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Pamelad's 18 in 2018

2018 Category Challenge

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Edited: Sep 16, 1:16am Top

Here's my first draft. Aiming for a minimum of 4 books in each category, except Ulysses. Double counting is allowed.

1. Ulysses

The Bloomsday Book by Harry Blamires
Ulysses by James Joyce

2. Off the shelf

Submission by Michel Houellebecq
Bosnian Chronicle by Ivo Andric
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich
The Comedians by Graham Greene
Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain
At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell
The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

3. Off the Kindle

Daisy's Aunt by E F Benson
The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretzer
The Screaming Mimi by Fredric Brown
The Three Sisters by May Sinclair
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Speak of the Devil by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Tenth of December by George Saunders .

4. Prize winners

Quota by Jock Serong Ned Kelly - first novel, 2015
Bosnian Chronicle by Ivo Andric Nobel
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich Nobel
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Booker

5. In translation

Submission by Michel Houellebecq
Bosnian Chronicle by Ivo Andric
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich
Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo
Memories - From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi

6. Australian

The Golden Child by Wendy James
The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretzer
Quota by Jock Serong
The Islamic Republic of Australia by Sami Shah
Rabbit Heart by Tracey McGuire
The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

7. New authors

Parson's House by Elizabeth Cadell
Ace of Hearts by Barbara Metzger
Lord Sidley's Last Season by Sherry Lynn Ferguson
The Lady's Companion by Carla Kelly
The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews
A Very Dutiful Daughter by Elizabeth Mansfield
Quota by Jock Serong
The Golden Child by Wendy James
The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes
The Life and Death of Harriet Frean by May Sinclair
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo
The Shelton Conspiracy by Rae Foley
The Inn at the Edge of the World by Alice Thomas Ellis
Memories - From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
The Russian Countess by Edith Sollohub
The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly
Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Edited: Jul 19, 8:23am Top

13. Humour

Daisy's Aunt by E. F. Benson
Picadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse
Something Fresh aka Something New by P. G. Wodehouse
The Unbearable Bassington by Saki
Heavy Weather by P. G. Wodehouse
Love among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse

14. Non-fiction

The Dancing Bear by Frances Faviell
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff
The Islamic Republic of Australia by Sami Shah
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
The Russian Countess by Edith Sollohub
Woe is I by Patricia T. O'Connor
Keepers - the greatest films and personal favorites of a moviegoing lifetime by Richard Schickel
Longitude by Dava Sobel

15. Crime

Rendezvous in Black by Cornell Woolrich
The Screaming Mimi by Fredric Brown
We All Killed Grandma by Fredric Brown
The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes
Four Lost Ladies by Stuart Palmer
Pursuit of a Parcel by Patricia Wentworth
Will o' the Wisp by Patricia Wentworth
Anne Belinda by Patricia Wentworth
The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly
Ragtime in Simla by Barbara Cleverly
The Dishonest Murderer by Frances Lockridge
Dead or Alive by Patricia Wentworth
Rolling Stone by Patricia Wentworth
The Damascened Blade by Barbara Cleverly
Murder Comes First by Frances and Richard Lockridge
Lady Molly of Scotland Yard by Baroness Orczy
Speak of the Devil by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Wings of a Spy by Tory Hageman
The Ex by Alafair Burke
Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
Death drops the Pilot by George Bellairs
The Ace of Clubs Murder by Ralph Trevor

16. Historical

Ace of Hearts by Barbara Metzger
Lord Sidley's Last Season by Sherry Lynn Ferguson
The Lady's Companion by Carla Kelly
The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews
A Very Dutiful Daughter by Elizabeth Mansfield
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly
Ragtime in Simla by Barbara Cleverly
The Damascened Blade by Barbara Cleverly

17. Recommendations

The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes
Rabbit Heart by Tracey McGuire
The Shelton Conspiracy by Rae Foley
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
The Russian Countess by Edith Sollohub
Maurice by E. M. Forster
Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

18. Everything else

The Inn at the Edge of the World by Alice Thomas Ellis
The Summer House by Alice Thomas Ellis
The Adventures of Dagobert Trostler by Balduin Groller
Unexplained Laughter by Alice Thomas Ellis

Nov 17, 2017, 12:35pm Top

I hope you fill your categories with great books in 2018.

Nov 17, 2017, 5:42pm Top

>3 pamelad: An excellent cheat! I myself am planning to read Father Brown for the brown month ;)

Good luck with Ulysses! Will you be reading a companion book alongside it or will you just plunge in?

Nov 17, 2017, 6:55pm Top

Great to see you are ready to launch 2018! I'm looking forward to following along. :)

Nov 19, 2017, 12:46pm Top

Looking forward to following your reading in 2018!

Nov 20, 2017, 2:01am Top

Thanks everyone for dropping in.

>5 rabbitprincess: I've ordered The Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Joyce's Ulysses by Harry Blamires. I've never got past page 60 before, but this time I plan to finish. Reading In Search of Lost Time has inspired me, because I'm up to volume 7 and will finish it this year. And I've enjoyed reading it! Years ago I gave up after volume 2.

Nov 27, 2017, 5:35pm Top

>3 pamelad: - Ha! I'm considering the exact same book for the ColorCAT.

Nov 28, 2017, 5:27am Top

I'm happy to see you're here, looking forward to follow your reading!

Jan 1, 3:07am Top

Forgot to leave spaces to record the books, so had to delete a few posts.

Jan 1, 5:29am Top

16. Historical

Finished the first book of 2018. Ace of Hearts by Barbara Metzger

I was looking for a replacement for Georgette Heyer, and now I've settled into a binge of second, third and fourth rate Regency Romances. They're the potato chips of literature.

If I said that this one was formulaic, would you be surprised? It was quite readable.

Jan 1, 7:32am Top

Looking forward to following your reading again! Ulysses!!! I can't handle another big book right away after Proust.

Jan 1, 8:59pm Top

>12 pamelad: If you do find any good Heyer read-alikes, please let me know! Although there's nothing wrong with potato chips every once in a while. :)

Jan 1, 10:38pm Top

>14 christina_reads: I just finished Lord Sidley's Last Season by Sherry Lynn Ferguson. It's the best of the five I've read in the last few days.

Just Like Heaven by Julia King
A Gentleman Never Tells by Eloisa James
Henrietta by Marion Chesney
Ace of Hearts by Barbara Metzger

Just Like Heaven and A Gentleman Never Tells are full of anachronisms. I wouldn't recommend them. Lots of lust. Modern heroines transplanted to Regency England. Very little historical detail.

Marion Chesney aka M. C. Beaton is worth a try. Being English is an advantage because I don't like to read Americanisms in what is a very English genre. No gottens. Autumn, not fall. The drawback is that most of her books, competent though they are, read as though they were tossed off in an afternoon.

Ace of Hearts was quite entertaining. Not many anachronisms, but some Americanisms. I suppose that if you were American you might not notice.

Some other authors on my list are Elizabeth Mansfield (inter-library loan pending), Mary Balogh and Anne Gracie.

>13 japaul22: Neither can I! I'm immersed in frippery. Ulysses is scheduled for May. I should be ready by then.

Jan 2, 1:49pm Top

>15 pamelad: Thanks for the recommendation! Have you read Knaves' Wager by Loretta Chase? I've found the author to be hit-or-miss, but I really enjoyed that particular book!

Jan 2, 5:59pm Top

Favourite Books of 2017

5 star reads

Three volumes of In Search of Lost Time: The Guermantes Way; Sodom and Gomorrah; Finding Time Again by Marcel Proust
The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes

4.5* reads

Tom Tiddler's Ground by Ursula Orange
Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby by Donald Barthelme
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank
Naomi by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Two more volumes of Proust: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower and The Way by Swann's

Of the many 4* reads, the following are the most memorable: the whole of Mick Herron's Slow Horses series, Mrs Oliphant's Carlingford series, An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris and An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman.

