TBR@61 Robertgreaves's challenge for 2018/2019 part 2
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Continued from Part 1.
I have 76 books on the physical TBR shelves and 132 books on the virtual TBR shelves, an increase of 4 physical books and 10 ebooks since this time last year.
In an atttempt to bring the burgeoning TBR shelves (physical and virtual) (not to mention my burgeoning weight) under control I have decided that I will only buy books as follows:
1. 2 books as a reward for each kg I lose;
2. next in a series (if I am up to date on the 7 books per month needed to reach my goal);
3. bookclub/reading group books.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton
The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives edited by Mike Ashley
Hi, Robert! Glad to see you here! I think you will like, The Name of the Rose, I did!
Great idea, Robert - maybe I should do that too. I had decided that I should buy no new books at all this year, but just allowing a few might make me a bit happier and more likely to stick to it.
Great idea for your challenge, Robert. Good luck and good reading!
Hi Robert, good to see you here! Are you going to have a thread in the ROOTs group this year too?
>6 Jackie_K: Aaagggh I thought this was the ROOTs thread for some reason. I really should know better than to do these when I'm jet lagged.
I don't think I can keep up two threads, so I'll just report in on the monthly progress report.
Hi Robert, I followed your link so I ended up here. I starred this thread. To bad you can't move threads.
Thanks for dropping by, everyone.
End of 2018 stats:
Books read: 168
Inner Anglosphere/Others 156/12 (authors from UK/Ireland, US/Canada, Australia/NZ versus authors from elsewhere or whose native language is not English)
I think this year, I will also keep count of fiction/non fiction and paper/ebook (or tree book/ebook as >12 connie53: put it)
Great idea to reward yourself for losing weight by buying books👍 There are some interesting books on your shelves.
The Christmas/New Year kilos are starting to come off, so I rewarded myself with two ebooks yesterday:
A Song for Nero by Thomas C. Holt and
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
They will be eligible as ROOTs on my birthday at the end of September 2019.
I finished The Name of the Rose last night. My review:
A Franciscan monk, William of Baskerville, arrives at an abbey in northern Italy accompanied by a novice Benedictine, Adso of Melk for a diplomatic conference, only to be asked when he gets there to investigate the death, suspected murder, of one of the monks at the abbey.
This is the third, maybe fourth, time I've read this. It doesn't have quite the intellectual excitement the first time I read it back when it was first published and the whole idea of mixing detective and historical fiction seemed new rather than a flourishing genre in its own right. The reactions and concerns of the characters make them seem to be very much of their era rather than 20th century characters in fancy dress. I still get a kick out of reading non fiction about that time and thinking "That was in The Name of the Rose".
>13 Robertgreaves: Thanks, Robert. But I did not come up with the term tree-book. I saw it in someones thread on the 2019 ROOTers and loved the way it made the difference between paper books and digital ones. So I kind of 'stole' it.
Starting my No. 53@61, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas. This brings the physical TBR shelves down to 74 and is my second ROOT for 2019. It counts for the SeriesCAT.
My review of T Rex and the Crater of Doom:
The story of the discovery of what lay behind the sharp boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary geological periods when dinosaurs were largely replaced by mammals.
An interesting story but the author seems unsure who the intended audience is, the educated public or experts in related disciplines.
Starting my No. 54@61, the next in the series, A Climate of Fear. This brings the physical TBR shelves down to 73 and is my third ROOT for 2019. It counts for the SeriesCAT.
My review of The Ghost Riders of Ordebec:
A young man with a habit of setting fire to expensive cars is being framed for the murder of an industrialist while Adamsberg is asked to investigate the case of a young girl who claims to have seen the Wild Hunt, the first of whose predicted victims has disappeared.
Very atmospheric, creepy but plausible story as Adamsberg and his squad of misfits pursue trails while pretending not to.
Starting my No. 55@61, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This ebook counts as my fourth ROOT for 2019 and fits the RandomCAT.
My review of A Climate of Fear:
A mysterious sign is found near each body of two apparent suicides. Are the deaths related to an incident in Iceland ten years previously in which two French tourists died, allegedly of exposure, and a group of Revolution re-enactors?
Vargas is in top form in this satisfyingly complex but rather off-beat mystery.
Starting No. 57@61, Queer City by Peter Ackroyd. This is my sixth ROOT for 2019. However, the physical TBR shelves stays at 73, with the addition of Dracula by Bram Stoker. Using department store loyalty points doesn't really count as buying a book, does it?
My review of The Tiger Queens:
The story of Genghis Khan, his children and grandchildren, is narrated by four women: his queen, a daughter, a captured Persian woman given to one of his daughters-in-law, and another daughter-in-law.
I don't know enough about the Mongols, their way of life and history, to assess those aspects of the book. However, where the author's other books deal with periods I'm more familiar with, I've found her trustworthy. It's fiction and apparently the relevant part of the contemporary history dealing with Genghis's daughters was excised at some point, but none of the characters are obvious 21st century transplants.
Although not feeling particularly involved with the story I did get a bit weepy at the end.
Starting my No. 58@61 Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. This is my seventh ROOT for 2019 and counts for the AlphaKIT, the SFFKIT, and the CalendarCAT.
My review of Queer City:
This history of gay life in London was something of a disappointment. The early chapters definitely needed notes giving sources and I was rather disconcerted to be told that London was a city in the Holy Roman Empire. It was only from the 17th century onwards that I felt the author was on safe ground but the nineteenth and twentieth centuries flew past far too quickly and could have easily supported another book of the same size by themselves.
Starting my No. 60@61, the next in the series, The Merchant's Partner. It is not a ROOT.
My review of The Last Templar:
Simon Puttock has just been promoted to bailiff in Devon under Edward II, when a new incumbent takes over the manor of Furnshill on the death of his brother, the previous owner. They have to deal with a rash of burnings: a quarrelsome farmer who is rumoured to have gold buried under his floor is murdered and his house burned down around him, an abbot travelling on his way to take up a position in a monastery is kidnapped and his body is found tied to a tree and burned, and a group of travelling merchants attacked by outlaws are burned in their wagons. This used to be such a peaceful area, what is going on?
Although in a sense one part of the mystery was obvious, I fought against it because the solution seems to militate against it being a series. I still don't like the solution because it seems to be saying that
My No. 61@61 is the next in the series, A Moorland Hanging. It is not a ROOT.
My review of The Merchant's Partner:
A herbalist is assumed by some locals to be a witch but when she is found in a field with her throat cut, Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Simon Puddock must find out who is responsible.
Now the series has got going with established characters, I am enjoying it. Although I realised who wasn't the murderer, I was totally misled as to who was.
Starting my No. 62@61, Marius Mules I: The Invasion of Gaul by S. J. A. Turney. This is my ninth ROOT for 2019 and I'm reading it now for my online Reading Group.
My review of A Moorland Hanging:
The body of a runaway villein turned tin miner is found hanging from a tree when relations between the miners and landowners are particularly tense. Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Simon Puddock investigate in an effort to keep the peace.
A good mystery. I like that solving the mysteries in these books involves a genuine collaboration between Baldwin and Simon with occasional input from their servants rather than a detective and sidekick. This one also had lots of interesting information about the rights of miners in the feudal system able to defy local landowners because the King was the miners' direct lord.
Starting my No. 63@61, What Are You Optimistic About?, edited by John Brockman, a book for dipping into occasionally rather than reading straight through but it counts as my tenth ROOT and also fits this month's AlphaKIT. It brings the TBR shelves down to 71 volumes.
Also starting my No. 64@61, Skin and Other Stories by Roald Dahl, which I'm reading for my RL book club. This ebook is my elevehth ROOT for 2019 and also fits AlphaKIT.
My review of Marius' Mules I: The Invasion of Gaul by S. J. A. Turney:
We follow a group of soldiers in the first year of Julius Caesar's campaigns in Gaul.
A mixed bag. The characters' off duty lives were interesting and the battle scenes were exciting but I found the strategy and maneouvring sections interminable. Although I put the second in the series on my wishlist to read at some point, I'm in no hurry to get to it.
