The thing about not reading romance

 

Romance

By Janelle

It’s interesting how, if there’s going to be a genre of books that someone stays away from, you can bet it will probably be romance. Poor old romance. It just wants to be loved *snigger*.

But seriously, why is that? I have heard and read of so many people who say the same thing when asked about the kinds of books they read – “Oh I read anything and everything. Except for romance”.

And I admit, I myself fall into this category. I don’t read true crime anymore, but I used to read it a bit. I don’t read westerns, although I’d like to give them a try. I don’t read spy/detective novels, although I wouldn’t turn one away if it came highly recommended. But romance? I have never read a romance novel, and I have never wanted to.

Evidently though, there are a lot of romance readers around. Current stats are hard to come by, but this article from The Australian earlier this year talks about the success of Australian-centred “rural romance” or “ru-ro”. These stats from the Romance Writers of America, although in need of updating, suggest that the industry is a healthy one. And we all know about the Fifty Shades empire, with the first novel Fifty Shades of Grey selling over 100 million copies worldwide to date and being the fastest selling paperback novel of all time. Where are these romance readers hiding? Is that it, are they hiding? Because I certainly don’t know any.

For me personally, I think it’s because I want the books I read to make me wonder, to confront me, to inspire me, to have me completely immersed and not wanting to let go for trivial setbacks such as sleeping and working for a living. And I just don’t think that romance will be able to do any of those things for me.

Am I wrong to judge romance so harshly? Or would you agree?

I also like to take my books with me wherever I go – work, appointments, the toilet….ok that last one’s not true. Or is it?…..

I wouldn’t feel like I could parade a book around in public without a care if there was a busty lady and a hulking gentleman canoodling on the cover. And I definitely would be too prudish to be seen actually reading the pages of something that is clearly raunchy. Those people I heard about back when Fifty Shades was in its prime, completely immersed in it on the bus or in the lunch room? I couldn’t do that. I would feel like I was being watched, onlookers waiting for me to give away some hint of what I was reading. A smirk? Blushed cheeks? She’s reading about nudie bits!

I do however like to live by the motto “don’t knock it until you try it”, so lately I’ve been thinking I need to take my own advice and at least give romance a go before casting it aside? In the privacy of my own home of course.

Do you read romance? And if so, what title would you recommend for me to start with if you wanted me to be won over by this genre?

 We’re linking up with The Weekend Rewind with Maxabella Loves and co., and The Ultimate Rabbit Hole with The Annoyed Thyroid and other friends.

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Read by Mel: July 2015 – Secret Keeping For Beginners by Maggie Alderson

Secret Keeping For Beginners

by Maggie Alderson

Published May 2015

Genres: Fiction / Chick Lit

Everything lurking beneath the surface of this seemingly happy family is about to come bursting out….

Secret Keeping for Beginners follows the individual stories of four women; mother Joy and her daughters, Tessa, Rachel and Natasha, as well as Rachel’s boss Simon. Each individual has a differing underlying ‘secret’ and it is only a matter of time before it starts to affect their relationships with one another and the ‘secret’s come bubbling to the surface. 

Mel says…

I think it is important to start this review by stating that I absolutely LOVE Maggie Alderson. I have read all of her books, so when I found out she was releasing a new book, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it for my first individual review.

This book sets the scene with the family of four women. Firstly there is Joy, the hippy/eclectic ageing mother who is the problem solver of the family. Her eclectic style, utilising meditation and crystals as her main sources of calm and guidance in her life, displays great amounts of compassion to not only her children, but others throughout the story. I found myself wishing I could carry some of my own problems to Joy and have her hold my hand and make everything ok. Her character has the great depth of warmth and welcome that Maggie Alderson was aiming for.

There was no doubting the closeness that was described of the three sisters; Tessa, Rachel and Natasha. I did feel that Rachel’s story was by far the stand out of this book. Her issues and character development made me feel for her in more ways than any of the other characters.

If I had to pick one character whom I disliked, or did not take to, it would have to be Tessa. I felt that Maggie Alderson didn’t portray her well and she felt like a bored stay-at-home Mum. Her back story annoyed me and I found that I would get irritated with her dedicated chapters.