Jan 2, 6:00pm Top

>16 christina_reads: Thanks Christina.

Jan 3, 12:16am Top

Read Rendezvous in Black by Cornell Woolrich for the January Colour CAT.

A young man's girl is killed as she waits for him. He takes revenge. Can Cameron the policeman save any of these potential victims?

This is bleak, black, the epitome of forties noir. It just whips along.

Jan 3, 4:38pm Top

Read two more historical romances.

The Lady's Companion by Carla Kelly

American Regency. Characters speak modern-day American English. Heroine is anachronistically democratic.

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews

This one is Victorian, not Regency. No glaring Americanisms. Quite enjoyed it. None of Heyer's humour.

My historical category has its minimum four, and I've read enough of these for now. None of them came anywhere near Georgette Heyer. I was looking for Heyer's wit and historical accuracy, but didn't find them. I discovered the sub-genre American Regency, which I now know to avoid. Modern American heroines transplanted to Regency England are anachronistic and jarring.

Jan 3, 6:50pm Top

>19 pamelad: This one was so good! I also really liked I Married a Dead Man (not just because of the title).

Jan 4, 5:24am Top

Now reading The Dancing Bear by Frances Faviell. She was a British artist who lived with her husband and small son in Berlin immediately after WWII. This is a subjective and honest account of the occupation of Berlin, by a compassionate and honest observer.

Last year I read her Chelsea Concerto, about the London Blitz.

>21 rabbitprincess: There's a film, No Man of Her Own, based on that book. It stars Barbara Stanwyck, and is well worth watching.

Jan 5, 2:59am Top

14. Non-fiction

The Dancing Bear by Frances Faviell

Frances Faviell, with her small son, accompanied her husband to Berlin in 1946. He worked with the British occupying forces. Berlin was devastated: no commercial buildings remained, people camped in bomb shelters and partially destroyed houses. Berliners could buy food only on the black market, for exhorbitant prices. The winter was bitterly cold and fuel was scarce. In the British sector, Britons were forbidden to give Germans lifts or to have German visitors. Signs on buildings said "No Germans". Even so, many Britons did whatever they could to help, including the author. Her book focuses one family, the Altmans, particularly Mrs Altman.

This is a compassionate and honest account of Berlin straight after the war: the poverty of the population; the background to the division of Berlin; the Berlin airlift; the black market; the gulf between the cynical young people and their traditional parents; German family life as it appears to an outsider; the Hitler youth.

I recommend this book highly. Faviell was there.

Jan 5, 7:35pm Top

Now reading Fire and Fury. Being able to download this just after publication is a big advantage of the Kindle. So far, the writing is terrible but the subject is fascinating.

It's going to be 42 C (108 F) here today, so I'm going to stay inside and read.

Also reading E F Benson's Daisy's Aunt, which has been on my Kindle for ages. I'm a big Benson fan, the Lucia series in particular, and Daisy's Aunt is not what I expected.

Jan 6, 7:49pm Top

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

This is a valuable contribution to the getting rid of Trump cause. The writing is terrible - verbose, full of insider political jargon and sweeping, unjustified assertions - but that doesn't matter. Wolff's premise is that Trump is ignorant, inconsistent, incompetent, infantile and possibly illiterate. Competent people make him feel insecure, so he gets rid of them. Wolff marshals his evidence to support his case. I do not trust Wolff's views and judgement - he comes across just as badly as some of the people he denigrates - but he's interviewed and quoted enough insiders to be taken seriously.

Jan 7, 9:34am Top

>24 pamelad:
North America could use some of that heat!

Jan 8, 4:14am Top

The Golden Child by Wendy James was shortlisted for the 2017 Ned Kelly Award. Sophie, a lonely 12-year-old girl, is bullied at school and online. The book begins with Sophie in intensive care, with her recovery uncertain. Beth, the mother of the child who allegedly masterminded the bullying, is grateful for her child's sake that Sophie is not dead, at least not yet. Beth is a mummy blogger, adept at accentuating the highs and glossing over the lows. Initially the reader's sympathy is with Beth a devoted parent. Is her daughter evil? Can Beth be held responsible?

I've given it 3 stars. An entertaining read, but not memorable.

Jan 8, 6:50am Top

>25 pamelad: You read it! I'm not intending to, as I need no convincing and I'm sure I wouldn't like the tone even if I agree with the end conclusions.

Jan 8, 3:50pm Top

>28 japaul22: It helped me sort out who the participants are. I wasn't aware of Hope Hollis, for example, and had only a vague idea of how Ivanka and her husband are involved. But Wolff's ego might just be as big as Trump's!

Daisy's Aunt by E. F. Benson

Benson is a favourite of mine, particularly his Lucia series, so I read this expecting high comedy. Not at all. It's a sentimental little story of Daisy's aunt Jeannie's attempt to save Daisy from an unsuitable attachment. It's quite sentimental, and a real period piece.

Jan 8, 6:41pm Top

>27 pamelad: Ha! When I saw the title of this book I immediately flashed on the movie of the same title starring Eddie Murphy. No similarities, I bet.

Jan 11, 12:37am Top

>27 pamelad: Looked it up. Wendy James's golden child is no lama!

Edited: Jan 11, 12:39am Top

Plodding along with the sad and dreary The Life to Come.

Edited: Jan 11, 7:29pm Top

The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretzer

The writing draws attention to itself. The narration is sardonic and permeated with dislike of the characters. It was a hard slog to the finish.

Jan 11, 7:52pm Top

25\ My husband bought the book just because he figured it was worth $20 to irritate 45. It's still #1 on Amazon.

Jan 14, 12:41am Top

After reading a lot of coal so far this year, I've come across a diamond. Submission has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. First I read Huysmans' Against the Grain, in 2016, because it features on the first page, but didn't get around to reading Submission itself.

Submission by Michel Houellebecq

When it seems that Marine Le Pen's National Front has an even chance of winning the 2022 French elections, the Socialists and a centre-right party, the UMP, form a coalition with the apparently moderate Muslim Fraternity to make sure of defeating the racist, far-right National Front. The narrator clearly describes the compromises the parties must make, the long-held policies the socialists and the UMP must sacrifice, in order to make a deal. After the coalition winds the election, the Islamic religion and culture subsume French society. Women disappear from public life, the school leaving age is lowered to twelve, social welfare payments are eliminated, only Islamic educational institutions are publicly funded, Jews emigrate en masse, and men take multiple wives, some as young as fifteen.

Francois, the narrator, is a professor of literature at the Sorbonne, specialising in Huysmans, best known for Against the Grain, published in 1884, about the decadent life of the wealthy, aristocratic Des Esseintes, who was based partly on the infamous Robert de Montesquiou, who was also a model for Proust's Baron Charlus. Huysmans is a recurring theme in Submission. Francois compares the decadence of contemporary French society to the decadence of Huysmans' time, and the imposition of Islamic religion and culture to Huysmans eventually embracing the Catholic church. In order to keep his job at the Sorbonne, Francois would have to convert to Islam.

This is a comedy, but I gasped before I laughed. Francois is depressed and alienated, and cares for no-one. He is utterly neutral, taking no ethical stand whatsoever, guided only by his own self-interest, but his only interests are eating, drinking, smoking, sex and Huysmans. His colleagues are no better. French culture disappears as every man looks after himself.

Submission is a hugely entertaining and thought-provoking book. Read it.

Jan 14, 6:11pm Top

During my regency Romance investigation I put in an ILL request for Lords and Ladies by Elizabeth Mansfield. It is a collection of three short novels: A very Dutiful Daughter; The Counterfeit Husband and the Bartered Bride. I read the first. It was typical of the genre, of which I have had a surfeit, and did not stand out in any way. I will not be reading further.

