Christina reads the four seasons in 2021 - part 2

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Christina reads the four seasons in 2021 - part 2

1christina_reads
Apr 1, 12:07pm

Reading the Four Seasons in 2021 - Part 2


Alphonse Mucha, The Seasons series (1900)

A new quarter seems like a good time for a new thread, so welcome to part 2 of my 2021 category challenge! I'm Christina, and by day I'm an editor at a nonprofit in northern Virginia. Aside from reading, my main hobbies are music -- piano, trombone, and singing -- and community theater.

I'm doing 4 categories this year with 25 (or more) books per category, and my theme (accompanied by some lovely Mucha artwork) is the four seasons:

  1. Fall: Books I acquired before 1/1/21 but haven't read yet. In other words, the books that are falling off my TBR shelves!
  2. Winter: Rereads, because winter is the perfect time to cozy up with something comforting and familiar.
  3. Spring: Books I buy, borrow, or otherwise acquire in 2021. New life = new books!
  4. Summer: Books for the BingoDOG -- a reference to the dog days of summer. :)

As always, thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

2christina_reads
Edited: Today, 8:33pm

Fall: Books I own as of 1/1/21 but haven't read yet.


Alphonse Mucha, Autumn (1896)

1. Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon (7/28/11)
2. Jules Wake, Covent Garden in the Snow (12/28/20)
3. Grace Burrowes, My One and Only Duke (6/8/19)
4. Marisa de los Santos, Love Walked In (12/29/19)
5. Megan Whalen Turner, Return of the Thief (10/6/20)
6. Diana Wynne Jones, A Tale of Time City (9/14/19)
7. Robin McKinley, ed., Imaginary Lands (2/15/17)
8. Kate Noble, The Dress of the Season (11/16/20)
9. Caroline Stevermer, A Scholar of Magics (12/7/16)
10. Mimi Matthews, The Winter Companion (9/15/20)
11. Charles Finch, The Inheritance (5/7/17)
12. Jessica Brockmole, At the Edge of Summer (8/4/19)
13. Jennifer Kincheloe, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc (6/10/18)
14. Francis Duncan, So Pretty a Problem (10/5/19)
15. Ann Granger, The Companion (8/18/10)
16. D.E. Stevenson, The Four Graces (?)
17. Paulette Jiles, News of the World (7/22/17)
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.

3christina_reads
Edited: Jul 25, 3:29pm

Winter: Rereads.


Alphonse Mucha, Winter (1896)

1. Megan Whalen Turner, The King of Attolia
2. Jude Morgan, Indiscretion
3. Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
4. Lucy Parker, Act Like It
5. Megan Whalen Turner, A Conspiracy of Kings
6. Georgette Heyer, The Talisman Ring
7. Agatha Christie, Three Act Tragedy
8. Jacques Philippe, Time for God
9. Caroline Stevermer, A College of Magics
10. Eva Ibbotson, The Morning Gift
11. Georgette Heyer, Sylvester
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.

4christina_reads
Edited: Today, 8:27am

Spring: Books I buy, borrow, or otherwise acquire in 2021.


Alphonse Mucha, Spring (1896)

1. Amy E. Reichert, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
2. Sherry Thomas, The Hollow of Fear
3. Loretta Chase, Ten Things I Hate about the Duke
4. Rachel Bach, Heaven's Queen
5. Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
6. Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White, All the Ways We Said Goodbye
7. Kate Clayborn, Love at First
8. Mhairi McFarlane, Just Last Night
9. Mimi Matthews, A Convenient Fiction
10. Maggie Stiefvater, Mister Impossible
11. Tirzah Price, Pride and Premeditation
12. Christina Pishiris, Love Songs for Skeptics
13. Adele Buck, Acting Up
14. Beth O'Leary, The Road Trip
15. India Holton, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
16. Dawn Cook, The Decoy Princess
17. Tashie Bhuiyan, Counting Down with You
18. Melanie Dickerson, A Viscount's Proposal
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.

5christina_reads
Edited: Jul 12, 10:25pm

Summer: BingoDOG.


Alphonse Mucha, Summer (1896)

1. Mavis Doriel Hay, Death on the Cherwell (set somewhere you'd like to visit = Oxford)
2. Kevin Kwan, Sex and Vanity (new-to-you author)
3. Ellis Peters, The Potter's Field (contains a love story)
4. Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (arts and recreation)
5. P.G. Wodehouse, How Right You Are, Jeeves (made you laugh)
6. Margaret Rogerson, An Enchantment of Ravens (about or contains magic)
7. Suzanne Allain, Mr. Malcolm's List (read a CAT or KIT = January AlphaKIT (M = Mr., Malcolm's))
8. Olivia Atwater, Ten Thousand Stitches (shared with 20 or fewer LT members = 10 members at time of reading)
9. Elizabeth Daly, Murders in Volume 2 (less than 200 pages = my edition has 176)
10. Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice, Light Raid (dark or light word in title)
11. Madeleine St. John, The Women in Black (character you'd like to be friends with = Magda!)
12. Paula Byrne, Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice (about history or alternate history = slavery in 18th-century England)
13. Katherine Center, Things You Save in a Fire (classical element in title = fire)
14. Intisar Khanani, Thorn (one-word title)
15. Ellery Queen, The Chinese Orange Mystery (two or more authors = Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee)
16. Charlotte Armstrong, The Unsuspected (title describes you)
17. Megan Whalen Turner, Thick as Thieves (book you heartily recommend)
18. Susanna Kearsley, The Rose Garden (about time, or time word in title = plot centers around time travel)
19. Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club (senior citizen protagonist)
20. John Rowland, Murder in the Museum (type of building in the title = museum)
21. Pat Murphy, There and Back Again (impulse read = bought it for the title!)
22. Christina Dudley, The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh) (nature or environment = main characters are naturalists)
23. Ngaio Marsh, Death in Ecstasy (Southern Hemisphere author or setting = author is from New Zealand)
24. Uzma Jalaluddin, Hana Khan Carries On (by or about marginalized group = Muslim immigrants)
25. Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers (suggested by another generation = my mom and grandma)

6christina_reads
Edited: Jul 20, 9:27am

7christina_reads
Edited: Today, 8:36pm

CATs


Théophile Steinlen

I don't plan to participate in every CAT every month, but I'm sure I'll play along at least some of the time!

January
RandomCAT (LOL): P.G. Wodehouse, How Right You Are, Jeeves
GenreCAT (nonfiction): Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction
HistoryCAT (Middle Ages): Ellis Peters, The Potter's Field
AlphaKIT (P, M): Mavis Doriel Hay, Death on the Cherwell; Ellis Peters, The Potter's Field; Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction; P.G. Wodehouse, How Right You Are, Jeeves; Margaret Rogerson, An Enchantment of Ravens; Suzanne Allain, Mr. Malcolm's List; Elizabeth Daly, Murders in Volume 2; Madeleine St. John, The Women in Black
SFFKIT (book you meant to read in 2020): Margaret Rogerson, An Enchantment of Ravens
MysteryKIT (featuring water): Mavis Doriel Hay, Death on the Cherwell

February
RandomCAT (fruits and veggies): Amy E. Reichert, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
GenreCAT (memoirs, biography): Paula Byrne, Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice
HistoryCAT (1800 to present): Sherry Thomas, The Hollow of Fear; Grace Burrowes, My One and Only Duke
AlphaKIT (T, K): Katherine Center, Things You Save in a Fire; Sherry Thomas, The Hollow of Fear; Intisar Khanani, Thorn
SFFKIT (sentient things):
MysteryKIT (pastiche): Sherry Thomas, The Hollow of Fear

March
RandomCAT (surprise): Charlotte Armstrong, The Unsuspected
GenreCAT (action, adventure): Rachel Bach, Heaven's Queen
HistoryCAT (1500 to 1800): Susanna Kearsley, The Rose Garden
AlphaKIT (U, R): Rachel Bach, Heaven's Queen; Charlotte Armstrong, The Unsuspected; Susanna Kearsley, The Rose Garden
SFFKIT (Indiana Jones in space or fairyland):
MysteryKIT (locked room):


April
RandomCAT ("borrowed" from another 2021CC challenger): Megan Whalen Turner, Return of the Thief
GenreCAT (literary fiction): Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
HistoryCAT (8th century BC to 6th century AD):
AlphaKIT (A, W): Marisa de los Santos, Love Walked In; Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow; Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White, All the Ways We Said Goodbye; Megan Whalen Turner, Return of the Thief
SFFKIT (series): Megan Whalen Turner, Return of the Thief
MysteryKIT (senior citizen detective): Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club

May
RandomCAT (Monopoly): Charles Finch, The Inheritance
GenreCAT (short stories, essays): Robin McKinley, ed., Imaginary Lands
HistoryCAT (dynasties, civilizations, empires):
AlphaKIT (I, N): Mhairi McFarlane, Just Last Night; Robin McKinley, ed., Imaginary Lands; Kate Noble, The Dress of the Season; Charles Finch, The Inheritance
SFFKIT (time travel): Diana Wynne Jones, A Tale of Time City
MysteryKIT (set in Europe):

June
RandomCAT (everything old is new again): Pat Murphy, There and Back Again; Tirzah Price, Pride and Premeditation; Adele Buck, Acting Up
GenreCAT (historical fiction): Christina Dudley, The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh); Tirzah Price, Pride and Premeditation; Jessica Brockmole, At the Edge of Summer
HistoryCAT (military, war, revolution): Jessica Brockmole, At the Edge of Summer
AlphaKIT (C, D): Christina Dudley, The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh); Ngaio Marsh, Death in Ecstasy; Uzma Jalaluddin, Hana Khan Carries On; Christina Pishiris, Love Songs for Skeptics
SFFKIT (journey): Pat Murphy, There and Back Again
MysteryKIT (Golden Age): Ngaio Marsh, Death in Ecstasy