Starting my No. 66@61, It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet by James Herriot. This brings the TBR shelf down to 70 books and is my twelfth ROOT for 2019. It fits the CalendarCAT.
My review of The Other Side of the Sun:
In 1910 the newly-wed British wife of an American away on secret intelligence work is sent to his family home in South Carolina. While there she reads her husband's recently deceased grandmother's journals written before, during, and after the American Civil War/the War Between the States in an attempt to grapple with the family's history and understand the familial and racial tensions she has to navigate.
Beyond the fact that I wanted to read one of L'Engle's works for adults I have no idea how this ended up on my TBR list and going in I wasn't at all sure what it was about. At one point, Stella mentions her husband showed her a family tree before he left, and I found myself quite often wishing this had been included in the book as I tried to keep straight in my mind all the different characters and who was what relation to who.
Having said that, I found it fascinating both as a story and as a picture of a time and place I knew very little about.
Starting my No. 67@61, Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. This brings the TBR shelf down to 69 books and is my thirteenth ROOT for 2019. It fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet:
Not quite as funny as I remembered it from 40+ years ago but still some funny sections. Also some quite moving.
Starting my No. 68@71, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. This ebook is my fourteenth ROOT for 2019. It fits the SeriesCAT and RandomCAT.
My review of Darius the Great is Not Okay:
Darius Kellner, a high school sophomore (which makes him what, 15 or 16?) and his family go on a trip to Yazd in Iran where he meets his mother's family for the first time.
I enjoyed this story of a teenage boy trying to navigate a culture unfamiliar to him when he doesn't really fit in at home either. However, the author says in an afterword that he 'wanted to show how depression can affect a life without ruling it'. I don't really think he managed that. Darius seemed a normal enough rather self-absorbed teenager coping with a bully at school and a hypercritical father. If it weren't for the references to him and his father taking their medication I wouldn't have known depression was an issue until a conversation about 30 pages before the end explaining events seven years before.
Starting my No. 69@72, Darwin: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Howard. It is my fifteenth ROOT for 2019 and brings the TBR shelf down to 69. It fits the CalendarCAT.
My review of Swallows and Amazons:
A family of children go sailing in the Lake District in the summer of 1929, camping on an island in the lake while their mother stays on the shore.
I really loved these books as a child and however much one might look askance at some of the themes which were "of their time" (explorers and natives/savages), re-reading it now does have a certain nostalgic value, remembering a time when children were not so closely supervised and organised.
>41 Robertgreaves: I agree, Robert. I read like books as a child and some of the activities were very adventuresome and really possible! Make me nostalgic.
Starting my No. 70@61, The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino. This is my sixteenth ROOT for 2019, and brings the TBR shelf down to 68.
My review of Darwin: A Very Short Introduction:
After a short chapter on Darwin's life, the main part of the book focuses on teasing out the implications of Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection as presented by Darwin himself.
Thus far it is what it says on the tin. The author then goes on less successfully to take part in controversies current at the time of writing (1982), in particular sociobiology and creationism. I was somewhat surprised to be told evolution was incompatible with Christianity. If the author had confined himself to saying that Darwin found it difficult to reconcile the two, that would have been fair enough. However, he inserted this into a comment on the 1980 US presidential election, ignoring the fact that many 20th and now 21st century Christians seem able to accept evolution as part of their world view.
Starting my No. 71@61, Dracula & Dracula's Guest by Bram Stoker. This is not a ROOT but brings the TBR shelf down to 67. It fits the ScaredyKIT.
My review of The Goddess Chronicle:
The story of two sisters, one of whom, Kamikuu, will grow up to succeed their grandmother as the Oracle and the other of whom, Namima, is "impure". Namima is the narratorof the story from the underworld, where, because of the parallels in their circumstances, she serves Izanami, the goddess of the dead, in her vengeance against Izanaki, her husband who abandoned her.
I don't know anything about Japanese mythology and so can't tell how much is the traditional story and how much is Natsuo Kirino's take on it but I really enjoyed venturing out of the usual Greek and Norse myths in this story of what bitterness can do to a person, whether human or deity.
The author writes detective fiction, some of which has been translated into English and I would definitely like to try it at some point.
Hi Robert, I seem to loose track of your thread, but I found it again.
Starting my No. 72@61, Under the Skin by Michel Faber. This ebook is not a ROOT.
My review of Dracula & Dracula's Guest:
The novel and a collection of short stories, one of which may be a deleted scene from an earlier draft of the novel.
The novel was a disappointment. I have read it before (about 30 years ago) and enjoyed it but struggled with it this time. It wasn't so bad that I felt justified in DNF-ing it but was in no hurry to pick it up again either. Perhaps by now the story is just too familiar. Also the introduction and notes were very poor. If the characters are in London and get on a train at Liverpool Street, I don't think we need a note telling us that Liverpool Street is a railway station in London. Just generally meh.
The short stories on the other hand (different person writing the introduction and no notes) were atmospheric enough to compensate for the twists being very predictable, and perhaps they weren't when the stories first appeared.
Starting my No. 73@61, Appleby Talks by Michael Innes. This ebook is my seventeenth ROOT for 2019. It fits the SeriesCAT and RandomCAT.
My review of Under the Skin:
Isserley drives the roads of Ross-shire looking for hunky hitchhikers to take home for unexpected reasons.
I look up words I'm not familiar with and one early on in the book turned out to be a coinage by the author. The explanation contained a massive SPOILER. However, I still enjoyed the book, watching Isserley's struggles to understand the world around her and how her viewpoint and feelings change even if she herself wasn't aware of the changes.
Starting my No. 74@61, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. It's not a ROOT but fits the CalendarCAT.
My review of Appleby Talks:
A collection of Appleby short stories. Some are narrated by Appleby himself, others are told in the 3rd person. Some are straightforward detective fiction/thrillers. Others are just the build up to a pun, and in still others Appleby is definitely pulling his listeners' legs.
Amusing but not really engaging.
Starting my No. 75@61, The Greeks & Greek Love by James N. Davidson. This is my eighteenth ROOT for 2019 and brings the physical TBR shelf down to 65. It also fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of The War of the Worlds:
The original Martians invade Earth novel.
Obviously the book has lost the shock value it probably had when it first appeared but the story still keeps the readers interest as itself not just as the ancestor of half SF. The narrator is a great character, not a macho hero, just an ordinary man swept up in titanic events who stays ordinary rather than suddenly developing fantastic leadership skills that let him save the world.
>50 Robertgreaves: Your review makes me think I should try this. Thanks!
Must have been around the early sixties when I read all the Wells I could find at the library. Maybe it's time to see what I think of him now.
>50 Robertgreaves: I must admit all I know of War of the Worlds is the prog-rock musical (which I love!). I should probably have a go at reading the book some time (maybe I should have the CD on in the background though!).
>54 Jackie_K: There were times I could hear Richard Burton's voice as I was reading.
>54 Jackie_K: That's exactly what I remember too. And I must have the LP somewhere in a box.
>57 Robertgreaves: I hope you enjoy the Sister Beckett book. I have her 100 pics all high school students should know and I love it!
I went to the Big Bad Wolf Sale yesterday, purely out of the goodness of my heart to get some books people in my book club were having problems finding, and somehow, I have no idea how, these additions to my TBR shelf came home with me.
>59 Robertgreaves: They tend to do that. Sneaking up to you and hanging on until you take them home.
>59 Robertgreaves: - Funny how books manage to stealthily find their way to a good home.
Read my No. 78@61, Eve of Ides by David Blixt, a short play which fits the CalendarKIT. It is my twentieth ROOT of 2019. I read it over a couple of days because my main book was too heavy to read standing up in queues and too bulky to carry when I was at the bank.
Short two-act play giving Brutus's conversations with Caesar on the night before the Ides of March and with Caesar's ghost the night before the battle of Philippi. Enjoyable for the most part, though sometimes a bit heavy handed as a vehicle for the author's views.
I'm only about a third of the way through The Greeks and Greek Love, which borders on chunkster territory, but have reached a convenient point to break off to start my No. 79@61, The Romans Who Shaped Britain by Sam Moorhead and David Stuttard for my online reading group. It is my twenty-first ROOT for 2019.
