pamelad reads everything but

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pamelad reads everything but

Redigerat: jan 1, 4:57 pm

Welcome! I'm Pam, retired Chemistry teacher and dedicated reader. I live in Melbourne, which we locals like to think of as the cultural and sporting capital of Australia. Since the pandemic started, I've read a ridiculous number of historical romances so I'm putting them in another thread and saving this one for everything else. Once again, my goals are to read widely and comment on every book.

I've continued the film theme, and while my favourites are still films released before I was born and/or with subtitles, I've branched out this time. The blank posts are for categories that make themselves necessary later, overflows because the touchstones go mental when there are too many in a post, a place to put books that strike my fancy for CAT topics I'm hosting, and things I've forgotten.

Best Reads of 2022

Happening by Annie Ernaux
The Years by Annie Ernaux
Happiness, as Such by Natalia Ginzburg
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
The Mating season by P G Wodehouse
Silence by Shusaku Endo
Four Gardens by Margery Sharp
Nervous Condtions by Tsitsi Dangaremba
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
The Crime of Father Amaro by Jose Maria Eca de Queiros
The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi
Black and Blue by Veronica Gorrie
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
A Young Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov
The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazan

Redigerat: nov 23, 5:25 am

4. Prizes and Lists

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au The Novel Prize
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans 1000 Books to Read Before You Die
A Gentle Murderer by Dorothy Salisbury Davis Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones
The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths CWA Dagger in the Library
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini Guardian 1000
Blindness by Jose Saramago Nobel
Too Many Men by Lily Brett Commonwealth Writers Prize
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan Orwell Prize
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh Guardian 1000
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani Guardian 1000
Augustus by John Williams National Book Award
The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre CWA International Dagger

Redigerat: nov 2, 5:14 pm

9. Book Bullets

The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson The U3a Brisk Walking Group Completed 2022
The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt VictoriaPL Completed
The Lifted Veil by George Eliot MissBrangwen Completed
Brother Jacob by George Eliot MissWatson Completed
Other Houses by Paddy O'Reilly VivienneR Completed
The Beetle by Richard Marsh john257hopper
The Complaint of the Dove by Hannah March christina_reads
Babel, Or, The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang RidgewayGirl Completed
A Murder of Quality by John Le Carre MissWatson
Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy Nickelini Completed
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy VivienneR Completed
The Governesses by Anne Serre Aviatakh Completed
The Fine Colour of Rust by Paddy O'Reilly VivienneR
Cocktail Time by P G Wodehouse HelenLiz Completed
A Most Contagious Game by Catherine Aird LadyoftheLodge
The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird DeltaQueen Completed
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson JayneCM
The Maintenance of Headway by Magnus Mills rabbitprincess Completed
The English Air by D. E. Stevenson DeltaQueen Completed

Redigerat: sep 18, 5:07 pm

10. Bingo

1. A book about a topic you don’t usually read What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher Completed
2. The next book in a series you started The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths Completed
3. A book that taught you something The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle Completed
4. Switched or stolen identities Beth and the Mistaken Identity by Alicia Cameron Completed
5. With a book on the cover Death of a Bookseller by Bernard Farmer Completed
6. A book rated above 4 on LT Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini Completed
7. Book is set on a plane, train or ship Murder on the Leviathan by Boris Akunin Completed
8. A bestseller from 20 years ago Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas Completed
9. STEM topic The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths Completed
10. Inn or hotel Peril by Post by Sheri Cobb South Completed
11. Journalist or journalism Plots and Prayers by Niki Savva Completed
12. Small town or rural setting The Port Fairy Murders by Robert Gott Completed
13. Read a CAT Too Many Men by Lily Brett Completed
14. Title contains a number or quantity Commandments Six and Eight by E Aceituna Griffin Completed
15. Book by a local/regional author where you live/have lived Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au Completed
16. Author who shares your zodiac sign A Man in the Zoo by David Garnett Completed
17. A popular author’s first book Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot Completed
18. Art or craft related Thalia by Frances Faviell Completed
19. Written by an author under 30 I, Robot by Isaac Asimov Completed
20. A memoir Odd Man Out: James Mason by Sheridan Morley Completed
21. Features a cat (cats) or member of the cat family (leopard, lion, tiger, etc.) French for Cats by Henry Beard Completed
22. Involves an accident Laughing Gas by P. G. Wodehouse Completed
23. More than 1000 copies on LT Again, the Magic by Lisa Kleypas Completed
24. With a plant in the title or on the cover Murder at the Pageant by Victor L. Whitechurch Completed
25. Music or musician The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen Completed

Redigerat: nov 6, 3:09 pm

11. Historical Fiction Challenge

1. Read a work of historical fiction set in the country you’re from The Holiday Murders by Robert Gott Completed
2. Read a work of historical fiction set in a different country to the one you’re from The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths Completed
3. Read a work of historical fiction set in your favourite historical time period to read about The Northminster Mysteries by Harriet Smart Completed
4. Read a work of historical fiction set in a time period you’re less familiar with Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini Completed
5. Read a work of historical fiction with a speculative element What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher Completed
6. Read a work of historical fiction about a real historical figure or a specific historical event The Twilight World by Werner Herzog Completed
7. Read a classic work of historical fiction Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini Completed
Bonus: Read a work of historical fiction of over 500 pages The Novel of Ferrara by Giorgio Bassani Completed

Second Historical Fiction Challenge

1. Read a work of historical fiction set in the country you’re from The Tree of Man by Patrick White Completed
2. Read a work of historical fiction set in a different country to the one you’re from Cafe Scheherazade by Arnold Zable Completed
3. Read a work of historical fiction set in your favourite historical time period to read about The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman Completed
4. Read a work of historical fiction set in a time period you’re less familiar with Simon the Coldheart by Georgette Heyer 15th century Completed
5. Read a work of historical fiction with a speculative element Babel, Or, The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R. F. Kuang Completed
6. Read a work of historical fiction about a real historical figure or a specific historical event Three Fires by Denise Mina Completed
7. Read a classic work of historical fiction The Tree of Man by Patrick White Completed
Bonus: Read a work of historical fiction of over 500 pages Babel, Or, The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R. F. Kuang Completed

Redigerat: okt 21, 4:49 pm


Redigerat: nov 13, 2022, 3:24 pm

Another In Case

Redigerat: nov 13, 2022, 3:25 pm

One more spare

Redigerat: nov 15, 2022, 3:49 pm

Parking Some Australian and NZ books for the GeoCAT

Crime Novels Recommended in The Age Newspaper

After the Flood by Dave Warner
Stone Town by Margaret Hickey
The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland
Stay Awake by Megan Goldin (set in NY)
The Wrong Woman by J. P. Pomare NZ writer

More Crime

Day's End by Garry Disher


Plumb by Maurice Gee NZ

nov 13, 2022, 5:41 pm

Love the movie posters!

nov 13, 2022, 6:52 pm

Lovely! I wondered where these titles would go.

nov 13, 2022, 7:41 pm

Good to see you all ready for 2023! I am really looking forward to the Classic Adventures in January!

nov 13, 2022, 7:51 pm

Ooh, look forward to following again!

nov 14, 2022, 3:22 am

Love the film posters!

nov 14, 2022, 3:43 am

Good to see your second thread up! And thank you for the list of adventure classics. I started The Man in the Iron Mask a few years back and would not have thought about that one for that category, but maybe a second attempt is due?

nov 14, 2022, 7:57 am

Looking forward to following along!

nov 14, 2022, 8:36 am

I'll be checking in and lurking regularly. Good luck!

nov 14, 2022, 8:37 am

>24 MissBrangwen: It has everything you need for an adventure story: hidden treasures, revenge, disguise and love.

nov 14, 2022, 4:01 pm

Welcome everyone and thank you for dropping in. I've seen all of the films except Eye of the Cat, and they're well worth watching.

>21 DeltaQueen50: I'm also looking forward to Classic Adventures. Rafael Sabatini has been on my tbr list forever, and this is the time! I haven't found many books by women so far but am searching.

>24 MissBrangwen:, >27 MissWatson: Definitely an adventure! Like a lot of these classics, it will fit the March topic as well, Classics Adapted to Movies and TV. I saw the 1998 film, where Leonardo di Caprio (who does a good job more often than not) was ridiculous as the main character, but it's such a good story that the film was entertaining anyway.

While I remember, a huge recommendation for the Douglas Fairbanks version of The Three Musketeers. Douglas Fairbanks moves as though he's on springs.

Redigerat: nov 14, 2022, 5:19 pm

Adding a Book Bullet category. I've been adding book bullets to my unwieldy Wish List and forgetting how they got there, so why not record who recommended them and read them straight away?

I haven't seen the 1968 Steve McQueen film Bullitt, so will seek it out.

There's not much of 2022 to go, so I'll start adding Book Bullets now. >10 pamelad:

nov 14, 2022, 5:34 pm

When I resume reading books on Serial Reader, I'll have to read some Sabatini! Captain Blood is on my "read later" list.

nov 14, 2022, 6:45 pm

>29 pamelad: I loved the movie Bullitt and of course, Steve McQueen.

nov 14, 2022, 10:30 pm

Good luck with your reading

nov 15, 2022, 3:39 am

>29 pamelad: The first thing my BFF and I did on our first visit to San Francisco was to go to Lombard Street, where some of that famous car chase was shot...

nov 15, 2022, 6:59 am

>28 pamelad: I remember the Three Musketeers with Douglas Fairbanks. It was a good movie.

nov 15, 2022, 7:14 am

>29 pamelad: >33 MissWatson: Yes, Bullitt is worth seeking out.

nov 15, 2022, 3:39 pm

>33 MissWatson:, >35 NinieB: It looks as though Bullitt could be available to hire on Amazon Prime, as long as I don't get the dreaded "not available in your country" message.

>34 mnleona: I'm going to look for the Douglas Fairbanks Zorro, as well. Have you seen it?

nov 16, 2022, 8:49 am

>36 pamelad: I saw that movie many years ago. I am 84 so remember the old movies. My mother liked silent movies as that is what she had as a child. The Lost Horizon with Ronald Colman is also a favorite of mine but the book was not the same as I expected.

Redigerat: dec 4, 2022, 4:29 pm

Every 10 years the British Film Institute publishes its list of the 100 Greatest Films of All Time. This is the directors' list, from the votes of directors all over the world. There's also a critics' list. Unlike many lists of best films, these two have films from all over the world and aren't skewed towards recent releases.

I'm going to have to look for this film I'd never heard of by Chantal Akerman, although three and a half hours of experimental cinema is a big ask.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)
A magnificent epic of experimental cinema offering a feminist perspective on recurrent events of everyday life.

dec 4, 2022, 4:40 pm

>37 mnleona: The Mark of Zorro is available on YouTube. I've also seen The Lost Horizon, but there was a big gap between seeing the film and reading the book, so I had no expectations and enjoyed them both. Worth watching again.

There are lots of films to see for January's Adventure Classics and March's Books Adapted to Films and TV in the ClassicsCAT. You can never have too much Errol Flynn.

dec 4, 2022, 7:09 pm

>38 pamelad: That film is on Amazon (US) to rent for $2.99 It has English sub-titles. It's description: A singular work in film history, Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles meticulously details, with a sense of impending doom, the daily routine of a middle-aged widow, whose chores include making the beds, cooking dinner for her son, and turning the occasional trick.

dec 4, 2022, 8:22 pm

>40 Tess_W: Thanks Tess. 3.5 hours of experimental domestic misery isn't my cup of tea, so I won't rush!

dec 6, 2022, 9:28 am

Those movie posters are terrific! They really don't make them like they used to.

dec 7, 2022, 3:03 pm

>42 Jackie_K: Welcome! I've noticed that a lot of the really over the top posters are yellow, so perhaps back in the fifties and sixties you could choose a film based on the colour of the poster.

dec 7, 2022, 4:08 pm

I've read my first book bullet >10 pamelad:. The review is in my 2022 thread.

dec 19, 2022, 12:53 pm

Stopping by with best wishes for your 2023 reading.

dec 26, 2022, 4:22 pm

>45 lkernagh: Thank you for dropping in.

Well, I've just finished Scaramouche for the ClassicsCAT and Historical fiction Challenge, so it looks as though 2023 is starting now. It's December 27th in Australia, and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day I gave up smoking. It took a few tries but was definitely worth it, mainly for health reasons but also because the taxes on tobacco products are sky-high so a packet of 20 costs $35.

Redigerat: dec 27, 2022, 12:00 am

2. Books I Own
5. CATs and Other Challenges January ClassicsCAT: Adventure classics
11. Historical Fiction Challenge 7. Read a classic work of historical fiction

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

First published in 1921 and set during the French Revolution, this is the story of Andre-Louis Moreau, godson of the kindly aristocrat, Quintin de Kercadiou, who is rumoured to be his father. Andre-Louis has trained as a lawyer and being illegitimate, inhabits a grey zone between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. His closest friend, Philippe de Vilmorin, a divinity student and eloquent republican, is killed in a duel by the Marquis de la Tour d'Azyr, and Andre-Louis resolves to become the voice of his dead friend and revenge himself on the Marquis, despite his lack of belief in the republican cause. We follow Andre-Louis as he reinvents himself as an orator then, to escape the gallows, as an anonymous actor. He throws himself into each new occupation and masters it before being forced to move on.

This has been on my Kindle for years. I enjoyed it and will read more books by Rafael Sabatini.

dec 26, 2022, 9:43 pm

>46 pamelad: Congrats on 25 years smoke free! I have the Sabatini book on my WL...maybe 2023. I love reading about (and teaching) the French Revolution!

dec 27, 2022, 12:05 am

Thanks Tess. The Sabatini ebooks are free because they’re out of copyright, so are worth moving from the wish list to the tbr pile.

dec 27, 2022, 1:56 am

Not free on US Amazon, but close to it, only 99 I bought the first one.

dec 27, 2022, 4:03 pm

5. CATs and Other ChallengesJanuary SeriesCAT: First in a series
11. Historical Fiction Challenge 2. Read a work of historical fiction set in a different country to the one you’re from

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

I've enjoyed the Ruth Galloway mysteries, so thought her Brighton Mysteries series would be a safe bet, but I didn't much like The Zig Zag Girl. It begins with the discovery of the top and bottom sections of the corpse of a beautiful woman. The missing torso turns up later, delivered to Detective Inspector Edgar Stevens, who is reminded of a magic trick in which a magician's assistant is apparently cut into three. Edgar consults Max Mephisto, a magician with whom he worked during the war.

There are other deaths, all linked to magic tricks. The puzzle-plot and the artificiality might be a homage to the Golden Age of detective fiction, but it doesn't quite come off. I guessed the killer early on.

The Zig Zag Girl is set in Brighton in 1950. Max Mephisto is famous, always the headline act on the variety circuit, but with the spread of television and the increasing popularity of comedians, variety shows are in decline. The historical bits and pieces about the theatre people in Brighton, and the work of Max and his magician colleagues during the war are interesting, but the central mystery was a let-down.

dec 31, 2022, 5:08 pm

>46 pamelad: Congratulations on your silver anniversary of quitting smoking. DH was able to quite almost 20 years ago, and like you he had stops and starts. It was when a dear friend was diagnosed with lung cancer that finally did the trick for him.

Looks like your reading year is off to a good start. And Happy New Year (since it's already 2023 for you as I write this)!

dec 31, 2022, 6:14 pm

>52 threadnsong: Thank you! And congratulations to DH as well. (Dear husband?)

Redigerat: dec 31, 2022, 6:21 pm

10. BingoDOG

21. Features a cat (cats) or member of the cat family (leopard, lion, tiger, etc.) French for Cats by Henry Beard

So pleased to find this French phrasebook for cats! Short, very funny, and available in the Open Library.

jan 1, 5:50 am

>53 pamelad: I think DH is usually 'dear husband', but I must admit that whenever I see it I always read it as 'Dear Heart' in the voice of Ermintrude from Magic Roundabout (not sure how UK-specific that cultural reference will be!).

jan 1, 6:41 am

>55 Jackie_K: I loved Magic Roundabout! We definitely had it in Australia.

jan 1, 4:10 pm

Hope your year is filled with good books!

jan 1, 4:15 pm

>54 pamelad:, >55 Jackie_K: I missed the Magic Roundabout, unfortunately. Just looked it up and found that a new series is planned for 2024.