July
RandomCAT (summertime): Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers
GenreCAT (romance): Beth O'Leary, The Road Trip; India Holton, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels; Tashie Bhuiyan, Counting Down with You; Melanie Dickerson, A Viscount's Proposal
HistoryCAT (social history): Jennifer Kincheloe, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc; Ann Granger, The Companion
AlphaKIT (S, O): Beth O'Leary, The Road Trip; India Holton, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels; Jennifer Kincheloe, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc; Francis Duncan, So Pretty a Problem; Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers; D.E. Stevenson, The Four Graces
SFFKIT (historical fantasy): India Holton, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
MysteryKIT (female cops or robbers): Jennifer Kincheloe, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc; Ann Granger, The Companion

August
RandomCAT (on the road again): Paulette Jiles, News of the World
GenreCAT (poetry, drama, graphic novels):
HistoryCAT (your own country): Paulette Jiles, News of the World
AlphaKIT (V, J): Paulette Jiles, News of the World
SFFKIT (female authors):
MysteryKIT (cozies featuring animals):

September
RandomCAT ():
GenreCAT (YA, children's):
HistoryCAT (religion, philosophy, politics, law):
AlphaKIT (F, L):
SFFKIT (near future/alternate reality):
MysteryKIT (mismatched detectives):

October
RandomCAT ():
GenreCAT (horror, supernatural):
HistoryCAT (country or region of your choice):
AlphaKIT (H, E):
*SFFKIT (creature feature):
MysteryKIT (minorities or diverse protagonists):

November
RandomCAT ():
GenreCAT (SFF):
HistoryCAT (events):
AlphaKIT (B, Y):
SFFKIT (short stories):
MysteryKIT (historical):

December
RandomCAT ():
GenreCAT (mystery):
HistoryCAT (adventure, exploration, discovery):
AlphaKIT (G, Q):
SFFKIT (gothic fantasy):
MysteryKIT (ancient Greece and Rome):

Year-long
AlphaKIT (X, Z):

* = I'm hosting the CAT/KIT.

8christina_reads
Apr 1, 12:13pm

Welcome! Part 2 is now officially open for business. :)

9NinieB
Apr 1, 3:31pm

Happy new thread! Thanks for the opportunity to enjoy the Mucha artwork some more!

10MissBrangwen
Apr 1, 3:50pm

Happy New Thread!

11DeltaQueen50
Apr 1, 7:27pm

Happy new thread, Christina!

12Tess_W
Apr 1, 8:02pm

Happy new thread!

13VictoriaPL
Apr 3, 5:12pm

You're bingo card is nearly full and we're only four months in!

14RidgewayGirl
Apr 3, 5:35pm

I do love the Mucha illustrations! Happy new thread.

15Tanya-dogearedcopy
Apr 5, 12:03am

Happy New Thread! 🧵

16christina_reads
Apr 6, 9:33am

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

>9 NinieB: >14 RidgewayGirl: My favorite part of new threads is seeing everyone's great illustrations again!

>13 VictoriaPL: I've been lucky that a lot of the squares have been easy for me to fill this year. Plus, I always look at the Bingo card when I can't decide what to read next!

17NinieB
Apr 6, 8:21pm

>16 christina_reads: Checking your Bingo card to pick your next book is a good idea! I only think to do that when I'm trying to fill those last few squares.

18MissWatson
Apr 7, 11:45am

Happy new thread! I am awed by your Bingo card!

19christina_reads
Apr 10, 5:34pm

>17 NinieB: Despite having a ton of unread books on my shelves, I often find myself wondering, "What should I read next?" Bingo and the CATs are really helpful for me in answering that question.

>18 MissWatson: Thank you!

20hailelib
Apr 10, 5:41pm

Your remaining Bingo squares look easy to fill.

And a new thread for spring!

21christina_reads
Apr 10, 5:43pm



Book #33: Jacques Philippe, Time for God
CATs: none
Bingo: none

I first read and reviewed this book back in 2014, but I wanted to reread it this year during Holy Week. I'm glad I did, but I don't really have anything to add to the original review. So here are my thoughts from 2014:

This slim little volume on prayer manages to cover a lot of ground. It focuses on the private prayer between individuals and God and details some important principles to keep in mind while praying. The primary message I took from this book is that prayer is less about what we do, and more about what we allow God to do in us. The book also emphasizes the importance of perseverance, humility, and making time for God. There are also a few extremely practical tips concerning times, places, and types of things to pray.

I was very impressed by this book and would recommend it to any Christian who is hoping to strengthen his or her prayer life. The book is written by a Catholic priest and contains several references to the writings of saints, particularly Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Thérèse of Lisieux. However, I definitely think that the “meat” of the book is appropriate for, and would be acceptable to, all Christians. I highly recommend it for a simple yet helpful guide to prayer. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book, which seems to encapsulate its central message:

For the moment, what we need to grasp is that if, despite having good will, we are incapable of praying well, or producing any good sentiments or beautiful reflections, that should not make us sad. We should offer our poverty to the action of God. Then we will be making a prayer much more valuable than the kind that would leave us feeling self-satisfied. St. Francis de Sales used to pray, “Lord, I am nothing but a block of wood: set fire to it!”

22christina_reads
Apr 10, 5:45pm

>20 hailelib: Thanks for stopping by. I think the last few Bingo squares will be easy to fill...I already have ideas for a few of them!

23Tess_W
Apr 11, 11:08pm

>21 christina_reads: That is a beautiful quote!

24pammab
Apr 12, 1:23am

Happy new thread!

>21 christina_reads: That's a lovely review.

25christina_reads
Apr 12, 6:17pm

>23 Tess_W: Isn't it? "We should offer our poverty to the action of God" is definitely a phrase that will stay with me!

>24 pammab: Thank you!

26christina_reads
Apr 20, 11:32am



Book #34: Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club
CATs: Mystery (senior citizen detective)
Bingo: Senior citizen protagonist

The Thursday Murder Club is a group of four residents of a senior living facility, who meet once a week to discuss — and hopefully solve — various cold cases. So when a present-day murder lands on their doorstep (literally; the victim is the boorish owner of the senior living facility), they’re eager to get involved. But as the bodies continue to pile up, the investigation becomes more dangerous, and one of the club members might even be the next victim. I really enjoyed this mystery novel; it’s clever and funny, and I liked all the main characters, pensioners and police alike. I do feel like the plot falls apart a little bit toward the end: too many distracting side issues, many of which were resolved in a similar way. But ultimately, it was just a pleasure to read, and isn’t that all you can really ask of a book? There’s at least one sequel planned (coming out this fall in the US), and it’s definitely on my TBR list.

27christina_reads
Apr 20, 11:35am



Book #35: Marisa de los Santos, Love Walked In
CATs: Alpha (W = Walked)
Bingo: none

Cornelia Brown is a 30-something barista in a Philadelphia café, trying to figure out what to do with her life. Then one day, a Cary Grant look-alike walks into the café and changes everything. Meanwhile, an 11-year-old girl named Clare is having problems at home: her father is absent, and her mother is behaving strangely. As her mother’s condition worsens, Clare becomes increasingly terrified that something awful will happen and she’ll be separated from her mom. When Cornelia’s and Clare’s paths converge, they transform each other in surprising ways. I loved this book and stayed up way too late to finish it! But despite the romantic title and chick-lit-esque marketing, it’s a tough read at times. Clare’s situation with her mother is heartbreaking and difficult, so if you’re not up for reading about mental illness and child neglect/abandonment, maybe skip this one. But the book is certainly hopeful and uplifting overall, and there is even a romance, though it’s not my favorite part of the story. I’m eager to read more by this author!

28christina_reads
Apr 23, 10:01am



Book #36: Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
CATs: Genre (literary fiction); Alpha (A = Amor)
Bingo: none

In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is arrested and tried for the crime of being an aristocrat. But because he once wrote a poem with a revolutionary message, he isn’t immediately killed; instead, he is sentenced to house arrest for life in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. As Alexander lives out his days in the Metropol, he befriends a variety of people, including hotel employees, Party officials, a beautiful actress, and (most significantly) a solemn young girl named Nina. Despite the turbulent political situation in the country as a whole, this novel focuses on one man’s life as he adapts to extraordinary circumstances. Like everyone else, I loved this book! The pace is slow, and there aren’t many dramatic events, but it felt like real life to me. There are some delicious satirical jabs at the broader political situation in Russia/the USSR, but the novel focuses primarily on Alexander’s own experiences. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction!

29Tess_W
Apr 23, 1:23pm

>28 christina_reads: my favorite read of 2019. I've not another of his on my TBR that I hope to read this year.

30christina_reads
Apr 23, 2:19pm

>29 Tess_W: I'm definitely interested to try Rules of Civility now, which I wasn't particularly before.

31Tess_W
Apr 23, 5:55pm

>30 christina_reads: That's the one on my TBR!

32clue
Apr 23, 9:15pm

i read Rules of Civility when it came out and liked it but not as much as Gentleman. He has a new book coming out this fall, I eagerly await it!

33pamelad
Edited: Apr 23, 11:42pm

>28 christina_reads: What you liked is what I didn't! There are some delicious satirical jabs at the broader political situation in Russia/the USSR I preferred Rules of Civility because Towles was writing about the country where he was brought up, so I thought he had more right to judge.

34MissBrangwen
Apr 24, 4:25am

>28 christina_reads: This one is on my tbr, too! My husband read it last year and was blown away by it, so he wants me to read it ASAP. I'm just not in the mood for it these days, but I will read it when the right time comes.

35christina_reads
Apr 25, 6:03pm

>32 clue: Good to know about Rules of Civility. I'll try not to go in with too high expectations.

>33 pamelad: Fair enough -- different strokes!

>34 MissBrangwen: I can understand not being in the mood for this book right now. Even though I really liked it, it took me a long time to finish. Maybe it's especially hard in these pandemic times to read a book about a person who's unable to leave his home!

