Book Challenge!

stack of books
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

September is fast approaching and for me, that means it’s almost time for me annual reading challenge – Mt. TBR September! The goal is to read you THE books! You can increase the challenge by getting rid of unwanted books, by not purchasing any new books or only pre-orders, by only purchasing e-books or used books, or any other ways you want to expand and define the challenge.

For me, it’s about clearing a few more titles from these stacks that have accumulated all over my house. We might be moving soon, but in any case, I have 200+ unread books under my roof! That doesn’t include my Kindle. That’s too many!

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I relate.

So if you want to join in, send me a message. I will post this message. At the end of September, I will do a drawing for everyone who participated and award some kind of prize. No, not a book. What am I, an enabler? Okay, maybe, but probably not a book. I haven’t thought that far ahead. Just comment if you want in and then let me know how it went.

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With a Bare Bodkin: A Review

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With a Bare Bodkin by Cyril Hare

Book description:

England is in the grip of the Second World War and the Blitz has forced the evacuation of various government offices from London. Francis Pettigrew, an unsuccessful barrister and amateur detective, accompanies his ministry to the distant seaside resort of Marsett Bay where the civil servants must make the best of their temporary home.

In this strange atmosphere, Pettigrew begins to fall in love with his secretary, Miss Brown, who is also being courted by a widowed man who is much older than her. Bored and restless, the ministers start playing a light-hearted game of ‘plan the perfect murder’ to pass the time. Pettigrew, caught up in his love for Miss Brown, remains detached from the silliness – until a real murder happens, and he is drawn into solving the mystery. 

My thoughts:

I love a good old-fashioned mystery, complete with amateur sleuth and a small set of suspects. Add in a little romance and an impossible crime, and that’s a recipe for a very pleasant afternoon. My problem is that I’m starting to run out of Golden Age era books. I’ve read the whole Agatha Christie catalog, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Patricia Wentworth.

This book, by English writer, lawyer, and civil servant Cyril Hare, introduced a whole new set of characters. I loved the setting too, the British government bureaucracy during World War Two. It reminded me a bit of Foyle’s War.

Francis Pettigrew is a lawyer (or solicitor or barrister – I can’t remember) who is called up to serve as legal counsel for some ridiculous wartime agency. Apparently everyone in the agency has to room together too, so it doesn’t take long before they’re all tired of each other. But when a harmless secretary is murdered, Pettigrew is the one determined to find out why. This was a fun book, maybe 3.5 stars, that made me smile more than once.

 

 

Favorite Tropes

Hey readers! Today is Tuesday and it’s time for another Top 10. This bookish meme was hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and has been going since June 2010! Since January 2018 Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today it is all about my favorite tropes/themes in books.

1. Locked Room/Closed Mystery. You know, the ones where there’s a small group of people, isolated from the outside, and someone turns up dead. One of them just be the killer, but who? It’s even better if it was a locked room, where no one could get in or out, so how did the do it? Check out Cards on the Table or Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie for more.

2. Shakespeare retelling. I love the Bard! Any strong Shakespeare connection and I want it! One exception is Romeo & Juliet. I think that one’s overdone. See The Dead Father’s Club by Matt Haig or Light Thickens by Ngaio Marsh.

3. Unreliable Narrator. Sure, that’s what they say happened, but how do you know for sure? This one is so much fun as it makes the reader treat the book as a puzzle. No examples here, because it’s kind of a spoiler.

4. The heist. I love these! The problem of planning a really good crime and then the way it inevitably falls apart. Try Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo or Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer.

5. Lone Survivor. Where our main character is stranded or trapped and has to survive alone. Sometimes there’s help coming, but sometimes they’re being hunted. Try The Martian by Andy Weir or The 39 Steps by John Buchan for a really old school take.

6. Redemption Arc. Give me someone who’s down and forgotten, with a debt to repay. But don’t give me someone really evil – that’s too much. I just love someone who is trying to change. Marvel’s Black Widow or The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson.

7. Theater. Not quite the same as the Shakespeare theme, this is just a book set during the production of a play. I don’t know why, but I love this so much! Theater Shoes by Noel Streitfield or Exit Actors, Dying by Margot Arnold.

8. Epistolary books. Those are books told in letters. For a middle grade, try Letters from Camp by Kate and Sarah Klise or Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede for older readers.

9. On board a train/boat. Maybe it’s because I’d love to travel more, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s another kind of Locked Room, but I eat these up. There’s The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie or Night Ferry to Death by Patricia Moyes.

10. Metafiction. Books about books, characters who know they’re characters, authors who insert themselves into the story, any or all of these. When it’s not well done it’s just aggravating, but when it is – wow, I love that. Try Woman with a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine or Poison by Chris Wooding.

What are your favorite tropes? Which ones do you hate? And tell me any recommendations you have based on my faves!