2. Books I Own
5. CATs and Other Challenges
10. Bingo Dog

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

When Professor Challenger reports that dinosaurs have been discovered in a remote part of South American, the scientific world scoffs, so he recruits three volunteers for an expedition to investigate his claims. They are Doctor Summerlee, a scientific rival, Lord John Roxton, a famous adventurer, and the narrator, a reporter and sportsman. After enormous difficulty and danger, they reach a plateau inhabited by dinosaurs.

A very entertaining read with tongue in cheek humour and larger than life characters.

jan 1, 4:16 pm

jan 1, 6:42 pm

>53 pamelad: Yes, DH is "Dear Husband." I had seen it in print in years past and figured I'd keep using it.

jan 1, 9:25 pm

>60 pamelad: Definitely some good ones, there. I took a hit for the Gorrie and the Enchi books.

jan 2, 3:29 pm

Great movie posters.

Have a good 2023 with lots of great books.

jan 2, 4:05 pm

>61 threadnsong: I didn't think it could be Richard Cranium.
>62 Tess_W: I hope you like them.

3. Wish List
4. Prizes and Lists
10. Bingo

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au is the inaugural winner of the Novel Prize.

The Novel Prize offers $10,000 to the winner, and simultaneous publication in the UK and Ireland by the London-based Fitzcarraldo Editions, in Australia and New Zealand by Sydney publisher Giramondo, and in North America by New York’s New Directions. The prize rewards novels which explore and expand the possibilities of the form, and are innovative and imaginative in style.

A young woman and her mother meet in Tokyo to travel together around Japan. The daughter wants to know her mother more deeply and tries to force her to reveal her inner self, but she cannot see the woman in front of her. The mother was born in Hong Kong and emigrated to the unnamed country, almost certainly Australia, where the narrator and her sister were born, so English is their shared language. The father is never mentioned.

The most striking feature of Au's novella is the careful detail of the narrator's observations, which trigger reflections on her past. Her language serves her purpose, to record her observations and endeavour to extract their meaning but is occasionally clumsy. Not clumsy enough to put me off the book, which I recommend.

jan 2, 7:04 pm

>63 hailelib: Thank you. You too!

jan 2, 7:26 pm

2. Books I Own
8. Crime

The Red Lacquer Case by Patricia Wentworth

First published in 1924, this is a very silly book. There's a secret formula for a gas that could destroy civilisation, a cluster of Russian spies, and an ex-fiance with whom the scatty heroine is still in love. Sally and Bill broke up because of Sally's involvement in Women's Suffrage. It's been seven years and a World War since they've seen one another, and they're more reasonable people now. Sally hadn't seen any of her old suffragette cronies until she ran into an old friend, Etta Shaw, who is now involved with a World Peace Movement. Etta's naiveté has led to her involvement with a Russian spy who is determined to get the secret formula.

The book is interesting for Wentworth's take on the political movements of the time. She appears to have no sympathy for the Peace Movement or for Women's Suffrage, and the characters who involve themselves are childish, stupid and self-deceiving!

jan 3, 5:57 pm

Hi Pam, I noticed you have Peter Temple's Bad Debts. I've seen the TV show and am in need of more Jack Irish. Do you recommend the books?

Redigerat: jan 3, 6:26 pm

>67 NinieB: I'm pretty sure I've read all the other Jack Irish books as well, pre-LT, but I'm not a big fan of Peter Temple because he seemed to confuse Melbourne with Johannesburg. I liked the TV series much better than the books because Guy Pearce does such a good job. He adds a lightness and humour that isn't present in the books. There is an attempt at humour in Temple's books, but I find it heavy-handed and unfunny. Very blokey.

I liked the Jack Irish books more than I did Truth, which won an utterly undeserved Miles Franklin Award. Emperor's new clothes!

jan 3, 7:06 pm

Guy Pearce does a great job. I was wondering if I would find what I'm looking for in the books; it sounds unlikely.

jan 3, 8:35 pm

>51 pamelad: I might be interested in that one since my father was an amateur magician (although he didn't do illusions like sawing women in two). I think the magic angle would interest me even if the mystery element is just so-so.

jan 3, 9:09 pm

>60 pamelad: Nice to see that Decline and Fall was one of your best reads for the year. I picked up an old orange Penguin paperback edition recently and it's sitting on my shelves waiting to be read.

Redigerat: jan 4, 2:15 am

>70 cbl_tn: The bits about how the tricks were done and the props made were some of the most interesting parts of The Zig Zag Girl

In 2021 there was a BingoDOG square for books involving Magic. I read Here We are by Graham Swift. There might be some others in the Wiki.

Maybe not. Apart from the Swift book they don't seem to be about magicians.

>71 mathgirl40: There's a TV miniseries of Decline and Fall which I liked, but it's best to read it after the book because it makes a few changes. My other favourite Evelyn Waugh book is The Sword of Honour Trilogy.

jan 4, 10:30 am

>72 pamelad: Thanks for the warning about the TV miniseries!

jan 4, 10:50 am

>51 pamelad: I have seen a few good reviews for The Zig Zag Girl, but also a few mixed ones. I love the Ruth Galloway series and think that I will catch up with that one first before trying another one of the author... I am afraid I will be disappointed!

jan 4, 5:47 pm

>74 MissBrangwen: I'll try another from the Brighton series just in case, but the Ruth Galloway series seems to be a safer bet.

jan 5, 2:12 am

>51 pamelad: I have The Zig Zag Girl waiting patiently on my shelves - I think it will have to wait a little longer now.

jan 5, 3:35 pm

5. CATs and Other Challenges SeriesCAT: January
11. Historical Fiction Challenge 1. Read a work of historical fiction set in the country you’re from

The Holiday Murders by Robert Gott

It's Christmas 1943 and Inspector Titus Lambert, of the recently established homicide branch, has been called to a murder scene in East Melbourne. There are two bodies, father and son, one an apparent suicide and the other a victim of torture. The bodies had been discovered by the third member of the family, a young woman who is being comforted by a friend.

Almost from the beginning we're aware of who the murderer is, a psychopath who wants to establish an Australian National Socialist Party and take over the country. He infiltrates a group of wealthy Nazi-sympathisers who have no idea who they are dealing with.

The central characters are Lambert and his two subordinates, the inexperienced Sergeant Joe Sable and the highly capable Constable Helen Lord.

What I liked

The Melbourne setting. Joe Sable actually lives in a street where I once lived, and the action of the book takes place in parts of Melbourne that are very familiar to me: Carlton, Brunswick, East Melbourne, the CBD, down to the names of actual streets. People are reading Truth, a scandal sheet that was still around when I was a child, and skating at the Glaciarium, which my mother told me about. The history of the times, with John Dedman's austerity measures, American servicemen, rationing, Archbishop Mannix - things my parents used to talk about.

What I didn't like

Psychopaths and torture. Revolting.

This is the first book in a series of two. The next is The Port Fairy Murders, but I'll have to check whether it's psychopath-free.

jan 5, 11:02 pm

>77 pamelad: - Taking a pass on this one, but I also love books that are set in locations I know well.

jan 5, 11:46 pm

jan 7, 3:16 am

1. Non-Fiction
2. Books I Own
10, Bingo

Odd Man Out: James Mason by Sheridan Morley

This short biography was a Dean Street Press freebie. The author was a large, loud, extroverted man. He finds James Mason, who apparently was the opposite, incomprehensible. Morley interviewed many people, most of whom told him that Mason was quiet, gentlemanly, reserved, and an excellent actor. The exception was his ex-wife Pamela, who had nothing good to say.

This is an insubstantial biography.

I'm counting it for the memoir square in the BingoDOG even though a biography and a memoir aren't quite the same thing. Close enough, and no one likes a pedant!

Redigerat: jan 8, 3:29 am

6. Australia and New Zealand
8. Crime
10. Bingo

The Port Fairy Murders by Robert Gott

These days Port Fairy is a prosperous, picturesque little town past the end of the great Ocean Road. I stayed there a few days last year for my birthday. But in 1944 it was full of murderers and psychopaths, including George Starling who survived the previous book and is out to seek revenge on Detective Joe Sable. Fortunately, there are no descriptions of torture this time, although there are a few too many violent murders. Sergeant Joe Sable and Constable Helen Lord are sent to Port Fairy to help the local police, who have no experience with murder investigations.

I was interested in the antagonism and mistrust between the Catholics and Protestants of Port Fairy. I knew from my parents that Protestants wouldn't employ Catholics and that's why there were so many Catholics in the Public Service, so it was fascinating to read about how that prejudice affected people's lives in a little country town. Both of Gott's books have been very good on historical detail.

The plot was a bit messy and, as I mentioned, too many people died, but it held my attention. I was quite worried about Joe Sable.

Counting this for the Next Book in a Series bingo square.

No I'm not. I counted it for Small Town or Rural Setting because I'm reading the next Ruth Galloway, The Chalk Pit, which will count for Next in Series.

jan 8, 6:42 pm

I have generally felt disappointed when I read Australian mysteries, I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe I just haven't found the right author. From your description I don’t think Robert Gott is the author for me.

jan 8, 8:01 pm

>82 Zozette: Have you tried Garry Disher? He's my favourite.

jan 8, 10:36 pm

Someone suggested Garry Disher to me last year. His Wyatt series and his Paul Hirschhausen series are available on Scribd. Do you recommend one of those series over the other?

jan 8, 11:19 pm

>84 Zozette: Of the two I'd choose the Paul Hirschhausen series. The Wyatt series is written from the perspective of a criminal, so I didn't like it quite as much.

The Peninsula Crimes series isn't available? If it were, that's the one I'd choose, but the Hirsch series comes a close second.

Redigerat: jan 8, 11:58 pm

4. Prizes and Lists
8. Crime
10. Bingo

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

I discovered the Ruth Galloway series last year and read the first eight, far too many because by the end I was dead sick of the relationship between Nelson and Ruth. I don't want them to get together, not that it's my choice. I'd read the eighth book, The Woman in Blue because I wanted to find out the father of Michelle's baby and was very annoyed to be strung along. In this ninth book Michelle has just told Nelson that she's pregnant, so I'm quite confused about the timeline and wondering how many years this pregnancy is going to last.

Back to the plot. While checking a potential building excavation, a surveyor discovers some bones in a limestone tunnel and Ruth is called in. The bones prove to be fairly recent, much to the architect's distress, because a murder investigation could interfere with his plans for building a spectacular underground restaurant. The bones are just one thread of a plot that involves murdered homeless people, missing women, and a secret society.

Despite my annoyance with the Michelle's interminable pregnancy and the dismal illicit romance between Nelson and Ruth, I enjoyed The Chalk Pit. I'm tempted to go straight onto the next book, but what if Michelle is still pregnant at the end of it?

Redigerat: jan 8, 11:57 pm

>85 pamelad:

Unfortunately the Peninsula series is not on Scribd. When I looked it up on Audible I had the first book in my Wishlist. Unfortunately I am on a self imposed six month book buying ban. I am keeping my Audible and Scribd subscriptions going but that means only two Audible books a month so I am saving those credits for books I really want such of Dennis E Taylor’s Earthside which is being released later this month. So the Peninsula series will have to wait along with many other good books.

Redigerat: jan 9, 3:38 pm

I've scouted out a few reviews and found that yes, Michelle is still pregnant at the end of the next book, so I'm going to skip it and read the 11th, The Stone Circle. I've reserved it at the library.

I'm currently reading Just Murdered by Katherine Kovacic. I joined NetGalley and went a bit berserk with requesting books. I've read others by Kovacic - they are set mainly in Melbourne and feature an art dealer who solves crimes - but didn't realise that this one is based on a TV series. It's an offshoot of the Phryne Fisher series starring the niece Phryne has never met, Peregrine Fisher.

Redigerat: jan 10, 4:04 pm

6. Australia and New Zealand
8. Crime

Just Murdered by Katherine Kovacic

Kovacic has written a series featuring an art dealer who solves crimes, so when I saw her name on NetGalley I requested the book. Just Murdered isn't a Kovacic original. It's based on a script by Deb Cox for the first episode of the television series, Ms Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries, which is a spin-off from Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, the television series based on Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher novels.

Just Murdered is set in Melbourne in 1963. Peregrine Fisher, the long-lost niece of Phryne Fisher, has led an unsettled life with her mother, who moved from town to town as debts caught up with her. Since her mother died, Peregrine has been living in a caravan in a Queensland country town, working as a hairdresser, but she's just lost her job, so when she receives a letter from The Adventuresses' Club of the Antipodes asking her to attend a meeting about an inheritance, she sets off to hitch-hike to Melbourne. At the Adventuresses' Club Peregrine finds that the aunt she'd never heard of has left everything to her niece.

The Adventuresses are a group of unusually accomplished women, so Peregrine has no qualifications for membership. When her house is burgled, Peregrine decides to prove herself by taking over her aunt's role as a detective. Her investigation leads her to Blair's Emporium (for Melbourne locals, this is very much like Myer's), a fashion parade, a murder investigation and a corrupt policeman. The plot is utterly unrealistic, but the descriptions of sixties Melbourne are entertaining. Kovacic lovingly describes the clothes, the decor, and the roles of working women, and it's these details that make the book interesting.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC.

Redigerat: jan 11, 12:50 pm

>75 pamelad: I really like Elly Griffiths' Magic Men series mainly because it reminds me of growing up in the UK and going to variety shows, especially around Christmas. Smoke and Mirrors features the traditional Christmas pantomime. and The Blood Card is set during the Queen's coronation in 1953. I enjoyed both.

jan 11, 1:30 pm

I read the first in the Ruth Galloway series last year. Liked it well enough. Started the second and realized they just felt dated. So much "fat shaming" of herself. I figure there must be a more current mystery series out there that I'll enjoy.

jan 11, 4:32 pm

>90 VivienneR: I'll give Smoke and Mirrors a go. The body chopped in three and the deaths that mimicked magic tricks really put me off The Zig Zag Girl.

>91 japaul22: The older you get the faster the years go, so anything that happened since I reached adulthood (joined the workforce) doesn't seem that long ago! Perhaps in another fifty years people will be reading books set in the nineties as nostalgically as we read books from the Golden Age of crime, as a snapshot of their times.

jan 13, 1:05 am

2. Books I Own
10. Bingo

Thalia by Frances Faviell

Rachel, an eighteen-year-old art student, has been banished to the Breton seaside of Dinard because her portrait of the vicar, a friend of her aunt, turned out to be a nasty caricature. Rachel, instead of apologising, has dug in her heels on the grounds of artistic integrity and refused to apologise, so instead of accompanying her aunt on a much-desired trip to Egypt, she's spending a year as an unpaid companion to Cynthia, a beautiful woman whose husband is a soldier in India. Cynthia has two children, the beautiful and spoilt little boy, Claude, on whom she dotes and Thalia, a difficult fifteen-year-old girl. The passive and lovely Cynthia relies far too much on Rachel, and Thalia becomes obsessively and jealously attached. When Rachel falls in love with Armand, son of a wealthy local farmer, her unworldliness and immaturity precipitate a disaster.

Pros: Rachel is a fully-realised character; the descriptions of Dinard and its surroundings; the local people; the way of life of the British and American expatriates.

Cons: Melodrama! Impending doom! Cynthia, Thalia and Claude behave so very badly.

Overall, the pros outweighed the cons and I enjoyed this slice of expatriate life in 1936 Breton.

Redigerat: jan 13, 10:13 pm

>93 pamelad: Earlier this year I read Faviell's A Chelsea Concerto, her memoir about living during the London Blitz. I didn't even stopped to think if she had any fiction. I thought the memoir was really good, although it wasn't published until the mid-1950s.

Redigerat: jan 13, 9:28 pm

>94 kac522: I really liked A Chelsea Concerto and also The Dancing Bear, a memoir about living in post-war Berlin. There's another of Frances Faviell's novels in my tbr pile: The Fledgling. I can't find its touchstone.....because I didn't spell it correctly. It's The Fledgeling.

jan 13, 10:15 pm

>95 pamelad: Thanks! I'll have to see what my library system has.

jan 14, 12:52 pm

After reading the discussions of various series above I'm undecided about wether or not to try the Ruth Galloway series again. I read the first one quite a while ago and felt no need to try the second one.

