Saturday, May 8, 2021

Some Reading Projects

I have a few reading projects in-progress (or on the horizon) and I decided that a post about them will help me remember what I was planning and might help me get them done as they are now publicly committed to.

  • heavenali is hosting Daphne du Maurier Reading Week May 10-16, 2021. I have one of her books, Hungry Hill, on my to-be-read shelf so I decided this week is as good as any to read it.
  • Classics Club has a spin currently going on for which I am supposed to read Left Hand of Darkness by May 31, 2021. I did not expect this to be a tough assignment, but I have been unable to get hold of a copy of the book. I have an ILL request in which I hope will show up soon. 
  • A couple of friends and I are starting a book group and I need to reread Gilead for our meeting at the end of May.
  • 746books is hosting #20booksofsummer2021 (June 1-Sept 1, 2021) which I am going to participate in. Over the next few weeks I need to create my reading list. I attempted this challenge in 2019 with 10 books and didn't get them all read, but I am going to try again and go for the 20-book list. Reading 20 books in 3 months isn't difficult for me. Reading specific pre-selected ones often is. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation

 The #6degrees meme is hosted at Books are my Favourite and Best. 

This month the chain begins with Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary.  I know about this series of books, but haven't actually read them. Despite missing this series, when I was young I certainly loved reading books about girls who were always making trouble. One of my favorites was Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. Another favorite troublemaking girl from my childhood reading is Eloise by Kay Thompson. That book was illustrated by Hilary Knight and the illustrations are what make a good kid's book totally fabulous. Hilary Knight also illustrated Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald. I absolutely LOVED the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books when I was in elementary school. I suspect Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the kind of person those other delightful trouble-making girls will grow up to be. 
"Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives in an upside-down house and smells like cookies. She was even married to a pirate once." 
That fact brings me to a book about pretending to be a pirate: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales about the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. While Elwes's book is the true story of making a movie, Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson is a novel which takes place on the set of Alfred Hitchcock's Young and Innocent. This novel is part of Upson's wonderful series based on the life of Josephine Tey. Among other things, Tey wrote A Shilling for Candles, the novel upon which the Hitchcock film in the Upson novel is based. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

April Book Report

April 2021
I finished 12 books last month.

A quote from this month's reading:

'I feel one shouldn't go into learned societies or libraries smelling of drink,' said Mark, at his most prim. 'It might create the wrong impression.'
'Oh, I hadn't thought of that,' said Miss Clovis, sipping her dark foamy drink. 'I don't suppose anyone would notice. Of course, it's all right for librarians to smell of drink,' she added jovially.

                    --Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym 

Here is my progress toward various goals and challenges:

Here are the books I finished in April 2021: 
  1. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym (3 stars)
  2. The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon (audiobook, 3-stars)
  3. The Five Bells and Bladebone by Martha Grimes (3-stars)
  4. Tales of Manhattan by Louis Auchincloss (short-stories, 3-stars)
  5. Mort by Terry Pratchett (4-stars)
  6. Under the Big Top by Bruce Feiler (4-stars)
  7. Paw and Order by Spencer Quinn  (audiobook, 3-stars)
  8. Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym (3-stars)
  9. Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done by Charlie Gilkey (4-stars) -- I was inspired to read this after hearing the author on the Beyond the To Do List podcast
  10. Break In by Dick Francis (4-stars)
  11. Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout (3-stars)
  12. Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson (4-stars)
I have a classic club book and 2 non-fiction books in progress, one of which is by a Canadian author, and I hope to finish those in May so I will have some progress on those challenges. I abandoned some books in April, including Bring up the Bodies (it was good, but I was not in the right frame of mind for it) and The Liar's Dictionary (which was definitely not for me). 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Unread Shelf Project 2021

April additions - batch 1
I didn't post a March update on this project because
April additions - batch 2

there was very little to report. I didn't complete either the actual challenge or any of the bonus challenges. 

The April Unread Shelf Challenge was to read a book you bought in a used book store. That is where many of the books on my shelves came from so that seemed do-able. I ended up visiting two new-to-me used bookstores during the month and added a stack of purchases to my shelves. Some of them are not owned-but-not-read as they are favorites I have read and wanted my own copies of. I finished reading two of these titles during the month (Break In by Dick Francis and a Martha Grimes mystery) so that challenge was met. 

The May challenge is to read a book you bought as a new release which I almost never do, so that one may be tough for me. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Under the Big Top

Under the Big TopUnder the Big Top 
by Bruce Feiler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second Bruce Fieler book I have read and while the topic was VERY different from the first one (Walking the Bible) the tone was similar and I plan to read more from this author. 
I learned about this book on Strong Sense of Place (a podcast that you should definitely listen to if you can accept that your TBR list will grow with every episode). It was a fascinating, and very empathetic, inside look at a world I knew nothing about. Fieler joins the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus as a clown for the full run of the 1993 season. Mixed in with his experiences are stories about the people and animals he met and the history of the circus.
"When I decided to join a circus, I viewed it as a life on the road, as a way to discover the backyard of America from the back lot of a travelling neighborhood. After almost four months on the show I had begun to revise my view. While each stop along our nine-month route reflected the area around it, I found that I was encountering the true variety of American life not in the various communities that leavide near the tent, but in the one community that lived underneath it--the circus itself. With its two hundred employees from all corners of the globe, holding all manner of religious and political beliefs, the circus represented a true melting pot." (p.176)
If you want to learn about life in the circus at the end of the 20th century, this is your book. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021