Book Quote

From The Unexpected Truth About Animals: A Menagerie of the Misunderstood by Lucy Cooke

I joined Claudio on an expedition in search of one of the country’s most fabulous freaks, the incredibly rare Southern Darwin’s frog, which was discovered by the big beard himself in 1834 on his epic five year Beagle voyage. What makes this frog so extraordinary is that it has eschewed conventional pond-based metamorphosis for something more sci-fi: after mating the male guards the fertilized eggs until they are close to hatching, then gobbles them up. Six weeks later, like a scene out of Alien, he barfs up baby frogs. He is the only male animal other than the seahorse to give birth, albeit through his mouth.

 

 

Movie Time!

I’ve got fun plans for this weekend, including a birthday party, but I’m most looking forward to a movie date with my adult son to go see Where’d You Go, Bernadette? We read the book by Maria Semple in my book club and it was a hit. We all agreed it was a lot of fun, with just the right amount of humor and drama.

The movie stars Cate Blanchett as a mom who has made her family her life. When her circumstances begin to change, she tries to cope until she snaps. Here’s what IMDB says:

A loving mom becomes compelled to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. Her leap of faith takes her on an epic adventure that jump-starts her life and leads to her triumphant rediscovery.

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I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I haven’t seen any review for the movie yet, but I love Cate Blanchett and I’m in the mood to be entertained, so I’m sure I will enjoy it. Have a good weekend!

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday meme is hosted by Renee@It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on your TBR list while you continue to pile more titles on top of them. Be sure to check out Renee’s page for the whole list!

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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This is one that’s been on my TBR list for WAY TOO LONG especially considering that I own a copy! I’m not sure why I haven’t read it yet. Maybe it’s because the cover is cool, but not super exciting. Maybe it’s because I have the impression that it’s going to be a hard read so I keep looking for something a little fluffier.

Synopsis:

Barcelona, 1945. Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, ‘The Shadow of the Wind’, by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn’t find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.

About the author:

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a Spanish novelist. Born in Barcelona in 1964, he has lived in Los Ángeles, United States, since 1994, and works as a scriptwriter aside from writing novels.

His first novel, El príncipe de la niebla (The Prince of Mist, 1993), earned the Edebé literary prize for young adult fiction. He is also the author of three more young-adult novels, El palacio de la medianoche (1994), Las luces de septiembre(1995) and Marina (1999).

In 2001 he published the novel La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind), his first ‘adult’ novel, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. Since its publication, La sombra del viento has garnered critical acclaim around the world and has won numerous international awards. Ruiz Zafón’s works have been published in more than 40 countries and have been translated into more than 30 languages.

My thoughts:

This seems like a good winter book, sort of spooky and full of twists. I will have to make sure I grab it when the temperatures drop and I want to wrap up in blankets for a good mystery.

 

 

Superior: A Book Review

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Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini

Book description:

An astute and timely examination of the re-emergence of scientific research into racial differences

Superior tells the disturbing story of the persistent thread of belief in biological racial differences in the world of science.

At a time when racialized nationalisms are a resurgent threat throughout the world, Superior is a powerful reminder that biologically, we are all far more alike than different.

My thoughts:

One of the things I love about science is that it is impartial. There’s no room for emotions, no room for opinions. It’s just about the data – does it support your hypothesis or not.

Except that that is never really the case. If your hypothesis is deeply flawed, or as we see in this book, deeply rooted in the assumption of racial superiority, then the data will necessarily be skewed to reflect that. Any conclusion will be worthless.

And yet time and time again, research starts with this very premise. It didn’t start with the Nazis. Nineteenth century Europeans were especially good at high-blown rhetoric that concealed truly disgusting racism. What’s truly horrible is that it didn’t end with the Holocaust either, although you would think such a terrible result would have made humans forever wary of repeating such an atrocity. But in country after country around the world, science is still rewriting history to tell the story of one race’s superiority to another.

If you are one of those people, like I am, frustrated by people claiming that we live in “post-racial” world, that there is no discrimination, you will find lots of evidence to argue against that claim. Sadly, I doubt any of it will be convincing. If you refuse to listen to the stories of racism and hatred on the news, you won’t read this book either. And that’s a shame.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. However, my opinion remains my own.

Guilty Reader Book Tag

I don’t usually do book tags, but when I saw this one on Thrice Read, I loved reading her answers. Here’s what I’ve got to say.

HAVE YOU EVER RE-GIFTED A BOOK YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?

Not that I can remember, but I wouldn’t feel too bad about doing that, especially if I already had a copy. Usually I only receive books from my wish list, so this doesn’t really happen very often.

GUILT LEVEL: LOW

HAVE YOU EVER SAID YOU’VE READ A BOOK WHEN YOU HAVEN’T?

No. I do call a book “read” if I’ve tried to read it, but if I DNF’d it a couple of chapters in, I always make that clear.

GUILT LEVEL: LOW

HAVE YOU EVER BORROWED A BOOK AND THEN NOT RETURNED IT?