36threadnsong
Apr 25, 7:11pm

>28 christina_reads: Reading your review of this book really puts me in mind of what one can only term "current events." I see also that it was hard for you to finish it. I wonder how many future readers will see a parallel to it and to 2020?

And BTW, happy new thread!

37christina_reads
Apr 26, 12:03pm

>36 threadnsong: For me, it was one of those books that you don't always feel the urge to pick up, but once you do, you enjoy it.

38christina_reads
Apr 26, 2:58pm



Book #37: Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White, All the Ways We Said Goodbye
CATs: Alpha (A = All; W = Williams, Willig, White, Ways, We)
Bingo: none

This is one of those historical novels with multiple storylines set in three different time periods. In 1914, Aurélie de Courcelles abandons her luxurious life with her mother at the Paris Ritz and runs to her father’s ancestral home, which is later invaded by German soldiers. In 1942, Daisy Villon is primarily concerned with keeping herself and her children safe in occupied France, but she is eventually drawn into the resistance effort and an illicit love affair. And in 1964, Babs Langford travels from England to Paris in search of information about her deceased husband’s war years. Overall, I liked this book and found it entertaining; there’s a lot of drama and excitement to keep the pages turning, and I do love a good WW2 spy plot. On the other hand, the plot twists and “reveals” are quite predictable. And while I liked all three stories, I think they were a little much for one book; perhaps the authors should have eliminated the 1964 story and focused on the other two in greater depth. As I said, I enjoyed the book overall, but I didn’t like it as much as these authors’ previous book, The Glass Ocean.

39Tess_W
Apr 27, 3:25am

>38 christina_reads: That is on my TBR and I enjoyed your review!

40christina_reads
Apr 27, 11:02am

>39 Tess_W: Hope you like the book when you get to it! I found it a fun and fast read.

41christina_reads
Apr 27, 11:05am



Book #38: Kate Clayborn, Love at First
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Nora Clarke loves her Chicago apartment building; her happiest childhood memories were spent there with her grandmother, and she’s known and loved her neighbors all her life. So when the building’s owner dies and his nephew, Will Sterling, inherits it, Nora is terrified that things will change. In fact, Will has no interest in owning or living in the building, so he decides to rent out his uncle’s unit to short-term tenants. Aghast, Nora is determined to stop him; but the more time she spends trying to persuade Will, the more she is attracted to him. I was a bit nervous about this book since I enjoyed Love Lettering so much, but thankfully I ended up loving this one too! I liked that the characters actually move on from the apartment conflict pretty quickly; they each come to understand the other’s position and are both willing to compromise. The real obstacles to their relationship are their fears and insecurities, which I found very realistic. I was rooting so hard for Will and Nora, and I enjoyed the quirky secondary characters as well (Will’s buttoned-up boss might be my favorite). And as with Love Lettering, I adored Kate Clayborn’s writing style. Fans of contemporary romance with minimal drama, where people actually deal with their problems like adults, should definitely check out this author!

42MissBrangwen
Edited: Apr 27, 3:02pm

>35 christina_reads: I definitely think so!
In my German class we have to read Hikikomori by Kevin Kuhn which is about a teenage boy who decides to never leave his room anymore in order to find himself. He throws out all the furniture and sits there day after day, slowly going insane. His mom provides his food, but he's not doing anything, just playing computer games, and he goes crazy.
I taught this last term in March right when the first German lockdown started and my teenage students were sitting at home reading that horrible book! It was crazy.
I have to teach it again this term in another course, but at least we are allowed to be at school right now, although otherwise we are still pretty much in lockdown.
Sorry for this long story, I just thought of this because of your comment on reading books about people stuck in a room.

43christina_reads
Apr 27, 5:10pm

>42 MissBrangwen: Oh my goodness, that definitely does not sound like a fun book to read in a pandemic! Glad to hear that at least your students will be in the classroom this time, not stuck in their homes.

44scaifea
Apr 28, 7:46am

>41 christina_reads: This one sounds really good! I think I need to add it to my list...

45christina_reads
Apr 28, 9:28am

>44 scaifea: Do it! :)

46christina_reads
Apr 30, 10:08pm



Book #39: Megan Whalen Turner, Return of the Thief
CATs: Random (“borrow” from a fellow 2021CC-er = Amber scaifea and I'm sure several others!); Alpha (W = Whalen); SFF (series = last book in Queen’s Thief series)
Bingo: none

***Warning: SPOILERS for previous books in the series!***

This last installment of the Queen's Thief series finds the kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis banding together to defend themselves against the inevitable Mede invasion. The events are chronicled by Pheris Erondites, grandson of the traitorous baron whose machinations in Attolian politics are far from over. Pheris is physically disabled and mute, but he is also clever and observant. When he becomes one of Eugenides's attendants, he gets a front-row seat to the action and even finds that he has a role to play. I don't have much to say about this book, except that it's a fitting end to a fantastic series. If you've loved the previous books, you won't be disappointed! I did wish Costis and Kamet had a little bit more to do in this installment, since they were the focus of the last one; but that's a very small complaint about an otherwise wonderful book. This series will definitely live on my keeper shelf to be revisited many times in the future!

47christina_reads
May 1, 11:07am

April recap

This month was a bit slower than average for me, reading-wise, probably because I got distracted by TV. (I rewatched Warehouse 13, a sci-fi show that is equal parts cheesy and fun, and I regret nothing!) I'm also very grateful to be fully vaccinated now. Looking forward to seeing some friends and extended family in the near future. But for now, on to the books!

Books read in April:
1. Jacques Philippe, Time for God
2. Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club
3. Marisa de los Santos, Love Walked In
4. Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
5. Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White, All the Ways We Said Goodbye
6. Kate Clayborn, Love at First
7. Megan Whalen Turner, Return of the Thief

Favorite book of the month:
It's an exceptionally hard choice for me this month, because I really liked everything! I think I'll go with A Gentleman in Moscow, but ask me again in five minutes...

Dishonorable mention:
Again, I enjoyed everything I read this month! But I'll pick All the Ways We Said Goodbye because it was "only" good, not great.

CATs completed:
RandomCAT (“borrow” from a fellow 2021CC-er): Return of the Thief is in Amber’s (scaifea) library, and I’m sure in many other people’s as well!
GenreCAT (literary fiction): The Library of Congress classifies A Gentleman in Moscow as literary fiction.
AlphaKIT (A, W): Marisa de los Santos, Love *Walked In; *Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow; Beatriz *Williams, Lauren *Willig, and Karen *White, *All the *Ways *We Said Goodbye; Megan *Whalen Turner, Return of the Thief
SFFKIT (series): Return of the Thief is the final book in the Queen’s Thief series.
MysteryKIT (senior citizen detective): The Thursday Murder Club has not one but four senior sleuths!

BingoDOG squares completed:
Senior citizen protagonist: Four of the main characters of The Thursday Murder Club are senior citizens.

Books acquired in April:
Charlotte Armstrong, The Chocolate Cobweb
Dawn Cook, The Decoy Princess
John Rowland, Calamity in Kent
Christina Pishiris, Love Songs for Skeptics (e-book)
Mimi Matthews, Gentleman Jim (e-book)
Erin Satie, The Secret Heart (e-book)

48pamelad
May 1, 4:32pm

>47 christina_reads: I’m sorely tempted by Gentleman Jim .

49christina_reads
May 2, 5:10pm

>48 pamelad: I've enjoyed several of Mimi Matthews's other books, so I have high hopes! Gentleman Jim was on sale when I got it, but I think it's back up to its usual price now (US$4.99).

50christina_reads
May 5, 11:05am



Book #40: John Rowland, Murder in the Museum
CATs: none
Bingo: Type of building in the title (museum)

Mild-mannered Henry Fairhurst is working in the British Museum Reading Room when he notices that one of his neighbors has fallen asleep. His heavy snoring is attracting attention, so Henry attempts to wake him up — only to discover that the man has stopped breathing and died. When Inspector Shelley of Scotland Yard discovers that the man was poisoned, Henry becomes an important witness and uses his enthusiasm for detection to help Inspector Shelley solve the case. Along the way, they encounter a blackmail scheme, a pair of young lovers, a kidnapping, and more suspicious deaths. I liked the writing style of this book (straightforward and occasionally humorous) and found it a quick and easy read, but I wasn’t terribly excited about the mystery. I’m not sure it’s “fair play,” and the solution didn’t quite satisfy me. I did like that there was one seemingly significant event that turned out to be a coincidence; that doesn’t often happen in detective novels, but it’s very true to life! Overall, this particular book isn’t a keeper for me, but I’d definitely read more by this author.

51christina_reads
May 12, 4:22pm



Book #41: Diana Wynne Jones, A Tale of Time City
CATs: SFF (time travel)
Bingo: none

It’s the beginning of World War II, and Vivian Smith is being evacuated from London to the English countryside to escape the Blitz. Her cousin is supposed to meet her at the train station, but instead she is kidnapped by two boys, Jonathan and Sam. They take her to Time City, a place outside history whose residents are tasked with observing history and making sure it doesn’t go off the rails. But something is going wrong, and Jonathan and Sam are convinced that Vivian can somehow put it right — except they’ve kidnapped the wrong Vivian Smith! Diana Wynne Jones can do no wrong, and I enjoyed this time travel adventure, although I found the plot hard to follow at first. Fortunately, everything came together in the end, and I very much enjoyed Vivian’s narrative voice. Recommended for fans of the author.

52christina_reads
May 12, 4:27pm



Book #42: Mhairi McFarlane, Just Last Night
CATs: Alpha (N = Night)
Bingo: none

Don’t let the bright colors and cartoonish art fool you: this is primarily a book about grief. Thirty-something Eve and her three best friends have been inseparable since college; they know, love, and understand each other in a way that no one else can. At the beginning of the novel, one of them dies, and Eve spends most of the book trying to cope with her grief and process the aftermath. She also uncovers a devastating secret that profoundly affects her life, as well as the dynamic of the friend group. There is, in fact, a love story that I quite enjoyed, but it doesn’t really get going until the last third of the book or so, and it seems a bit incongruous with what came before. Nevertheless, I devoured the book in one sitting and stayed up far too late to finish it! So I did like the book overall, although I think I still prefer If I Never Met You.