My review of We'll Meet Again:
After a chance meeting with a stranger during an air raid, Gina Franconi, a British girl of Italian descent, is encouraged to join the FANYs, an elite group trained to encipher, transmit, and decipher coded messages to and from Resistance agents in Europe during WWII. Since her father owns a barber shop in Liverpool, she struggles to find acceptance among the other mainly upper middle class recruits. Will she meet the stranger again?
Judging this book club choice by its cover and title, I was afraid this was going to be a rather soppy romance but actually I found it a good light read which kept me turning the pages. As far as I can make out the author had done her homework and I shall certainly read others by her.
My review of The Greeks and Greek Love by James N. Davidson.
A weighty tome, in every sense of the words. Arguing against the predominant view of homosexuality in Ancient Greece which tends to focus on whether tab A went into slot B or C and vice versa, the author tries to concentrate on the emotional underpinnings. However he is quite unable to see a rabbit hole without making an immediate rush down it, which makes following the argument rather difficult at times.
>70 VivienneR: It's not at all clear to me whether they are the same series or whether she has two series both set in WWII, so if you are planning to read all of them, I would like to know whether they join up or not.
Starting my No. 82@61, Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch. This is my twenty-third ROOT for 2019 and brings the physical TBR shelf down to 71. It fits the AlphaKIT, the SFFKIT and the RandomCAT.
My review of The Education of a Coroner:
Memoirs of a coroner working in Marin County, at the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
Interesting if rather random selection of cases. I was expecting more about his training and on the job learning.
Starting my No. 83@61, Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh. This is my twenty-fourth ROOT for 2019 and is one of the books that has been on my virtual TBR shelf the longest.
My review of Lies Sleeping:
The final (?) confrontation between Peter Grant and the other denizens of the Folly and the Faceless Man.
I enjoy these books while I'm reading them but don't find them particularly memorable, so a lot of the time I don't really get the references to events in earlier volumes in the series.
1st quarter stats:
Books read: 36
M/F authors: 25/11
Inner Anglosphere/Others 20/4
Fiction/Non Fiction 26/10
My possible reading for April:
>74 Robertgreaves: Some nice 1st quarter stats as well as a nice selection for April
Starting my no. 84@61, Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor. This is not a ROOT but counts for the TBRCAT because it was originally scheduled for December 2018, though I've forgotten why.
My review of Decline and Fall:
The misadventures of Paul Pennyfeather.
It did have some genuine LOL moments but I didn't take to this. I think the time has come to admit I don't actually like Waugh very much despite the lush romanticism of the TV adaptation of "Brideshead Revisted".
Starting my No. 85@61, A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor. Next in the series, and not a ROOT.
Ripping yarn involving time travelling historians from St. Mary's Institute.
Not as enjoyably humorous as its reputation led me to believe and also minor characters are not well delineated enough for me to keep straight who's who. Still, I'm curious enough about the main character's back story to keep reading.
Starting my No. 86@61 The Long and Short of It (short stories in the series) and No. 87@61 A Second Chance, the next in the series.
My review of A Symphony of Echoes:
The historians of St Mary's continue to "investigate major historical events in contemporary time" and as their arch enemy Ronan tries to manipulate history, St Mary's is forced to adapt a more hands on approach.
I found this book much funnier than the first volume. And the announcement of their next mission at the end is enough to carry me forward.
Starting my No. 88@61, Cities In Flight by James Blish. It is my twenty-fifth ROOT for 2019 and fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of A Second Chance:
The denizens of St. Mary's visit Troy, the Cretaceous, 19th century Gloucester, and the battle of Agincourt.
This quite a rollercoaster emotionally. The fall of Troy was full of tension with good scene setting for the horrors involved in the fall of a city without voyeuristic violence. The cheese rolling was hilarious and the battle of Agincourt was exciting. The ending, however, was rather out of left field (though expecting narrative sense in a humorous time-travel series is perhaps silly in itself).
I then read Roman Holiday from the collection of short stories and although it was a great story which had me howling with laughter, I have to say I really don't think the author had done her homework with regard to Cleopatra's stay in Rome, which was a bit disappointing. I will continue with the series, but not just now.
Another kg lost today. The two ebooks I chose are:
The Sun Goes Down by James Lear and
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Starting my No. 89@61, Comic and Bawdy Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. This is my twenty-sixth ROOT for 2019. It fits the CalendarCAT.
My review of Cities in Flight:
An omnibus of James Blish's tetralogy of novels about cities leaving Earth and flying from star system to star system as interstellar hobos looking for work.
Classic hard SF that takes the business of earning a living seriously. The main character grows on you in such a quiet way the ending is unexpectedly emotional.
>82 AHS-Wolfy: I have vague memories of reading them individually as a teen but probably not in any sort of order, just as they came to hand in the library.
>80 Robertgreaves: Congratulations on the loss, and nice additions to the shelf!
Starting my No. 90@61, Chaucer's People by Liza Picard. This brings the physical TBR pile down to 70 and fits the CalendarCAT. It is my twenty-seventh ROOT for 2019.
That kg I lost earlier this week? I found it again.
My review of Comic and Bawdy Tales:
Extracts from the Canterbury Tales.
I found them interesting as a window into medieval life rather than particularly funny.
Starting my No. 91@61, The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens. This brings the physical TBR pile down to 69 and is my twenty-eighth ROOT for 2019. It fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of Chaucer's People:
Medieval social history tied to the characters from "The Canterbury Tales".
Mildly interesting but not as detailed as her other books about London life in different centuries.
Starting my No. 92@61, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. It is my twenty-ninth ROOT for 2019.
My review of The Elected Member:
Norman Zweck is committed to a mental hospital due to the hallucinations he suffers because of his addiction to amphetamines. What led him to this point and how will his father and sisters cope?
It certainly kept me turning the pages to find out more as the family's past and present are gradually revealed.
>87 Robertgreaves: I like books about the insane, so I'm going to put that on my wish list. Also, about those kg's you've lost? Sadly, I lost 20 lbs. (about 9kg?) and gained every single one of them back in 6 months--so now I'm about losing them again!
>88 Tess_W: He just sees things as the drug loses potency rather than is insane.
Starting my No. 93@61, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my book club's choice for April and is not a ROOT.
My review of The Stars My Destination:
Lots of twists and turns in this SF version of the Count of Monte Cristo make it all good fun. Whether it has the significance the reviews and intro try to claim for it, I'm not so sure.
My review of The Good Priest:
A figure from Fr John's past appears on Ash Wednesday to confess his sins. Could he be a serial killer, and if so how much can Fr John tell his policeman parishioner without breaking the seal of the confessional?
I read this in 'real time'over Lent, reading each chapter on the day it was supposed to happen. This may have spoiled the pacing a bit, so I enjoyed listening in on the theological discussions and seeing Fr John (whose surname I've forgotten, if indeed it was ever mentioned) in action with his parishioners, but never really got caught up in it as a thriller. I would have liked an epilogue of some sort to see how Fr John's relationship with his parishioners changed as a result of the events.
Starting my No. 94@61, The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. It's my thirtieth ROOT for 2019. I'm re-reading it now having read a woman's eye view of the Iliad, I want to re-read this woman's eye view of the Odyssey and it is a quick read. By chance it also fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of The Silence of the Girls:
The story of the Iliad told from the point of view of Briseis.
Although that it is what is billed as, Pat Barker hasn't really managed it. Every so often she gives up and has a chapter told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator with access to the men's thoughts and feelings rather than Briseis's first person point of view. Although the narrative is competently enough done, it's curiously unemotional. Briseis mentions her or another character's feelings but I never really felt them.
Starting my No. 95@61 The Hollow Crown by Miri Rubin. It's my thirty-first ROOT for 2019 and brings the physical TBR shelf down to 68. I'm reading it for the AlphaKIT.
My review of The Penelopiad (unchanged from last time I read it):
From the afterlife Penelope tells us her life story. Every so often the 12 maids killed on Odysseus's return to Ithaca give their perspective on events as seen from the other end of the social ladder.