Yes, once. She moved away before I could give it back! And does losing a library copy count? Because I’ve done that A LOT. I always pay for it though. (And then I usually find it after I paid for it, darn it.)

GUILT LEVEL: MEDIUM

HAVE YOU EVER READ A BOOK SERIES OUT OF ORDER?

Probably? I don’t remember, but sometimes you can’t find a copy of book 1. I wouldn’t feel guilty about it though. <shrugs>

GUILT LEVEL: MARGINAL

HAVE YOU EVER DOGEARED A BOOK?

Yes. When I was younger I didn’t really get why this was bad. Now I only do it with my own copies, but I can usually find something to use as a bookmark.

GUILT LEVEL: MEDIUM (REFORMED)

HAVE YOU EVER TOLD SOMEONE YOU’VE READ A BOOK WHEN YOU HAVEN’T?

Does college count? Also at book club I’ve faked it when I knew I would hate the book, so I didn’t bother.

GUILT LEVEL: MEDIUM

HAVE YOU EVER BAD-MOUTHED A BOOK YOU ACTUALLY LIKED?

What would be the point? Be proud about what you love!

GUILT LEVEL: NONE


What about you? What are you guilty of? Let me know in the comments!

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday meme is hosted by Renee@It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on your TBR list while you continue to pile more titles on top of them. Be sure to check out Renee’s page for the whole list!

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Hey there readers! I don’t think I’ve ever tried this meme before, so I thought I’d feature the book that’s been on my TBR the longest. It’s called Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie. It actually counts for both categories, since I’ve read this before, but it was about 20 years ago and I don’t remember much about it except that I was disappointed it was so different from her mysteries. However, I’ve changed as a reader and I think I would enjoy it more this time around.

Synopsis:

Returning from a visit to her daughter in Iraq, Joan Scudamore finds herself unexpectedly alone and stranded in an isolated rest house by flooding of the railway tracks. This sudden solitude compels Joan to assess her life for the first time ever and face up to many of the truths about herself. Looking back over the years, Joan painfully re-examines her attitudes, relationships and actions and becomes increasingly uneasy about the person who is revealed to her. 

My thoughts:

Since I am in the same boat as Joan, the main character, is (meaning we both are middle-aged women with adult children) I think I would be interested in what sort of things she discovers about herself. I’m curious too about whether Joan will take this chance to make some changes in her life, or if she wants to run away from what she finds.

The cover and title:

I think the title is a quote, but I’m not sure where it comes from. I’m sure it says in the book though, so I’ll wait to find out. It makes me think about maybe her being emotionally unavailable, rather than physically absent.

I like the cover. The colors are subdued, so it sends a message that this is not an action-packed book. It’s got her signature on the very top, because they want readers to buy this book. I don’t have a problem with that. Whatever works! I’m not sure about the flowers. I would like them better if I could tell what kind they were.

And that’s it! Now I just need to actually get a copy of this book from the library. They do have one copy, but it’s in an anthology with other early Christie books, but that might be a good think.

The Iron Jackal

Hey steampunk fans! Have you tried the Tales of the Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding yet? It’s full of adventures and zombies and rogues and airships! I really, really liked the first two books and I’m finally on book 3, The Iron Jackal.

synopsis: (spoilers)

A big slice of non-stop, action-packed, wise-cracking fun from the Ketty Jay, and Captain Darien Frey.

Things are finally looking good for Captain Frey and his crew. The Ketty Jay has been fixed up good as new.

They’ve got their first taste of fortune and fame. And, just for once, nobody is trying to kill them.

In fact, she’s offered them a job – one that will take them deep into the desert heart of Samarla, the land of their ancient enemies. To a place where the secrets of the past lie in wait for the unwary. Even Trinica Dracken, Frey’s ex-fiancée and long-time nemesis, has given up her quest for revenge. 

Secrets that might very well cost Frey everything.

Join the crew of the Ketty Jay on their greatest adventure yet: a story of mayhem and mischief, roof-top chases and death-defying races, murderous daemons, psychopathic golems and a particularly cranky cat. 

This time, Frey’s in a race against the clock for the ultimate prize: to save his own life.


Quote:

He leaned forward, his elbows resting on the table. ‘You know, one day it’d be nice to meet up without all your chaperones hanging around.’

‘I’m afraid that won’t happen.’

‘Don’t trust yourself around me?’

‘People would talk.’

‘What’s wrong with that?’

‘You’re a man, and I’m a woman,’ she said. ‘Your reputation would increase. Mine would suffer. I won’t allow myself to be weakened because people think you bedded me.’ Her eyes narrowed in faint amusement. ‘Besides, I doubt your ego needs any more massaging.’

‘It wasn’t my ego I was hoping you’d massage.’

She gave him a despairing stare. ‘I’m beginning to miss the days when we loathed each other.’

‘Oh, come on. You still loathe me a bit.’

‘It’s difficult not to.’