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rhian_of_oz Reads in 2019

Club Read 2019

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Edited: Yesterday, 9:12am Top

I'm Rhian and this is my first year in Club Read. I don't have any particular reading goals for the year other than to make a dent in my TBR pile (I've joined the TBR CAT to give me some structure) however I suspect being in this group will likely have the opposite effect!

Currently reading:
The Waiter by Matias Faldbakken
Manual for the Solution of Military Ciphers by Parker Hitt
A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

Potential TBR from CR:
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Becoming by Michelle Obama
The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett
A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon
The Rubber Band by Rex Stout
Snap by Belinda Bauer
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
A Killer in King's Cove by Iona Whishaw
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan
A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Edited: Yesterday, 9:13am Top

Quarter 1


  1. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

  2. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

  3. Personal Injuries by Scott Turow

  4. The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

  5. Dear Santa edited by Samuel Johnson

  6. Last Seen in Lhasa by Claire Scobie

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

Books owned pre-2019: 4
Books purchased in 2019:
Books gifted in 2019:
Borrowed books: 2

Dec 30, 2018, 8:48am Top

Quarter 2


  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

Books owned pre-2019:
Books purchased in 2019:
Books gifted in 2019:
Borrowed books:

Dec 30, 2018, 8:49am Top

Quarter 3


  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

Books owned pre-2019:
Books purchased in 2019:
Books gifted in 2019:
Borrowed books:

Dec 30, 2018, 8:50am Top

Quarter 4


  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

Books owned pre-2019:
Books purchased in 2019:
Books gifted in 2019:
Borrowed books:

Dec 31, 2018, 6:12am Top

Hello Rhian and welcome to Club Read!

Dec 31, 2018, 11:31am Top

>6 Dilara86: Thanks Dilara. Having had a look through some of the 2018 threads it seems that the reading here is very diverse so I'm looking forward to being introduced to new authors. I'm also looking forward to reading more 'thoughtfully'.

Jan 3, 8:44am Top

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

This is written as a memoir describing how young Isabella Hendemore started down the path to becoming the (now famous) Lady Trent. The title is not really a description of the book (i.e. it's not a natural history of dragons) - but rather is the title of a book within the story that was extremely influential on our narrator. The first third takes us through Isabella's early life and marriage, with the remainder describing her "first foreign expedition".

What I liked
  • Isabella is non-conventional in her interest in science and dragons. Her father comes up with a neat solution that allows her to maintain her interest while at the same time abiding by societal expectations for a woman of her age and class.

  • Lady Trent's "voice" is engaging, with that air of "I'm old enough and successful enough I'm not bothered by what people think of me". She's at times affectionately amused by or apologetic for her younger self.

  • The relationship between Isabella and Jacob.

What I didn't like
  • Ms Brennan has created a new world for this story but it reads quite simply like Victorian England and Eastern Europe. I thought the world-building was so weak I would have preferred it if the story had been set in an alternate-history Earth.

  • Isabella continually refers to herself as a scientist but actually behaves like an enthusiastic hobbyist.

  • Many instances of Isabella behaving recklessly, recognising such behaviour in the past had serious consequences, but continuing the behaviour anyway.

This book started off really well but didn't quite live up to it's promise. I still enjoyed reading it and am interested in reading the rest in the series but I'll borrow them from the library rather than buying them.

Jan 3, 9:09am Top

I was actually curious what this was about, even if I wasn’t planning to read it. Happy to read your review.

Jan 3, 7:41pm Top

Skipping over your review of A Natural History for now as I still have 100 pages left, but will be back when I'm done.

Jan 4, 6:48am Top

I like the format of your review! Welcome to the group.

Jan 4, 7:23am Top

>11 japaul22: Thanks for your feedback. I'm still finding my "voice" but I think this format will work for me.

Jan 4, 11:07am Top

Hi Rhian, welcome to CR, and nice review. You've been starred!