Atwood's Penelope is a very funny character. If your mother is a Naiad, your father tried to drown you as a baby, Helen of Troy is your cousin (so you're always going to come off second best in the boyfriend/husband stakes), and your husband disappears for 20 years, really a sense of humour is your only possible way of staying sane. Her comment on Odysseus's return:
"The two of us were - by our own admission - proficient and shameless liars of long standing. It's a wonder either one of us believed a word the other said.
But we did.
Or so we told each other."
I'm giving up on The Hollow Crown for the time being. I've read the first two chapters, i.e., I'm about a third of the way through, and it is definitely a history of England despite it saying a history of Britain on the cover. The fact that the maps at the fron include England, Wales, Ireland, and France but not Scotland should have been a bit of a giveaway but it was from Amazon. Also things have been a bit difficult at work just recently with long hours, playing havoc with my sleep patterns, so I need something lighter. I might come back to it later.
So my new no. 95@61 is The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle by Robert Howard, which is my thirty-second ROOT for 2019 and brings the TBR shelf down to 67. It fits the AlphaKIT and the SFFKIT.
Currently reading Ring of Silence by Mark Zubro as my No. 97@61. It is not a ROOT but fits the SeriesCAT and AlphaKIT.
My review of The Conan Chronicles: Volume 1 by Robert E. Howard:
The first volume of a collection of the original pulp magazine 1930s stories.
Fun at first but too many variations on a theme to read in one go despite their imaginativeness. Also, although I am willing to allow books to be "of their time", my goodness the racism was blatant, made even more blatant by being set in a fantasy pre-Ice Age time.
My review of The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith:
Livia, Julia, and Cleopatra Selene tell their stories from Octavian/Augustus's triumph over Egypt to Julia's exile.
Interesting and believable, especially as we see the same events from the women's different viewpoints.
Starting my No. 98@61, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany. This is my thirty-fourth ROOT for 2019 and brings the TBR shelf down to 66.
My review of Ring of Silence:
When Paul Turner and Buck Fenwick prevent the incompetent Carruthers from shooting a suspect, their lives get complicated.
All the usual mystifying twists and turns made this a good read, but reading this latest installment after a gap made me realise time is not flowing for the characters like the rest of us. Paul's kids should be in their thirties by now, not late teens or early twenties.
Starting my No. 99@61, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke. This is my thirty-fifth ROOT for 2019.
My review of Babel-17:
When cryptographers cannot decode mysterious transmissions which appear to be linked to acts of sabotage, they recommend consulting the poet and former cryptographer Rydra Wong, who discovers the messages are not in code but in a unknown language. She deciphers enough of the message to discover where the next act of sabotage will take place and puts together a mission to foil it.
I liked the linguistics and Rydra's recruiting of her crew and their interactions. The space battles left me cold apart from giggling at the strategy names. The ending seemed very perfunctory, as if the author had been having too much fun and suddenly realised he had now got to end it somehow.
I have given up on Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. You know you're in trouble when you're a third of the way through the book and still the best thing was the title. So my new 99@61 is The Lewis Trilogy by Peter May. It fits the CalendarCAT. Although it is a single ebook the three constituent novels are only available as individual treebooks rather than an omnibus, so I am going to count them as individual books and ROOTS.
On to The Lewis Man, the second book in The Lewis Trilogy, which counts as my No. 100@61 and my thirty-seventh ROOT for 2019.
My review of The Blackhouse:
DI Fin Macleod is assigned to the investigation of a murder on Lewis because it bears many similarities to a murder he was investigating in Edinburgh before he went on compassionate leave for the death of his young son and because he has local knowledge, having grown up himself on Lewis.
The description of life on Lewis and the harsh conditions really make this book the great read it is, but that shouldn't detract from the fact that the story is also very well told.
The third in the trilogy is The Chessmen, which counts as my No.he 101@61 and my thirty-eighth ROOT for 2019.
My review of The Lewis Man:
When a body found buried in peat turns out to date from the 1950s rather than Neolithic times and DNA suggests it is a relative of Marsaili's father, Fin Macleod agrees to investigate despite having left the force since he seems to have a rapport with the old man, who is suffering from severe dementia.
The island landscapes and weather are as much a character in the book as any of the people. The mystery kept me turning the pages to find out what exactly happened and why. There were times when I was wondering whether ANY of the inhabitants had a reasonably happy childhood. But perhaps people who did don't get involved in murder mysteries.
My review of The Chessmen:
Fin Macleod and his friend Whistler find a small private plane that disappeared 17 years ago is found. The pilot was a musician with an up and coming Gaelic rock group and had obviously been murdered. And something seems not quite right.
Although this would have worked as a stand alone, it doesn't quite gel as the third in the trilogy. The relationship between Fin and Big Kenny contradicts what we were told in the first book where they seemed to be meeting for the first time but here they knew each other from school. Also the dual timeline, although it worked well as a narrative in the first two books, was just confusing here. A disappointing finish.
Starting my No. 103@61, The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. this is my fortieth ROOT for 2019 and brings the treebook TBR pile down to 64. It fits the RandomCAT.
My review of Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts:
The author introduces 12 mediaeval manuscripts, where they are kept, their contents, and history.
This book is as gorgeously illustrated as one would expect. The text is for the most part interesting with lots of little nuggets of information about the manuscripts, the libraries where they are kept. and some of the deductions we can make about the scribes and origins of the books. Obviously he couldn't reproduce the complete manuscripts -- and part of the point was that much of what we can learn from the manuscripts simply cannot be seen in any reproduction however excellent -- and there were times it felt a bit like reading museum wall labels for exhibits one can't see. Despite that it was worth persisting through the occasional dry spell for the overall enjoyment. I did wish at that the end that he'd said more about why these 12 rather than any others.
Starting my No. 104@61 Gateway by Frederik Pohl. This is my forty-first ROOT for 2019 and brings the treebook pile down to 63.
My review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (unchanged from last time I read it in 2010):
Charlie's first year of high school as told in a series of letters to a stranger he'd heard mentioned as a sympathetic listener.
Charlie's English teacher thinks he is very gifted, though he struck me as emotionally and linguistically rather backward for his age (15/16). Nevertheless he is a fascinating character and I found this look at the world through his eyes almost impossible to put to down.
My 105@61 is the next in the series, Beyond the Blue Event Horizon. It is a new ebook and so is not a ROOT. It fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of Gateway:
Robinette Broadhead, having struck it rich as a member of a Gateway ship crew, is undergoing Freudian psychoanalysis.
Enjoyable quick read. The inclusion of classified ads, newspaper stories, and questions after lectures all help build up the picture of a society.
Starting my No. 106@61, The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton. It is an ebook and my forty-second ROOT for 2019. It fits the AlphaKIT and the TBRCAT.
My review of Beyond The Blue Event Horizon:
Robinette Broadhead is living the life of his dreams back on Earth when explorers reach a Heechee artefact in the Oort cloud to find some very surprising discoveries.
I found Wan very confusing at first, especially as I was expecting more about Klara and the black hole. Can't wait for the next one but alas it's not available here.
Starting my No. 107@61, the next in the series The Disciple of Las Vegas.
My review of The Water Rat of Wanchai:
Ava Lee is a forensic accountant who traces embezzled or stolen money and helps retrieve it. She is asked to help the nephew of a family friend whose company has been defrauded of US$5,000,000.
A friend recommended this series and kept asking whether I'd read it yet, so in the end I gave in. I enjoyed it rather more than I was expecting to, even if the viiolence was a bit more graphic than I really liked. However, Ava is a great character, and I like the fact that although she is a lesbian this is kept incidental to her work.
Starting my No. 108@61, the next in the series, The Wild Beasts of Wuhan. As a new ebook it's not a ROOT.
My review of The Disciple of Las Vegas:
Ava Lee is asked to retrieve company money lost in a high-stakes online poker game.
Intriguing detection and a good thriller. I still like Ava, and I like the fact that she is not superhuman, the violence does take its toll and she needs time to recover physically and mentally.
Next in the series is my No. 109@61, The Red Pole of Macau.
My review of The Wild Beasts of Wuhan:
An influential businessman and his wife from Wuhan find out that some of their collection of Fauvist paintings are fakes. They ask Ava Lee to get their money back but since the gallery owner is dead and his records destroyed, where can she start?