53RidgewayGirl
May 12, 4:45pm

>52 christina_reads: I didn't know she had a new one, so now I'm off to add this to my iPad! I've enjoyed every book of hers I've read.

54christina_reads
May 12, 4:50pm

>53 RidgewayGirl: I hope you like this one too, Kay! I think it just came out at the beginning of the month. I preordered it because I knew I'd want to read it right away!

55christina_reads
May 12, 4:54pm



Book #43: Robin McKinley, ed., Imaginary Lands
CATs: Genre (short stories); Alpha (I = Imaginary)
Bingo: none

I picked up this short story collection based solely on Robin McKinley’s name, but unfortunately, as with most short story collections, I found it a mixed bag. Below are my thoughts on the individual stories, but my overall opinion is that even if you’re a fantasy lover, you can skip this one.

James P. Blaylock, “Paper Dragons” - This story won the 1986 World Fantasy Award for short fiction, and I have no idea why. Nothing happens! And we’re introduced to a lot of characters and bits of history and mythology that are never fully explained or given context. A frustrating read, for me.

Patricia A. McKillip, “The Old Woman and the Storm” - This one is set at the dawn of time, and it has a very elevated, myth-like style that got on my nerves. I did like the resolution to the story, but overall it just wasn’t my jam.

Robert Westall, “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” - In the early 20th century, a family of American tourists is forced to stay overnight in an English salt-mining town that is slowly sinking into the earth. Probably my favorite story in the bunch, perhaps because of its lively, comedic tone.

Peter Dickinson, “Flight” - A “history” of a fictional empire that repeatedly tries and fails to conquer a stubborn territory whose residents use hang glider-esque devices to fly. The narrative device was my favorite part of this one; it allowed for some fun satire about real-life history and government policy.

Jane Yolen, “Evian Steel” - Sort of a prequel to Arthurian legends. Well-written, but I think I’d have gotten more out of it if I knew more about Arthuriana.

P.C. Hodgell, “Stranger Blood” - Probably the most traditional “high fantasy” story in the collection, set on the borderland of a Great Evil that is going to kill everyone unless our heroes can stop it. I liked this story, but it felt unfinished; if it were expanded into a novel, I’d be curious to read it.

Michael de Larrabeiti, “The Curse of Igamor” - A short fable-like tale with a killer horse and rich bad guys who get their comeuppance. I liked this one.

Joan D. Vinge, “Tam Lin” - A Tam Lin retelling, as the title indicates, and one with a somewhat unsettling ending. I prefer The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope or Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones.

Robin McKinley, “The Stone Fey” - This story has a lot of the things I love about McKinley’s writing — a sympathetic heroine, lovable secondary characters, great animals — but I wanted to know a lot more about the titular stone fey. He’s a catalyst for the story’s action rather than a character in his own right, and I wanted to know what his deal was. I feel like this story is only for McKinley completists like me…and even then, maybe not.

56christina_reads
May 12, 4:59pm



Book #44: Kate Noble, The Dress of the Season
CATs: Alpha (N = Noble)
Bingo: none

Harris Dane, Viscount Osterley, is known to Society as “Austere Osterley” for his serious, some might say rigid, demeanor. But that doesn’t stop him from pursuing a lovely widow as his mistress. He purchases a scandalous gown for her, and at the same shop he also buys a pair of gloves for his ward, Felicity Grove. When the packages are sent to the wrong women and Felicity mistakenly receives the dress, scandal erupts, leading to a chain of events neither Harris nor Felicity could have anticipated. I read this cute Regency romance novella in an afternoon. It’s not particularly authentic in terms of writing style, and the short length prevented me from getting very emotionally invested in the characters. But I found it a fun read and would definitely try more by this author.

57pamelad
May 26, 5:22pm

I saw you'd just read the last two books in Mimi Matthew's Parish Orphans of Devon Series. You've read the first two? I liked them better than the last two. Another of hers that I enjoyed was The Lost Letter.

58christina_reads
May 26, 5:41pm

>57 pamelad: I have indeed read the first two books as well. I think my favorites were #1 and #3, although I did like them all. I haven't read The Lost Letter yet, but I'll add it to my list! I quite enjoyed her Christmas novella, A Holiday by Gaslight.

59pamelad
May 26, 6:04pm

>58 christina_reads: I also liked A Holiday by Gaslight. Amazon classifying a book of 172 pages as a novella just shows how used we've become to big, bloated books. 256 pages used to be a common length for books, and I think a lot of the books I've read recently would be better shorter.

60christina_reads
May 27, 9:27am

>59 pamelad: Books do seem to have gotten longer overall...350 or 400 pages seems more standard now, and anything under 250 seems very short by comparison! Sometimes I like the extra length, but sometimes there does seem to be a lot of padding that would be better removed.

61Tess_W
May 27, 1:22pm

>59 pamelad:
>60 christina_reads:

I agree that the length of books has increased over that last 10-15 years. I just mentioned this fact to Birgit several months ago. I also don't think it's necessarily for the good, because in the case of most, they could have been written tighter and had the same reading result.

62christina_reads
May 28, 10:55am



Book #45: Caroline Stevermer, A College of Magics
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Faris Nallaneen is the future duchess of Galazon, but until she is of age, her wicked uncle acts as regent. He’s decided to get her out of the way by sending her to Greenlaw, an all-female college with an unusual curriculum. Faris is reluctant at first, but she eventually makes friends, learns unexpected skills, and even discovers a unique magical destiny. After her time at Greenlaw, she must find a way to balance her magical responsibilities with her duties as the duchess of Galazon. I feel like that’s a very boring summary of a very fun book! It’s a quasi-Edwardian fantasy of manners, which is a subgenre I didn’t even know I needed in my life. At one point, Faris’s friend Jane turns an assassin’s bomb into a fashionable hat and then wears it, which gives you an idea of the tone. The magic in the book is not really explained or described in depth, so those who love detailed world-building might be disappointed. But overall, I liked it a lot — so much so that I immediately proceeded to read the sequel!

63christina_reads
May 28, 10:56am



Book #46: Caroline Stevermer, A Scholar of Magics
CATs: none
Bingo: none

This book is set in the same world as A College of Magics and focuses on Faris’s friend, Jane Brailsford. Jane is now a teacher at Greenlaw and a powerful magician, and she’s been tasked with convincing the new warden of the west to take up his duties. Her mission takes her to Glasscastle, an all-male magical university in England, which takes a very different approach to magic than Greenlaw. There she meets Samuel Lambert, an American sharpshooter who’s been recruited to help Glasscastle with a special weapon for the top-secret Agincourt Project. When Lambert’s work and Jane’s mission collide, they team up to protect the future warden of the west and to discover the true nature of the Agincourt Project. This is another fun romp through an alternate 20th-century England, and I liked it as much as its predecessor. But it took me a long time to read, and I think that’s because of the pacing: nothing much actually happens until at least halfway through the book (and possibly more like two-thirds). Nevertheless, I still enjoyed spending time with these characters in this world!

64christina_reads
May 28, 10:59am



Book #47: Mimi Matthews, A Convenient Fiction
CATs: none
Bingo: none

This third book in the Parish Orphans of Devon series focuses on Alex Archer, the orphan who ran away in boyhood and hasn’t been heard from since. He’s been living abroad and has made a small fortune through gambling. Now he’s determined to marry a rich English heiress; but instead of his intended target, he finds himself more drawn to her friend, Laura Hayes. Laura lives with her invalid brother and elderly aunt, and she’s barely holding things together. The last thing she needs is to fall for the attractive Alex, especially since she knows he’s a fortune hunter. But as Laura’s and Alex’s feelings grow, they must each contemplate a different future from the one they envisioned. This might be my favorite book in the series, and I think it comes down to the characters. I loved Laura right away; she’s strong and independent without being implausibly anachronistic, and she tries so hard to do right by her family. Alex is harder to like at first, since both his past actions and his plan to marry an heiress aren’t exactly sympathetic. But he’s so starved for love that I couldn’t help but warm up to him! So I’d definitely recommend this book to fans of the genre, especially if you like brooding heroes and the marriage-of-convenience trope.

65christina_reads
May 28, 11:00am



Book #48: Mimi Matthews, The Winter Companion
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Again, I enjoyed A Convenient Fiction so much that I had to move on immediately to the fourth and final book in the series! The hero is Neville Cross, who sustained a head injury as a child that has left him with a speech impediment. Though he can think and write fluently, he has trouble with talking, and therefore he is more comfortable with animals than with people. He works in his friend Justin’s stables and has more or less made peace with his isolated, predictable life. That is, until he meets lady’s companion Clara Hartwright at Justin’s Christmas house party. Clara is beautiful and kind, and she bonds with Neville over her ancient pug dog. But she has dreams beyond being a lady’s companion, and they will eventually take her out of Neville’s life — unless he can find the courage and strength to go after what he really wants. This is the last book in the Parish Orphans of Devon series, and it’s a very satisfying finale. The Christmas party setting allows all four orphans and their love interests to reunite, and some of the memorable side characters from previous books also reappear. (I really need a novella telling Teddy Hayes’s story!) Neville’s speech impediment is handled sensitively, and thankfully he is not magically cured by love. So all in all, I really liked both this book and the whole series, and I look forward to reading more by Matthews!

66spiralsheep
May 28, 11:45am

>62 christina_reads: A College of Magics is probably my favourite Caroline Stevermer book. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

67christina_reads
May 28, 11:47am

>66 spiralsheep: I'd read it before but didn't remember anything about it, so it was a real treat to rediscover!

