make the city sell out of accommodation, and I googled, but no. There wasn't anything else. It was purely the wonderfulness of an Eagles concert.

Apparently within days of the tickets going on sale, the city had pretty much sold out of accommodation so by the time we got a ticket, months later, there was, it seemed, nothing.
I figured even pitching a tent, like in days of yore, on a campground was a possibility. Worst case scenario, I said, we could sleep in the car. It couldn't be any more uncomfortable than my regular nine hour, over-night bus trips on non-reclining seats.  This idea was not met with approval.
But then, doing a search one more time, after many one-more-times, a room for two popped up at a really decent price, and I grabbed it.
Praise be, I thought.
Praise blimmin be.
The concert was amazing. "Hotel California" live was a spiritual experience. All the songs were amazing. Can I say "amazing" any more? Yes, I darn well can. AMAZING!
The warm up act was originally Aussie singer John Farnham, but he'd come down crook a few weeks before, so Marlon Williams, a Kiwi singer who has done really well these past years, was the first act. He was very, very good. I thought it was quite an inspired choice as he'd be reaching a whole demographic of people (ie middle aged and beyond) who probably hadn't given him a second thought before.
All in all, a pretty splendid time, and as for the cheap seats with the restricted viewing? They were not too shabby at all.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Am Reading

Friday is a good day to ponder one's reading over the past week. Now that I am getting a tad more used to reading on the bus to-and-from work, I'm whipping out a novel as soon as I take my seat. Not so great on the winding bits, but on the straight roads, I'm good.

I'm currently reading Jennifer Probst's The Marriage Bargain, because I read her wonderful writing book, Write Naked and her amazing story of how The Marriage Bargain became a NYT Bestseller, and ended up selling for a million bucks. (Apologies if I've got that order wrong.) This just does not happen for category-length books!  The author's own fairy tale story, to be sure. Wonderful characterisation and dialogue in the novel, too.

On the non-fiction front I am making my way through Judging Shaw by Fintan O'Toole; it's a look at George Bernard Shaw and his GBS brand. There is an exhibition on GBS coming to New Zealand next month so I'm getting up to speed on this fascinating man, his self promotion, and lapping up his sayings. Admission: I only ever knew Shaw as the author of Pygmalion, had no idea about the whole GBS thing and how he invented himself. This book has wonderful images in it as well, and is an eye-opener. I may put it on my birthday list for the fam to consider buying me. It's a beautiful hard cover.  Shaw visited New Zealand in 1934 and the public couldn't get enough of him and his superstar status.

For work, I've been making my way through a stack of local history books for an article I'm writing for a journal on a small town down south, although, to be fair, it's more like consulting the index at the back to find what I want. But it counts! That's what I'm telling myself, anyhoo. The article is due at the end of March but I have yet to start writing it. When the editor asked me the other day how it was going, I said I was 'pondering'.
And in romance fiction, I read a lovely hearth-and-home romance this week, Tina Radcliffe's Falling for the Cowgirl.
~ Joanne.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Judge me by the joy I bring

I had a book voucher to spend recently and while browsing, decided to buy The Bullet Journal book. I got a bullet journal last year but I think I need to up my bujo game, hence the book. I also bought a copy of The Winners Bible by Dr Kerry Spackman, a New Zealander who coaches high performing athletes, among others, on how to improve performance. My brother had recommended the book a while back and when I saw it, I figured I’d give it a go.
Its an interesting book which I am making my way through and taking notes, but today I was pondering a section he calls 'intrinsic drivers'. That is, those reasons for doing things. It's all about digging deep within yourself to figure stuff out. He asks you to list things you like doing and then examine why you like them. Reading, of course, figures and I thought it was really interesting to ponder just why I like reading a novel, romance or any other genre. Straight away I know that with romance I like the happy ending and that you know it's going to end up well. No need to skip to the end to see whodunit. You know the couple are going to end up together. But what else?
Thinking about reading a good book, I came up with a few things. One is that it's just joyful. Blissful. Reading a book you love is one of life’s greatest joys. They’re entertaining, especially if it’s a good laugh out loud chicklit, a la Sophie Kinsella or Jill Mansell. I recently discovered Cathy Maxwell’s regencies, different yet again, but so much fun with a great story and strong female characters. I think there’s an element of accomplishment in finishing a book and adding it to a list such as the "goodreads challenge". I am not one to persevere with a book just 'because' so not everything I start gets finished. I love reading because one can be by oneself, and as someone who is quite anti-social at times most of the time, that’s a biggie. I’m not so sure about escapism. I know that’s a reason for a lot of people to read, but I have never felt the need to escape from life, so I’ll hold fire on that one. And as a writer, certain authors inspire me, particularly when I read something wonderful and want to replicate that with what I write. That’s why I often go back to favourite authors like Fiona Brand, Abby Gaines, Karina Bliss, Nora Roberts, Jenny Crusie et al. 
It’s interesting to ponder, anyway, how something so basic can bring so much joy. As an author (it may have been Kathleen Gilles Seidel ) wrote in an essay in the book Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women (ed. Jayne Ann Krentz)  … judge me by the joy I bring.

Books from the past

I was talking to a friend the other day about reading, and happened to mention that one of the things I liked about romance when I was a ...