Mort (Discworld, #4; Death, #1)Mort 
by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book (#4 in the Discworld series) introduces us to Death and to his apprentice, Mort. It is typical of Pratchett's novels in that it is a tale of adventure with a hero who really doesn't know what he's doing and makes it up as he goes along (this works out some, but not all, of the time) and includes a lot of commentary on the absurdity of human life. The theme of this particular book seems to be "There is no justice, there is just us." Mort struggles through the book, especially at the beginning, with figuring out which is right or wrong in the situations Death deals with. The guidance he gets from Death about this gives the story a bit of a philisophical quality.
I am in the midst of reading another book about the peace negotiations in Paris in 1919 which is probably why this bit about history jumped out at me:
"Mort thought that history was thrashing around like a steel hawser with the tension off, twanging backwards and forwards across reality in great destructive sweeps. History isn't like that. History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved in a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always--eventually--manages to spring back into its old familiar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It's been around a long time." (p. 135)
This book counts toward the Turtle Recall 2021 Challenge.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Spinning the Classics

Classics Club is hosting spin #26. I love the randomness of having the club choose my next classic read by a spin of the wheel, so here is my list:

  1. Crome Yellow, Aldous Huxley, 1921
  2. The Deep Blue Goodbye, John D. MacDonald, 1964
  3. Delta Wedding, Eudora Welty, 1946
  4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick, 1968
  5. Double Indemnity, James M. Cain, 1936
  6. Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, 1957
  7. The Grand Sophy, Georgette Heyer, 1950
  8. Harriet Hume, Rebecca West, 1929
  9. I, Robot, Isaac Asimov, 1950
  10. Islam: A Short History, Karen Armstrong, 2000
  11. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin, 1969
  12. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, 1856
  13. Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens, 1844
  14. The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers, 1946
  15. The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins, 1868
  16. New Grub Street, George Gissing, 1891
  17. Rabbit, Run, John Updike, 1960
  18. The Violent Bear It Away, Flannery O'Connor, 1960
  19. The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells, 1898
  20. Where Angels Fear to Tread, E. M. Forster, 1905
One of these is already on deck to be my lunch-time book. We will see what gets picked on Sunday.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

March Book Report

March 2021

I finished 12 books last month. 

A quote from this month's reading:

“Shortly before the monsoon, the heat becomes very intense. It is said that the more intense it becomes the more abundantly it will draw down the rains, so one wants it to be as hot as can be. And by that time one has accepted it -- not got used to but accepted; and moreover, too worn-out to fight against it, one submits to it and endures.”
― Ruth Prawer JhabvalaHeat and Dust

Here is my progress toward various goals and challenges:

Here are the books I finished in March 2021:
  1. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis (3-stars)
  2. Wild Horses by Dick Francis (4-stars)
  3. I am the Only Running Footman by Martha Grimes (3-stars)
  4. The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid--a new-to-me author (audiobook, 3-stars)
  5. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (3-stars)
  6. Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (3-stars)
  7. The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman (audiobook, 3-stars)
  8. Murder in Belleville by Cara Black (2 stars) -- too thrillery for me and I found the lone-hero attitude of the heroine ridiculous
  9. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett (4-stars)
  10. Curtain by Agatha Christie (4-stars)
  11. Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler (2-stars) -- the ending of this book was responsible for the rating; I was enjoying the book until the ending which was pathetic
  12. The Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler (3-stars)
I didn't finish very many books for my challenges, but I have several non-fiction books in progress. I intended to finish Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel for a read-along this month but it didn't happen. I am about 1/4 of the way through the book and plan to finish it. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

A Hat Full of Sky

A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)A Hat Full of Sky 
by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book completes the Tiffany Aching sub-series for me (it is the 2nd of 5--I read them out of order). I liked learning the back-story of the various young witches, especially Petulia whom I liked in the later books. 
As always with Pratchett's witch books (actually most of his books) this one is full of wise advice and observations about how to live mixed into the escapades:
  • “Rain don’t fall on a witch if she doesn’t want it to, although personally I prefer to get wet and be thankful.” “Thankful for what?” said Tiffany. “That I’ll get dry later.” (Granny Weatherwax)
  • “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
  • “There isn't a way things should be. There's just what happens, and what we do.”
  • Learnin’ how not to do things is as hard as learning how to do them.”
  • “It's always surprising to be reminded that while you're watching and thinking about people, all knowing and superior, they're watching and thinking about you, right back at you.”
  • “You couldn't say: It's not my fault. You couldn't say: It's not my responsibility. You could say: I will deal with this. You didn't have to want to. But you had to do it.”
This book counts toward the Turtle Recall 2021 Challenge. There are 41 main Discworld novels (I am not counting the in-between numbers ones) and as of this book I have read 20 of them. That is a life-time count, not for this year's challenge.
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