68christina_reads
May 31, 6:22pm



Book #49: Charles Finch, The Inheritance
CATs: Random (Monopoly = "You Inherit $100"); Alpha (I = Inheritance)
Bingo: none

Victorian gentleman-sleuth Charles Lenox is once again on the case when he receives a troubling letter from an old school friend, Gerald Leigh. Leigh's life is in danger, but he's not sure why; it could be for the £25,000 he's inherited from a mysterious benefactor, or it could be connected to his scientific discoveries, which are important enough that the Royal Society of London has taken notice. As Lenox tries to discover who's after Leigh and why, he also deals with tension both at his detective agency and in his marriage. It had been a while since I'd checked in with this series, and it was nice to catch up with Lenox and his friends again. The mystery itself was fine, but at this point I'm far more invested in the characters. The next book in the series is technically a prequel, following Lenox's very first case. I'm not sure if I care about the prequels...I might skip them and pick back up again with the current timeline. For anyone who's kept up with this series, will I be missing anything if I take that approach?

69christina_reads
May 31, 7:02pm

May recap

May was a good month for me! I got to spend a weekend with my best friend, whom I hadn't seen since March 2020. And I have a brand-new nephew, Joshua, who was born in the wee hours of this morning, sneaking in at the very end of the month! :) I should get to meet him at the end of July. But in the meantime, on to the books!

Books read in May:
1. John Rowland, Murder in the Museum
2. Diana Wynne Jones, A Tale of Time City
3. Mhairi McFarlane, Just Last Night
4. Robin McKinley, ed., Imaginary Lands
5. Kate Noble, The Dress of the Season
6. Caroline Stevermer, A College of Magics
7. Caroline Stevermer, A Scholar of Magics
8. Mimi Matthews, A Convenient Fiction
9. Mimi Matthews, The Winter Companion
10. Charles Finch, The Inheritance

Favorite book of the month:
I have to go with the duology A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics, which were exactly what I wanted them to be -- a rare quality!

Dishonorable mention:
The short story collection Imaginary Lands had a lot more misses than hits; even Robin McKinley’s story was a bit disappointing.

CATs completed:
Random (Monopoly): The Inheritance relates to the Community Chest card “You inherit $100.”
Genre (short stories/essays): Imaginary Lands is a collection of short stories.
Alpha (I, N): Mhairi McFarlane, Just Last *Night; Robin McKinley, ed., *Imaginary Lands; Kate *Noble, The Dress of the Season; Charles Finch, The *Inheritance
SFF (time travel): Time travel plays a central role in A Tale of Time City.

BingoDOG squares completed:
Type of building in the title: Murder in the Museum qualifies.

Books acquired in May:
Anne Gracie, The Winter Bride
Pat Murphy, There and Back Again (currently reading)
Catherine Lloyd, Death Comes to the Village
Amor Towles, Rules of Civility
Mhairi McFarlane, Just Last Night (already read)
Christina Dudley, The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh)
Susanna Craig, Who’s That Earl (e-book)
Jen DeLuca, Well Played (e-book) (already read)
Mimi Matthews, A Convenient Fiction (e-book) (already read)
Lisa Berne, The Worst Duke in the World
Jenny Colgan, 500 Miles from You
John Dickson Carr, Castle Skull
Melanie Dickerson, A Viscount's Proposal
Nnedi Okorafor, Binti: The Complete Trilogy

70pamelad
May 31, 8:36pm

>69 christina_reads: I've invested $A1.42 in Who's That Earl?, borrowed The Autumn Bride on Overdrive and put The Worst Duke in the World on hold. That should be enough to go on with because I'm trying to cut down.

71Tess_W
Jun 1, 2:31am

May looks like a good month for you both in reading an acquisitions!

72MissWatson
Jun 1, 3:18am

Congrats on the new nephew!

73spiralsheep
Jun 1, 4:35am

>69 christina_reads: A warm hello to Joshua from me! And congratulations to your family!

74christina_reads
Jun 1, 9:14am

>70 pamelad: Sorry and you're welcome? :) I also bought the e-book of Who's That Earl since it was on sale. I'll be watching your thread to see what you think of the books!

>71 Tess_W: I think I can blame my favorite used bookstore for the high number of acquisitions this month -- I ended up going twice and getting 4-5 books each time!

>72 MissWatson: >73 spiralsheep: Thank you! We're all excited...even though he's nephew #4 for me, the novelty hasn't worn off. :)

75clue
Jun 1, 10:25am

>68 christina_reads: There are three prequels (!) in the Lennox series. I read them tentatively, I'm cautious with prequels, but liked all of these. They are The Vanishing Man published in 2018 The Woman in the Water in 2019 and The Last Passenger in 2020. You don't have to read them but they do give insight into Charles Lennox's young adult life when he was unsure of himself and his choices.

76christina_reads
Jun 1, 11:15am

>75 clue: Thanks for weighing in! I'm torn...meeting the young Charles Lenox would be interesting, but I think I would really miss all the secondary characters like Lady Jane, McConnell, Dallington, etc. Maybe I'll try The Vanishing Man and see how I feel after that.

77christina_reads
Jun 9, 5:42pm



Book #50: Pat Murphy, There and Back Again
CATs: Random (everything old is new again = retelling of The Hobbit); SFF (journey)
Bingo: Impulse read (bought it based on the title)

Do you love The Hobbit but wish it had more spaceships? Then this is the book for you! As the title indicates, this book is a retelling of The Hobbit set in a futuristic, space-faring society. Bailey Beldon is perfectly content with his quiet life in the asteroid belt. He has no desire for adventure, but when he discovers an undelivered message pod from the powerful Farr clone family, adventure finds him nonetheless. I thought this was a well done and creative retelling; it follows all the major story beats of The Hobbit quite closely, but with a sci-fi spin. Bailey’s encounter with the Gollum equivalent is particularly good (not coincidentally, one of the best chapters in the original book too). A fun read for Tolkien fans, though a bit unnecessary — why not just reread the original?

78spiralsheep
Jun 10, 7:08am

>77 christina_reads: Pat Murphy wrote quite a lot of various types of metafiction so maybe she just wrote it to see if she could? Bearing in mind how litigious the Tolkien copyright holders are, she might also have assumed it would never be published (as it doesn't have the satire/parody defence)?

Anyway, I agree it's surprisingly close to the original and, as someone who always liked LotR more than The Hobbit (even as a child!), I enjoyed There and Back Again, although I can't imagine ever re-reading it. I do wonder how it would read if I wasn't aware it's a retelling.

79christina_reads
Jun 10, 9:44am

>78 spiralsheep: I'm sure it was a fun book for her to write! I wondered the same thing -- whether I'd like it if I weren't aware of The Hobbit connection. I do think it's an entertaining story on its own merits, but I probably would have wanted more information on the peripheral world-building issues that Murphy largely ignores because she's trying to conform to a specific narrative.

80christina_reads
Jun 10, 10:35am



Book #51: Christina Dudley, The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh)
CATs: Genre (historical fiction = set in the Regency era); Alpha (C = Christina, D = Dudley)
Bingo: Nature or environment (main characters are naturalists)

Joseph Tierney is a naturalist studying English flora and fauna at the behest of the Royal Society. He’s staying with a country family to work on his research, and he’s found an excellent assistant in a local boy, Arthur Baddely, who is just as interested in the natural world as Joseph himself. But “Arthur” is actually Alice Hapgood, a daughter of the local squire, who leaps at the opportunity to do some real scientific work — and to spend more time with the attractive Joseph. I’d rate this Regency romance OK to fine. I don’t enjoy plots that hinge upon a Big Secret that the reader already knows and has to wait for the characters to catch up to. I also thought the characters weren’t fleshed out beyond stock types, and the writing is clunky in places. The central romance is rather endearing, though, and I did find it a quick read that held my attention. Still, this one isn’t a keeper, and I doubt I’ll seek out more by this author.

81VictoriaPL
Jun 12, 4:58pm

Just catching up on your thread, Christina.
>38 christina_reads:. I have found that I'm not really loving the multiple time lines wound together on one book "thing" that seems so popular right now. I've come across it quite a bit in WWII fiction and I'm not a fan. I find myself more and more giving a pass to a book when I see it's in the that vein.
>77 christina_reads: Oh! I'll have to get this for my husband. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. :)

82christina_reads
Jun 13, 5:43pm

>81 VictoriaPL: I'm also not a huge fan of multiple timelines in general...I feel like one story is almost always less interesting, or both stories get short shrift and I never become fully invested in either one. Also, I hope your husband enjoys There and Back Again!

83christina_reads
Jun 14, 9:42am



Book #52: Ngaio Marsh, Death in Ecstasy
CATs: Alpha (D = Death); Mystery (Golden Age = published in 1936)
Bingo: Southern Hemisphere author or setting (author is from New Zealand)

This fourth installment of the Inspector Roderick Alleyn series centers around the members of a neopagan religion, the House of the Sacred Flame. During one of its rituals, devout initiate Cara Quayne drinks from a ceremonial goblet and immediately collapses — not from spiritual ecstasy, as some of the worshippers believe, but from cyanide poisoning. Alleyn is on the case, assisted by his colleague Inspector Fox and his journalist friend Nigel Bathgate. Their investigation uncovers various dirty little secrets about the cult and eventually leads them to the murderer. The mystery plot was clever and fairly clued (though I didn’t guess the killer’s identity), and I enjoy Marsh’s writing style, especially the banter between the investigators. But I wasn’t a huge fan of the cult setting — the novel paints it as completely sordid and unpleasant, and I felt that way while reading. Nevertheless, I’ll definitely continue with the series at some point.

84hailelib
Jun 15, 7:47pm

Just catching up here.

Enjoy the new nephew!

85christina_reads
Jun 16, 9:18am

>84 hailelib: Thanks for stopping by! And I can't wait to meet my new nephew...annoyingly, they live far away, but I'll get to see him in about a month!