As the title suggests, this book is full of secrets. One for each main character in fact. I felt that the secrets were definitely what drove the story and as the name suggests, each character had uphill battles with their own concerns as well as supporting one another. There was one secret though that I felt was worthy of more than the minimum mentions that it was granted, and that was Joy’s. I was disappointed that it was not given more depth, and it could have possibly been left out completely as Joy played a great role as the confidante.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. Would I read it again? Probably not. But it did give me the heartwarming feel that Maggie Alderson always seems to bring out in me.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Read by Janelle: July 2015 – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

the thirteenth tale

Published 2006

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Mystery

I was spellbound. There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner, wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk. And when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”

Margaret Lea leads a quiet, uncomplicated life, assisting her father in his bookshop, reading whenever she can, and occasionally dabbling in obscure biographical writing. When she unexpectedly receives a letter from Vida Winter, a reclusive bestselling author, requesting Margaret to write her autobiography, she is curiously compelled to accept the invitation. Soon after arriving at Ms Winter’s residence and meeting the aging and sickly writer, Margaret is quickly entranced by her story as slowly the details of her mysterious past are revealed. And what does all this have to do with Ms Winter’s never-published, but infamous, Thirteenth Tale?…….

Janelle says…

This is a book about books. What could be better than reading about reading? Books are a key and recurring feature, sometimes subtly in the background, sometimes directly in the foreground. Vida Winter is one of the world’s most popular novelists of the day. Margaret Lea has grown up surrounded by books in her father’s bookshop, and consuming them in every spare moment. The library in Angelfield House pops up again and again when the story takes us to that location. And scattered throughout are references to books- being read by the characters, mentioned in conversation, simply appearing in the story. Books hold a special place for many of the characters- they are an escape, a creative outlet, a means of living, a measure of one’s knowledge and personality.

This is also a book about families, and how the people around you make you who you are. There are many interconnections between characters, which are revealed one by one as you read on, and they leave their permanent scars on each other as the story unfolds. There are secrets, and lies, and mysteries. And every character in this book seems to carry weight, even the ones intended to be minor characters. Every one has their own story.

The language was beautifully descriptive, at times the author lingering on singular moments or features – a thought, the setting of a room, a particular object…..but I never felt bored, or that the story was moving too slowly. On a few occasions, my breath was taken away by the writing, particular in the passages I’ve featured here.

“The letter was moderate, small enough for economy of ink and paper, and large enough for clarity. There were no embellishments, no elaborate curls, flounces or flourishes. The beauty of the orthography came from the sense of order, balance and proportion that governed each and every letter. It was a good, clean hand. It was Hester herself, made word.”

I listened to The Thirteenth Tale on audiobook, read by Jenny Agutter. Jenny’s spotless enunciation combined with her charming British accent, and ability to tweak her voice slightly to reflect the introduction of each new character, made for a smooth and relaxing listen. Her style suits the tone and language of the book perfectly – well done to whoever chose Jenny to read this story aloud! I honestly don’t know if I would have enjoyed the book as much if I had just read the print version. Unfortunately I did have to read part of it in print – the audiobook version I had was a cd copy from the library, which of course was scratched and would jump from time to time, and OF COURSE the worst damage was over the last 6 or 7 tracks on the last cd. So I completely missed the ending and had to then borrow a print copy just to read the ending!

Read this if you like books about books, if you like stories with many well-defined characters who you will bond with, or if you like mysterious stories with plenty of links between characters and places and events that you will enjoy figuring out as you go along.   Listen to it on audiobook if you like posh British accents, and listen to it if it’s cold and rainy outside – just because it seems to fit the tone.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Read together: June 2015 – The Fever by Megan Abbott

June 2015 – Mel’s choice

The Fever

by Megan Abbott

the fever

Published June 2014

Genres: Fiction / Thriller / Young Adult

‘You spend a long time waiting for life to start – her past year or two filled with all these firsts, everything new and terrifying and significant – and then it does start and you realize it isn’t what you’d expected, or asked for.’ – Deenie Nash.