Jan 15, 6:39pm Top

After finishing In Search of Lost Time I binged on light literature - regency romances, the British domestic comedies of Elizabeth Fair and Ursula Orange, cosy crime novels - most of which I downloaded from Amazon. Elizabeth Cadell kept appearing as a recommendation, so I put in inter-library loan requests for a couple of her books. I've just finished Parson's House, which I thought was utter tripe. Not only does the plot feature ghosts, always a mistake in my opinion, but for a book published in 1977 it is almost an anti-feminist manifesto. I'm happy to ignore the restricted roles of women in books of the thirties and earlier because they reflect their times, but in this book, at least, Cadell comes across to me as a woman-denigrating dinosaur.

I liked Ursula Orange's books, which went beyond domestic comedy. Elizabeth Fair's were mildly enjoyable but similar to one another, like Angela Thirkell's where you keep coming across the same characters with different names. None of the Regency romances came anywhere near Georgette Heyer's, but Lord Sidley's Last Season and The Lost Letter (Victorian, not Regency) were quite readable.

I'm about to start Ivo Andric's Bosnian Chronicle and for light relief am reading P G Wodehouse's Picadilly Jim, which is on the Guardian 1000 list.

Jan 15, 7:28pm Top

I Love Wodehouse!

Jan 16, 6:08am Top

>38 cmbohn: Me too. I'm planning to read his Something Fresh and Heavy Weather as well. Years ago I went to India, and was surprised to see that the bookshops were full of P. G. Wodehouse!

Jan 17, 3:48pm Top

Wodehouse should be a better antidote for lots of serious reading than subpar romances!

Jan 18, 5:51pm Top

Replaced 9. Rediscovered with Wishlist.

My wishlist is a black hole, so I'm going to start acquiring and reading some of the books on it.

Jan 19, 4:31am Top

4. Prize Winners

Quota by Jock Serong won the Ned Kelly award for a first crime novel in 2015. It is set in Victoria, mainly in a small town on the southwest coast, partly in Melbourne. Unfortunately it has no real sense of place. The country town is generic, and so is the the city. None of the characters made an impression on me, so it was hard to care what happened to them. Eve thought the book is relatively short, the pace is tediously slow. I thought the ending was silly, and would have been at home in a YA novel.

The other reviews on LT are so glowing that I feel the need to counter them!

Jan 19, 10:56am Top

>41 pamelad: Glancing through the wishlisted titles I didn't see any I recognized (except the Nancy Pearl one). This is an admirable ambition. Good luck!

Jan 20, 10:13pm Top

>43 mamzel: Thank you. I've started by reserving Red Strangers on an ILL, and buying a second-hand copy of A Season in Sinji.

Edited: Jan 24, 2:53am Top

I just bought We All Killed Grandma by Fredric Brown. Reading his The Screaming Mimi for the February colour CAT. Such good titles!

Jan 25, 1:10am Top

Bosnian Chronicle by Ivo Andric is set in the small Bosnian town of Travnik, during the Napoleonic wars. People from four religions live in Travnik - Jews who were banished from Spain 300 years ago, and still try to maintain their Spanish traditions; Orthodox Christians, mainly Serbian; Muslims, called Turks even though they are native Bosnians; Catholics. Bosnia is part of the Ottoman Empire, ruled by the Sultan in Istanbul who is represented in Travnik by the Vizier.

The Ottoman empire is in decline. It has lost its Hungarian territories to the Austrians, and Serbia is in revolt against Ottoman rule. As Napoleon endeavours to establish an alliance with the Ottomans, a French consulate is set up in Travnik. To counter French influence, the Austrians set up a consulate as well. Andric describes the lives of the consuls, Europeans stranded in the Levant among alien people and customs, carrying out diplomatic duties that change with their countries' shifting alliances.

This was a slow read because there is so much going on, so many layers, so much to think about. Absolutely worth the effort.

Jan 25, 4:19am Top

>46 pamelad: This sounds like a good, interesting read.

Jan 27, 4:26am Top

The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes

Alex is devastated by grief after the death of her fiance, and moves from London to Edinburgh to escape her old life. Her old drama tutor is now the principal of an educational unit for adolescents who have been unable to fit into mainstream schools, and offers her a job teaching drama. Alex forms a bond with her senior class through the study of Greek tragedy, and becomes much too close to them, leading to disaster.

As an ex-secondary school teacher, I wanted more authenticity. Even so, I was engaged and interested.

Jan 27, 1:55pm Top

You definitely got my interest with Bosnian Chronicle. I wonder if the library has it.

Jan 28, 10:46pm Top

>49 cmbohn: I hope you find it in the library. I bought my copy in a second-hand bookshop in Chiang Mai. A different sort of souvenir.

Andric was born in Bosnia, but of a Serbian background, so his view of the Bosnian Muslims and the Ottoman rulers certainly isn't neutral. Bosnian Chronicle provides some background to the conflicts that still go on.

Edited: Jan 29, 12:06am Top

Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse

This is the first book in the Blandings series. It started off slowly, but towards the end I was in hysterics. I've ordered the next two Blandings books.

The Life and Death of Harriet Frean by May Sinclair

Harriet Frean is a well-behaved girl. She always does what her parents expect of her. By doing the "right thing" she destroys three lives. This is a short book, available free for the Kindle, and well worth reading. Sinclair was a suffragist, a feminist and a modernist. May Sinclair:the readable modernist.

The Islamic Republic of Australia by Sami Shah

Shah was born a Shia in Pakistan, a country with a Sunni government and majority Sunni population. Some Sunnis believe that Shias are heretics and blasphemers, so Shias are at risk from Sunni extremists and the blasphemy laws. Blasphemy in Pakistan is a capital crime. The main reason, however, that Shah and his family emigrated to Australia was not the risk of violence, but because they have a daughter, and opportunities for girls and women are far from equal in Pakistan. Shah now lives in Melbourne where he is a radio announcer, writer and stand-up comedian.

Sahh and his wife, Ishma Alvi, a psychologist who contributed a chapter to this book, are atheists. They have abandoned Islam because they cannot live according to the Qu'ran. In his book Shah describes some contentious passages and contradictions, and interviews Muslims and ex-Muslims to find out what they think.

This is an informative book. There are many different groups of Muslims in Australia, and Shah sets out to explain who they are and where they came from: Shia and Sunni; sub-groups of Sunni including Wahhabi, Hanafi, Sufi; sub-groups of Shia; national groups. However, in Australia these divisions are not as important as the practical differences defined by the way people act. He creates four groups, ranging from Muslims who do not pray or read the Qu'ran to the downright crazy (he's a stand-up comedian, so you have to put up with the "humour"), who are a tiny minority.

The Muslim community is much more heterogeneous and complex than it is presented in the media, and by politicians like Pauline Hansen. The Islamic Republic of Australia is very helpful in providing a broader perspective.

Jan 29, 6:05am Top

We All Killed Grandma by Fredric Brown

Rod Britten finds his grandmother dead on the floor with a bullet hole in her forehead, so he rings the police, but by the time they arrive, Rod has forgotten who he is. He doesn't think he's the murderer, and neither does anyone else, including the police, but Rod isn't sure. Seriously hampered by amnesia, he tries to discover what happened that evening.

I liked the characters, Brown's writing, and the atmosphere, but the plot was rubbish.

Jan 29, 8:39am Top

>51 pamelad: I've just added The Islamic Republic of Australia to my wishlist. I've heard Sami on a podcast once and thought he was pretty funny, so I'm keen to read more.

Jan 29, 10:23am Top

>51 pamelad: - I have Something Fresh on my shelf to read once I finish all the Jeeves books. Looking forward to it!

Jan 31, 3:46pm Top

>51 pamelad: I loved Something Fresh too! I hope to get to the rest of the Blandings books soon.

Great review of The Islamic Republic of Australia. That's one for my wishlist.

Feb 2, 12:18am Top

>53 Jackie_K:, >55 VivienneR: In The Islamic Republic of Australia, all the people interviewed are Australians, the Muslim communities he talks about are all in Australian cities, and the politics are Australian. Still worthwhile reading if you're overseas, just as long as you're aware there's a strong local slant.

The next two books in the Blandings series have just arrived. Something to look forward to.