86christina_reads
Jun 24, 10:09am



Book #53: Uzma Jalaluddin, Hana Khan Carries On
CATs: Alpha (C = Carries)
Bingo: By or about marginalized group (Muslim immigrants)

Hana Khan is the 24-year-old daughter of Indian Muslim immigrants to Toronto. Her family is having a rough time: her father is recovering from a car accident, her older sister is having a difficult pregnancy, and the family’s halal restaurant is struggling. When a rival halal restaurant threatens to move into the neighborhood, Hana is horrified and determined to stop it — never mind that the owner’s son, Aydin, is surprisingly cute and fun to talk to. Hana is also struggling at work; she dreams of producing her own radio show, but for now she’s an unpaid intern, and her (white) boss isn’t interested in her ideas unless they’re stereotypical stories about Muslims. Will Hana be able to follow her dreams, help her family, and maybe even find love? I really enjoyed this light, fun novel, although there is quite a lot going on (I didn’t even mention the small You’ve Got Mail subplot!). Hana is a relatable character whose voice I really enjoyed, and it was nice to see her grow throughout the novel. I should note that the plot does include an Islamophobic attack on Hana and her friends, which is tough to read. But the book is ultimately joyful and uplifting, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of romantic comedies!

87christina_reads
Jun 24, 10:12am



Book #54: Maggie Stiefvater, Mister Impossible
CATs: none
Bingo: none

After the events of Call Down the Hawk, Ronan, Hennessy, and Bryde are running from the Moderators and making a plan to strengthen the power of the ley lines. Jordan has discovered the existence of sweetmetals, artifacts that can keep dreams awake even if their dreamers die; Declan joins her in her quest to create one. Matthew is processing the fact that he’s a dream and not a “real” person. Carmen has been working with the Moderators but eventually comes to a crossroads. OK, so none of that summary will make sense unless you’ve read Call Down the Hawk, and possibly the Raven Cycle as well. It’s book 2 of a planned trilogy, and storylines are not resolved; rather, the book ends by setting up the final conflict that will play out in book 3. I’ll admit, much as I love Ronan, I found his story the least compelling; I was much more interested in Declan (my unexpected favorite!), Jordan, and Matthew. But I’m a big fan of Stiefvater’s writing and general vibe, so I enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see how everything turns out!

88christina_reads
Jun 24, 10:16am



Book #55: Tirzah Price, Pride and Premeditation
CATs: Random (everything old is new again = inspired by Pride and Prejudice); Genre (historical fiction = set in early 1800s)
Bingo: none

This YA historical novel is a spin on Pride and Prejudice: Lizzie Bennet dreams of being a barrister, but since such a career is unheard of for a woman, she’s currently an unpaid assistant at her father’s law firm. She hopes that scoring a big client for the firm will convince Mr. Bennet to hire her; when the rich and socially prominent Mr. Bingley is accused of murdering his brother-in-law Mr. Hurst, Lizzie hopes Bingley will be that client. Unfortunately, Bingley is already represented by the arrogant Mr. Darcy, but that won’t stop Lizzie from doing some investigating of her own. The writing style is a bit clunky (too modern, too American), and Lizzie annoyed me sometimes — she’s much more headstrong and obnoxious than the original Elizabeth Bennet. But I did enjoy the book’s creative way of integrating P&P’s characters into a murder mystery plot. It’s a fun, fast read, so I’d recommend it if the premise interests you. I think a series is planned, so I may check out the sequels too.

89Tess_W
Jun 24, 10:39am

90christina_reads
Jun 24, 10:47am

>89 Tess_W: I hope you enjoy it! Jalaluddin has also written a Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel, Ayesha at Last -- that one's definitely going on my TBR list!

91christina_reads
Jun 24, 2:27pm



Book #56: Christina Pishiris, Love Songs for Skeptics
CATs: Alpha (C = Christina)
Bingo: none

Zoë Frixos has what many people would consider a dream job: she’s a music journalist at a respected London magazine. But the magazine is in trouble, and the only hope of saving it is to score an interview with famous yet reclusive rock star Marcie Tyler. In her quest to get the interview, Zoë keeps butting heads with Marcie’s publicist, Nick Jones, who is as arrogant and hostile as he is (frustratingly) attractive. Meanwhile, Zoë also has to sort out her personal life, as her childhood best friend and first love, Simon, has just moved back to town. This book was published in January 2021, but it feels like a throwback to the chick-lit heyday of the ‘90s. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — I enjoyed Zoë’s first-person POV, the predictable career and relationship angst, and the musical references peppered throughout. I didn’t particularly buy the romance, though. Because we never get the hero’s POV, he remains pretty opaque, and I couldn’t figure out what drew him to Zoë. Overall, not bad but not great — it was worth the $2.99 sale price I paid for the e-book, but I’m glad I didn’t pay full price.

92christina_reads
Jun 29, 11:44am



Book #57: Jessica Brockmole, At the Edge of Summer
CATs: Genre (historical fiction = set in 1910s); History (military, war, revolution = World War I)
Bingo: none

When 15-year-old Clare Ross’s father dies, she is taken in by her parents’ old friends in France, Monsieur and Madame Crépet. At first she’s shy, grief-stricken, and lonely; but when the Crépets’ son Luc comes home from university for the weekend, Clare finds an unexpected friend. Their relationship deepens over the course of the summer, but eventually Clare moves out to live with her grandfather, and she and Luc can only be close via letters. Then World War I intervenes, but of course they are destined to meet again. I liked this book; it’s sweet and a little sad but ultimately hopeful. The main characters are endearing, particularly Luc. But the love story was almost too romantic for me, verging on the sappy. And I would have liked a little more plot; despite Luc’s wartime experiences and Clare’s travels, not a lot actually happens. Overall, this is an enjoyable read, but like Brockmole’s previous book, Letters from Skye, I didn’t love it.

93Tess_W
Jun 29, 12:26pm

>92 christina_reads: I have that one on my shelf, will take my time in getting to it!

94christina_reads
Jun 30, 10:28am

>93 Tess_W: It's a pleasant read, at least...but yeah, I wouldn't say it's something you have to read right this very minute!

95christina_reads
Jun 30, 10:36am



Book #58: Adele Buck, Acting Up
CATs: Random (everything old is new again = loosely based on Lady Susan)
Bingo: none

Cath and Paul have been best friends since college, and they also work together: Paul is a regional theater director, and Cath is a stage manager. Cath has been in love with Paul for years, but she’s never made a move for fear of ruining their friendship and professional relationship. Now they’re putting on a new play, and Cath’s nemesis Susan has been cast as the lead actress. Susan’s spiteful behavior irritates everyone but also forces some long-buried feelings into the open. I really wanted to love this book — I do community theater myself, so I was hoping for a lot of behind-the-scenes drama and hijinks. But the book focuses much more on Cath’s and Paul’s inner turmoil, and I found their conflict frustrating. One honest conversation could have solved everything! And I couldn’t figure out why Cath was so reluctant to share her feelings…it seemed like she should have had some traumatic backstory to explain the extent of her fear, but she didn’t (at least not on page). Overall, this book was OK but not what I wanted it to be.

96christina_reads
Jun 30, 11:03am

June recap

Not sure how it happened, but somehow we're halfway through 2021 now! The highlight of June for me was attending the baby shower of one of my best friends from college. I got to have dinner with her and another close college friend, and it was so NICE to see those girls again, and to be socializing with friends in general! Looking forward to more social activities in July. But in the meantime, on to the books!

Books read in June:
1. Pat Murphy, There and Back Again
2. Christina Dudley, The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh)
3. Ngaio Marsh, Death in Ecstasy
4. Uzma Jalaluddin, Hana Khan Carries On
5. Maggie Stiefvater, Mister Impossible
6. Tirzah Price, Pride and Premeditation
7. Christina Pishiris, Love Songs for Skeptics
8. Jessica Brockmole, At the Edge of Summer
9. Adele Buck, Acting Up

Favorite book of the month:
I enjoyed Hana Khan Carries On and look forward to reading more by Jalaluddin.

Dishonorable mention:
The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh) was meh, and I’d been hoping for better.

CATs completed:
RandomCAT (everything old is new again): There and Back Again is a sci-fi retelling of The Hobbit; Pride and Premeditation is a murder mystery inspired by Pride and Prejudice; Acting Up is loosely based on Lady Susan.
GenreCAT (historical fiction): The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh) is a Regency romance; Pride and Premeditation is set in the early 1800s; At the Edge of Summer begins in 1911 and continues through World War I.
HistoryCAT (military, war, revolution): At the Edge of Summer is set partially during World War I and its aftermath.
AlphaKIT (C, D): *Christina *Dudley, The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh); Ngaio Marsh, *Death in Ecstasy; Uzma Jalaluddin, Hana Khan *Carries On; *Christina Pishiris, Love Songs for Skeptics
SFFKIT (journey): The characters in There and Back Again travel through both space and time.
MysteryKIT (Golden Age): Death in Ecstasy was originally published in 1936.

BingoDOG squares completed:
Impulse read!: I bought There and Back Again based solely on (1) the title and (2) a brief mention of the author that I remembered from the movie The Jane Austen Book Club.
Nature or environment: Both the hero and heroine of The Naturalist (Hapgoods of Bramleigh) spend a lot of time studying local flora and fauna.
Southern Hemisphere author or setting: Ngaio Marsh, the author of Death in Ecstasy, is from New Zealand.
By or about marginalized group: The protagonist of Hana Khan Carries On is the daughter of Indian Muslim immigrants to Canada, as is the author.

Books acquired in June:
Beth O’Leary, The Road Trip
India Holton, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
Adele Buck, Acting Up (e-book)

97VivienneR
Jun 30, 12:22pm

>96 christina_reads: I'm on a waitlist for Hana Khan Carries On and happy to read that it was your favourite book this month. I noticed in the description that the restaurant where Hana works is "Three Sisters Biriyani Poutine" - an interesting culinary cross.

