Tuesday, March 2, 2021

February Book Report

February 2021
I finished 15 books last month, many of them mysteries.

A quote from this month's reading:

"A divorce is like an amputation, you survive but there's less of you."
-- Margaret Atwood, Surfacing

Here is my progress toward various goals and challenges:

Here are the books I finished in February 2021: 
  1. The Dirty Duck by Martha Grimes -- this is the one I had skipped past in January 3-stars)
  2. Love, Lies and Liquor by M. C. Beaton (3-stars)
  3. Surfacing by Margaret Atwood (3-stars)
  4. Beach Read by Emily Henry  (audiobook, 3-stars)
  5. The Edge by Dick Francis  -- My first 5-star read this year
  6.  Proof by Dick Francis  (audiobook, 4-stars)
  7. And Be a Villain by Rex Stout  (3-stars)
  8. Curtains for Three by Rex Stout  (3-stars)
  9. The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman  (audiobook, 4-stars)
  10. Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold  (4-stars)
  11. The Deer Leap by Martha Grimes  (3-stars)
  12. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel -- this was a book I felt like I should read and I expected it to be a slog, but it wasn't and I enjoyed it (3-stars)
  13. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett  (4-stars)
  14. The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters (audiobook, 3-stars)
  15. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum (3-stars)
I read quite a few good books this month and I discovered a new author, Dick Francis, whose work I am really liking so far. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Unread Shelf Project 2021

My UnRead Shelves, 3/1/2021
During February I finished sorting all my books and my owned-but-not-read (OBNR) number as of today is 101. I found some books in my shelves that are OBNR and I got rid of several that I no longer have any interest in reading. The repainting of my home office was also completed in February and I have moved all my OBNR books to a single bookcase in there. 

The February UnRead Shelf challenge was to read a book you got for free. I read two books that met this criteria: I finished Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum and am about half-way through Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis. I didn't love Ozma, it is very a much a children's book and I found it dull but I have read it and it is now in the box of books to give away. I am enjoying Auntie Mame. 

The March Unread Shelf challenge is to read a book you bought on a trip. I have two of these, both bought on a trip to Quebec in 2018. They are both doorstops of literary fiction which is a category currently being filled in my reading life by Hilary Mantel's Cromwell novels. Besides the monthly challenges there is also a list of Bonus Challenges from The Unread Shelf and I may go with one of those this month. These are the bonus options:

  • A book you bought because of a recommendation 
  • A book given to you that you didn't ask for 
  • A book with more than 500 pages 
  • A book you got for a special occasion 
  • A book from your favorite genre 
  • A book bought because of the hype 
  • A book from a Little Free Library 
  • The unread book most recently acquired 
  • A backlist title by an author with a newer release available

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Wee Free Men

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30; Tiffany Aching, #1)The Wee Free Men 
by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read several books in the Tiffany Aching series, but had not read this original one before. It was interesting to learn the back story of the relationships Tiff has with various people on the chalk. 
Tiffany is a wonderful, practical girl:
“Yes! I'm me! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don't understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That's the kind of person I am!”
The Nac Mac Feegle are among my favorite Discworld characters and they were their wonderful rowdy selves in this adventure. I especially loved that the most horrible monster of all--the one that makes their swords glow blue--is lawyers.

This book counts toward the Turtle Recall Challenge.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Small Move, Big Change

Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life PermanentlySmall Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently 
by Caroline L. Arnold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The premise of this book is that resolving to "lose weight" or "keep the house neat" is never going to work because those things are too big and too vague to ever succeed at if you don't get more specific. "Make the bed every morning before you leave the bedroom." is a resolution that a person could actually succeed at and become an ingrained habit. One of her suggestions is that you should work on 1 or 2 resolutions at a time (no more) and that it will take 6-8 weeks for each to become ingrained so you shouldn't try to rush this process because that is a big part of what will make it a life-long change rather than a crash-diet. 
Arnold walks through why this works, how to frame your resolutions to make them most effective, and offers numerous specific examples in various areas (like losing weight, getting organized, improving relationships, and managing money) that people are often trying to improve in. She also talks about how some microresolutions may overflow into other habits. Hanging up her coat as soon as she comes in the house is one of the things Arnold worked on and that habit led her to hang up her clothes generally. 
This book reminded me of The Power of Habit, but was less science-background and more hands-on practice. If there are habits you are trying to build or changes you want to make in yourself her techniques seem really useful.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Edge

The EdgeThe Edge 
by Dick Francis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I heard about this book on the Trains episode of Strong Sense of Place (my latest bookish podcast obsession). I had never read a Dick Francis novel because I didn't think I was interested in horseracing (and I still don't think I am), but this one was about trains and Canada and was a really good story which kept me up and turning pages well after I should have been sleeping. I will definitely be reading more Dick Francis novels.