Feb 3, 5:12am Top

ColourCAT - Brown

The Screaming Mimi by Fredric Brown

The screeming meemies are hysterics, or extreme fear. In Brown's noir crime novel, the screaming mimi is a statuette of a desperately frightened girl, and it turns out to be a clue in a series of murders. The investigator is Sweeney, a reporter fresh from a two week bender. Brown's people can really drink!

A ripper is killing beautiful blondes. An exotic dancer, Yolanda, survives. She makes such an impression on Sweeney that he decides to find the ripper in order to protect her.

Feb 4, 12:24am Top

Guardian 1000

The Unbearable Bassington by Saki

Comus, named after the lord of misrule, is the son of Francesca Bassington, a woman much attached to her possessions, but chronically short of money. Comus, while charming and handsome, is selfish and extravagant. With no hope of him ever working for a living, Francesca sees that the only solution is a rich wife.

Saki is best known for his short stories, and I think that form better suits his cruel wit. A novel provides too long an acquaintance with his malicious characters, who begin to pall. There is, however, a twist at the end that suggests that not all his characters are as nasty as they seem.

If you're going to read Saki, I'd suggest Googling suggestions of his best short stories. I just read The Unrest Cure and Sredni Vashtar, in The Chronicles of Clovis. Very funny, but you hate yourself for laughing. Saki is no P. G. Wodehouse.

Feb 5, 6:13pm Top

>58 pamelad: I read a collection of some of his short stories a few years ago and really enjoyed them. It surprised me quite a bit as I don't usually do short stories and there was a lot of them in the collection. I could definitely see how the characters might grate a bit if spending more time with them though, they're not usually the most likeable of sorts are they?

Feb 7, 12:44am Top

>59 AHS-Wolfy: I haven't come across any high-minded altruists yet. They wouldn't be funny!

Feb 7, 12:57am Top

I just read Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, mainly because The Unwomanly Face of War is so harrowing, not surprisingly.

Fisher is dealing here with the aftermath of ECT. She had thought she was an alcoholic, so went off the drugs and alcohol, only to become psychotic. She hadn't known she was bipolar. Her very short book consists mainly of some very funny stories from her life, some of which would have been tragic when they happened. Each chapter starts with a quote, and I particularly like this one: Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Feb 14, 12:53am Top

The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

Alexievich spent years seeking out and interviewing Soviet women who fought in World War II. Her book was first published, in a heavily-censored version, in the Soviet Union in 1985. Until then, the women who fought on the front lines had been silent, and their participation forgotten. When Alexievich won the Nobel prize in 2015, only one of her books, Voices from Chernobyl had been published in English, so there was a rush to translate the others. The Unwomanly Face of War was translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volonkhonsky, whose translations you either like or don't, and I don't so had to get over it.

It took me quite a while to finish this book because it was so sad and so harrowing that I could only read a small amount at a time. Soviet deaths in WWII are estimated to be over 26 million people, 15% of the population.This chart shows WWII deaths as a percentage of population. This is not what we learned at school. The Soviet Union was barely mentioned and we thought the British won the war with the aid of the British Commonwealth and America, and to a smaller extent, the Free French and the resistance fighters in occupied countries. In reality, it was the Soviet Union that played the greatest role in defeating Hitler's Germany. Many millions of non-combatants died as the Nazis implemented lebensraum, their plan to expand into Eastern Europe and wipe out the Slavic inhabitants. Huge swathes of the Soviet Union were destroyed, and their populations wiped out.

Alexievich organises snippets of interviews thematically, so the impact builds. The women's perspective is personal: the dead are people, not statistics. While they fighting at the front, their children and parents are being killed, and when victory finally comes, many of the women return home to find nothing. No buildings, no people.

Everyone should read this book.

Feb 14, 12:57am Top

I have a hypothesis about Richard Pevear. I think he might just be a bad writer. I keep having to read sentences twice to get their meaning. He translated the book into American English, which always irritates me. When I read a woman replying "No way!", I was relieved that he left out the "Jose".

Feb 14, 8:41am Top

>62 pamelad: >63 pamelad: I really want to read that. Apparently Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation of War and Peace is meant to be amazing (I've only ever read the Maudes' translation, and know to avoid Constance Garnett).

Edited: Feb 14, 11:39am Top

>63 pamelad: I really don't like their translations either. I was totally lost in Doctor Zhivago and now blame it at least partially on the translation. I've also read their Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman and part of War and Peace at which point I said enough. War and Peace was a reread for me so I knew it didn't have to be so convoluted and the dialogue needn't be so stilted!

But, you're right, many people who are smarter than me love their translations so to each his own!

Feb 15, 1:54am Top

>64 Jackie_K: I've read that Constance Garnett's translations of Dostoevsky are none too good, but that she does a good job on Tolstoy. This article by Janet Malcolm compares the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Anna Karenina with the Constance Garnett translation, and decides firmly in favour of Garnett.

Feb 15, 2:02am Top

>65 japaul22: I was looking up Robert Chandler, who has done, I think, a very good job of translating Vasily Grossman and found this quote about the Russian emigree writer Teffi:

As the Russian émigré poet Georgy Adamovich wrote about her in 1931: “There are writers who muddy their own water, to make it seem deeper. Teffi could not be more different: the water is entirely transparent, yet the bottom is barely visible.”

That's exactly what I think about Pevear and Volonkhovsky - they are muddying the water to make it seem deeper.

I will check out Teffi.

Feb 15, 4:58am Top

Hmm, and one day after this conversation, The Unwomanly Face of War is on offer in both kobo and the kindle store for 99p. I've had to get it (can't pass it up at that price!), but will bear in mind the warnings about the translation!

Feb 17, 6:02pm Top

>69 Jackie_K: Don't let the translation put you off reading it.

Edited: Feb 17, 11:44pm Top

And some prize winners.

1. CWA Daggers
2. Ned Kelly Awards

More to come.

Feb 22, 5:41am Top

One from the Wishlist.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Maud's dementia is getting worse. She can't find the words for everyday objects, she gets lost, and sometimes she doesn't remember who her daughter is. But she does remember her friend Elizabeth, and she wants to find her. In Maud's confused mind, the past and the present are mixed up together, and the missing Elizabeth reminds her of Sukey, the sister who went missing 70 years before.

I admired the author's compassion and imagination, but did not much enjoy this book.

Edited: Feb 25, 12:47am Top

This one was on the Kindle, and on the Guardian 1000 list.

The Three Sisters by May Sinclair

Three women live in an isolated vicarage with their horrible father who goes out of his way to make them miserable. Marriage would be their only escape, but they never meet anyone.

Like The Life and Death of Harriet Frean, this is a bleak view of the lives of women at the turn of last century.

Feb 25, 12:47am Top

Another from the wishlist.

Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo

This eerie novella, the precursor of Magical Realism, first published in Spanish in 1955, was a huge influence on Latin American writers like Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Juan Preciado's mother's dying wish is that he travel to the town of Conala to find his father, Pedro Paramo. Conalo seems to be ghost town, the streets deserted. The first person Preciado meets, a burro driver who also claims Pedro Paramo as a father, directs him to the house of his mother's old friend, Eduviges.

It took me a while to realise that everyone Preciado met was dead. The time switches from the past to the present and back again without warning and people appear with no introduction, but everything is connected by Pedro Paramo, who is evil.

I wish I knew more about Mexico, because I'm sure there are many layers to this book that I have missed.

The translation was OK, but a few conversations were translated into 1994 American English, which jarred. Colloquial language must be difficult to translate, but I think translators should avoid anachronisms, like.

Feb 27, 9:01pm Top

The African Queen by C. S. Forester

Written in 1935, Forester's book is set in a German colony in Africa during WWI. Rose Sayer has lived there for ten years, looking after her joyless missionary brother, Samuel. When war is declared, the Germans commandeer the mission's goods and all the native converts. Samuel succumbs to disease and despair, and dies. 200 miles upriver, the Belgian mining company has also been commandeered. Its cockney engineer, Allnut, arrives by boat at the mission, to Rose's relief. Together Rose and Allnut set off in the battered boat, the African Queen, to do their bit for the British.