98christina_reads
Edited: Jun 30, 2:10pm

>97 VivienneR: Haha yes, the restaurant name is great! And she mentions in the book that she's the only one who likes biryani poutine -- the restaurant doesn't even have it on the menu! :)

99christina_reads
Jul 1, 12:48pm

FIRST HALF RECAP

With half the year over, I’m evaluating my 2021 reading so far. I’m very pleased overall — more than halfway to my goal of 100 books, and only one square left for my Bingo card. I’d read more by this point in 2020, but that’s not too surprising given the pandemic. I also bought fewer books last year, so that’s something to look out for in the future! In the meantime, here are my midyear stats for the past few years.

Books read: 58 (2020 = 71, 2019 = 50, 2018 = 32)

Average books read per month: 9.67 (2020 = 11.83, 2019 = 8.33, 2018 = 5.33)

Bingo squares completed: 24 (2020 = 21, 2019 = 18, 2018 = 17)

Books acquired: 43 (2020 = 29, 2019 = 43, 2018 = 39) — I’ve already read 18 of them, so the TBR has effectively grown by 25

Top 10 books of the year so far: In the order in which I read them...

1. Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman’s Honeymoon — A satisfying Golden Age mystery and the long-awaited consummation of Peter and Harriet’s relationship.

2. Madeleine St. John, The Women in Black — A gently ironic book centering female relationships, set in an Australian department store in the 1950s. I foresee this becoming a frequent comfort read for me.

3. Intisar Khanani, Thorn — A YA fantasy retelling of “The Goose Girl” with excellent development of the central character.

4. Loretta Chase, Ten Things I Hate about the Duke — A Regency romance that is just plain fun, centering around a reformed-rake hero and a bluestocking heroine.

5. Charlotte Armstrong, The Unsuspected — An American vintage mystery with a somewhat bonkers plot that nevertheless kept me on the edge of my seat.

6. Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow — Beautifully written historical fiction observing the changes in Russia throughout the 20th century through the eyes of a former count under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel.

7. Kate Clayborn, Love at First — A well-written contemporary romance with just the right amount of angst.

8. Megan Whalen Turner, Return of the Thief — A glorious ending to a glorious series.

9. Caroline Stevermer, A Scholar of Magics — A fantasy of manners set in Edwardian England with a delightfully pragmatic heroine. It’s a sequel to the equally enjoyable A College of Magics, but it can be read as a stand-alone.

10. Mimi Matthews, A Convenient Fiction — A Victorian romance between a brooding hero and a heroine desperate to stave off poverty, who decide to make a marriage of convenience. Nothing fancy here, just a well-told romance that incorporates one of my favorite tropes.

100christina_reads
Edited: Jul 2, 4:25pm



Book #59: Eva Ibbotson, The Morning Gift
CATs: none
Bingo: none

It’s the late 1930s, and half-Jewish Ruth Berger needs to get out of Vienna. Luckily, Quin Somerville, a paleontology professor and old friend of the family, is able to help; but the only way to ensure Ruth’s continued safety is to marry her, thus making her a British subject. They agree that they’ll get the marriage annulled as soon as Ruth is safely in England, but when she ends up taking Quin’s university course, things get complicated. Eva Ibbotson’s novels are like hugs in book form, and this one delivered the emotional catharsis I needed. There’s some heartbreak, but love and friendship and humanity win in the end — the perfect comfort read.

101Tess_W
Jul 2, 6:38pm

>100 christina_reads: Sounds like a BB for me, when I'm feeling sorry for myself!

102pamelad
Edited: Jul 2, 7:42pm

>99 christina_reads: Although I'm cutting down on historical romances, I've bought Ten Things I Hate About the Duke in case of a reading emergency. The Kindle version is available for $A1.49 today and 99 cents on the US site.

103christina_reads
Jul 4, 2:47pm

>101 Tess_W: That would be a great time to read it! :)

>102 pamelad: Haha well I hope you enjoy it! It's actually book 2 in a series (the first being A Duke in Shining Armor), but you wouldn't be lost if you just jumped in with Ten Things I Hate about the Duke.

104christina_reads
Jul 5, 4:28pm



Book #60: Beth O'Leary, The Road Trip
CATs: Genre (romance); Alpha (O = O'Leary)
Bingo: none

Addie and Dylan used to be in love, but they broke up two years ago and haven't spoken since. Now they're both going to a mutual friend's wedding, and when Dylan wrecks the car he's driving, he and his best friend Marcus hitch a ride with Addie, her sister Deb, and another random wedding guest who needed a ride. The book jumps between the present-day road trip and the story of Addie and Dylan's relationship in the past. I couldn't put this book down, and I was surprised by how much it affected me emotionally. At the same time, though, I wasn't necessarily rooting for Dylan and Addie to work things out! Their relationship seems based primarily (solely?) on physical attraction, and they don't function particularly well as a couple. I also couldn't relate to Dylan and Marcus, who are basically "poor little rich boys" distracting themselves from real life with sex, drugs, and their parents' money. The book attempts to make them sympathetic by giving them some shallow backstory and (in Dylan's case) a cartoonishly villainous father, but it doesn't quite work. I did like the book overall, but I'm still deciding whether it's a keeper for me. Oh, and notwithstanding the cover, it's definitely more of a drama than a comedy.

105christina_reads
Jul 8, 3:05pm



Book #61: India Holton, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
CATs: Genre (romance); Alpha (S = Society, Scoundrels); SFF (historical fantasy = set in Victorian England)
Bingo: none

Miss Cecilia Bassingthwaite is a proper young Victorian lady, and also a pirate. In fact, she’s a junior member of the Wisteria Society, England’s most prestigious and fearsome league of piratical ladies. When another Society member hires an assassin to kill her, Cecilia thinks she’s finally made it: now the Society will have to take her seriously and promote her to senior membership. But things start to go wrong when the assassin, Ned Lightbourne, turns out to be dangerously attractive and charming. Then the villainous Captain Morvath, an evil pirate and even worse poet, kidnaps the rest of the Society, leaving only Cecilia to save the day. Hijinks ensue, complete with flying houses, literary allusions, ghosts, thievery, and a touch of romance. This book won’t be for everyone; it’s a ridiculous romp in which the rules don’t make sense, there’s very little character development, and the tone is gleefully ahistorical. To enjoy it, you have to let the silliness wash over you — and be someone who appreciates Brontë references and dick jokes in equal measure. Honestly, I loved it! Can’t wait for the sequel next year!

106christina_reads
Jul 9, 10:19am



Book #62: Jennifer Kincheloe, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc
CATs: History (social history = prostitution, police corruption); Alpha (S = Secret); Mystery (female cops or robbers = main character becomes a police matron)
Bingo: none


In 1907 Los Angeles, Anna Blanc is a wealthy debutante who seemingly has the world at her feet, but she chafes under her father’s strict upbringing and longs for excitement. When she stumbles upon an opportunity to become a police matron for the LAPD, she jumps at it, even though it means using a fake name and lying to everyone in her life. When women from the local brothels start dying, allegedly by suicide, Anna is convinced they’re really being murdered. She investigates with the help of handsome but skeptical Officer Joe Singer, learning about some of life’s harsh realities along the way. This is a book I found both enjoyable and frustrating. It moves along at a quick clip, Anna’s internal monologue can be amusing, and Officer Singer is a delight. Unfortunately, Anna is also insufferable — she’s such a thoughtless, spoiled brat! The book tries to redeem her by having her solve the mystery, but to me, that doesn’t make up for how recklessly and selfishly she often behaves. Your mileage may vary; maybe I’m being harsh because I know how deeply she would irritate me in real life. But for me, the obnoxious heroine means I won’t be continuing with this otherwise promising series.

107VictoriaPL
Jul 9, 10:27am

>106 christina_reads: oh no! It sounded promising.

108christina_reads
Jul 9, 10:34am

>107 VictoriaPL: I do think other people might like Anna a lot more than I did! I'd suggest trying the first chapter; you'll probably know by then whether she's for you or not.

109christina_reads
Jul 13, 9:32am



Book #63: Francis Duncan, So Pretty a Problem
CATs: Alpha (S = So)
Bingo: none

Celebrated painter Adrian Carthallow has been killed; his wife, Helen, confesses to the killing, claiming that she shot him by accident. But the local police are able to disprove her story almost immediately, which raises the question, why did she lie? Amateur sleuth Mordecai Tremaine happens to be vacationing nearby, and he also knows the Carthallows socially, so he’s perfectly placed to investigate the matter. He soon uncovers plenty of motives among the Carthallows’ circle of friends, but who actually pulled the trigger? I’ve read a few of the Mordecai Tremaine books now, and I always enjoy them. There’s nothing particularly original about this one — and I was able to figure out the solution in advance — but I liked the book and will continue to read more in the series.

110christina_reads
Jul 21, 12:44pm



Book #64: Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers
CATs: Random (summertime = seashells in title and on cover); Alpha (S = Shell, Seekers)
Bingo: Suggested by another generation (mom and grandma)

This is a hard book to describe, because it’s mostly about ordinary people living ordinary lives, without many exciting events or dramatic plot twists. It centers around Penelope Keeling and describes her life, both as a 64-year-old woman in the present (that is, the 1980s, when the book was written) and as a young woman before and during World War II. It also explores the lives of Penelope’s three grown children, who are very different from their mother and from each other. I found this book a slow read but an enthralling one; Penelope is a (mostly) sympathetic character, and I enjoyed how the slow unveiling of her past clarified events in the present. If you like quiet British novels, this is definitely one to pick up.

111clue
Jul 21, 6:34pm

>110 christina_reads: I'd like to reread this, I read it long ago and I loved it but now I don't remember it very well. I'll add it to my ever growing reread list!

112christina_reads
Jul 22, 10:08am

>111 clue: Haha, I definitely relate to the ever-growing reread list! I'm holding onto my copy of The Shell Seekers because I think I will want to reread it at some point.

113hailelib
Jul 26, 12:03pm

In the right mood, The Shell Seekers would be good.

114christina_reads
Jul 27, 9:23am

>113 hailelib: Yes, definitely recommended when you're in the mood for it!