Jan 4, 11:34am Top

>8 rhian_of_oz:

It has been nearly five years since I read this, so it will be interesting to see how it holds up. The third book is on my list of owned books I have not read, but a five year gap is enough that I think I will want to do a reread of the first two before I get to the third.

I absolutely love the covers for all the books in this series (Todd Lockwood is is a genius when it comes to dragon art). It was actually the cover art that drew me to them initially.

Jan 4, 7:15pm Top

>13 auntmarge64: Thanks, thanks and thanks!

Jan 4, 7:20pm Top

>14 shadrach_anki: I received this from SantaThing but I hadn't heard of or seen it before. I plan to read the second one (at some stage) and see how much I like it. I agree that the cover art is attractive which is why I'm a bit surprised to have missed them when they came out.

Jan 7, 10:05am Top

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

The story starts off like The Breakfast Club with five 'stereotypes' in detention and quickly detours sideways into a 'locked room' mystery.

What I liked
  • The 'traditional' whodunnit nature - multiple suspects with motive, red herrings, misdirections.

  • The multiple narrators.

  • The pace of the action and the 'reveals' was spot on.

  • I was surprised by the turn of events in a couple of instances.

What I didn't like
  • The fact that the 'stereotypes' are more than they appear is almost a cliche in itself. And we still had the mean girls, and the bullying jocks, and the nerds.

  • The 'happily ever after' ending(s).

I must admit not much thoughtful reading went into this one, I gobbled it down like lollies (candies/sweets for the not-Aussies). I really enjoyed it, it was an easy-to-read YA that didn't include my most hated YA trope - the angsty love triangle.

Jan 9, 9:16am Top

Happy New Year, Rhian.

I see The Bus on Thursday and Becoming are on your list of possible reads. I loved the Obama memoir, and would LOVE to discuss The Bus on Thursday, which I found a bit confusing at the end.

Jan 9, 10:29am Top

>18 BLBera: Thanks Beth, happy new year to you too.

I added Becoming because so many people here had it on their 'best of' lists, and then my sister-in-law mentioned she was reading it and will give it to me when she's done. I had To Obama on my RL Christmas list (I must have been naughty because Santa didn't bring it) so I might buy that and read the two together.

I've requested The Bus on Thursday from my local library and will happily discuss it with you.

Jan 10, 8:41am Top

Personal Injuries by Scott Turow

The story is about Robbie Feaver, a lawyer discovered to have an undeclared slush fund, who turns 'confidential informant' as part of a larger investigation of corrupt judges.

I'm pretty sure I received this as a gift or won it at a quiz night, I know I didn't choose it myself. It has been languishing on my shelf for many years and I chose to read it for January TBRCat.

I'd describe this book as a slow burn. Early on I was disinterested, reading it so I could finish it, but bit by bit it engaged my attention. There were twists and turns (though not in the contrived manner of some more recent works) which weren't necessarily foreshadowed but somehow also weren't surprising in the context of the story. Similarly while I wasn't expecting the ending, it was also somehow inevitable.

This was an okay book. I don't wish I had the time back, but it's also not particularly clever or thought-provoking or (I suspect) memorable. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, nor does it make me want to read any more books by the author.

Jan 10, 12:52pm Top

>20 rhian_of_oz: Wonder if Mueller has read it?

Jan 11, 8:13am Top

>21 dchaikin: (I had to look up who Mueller was) I'm not sure he'd be happy if he had given that in the story the investigation doesn't nab the biggest bad guy.

Jan 11, 1:10pm Top

>22 rhian_of_oz: American insanity. Could be a lesson in there still. : )

Jan 11, 8:24pm Top

>22 rhian_of_oz: I had to read that several times - that you didn't know who Mueller is. Then I realized you're a loooong way away. haha

You may hear a lot more about him in the next few months, and now you can appreciate those news reports.

Jan 11, 8:37pm Top

>24 auntmarge64: Hehe. So you don't think I'm completely ignorant of world affairs (:-)), I knew his name and that there was some involvement in US politics but not the details.