What I liked: this was a gripping adventure story, very entertaining; it was great to see Rose escape the restrictions of her upbringing and religion and show herself to be courageous, optimistic and capable.

What I didn't like: the class consciousness, demonstrated by the patronising treatment of Rose and Allnut; the love story; the ending; the racism; the cockney dialect.

Still, an enjoyable read. I cannot imagine the patrician Katherine Hepburn playing the shopkeeper's daughter, Rose, nor Humphrey Bogart playing the easily-led Allnut. The film must have changed their characters. I've ordered it on ebay, so will see.

Feb 27, 11:27pm Top

Rae Foley kept popping up on LT's automatic recommendations, so I put in an ILL request for The Shelton Conspiracy.

Hall Masson has returned to the small town where he grew up to find out how his brother, Robin, and Robin's wife Lillian, died. Robin was a war hero, and the town had erected an obelisk to honour him. (Is this normal in small-town America? It seems peculiar to me.) No-one in the town wants the truth about the deaths to be revealed, but Hall solves the mystery. The characters in this book behaved very oddly, for the sake of the plot.

Feb 28, 12:21pm Top

>76 pamelad: I saw the movie many years ago, then later read the book. The problem with this sequence was that I saw Hepburn and Bogart in the parts very clearly and was unable to tell if this met Forester's intention or not. The movie is probably dated now, but I"m sure you will enjoy it.

Mar 1, 1:14pm Top

I too, saw the movie before reading the book so Bogart and Hepburn were imprinted in my brain for these characters. I loved the movie and the book but there were definitely some differences between the fictional characters and the movie characters.

Mar 4, 5:25am Top

The Inn at the Edge of the World by Alice Thomas Ellis

Eric the ex-engineer sank his savings into an isolated inn on a Scottish island, imagining that happy holiday-makers would flock there. Unfortunately, the well-heeled travellers don't come, the regulars who do come disgust him, and his unhappy wife is no help at all. To dredge up some paying customers, Eric advertises for people who want a non-Christmas holiday, and gets five takers: a well-known actress, a young actor who just might be murderously insane, an elderly widower, a psychiatrist whose wife has left him, and a woman who heads a department in a large store.There are ghosts, which normally would put me right off, but they are not intrusive, and seem a natural part of the island population.

The writing was clean, sharp and witty. The characters were well-drawn. Even the ghosts belonged. I enjoyed this book.

Mar 6, 6:56pm Top

>64 Jackie_K:
I read that translation and I'm not sure I would call it amazing. True to the original, very much so, but not hugely poetic.

>75 pamelad:
I've had that one on Mt. TBR for a looong time. I really want to get to it soon.

Mar 8, 1:01am Top

Memories: from Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi

Teffi was a famous and much-loved a writer in pre-revolutionary Russia. Lenin was a fan, though she was no fan of his, and so was the Czar. She wrote short, humorous pieces for left-wing magazines. Teffi had supported the first revolution, but not the subsequent Bolshevic revolution that overthrew the provisional government. This memoir describes her flight from Russia, ahead of the Bolshevic army. Initially she left for what she thought was a temporary sojourn in Odessa, where there was plenty of food, unlike Moscow and St Petersburg, comfortable accommodation, and the opportunity to perform readings of her work. She believed that the Bolsheviks would not endure, and had no idea that she was leaving Russia for ever.

Teffi writes lightly of tragedy. She observes dishonesty and betrayal with sardonic humour, and of barbarity with humanity, even compassion. Her lightness of touch is a counterpoint to the disasters she describes: people she last saw in a drawing room in St Petersburg executed for treason; gay and frivolous young men on their way fight and die for a doomed cause; the barbarity of the White colonel whose wife and children were tortured in front of him. Interspersed with the tragic episodes are the frivolous stories of actors and plays, new journals popping up overnight, women fitting in a last hair appointment before they flee.

The translation, by a string of people that includes Robert Chandler flows well without jarring, and, as far as I can judge, does a good job of imparting Teffi's humour.


Mar 8, 1:09am Top

Four Lost Ladies by Stuart Palmer

This is a Hildegarde Withers story. Withers is a retired schoolmistress who investigates crimes and delivers the solutions to her trusted friend Inspector Oscar Piper. Palmer's idea of humour and mine have nothing in common. He wrote, "It would have been well had she given the same warning to Inspector Oscar Piper, for the explosion when it came a few days later found him as unprepared as the hapless inhabitants of Hiroshima."

That's disgusting.

Mar 8, 3:24am Top

83 - Agreed. Won't be trying that author.

82- this one though has me curious. I admit Teffi is the first FEMALE Russian writer I've ever heard of.

Mar 8, 4:27am Top

>82 pamelad: I've wishlisted this - thanks for the great review!

Mar 8, 10:22am Top

>82 pamelad: - This sounds really interesting. Definitely adding it to my wishlist.

Edited: Mar 12, 2:28am Top

Just finished London Rules by Mick Herron. I liked it, but the Slough House books are starting to seem formulaic and I've had enough of Lamb. One politically incorrect clown is too many these days, and he doesn't make me laugh.

Reading Loving by Henry Green.

>84 cmbohn:, >85 Jackie_K:, >86 LittleTaiko: Another one for the wishlist - The Russian Countess by Edith Sollohub is recommended in the further reading section of Memories and looks fascinating. I've bought the Kindle ebook.

Mar 12, 6:47pm Top

>87 pamelad: I've debated checking out the Slough House series, because it keeps showing up in my recommendations, but I'm not sure I have the will to spend a whole book with the protagonist.

Edited: Mar 12, 10:33pm Top

>88 rabbitprincess: I really enjoyed the first four, but five is too many. Lamb is only one of the protagonists, and in the beginning he's entertaining. There are plenty of other characters to follow as well, and the plots are nice and twisty.

Mar 13, 7:01pm Top

>89 pamelad: OK, I'll keep that in mind, and perhaps at least read the first one.

Edited: Mar 14, 12:27am Top

Loving by Henry Green, from Loving Living Party Going, a collection of three of Green's novels.

I tried reading this in my twenties and gave up, but this time I appreciated it, and plan to read Living and Party Going as well.

During WWII the British Tennant family, the widowed Mrs Tennant, her son's wife Violet, and Violet's two young daughters, is living on its Irish estate. Mrs Tennant's son is in Britain, in the armed forces, waiting to be sent overseas. Ireland is neutral, so the Tennant's are avoiding the wartime shortages, the bombing and the blackouts, but are in fear of the IRA. The Tennants provide the background: the main characters are their servants.

The book begins with the death of the old butler, Eldon. Rauch, the footman, is next in line for Eldon's position. As we know from Downton Abbey, there is a strict hierarchy amongst house servants, with the butler at the top. Any other comparisons to Downton Abbey are, however, erroneous, because you cannot compare book so witty, perspicacious and subtle with a soap opera. Green's characters have depth and complexity. His imagery is striking. He always uses the right word, never a cliche.

Well worth reading.

I read Loving for the Colour CAT. It's also on the 1001 books list.

Mar 18, 11:01pm Top

Great batch of reviews since my last visit!

Mar 21, 1:24am Top

Putting these in Recommended, and in Non-fiction.

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Benjamin Law recommended this on The Book Club (a book program on the Australian government TV station), so I put it in the wishlist last year. It's about institutionalised racism in Britain, but is relevant to Australia too. The Histories and The System chapters, in particular, were real eye-openers.

The Russian Countess by Edith Sollohub

This featured in the recommended reading section of Robert Chandler's translation of Memories. It's about Edith Sollohub's escape from revolutionary Russia in 1920, when the borders were closed. Not nearly as well written as Memories, but it's an eye-witness account of people's lives in revolutionary Russia, so is worth reading. Sollohub goes into enormous detail about too many shooting expeditions, the last few of which I skipped. She is enormously patronising but I suppose that if you were a Russian countess you would be.

