Thursday, January 11, 2018

By its Cover

By Its Cover (Commissario Brunetti, #23)By Its Cover by Donna Leon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This mystery focuses on the theft and vandalism of rare books in a Venetian library. It was very Brunetti-focused, much more so than many of these novels which have more interaction with other characters than this one did. This struck me as kind of a quiet novel. It was excellent however, with lots of observations of the world and fabulous sounding meals. Who has time to make gnocci with ragu for lunch? Paola Brunetti makes time.
This story is set in Venice so I am counting it as my Italian title for the European Reading Challenge

Sunday, January 7, 2018

No Fond Return of Love

No Fond Return of LoveNo Fond Return of Love 
by Barbara Pym
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Dulcie always found a public library a little upsetting, for one saw so many odd people there, and it must be supposed that a certain proportion came in because they had nowhere else to go. Others were less easy to classify and less worrying. Why, for instance, was a reasonably prosperous-looking middle-aged woman--the smartness of her clothes detracted from by the dowdy laced-up shoes that told of bad feet--so anxious to get hold of a pre-war Kelly's Directory of Somerset?" (p. 52)
I found Miss Dulcie Mainwaring a delightful character. Very proper and respectable on the outside, but with a sharp observational wit which she mostly keeps to herself.  This novel is about a group of people living in and around London (mostly in a suburb near Kensington) and the daily concerns and events of their world. At the start of the story many of them don't know one another, but through the book Pym shows how they are interconnected or brings them together in ways that seem inevitable and connections are made. There are lots of vicars, oceans of tea, and a charming sense of the absurdities of life.
This book counts as my British title for the European Reading Challenge

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Extra Woman

The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like ItThe Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It
by Joanna Scutts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Marjorie Hillis wrote self-help books beginning in the 1930s for women living alone. This volume looks at the world in which Hillis' books were created and read and the life their author led. More a portrait of a time and place than of a specific person this book was interesting and depressing at the same time. The world that seemed to be on the horizon for white middle class women in 1930s America never materialized and was essentially beaten into submission by the post-WWII boom. Among many other topics Scutts touches on was poet Margaret Fishback, the real life inspiration for Lillian Boxfish. This is a very readable and scholarly work which includes an extensive bibliography.
This is the 1st of the 12 non-fiction books I pledged to read this year for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge.


Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 Reading Challenges

I have decided on 5 reading challenges for 2018 (in addition to the Canadian Book Challenge which ends on Canada Day):

#1 - Non-Fiction Reading Challenge hosted at Doing Dewey

I am challenging myself to read at least 12 non-fiction books this year.

#2 - What's in a Name 2018 hosted at The Worm Hole
This will require reading 6 books, one for each category:

  • The word ‘the’ used twice (The Secret By The Lake; The End Of The Day, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time)
  • A fruit or vegetable (The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society; The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake)
  • A shape (The Ninth Circle, The Square Root Of Summer, Circle Of Friends)
  • A title that begins with Z – can be after ‘The’ or ‘A’ (Zen In The Art Of Writing; The Zookeeper’s Wife, Zelda)
  • A nationality (Anna And The French Kiss; How To Be A Kosovan Bride; Norwegian Wood)
  • A season (White Truffles In Winter; The Spring Of Kasper Meier; The Summer Queen; Before I Fall; The Autumn Throne)
#3 - Back to the Classics 2018 hosted at Books and Chocolate
For this one I will need to read at least 6 and up to 12 books all at least 50 years old. No more than one for each of the categories:


  • A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.
  • A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968. 
  • A classic by a woman author
  • A classic in translation.  
  • A children's classic. 
  • A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. 
  • A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. 
  • A classic with a single-word title. 
  • A classic with a color in the title. 
  • A classic by an author that's new to you. 
  • A classic that scares you. 
  • Re-read a favorite classic. 

#4 - 2018 European Reading Challenge hosted at Rose City Reader
This will require reading 5 books by different European authors or set in different European countries (Deluxe Entourage level)

#5 - I am also participating in the GoodReads 2018 Reading Challenge with a goal of reading 100 books.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Murder in the Mystery Suite

Murder in the Mystery Suite (Book Retreat Mysteries, #1)Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Tucked away in the rolling hills of rural western Virginia is the storybook resort of Storyton Hall, catering to book lovers who want to get away from it all. To increase her number of bookings, resort manager Jane Steward has decided to host a Murder and Mayhem week so that fans of the mystery genre can gather together for some role-playing and fantasy crime solving."
Suspension of disbelief was definitely needed for this mystery novel, but it was entertaining and clever and had an abundance of both literary references and appealing characters. I would love to spend a week at Storyton Hall! An author to read more from.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Tied Up in Tinsel

Tied Up In TinselTied Up In Tinsel
by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an astounding cast of wacky characters, with Alleyn setting them all in order as usual. I was surprised by the ending as I didn't see it coming at all. Seemed the perfect mystery to read over Christmas.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Back to the Classics 2017 Wrap Up


I completed 7 categories for the Books and Chocolate Back to the Classics Challenge (which gets me 1 entry in the drawing).

If I win the drawing I can be reached at maryarussell(at)gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What's in a Name 2017 Wrap Up

I completed this challenge, hosted at The Worm Hole, ahead of schedule (that rarely happens) and I liked all the books.

The category "an item of cutlery" was my favorite--it was challenging to find one, but I thought it was a great category. The 2018 category list looks good too. This was my sixth time participating in this challenge and I highly recommend it. 


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

For Consideration: 2018 Reading Challenges

This is the time of year that I vacillate between giving up reading challenges entirely (as I become alarmed by the number that I will NOT complete by the end of the current year) and being intrigued by all the great challenges book bloggers are writing about this month.
The Canadian Book Challenge is still in progress (I love that it ends in July!) As far as other possibilities these are the current contenders:

A couple that I learned about from One Catholic Life:

British Books Challenge 2018
I read a lot of British books anyway and the host has some neat things planned that might help me discover new British authors.

Non-Fiction Reading Challenge
I have been reading more and more non-fiction and I like the flexibility combined with accountability of this challenge.

Some old favorites I may revisit:

What's in a Name 2018
I have completed this challenge for the past 6 years and I always enjoy it so will no doubt jump in again.

Back to the Classics 2018
I did this for the first time in 2017 and found it a helpful way to remind/encourage myself to read more classics.

Foodies Read
I haven't done this one for several years, but I love to read about food, so it would be a good one to go back to. Especially since listening to Milk Street Radio has added a ton of food books to my TBR list.


I was also intrigued by this: 2018 European Reading Challenge

So far I haven't committed to any 2018 reading challenges, but these are what I am considering. What reading challenges are you planning for next year?
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