You have managed to get through a lot of books with a little over half of January to go.

jan 16, 4:58 pm

>66 pamelad: I think I've read that one, but it was before LT.

jan 18, 5:35 pm

>97 hailelib: They have their faults, but I like them because they're not too light and not too dark and there's humour. I'm sick of depressed, damaged, divorced detectives who drink too much.

>98 thornton37814: Sometimes I don't remember reading a crime novel until I'm almost at the end and realise that I know who the murderer is.

Redigerat: jan 18, 6:15 pm

Looking at my Audible library I read the first 8 Ruth Galloway books. I think I last read one in about 2017 and for some reason did not continue after that. I am not sure why I stopped, possibly I found them a bit repetitive (?)

jan 18, 6:50 pm

>100 Zozette: The Ruth/Nelson “romance” gets tedious. I also gave up after book 8, but am back to enjoying the series. I skipped book 10, just finished 11 and am now on 12.

jan 19, 4:23 am

10. Crime

The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths

Ruth has been excavating another henge on the Saltmarsh and has found two sets of bones, both of murdered adolescent girls, one dead for centuries and the other for decades. Meanwhile, Nelson has been receiving anonymous letters similar to those he received years ago, when he and Ruth found another murdered girl buried in the Saltmarsh. Are the letters linked to the discovery of the skeletons? The newer skeleton is identified as a girl who had gone missing from as street party on the day of marriage between Charles and Diana.

Michelle has had the baby. Nelson still hasn't told his daughters about Kate, his daughter with Ruth. The "romance" between Nelson and Ruth drags on.

I enjoyed The Stone Circle because I like the secondary characters and their sardonic humour. I'm still fed up with Ruth and Nelson.

The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths

Two years on and Ruth has a new job at Cambridge University, where Frank, her American history-professor friend also works. They've moved in together, and Frank certainly pulls his weight with the domestic duties. He's a lovely man, and Ruth's trying to move on, but he's not Nelson. When Ivor March, who has been convicted of killing two women, tells Nelson that he will reveal where two other victims are buried only if Ruth excavates the graves, Ruth is drawn back to New Norfolk and Nelson. The two victims were beautiful women, both of whom had a connection with Ivor Marsh, as did the two women whose bodies haven't been found. But three of Marsh's female friends refuse to believe that he is a murderer and are campaigning for the case to be reopened. When another tall, blonde young woman who also knew Ivor, is murdered, even those who were convinced of Marsh's guilt have doubts.

The lantern men belong to legend: if they hear people on the marsh at night, they guide them to their deaths. There are rumours that a modern-day lantern man is responsible for the killings.

Once again, I enjoyed the book, liked the secondary characters and the humour and was engaged by the mystery and investigation. Still fed up with R and N. Michelle deserves better!

jan 19, 8:06 am

>99 pamelad: with you on a couple of points: sick of damaged, alcoholic detectives and I also don't remember sometimes till I get to the end that I've read it before--especially pre LT! My hubby watches TV all day/night and seems to watch a lot of damaged detective series such as Grantchester and Jesse Stone (Tom Selleck pre Blue Bloods), just to name a few!

jan 19, 1:22 pm

>102 pamelad: I'm just reaching the last few pages of The Lantern Men and I agree with you, Michelle deserves better.

jan 19, 10:19 pm

Love your film poster categories. You had some I loved, which made me want to check out those I hadn't heard of!

>102 pamelad: I don't know these Elly Griffiths books. I'm supposed to be working on old series instead of starting new ones, but now I'm intrigued.

Redigerat: jan 20, 5:50 pm

>105 madhatter22: Welcome! The Ruth Galloway series is worth trying, and once you've started it will be an old series so will fit in with your goals. If you try, you can rationalise anything.

Redigerat: jan 22, 6:19 pm

2. Books I Own
10. Crime
11. Historical Fiction Challenge

The Northminster Mysteries by Harriet Smart

This boxed set contains The Butchered Man, The Dead Songbird and The Shadowcutter, three mysteries set in Northminster, an English cathedral city, in the 1840s. Major Vernon is establishing a police force and has employed Felix Carswell as the police surgeon. Carswell is the illegitimate son of Lord Rothborough, a devoted parent who has always taken an interest in his son's life.

In The Butchered Man, Vernon and Carsell investigate the death of an ambitious clergyman whose mutilated body has been found on a building site.

The Dead Songbird is a beautiful young man, found dead in the cathedral. He is one of two leading tenors in the cathedral choir.

The Shadowcutter cuts silhouettes from paper and has been employed by Lord Rothborough to provide entertainment for his daughter's birthday. There are too many sub-plots, which meander all over the place, but I still enjoyed the book.

I enjoyed all three books because I liked Smart's writing style, was engaged with the characters and interested in the historical development of the police force. Carswell and Vernon are flawed characters who make mistakes, especially with women.

I'd written a more detailed review, but it disappeared, much to my frustration.

This was a Kindle freebie. It's no longer free but is available on Kindle Unlimited.

jan 23, 3:34 am

>107 pamelad: goes on my WL!

jan 24, 4:26 pm

I've just found this thread in Ignored Topics. I certainly didn't ignore it, and LT won't let me unignore it. There are a couple of other threads there too, which I didn't ignore, and I can't unignore them either.

jan 24, 4:32 pm

>109 pamelad: Weird! I checked mine (I actually didn't know there was such a thing) and nothing is wrong with my threads. Hope LT can help you out quickly!

jan 24, 4:50 pm

>110 japaul22: It's still in my ignored topics list, but it's also back in Groups and Posts. Odd. Perhaps I ignored it inadvertently. Glad you're not having the same problem.

Is anyone else finding unexpectedly ignored threads?

jan 24, 4:53 pm

I had no idea there was such a thing either! Nothing in mine - I wouldn't know how to ignore a topic even if I wanted to (the unstar button and scrolling past is usually plenty!).

jan 24, 5:26 pm

10. Crime

The Northminster Mysteries Box Set 2 by Harriet Smart

The Hanging Cage

Two suicides, and the discovery of human bones in a culvert, lead Carswell and Vernon to a depraved murderer.

The Ghosts of Ardenthwaite

Information from a high-class prostitute reveals the truth behind a turf war amongst violent criminals. The plot thread about the ghosts, which have a rational explanation, is irrelevant to the main plot, but introduces Carswell to the young woman he marries.

The Echo at Rooke Court

A fire, a missing woman, floods, a badly-run fever clinic, a group of Anglo-Catholics who are plotting to reunite the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, two murders, one of them historical. Many, many plot threads. Vernon's job is at risk because he has bent more rules than his rigid boss can handle.

I've become quite attached to Felix Carswell, Major Vernon and Lord Rothborough. The plots are becoming less believable and more convoluted, and the books are getting longer, but there's plenty of interesting historical information about developments in medical science and criminology.

jan 24, 6:00 pm

>112 Jackie_K: The "Ignore this topic" button is right under the "Star/Unstar this topic" button when you're on the thread. When you get a list of topics, the "Ignore" "x" is at the far right column.

I have hit this inadvertently from time to time. What I can't remember is how to find the topics I've "ignored".

>109 pamelad: I'm wondering if it will sort itself out overnight--sometimes I find some things don't immediately update, it may take an hour or two, or overnight.

jan 24, 6:12 pm

How do you find ignored topics anyway? I looked around but didn't see anything but the "ignore" button,

Redigerat: jan 24, 6:15 pm

>109 pamelad: OK, the wiki says this:

Ignoring Topics
If there's a topic you're not interested in and you want to remove it from your list, you can ignore it by clicking the a small gray "x" which appears to the right of the topic. Clicking it will turn it red.

To see a list of your ignored topics, go to the Talk tab, click on "More" under the "Your World" menu on the left sidebar, and select "Ignored Topics." Note that there is no way to filter ignored topics by group. You may unignore a topic by clicking the plus icon to the right of the topic.

I found this explanation confusing. The order to find and unignore topics is:

Go to TALK
Go to left sidebar
Go to "Your World" and (all the way down) click on MORE
Go to Ignored Topics
To unignore a topic, click on red "+" icon at the far right of the topic

jan 24, 7:13 pm

>115 dudes22: In Talk, my screen has a panel on the LHS. Down the bottom, under More, you can see Groups You Admin, Ignored Topics and Favorited Messages.
>116 kac522: The problem was that clicking the red + didn't do anything. It stayed red. Maybe, as you say, you need to leave it overnight.

jan 24, 9:17 pm

>112 Jackie_K: If you follow groups with thousands of members like 75 Books Challenge, you'd have to use stars to decide who to follow, but because I don't follow any groups with unmanageable numbers of posts, Groups and Posts works fine. The advantage is that you don't miss new threads that might be interesting. That's as long as you don't ignore them, of course.

jan 24, 9:27 pm

Thanks - I'll check that out.

jan 28, 4:38 pm

10. Crime

The Northminster Mysteries Box Set 3 by Harriet Smart
The Fatal Engine, The Witches of Pitfeldry, Moonshine and Mercury
Tarleton's Coffer by Harriet Smart
Mummer's Night by Harriet Smart

I've read all the Nothminster mysteries now, 10 novels and a novella set in the early 1840s. They've all taken place over a couple of years so Felix Carswell, the police surgeon, is still only 26 and, while he's a dedicated doctor with many good qualities, as husband he's not doing well. He's avoiding his domestic problems by burying himself in work. Major Giles Vernon, by contrast, is happy with Emma Mansfield despite being short of cash. They've taken in the three children of Emma's half-sister.

Just as well there aren't any more, because the books are getting longer, and it really is time I read something else. I've enjoyed all of these historical mysteries and become attached to the characters. The whole series is available on KindleUnlimited.

jan 29, 3:21 am

I quite enjoy 19th century mysteries so I will have to put the Northminster Mysteries on my Wishlist.

jan 29, 4:18 pm

I've put these mysteries on my list as well.

Once, I actually managed to ignore my own thread which is when I learned to unignore a topic.

Redigerat: jan 29, 5:02 pm

>121 Zozette: Definitely worth a try.

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher is a spin-off from The Fall of the House of Usher. It's set the 1890s in Ruritania, which is across the border from Gallacia, the home of the narrator, Lieutenant Easton. The Gallacian language which is "worse than Finnish" has seven sets of pronouns. Very amusing! Easton has received an invitation from an old friend, Madeline Usher, who is very ill. She suffers from catalepsy, and worse, and appears close to death. Her brother Roderick is also very ill. The house itself, and the tarn at its foot, exude malevolence.

This entertaining novella doesn't take itself too seriously and I found it very amusing. It begins with a description of foul-smelling fungi, and fungi are indeed central to the plot.

I read this for 11. Historical Fiction Challenge Read a work of historical fiction with a speculative element. Excellent choice. Thank you Tanya-dogearedcopy.

Also putting it in the Bingo square 1. A book about a topic you don’t usually read, which I have interpreted to include genres I don't often read.

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

I've read a couple of Poe's famous stories, The Purloined Letter and The Murders in the Rue Morgue, but not this one. I wasn't keen on Poe's writing, which is archaic and waffly, so much so that I had to keep re-reading sentences in order to make sense of them. This must be a Poe idiosyncrasy because I've read and enjoyed many other nineteenth century writers. Anyway, there's plenty of malevolence and understated horror, but in thirtyish pages there's not much space for plot.

jan 31, 5:44 pm

5. CATs and Other Challenges: GeoCAT
10. Bingo

Murder on the Leviathan by Boris Akunin is an historical mystery, set in the late 19th century. It begins in Paris, with the discovery of 10 dead servants and their murdered employer, and the theft of a golden Indian statue. A gold badge clasped in the hand of the murdered employer leads the investigator, Gustave Gauche, to the first-class passengers on the maiden voyage of the Leviathan. Gauche identifies ten people, some of them suspects and some who could prove useful to his investigation.

This has many of the ingredients of a traditional mystery in the style of Agatha Christie: a collection of suspects on whom suspicion falls in turn; a twisty, artificial plot; at least one ruthless criminal; a denouement in which the investigator explains how he solved the crime. Fandorin, a young Russian diplomat with prematurely white hair, is a cypher who reveals little of himself. Perhaps we learn more about him as the series continues. There's a lot of racial stereotyping, particularly of the Japanese character, but it's so heavily ironic that it could be a comment on the farcical Asian characters in books like Sax Rohmer's Fu Man Chu.

Enjoyable enough, and I'll read more in the series if I can find free copies.

jan 31, 7:52 pm

>123 pamelad: Neither one of those Poe's are amongst my favs. I much prefer The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart.

jan 31, 10:14 pm

January Review

Books read: 22, but 3 of those were box sets, so it's really 28. This includes a lot of crime novels but only 4 historical romances.

Best reads: Highest rating was four stars.
What Moves the Dead, Cold Enough for Snow, The Chalk Pit, The Lost World, French for Cats

Best discovery: The Northminster Mysteries I read ten of these historical mysteries, plus a novella, and gave all the full-length books 3.5 stars.

jan 31, 10:18 pm

>125 Tess_W: The Tell-Tale Heart is in the collection I have, so I'll check it out.

jan 31, 10:20 pm

Another Poe-ish book that I enjoyed was Usher's Passing by horror genre author Robert Mccammon

Enjoyed catching up on your thread!

feb 1, 4:08 pm

>128 VictoriaPL: Good to see you here!

Redigerat: feb 2, 12:40 am

10. Crime

A Gentle Murderer by Dorothy Salisbury Davis was first published in 1951. It is a psychological study of a murderer, which starts in a New York Catholic church when a tormented man confesses to the young Father Duffy that he has murdered a woman with a hammer. Duffy cannot tell the police about the crime and doesn't know the murderer's name or where to find him, so his only recourse is to identify the murderer and persuade him to turn himself in. His starting point is the information revealed by the murderer's disjointed confessional ramblings.

Sergeant Goldsmith is carrying out a parallel search, starting with the acquaintances of the murder victim. We, the readers, know who the murderer is, are privy to his thoughts, and realise that a young woman and her mother are in danger. Will Duffy and Goldsmith be in time to prevent another murder?

The publishers have supplied numerous footnotes, starting with the very first line of the book, "Bless me father for I have sinned...." There is no need for a footnote to explain this, and the overuse of footnotes is a distraction throughout the book. They explain things most readers would already know, could pick up from the context, or don't need to know. Few are useful. There is a reading group guide at the end of the book, and I found some of the questions problematical because what you think will depend on your own religious beliefs, which might not be what you want in a book group discussion.

Overall, this is a suspense-filled, well-written, psychological crime novel.

Thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for this ARC.

Redigerat: feb 5, 4:03 pm

5. ClassicsCAT February: Before 1900
9. Book Bullets MissBrangwen

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

The narrator, a sickly second son, can tell what what other people are thinking. It's hard to say more about this novella without giving too much away. I think there's a message about allowing other people's opinions to overly influence one's actions.

This was an interesting oddity.

Redigerat: feb 6, 6:05 pm

9. Book Bullets VictoriaPL

The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt

The setting is historical, because people are getting around on horses and women are leading restricted lives, but it's hard to tell exactly when this gothic romantic suspense is set. Victorian? There are trains.

When Caroline Verlaine married Pietro, a musical genius, she gave up her ambition to be a concert pianist. Now that he is dead, she needs to find a way to support herself, so she has taken employment as a music teacher at Lovat Stacy, the house of the wealthy Sir William Stacy. Caroline's older sister, Roma, was carrying out an archaeological investigation on the grounds of Lovat Stacy and has vanished without trace, so Caroline is keeping her identity secret as she investigates her sister's disappearance.

Along with the ailing Sir William the inhabitants of Lovat Stacy include Emily, an heiress who has been married against her will to Napier, wayward son of Sir William; Allegra, the illegitimate daughter of Napier and a gypsy woman; the housekeeper, Mrs Lincroft and her daughter, Alice; Sylvia, the eccentric sister of Sir William. Emily, Allegra and Alice, along with Sophie from the vicarage, are Caroline's pupils. Napier, who shot his older brother Beau by accident, or perhaps deliberately, had been banished by Sir William to an Australian sheep station and has been allowed to return home only if he marries Emily, who is Sir William's ward. Is Napier a foul murderer who is plotting to murder his rich unwanted wife? Did he get rid of Roma? Caroline thinks not, but she isn't sure.

An entertaining read. It's not of the same calibre of Wuthering Heights or Rebecca, whose influences are obvious, but I enjoyed it.

feb 6, 6:11 pm

>132 pamelad: I’m glad you enjoyed it!

feb 7, 12:19 pm

>131 pamelad: Interesting oddity is a good way to describe it!