The Great Transcontinental Mystery Race Train is a luxury trip across Canada (not quite the full 5,514 kilometres across, but close) for the international horse-racing community (including the horses) where a murder mystery production will be part of the planned fun. Our hero Tor Kelsey is going along, incognito, to make sure that a well-known blackmailer who signed up for the trip at the last minute doesn't spoil all the fun.

This novel counts toward the  Canadian Book Challenge as most of it takes place in Canada.  

Monday, February 8, 2021


by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"I have to be more careful about my memories. I have to be sure they're my own and not the memories of other people telling me what I felt, how I acted, what I said: if the events are wrong the feelings I remember about them will be wrong too, I'll start inventing them and there will be no way of correcting it, the ones who could help are gone." (p.70)
The heroine of this novel goes into the Canadian wilderness where she grew up in search of her father who has disappeared. What she finds is her own past and a new sense of her own identity. This is an intriguing, somewhat strange novel perched on the very edge of magical realism. It was first published in 1972 and feels very set in its time in some ways, especially the way the women view themselves and each other.
I am counting this toward the Canadian Book Challenge

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation

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

This month the chain begins with Redhead at the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler. I have only read one book by Anne Tyler, Vinegar Girl, so I am starting my chain with that. It is a retelling of "Taming of the Shrew" and is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series. Another book in that series is Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood's retelling of "The Tempest" which she sets in a prison. Another novel by Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin, continues the chain.  It is a brilliant and complex novel which is told by a woman about her sister. Another novel where one sister narrates the life of another is My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite which was a great book. One of the threads of that story deals with the question of how much sisters can be expected to sacrifice for each other. Jodi Piccoult's My Sister's Keeper wrestles with the same question.I will wrap up this chain with another book about sisters and which also has a Shakespeare connection. Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown is a story about the daughters of a Shakespeare scholar who are sorting out the difficulties of being adults. It was not deep, but I definitely enjoyed it. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

January Book Report

January 2021
Part of my reading plan for 2021 was to post monthly about how my reading life is going so this is the first entry toward that effort.

I finished 18 books last month, mostly because there wasn't much else to do but read during a pandemic in New Hampshire in January. This is a lot more books than I typically finish in a month. I also did a lot of book sorting and I feel like I have a good idea now of what I own.

A quote from this month's reading:

“It has been said, by myself and others, that a love-interest is only an intrusion upon a detective story. But to the characters involved, the detective-interest might well seem an irritating intrusion upon their love-story.”― Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon

Here is my progress toward various goals and challenges:

Here are the books I finished in January 2021:
  1. A New Lease of Death by Ruth Rendell (4-stars)
  2. The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas -- I like how this series plays with the Sherlock Holmes mythology (3-stars, audiobook)
  3. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (4-stars)
  4. Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth (4-stars)
  5. Help the Poor Struggler by Martha Grimes -- I read these out of order because my reserve of #3 in the series took forever to come in (4-stars)
  6. Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively -- definitely the prettiest book on this list (3-stars)
  7. Lucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts -- fun series, will definitely read more of these (3-stars)
  8. Let the Great World Spin by Column McCann -- possibly the most depressing book I have ever read (3-stars)
  9. Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters --the Amelia Peabody books are ridiculous, but I do enjoy them (3-stars, audiobook)
  10. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (3-stars)
  11. The Perfect Paragon by M. C. Beaton -- Agatha Raisin books are as ridiculous as Amelia Peabody, but just as entertaining (3-stars)
  12. Guards! Guards! by Terry Prachett (4-stars)
  13. Brooklyn: The Once and Future City by Thomas Campanella--this took me eight months to read but I learned some interesting stuff (3-stars)
  14. Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher -- I had never read her before, even though she was a favorite of my Mom's (4-stars)
  15. The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout -- I always enjoy a Nero Wolfe mystery (3-stars)
  16. Dearly by Margaret Atwood (4-stars)
  17. Busman's Honeymoon by Dorthy L. Sayers -- A reread (4-stars)
  18. Love by Roddy Doyle (3-stars)
A month of solidly good books. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Unread Shelf Project February 2021

My Unread Shelf, Feb. 1, 2021
At the beginning of this year I had identified 43 books as owned-but-not-read (OBNR). Last month I went through most of my shelves and gathered 3 boxes of books to give away and sorted the rest into read and un-read. My OBNR number is, as of today, 95. I think as I go through the year this number will continue to move around. I may unearth more stashes of books that need to be included, and some will get read or given away (or both).

The January challenge for the UnRead Shelf project was to read a book with high expectations. I ended up reading 2 books that met this challenge: Plan B by Anne LaMott and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Besides the challenge books I also finished Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively (for the December 2020 challenge) and Brooklyn by Thomas Campanella from my OBNR list.

The February UnRead Shelf challenge is to read a book you got for free. I pulled 17 books that fit that criteria and put them on a shelf together in my OBNR bookcase. A couple were publisher giveaways, some belonged to my parents and ended up on my shelves, and several were gifts. I'm not sure which will get read this month, but they are at hand when I'm ready for my next book. 

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