Mar 27, 1:00am Top

4. Prize Winners

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Having read In Persuasion Nation, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil and Pastoralia, I'm a George Saunders fan. He stretches the mundane until it becomes ridiculous, never losing sight of his characters' humanity. He reminds me of a kinder Magnus Mills, with a touch of Donald Barthelme. Lincoln doesn't lend himself to Saunders' dead pan humour, so I didn't enjoy this book as much as I did his others, which are more obviously related to contemporary life and politics. Americans might think differently.

I read this on the Kindle, which had many formatting problems. Saunders quotes from many works, some of them authentic writings of the time, and some fictional. Unfortunately, the writers names appeared vertically, so I couldn't be bothered reading them, so the book became more confusing than it actually is, which is quite confusing enough. The names of the inhabitants of the Bardo also appeared vertically, so I had to work out who was speaking form the context.

Despite my critical comments, I enjoyed Lincoln in the Bardo.

I hope the US hasn't taken over the Booker.

Edited: Mar 28, 5:01pm Top

15. Crime

Pursuit of a Parcel by Patricia Wentworth

Cornelius Rossiter is a double agent for Britain and Germany. His life depends on a Very Important Parcel. As a child, Cornelius was unofficially adopted by the childless Rossiters, who many years later produced a son, Anthony. Cornelius sends the parcel to this fine, upstanding, British brother. Eventually the parcel ends up with Anthony's potential fiancee, Delia. Everyone wants this parcel, and they will Stop At Nothing to get it. Delia is in Great Danger.

This was an entertaining time filler.

Mar 29, 9:22am Top

>95 pamelad: That does sound fun!

Edited: Apr 1, 2:53am Top

In preparation for the May read of Ulysses, I'm reading froth.

Two more Patricia Wentworth ebooks, which were free on Amazon: Will o' the Wisp and Anne Belinda. Both of them were written in the twenties. Both have brave, gay (original meaning) young heroines who have no family to support them. Not much crime. No murders. Romance dominates. I quite liked them both because they were such period pieces.

The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly is a crime novel set in the India of the twenties. Sandilands, a police commander on secondment from Scotland Yard, is called in to investigate the apparent suicide of a young woman, the wife of a cavalry officer. She is the fifth wife to have died in March, so Sandilands suspects a chain of murders.

An undemanding and entertaining read. I enjoyed it, and have started the next in the series, Ragtime in Simla. I bought The Joe Sandilands Omnibus, so have four to read.

Apr 29, 1:47am Top

The Internet and the landline went down for a week. 'Unplanned Outage,' Telstra said. I was already behind with posting reviews, so am way in arrears now.

What I've read:

Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood. An early read for the purple Colour CAT. It was an ILL, time of arrival unpredictable. The book is a novella, written in 1945, set in 1933 when Isherwood was working with a famous Austrian director, a warm, tragic, outrageous character who, as a Jew, could no longer work in Austria, so was working in England to make money to get his family out of Austria. The director is based on a real person, and the Isherwood character is named Isherwood, but the book is fiction. The director is a wonderful character, and Isherwood is kinder than usual. I enjoyed this.

The Damascened Blade by Barbara Cleverly. Entertaining mystery set in 1920's India. This is the third I've read and they're becoming samey. A lot of racial stereotyping, too. Cleverly has a thing for Pathans. Reminds me of Molesworth's take on the cavaliers vs the roundheads. Wrong but Romantic vs Right but Repulsive.

Woe is I by Patricia T. O'Connor. A book about grammar. Not very interesting because most of the mistakes she talks about are elementary. I was interested though, to see that she dislikes 'different than', 'a couple things' instead of 'a couple of', 'like' instead of 'as', and the unqualified 'likely' used as an adverb. I had thought these usages were unquestioned, so am relieved. However, O'Connor thinks that 'gotten' is a useful word that the British should bring back, and that slow is an adverb, as in 'go slow'. No!

The Summerhouse by Alice Thomas Ellis. This is a Rashomon-like view of a potential wedding. In three linked novellas, the potential bride, the potential mother-in-law, and a friend of the bride's mother relate the story, each from her own perspective. It's witty, funny, scathing, and uncomfortable. Highly recommended.

Edited: Apr 29, 2:06am Top

I have also read and mostly enjoyed the Barbara Cleverly books. Have you heard of A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee? It's a similar sort of setting and even the main character is rather similar, but I liked the Mukherjee better. It's the first in a series.

Apr 29, 2:09am Top

I also read Pride and Prejudice for the nth time, for our next book club, and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time.

The Comedians by Graham Greene is set in Haiti during the time of Papa Doc and the Ton Ton Macoute. The title is using 'comedians' as the French do (French is the main language in Haiti), to mean actors, or fakes. The actors are Brown, who owns a hotel in Port o' Prince; Jones, who is persona non grata with the British Embassy and might be a mercenary; and Brown's deceased mother, a woman who always played a part and may or may not have been a fighter in the resistance, and called herself Countess. The violence and squalor of Haiti are the background for Brown's spiritual crisis. Typical Greene. There's a lot going on, and some memorable characters. I enjoyed the book. I was going to read this for the Colour CAT, but the book on my shelf had print so small and faded that I ended up putting in an ILL request for another copy.

>99 cmbohn: Thanks Cindy. I've put it in my wishlist.

Apr 29, 9:19am Top

>98 pamelad: Aagh, a week-long internet outage!

I had the same "elementary" problem with Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Also, that book was about 10 years old -- so old that the author felt the need to explain what Twitter was! I'll have to reread Woe is I to see if it's more timeless.

Apr 30, 1:51pm Top

>98 pamelad:
A whole week! Thank goodness for paper books. :)

Edited: May 1, 3:17am Top

The Adventures of Dagobert Trostler, Vienna's Sherlock Holmes by Balduin Groller

Dagobert Trostler is a wealthy man about town, a talented amateur detective who uses his skills to save the cream of Vienna's society from social embarrassment. In turn of the century Vienna , where social disgrace leads to suicide, Dagobert's skills save lives. Rather than turn perpetrators over to the authorities, causing scandal, Dagobert arranges for them to leave Vienna quietly, never to return.

Dagobert Trostler and Sherlock Holmes have little in common. Where Holmes is neurotic, Trostler is suave. Holmes is a loner, while Tostler has many devoted friends. Holmes solves crimes because right must prevail, while Tostler is happy to shield a criminal in order to avoid a fuss. We see little of the detective process in the Dagobert stories: a friend calls Dagobert in and explains the problem; Dagobert trots off and solves the crime with minimum fuss, off-stage; Dagobert returns to his friend and receives undying gratitude.

I enjoyed these period pieces and would have rated them even more highly, but for the translation. It really needs tidying up. An example: "An important matter from this side! Dagobert felt flattered in self-love, but even so there was something that annoyed him. He is not the man who is simply fetched." This is not quite English!

This book was published by Kazabo publishing. The company is publishing books that were best sellers in their original languages, but have never been translated into English. I received it through Early Reviewers.

May 6, 2:36am Top

Party Going by Henry Green 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.

A party of rich, young men and women waits in a London station hotel for the fog to lift. They were leaving for France, but the boat train has been cancelled. Upstairs in the hotel they wait for news. Downstairs in the station thirty thousand people wait, trapped inside by the fog, to catch their trains home from work.

Max Adey has organised the continental trip. He is enormously rich and is paying for everyone. He has tried to escape his lover, Amabel, in order to pursue Julia, and has invited Angela as a backup. Evelyn, Alex, Claire and Claire's husband Robert, have been invited as a smokescreen. At least, that's my interpretation, because the reasons are as many as the characters. Miss Fellowes, Claire's aunt, is ill and being looked after by two retired nannies who came to see off their ex-charges. Claire wants to go to France and tries to persuade herself that she has no responsibility for her aunt. Amabel turns up, to Julia's disgust. Everyone is talking about Embassy Richard, who has made an enormous social faux pas. It's all strange, opaque, almost certainly allegorical, and very funny.