Redigerat: feb 8, 3:12 am

8. Crime
10. BingoDOG

Death of a Bookseller by Bernard Farmer

Bernard Farmer had worked as a policeman and was a dedicated book collector, and it is his inside knowledge of policing and the book trade that make his book, first published in 1956, so interesting. Sergeant Wigan guides a drunken bookseller, Michael Fisk, home safely, and they become friends. When Fisk is murdered, Wigan is seconded to the investigation. Wigan's superior arrests the quarrelsome bookrunner, Fred Hampton, but Wigan doesn't believe that Hampton is guilty, even when he's convicted and sentenced to hang. Wigan carries out his own investigation with the help of two bookrunners who doubt Hampton's guilt. Bookrunning is a cutthroat trade so there are plenty of other suspects, but can Wigan find the real culprit before Hampton's sentence is carried out?

The middle of the book gets bogged down with too many bookrunners, a surprising proportion of whom are potentially murderous psychopaths. Some people will stop at nothing for a rare first edition.

I enjoyed the book for the authentic book trade details and the realistic depiction of policing. The prose style was pedestrian, and there were too many suspects, but overall this was an entertaining crime novel.

Thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for this British Library Crime Classic ARC.

Redigerat: feb 10, 10:36 pm

8. Crime

The Dolls at Heron's Reach by Harriet Smart

I've read all the Victorian Northminster mysteries, so gave this 1930's Northminster Mystery a try. As in the Victorian series there's a young forensic surgeon who is linked to but not quite part of the aristocracy, and a fatherly police chief. The bodies of a young man and his wife have been found posed in a tableau. The dead man is an old school friend of a photographer who is well-known for his artistic erotic images and for affairs with beautiful women. The plot involves erotic/pornographic films, magazines and old photos, the judgement of pornographic or obscene depending on whether the character is a working-class puritan or a upper-class sophisticate. It's all a bit confused, and too long. I missed Vernon and Carswell.

feb 10, 10:28 pm

>135 pamelad: Read it and thought about the same thing!

feb 11, 7:35 pm

>131 pamelad: Stopping by to catch up on your thread. This one sounds strangely interesting. I had (sort of) read The Mill on the Floss in college and it was a "meh" for me. But this one looks perhaps a little shorter? More interesting?

And congrats on a successful reading year!

feb 11, 11:19 pm

>138 threadnsong: I didn't mind The Mill on the Floss, despite the melodrama, but my favourite of George Eliot's books is Middlemarch. I'm not keen on fantasy and science fiction, so the supernatural aspects of The Lifted Veil were a negative for me, but it's nice and short. Coming up is Scenes of Clerical Life, which our newly revived book group is reading for its first post-pandemic meeting.

Thank you for dropping in.

Redigerat: feb 12, 4:24 pm

I've completed a row of the Bingo card with Beth and the Mistaken Identity by Alicia Cameron, which went in the Stolen Identities square. I don't want to use too many romances for the Bingo, but a romance is a good fit for this here. I can't recommend the book, unfortunately, because of its maid marries marquis plot.

ETA I've liked a lot of Cameron's other books, just not this one.

feb 13, 6:42 pm

>140 pamelad: congrats on the Bingo!

Redigerat: feb 14, 6:08 pm

>141 Tess_W: Thank you Tess!

8. Crime

A Killer in the Crystal Palace by Deb Marlowe

The Crystal Palace was the site of The Great Exhibition of 1851, where innovative industrial products from all over the world were displayed. The heroine, Kara Levett, and hero, Niall Kier, meet for the first time in the office of an Exhibition panellist, who has the power to approve their selection as exhibitors. Kara makes automatons and Niall forges things from iron. When a man is murdered with the arm from one of Kara's automatons and she is accused of the murder, she and Niall team up to find the real culprit. The plot involves a one-armed man, a maker of artificial limbs, industrial espionage, treacherous foreigners, a hideous birthmark, secret passages, and more. There are many characters and places that have nothing to do with the plot but slow the pace and add to the confusion. The characters speak contemporary American English.

The setting and the historical background were interesting, but otherwise I found the book dull. It is the first in a planned series, and the author has tried to introduce too many characters and insert too many incidents that are meant to describe Kara's background and character but would be better left to another book or removed altogether.

Thanks to NetGalley and Dragonblade Publishing for this ARC.

feb 14, 8:38 pm

>142 pamelad:

While reading your first paragraph I thought that this book sounded good. The Great Exhibition is a great time to set a mystery in. It is a pity that the book ended up being dull.

feb 14, 8:52 pm

>143 Zozette: I was trying to write a review that was critical yet fair. So much I didn’t say! Sometimes the characters speak as though they’ve had a staple reading diet of self help books.

feb 14, 8:53 pm

>132 pamelad: I used to be a huge fan of Jean Plaidy's novels when I was younger and have been meaning to revisit them. I've only read one of hers published under the Victoria Holt name and would like to read more.

Redigerat: feb 14, 11:30 pm

>145 mathgirl40: I liked Mistress of Mellyn and have just found The Devil on Horseback on KindleUnlimited. Compelled to Google recipes for Devils on Horseback, which I haven't come across since the seventies. Australian and British recipes use prunes, but the American recipes used dates.

I think the tartness of the prunes would be a better balance with the fattiness and saltiness of the bacon but wouldn't reject a date.

ETA Unfortunately the Kindle ebook version of The Devil on Horseback is full of typos, like an OCR that hasn't been corrected. I reported it to Amazon, which was not easy to do!

Redigerat: feb 15, 6:49 pm

6. Australia and New Zealand
9. Book Bullets

Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy was a book bullet from Nickelini. I've read four of Goldsworthy's books, which are all good, and all different. Maestro, his first book, begins in 1967 when Paul, the fifteen-year-old narrator, arrives in Darwin from Adelaide. Darwin, with its tropical climate, multicultural population, and position on the frontier between Australia and Asia, is a shock to Paul and his parents. Paul is a talented pianist, and his father has found him a teacher, the elderly, eccentric Austrian Herr Eduard Keller, once a famous concert pianist. Initially Paul is far too self-absorbed and immature to appreciate Herr Keller, the maestro, but over the years he begins to understand.

This is a story of a boy growing up, and a man who can never forgive himself.

feb 26, 1:05 am

8. Crime

The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman

The third book in the Thursday Murder Club series. I put it aside after a few pages because I didn't feel like its jaunty artificiality but picked it up a few days later and enjoyed it. The group is investigating the death of a young TV journalist whose car went over a cliff, presumably with her in it. She had been investigating a fraud and had managed to identify the perpetrator and trace the proceeds. Chris the detective is still happy with the mother of his partner Donna; Donna and Bogdan are going well, and so are Ron and Pauline. The plot involves a KGB Colonel, a Swedish man mountain who launders illegal profits through cryptocurrency, a couple of TV stars, and a Chief Constable who writes crime novels and self-publishes them for the Kindle.

Osman is getting a bit sentimental now, but I enjoyed the book. Light and cheery.

feb 26, 1:26 am

2. Books I Own
7. The Rest of the World

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

I very much enjoyed this odd little novella. Keiko Furukura has always been odd. She doesn't know how to behave like other people and if she were to follow her instincts, someone might easily be dead. Not that she is violent or malicious, it's just that what seems to her to be the quickest way to solve a problem might involve grievous bodily harm. So When Keiko finds a job as a part-time worker in a convenience store, it's perfect fit: so regimented that she knows exactly what to do. She's safe and happy there, even though her family and her younger sister's friends are horrified that she's spent 16 years in a dead-end job and has never had a boyfriend. They'd rather she live a normal life with lots of problems and unhappiness than be happy in the unusual life that suits her. When Keiko meets another misfit, she invites him to move into her flat because she thinks a pretend boyfriend will make her sister happy.

This is a sad and funny book with a message about the way we treat people who don't fit in.

Redigerat: feb 26, 4:03 pm

1. Non-fiction
2. Books I Own

You'd think that, now that I'm retired, I'd be able to avoid office politics, but I'm a volunteer with a community organisation and live in a complex of town houses managed by an owners' corporation. Lately I've been bombarded, so I was drawn to a BookBub bargain, Working with People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jen Mann. I was expecting categories of workplace monsters illustrated by amusing anecdotes, and the short glossary at the beginning of the book made me smile, but after a couple of pages the book launches into memoir. It's a history, amusing in parts, of the author's working life. There's a fair amount of swearing, which doesn't bother me. (Just as well, or I'd have to consider emigrating.)

The author has a blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, which would have put me off buying the book if I'd known.

feb 28, 3:25 pm

The best books I read in February are:
Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Not counting historical romances, I've read 11 books: 6 crime, 1 gothic romantic suspense, 1 non-fiction, 3 literary fiction.

I've also read 21 historical romances and am surprised that there were so many but a lot of them were short, and I skipped bits.

It's taking me a while to finish George Eliot's Scenes of Clerical Life. It's three novellas. The first is dreary and tragic, the second is romantic and tragic, and the third is a comedy. I am expecting the third to end in tragedy too, but I hope not.

Redigerat: mar 1, 4:04 pm

Last night there was a knock on my door, which turned out to be a neighbour from the street behind who was looking for her chicken. So, expecting nothing, I invited her to come through and have a look in the courtyard. And there she was! A big, brown, speckled chicken sitting calmly on the recycle bin!

mar 1, 4:16 pm

>152 pamelad: - I hope she left you an egg :)

mar 1, 4:20 pm

>153 dudes22: Just checked. A few droppings, but no egg!

mar 1, 4:36 pm

>150 pamelad: In my experience a complex managed by an owner's corporation is far more poisonous than any office politics. You have my sympathy.

>151 pamelad: I really enjoyed Convenience Store Woman too.

>152 pamelad: A chicken story! Lovely! Cats are known to move into a neighbour's house but I've never heard of a chicken doing it..

mar 1, 5:15 pm

2. Books I Own
5. ClassicsCAT

Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot

Three novellas. The first, The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton, concerns a man who has risen above his station in life to become a curate. He earns only 80 pounds a year, not nearly enough to support his wife and six children, so is both poverty-stricken and in debt. As a curate he's unsatisfactory, ill-prepared, confusing and dull, and because of his poverty his parishioners hold him in contempt. Although this novella provided a well-rounded picture of village life and politics, I struggled to finish it because it was so depressing, and because Eliot's sardonic humour did not appeal to me.

Mr Gilfil's Love Story

Mr Gilfil is an elderly vicar, a kind enough and well-respected despite having rough manners and keeping company below his station. The village knows him as a bachelor, but once he was very much in love with his wife Tina, who died too young. This is another tragedy, but Eliot is sympathetic to Tina and Gilfil so, although this is sad, it's not as depressing as the first novella.

Janet's Repentance

Janet Dempster is the wife of a shonky, violent, alcoholic lawyer. She also drinks, to deaden her misery. Her husband is carrying out a vendetta against a new curate, Mr Tryan, who is far too evangelical for his liking, and the Anglicans in the town have taken sides. They're for tradition as represented by the old curate, Mr Crewe, or for the evangelical Mr Tryan. The book (at over 200 pages it's the longest of the three sections) begins in a tavern, where Dempster is holding forth, and introduces the ignorance, prejudice and malice of Dempster and his supporters.

Janet, as Dempster's wife, automatically belongs with the anti-Tryans, but then she meets him.

I found Janet's Repentance interesting for its character studies, the church and village politics, and what it was like for Janet, as a victim of domestic violence.

Scenes of Clerical life was heavy-going because Eliot has a gigantic vocabulary and is given to lengthy philosophical asides which required a great deal of concentration on my part. But it's definitely worth reading.

mar 1, 5:56 pm

>156 pamelad: I read the first two novellas quite a few years ago but could never get going with Janet's Repentance. You do make it sound interesting. But what is a "shonky" lawyer?

Redigerat: mar 1, 6:52 pm

>157 NinieB: A shonky lawyer is dishonest and unreliable, and could be breaking the law. The word is used for goods and services as well, where something doesn't do what it's advertised to do, or doesn't work. The consumer organisation, Choice, hands out annual Shonky Awards.

A lot of real estate agents are shonky, as are some car dealers. Dodgy is another good word, used in similar contexts. Here's a youtube clip of The Dodgy Brothers

There's an awful lot of religion in Janet's Repentance, but I'm interested in reading about other people's religious beliefs. It's a bit like reading The Chosen, or In This House of Brede or Palace Walk, because it's another place and time.

mar 1, 6:52 pm

>155 VivienneR: Poisonous is a good description and I appreciate your sympathy. The chicken flew over the fence, much to her owner's surprise, and chose the biggest bin. We have three different bins for three different rubbish collections and are about to get a fourth. Is it the same where you are?

mar 1, 7:12 pm

>158 pamelad: Thank you, shonky now makes sense. I will have to work it into my vocabulary.

As a reader of Trollope and Mrs. Oliphant, I am well versed in 19th century British religion.

Redigerat: mar 1, 7:48 pm

>160 NinieB: Me too. I'm very sympathetic to curates, and Oliphant's The Curate in Charge has stuck in my mind. It's relevant to Amos Barton.

mar 2, 7:25 pm

mar 2, 7:26 pm

>158 pamelad: Love that word shonky. Going to try to work it in my vocab---it's fun to say!

mar 2, 7:47 pm

>159 pamelad: Yes, we have an assortment of "blue" bins for recycling and are about to get another for food scraps ?? - not sure how that will work. I think they are trying to discourage bears in town, who are attracted to food scraps. Although none of our bins have a chicken on top!

mar 3, 3:35 pm

>163 Tess_W: I'm pleased to bring Australian English to the world!

In Britain I think the job might already have been done by Neighbours and Home and Away, because I keep hearing British characters in British TV series say "no worries."

>164 VivienneR: Bears! So exotic, and a bit frightening. In Australia, particularly Sydney, there's a cockatoo problem. They teach each other to open bins. There's a video in this article.

mar 3, 6:49 pm

>165 pamelad:

I am grateful that no white cockatoo in Tasmania has worked out to open bins yet. It is probably only a matter of time though. Or maybe our cockies are just good boys and girls like our magpies (for some reason our magpies don’t swoop even though they are the same species as the mainland magpies).

mar 3, 8:09 pm

>165 pamelad: "No worries" has spread to the US as well. It's such a handy phrase.

mar 4, 9:57 pm

Loving the discussion on "shonky" and "no worries." I hear the latter a lot, especially in the younger generations (Millenial and younger). I've never heard the word "shonky" and I like it a whole, whole lot.

>150 pamelad: Yes, volunteer organizations can be rife with "office" politics. I salute you for what you are doing, though!

mar 5, 4:08 pm

>166 Zozette: I wonder why Tasmanian birds are so sedate. In magpie swooping season it's entertaining to see the additions keen cyclists make to their bike helmets. Eyes painted on the back, spikes and more.

>167 NinieB: It always sounds cheerful.

>168 threadnsong: It's the U3a and there are lots of retired people who used to be managers. I volunteer in the office, helping people who aren't comfortable using computers and want to deal with a real person. Useful but not too onerous, as long I can hide from the managing people!

mar 5, 4:52 pm

>165 pamelad: Oh, that video is funny! I watched items coming flying out of an overfilled garbage can and being picked up by a crowd of crows on the ground. One of their pals was inside the bin throwing the food out to them. But I can't imagine them opening the bins as the cockatoo did, that's really clever! We have locks on our bins but bears often just give the bin a good whack and hope it splits open.

Redigerat: mar 9, 5:07 pm

2. Books I Own
4. Prizes and Lists
5. ClassicsCAT
10. Bingo
11. Historical Fiction Challenge

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini

Peter Blood, an ex-soldier has returned to his profession of doctor and settled in an English village. He is called in to treat a wounded friend who has been injured in the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion against the wicked King James, discovered by the king's soldiers, and arrested for treason. Blood is sentenced to hang, but at the last minute is sent to the Caribbean as a slave, where he is purchased by the vicious Colonel Bishop.

A wonderful adventure story with a brave and handsome hero. Blood becomes a pirate on the Spanish Main: the most honorable, gentlemanly, successful pirate ever!