I had no idea forensic accountants lived such exhausting lives criss-crossing the globe like this. Good, intriguing mystery and not quite as violent as usual.
Starting my No. 110@61, Hume: A Very Short Introduction by A. J. Ayer. This is my forty-third ROOT for 2019 and brings the treebookTBR shelf down to 62. It fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of The Red Pole of Macau:
After her half-brother makes a foolish investment which threatens to ruin not only his own company's finances but their father's, Ava Lee has to go up against the Macanese triad.
We get to learn more about Uncle's background and see more of Ava's family in this tense thriller. Ava is still troubled about what she has to do even though she accepts it must be done and it is her responsibility.
Starting my No. 111@61, The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. It's my forty-fourth ROOT for 2019 and brings the treebook shelf down to 61. It fits the ScaredyKIT.
My review of Hume: A Very Short Introduction:
After a short introductory chapter on Hume's life, the book consists of transcripts of 4 lectures Ayer gave on Hume and it shows. It is very much Ayer's assessment of Hume and where he agrees and disagrees philosophically with him rather than an introduction to Hume.
Starting my No. 112@61, The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith. This is my forty-fifth ROOT for 2019 and brings the treebook TBR shelf down to 60
My review of The Midwich Cuckoos:
The village of Midwich mysteriously falls asleep for a day and a night - every living thing. A couple of months later all the women of childbearing age in the village find they are pregnant even if they are still virgins. But what are they going to give birth to?
Not quite as scary as when I read it as a young teenager, but still very atmospheric.
Also reading The Jeeves Omnibus Vol 2 since the novels are not in chronological order in the omnibuses. It's a new ebook, so not a ROOT.
My No. 115@61 is the next in the series, A Case of Possession.
My review of The Magpie Lord:
Lord Crane, having returned to Britain after 20 years in China to take up the title after the death of his elder brother, is under occult attack. The shaman recommended to him for help is Stephen Day. It turns out, however, that Day's family has suffered terribly at the hands of Crane's father and brother. Can they work together to find out whether Crane is collateral damage in a curse directed at his family or whether they were collateral damage in a curse directed at Crane himself?
This was a ripping yarn that kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. At first I found the romance elements an irritating distraction from the mystery but the disparate elements blended together very nicely in the last few chapters.
Last in the trilogy is A Charm of Magpies. It is not a ROOT but a trilogy fits RandomCAT and the gay romance element means it also fits CalendarCAT.
My reiew of A Case of Possession:
Lord Crane's and Stephen Day's professional and personal lives become more entwined when Stephen asks Lucien to act as interpreter when he needs to contact some Chinese shamans.
Again, a quick and entertaining read, though once I'd finished I would have been hard pressed to tell you what it was about. I found the companion short piece much more memorable.
Starting my No. 117@61 is The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. This is my bookclub's choice for June and is not a ROOT.
My review of Flight of Magpies:
The course of true love is not running smooth for Lucien and Stephen as each of them has to deal with clashes of loyalties and a figure from their past reappears.
I rushed through this one eager to find out what happened next and how the situations would be resolved. The short after piece provides a resolution, but I think despite it being the end of the trilogy she has left open the possibility of more adventures for Lucien and Stephen, though the cliffhanger at the end of the main work does suggest one of the other characters is going to move centre stage in a new series set in the same universe.
Overall, the trilogy falls into the category of guilty pleasure in that Ms Charles writes a darn good yarn but her central gay couple mimic straight romantic and sexual roles to the point I'm not sure how much difference it would make if Stephen had been Stephanie.
Starting my No. 118@61, Horace and Me by Harry Eyres. This is my forty-seventh ROOT for 2019 and I am reading it now for my online reading group.
My review of The Hare With the Amber Eyes:
Edmund de Waal follows the history of a collection of netsuke bought by his great-grandfather's cousin as a way of telling the story of his family in Paris, Vienna, Tokyo and England.
My heart sank a little reading the aestheticism on display in the prologue, because I just don't have those reactions to objects and found the descriptions of the feelings the objects inspired in the author baffling. Once the book got underway, though, I found it unexpectedly interesting describing the different milieux. Although I had expected before I started that the book was going to be focussed on the travails of the family under the Nazis, there wasn't all that much in the book, which was just as well because I found even the 40 pages or so that there was difficult reading.
Starting my No. 119@61, The Last Romeo by Justin Myers. This brings the physical TBR pile down to 58 and is my forty-eighth ROOT for 2019. It fits the AlphaKIT, CalendarCAT, and RandomCAT.
My review of Horace and Me:
Memoir by a poet I'd never heard of, looking back on his life through his reactions to Horace's poetry at different times.
Rather rambling and there were bits that didn't really click for me. The author is a year older than me and I was surprised how many parallels there were between us despite his rather grander background.
Starting Jalna by Mazo de la Roche. It fits the SeriesCAT and AlphaKIT. As an ebook box set with no physical equivalent each novel counts separately by my rules, so the first one, The Building of Jalna is my No. 120@61 and my forty-ninth ROOT.
My review of The Last Romeo:
James Brodie plunges into the world of dating apps after breaking up with his boyfriend. He blogs his encounters and the blog goes viral.
Apart from a couple of places, not as funny as I thought it was going to be.
On to the next one, Young Renny. My No. 123@61 and fifty-second ROOT for 2019.
Starting my No. 124@61 The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond. It fits the RandomCAT and AlphaKIT. It brings the TBR pile down to 57 and my fifty-fourth ROOT.
I also read about 20 pages of Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz last night in the Jeremiah Curtin translation last night and realised there was no way I was going to be able to read through 600 pages of this pseudo-Jacobean English. If I can find another translation which uses late 19th century English for what I assume is late 19th century Polish I might give it another go at some point. So that's my fifty-fifth ROOT off the shelf.
My review of the Jalna box set:
The Building of Jalna
Captain Wakefield of the British Indian army inherits a property in Canada in the 1850s, so he and his Irish wife decide to emigrate.
A good, soapy, read. The Atlantic crossing was very well done -- although I knew they had to stay safe for the book to continue, it was still very atmospheric, showing that a safe voyage was by no means guaranteed. There were several parts later in the book that felt we were building up to some disaster which didn't happen.
Morning at Jalna
Bizarre episode in which a married couple from South Carolina and three of their slaves come to stay at Jalna purportedly as refugees from the American Civil War but in fact to take part in raids across the border into the Northern States to hamper their war effort.
This was the last of the Jalna books to be written and left a slightly sour taste, but no doubt accurately reflects the opinions of some people for the time it was set.
30-odd years later Mary Wakefield comes to Jalna as a governess to baby Philip's children and the young widower finds consolation.
Predictable cozy read, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
12 years later, Meggie, Philip's daughter by his first wife is on the verge of matrimony to the boy next door.
The pranks against Malahide Court were very funny.
>126 Robertgreaves: Ugh...I have the Curtin translation on my ereader. I shall take a look around at what else is available when I am ready to read it.
Starting my 125@61, The Fearless Benjamin Lay by Marcus Rediker. It is not a ROOT.
My review of The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee:
The roots in our evolution of what we can be proud of as a species and of what we should be ashamed of as a species.
I found the first part rather heavy going, partly because I suspect at least some of has been outdated by discoveries in the field of genetics since the book was written in 1990. The author has explored many of the themes of the rest of the book in greater detail in his other popular works, though his overview of the history of genocide was new to me. Given his knife-edge between optimism and pessimism about our species's future in the epilogue, there seem to be depressingly more grounds for pessimism looking back at the 30 years since then.
Starting my No. 126@61, The Italian Girl by Iris Murdoch. It fits the AlphaKIT and the CalendarCAT. It is my fifty-sixth ROOT for 2019.
My review of The Fearless Benjamin Lay:
Biography of one of the first slavery abolitionists.
Working class, only four feet tall, Benjamin Lay was a key figure in the early abolitionist movement in America in the 1730s and 1740s. This was not a topic I knew anything about (I think George I and II, Queen Charlotte, and Benjamin Franklin were the only names I recognised and the monarchs only got one mention) but the author writes clearly, if a little ploddingly at times. I was glad the author took Lay's religion seriously, but would have liked more quotes from Lay's own writings.