The Fever follows the story of the three Nashes; Tom, Eli and Deenie. They live in the quiet town of Dryden, where Tom is a teacher at the Dryden High School and Eli and Deenie attend as students. It doesn’t take long for things in this quiet town to start falling apart when two of Deenie’s close friends are the first to fall victim to a mysterious illness, or The Fever. But what is this affliction, and why is it only affecting girls?

Mel says…

My initial feeling for this book began with an excitement. The synopsis on the back cover described a story full of mystery and enticement. The first few chapters started off describing the first victim of the mysterious “fever” and it felt like the readers were in for a very interesting ride. It wasn’t until I was roughly half way through the book that I began realising that the story was waffling back and forth between reasons of this mysterious illness, yet nothing exciting had yet occurred within the plot. The story was very slow to build, and even now that I have finished the book, I am not entirely sure if there was a build at all.

The plot ran back and forth between reasons for this mysterious “fever”, but not delving into much of a storyline for either reason. The character development also felt disjointed. I did not build much of a rapport with any of the main characters, as I felt their back stories were rushed. I did get a sense of the teenage angst that I feel Megan Abbott was trying to get across, through the characters of Deenie, Lise, Gabby and Skye. The moods that were described for the characters did portray this however, there was not enough context around these characters to get a full sense of their back stories, which would lead to these current feelings and events. Gabby, in particular, had a very tragic back story however, apart from having a brief description and then touching on her tragedy in various other parts of the book, this back story was rarely mentioned as her characters demise in the end.

This brings me to victims of the mysterious illness. The story eventually describes how the first victim, Lise, came to be so ill. When I say eventually, I actually mean this is described in the final 30-odd pages of the book. Not a lot of space to provide any interesting and exciting cliffhangers or resolutions. Sigh!

All in all, this book had a lot of potential. I think Megan Abbott needed an extra hundred or so pages to build on her characters and the ending. The briskness of description in this book has been the let down here.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

I was stoked when Mel picked this book for our first joint read, it was also right up there on my own list of books I wanted to choose!  Oooh, maybe it’s some kind of weird sister ESP thing or something…..

The Fever is about growing up, and trying to understand how you and your world are changing as you cross that blurry line between childhood and adulthood. That phase of life can be scary and awkward, just like this story. Puberty is a place filled with intense emotions and confusion, generally a place best forgotten once we’re past it. As I was reading, I could feel that familiar teenage state coming through in the characters as they tried to understand what was happening in their little part of the world – relationships are over-analysed, games are played, nothing else in the world is as important as what is happening to you and your friends right now. In The Fever, we’re shown how dangerous decisions can be when they’re made in times of extreme emotion and without proper judgement, as decisions made in puberty sometimes are. Beware of hormonal teenagers!

I found at most times the pace of this book was too slow for me. The chapters consist of lots of smaller sub-chapters representing different characters’ points of view. While being handy for those moments when you only have time to read a short snippet, it meant that the story was jumping around constantly between characters, sometimes twice or more over the course of a double-page spread. You might think that this would have the effect of speeding the pace up, and it probably would have, if the story didn’t get stuck on the never-ending speculation of what was happening to the girls, why it’s happening, and the same old theories being thrown around again, and again, and again. And oh look – again! It seemed to be at a stand-still a lot of the time, and it didn’t take long for me to feel frustrated by the lack of anything happening.

I think the way the chapters were formed could also be the reason for why I didn’t feel very connected to any of the characters. You’re with one character for a few paragraphs, and then suddenly their view stops and you’re back with someone else. But then again, most of the characters are teenagers and are very obviously still figuring themselves out, so in a way it didn’t feel completely unreasonable to not fully understand who they were.

There was a point about 2/3 of the way through where the story seemed to pick up intensity and suspense, and I felt like it was finally speeding towards something. But I have to say, I was underwhelmed by the ending. All in all, I had high hopes for this book because I’d read some good reviews but I was disappointed, and disappointed to be disappointed because I think it could have been something amazing!

Read this if you’re a teenager yourself, you will probably empathise with the personal struggles that the younger characters are dealing with. Don’t read this if you’re expecting a gripping, dark YA thriller like I was, it’s halfway there but doesn’t fully deliver.

If you do want to read a review of this book that delivers on the funnies though, check out this on Goodreads.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Linking up with The Ultimate Rabbit Hole at The Annoyed Thyroid

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