Just realised I could also use Captain Blood in the Bingo square "rated four or higher on LT".

mar 9, 11:52 pm

5. GeoCAT

Too Many Men by Lily Brett

Ruth Rothwax is, like the author, the child of holocaust survivors, brought up in Melbourne and now living in New York. Ruth's parents, who were in Auschwitz, don't talk about the past. Her mother, Rooshka, used to wake screaming in the night. Ruth knows that their all her parents' relatives were killed, but she knows nothing else about them, not even their names. She tries to fill in the gaps with the tiny bits of information that her parents occasionally allow to escape and has made many trips to Poland to visit the places where they once lived. Ruth's has persuaded her widowed father, Edek, to spend time in Poland with her and although he'd prefer not to see Poland again, he wants to make his much-loved daughter happy.

Ruth hates Polish people and embarrasses Edek with her anger and rudeness, while Edek, who is a lovely man, enjoys being with his daughter, eating the Polish food that he has missed, driving around in Mercedes taxis, and speaking Polish. He provides the light relief in this very confronting book. Anti-Semitism is still rife in the Poland of this novel, with anti-Jewish slogans painted on walls and Poles who argue that Jews were responsible for the holocaust, or that they weren't killed at all and escaped to Russia. The locals profit from Jewish culture: they sell statues of stereotypically wicked Jews in the markets and souvenir shops; they run Jewish restaurants and Jewish cabarets where the only Jews are the customers; they run tours to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which has become a theme park for the Steven Spielberg film, Schindler's List.

The trip is a success in that Edek tells Ruth a lot more about his and Rooshka's lives: their happy middle-class family lives before the war; their ambitions; life in the ghetto; the concentration camp; the displaced persons camp. This was a hard book to read. Towards the end there's a shocking quote from the diary of General Patton. Patton had treated displaced persons as though they were prisoners.

"I think the great American general enjoyed the extra difficulties he created," Ruth said. "He wrote in his diary that others 'believe that the Displaced Person is a human being, which he is not, and this applies particularly to the Jews, who are lower than animals.'"

A very worthwhile read, an essential piece of history.

Redigerat: mar 10, 8:07 pm

>172 pamelad: Very interesting! My PhD work was on the Holocaust. I have not read this book. The comment about Auschwitz being a theme park for Schindler's List....was that the author's perception or yours?

mar 10, 3:47 pm

>173 Tess_W: It was the author's and she was appalled. I don't think there are many books written about the holocaust from the perspectives of survivors and their children so although Too Many Men has its faults, it's well worth a read. It's very personal. I wasn't too taken with Ruth being haunted by the ghost of Rudolph Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz, but those bits served a purpose in imparting historical facts from the Nazi perspective. I think Lily Brett has done a lot of research.

mar 10, 4:43 pm

>174 pamelad: Going to get a copy, for sure!

mar 12, 7:29 pm

Eighty-Nine Perfect Minutes is a Guardian article that bemoans the increasing length of books and films and contains critics' recommendations for some shorter works: a few to avoid and plenty worth a look.

I can recommend The Palm Beach Story, Rashomon, High Noon and Duck Soup. The only other one I've seen is Punch Drunk Love, which put me off Adam Sandler forever.

I've read six of the fifteen recommended short books and would recommend five of them (not Nightwood which I think is a modernist mess but which many people admire), so the other nine could be well worth a look. The five I've read and enjoyed are: Wide Sargasso Sea, Small Things Like These, Wittgenstein's Nephew, A Month in the Country and W, or the Memory of Childhood.

mar 12, 7:38 pm

>176 pamelad: I've been bemoaning over lengthy books for about the last 5-10 years. I don't watch many movies or much TV because I can't focus that long being passive. Will definitely add your recs to my WL. I also enjoyed Wide Sargasso Sea.

mar 13, 5:11 pm

Duck Soup is a classic! I didn't realize it was that short.

I tend to watch a lot of animated movies, because they're usually shorter. Anything longer than about 2 hours, I get restless.

mar 14, 4:44 am

8. Crime

Death of an Author by E C R Lorac

The highly renowned, best-selling crime writer, Vivian Lestrange, is a recluse. He deals with the world through his secretary, Eleanor Clarke and his housekeeper, Mrs Fife, and even his publisher, Andrew Marriott, has never met him. When another of Marriott's best-selling authors, Michael Ashe, asks to meet Lestrange, a dinner is organised and Ashe is very surprised by the Lestrange who turns up. There's an entertaining discussion about female writers, which is marginally connected to the plot but obviously of great interest to Lorac. In 1935 when this book was written, most people thought that a book by a woman writer would be instantly identifiable because women rarely left the domestic sphere, so they didn't know anything about the world. Lorac's mouthpiece disagrees!

Soon after the dinner, Lestrange and Fife disappear from an immaculately clean house with a bullet hole in the front window. The police, Inspector Bond and Chief Inspector Warner, believe that a murder has been committed. Their initial investigation reveals that Lestrange and Ashe have no history. They appeared from nowhere three or four years ago. Are they criminals? Are they connected? Who is Mrs Fife and where does she live? Why does Eleanor Clarke have no friends or family? Is she Lestrange? Then a body turns up. Whose body?

There's a lot of talking in Death of an Author. Bond and Warner, in particular, have lengthy conversations about possible scenarios, with numerous permutations and combinations of victim, murderer, accomplice and innocent bystander.

An entertaining Golden Age Mystery.

mar 14, 4:56 am

>177 Tess_W: I was reading Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike series, but Troubled Blood is over 1000 pages. I just can't!

>178 rabbitprincess: I was surprised too, but it certainly packs a lot into 68 minutes. A Night at the Opera just misses out at 96 minutes.

Redigerat: mar 14, 9:21 am

>180 pamelad: I understand the 1000 page thing! I've been working on a 900+ pager since 2022. While it's a good read, I don't know why I have not been progressing as I usually read at a fast pace. I think it's psychological!

mar 14, 5:22 pm

>179 pamelad: I'm not usually one for older crime books, but I do like the sound of this one!

mar 16, 5:00 pm

>182 Jackie_K: I hope you like it. I've read a lot of E C R Lorac's books and it's the picture of the times that I find most interesting. She's also very good with describing the countryside, so most of her books have a real sense of place.

5. GeoCAT

Things Could Be Worse by Lily Brett

After reading Too Many Men I looked for another book by Lily Brett and decided on this one. It's her first, a collection of short stories set in Melbourne and ranging from the fifties to the eighties. The central character is Lola Bensky, the daughter of Holocaust survivors Renia and Josl who, with none of their biological families remaining, have created a new family with people whose experiences in the war mirrored their own. Brett's stories are affectionate and funny, but the Holocaust is always just beneath the surface. I loved reading about Melbourne in the fifties and sixties.


Redigerat: mar 17, 2:38 am

2. Books I Own

The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini

I thought I was reading this for the March ClassicsCAT, but it turns out that the Errol Flynn film isn't based on this book.

Sir Oliver Tresillian is a Cornish gentleman in love with his beautiful young neighbour, Rosamund Godolphin. They plan to marry despite Rosamund's brother's and ex-guardian's dislike of Oliver, but Rosamund's brother is killed and Oliver, who is innocent, is betrayed by his half-brother and disbelieved by Rosamund. He is kidnapped, to be sold as a slave.

I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil the story. I enjoyed The Sea-Hawk but it's talkier than Captain Blood, which is my favourite Sabatini so far and the plot doesn't hang together as well. Still worth a read, though.

When things are getting you down, be grateful you're not a galley slave!

Redigerat: mar 20, 5:08 pm

3. Wish List
5. GeoCAT

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The book begins with an email from an aspiring writer, Leo, to the established author Hannah Tigone, who is writing a mystery novel set in Boston. Leo is providing an American perspective. In the first chapter Hannah is in Boston on a writing fellowship, sharing a table with four strangers in the Boston Public Library. She is making notes on her companions as potential characters in her book when a scream from the next room jolts the four strangers into conversation, and they introduce themselves.

The beginning of the book, Leo's email and the first chapter, is confusing and rather dull, so I nearly gave up. The second chapter is from Hannah's book, which starts with four people in the Boston Public Library who hear a scream. The writer is now called Freddie Kincaid, and her three companions have the same names as the people in chapter one. So, there are three threads: the emails from Leo, commenting on the chapters Hannah has sent him for review; Hannah Tigone's thread; Freddie Kincaid's thread. It still sounds confusing, but it's easy enough to follow. A bit too meta for me, because I'd rather lose myself in the story than be drawn back into the artificiality of the writing process, but a quick and entertaining read.

mar 21, 4:40 pm

I've discovered the New York Times Spelling Bee and am addicted, so am trying to master US spelling. Is there a rule for doubling the end letter when you add ed or ing? Why annulled but not travelled? (Travelled didn't show as an error - are both travelled and traveled OK?) Sometimes the spelling doesn't match the pronunciation e.g. kidnaping, which I always read to rhyme with vaping, not slapping. Why slapping, not slaping?

mar 21, 6:07 pm

>186 pamelad: I think the rule about doubling the end letter is that you don't, very generally speaking. So canceled, traveled, etc. But this rule is frequently broken; it's very common to see cancelled or travelled, and slapping, snapping, etc. are standard. I would probably spell kidnapping with 2 p's, not 1.

Maybe there's a rule that you don't double the letter when the syllable isn't emphasized? That would explain annulled, snapping, etc.

mar 21, 6:13 pm

>186 pamelad: Since the NY Times is American English, there are hundreds of exceptions to any grammar rule. In the U.S. kidnapping does rhyme with slapping (short a sound). This is how they "used" to teach it (10 years ago) ....for words ending in consonants NOT stressed, you simply add ing=opening, listening. For words ending in consonants that are stressed-double the consonant before adding ing=planning, beginning, etc. For words ending in a short vowel and a single consonant letter, double the last consonant letter before adding ed=cupped, nabbed, pitted, etc. Again, there are literally hundreds of exceptions=parked, sealed, added, etc.

mar 22, 2:41 pm

>186 pamelad: I think the difference between "vaping" and "snapping" is that the a sound in the first is a long a; the root word is vape. You replace the "e" with the -ing or -ed endings. Short a sound (snap, kidnap, slap, etc.) double the p before adding -ed or -ing.

This generally applies (but of course not always--it's English!) to the other vowels--short vowel sounds double the last letter; long vowel sounds drop the "e" and add the ending.

mar 22, 5:09 pm

>187 NinieB:, >188 Tess_W:, >189 kac522: Thank you all.

Kidnaping is the word that puzzled me most. It's definitely spelt that way in books written in US English, because I notice it every time. Perhaps it's stuck between two rules: a two-syllable word with the emphasis on the first syllable doesn't double the final consonant, but the consonant needs to be doubled after the short "a" so the reader knows it's pronounced "napping", not "vaping". Just one of those inconsistencies that people absorb as they learn the language.

I would have said that we always double the consonant in Australia, but as Tess points out, there are many exceptions, including opening, listening and fidgeting, where we don't.

With words ending in "e", sometimes we drop the e and sometimes we don't e.g. age/ageing but mate/mating. Aging makes sense because the "g" is followed by an "i", but I read it with a hard "g".

Redigerat: mar 23, 7:10 pm

In Canada we mostly use English spelling - so double consonant. But having moved around a lot in Canada I've noticed that people living close to the US border are more inclined to use US spelling. Both are acceptable but I am more inclined to use British spelling because that's where I'm from, but I have some exceptions for which I have no excuse but habit - like -ize in words like customize. I remember Colin Dexter's Morse saying anyone using -ize instead of -ise was illiterate. He also supported the Oxford comma, which I have always appreciated.

>185 pamelad: Very nice review. Gentill had me confusedly backtracking a few times.

mar 25, 5:25 pm

>191 VivienneR: US spelling and vocabulary are infiltrating, perhaps because Word Processor dictionaries default to US spelling and people leave them like that, and because there is so much writing coming from the US. I think the distinction between "practise" and "practice" might no longer exist for young people, and only people of my generation screech at "normalcy".

I've read that in Oxford English words from Latin and Greek roots take "ize" and the rest take "ise", but that's so academic! I use "ise" for everything except the New York Times Spelling Bee.

mar 25, 6:27 pm

2. Books I Own
4. Prizes and Lists
7. The Rest of the World

Blindness by Jose Saramago

The first man to go blind is stopped in his car at the traffic lights, the cars behind him beeping impatiently. A taxi driver, who appears to be a Good Samaritan, takes the blind man home and, soon after, loses his sight as well. As blindness spreads rapidly through the population, the authorities take steps to control the epidemic, beginning with the forcible incarceration of the blind and their contacts. They're locked in a disused mental asylum, left to their own devices, and guarded by armed soldiers who are so fearful that they shoot on sight.

The central characters, who acquired their blindness from the first man, share the same ward. They are his wife, the taxi driver who escorted him home, the ophthalmologist who treated him and the people who were in the ophthalmologist's waiting room - an old man with an eye patch, a young woman who sleeps with men in a semi-professional way, and a small boy with a squint. The doctor's wife faked her blindness so that she could accompany her husband, so she looks after the group and is a witness to the terrors that ensue as blindness spreads though the population and society descends into chaos.

A very worthwhile, thought-provoking read, which I recommend highly. Jose Saramago won a Nobel Prize.

Redigerat: mar 25, 7:15 pm

>192 pamelad: Canadian English preserves the distinction as well, and I'm constantly correcting it in the documents I edit for exactly that reason.

>193 pamelad: This book has been on my list forever, so I've just put a hold on it. Glad you recommend it!

Edit: Hmm it was actually Death with Interruptions that was on my list. Oh well! I have heard a lot of good things about Saramago in general.

Redigerat: mar 26, 12:37 am

>194 rabbitprincess: I'm adding Death with Interruptions aka Death at Intervals to the wish list. It looks really interesting too. Amazon tells me that I own All the Names, which tells me I should add all the Kindle bargains to my library straight away so I know what I have. Maybe I should even read them.

mar 26, 7:17 am

>195 pamelad: I'm scared to go into my Kindle and compare what is actually there to what is listed in LT!

mar 26, 6:19 pm

I've given up on Lessons in Chemistry because the characters are such caricatures. I don't like its artificiality and am unhappy with the scientists being portrayed as weirdos.

Redigerat: mar 28, 4:14 pm

8. Crime
10. Bingo

The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths

Published this year, this is the most recent book in the Ruth Galloway series, set in 2021. In England the Covid lockdowns are over. but isolation rules are still in force and the King's Lynn police station is short-staffed.

A builder who is demolishing part of the basement of an old shop comes across a skeleton, so Ruth is called in. A metal plate in an ankle enables the police to identify the victim, who went missing twenty years ago. I thought The Last Remains was tired, too same-same. Another missing girl. Another charismatic university lecturer.

I skipped The Locked Room and The Night Hawks so missed a few steps in the Ruth/Nelson romance, which is not a problem because I'm sick of the pair of them. Now that I know what happens I can go back and read the books later.

Despite the evidence of this less than stellar review I quite enjoyed The Last Remains, but I think the series should have ended a few books ago.

I'm using this for the STEM square because Ruth is a forensic archaeologist.

Redigerat: mar 30, 5:11 am

Over the last couple of days I've added all the unread books on my Kindle and Kobo, a lot of them daily deals and BookBub bargains. I now have 134 books tagged tbr, the most ever, but piddling compared to lots of people here.

Next the shelves, where there might be thirty more, but perhaps none if I added them ages ago.

ETA So far this year I've read 10 books I own, which isn't too shabby, so if I didn't succumb to any more bargains, I could clear backlog in 3 and a bit years. Less, because I don't think all of them will turn out to be worth reading. There are also some dull and worthy books that I've started numerous times. I could delete them or leave them in Kindle limbo (neither deleted nor downloaded).

mar 30, 3:57 pm

2. Books I Own

Girl on a Wire by Libby Phelps

The author was brought up in the Westboro Baptist Church to believe that homosexuality is evil and that America is going to hell for condoning it. They're the nutters who cruelly picket funerals and "dance little jigs" at disasters like 9/11. This pedestrian little memoir describes what it was like to grow up in the church, what drove the author to leave, and her life after.

It was a Kindle bargain and I thought it was by another Westboro escapee I'd read about, who had come across as a deeper thinker than Libby. It was interesting to read about the people in the Westboro church and their reasons for their actions, and it's a quick read.

mar 31, 4:18 am

>199 pamelad: Those daily deals are my nemesis! I finally got my TBR under 500 (my goal), now I'm going for under 400!

mar 31, 4:35 am

>200 pamelad: I got that book in a Bookbub deal a while ago, although I've not got to it yet. I suspect you were thinking of Megan Phelps Roper, who I think would be a cousin of Libby Phelps.

mar 31, 4:37 pm

>202 Jackie_K: Yes, she's the one.