Jan 12, 8:05am Top

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

After reading the first couple of pages in the library I thought what I was taking home was going to be a quirky book about the solving of various lost letter mysteries. While the book does have a couple of these, it's primarily about 'letter detective' William, his wife Clare and their strained marriage.

I'll get the slightly irksome bit out of the way first. This novel needed to be set prior to the internet from a plot perspective but it didn't 'read' like it was from 1989. This wouldn't have been a problem except whenever there was an 'historical' reference (e.g. Walkmans, Berlin Wall) it gave me a jolt and took me out of the story.

I liked this I think for a number of reasons. I like stories about relationships that are more complex than 'they lived happily ever after'. I also think I related to William and Clare in the sense that at some point you come to the realisation that your life isn't going to turn out the way you dreamed when you were young. And that a life lived 'quietly' is not necessarily a life squandered. And the allure of the potential 'grass is greener' of other people. (Personal note: I'm happy with my life and my relationship with my partner is fine.)

I'm a romantic so my hope throughout the book was that William and Clare would have their 'happily ever after' together, but I was also preparing for their resolution to be different, and either was equally likely throughout the book. I won't spoil it by saying whether my wish came true.

Now I'm going to see if there still exists a Dead Letter Office because being a letter detective sounds like an awesome job.

Jan 12, 2:01pm Top

Just as a fun side note, in the recently memoir I read by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he talks about stumbling across on office in Bogota, Colombia dedicated to finding where lost letters should go. He wrote an article on it (he was a columnist at the time) and even talks about following up one letter addressed to a woman by first name who always attended a certain church.

Jan 12, 2:08pm Top

>8 rhian_of_oz:, >17 rhian_of_oz: I like the format of your reviews.
>22 rhian_of_oz: (I had to look up who Mueller was)
Ha. Our hope that sanity will prevail.

Jan 12, 8:58pm Top

>25 rhian_of_oz: You know, even in the U.S. we don't know much about what Mueller's doing. That's the joy, really. This fellow is running such a tight investigation we really have little idea what's coming in his report. He seems to be a by-the-book sort of prosecutor and an excellent choice for this kind of thing because he's so straight about it.

Jan 13, 12:19am Top

Dear Santa edited by Samuel Johnson

This is a collection of letters to Santa from a variety of publically known Australians compiled for the charity Love Your Sister (LYS).

There is nothing particularly unexpected about the letters, with the tone covering a wide range: quirky, wistful, satirical, political, amusing, poignant, cynical, topical, nostalgic. The format allows for quick dips in and out.

I'm glad to have bought it to support LYS, and I don't regret the time I spent reading it, but it's not a book that's had any impact on my worldview.

Yesterday, 9:40am Top

Last Seen in Lhasa by Claire Scobie

Ms Scobie is an author who travels to Tibet in search of a rare flower and also 'something else' and meets a Buddhist nun named Ani. She returns to Tibet many times over the next few years to explore her spirituality and her connection/friendship with Ani.

What I liked
  • The insight into the lives of Tibetans under Chinese rule.

  • The interactions between Claire and Ani.

  • The pilgrimage to Mount Lailash.

What I didn't like
  • The numerous quotes and literature references. It feels like she's trying to include all the research she did but it often interrupts the flow.

  • It doesn't seem like the author knew what kind of book she was writing.

  • Somehow her spiritual awakening didn't feel genuine.

Why I read this
My MIL passed this on to me. I can't remember what she said, but I don't recall her being overly effusive about it.

I can best describe my reaction to this book as vaguely dissatisfied. On the front cover it's described as "The story of an extraordinary friendship" but I don't feel that that's what was conveyed. It doesn't feel cohesive - it's part travel book, part book on Buddhism, and part memoir - and not really good examples of any of them.

Yesterday, 1:40pm Top

Sometimes the only way we know it’s an extraordinary friendship is because the author tells us (or the blurb does). : )

Group: Club Read 2019

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