115christina_reads
Jul 27, 3:20pm



Book #65: Dawn Cook, The Decoy Princess
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Tess has grown up believing she’s the crown princess of Constenopolie. But on the eve of her betrothal to a neighboring prince, she learns that she’s actually a decoy, installed at the palace to ensure that the true princess (who has grown up in hiding) won’t be assassinated. No sooner has she learned this shocking news than there’s a palace coup, in which the king and queen are killed and Tess must flee to avoid the same fate. Pursuing her is Jeck, a captain of the guard in the new regime, who has plans for her back at the palace. And then there’s Duncan, an attractive card sharp who wants her to team up with him and leave Constenopolie to its fate. I really liked the premise of this book and found it a fun, action-packed read. But while the main plot of this book is resolved, there are an awful lot of loose ends, from Tess’s surprising magical abilities to her romantic destiny. There is a sequel, Princess at Sea, and I’m eager to read it so that I can find out what happens! But on its own, this book isn’t totally satisfying, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a stand-alone.

116christina_reads
Jul 27, 3:21pm



Book #66: Georgette Heyer, Sylvester
CATs: none
Bingo: none

For my birthday I decided to treat myself and reread this book for the umpteenth time. It’s Heyer’s take on Pride and Prejudice: the hero is an arrogant (but principled and responsible) duke who thinks any woman will have him for the asking, and the heroine is a lively, intelligent woman who sees his flaws and doesn’t hesitate to point them out. As I recently mentioned in another thread, I love an uptight, autocratic hero (at least in fiction!), so Sylvester’s character growth as he slowly falls for Phoebe gets me every time. There are also some great secondary characters in this one, from Sylvester’s mischievous nephew Edmund to Phoebe’s best friend Tom to the foppish Sir Nugent Fotherby (that name alone!). If you’re at all interested in historical romance, I can’t recommend this one highly enough!

117christina_reads
Jul 27, 3:22pm



Book #67: Tashie Bhuiyan, Counting Down with You
CATs: Genre (romance)
Bingo: none

High school junior Karina Ahmed is under a lot of pressure. Her Bangladeshi parents are strict and focused on her academic achievements, expecting that she’ll become a doctor one day. Karina is more interested in English than STEM, but she’s afraid to admit this to her parents. She’s also a bit of a nonentity at school, but that all changes when her English teacher asks her to tutor the most notorious and good-looking boy in her grade, Ace Clyde. Ace turns out to be different from what Karina expected: he’s thoughtful and sensitive and dealing with his own family issues. As their relationship deepens, will Karina find the courage to go after what she really wants? This book was a cute, fast read, but I must admit I didn’t love it. I think Ace is just too good to be true; I can’t imagine an actual teenage boy being that sweet and emotionally fluent. Also, I couldn’t figure out what made him interested in Karina initially; she’s smart and funny and kind, but how would he know any of those things based on her mousy public persona? It seemed unrealistic and more like a wish-fulfillment trope. But fans of teen romance may like this one more than I did; maybe I’m just getting crotchety in my old age!

118hailelib
Jul 28, 1:23pm

>117 christina_reads:

That's a good book, one of Heyer's best. I was first drawn to it by the title on my copy - Sylvester or, the Wicked Uncle.

119christina_reads
Jul 28, 1:35pm

>118 hailelib: Definitely one of my favorite Heyers! And the "Wicked Uncle" title is both intriguing and appropriate.

120christina_reads
Jul 28, 1:48pm



Book #68: Ann Granger, The Companion (a.k.a. A Rare Interest in Corpses)
CATs: History (social history = slums, labor conditions); Mystery (lady cops and robbers = female sleuth)
Bingo: none

Left penniless when her father dies, Elizabeth Martin takes a job in London as companion to her late godfather’s wife, Mrs. Parry. Lizzie soon learns that Mrs. Parry’s previous companion, Madeleine Hexham, recently left without warning and hasn’t been seen since. Mrs. Parry and her friends think Madeleine ran off with a man, but Lizzie worries that something more sinister has happened. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard Inspector Ben Ross is investigating the murder of an unknown young woman who turns out to be Madeleine. When he and Lizzie meet in the course of the investigation, they team up to discover the killer. I quite enjoyed this Victorian mystery. There are times when the author’s research shows a little too much, but the wealth of detail also contributes to a believable setting. Lizzie is an outspoken, independent woman, but not implausibly so for her time. The book strikes a good balance between the mystery plot and social commentary, and there’s a hint of romance as well. I’ll look out for subsequent books in this series.

121christina_reads
Yesterday, 4:50pm



Book #69: D.E. Stevenson, The Four Graces
CATs: Alpha (S = Stevenson)
Bingo: none

The titular four graces are the four daughters of Mr. Grace, the vicar of the village of Chevis Green. They’re all pretty and intelligent, though Liz is the most outgoing, Sal is the most bookish, and Tilly is the shyest. (Addie, the youngest, is barely on page.) The girls are quite happy until the arrival of Aunt Rona, who’s snobbish and oblivious and determined to “manage” them all. As they wonder how to deal with her, they also take part in village life and consider their futures, especially after the arrival of two potential suitors. I always enjoy D.E. Stevenson’s books, and this one was a pleasant, low-stakes read, despite being set during World War II. I didn’t engage with it quite as much as I did with Miss Buncle’s Book, although that could be partly because I have a cold at the moment. But I did enjoy the book and will likely revisit it at some point.

122NinieB
Yesterday, 5:11pm

>121 christina_reads: I have this one waiting on my shelf--glad to see a positive review!

123christina_reads
Yesterday, 5:19pm

>122 NinieB: I think you will like it! It's technically part of the Miss Buncle's Book "series," but it can definitely stand alone.

124VictoriaPL
Yesterday, 5:31pm

>121 christina_reads: hope you feel better soon!

125christina_reads
Yesterday, 5:58pm

>124 VictoriaPL: Thanks! I'm working from home and drinking lots of fluids, so hopefully I'll get over it soon. :)

126christina_reads
Today, 8:26pm



Book #70: Melanie Dickerson, A Viscount’s Proposal
CATs: Genre (romance)
Bingo: none

This Regency romance centers around Leorah, a spirited young lady who defies convention, and Edward, an uptight politician who hopes to become prime minister one day. Naturally, they dislike each other immensely, but their feelings change as they get to know one another better. Meanwhile, someone is trying to kill Edward, but no one knows who or why. This was my first book by this author, and I was underwhelmed. The setting doesn't really ring true (I suspect a lot of historical details are wrong), and the writing style is awkward and inauthentic. The "mystery" plot is paper-thin, and I was expecting more because this book is part of the Regency Spies of London series. There is literally no spying at all! This is a quick read but a bland one, and I won't be seeking out more books by Dickerson.

127christina_reads
Today, 8:49pm

July recap

Putting up my recap a little early because I'm traveling tomorrow and won't have access to a computer. This month I started going back to the office, which has been strange to adjust to; luckily, several other people have started coming back also, so I’m able to socialize a bit instead of being at home alone all the time. And the highlight of the month was meeting my newest nephew, who was born at the end of May and baptized last Saturday. It was great to see my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and nephews (I’m up to 4 now) at the baptism!

Me with baby Joshua:


I also had an above-average reading month, so on to the books!

Books read in July:
1. Eva Ibbotson, The Morning Gift
2. Beth O’Leary, The Road Trip
3. India Holton, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
4. Jennifer Kincheloe, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc
5. Francis Duncan, So Pretty a Problem
6. Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers
7. Dawn Cook, The Decoy Princess
8. Georgette Heyer, Sylvester
9. Tashie Bhuiyan, Counting Down with You
10. Ann Granger, The Companion
11. D.E. Stevenson, The Four Graces
12. Melanie Dickerson, A Viscount’s Proposal

Favorite book of the month:
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is a ridiculous, gleefully ahistorical romp, and I loved every minute of it!

Dishonorable mention:
I wanted to like The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, but I couldn’t get past the teeth-grindingly annoying heroine.

CATs completed:
RandomCAT (summertime): The Shell Seekers has seashells, which make me think of the beach and therefore summer, in the title and on the cover.
GenreCAT (romance): The Road Trip, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, Counting Down with You, and A Viscount’s Proposal all have strong romantic plots.
HistoryCAT (social history): The Secret Life of Anna Blanc touches on issues of prostitution, police corruption, and the role of women in early 20th-century Los Angeles. The Companion explores slums and poor working conditions in Victorian England.
AlphaKIT (S, O): Beth *O’Leary, The Road Trip; India Holton, The Wisteria *Society of Lady *Scoundrels; Jennifer Kincheloe, The *Secret Life of Anna Blanc; Francis Duncan, *So Pretty a Problem; Rosamunde Pilcher, The *Shell *Seekers; D.E. *Stevenson, The Four Graces
SFFKIT (historical fantasy): The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is set in an alternate Victorian England in which there are flying houses powered by magic.
MysteryKIT (female cops or robbers): In The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, the main character becomes a police matron and solves a series of murders. The heroine of The Companion is an amateur sleuth.

BingoDOG squares completed:
Suggested by another generation: Both my mother and grandmother have recommended The Shell Seekers to me.

Books acquired in July:
Mary Balogh, A Christmas Bride / Christmas Beau
Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric’s Progress
Elizabeth C. Bunce, Liar’s Moon
Caroline Stevermer, The Glass Magician
Elizabeth Harmon, Pairing Off (e-book)
Sharon Shinn, Archangel
Elle Katharine White, Heartstone
Lynne Truss, A Shot in the Dark
Kate Atkinson, Transcription
Ellis Peters, A Rare Benedictine
Sheri Cobb South, John Pickett mysteries #1-5 (e-books)
Stella Riley, Rockliffe series #1-3 (e-books)
T. Kingfisher, Swordheart (e-book)
Kate Clayborn, Beginner’s Luck, Luck of the Draw, and Best of Luck (e-books)