>201 Tess_W: You've been really good at finishing the Kindle bargains, even when they're mediocre. I downloaded lots of free Regency Romances, started them and realised they weren't worth reading, then removed the download. In future I'm going to delete these as soon as I decide not to read them.

2. Books I Own
5. Classics CAT
8. Crime

Commandments Six and Eight by E Aceituna Griffin

A Golden Age crime novel, first published in 1936. The young Oxford don, Ben Latham, is walking home from his London club when he finds a front door key on the pavement. Naturally he tried the front doors of the nearby houses until he finds the right one, and naturally he goes inside! His uncharacteristic impulse involves him in mystery and romance, as his chivalrous instincts urge him to protect the naive Gerda, who is straight from an Austrian convent, from the suspicious machinations of a German baron and baroness. Ariadne Page, a beautiful and notorious bright young thing, and an equally gorgeous young man, Mark Harmon, live with the German couple, who have a hold over them.

There's theft and murder, as you can tell from the title. The book is quite readable, but the plot is silly and relies too much on coincidence, while the characters don't really come to life except for Ben's aunt, who very conveniently lives close to the country house rented by the suspect baron and his companions.

Redigerat: apr 1, 12:03 am

Quarterly Review

Best Books:

Blindness by Jose Saramago 5*
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini 4.5*
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata 4.5*

Four Star Runners Up

Things Could Be Worse Lily Brett
Too Many Men Lily Brett
The Bullet That Missed Richard Osman
Maestro Petr Goldsworthy
What Moves the Dead T Kingfisher
The Chalk Pit Elly Griffiths
The Lost World Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Cold Enough for Snow Jessica Au
French for Cats Henry Beard

Wooden spoon

The Wolf of Westmore by Amalie Howard 1*

Total Books Read: 71
This Thread: 46
Historical Romances Read: 32

The numbers don't add up because I entered some collections as a single book in my library, but as individual books on my threads.

A good reading quarter! All three best books were from my tbr pile, so who knows what other treasures are lurking there?

Redigerat: apr 2, 7:05 pm

6. Australia and New Zealand
8. Crime

Exiles by Jane Harper is the fourth Aaron Falk book. He's in the wine country of South Australia, staying at the Raco family vineyard. Falk is the godfather to the son of his colleague Greg Raco, the local policeman who was introduced in The Dry and who, with his wife Rita, is now Falk's close friend. The baby's baptism was postponed for a year because of the disappearance of Kim, the ex-partner of Greg's brother Charlie Raco, and mother to Greg's teenaged daughter Zara. Falk is drawn into the investigation of both Kim's disappearance and another older crime, the hit-run death of a local accountant, father to a friend of Zara and husband of a woman Falk is keen on.

Exiles was slow and dull. It's longer than it needs to be because of the sloppy writing.

apr 2, 6:24 pm

>205 pamelad: I'm hoping to read Exiles soon but there is a long holds list at the library so looks like it'll be a while.

apr 2, 7:00 pm

>206 VivienneR: I find Jane Harper's books inauthentic and don't quite understand why she's so popular. She's no Garry Disher. I'd classify Exiles as worth reading if it's free but not worth paying for. There's no need to rush - it's not that exciting.

apr 2, 7:01 pm

Congratulations on pulling 10 physical books from your pile! Blindness sounded very interesting, especially in light of the lockdowns we've all been through. And ditto the setting of Elly Griffith's latest.

I'm also fascinated by the memoirs of those who escape from the cults, like Westboro Baptist. They are such an antagonistic group and both of the books you mention here sound very interesting.

Hope you continue to have a successful April reading month!

Redigerat: apr 3, 2:53 am

>208 threadnsong: Thank you for dropping in. I don't know whether you'd call the Westboro Baptist Church a cult or an extreme religious movement, but there are surely plenty of similarities between the two groups. Perhaps outsiders see a cult and insiders see a church. Unfollow by Megan Phelps Roper looks as though it could be interesting.

I think I've become a lazy reader during the lockdowns, unwilling to make the effort to concentrate on demanding books. When I do, it's definitely worth the trouble, so I plan to dig some intelligent books out of the pile, starting with The Novel of Ferrara, which I started but put aside because it required thinking.

apr 3, 2:10 pm

>209 pamelad: Not to be an enabler or anything (ha!) but Unfollow is on a 99p deal on kindle and kobo in the UK, so it might be worth looking up in case it's also a deal in Australia.

apr 3, 4:27 pm

>210 Jackie_K: Thank you! It's $12.99 unfortunately, but I'll keep an eye on it in case it's discounted in future.

Redigerat: apr 4, 6:14 pm

5. ClassicsCAT
8. Crime

Juggernaut by Alice Campbell

Esther Rowe is a Canadian nurse. She accompanied a patient to Cannes, and wants to stay there longer, so she takes a job with the intimidating Doctor Gregory Sartorius, whose life is dedicated to scientific research. Sartorius takes patients only to earn money for his research. He has already discovered an antidote to tetanus and is working on one for typhoid, which is rife in Cannes. This really takes you back to the book's publication date of 1928 - before vaccination, before antibiotics, a water supply that couldn't be trusted. Sartorius gives up his practice when he is hired as a private physician to a rich, elderly man, Sir Charles Clifford, who is suffering from typhoid. Esther accepts the position as Clifford's day nurse, and becomes suspicious of Clifford's much younger wife, who is having an affair with an impecunious younger man.

Juggernaut was interesting for its picture of the times, rather than for its characters and plot. It's highly melodramatic, and both Sartorius and Lady Clifford are stock villains. Lady Clifford has the hands of a cocotte, with short fat fingers!

apr 5, 10:25 pm

>203 pamelad: I finish most, especially if they are shorter, because I am afflicted with a disease, completism! I've tried to rid myself of this disease, but have not been really successful!

apr 6, 12:53 am

>207 pamelad: I noticed the lack of authenticity but hoped Exiles would be better. I took notice that your comments described it as slow and dull. But Garry Disher is excellent - definitely a better choice.

apr 6, 5:14 pm

>214 VivienneR: I've never forgiven her for the insult to Gough Whitlam so I judge her books very harshly. Glad you like Garry Disher. He knows his characters and his settings.

apr 6, 5:32 pm

I've downloaded all the unread books in Kindle cyberspace onto my Kindle, with the plan of reading them or deleting them. Just about to add them to my library.

Last year I had a binge on John Pickett regency mysteries by Sheri Cobb South and bought two box sets, John Pickett Mysteries 1-5 and John Pickett Mysteries 6-10. I stopped after number 7 and have now resumed with number 8, Peril by Post which, like the other seven, is a pleasant, undemanding read.

apr 6, 6:22 pm

>213 Tess_W: Sometimes I think I should keep reading a book because lots of people liked it, so when I do give up it's such a relief that I know I made the right decision. There are so many good books to read that you don't have to finish the ones you don't like. If you read 60 pages and it's a struggle, you can give up!

All bargain historical romances are experiments, so I can give up at grammatical errors, historical mistakes, bad word choices, heavy-handed twenty-first century irony, early onset lust, people standing in front of mirrors and describing their appearance......

Redigerat: apr 6, 6:58 pm

>217 pamelad: There's always the Pearl Rule of 50 for dropping a bad book:

Essentially, it's like yours, except she goes with 50 pages; BUT if your age is over 50, then you subtract your age from 100, and that's your page limit. Basically, the older you get, the less you need to put up with a book that doesn't interest you.😊

apr 7, 1:00 am

>218 kac522: A good rule. I'm good at stopping reading when I'm not enjoying a book, but not as good at disposing of the books. Ebooks are worse, somehow, perhaps because they're not taking up space on shelves.

Redigerat: apr 7, 11:27 am

I thought of your and Tess' remarks on big books this week. I was invited to a friend's book club and they asked what I had lined up to read (no one with the TBR I have should be asked such a question, my decisions are never very stable!). I said I had been planning to read Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith for several months and that was my only plan for summer reading. I was just making a joke about it, but I also said I was going to stop reading her books because she didn't know when to stop writing. They thought that was funny, they seemed to be people that hadn't read for many years but they'll learn.

apr 7, 2:56 pm

>217 pamelad: I tell myself I can give up on such books....but I have as much success as eating just one piece of chocolate!

apr 7, 3:36 pm

>215 pamelad: Sorry, Pam, you will have to explain the William Gough insult to me. I haven't been able to find any reference to him. If it was in one of the books I read, it went over my head.

Redigerat: apr 7, 6:16 pm

>220 clue: The Ink Black Heart is off my list, along with the last Matthew Shardlake novel, Tombland. Over 1000 pages of Cormoran Strike make 600+ of Tombland look concise, but 600 pages are still much too many for a crime novel. Bring back the days of 256 page books!

>221 Tess_W: But Tess, you're enjoying the chocolate! Much preferable to plodding through a mediocre book. Perhaps we need to apply Marie Kondo. Is this book giving me joy?

>222 VivienneR: Gough Whitlam was a much-revered Labor prime minister in the seventies. His reforming government abolished conscription, brought the troops home from Vietnam, instituted free university education, introduced Medibank (free medical treatment), recognised China, and more. Jane Harper was a journalist for the very right-wing Murdoch press. Her use of Whitlam as a name for the villain shows, at best, how little she knows about Australian culture.

apr 7, 7:01 pm

>223 pamelad: I knew about Gough Whitlam and his stellar reputation, and knew Harper created a character with the same last name but didn't connect them. However, I didn't know about her right-wing history. Yes, I understand how you feel. When I read that she was actually from England I realized her first book was something of a fluke, confirmed by the second.

apr 7, 7:16 pm

Interesting! I’m reading Jane Harper’s newest mystery right now. Her books are hit or miss for me and I knew nothing about her political leanings.

Redigerat: apr 8, 1:58 am

>225 japaul22: Here is a review of Garry Disher's Bitter Wash Road, the first book in the Hirsch series. The book is set in a small, isolated town in South Australia, like the one where Disher grew up. His books have a much more authentic sense of place than Harper's; his characters are believable; the writing is better.

His Peninsula series, which starts with The Dragon Man, is set on the Mornington Peninsula, about an hour's drive from Melbourne, where he lives now.

Garry Disher's politic leanings are perfectly acceptable! I recommend both series highly.

I hope you like Exiles, but not too much.

apr 8, 7:37 am

>226 pamelad: Thanks for the suggestions! I've made a note of them on my wishlist.

apr 8, 7:03 pm

Speaking of Australian writers - I really enjoyed The Fine Colour of Rust by P.A. O'Reilly and have been searching for another book by her. No luck so far but I keep looking.

Redigerat: apr 13, 2:14 am


Redigerat: apr 9, 3:42 am

>228 VivienneR: The Fine Colour of Rust isn't available here at a sensible price, but I've found three of her books, under the name Paddy O'Reilly, in Overdrive: The End of the World, Peripheral Vision and Other Houses (can't find this touchstone). Other Houses is an audiobook, but I'll look in a few other libraries for the ebook because it looks interesting. The other two are probably interesting as well, but they look to be more fantastic than realistic.

I've added Other Houses to my LT wish list. It's also called Other Lives.

There's another book, Wonders, aka The Wonders: A Novel.

apr 9, 4:21 am

2. Books I Own
8. Crime

John Pickett Mysteries 6-10 by Sheri Cobb South

I've just finished the last two, Into Thin Eire and Brother, Can You Spare a Crime. Light, pleasant reads. I'm now looking for another historical mystery series. The Northminster Mysteries is my favourite series of those I've read recently.

apr 9, 11:11 pm

>231 pamelad: The titles say it all! A friend used to say "Everyone groans at puns because they did not think of it first." I'm glad you enjoyed these reads, especially as you've had a string of books you had to give up on. Sort of like finding the bag of Easter candy when you got tired of the repetitive M&M's!

apr 10, 5:46 pm

>232 threadnsong: Yes, puns scream cosy mystery. Or romance. I'm now reading Death Can Be Habit-Forming, the 11th John Pickett mystery, and am sure that only villains will die. To continue the food analogy, these are the salted peanuts of literature.

I've downloaded all my unfinished books from the Kindle cloud to my actual Kindle with the aim of reading them or deleting them and have deleted a few already. If I've read 30% of a book and haven't been bothered to finish it, it should go.

Redigerat: apr 10, 11:18 pm

9. Book Bullets VivienneR and RidgewayGirl

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy is set in Northern Ireland in the seventies, during The Troubles. Twenty-four-year-old Cushla Lavery teaches grade 3 at a Catholic primary school and works evening shifts at the family pub run by her brother, Eamonn. The Lavery's live in a small town outside Belfast, a mixed area, and the clients of the pub include both Catholics and Protestants. One of them is Michael Agnew, a married barrister in his fifties, a Protestant who defends young Catholic men, some of them innocent of the crimes they're accused of, arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He and Cushla begin an affair, which is doomed from the beginning and puts Cushla, her family and Michael Agnew at risk. I thought the romance was the weakest part of the book, though effective as a plot device. The rest of the book is excellent and describes life in Northern Ireland from the inside.

Cushla becomes enmeshed in the problems of the McGeown family, who are tormented because Mrs McGeown is Protestant and her husband Catholic. Davy, the youngest child, is in Cushla's class, ignored by the other students and victimised by both the priest, Father Slattery and the school principal. Cushla's attempts to help make the McGeown's situation a great deal worse.

A very worthwhile read. Highly recommended.

Redigerat: apr 10, 11:19 pm

5. SeriesCAT

Furious Old Women by Leo Bruce

Carolus Deene, history teacher and amateur sleuth, has been called in to investigate the death of a fanatically religious old woman, loathed by everyone who knew her. As a supporter of the evangelical extreme of the Church of England, she was at war with a woman at the Catholic extreme, who was determined to introduce "popish practices" to the Anglican services. The vicar attempts to steer a path between the demands of his two most enthusiastic parishioners. There are some very amusing minor characters, particularly the vicar and the local police constable.

A light-hearted, humorous mystery. I enjoyed it.

apr 10, 10:30 pm

>234 pamelad:
>235 pamelad:

Both BB's for me......sigh!

apr 10, 11:24 pm

>236 Tess_W: I hope you like them. They're both a sensible length, as well as being good reads.

apr 11, 7:41 pm

8. Crime

Death Can Be Habit-Forming by Sheri Cobb South is the most recent John Pickett mystery.

Pickett has left the Bow Street Runners and is working as a clerk. He advertised himself as a private detective but received no responses and is unwilling to lead a life of leisure on his wife's money. When a client turns up, Pickett takes on the job, extricating a young woman from an institution for opium addicts, and persuades his wife to sign him in as a patient.

I've read too many of these so it's just as well there are no more. (Just one novella.)

apr 12, 2:58 pm

>234 pamelad: I also am hearing good things about Trespasses. This is one of the longlist for the Women's Prize for fiction that I'm interested in reading.

apr 12, 6:12 pm

>239 markon: The reviews here by VivienneR and RidgewayGirl brought Trespasses to my attention. Definitely worth reading.

I've read a few recent books about the Troubles: The Colony by Audrey Magee, Milkman by Anna Burns and Say Nothing, non-fiction by Patrick Radden Keefe. All worth reading, with my favourite being Milkman, which I liked at least as much as Trespasses.

Redigerat: apr 13, 5:38 pm

5. GeoCAT South America

The Widow Ching - Pirate by Jorge Luis Borges

This Penguin Mini Modern Classic contains five short stories. Three, including the title story, are about infamous historical figures. Tion, Uqbar, Orbis, Tertius and Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote are among Borges most famous writings.

I have neither the turn of mind nor the erudition to appreciate these stories, which have left me puzzled and confused. But Borges has been on my list of writers I ought to read for a long time, so I'm glad I tried.

Returned to add the category.

apr 13, 2:08 am

>230 pamelad: Thank you for the reminder that O'Reilly also goes by the name Paddy. I found one book - The Wonders among the libraries where I can borrow. Added to my list.

>234 pamelad: Glad you enjoyed Trespasses. I agree, the romance was weak but I put that down to the fact that at that time it was dangerous to form a relationship with someone of the "other" denomination. It was always frowned upon but in the 1970s there were reports of "offenders" suffering horrifying attacks, often by their own family and/or friends. That would cool my heels!