Starting my No. 127@61, The 27th Kingdom by Alice Thomas Ellis. It is my fifty-seventh ROOT for 2019 and brings the TBR shelf down to 55.
My review of The Italian Girl:
Edmund returns to the family home after the death of his mother only to stumble from one emotional upheaval to another.
Iris Murdoch's prose in this book demands careful, concentrated reading but it is worth it.
Startiig my No. 128@61, Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers. This ebook is my fifty-eighth (whoops I leapt over a fifty-third ROOT so this is my fifty-seventh) ROOT for 2019.
My review of The 27th Kingdom:
A mixed-race postulant is sent to stay with her Mother Superior's sister, ostensibly to test her vocation.
Although there are flashes of humour throughout, it wasn't as funny as the first chapter led me to think it would be. The ending was very strange and inconclusive.
2nd quarter stats:
Books read: 49
Inner Anglosphere/Others: 46/3
Fiction/Non Fiction: 40/9
My possibilities for July:
Starting my No. 129@61, The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. This fits the AlphaKIT, TBRCAT, and CalendarCAT but is not a ROOT.
I have also added one book to the TBR shelf to re-read for my online reading group, making it 56.
My review of Record of a Spaceborn Few:
Slices of life on the Exodus Fleet.
Enjoyable look at life on the Asteria rotating through different characters over a period, some of the stories being tied together at the end. A list of characters would have been nice.
Currently reading my No. 130@61, Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout (not a ROOT but it fits CalendarCAT) and my No. 131@61, Silence by Shusaku Endo (my book club's choice for July, my fifty-eighth ROOT, bringing the TBR shelf down to 55).
My review of The Patron Saint of Liars:
When she finds out she is pregnant, Rose abandons her husband and mother and drives cross country from California to a home for unmarried mothers in Habit, Kentucky, where she spends the next 16 years.
A bit disappointing, mainly because the other books by this author I have read set such a high bar. I never really grasped why Rose did what she did and the final chapters seemed to be building up to a big reveal which just didn't happen.
Currently reading Pompeii by Robert Harris. This is my fifty-ninth ROOT and brings my TBR shelf down to 54. I am re-reading it now for my online reading group, but it also fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of Silence:
Portuguese missionaries go to 17th century Japan, which is closing itself off from foreign influences, in particular Christianity, which has been proscribed.
Even though I knew vaguely what it was about, this book had unexpected elements. When the missionary was on the run I found his isolation was what came across rather than any fear of capture. It was frequently stressed that the Japanese converts idea of God was different from the missionaries, without it ever being explained what the difference was.
Having paused Abide With Me while I read my book club and reading group books, I really didn't feel like picking it up again, so my new 132@61 is Eden's Past by Adam Carpenter. This ebook is my sixtieth ROOT for 2019. It fits the AlphaKIT and the CalendarCAT.
My review of Pompeii:
In August AD 79 the new aquarius in charge of the Aqua Augusta aqueduct serving Pompeii, Herculaneum, Nola, and Misenum finds that the aqueduct has stopped producing water and investigates why.
The aqueduct was far more interesting than the characters, who I found to be rather flat cliches to the point it was fairly obvious within a few pages of each character being introduced who was going to survive
My No. 133@61 is the second part (this is more of a serial than in a series), Eden's Present. It is not a ROOT but also fits the AlphaKIT and the CalendarCAT. I will review the whole trilogy when I'm done.
I have finished the third book in the Edenwood trilogy, Eden's Future, which was my No. 134@61.
My review of the whole trilogy:
Chad Singleton returns to the family home after the death of his homophobic father, only to find that there may have been more to his death than an accident while driving under the influence.
There was a very good mystery with soap opera elements struggling to escape from this trilogy and if the recaps from the earlier volumes had been cut and the sex scenes maybe halved it could have fit into a single volume. As it was, halfway through the second part I started rolling my eyes, and skimming and skipping the distractions to get back to the story.
Starting my No. 135@61 is The European Union: A Very Short Introduction by Simon Underwood & John Pinder, which is my sixty-first ROOT for 2019. It fits the AlphaKIT.
I also managed to lose another kg, so got myself two ebooks:
The Languages of Pao by Jack Vance and
Hot Head by Damon Suede
Currently reading my No. 136@61, Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott.This is my sixty-second ROOT for 2019 and brings the TBR shelf down to 52. It fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of The European Union: A Very Short Introduction:
This book covers the development of what is now the European Union from the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950 to the UK's activation of Article 50 in 2017.
There were times when I felt overwhelmed by the blizzard of acronyms heading my way but my main impression, despite Brexit being only a very minor theme, was the sheer FOLLY of expecting the population at large to have an informed opinion on such a complex set of institutions. I am by inclination a Remainer simply as a member of the first generation not to have had to fight in a European war but I freely admit that is an emotional decision rather than a rational one based on a deep understanding of all the issues and I am sure most people's vote was similarly swayed by emotion rather than understanding.
Starting Wyntertide, the next in the series, as my No. 137@61. The author's name keeps it in the AlphaKIT.
My review of Rotherweird:
The Rotherweird valley is an independent part of the UK, which has had no MP nor come under the control of any bishop since the time of Elizabeth I. But now it is under threat from outside and from the other place.
Fascinating fantasy world with intriguing puzzles to solve. In the book it is a punishment but
Currently reading Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell. It is my sixty-third ROOT for 2019 and brings the TBR shelf down to 51.
My review of Wyntertide:
Now that his minion has been defeated, can the inhabitants of Rotherweird defeat Wynter himself?
The world building remains meticulous, with an interesting array of characters so I'm not sure what went wrong. About half way through I just stopped caring and couldn't face another book and a half of the trilogy.
>144 Robertgreaves: That's a shame that the sequel doesn't hold up to the first book.
>145 Jackie_K: I thought it was a hoot, myself, although I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of a withering comment from him! (We were actually in Wigtown during the period covered by the diary, and I had to check to make sure we *weren't* mentioned.)
Starting The Private Memoirs and and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. It was on my virtual TBR shelf and is mentioned several times in The Diary of a Bookseller. It fits the AlphaKIT and is my sixty-fourth ROOT of 2019.
My review of The Diary of a Bookseller:
Daily notes from a year in the life of a bookshop owner in Wigtown.
Some interesting insights into how a bookshop actually operates enlivened with mentions of some of the odder people he has to deal with. He obviously feels frustrated by some people's lack of knowledge of the realities of the book trade and especially the effects Amazon is having. Why he hadn't fired Nicky long ago remains a mystery to me.
Just what I needed while feeling rather under the weather.
>149 Tess_W: I think one reason for the mixed reviews that I've seen is that people assume the way he mocks and castigates some customers is the way he treats all customers rather than those who can be made the subject of the most entertaining anecdotes or who illustrate a point he wants to make.
Starting my No. 139@61, Beach Reading by Mark Abramson. This is not a ROOT.
My review of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner:
In the early 1700s, one brother is brought up in Southern Scotland as the son of the laird, the other as the adopted son of a clergyman. There is trouble when they meet.
This peculiar book is a mixture of parody of confessional literature, criticism of extreme theology, and horror. It took me a while to get my bearings, but once I had, I loved it.
Hi Robert, I seem to lose sight of your thread over and over again! Sorry about that. But now I'm here and saying Hi!
Thanks for dropping by, Connie.
Starting as my No. 140@61, the next in the series, Cold Serial Murder, which fits AlphaKIT.
My review of Beach Reading:
What's a guy to do, go to what's being billed as the disco party of the decade or protest the arrival in town of a homophobic preacher? Unfortunately Tim Snow has to work at his job as a waiter that night.
This was bizarre as the first installment of a mystery series in that no crime was committed. One was planned but by the time we found out about it the would-be perpetrators had changed their minds. Also, local colour is all very well but the author needs to realise that we don't all have a map of San Francisco in our heads. I will take this as an extended introduction and read the next in the series but it's going to have to be good to persuade me to continue past that.
Starting my No. 143@61, Selected Poetry by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This fits the AlphaKIT and CalendarCAT. It is my sxity-fifth ROOT for 2019 and brings the physical TBR shelf down to 50.