Henry Green is a fortunate rediscovery.

Now to return to Ulysses. https://www.librarything.com/topic/280860

May 6, 11:55am Top

>104 pamelad: I am always on the lookout for books from the 1001 List that I will enjoy - this one sounds interesting.

May 6, 3:33pm Top

>104 pamelad: I've been eyeing Henry Green on the 1001 books list for years and haven't tried any of his works yet. I'll have to get to it soon.

May 8, 12:41am Top

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell May Colour CAT (aqua cover)

To be really entertained by this book you'd have to enjoy reading about illness, motherhood and Maggie O'Farrell. It has excellent reviews, and was quite readable, but I was bored. On the plus side, it was a Kindle Daily Deal and the right colour.

May 8, 12:44am Top

>105 DeltaQueen50:, >106 japaul22: I'd really recommend it. Green sees right into his characters and the way they behave.

May 10, 10:27pm Top

Love among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse

This is an early Wodehouse, originally published in 1906, but rewritten in 1921. While I've never read a bad Wodehouse, I'd describe this one as a lesser work. Even so, as a break from Ulysses, it served its purpose well.

I am 9 chapters into Ulysses and seem to be reading a philosophical discussion of Hamlet. Aristotle and Plato have made an appearance. Must find another Wodehouse!

May 11, 10:51pm Top

>98 pamelad: Ouch! Land line and internet down for a week! Luckily you had some good books to keep you going.

May 18, 5:19pm Top

>98 pamelad: - The Internet and the landline went down for a week.

Wow.... I would have been crawling the walls, but a great way to get in some reading time without internet distractions. Also reminds me how I have changed since the Internet came along. Maybe I should consider "unplugging" more often. ;-)

>103 pamelad: - Great review!

May 22, 7:11pm Top

>11 pamelad: Thank you!

When the Internet goes down (this was not the first time) I miss being able to stream TV programs, but I noticed how much more time I had when I wasn't forever looking up news headlines and pottering around on the Internet. A lot of developing countries have faster and more reliable data communications than Australia does!

I am still reading Ulysses but the end is in sight. I'm up to the last section, three-quarters of the way through. I thought reading it would be rewarding, like In Search of Lost Time which I read last year thanks to japaul's group read, but it has been an ordeal.

May 23, 7:57am Top

Keepers - the greatest films and personal favorites of a moviegoing lifetime by Richard Schickel

I'd never heard of Richard Schickel, but I like books about films so, when I saw this at the remainder shop, I bought it. It mixes short film reviews and reminiscences. Schickel knew quite a few directors, and those he knew are some of his favorites, which is fortunate. He's a big fan of popular American movies, so I didn't find a lot of films to put on my wishlist. David Thomson's Have You Seen is better for that. Shickel fondly remembers many films of the thirties and forties, particularly those from Warner Bros.

I quite liked the book, but it wasn't very informative.

May 23, 9:25am Top

>112 pamelad: Sorry to hear Ulysses isn't as rewarding as you hoped. I will definitely read it some day but I think I'm glad I didn't attempt it right now.

May 28, 2:13am Top

Ulysses by James Joyce

I am very pleased to have finished it. After In Search of Lost Time I was fancying myself as a bit of an intellectual, but Ulysses brought me back to earth. Reading it was an ordeal, and great slabs of it would have been unintelligible without Bloomsday as a guide.

Bloomsday by Harry Blamires

Couldn't have read Ulysses without it, not that I trust all of Harry's interpretations. His perspective seemed overly religious to me, not that I'd know.

May 28, 7:14am Top

>115 pamelad: Congratulations on finishing Ulysses! I'm sorry it didn't turn out to be a favorite, but I bet you're glad that you can say you finished it. Is anyone in the group read really enjoying it?

May 28, 6:07pm Top

>115 pamelad: Excellent work on finishing Ulysses!

May 29, 1:28am Top

>115 pamelad:, >116 japaul22: Thank you!

There's only one other person still reading Ulysses for the group read, as far as I know. Yells is taking it slowly and enjoying it.

A few people couldn't fit it into their reading schedules right now, and I certainly sympathise. I think people who are thinking of doing a re-read would have different needs from those of us who've never read it before, and would be looking for a more in-depth approach. Perhaps someone who is much more familiar with the book could run another group read in the future.

May 30, 10:23pm Top

>115 pamelad: Congratulations on finishing Ulysses. I'm not surprised that Blamires perspective seems overly religious - in Ireland everything is religious! More so in the days of James Joyce.

May 31, 6:48pm Top

Murder Comes First by Frances and Richard Lockridge

Pamela and Jerry North are a sophisticated New York crime-solving couple, but they're no Nick and Nora Charles. Too twee, with a lot of carry-on about their pet cats. First published in 1951.

Jun 3, 2:05am Top

Maurice by E. M. Forster

Forster wrote this early in his career, but left instructions that it was not to be published before he was dead. The main character, Maurice, is homosexual in the days when homosexual activity was illegal, an abomination. It wasn't until he was at Cambridge that Maurice realised that there were other men like him, and put a name to the "sickness" that he'd tried to cure. Maurice is a flawed character - his treatment of his mother and sisters, in particular, is thoughtless, even cruel - but he's warm, alive and genuine. I was fascinated by the rigidity of the class system. Forster has produced some monstrously snobbish characters who make callous and idiotic statements about the lower classes.


Jun 3, 3:10am Top

Before Maurice I tried to read Elizabeth Bowen's To the North, but I didn't get far. Perhaps its the vapidity of her characters, or their snobbery. Or it might be that Bowen seems to dislike them, and to judge them harshly. I had thought I'd finished one of her books, Angel, but it was actually written by Elizabeth Taylor so I'm still at zero.

Edited: Jun 3, 11:03pm Top

HUGE congrats on finishing Ulysses! Perhaps next year for me...

>121 pamelad:
I recently rewatched that movie - it's not been available digitally until very recently - and it's still great. I need to reread the book too.

Jun 8, 7:15am Top

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

Richard, a retired classics professor, becomes involved in the lives of some African refugees. A labyrinth of regulations prevents the men from living and working in Germany. They can seek residence only in the country where they first landed, Italy, which has no work for them. In Germany there are jobs, but the refugees are not allowed to work.

Jun 12, 3:13am Top

Unexplained Laughter by Alice Thomas Ellis

Back at >80 pamelad: I read The Inn at the Edge of the World and decided to read more of Alice Thomas Ellis. I chose this one because it was the only one with a Kindle edition, and it was a bit of a disappointment. Well-written and witty, but I wasn't interested in the characters. Lydia, the main one, is a self-absorbed snob. Nothing much happens.

Jun 17, 1:55am Top

The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe

This novella was on the shortlist for the 2018 Stella Prize http://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2018-prize/the-fish-girl/

It was inspired by a Somerset Maugham short story in which a Dutchman's obsession with a "Malay trollope" leads to tragedy. The Maugham story is told from the Dutchman's point of view. Riwoe, who has Indonesian heritage, reimagines it from the Malay girl's perspective.

Speak of the Devil by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

This crime novel was first published in 1941. Miss Peterson, who is on her way by ship to a new job in Havana, is persuaded by a fellow passenger to take a job as hostess of his hotel on a small Caribbean island. Lots of atmosphere. I enjoyed it despite the gaping holes in the plot.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

A vulnerable young British man of Pakistani heritage is recruited by ISIS. His twin sister desperately tries to bring him home. The book takes a compassionate and nuanced perspective on the varied lives of British Muslims. It is based on Antigone, which is a problem because it distorts the plot.

Jun 17, 2:08am Top

Four books per every category except Ulysses makes 70 books, so now that I've read 71, I've finished! I've put books in more than one category and have used some categories as tallies, Crime and New Authors in particular. I'm surprised at the number of new authors: 21 so far.