Redigerat: apr 13, 5:40 pm

9. Book Bullets Aviatakh

The Governesses by Anne Serre

Three young governesses are employed by Mr and Mrs Austeur to look after their four little boys. In their yellow dresses they lean up against the gate of the walled garden, as crowds of men gather in the road. When strangers find their way into the garden, the governesses use them to satisfy their sexual needs leaving them drained and deflated on the lawn. An old man watches through a telescope. The four little boys become a crowd, with the oldest of them yearning after the governesses, who romp naked in the woods.

This is a very weird little book. A fabulous find, thank you Aviatakh. It reminds me a little of Barbara Comyns with a bit of Leonora Carrington.

apr 13, 11:52 pm

>243 pamelad: So pleased you liked it too. A hard one to describe but Serre is a great wordsmith.

Redigerat: apr 18, 1:12 am

2. Books I Own
8. Crime

Murder at the Pageant by Victor L. Whitechurch

Far too many people to keep track of are participating in a private entertainment, dressed in Elizabethan costumes. A man is killed, and some pearls are stolen. The police and an ex-member of the secret service investigate. Nothing special.

First published in 1930 and re-published by Black Heath Classic Crime.

apr 18, 1:23 am

8. Crime

Death in the Middle Watch by Leo Bruce

The owner of Sunshine Cruises has been receiving anonymous letters threatening a death on a cruise, so he has hired Carolus Deene to prevent the crime. In lieu of payment, Deene has brought along his headmaster, Mr Gorringer (who is quite unnecessary) and his housekeeper, Mrs Stick (good for comic relief) accompanied by her husband. On the same cruise a year ago, a man died and was buried at sea, and this year his wife, newly married to a man she met on last year's cruise, is again on board. Deen's presence does not prevent two more murders.

I like Leo Bruce's sense of humour, so found Death in the Middle Watch very amusing.

apr 22, 8:55 am

>245 pamelad: After finishing Death of Jezebel, I'm now curious about pageants. I guess historical pageants were quite popular in England in that time period!

apr 22, 6:30 pm

>247 mathgirl40: Along with home theatricals and historical tableaux, which I've also come across in books of that era and earlier. Perhaps confined to the wealthy, leisured classes? Have you read E F Benson's Lucia books? They're high comedy, set in a seaside town in England amongst wealthy middle-class people who have plenty of time for village politics, elaborate entertainments and passing crazes. I cannot recommend them highly enough!

apr 22, 6:39 pm

>248 pamelad: Thanks for the recommendation of the Lucia books. From the description, I think I would enjoy them very much.

apr 23, 6:36 pm

>228 VivienneR: Thank you for the introduction to Paddy O'Reilly. I've just read Other Houses and have located a copy of The Fine Colour of Rust, which I plan to read soon.

6. Australia and New Zealand

Other Houses by Paddy O'Reilly

It's taken me a while to finish this because I had so much sympathy for the main characters, Lily and Janks, that I really wanted things to work out for them, so I had to keep putting the book down because I was so worried for them.

Lily has an adolescent daughter, Jewel, who already has a criminal record and clearly has a death wish, because she's just been arrested for train surfing. Lily wants to give Jewel a new start, to move away from the rough Melbourne suburb where they've always lived to the more salubrious inner north. She's helped by Janks, who used to be addicted to heroin but has been off it for years. Lily has no control over Jewel, but Janks does, and they're a family now. Lily works as a cleaner, hence the book's title, while Janks works in a factory. There's never enough money, so when Jewel wants to go on a school trip to Greece, there's no way in the world that Janks and Lily can pay for it.

Other Houses is leavened by Lily's humour and her down-to-earth perspective on her life and the lives of the people whose houses she cleans. The Janks and Lily chapters alternate, and it's the Janks chapters I couldn't bear to read, though I kept hoping he'd get out of the trap he'd made for himself.

The places in Other Houses are very familiar to me, which always adds a lot to my enjoyment of a book. I live in the inner north, which was not nearly as salubrious when I first moved here, and taught for a while in Broadmeadows, where Lily comes from. I'm not too comfortable with equating Broadmeadows and the criminal underworld, because the majority of the people there don't deserve the stigma, but for a Melbournian Broadie is shorthand for disadvantage and crime.

apr 23, 7:01 pm

1. Non-fiction

The Trolley Problem by Thomas Cathcart

Five people are on a tramline in the path of a runaway trolly, unable to get clear. One person is stuck on a branch line. You can pull a lever to divert the trolley to the branch line, killing one person instead of five. What would you do?

Cathcart analyses this philosophical problem from many perspectives. The woman who pulled the lever has been charged with manslaughter in the court of public opinion, and Cathcart presents both the prosecution and the defence by referring to philosophers, religious teachings and psychology. He delves into the problems with using analogies. This short book was an interesting exercise in clear thinking, though a little repetitive.

apr 23, 7:47 pm

>248 pamelad: On my WL those books go!

apr 23, 9:28 pm

>234 pamelad: Likewise! Putting on my WishList about the Troubles!

>250 pamelad: Thanks for sharing these bits of Australian "shorthand" with us. I knew about "urban" or "city" as a subtle nod to Southern racism, and knowing how modern Australia has its own subtleties is enlightening.

apr 24, 12:15 am

>253 threadnsong: I don't want you to get the wrong idea about racism in Australia. It certainly exists, but differently from the US. There are areas and suburbs of Melbourne where housing is cheaper, incomes are lower, crime rates are higher, and there's more disadvantage, so they're stigmatised. Broadmeadows is one of them. The Housing Commission high rise flats are stigmatised for the same reasons. I used to teach in a school right next to the high rise flats, and there were waves of immigration, so the nationalities of the residents changed over the years. Last in, most disadvantaged. People from many, many different countries live in Melbourne.

apr 24, 3:18 am

>252 Tess_W: Tess, the Lucia books are free on Gutenberg and only $A 1.03 on Amazon. Lucia is such an awful person and so very funny.

apr 29, 2:25 pm

>250 pamelad: Glad you enjoyed Paddy O'Reilly. I'm just sorry that the library holdings here are so few and no kindle versions listed on Amazon. I'll have to seek out reasonably priced paper copies.

>248 pamelad: & >255 pamelad: I second E.F. Benson's Lucia books. I've read them all two or three times and was devastated when mine were badly water damaged in a flood a couple of years ago. I became hooked on Mapp and Lucia with the fabulous tv series back in the 1990s.

Redigerat: apr 30, 12:43 am

>256 VivienneR: I've found The Fine Colour of Rust on Overdrive and put it on my library wish list for later. Amazon didn't have the ebook, but Kobo does, in Australia at least.

I started with a Kindle, then bought a Kobo ereader as well because we can only borrow library ebooks in epub format. As well, some books are available for purchase on one, but not the other. You can never have too many ereaders. A tablet is useful too, for reading pdf's from the Open Library.

I sold or donated my Lucia books when I moved, then bought them all again!

Redigerat: apr 30, 6:04 am

5. GeoCAT
7. Rest of the World
8. Crime

The Day of the Owl by Leonardo Sciascia

In a small Sicilian town a man is shot and killed as he runs for the Palermo bus, but not one of the fifty passengers sees a thing. The captain of the Carabinieri, a mainlander from Palma, painstakingly puts together a case against three men, all members of the mafia. In 1961 when the book was first published, the right-wing politicians in Government denied the mafia's existence, despite the Socialists and the Communists raising mafia crimes in parliament and the Fascists blaming the mafia resurgence on government incompetencet. This is the first Italian mafia novel, a piece of history. It is only 120 pages long and in a coda the author explains why.

"Excuse the length of this letter," wrote a Frenchman ..........."but I have had no time to make it shorter." The author took a year to shorten The Day of the Owl, not for literary reasons but for self-defence, to avoid charges of slander and libel. I was unable to write it with that complete freedom to which every writer is entitled


apr 30, 8:04 am

>255 pamelad: Got the 1st to read it!

apr 30, 6:11 pm

>259 Tess_W: I hope you like it!

apr 30, 8:05 pm

>261 pamelad: I'm cheering for Trespasses to win the Women's Prize, but I'm also cheering for Maggie O'Farrell's book The Marriage Portrait. None of the others on the short list are particularly tempting to me.

maj 1, 5:50 pm

2. Books I Own

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Years ago I picked up a remaindered copy of Pastoralia, which introduced me to Saunders' short stories, and since then I've sought them out. They're funny and strange, and I like his humanitarian outlook on life. Lincoln in the Bardo is probably his best-known book because it won the Booker, but I prefer his short stories. A Swim in the Pond in the Rain is drawn from the classes Saunders delivers to aspiring writers. He analyses seven stories by the writers Chekov, Tolstoy, Turgenev and Gogol and gets a lot more out of them than I ever could (not surprisingly). The book really made me stop and think about what separates a good story (or book) from a great one. The reasons are in the back of your mind as you read (I know when a writer makes the banal choice and I'm disappointed) but he's crystallised them, expanded them and explained them. It would be a real privilege to be in Saunders' writing class.

Redigerat: maj 1, 6:24 pm

Last year for my LT Anniversary I decided that instead of buying fifteen books, some of which would end up on the tbr pile, I'd only buy books to read straight away, and wouldn't buy a new one until I'd finished the previous one. So I only bought four, and with A Swim in a Pond in the Rain have read them all. That leaves 11 ebooks that I'd normally be too frugal to purchase. (It hurts to spend close to $20 on an ebook, even when I really want to read it.) Contemplating number 5.

I still have some Anniversary books left over from 2021: The Books of Jacob and Segu. It looks as though I forgot the Anniversary altogether in 2020.

Another book in the tbr pile that I really want to read this year is The Novel of Ferrara by Giorgio Bassani. It consists of six volumes and the first is a collection of short stories. I've read some of them and stopped because they were too real and too sad, and I wanted frivolity. It's 800 pages long, so would count for the bonus category in the Historical Challenge.

Redigerat: maj 6, 8:21 pm

I'm reading The Twilight World by Werner Herzog and have just come across this sentence: Through him the jungle is to become more than a jungle, a landscape with a deadly nimbus of sudden demise. Despite its unEnglishness I can understand what it means, unlike this selection which, after the first sentence, makes almost no sense:Recollections, or maybe dreams, of the ensuing days are foggy, have taken on a life of their own. Scraps of things, subject to alteration and rearrangement, hard to grasp and lacking a scheme, like a tourbillion of dried leaves that nevertheless indicates where it has come from and where it is going.

Wikipedia tells me that a tourbillon (not a tourbillion, which I can't find) is, in horology, an addition to the mechanics of a watch escapement to increase accuracy.

I don't know whether this pompous murkiness is due to Herzog or his translator. Perhaps it's a synergistic interaction.

ETA The translator is the renowned, award-winning Michael Hofmann, which suggests that the prose problems are Herzog's.

ETA again. Tourbillion is the brand name for a range of extra-large ceiling fans, which would make more sense in that sentence fragment but strikes me as insanely obscure. Or are ceiling fans called tourbillions in other countries, like Hoover for vacuum cleaner or Kleenex for tissue?

maj 7, 5:02 pm

11. Historical Fiction Challenge

The Twilight World by Werner Herzog

For twenty-nine years after the end of WWII Hiroo Onoda defended Luban, an island in the Philippines. The Japanese troops had left, and Onoda had been ordered to defend the island until he was relieved. That is exactly what he did.

Herzog has used Onoda's experiences to trigger his own philosophical reflections. I've never been keen on fictionalised reconstructions of the lives of real people because of their mixture of fact and fantasy and the impossibility of knowing where the real person ends and the author begins. This book was even iffier, because Onoda has written his own account, unacknowledged by Herzog. I found Herzog's book interesting because of the real person it was based on but would have been better off reading Hiroo Onoda's original, No Surrender: My Thirty-year War, which I've put on my wish list.

The Twilight World completes my last remaining core category for the Historical Fiction Challenge: 6. Read a work of historical fiction about a real historical figure or a specific historical event. Now there's only the bonus category to go.

Redigerat: maj 9, 7:22 am

1. Non-fiction
2. Books I Own
5. SeriesCAT

Plots and Prayers by Niki Savva is the third book in the Road to Ruin trilogy, which traces the downfall of the Australian Liberal Party. For those outside Australia, the Liberal Party isn't liberal in the sense of the US Democrats, or of the UK Liberal Party: It's conservative and is moving further and further to the right. I enjoyed the first book, The Road to Ruin, very much because I had been so pleased to see the homophobic, climate-denying Tony Abbot replaced by the urbane, progressive (for a Liberal) Malcolm Turnbull. I enjoyed the third book, Bulldozed, even more because it's about the defeat of Scott Morrison's Coalition Government by the Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese. Morrison must come close to being Australia's worst ever prime minister, described by some political commentators as a "once in a lifetime gift to the Labor Party".

The middle book, Plots and Prayers describes the political coup that destroyed Turnbull and replaced him with Morrison. I didn't read the book when it was first published because although Turnbull was fiscally conservative he was socially liberal - centre-right rather than far-right - so his replacement by Scott Morrison was a Very Bad Thing. But when I saw the book on BookBub, I had to buy it.

Niki Savva has excellent political contacts and interviewed many Liberal Party politicians who spoke to her honestly about the coup against Turnbull. It would have been better to read the book closer to the events it describes, because I found it hard to keep track of all the players, but it was fascinating all the same, in an awful way.

Redigerat: maj 9, 5:24 pm

3. Wish List

Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman

Grossman is a respected translator from Spanish into English, including works by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. Why Translation Matters is a collection of three lectures Grossman gave to Yale University. She talks about the way she translates, the importance of reading books in translation, and the need for better recognition of the work of translators. One small point: Grossman is incensed by British publishers changing her American terminology into British. I am extremely irritated by British English being changed into American when the book is set in Britain, about British people, and by a British author, but the books being translated aren't American or British, so there's no right or wrong form of English to use. If American terminology jars British readers why not replace it, and vice versa?

i read the first two essays with interest, but the third is about translating poetry and I'd need a lot more technical knowledge to understand it. All the same, I'm counting the book as read! It's available from the Open Library.

maj 12, 8:24 am

>268 pamelad: That sounds very interesting. I agree with you about the switching of British/American terminology and when it's appropriate (or not). When I was working in academia several years ago I co-authored an article for an international journal which stated in the submission guidelines that both British and American English spellings were acceptable. However, they got an American proofreader who changed every single one of our British terms to the American (including the titles of already published articles in the bibliography!). We sent it back to the editor, who thankfully agreed with us and changed them all back. If it had been a solely American journal that would have been fine, but when it specifically said British spellings were acceptable, reading it with American spellings made my teeth itch!

maj 12, 11:43 am

>269 Jackie_K: LOL to "made my teeth itch!"

maj 12, 5:08 pm

>269 Jackie_K: Sometimes in Australia the US version is the only one available, even for books set in Australia by Australian authors. I tell myself that it's because of our small population and small market and that it's better to have the US version than none, but it's massively irritating to read Americanisms in an Australian book. In one of Candice Fox's Crimson Lake series, there was a diner in the remote tropical rainforest and a crocodile as big as a limousine. We don't have diners and limousines here, so we're confused.

That proofreader sounds absolutely clueless. Titles in the bibliography! Glad you got their changes sorted out.

maj 12, 5:23 pm

I've been away for a few days visiting a friend from primary school who's been ill for a long time. It was good to see her, but very sad. It's a long drive, so I can't see her often.

I read only historical romances while I was away. It's time to read something more demanding!

Redigerat: maj 22, 3:37 pm

1. Non-fiction

Transgender Body Politics by Heather Brunskell-Evans

Brunskell-Evans is an academic, a philosopher and a female-rights campaigner. She's a gender-critical feminist, not a tolerant live-and-let-live one like J K Rowling, but more extreme in that she denies the existence of trans men and women. She does, however, make some very, well-researched points about the erosion of women's rights and the lack of scientific evidence for many of the claims of the trans lobby. From my own perspective, the debate these days seems to be focused on the extremes and it's getting worse. On one hand, legislators in the US are passing laws that victimise trans men and women, while on the other, women can lose their jobs for stating that there are two biological sexes, because that's defined as transphobic.