In the Beach Reading series, I read Cold Serial Murder, Russian River Rat, and Snowman. My reviews:
Cold Serial Murder
When Tim Snow's Aunt Ruth comes to stay for a few weeks, he promises her a drive in his ex's T-Bird, only to find when they go to his house that he has been murdered. Soon corpses are popping up all over the place.
The addition of Aunt Ruth is a great improvement to this series as a way in for those of us who don't live in San Francisco. It was enough of a fun read to carry me on to the next in the series.
Russian River Rat
Tim Snow has found a new love and his Aunt Ruth has moved out to San Francisco. Unfortunately Nick has a history.
Good fun story with likeable if rather clichéd characters. But I wish the formatting was better. A space between paragraphs when the action shifts would make reading easier.
More murderous fun and games for the denizens of Arts as Aunt Ruth's relationship with Sam moves into a higher gear.
The awful Dianne was more caricature than character, but I had fun with the rest of the gang.
Starting my No. 144@61, Educated by Tara Westover. This ebook is not a ROOT but I am reading it now for my bookclub.
My review of Selected Poetry
What it says on the tin. I did a lot of skipping and dipping. Surprised to see the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan were both longer than what we read in school.
Starting my No. 145@61, Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler. This ebook is not a ROOT but fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of Educated:
A memoir of growing up in a survivalist strict Mormon family and then gaining an education in the world outside those constraints.
Very powerfully written. I keep veering between thinking it must be exaggerated and thinking that it is emotionally true to how it felt to her experiencing it. I changed my mind about what to read next as it seemed so frivolous and lightweight in comparison as to be almost an insult to her.
>160 Robertgreaves: That is on my TBR pile. I'm sure it was not exaggerated.
The unnamed narrator is a not very successful journalist in São Paulo who is sent to interview the lead singer for a new band only to find out she is the daughter of a singer he interviewed 20 years before who vanished just before the curtain went up for her first big solo concert. As memories he has tried to suppress surface, he tries to work out what really happened.
Weird, hallucinatory, too full of references to 1980s films I haven't seen and actors and singers I don't know. The glossary explaining about the orixa could have been more helpful. It was a struggle to get through.
Starting my 147@61, Nietzsche: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Tanner. It is my sixty-sixth ROOT for 2019 and brings the physical TBR shelf down to 49. It fits the AlphaKIT and CalendarCAT.
My review of Empires of the Word:
Fascinating look at languages through history which spread because other people wanted or had to learn them such as Chinese, Aramaic, Sanskrit, Greek, and Spanish. After looking at why different languages persisted in being spoken by a large number of people over a wide area, the author tries to predict whether English is here to stay as the current no. 1 international language.
Starting my No. 148@61, Akar by Dee Lestari. This is my sixty-seventh ROOT for 2019 and brings the TBR shelf down to 48. It fits the CalendarCAT, today being Indonesia's Independence Day but it's a long time siince I read a novel in Indonesian so I am feeling a bit nervous because it probably involves completely different vocabulary fields from what I'm used to seeing at work.
My review of Nietzsche: A Very Short Introduction:
I felt that as an introduction, this book could have done with a biographical sketch - there were lots of references to Neitzsche's sufferings without it being at all clear to me what happened. I know he suffered from mental illness at the end of his life but I didn't get the impression that was what was being referred to.
My impression from this book is that Nietzsche was fond of coining clever phrases but it probably doesn't do to press him too closely as to what he actually meant by them. The author seems to recommend reading Nietzche's works quickly to get a general overview and then dip in here and there to admire particular passages without trying to get them to make a coherent whole. In which case one can't complain, as the author does, that many of those who took him as an inspiration got him wrong.
Starting my No. 149@61, Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie. This is my sixty-eighth ROOT for 2019.
My review of Akar:
The adventures of Bodhi wandering through SE Asia.
Unfortunately my memory of the previous book in the series is somewhat vague at this point so I am not at all sure how they fit together or how the various narrative threads are going to join up. Although I bought the next one in the series I don't know when I'll get round to it.
Starting my No. 150@61, Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie. This is a new ebook and so not a ROOT.
My review of Parker Pyne Investigates:
The cases of a retired Home Office statistician.
I was a bit doubtful as the first few were not really mysteries livening up people's marriages and lives. I felt that some of the characters really were impossibly dim not to realise Mr Pyne was pulling the strings. Some were more traditional stories solving who committed the murder or stole the jewels with good twists.
Starting my No. 151@61, Death in the Clouds. This is a new treebook and so is not a ROOT. The physical bookshelf count is now 51.
My review of Three Act Tragedy:
At a retired actor's dinner party one of the guests, the vicar, drops dead, apparently of natural causes. But then a few months later one of the other guests also drops dead in almost identical circumstances and this time it was definitely poison to blame. Mr Satterthwaite watches from the sidelines as the actor leads the investigation but ultimately it's up to Poirot to find the answer.
I managed to firmly resist the obvious suspect and I reached the right person before the revelation scene, but had no idea why.
Starting my No. 152@61, The ABC Murders. It is a new treebook and so is not a ROOT but it brings the physical bookshelf down to 50.
My review of Death in the Clouds:
Shortly before a flight from Paris to London lands, one of the passengers is found dead in her seat. Was it a wasp sting or something more sinister - like a poison dart?
Good, traditional Poirot mystery. But even more interesting for the look at what flying was like between the wars.
>169 Robertgreaves: You're making me want to re-read Death in the Clouds, although I'm going to have to check that I have a non-scary cover. They all seem to have giant wasps on them.
>170 rabbitprincess: If you don't like the cover, how do you get through the Dr Who episode?
Starting my No. 153@61, Murder in Mesopotamia. This is a new ebook and so not a ROOT.
My review of The ABC Murders:
Poirot receives an anonymous letter which seems to be from a serial killer challenging him to a duel of wits.
More cerebral and a lot less dark than the TV adaptation, the book had less sex and Poirot was not tortured by his war memories. I preferred the book.
Starting my No. 154@61 Augustine: A Very Short Introduction by Henry Chadwick. This is my sixty-ninth ROOT for 2019 and brings the physical TBR shelf down to 49. I'm reading it for the CalendarCAT.
My review of Murder in Mesopotamia:
An archaeologist's wife is murdered. Only the members of the expedition had access to the entrance to her bedroom at the relevant time. But which one was it?
I felt this one stretched credulity a bit too far. I didn't really believe in the psychological portrait of the victim or that the method would work without a lot of practice.
Starting my No.155@61 The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is my seventieth ROOT for 2019 and brings the physical TBR shelf down to 48.
My review of Augustine: A Very Short Introduction:
Basically, what it says on the tin. I've read the Confessions and started but did not finish The City of God, so it was interesting to read about some of his other work.
Starting my No. 156@61 All The Little Liars by Charlaine Harris. This ebook is my seventy-first ROOT for 2019. It fits the SeriesCAT.
My review of The Handmaid's Tale:
An unnamed narrator tells the story of her day-to-day life in the Republic of Gilead, a successor state to the US, and remembers her life in the US and the transition from one to the other.
I remember reading this when it first came out and enjoying it simply as a science fiction story but just one of a myriad and one imaginings of possible futures. Now, with the rise of authoriatarianism and polarisation around the world, I wouldn't be surprised if someone took it as an instruction manual rather than a warning. I think the current regimes in the UK and the US are run by idiots more intent on simply feathering their own nests but they would have no qualms about such a future if they thought they could make money out of it.
Reading the next (and last so far) in the series, Sleep Like A Baby. This is a new ebook and so is not a ROOT. It also fits the SeriesCAT.
My review of All the Little Liars:
A group of teenagers, including Roe's half brother, go missing and another teenager is found dead behind a hairdresser's which was the last known destination of some of the teens.
It's been about 5 years since I read the previous installments in this series, so I got a bit lost amongst Roe's family relationships to the point where I was starting to wonder if the author had got half siblings and step siblings muddled (she hadn't, but thank goodness for the ability to wordsearch the earlier ebooks).
Once I got that sorted out in my mind, this proved to be an absolutely gripping thriller, well-paced with each ratcheting up of the tension perfectly timed, and I found it quite unputdownable.