I'll keep adding books to the existing categories.

Jun 17, 9:11am Top

Excellent work on your challenge! I'm glad you enjoyed the Holding book in >126 pamelad: despite the holes in the plot. I read her The Blank Wall in an omnibus of women crime writers and thought it was very good. Will have to read more by her.

Jun 17, 9:55am Top

Congrats! That's quite an achievement.

Jun 17, 11:06am Top

>127 pamelad: Fantastic, well done!

Jun 17, 11:08am Top

>127 pamelad: well done on achieving your aim for the year with it barely half done! Hope the second half is just as fruitful.

Jun 17, 3:29pm Top


Jun 25, 12:49pm Top

Well done! Will you expand the challenge or make new reading plans?

Jul 7, 1:03am Top

Longitude by Dava Sobel

Before sailors were able to measure longitude, ships regularly ran aground and thousands of men died. The British government offered a prize for an accurate method of measurement. The British Longitude Committee was dominated by astronomers who discounted any method that did not involve in navigating by the stars and refused, despite all evidence, to believe in the efficacy of the chronometer. Sobel's book traces trials and tribulations of the man who made the first chronometer, and his efforts to win the prize. Astronomers corrupt and unfair!

Wings of a Spy by Tory Hageman

This silly but enjoyable book is set during WWI, before the Americans have entered the war. America is rife with fifth columnists, with every second character turning out to be a German spy. They're desperate to get hold of a remarkable discovery that could change the course of the war. Kathleen's dad discovered it in his study, with a pen and paper! Kathleen is in love with a man who seems to be a spy.

Tory Hageman is actually Natalie Sumner Lincoln. The book is also published under the title I Spy. Life is too short to try and find this touchstone.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

LT told me I wouldn't like this, but I loved it! It's not great literature, but the story moves along, the characters are sympathetic, and the writing is grammatical and clear.

The Red Seal by Natalie Sumner Lincoln

After Wings of a Spy I decided to try another of Natalie Sumner Lincoln's books. This is a crime novel, but in the week since I read it I've forgotten everything about it except the racism and snobbery.

Twilight at Mac's Place by Ross Thomas

Corruption, violence, political intrigue. Thomas is always entertaining, but I'm not in the mood for violence, corruption and cynicism right now. Too much of it about.

Edited: Jul 7, 1:13am Top

>128 rabbitprincess:,>129 MissWatson:,>130 Jackie_K:, >131 Helenliz:, >132 lkernagh:, >133 VivienneR: Thanks for dropping in.

I'm going to keep reading along in the same categories. There's nothing I could read that wouldn't fit in!

Might have to read more Liane Moriarty. She's a really good story teller. It's winter here, a good time to be sitting at home with the heater on, under a nice furry blanket, reading an undemanding and entertaining book.

Jul 7, 8:46am Top

>135 pamelad: There's nothing I could read that wouldn't fit in!

That's how I structure my challenge too! Same categories, new names each year. (Although sometimes I have a "focus" category such as Canadiana or Celtic culture.)

I am envious of your winter! It's been SO HOT this week. Humid, too. I had to stay home from a much-anticipated outdoor concert because of the weather.

Jul 10, 7:48pm Top

I did not like John D. MacDonald's Nightmare in Pink. Not much plot. Women throw themselves at Travis McGee, but he only says yes to the young, sad ones. Turns their lives around!

McGee analyses every female character from the perspective of, "Would I like to sleep with her?" His deliberations take up too many words that would be better spent on character development and plot. This book is sexist, overwrought and sentimental. The plot is laughable.

Jul 10, 9:28pm Top

>127 pamelad: Congratulations, and it's great that you're discovering a lot of new authors!

Jul 11, 11:08pm Top

Congratulations, I read Big Little Lies last year and loved it as well. Moriarty knows how to tell a story!

Edited: Jul 19, 8:22am Top

The Ex by Alafair Burke
Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
Death drops the Pilot by George Bellairs
Caught by Henry Green from Caught, Back, Concluding
The Ace of Clubs Murder by Ralph Trevor

The Ex and Wilde Lake are both by US writers, both featuring successful woman lawyers dealing with cases that have their roots in the past. The pace of The Ex was faster. Wilde Lake dragged. Both were OK reads. Nothing special, but nothing objectionable.

Henry Green really is special. During WWII he worked as an auxiliary fireman in London, up to and including the Blitz, which occurs towards the end of Caught. Green's characters are so well-drawn that you feel you know them. You sympathise with them all, as does Green himself. I'm following Caught with the next book in the collection, Back, also a soldier who has been invalided out. Cannot recommend Henry Green highly enough.

Death Drops the Pilot is a police procedural from the early sixties. I was amused by how different it was from Nightmare in Pink. These English detectives are so stuffy, which is a relief after Travis McGee, and trot home to their faithful wives. They certainly don't follow the Travis McGee route (Australian pun). Another OK read.

The Ace of Clubs Murder was first published in 1939. It's another police procedural, set in a village occupied mostly by retired people. Not bad. Amazon has just published Kindle editions of a number of Ralph Trevor's books. There's no touchstone, even though I just added it manually. What do you do when there's no ISBN?

All of these were filler, except for Caught.

>138 mathgirl40:, >139 DeltaQueen50: Thank you! Finding Liane Moriarty was a real win. I was too snobbish to read her in the past!

Caught is in the 1001 Books list so fits in category 12, Other Lists.
All the others can go into 15, crime.

Jul 21, 8:54pm Top

>127 pamelad:
Huge congrats!!

Jul 22, 11:18am Top

I need to get to Henry Green. He’s been on my radar for several years but I’ve not read any of his books yet.

Aug 10, 2:32am Top

I'm a bit behind. The Film Festival is on in Melbourne and I'm planning to see 26 films in 2 weeks. Number 13 tonight.

I've read two good ones: Back by Henry Green; Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain.
One long, tedious fictionalised autobiography that I wouldn't have finished except that it's for our Book Group: The Passage of Love by Alex Miller.

Currently reading: Why We Sleep, which started well but has hit a dull patch; At the Existentialist Cafe which I'm not in the mood for right now; The Line Becomes a River, which is going well and looks like a winner.

Planning to review some of these very soon.

Edited: Sep 16, 1:13am Top

The Passage of Love by Alex Miller

This is the first of Miller's books I've read and, if I hadn't been reading it for our book group, I wouldn't have finished. It's 600 pages of fictionalised biography, a very iffy genre. Miller has left us a biased and uncharitable portrait of his first wife, so we can remember her not as a complex human being but as as a crazed dilettante with an eating disorder. Miller concentrates on superficial aspects of women's appearances, and shows no compassion or understanding. He whines that his first wife didn't understand him. I really disliked this book!

Good books I've read since then:

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu. Cantu worked as a guard on the border between the US and Mexico. No matter how harshly we might judge him for doing that job, which he now accepts was a mistake, we need to know what's happening there. Recommended.

At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell A brief history of the existentialists and their precursors. A little bit twee, but a good introduction.

Tenth of December by George Saunders Short stories. Most of them are surreal and funny, but depressing. The title story is more hopeful. I like his short stories more than I did Lincoln in the Bardo.

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

Levi survived Auschwitz and wrote If This is a Man about his experiences there. The Periodic Table is a sort of memoir, a series of reminiscences, each with the name of an element as its title. The first, Argon, remembers the people from the Jewish community that existed for generations before WWII in southern Piedmont, stories passed down in the author's family. Other pieces recall friends from Levi's childhood and from university, people who gave him work illegally when Jews could not be employed, the man who shared his bread ration in Auchwitz. All are linked by Levi's love of chemistry.

I recommend this book highly. It contains some technical details, which I found interesting because I used to teach chemistry, but you don't need to understand the chemistry to enjoy the book.

And a not so good one:

A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay

This started off promisingly, but the plot turned out to be silly, with too many unbelievable twists, and too many people died. Made me feel cynical.

Group: 2018 Category Challenge

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