Starting my No. 158@61, Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction by Bhikhu Parekh. This is my seventy-second ROOT for 2019 and brings the physical TBR shelf down to 47.
My review of Sleep Like A Baby:
Robin is away, Roe is out cold sleeping off a fever, there is a body in their back garden, and the nanny has disappeared.
Enjoyable but not up to the standard of the previous one.
>181 Tess_W: I don't think I ever have read the real thing, just an adaptation for children.
Starting my No. 159@61, A Sea of Sorrow, a collaborative novel by various authors. This ebook is my seventy-third ROOT for 2019. I'm reading it now as my online Reading Group's choice for September.
My review of Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction:
Interesting. There was a lot more to him than I was aware of, my knowledge being limited to the non-violent struggle for Indian independence.
Reading my No. 161@61, Death in Holy Orders by P. D. James. This is my book club's choice for September and also fits the SeriesCAT. It is my seventy-fourth ROOT for 2019.
My review of Lingua Franca:
Miles Platting is the founder of Lingua Franca, a company which pairs up cash-strapped town councils which agree to change the name of their town in return for commercial sponsorship money. After an accident he wakes up in a hospital where no-one speaks, only writes notes.
It must have sounded intriguing at some point but I do not remember how this ended up on my TBR list. I suppose the idea is amusing but I found the story unconvincing and generally rather meh.
Starting my No. 162@61, Ghost Ship by Neil Plakcy. This is my seventy-fifth ROOT for 2019.
My review of Death in Holy Orders from last time I read it:
An influential father does not accept that his son's death was accidental and pulls strings to have Adam Dalgleish assigned to the case. After Dalgleish arrives at the small seminary on the Suffolk coast where the young man was studying, a visiting Archdeacon's body is found in the chapel.
A good, fun, quick read.
Starting my No. 163@61, The Essays: A Selection by Michel de Montaigne. This brings the physical TBR shelf down to 46 and is my seventy-sixth ROOT for 2019. It fits the TBRCAT and the CalendarCAT.
My review of Ghost Ship:
When a yacht that was supposed to be sailing from Japan to Seattle crashes in Hawaii with a dead family on board consisting of an American, his Japanese wife, and their twin babies, Kimo and Ray are assigned to the investigation, whch takes them to Japan and the American Pacific North West.
Quick, fun read as Kimo gets to explore his various ancestral cultures. It seems at the end that all the main characters are ready to make big career changes. Not exactly a cliffhanger but an intriguing lead-in for the next one in the series, which isn't out yet.
>191 mathgirl40: I wasn't aware there was a sequel coming out when I started it, and as I would have to buy a copy I'll probably wait till the prices come down next year.
Starting my No. 165@61, Full Moon by P. G. Wodehouse. This fits the AlphaKIT. It brings the physical TBR shelf down to 44 and is my seventy-eighth ROOT for 2019.
My review of "Beautiful People" (touchstone seems to have disappeared):
A memoir of growing up in Reading, moving to London, and then to the US in a quest for the Beatiful People featured in magazines.
The first third or so was "Oh God, I can't breathe" laugh out loud funny, the second third was entertaining enough though not as funny (just as well as I was reading it in public), while the final third was more sombre.
Starting my No. 166@61, The Gardens of Delight by Ian Watson. This fits the AlphaKIT. It's an ebook and is my seventy-ninth ROOT for 2019.
My review of Full Moon:
The denizens of Blandings want to keep one young couple apart and throw another young couple together. The usual goings on go on causing much merriment to the reader.
Starting my No. 167@61, A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle. This brings the treebook TBR shelf down to 43 and is my eightieth ROOT for 2019.
My review of The Gardens of Delight:
Space travellers land on a planet which seems to have modelled on Hieronymous Bosch's picture "The Garden of Earthly Delights".
Unfortunately the author's descriptive powers are not really up to the task he has set himself.
>193 Robertgreaves: I've not read any Wodhouse. Have you read any other? Do you think this would be a good first Wodhouse read?
>198 Jackie_K: I've read the complete short stories, and The Hound of the Baskervilles but I don't think I've read A Study in Scarlet before. I have seen the TV version with Benedict Cumberbatch as "Sherlock", though I forget whodunnit.
>199 haydninvienna: Turgid is the word that springs to mind. If you are really into alchemical symbolism and gnostic/neo-Platonic mysticism you might enjoy the way it develops its ideas. Otherwise forget it.
>198 Jackie_K: PS, what I did find interesting was that I had quite some trouble finding A Study in Scarlet in Waterstones. It wasn't in Crime and it wasn't in general fiction. When I asked, the assistant got one from out the back for me and said they were selling very quickly at the moment because it is a popular English literature text for GCSE.
>200 Robertgreaves: Thanks. Now I’m curious. I’ll move it up the TBR a bit and see what happens. Of course there’s a strand of fiction that’s steeped in alchemical ideas and Jungian psychology (I have Lindsay Clarke’s The Chymical Wedding on the TBR as well) but Robertson Davies is the only one I can think of who went mainstream.
>201 Robertgreaves: That's interesting, that it's being studied in English Lit. I must admit I got my copy free on Project Gutenberg.
Starting my No. 168@61, Legend of A Suicide by David Vann. This ebook is my eighty-first ROOT for 2019.
My review of A Study in Scarlet:
The first Sherlock Holmes novel, written before the short stories which made him famous.
It kept me turning the pages. The murderer's reason for the murders was fascinating. I would like to know if it was based on the type of thing that did actually go on in the historical situation or was just prejudice.
The edition was slightly odd in that there was an afterword discussing the historical background to "A Scandal in Bohemia" rather than this book.
>205 Robertgreaves: Maybe if you get the Sherlock collection with "A Scandal in Bohemia," it will have an afterword about A Study in Scarlet.
Starting my No. 169@61, The Interpreter by Diego Marani. This fits the CalendarCAT and is my eighty-second ROOT for 2019.
My review of Legend of A Suicide:
A collection of short stories and one novella inspired the author's attempts to come to terms with his father's suicide when he (the author) was in his teens.
The author is very good at describing the natural and human scenery in which the stories are set. I enjoyed the novella the most because it did actually tell a story, while the short stories were more like snapshots with something added to provoke classroom discussion.
Starting my No. 170@61, The Long Divorce by Edmund Crispin. This is my eighty-third ROOT for 2019 and brings the treebook shelf down to 42.
My review of The Interpreter:
The most polyglot of a group of interpreters at an international conference centre has some sort of breakdown and starts producing random strings of sounds. He believes the original human language is manifesting itself. He disappears and then the director of the conference centre starts suffering a similar breakdown and goes looking for him.
Not as good as the author's other books in this loosely connected trilogy. Some good ideas but he needs to pay more attention to the details. For a story about language and identity, it is very vague about what language is being used at times. In the end it wasn't bad enough to DNF it but I was conscious of reading it quickly to get it out of the way.
Starting my No. 171@61, The Last Pagan by Adrian Murdoch. This ebook is my eighty-fourth ROOT for 2019.
My review of The Long Divorce:
The village of Cotten Abbas is plagued with poison pen letters. Then one of the victims commits suicide and one of the people suspected of writing them is found murdered.
The usual fun and games with a disguised Fen investigating.
Reading my No. 172@61, The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen. This is not a ROOT.
My review of The Last Pagan:
Good bio of the short-reigned emperor who tried to revive paganism which avoids the trap of making him an Enlightenment poster boy and attempts to see him in his own terms. Some annoying clusters of typos towards the end, and it could have done with some maps and a family tree.
Starting my No. 173@61, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. This is not a ROOT but it brings the treebook TBR shelf down to 41.
My review of The Man Who Died:
Jaakko's organs are slowly breaking down because he has been poisoned over a period of time. He is determined to find out who poisoned him and why and to preserve his mushroom export business as a legacy in the weeks if not days he has left.
The investigation itself was interesting overall although it did sag a bit in the middle. I found the action sequences (written with one eye on a possible TV/film adaptation?) confusing more than anything and had to read them several times to work out what had actually happened. Would I read more of this author? I might but I wouldn't go out really looking for his books.
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