I've mentioned before that I have many qualms about self-identification of gender: the elderly lady I met at the gym who no longer went to the one near her home because she couldn't cope with naked, male-bodied people in the change room; the students at the disadvantaged school where a friend teaches, kids with many, many problems who've been diagnosed as trans and led to believe that identifying as a different gender will fix everything. The same friend told me about a youngish, male teacher who'd just been away on a school camp: he spoke of his female students as "menstruators". He had no idea how misogynistic this was, but thought he was being inclusive, and none of his colleagues can risk saying anything!

Overall, I thought Brunskell-Evans views were too extreme, but that she made many valid points.

ETA It's available on KoboPlus.

maj 22, 4:04 pm

8. Crime

Death of a Commuter by Leo Bruce

Carolus Deene, the wealthy, urbane history master and amateur detective, has been persuaded by his man-of-all-work, Stick, to investigate the death of Felix Parador. It has been ruled as suicide but Stick, who used to work for Parador, is convinced that the man would not have killed himself. Parador used to travel to London every weekday, in the same seat in the same first-class carriage, with the same companions. On the day after his death, a man dressed in black took Parador's seat, and announced that Parador would not be coming.

There are many potential suspects, so many that it was hard to keep track, but Leo Bruce is always entertaining. I like his sardonic humour, and although this isn't his best book it's an enjoyable read.

maj 23, 9:03 am

>273 pamelad: I say let people "think" what they want; it doesn't make it truth. What "makes" truth is that women are quickly losing rights they so long fought for, such as in sports. Many females have now lost college scholarships (swimming, tennis, volleyball) to males who identify as females. I shudder to think what the next Olympics will look like--I won't be watching. It is no longer "safe" to use public restrooms because every pervert in the world now congregates in the women's restrooms. Women are losing their freedoms!

maj 23, 3:04 pm

>268 pamelad: & >269 Jackie_K: and more: I just started reading what I expected to be a YA mystery set in England by an English author: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. Instead I find the publisher has changed not just spelling but the entire story to an American location, school, etc for an American audience. This bothers me on so many levels. Does the publisher think an American (young or not) will not understand a novel set in England? Is it inadvisable for American youth to read about other countries? This makes more than my teeth itch!

Redigerat: maj 23, 4:33 pm

>275 Tess_W: With the rest room thing, you're talking about men who pretend to be trans women in order to find victims? Brunskell-Evans quotes a survey that states that some staggering percentage of prisoners in British male prisons, something like 10-15%, say that they identify as women. These are unintended consequences of self-identification of gender, but they're real. People need to be able to talk about these issues and deal with them. Too many changes too fast. I think you'd find Transgender Body Politics interesting, and even better are Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism by Kathleen Stock, which is less polemical and more even-handed, and Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality by Helen Joyce, which is less rigorous than Material Girls but a more entertaining read.

maj 23, 4:42 pm

>276 VivienneR: That's just awful! You'd think that the Englishness would be integral to the story. Perhaps editors underestimate their readership.

On a related topic is the Bowdlerisation of Roald Dahl, where editors have inserted bland cliches into his wickedly funny stories. Surely, if publishers believe they should update books to fit in with contemporary attitudes (I'd rather they were left unchanged as a snapshot of the times they were written), they could employ editors with literary skills?

maj 23, 8:23 pm

>278 pamelad: The Roald Dahl changes (are they proposed, or have they been made?) are just sad. The humour as Dahl intended is being erased.

I discarded my two Holly Jackson books. They might be very good but that change just drives me crazy.

maj 25, 3:46 am

>279 VivienneR: Because of the uproar, both versions will be published, the original one and the bland, boring one. It's good that Dahl's originals will remain in print.

In Australia we sometimes get British publications, but not always. It's jarring to read about sidewalks, fall and faucets in a British book. When I run across normalcy instead of normality, I have to take a break to recover my equilibrium.

maj 27, 3:40 pm

8. Crime

Death at St Asprey's School by Leo Bruce

Carolus Deene, history master and amateur sleuth, has been asked by Mr Gorringer, his pompous headmaster, to investigate some nasty incidents at a preparatory school, St Asprey's, run by Goringer's friend Sconer and Sconer's battleaxe of a wife. Coline Sime, an assistant master, is immobilised with a broken leg due to falling down a steep, winding staircase in a church tower, so Deene takes his place.

Another entertaining mystery. The prep school boys are very amusing.

The Carolus Deene series is available on Kobo Plus. At the moment they're my fallback reads when I'm looking for something light and amusing, and I'll be sad to reach the end. The consolation is that Sergeant Beef is waiting.

Redigerat: maj 30, 5:49 pm

6. Australia and New Zealand
11. Historical Fiction Challenge

Cafe Scheherazade by Arnold Zable

For five centuries the city of Vilna, part of Poland between the wars and now Vilnius in Lithuania, was a centre of Jewish culture. In 1939, of the total population of 200,000 over 60,000 were Jews and their numbers were augmented by more than 10,000 Jews escaping German-occupied Poland for Soviet-occupied Vilna. Some of these new arrivals were members of the Polish Bund, a Jewish Socialist Party which operated as an underground anti-Nazi organisation. The survivors whose stories Zable tells were all living in Vilna in 1939.

Cafe Scheherazade was opened in Acland Street St Kilda in 1958 by Avram and Masha Zeleznikov. Acland Street is a piece of Eastern Europe transplanted to a raffish inner Melbourne suburb by the sea, and Zable's book has a real sense of place. For fifty years the Scheherezade was a meeting place and a refuge for Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe, and in the 1990s Arnold Zable, a journalist, interviewed the elderly proprietors and their customers for an article he was writing. Drawn in by their stories and wanting to capture them before it was too late, Zable spend many evenings in the Scheherazade, listening and recording. His book is based on fact, but it is classified as fiction because he has amalgamated characters, changed their names, and fleshed out some of their stories with his own research.

The stories are harrowing. The Germans occupied Vilna in 1941 and killed thousands of Jews. They moved the rest to two Ghettos, one for workers and the other for women, children, the ill and the elderly. In 1941 the second ghetto was liquidated. 40,000 Jews were killed in Vilna. The story tellers in Cafe Scheherezade were witnesses. One escaped the ghetto and became a partisan. Another was imprisoned before the German invasion and sent to Siberia. Some escaped through Japan, with the help of two brave diplomats, Japanese Chiune Sugihara and Dutch Jan Zwartendijk. Others escaped to the Soviet Union where they were trapped.

A very worthwhile read. I recommend it.

jun 2, 2:09 pm

>281 pamelad: I have 3 works by Bruce on my shelf as yet unread. I need to get to at least one of them!

jun 5, 3:15 pm

>283 Tess_W: Is one of them Our Jubilee is Death? It's my favourite so far.

5. ClassicsCAT

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

A tatty Penguin paperback with brown pages and a $1 recommended price (30p or 6/- in the United Kingdom) is sitting on my shelves and I find that I initially gave the book 5 stars. Not this time though. I was taken aback by the racism, and by the nastiness of most of the characters. It's still funny in parts, but I can't say I enjoyed it.

I re-read Decline and Fall recently and enjoyed it again, so I suppose some of Waugh's books have held up better than others. The racism in Scoop shocked me even in my oblivious youth, so I certainly won't re-read that one, but perhaps The Sword of Honour trilogy is worth another try. I began Brideshead Revisited a while ago, having enjoyed both the book and the TV series, but it had lost its appeal.

jun 5, 3:20 pm

>284 pamelad: Yes, Our Jubilee is Death and Furious Old Women. Thought I had another one.........but can't find!

jun 5, 3:47 pm

5. SeriesCAT

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths is the second book in the Harbinder Kaur series.

Peggy Smith was ninety, an alert old lady who entertained herself by watching people in the esplanade outside her window and recording their movements in a notebook. When Natalka, Peggy's Ukrainian carer, finds Peggy dead in her chair, she is suspicious. Natalka recruits Benjamin the owner of a beachside coffee shack, and Edwin, a friend of Peggy's, to help her investigate. Peggy was a great fan of detective fiction and Natalka's investigations lead her to a community of crime-writers.

Harbinder Kaur, a detective with the local Shoreham police force, is sceptical when Natalka reports Peggy's death as suspicious, but becomes involved when Natalka, Benjamin and Edwin are menaced by a gunman in Peggy's flat.

I enjoyed the book because I liked the characters but wasn't impressed by the plot.

jun 9, 3:40 pm

Our book group is reading Small Things Like These on my recommendation, so I've just read it again and will be back to tell you what we thought about it. It's a select little group these days, just four core members with others popping in from time to time. Three people have moved out of the city, one left because she doesn't like reading fiction and one just .... left. We've managed a few book-free catch-ups at outdoor restaurants over the pandemic, but now we're back to meeting in people's houses. This one is at my place, so I've done a big clean-up.

Redigerat: jun 10, 5:04 pm

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

A perfect book group read: informative, thought-provoking, uplifting, beautifully written and short. Because it's so short we could actually remember details, and everyone had a lot to say. We were all quite shocked that, as late as 1985, the Catholic church still had such power in Ireland. None of us practise any religion (which is the norm in Australia, where the biggest religious group in the last census was "no religion"), but two of us come from Catholic families and two from Protestant families, which I think added to the discussion.

I've updated its rating from 4.5 stars to 5 and added it to 2. Books I Own

jun 10, 7:59 pm

>288 pamelad: Been on my WL for sometime. I will try to work it in this year.

jun 11, 10:02 pm

Hello Pamela. Dropping in to say hello, and thank you for some fascinating discussions on your thread. I had no idea about the difficulties with translations being "un-Britished" when they take place in Britain, nor about the "adjustments" to Roald Dahl's works. Thank goodness I still have my original copies of the "Charlie" series! How sad for those who will come after me.

And "Small Things" sounds like a fascinating book. I had read a book about the Magdalene Sisters a few years ago, and then the movie came out. I'm glad you had an interesting discussion with your book group about it.

jun 28, 5:24 pm

>290 threadnsong: Thank you for dropping in. American versions aren't just un-Britished. They're un-Frenched e.g. a Paris subway in an Annie Ernaux book, a Colette heroine performing in Vaudeville; un-Australianed e.g. a diner in a rainforest and a crocodile as big as limousine in a Candice Fox novel set in Queensland. I'd better stop so I don't seem like a pedant (which is only the truth!).

Redigerat: jun 28, 6:02 pm

Within the Walls by Giorgio Bassani is the first of the six books that make up The Novel of Ferrara. It is a collection of five short stories, which are observations of Jewish lives and Italian politics, mainly during the thirties and forties. Most of the protagonists are weak, vicious, corrupt or doomed, and the stories are clearly close to fact, so this is heavy going. I plan to read a book a month.

When I've finished The Novel of Ferrara I plan to count it for the Historical Fiction Challenge as a book over 500 pages.

A review:

jun 29, 12:45 am

>292 pamelad: That one goes on my "list!"

jul 11, 6:48 pm

The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles by Giorgio Bassani is the second book in The Novel of Ferrara.

Dr Fadigati is the new doctor in Ferrara. At first, his is the most popular practice, and he is well-respected. The townspeople are vaguely aware that the doctor is gay, but apart from a few snide remarks, no one makes a fuss. The narrator is a university student, the elder son in a well-off, well-assimilated Jewish family that has been part of Ferrara for generations. However, it is only ninety years since Ferrara's Jews have been free to live outside the town's medieval ghetto, and decades of tolerance are being undermined by Mussolini's pact with Hitler. Old prejudices reveal themselves and the narrator becomes increasingly distanced from his old friends, while his parents refuse to see the townspeople's self-interested anti-Semitism and the increasing danger. As anti-Jewish prejudice increases, so does the prejudice against the homosexual doctor.

Highly recommended.

Redigerat: jul 20, 5:44 pm

1. Non-fiction
2. Books I Own

The Year My Family Unravelled by Cynthia Dearborn

I read this because it's about dementia, and someone I know well is experiencing something related, so I was looking for some insight. I didn't get it, because the problems of the author's father are very different, but I found the book interesting all the same. Dearborn is an academic, originally from Seattle but now settled in Sydney with her Australian wife. Her father Russell was still in Seattle, married to his second wife Beth and becoming a danger to her, himself and, potentially, anyone who knocked on the front door. Beth and Russell were living in a decrepit non-functional house, not paying their bills, and ignoring both Russell's dementia and Beth's ill health. Cynthia's goal is to move her father and step-mother into assisted living, but it turns out to be an almost impossible task. She is a very good daughter, especially when her family history seeps out and you realise just how disastrous her parents were. Her mother lurks in the background, an angry woman who hasn't spoken to her daughter in over twenty years, since Cyntha told her she was gay.

I was very engaged by this well-written memoir, even though I was expecting something completely different.

The book is here,, but there isn't a touchstone.

There's a touchstone now.

jul 21, 5:00 pm

8. Crime

The Wounded Oak by Harriet Smart

This is the eleventh book in the Northminster Mysteries series, which features Felix Carswell, a surgeon, and Major Vernon, the man originally responsible for setting up the Northminster police force. I'm very attached to the flawed but honourable pair and was pleased to find this latest addition to the series. They're on holiday in Swalecliffe, a newly-developed seaside town where Vernon has come to recover from pneumonia. I won's say too much because that would give away the plots of the earlier books. Carswell is the illegitimate son of Lord Rothborough who has always taken an interest in his only son and is prone to interfering. There are rather too many characters and plot threads, one of which involves Carswell's mother and another his ex-mistress. All the threads come together at the end, but it's quite a stretch. The book is too long and would have been better with fewer plot strands and complications, but I enjoyed it and am eagerly awaiting the next.

8. Crime
11. Historical Fiction Challenge

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman

I've had this book on hold for months, and there are many people still waiting, so despite losing interest and being tempted to put it aside, I've persevered and finished it. It's a Regency mystery featuring spinster sisters, Augusta and Julia. They're non-identical twins, now forty-two, facing a dull and useless future which is made even worse by their nasty younger brother who has inherited their father's earldom and become betrothed to a young woman as horrible as he is. Augusta and Julia become caught up in a desperate plan to free a friend's god-daughter. The young woman is being held prisoner by her evil husband, who wants her dead. On their way to the rescue, Augusta and Julia run across Evan, a disgraced former-heir-to-a-marquisate who has a price on his head, who will be hanged if he is caught buy the Bow street runner, Kent. It looks as though Kent and Evan could be characters in the next book in the series.

The book was a disappointment: preachy and humourless. The title suggested otherwise.

jul 21, 5:21 pm

>296 pamelad: Oh no! "Preachy and humorless" doesn't sound fun at all. I have the book on hold at my library, but now I'm reconsidering.

jul 21, 5:27 pm

>297 christina_reads: It's worth a try, but I felt that the characters were there to illustrate a point, and they seemed like caricatures. The point was that women were at the mercy of the men in their lives. There were three plot threads, all similar.

Redigerat: jul 23, 5:39 pm

2. Books I Own
3. Wish List

The Zone: A Prison Camp Guard's Story by Sergei Dovlatov

I read The Zone for the Club Read tribute to RebeccaNYC

Instead of the usual disclaimer, Dovlatov wrote:

The names, events, and dates given here are all real. I invented only those details that were not essential.

Therefore, any resemblance between the characters in this book and living people is intentional and malicious. And all the fictionalizing was unexpected and accidental.

In the sixties Dovlatov had dropped out of university and been drafted into the Soviet Internal Troops to work as a prison guard in high security camps. Unlike the camps for political prisoners that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about, these camps are for criminals. They are so isolated and remote that the guards, as well as the criminals, are effectively serving a sentence. Distinctions between guards and prisoners break down.

The book is a series of first-person narrations by various guards, who appear in each other's stories from different perspectives. What they all have in common is a bleak and sardonic humour. Interspersed with the guard's narrations are letters written by the author to his New York publisher. The book is coming along in fits and starts as random sections are smuggled out from the USSR. The author's works have never been published there and have circulated in samizdat. Parts have been lost, and the author discusses with the publisher how he will manage the gaps. He talks about what he will include and what he will leave out, and his writing philosophy.

It took me a while to get into The Zone, but once I did I found it well worth the trouble. It's Dovlatov's world view that makes it fascinating.

jul 23, 8:46 pm

>299 pamelad: Sounds right up my alley. WL here I come!

Redigerat: jul 27, 3:33 pm

>300 Tess_W: Dovlatov's The Compromise sounds interesting too, so I've put it on the wish list

jul 27, 3:50 pm

10. Bingo Author shares your Zodiac sign (Pisces)

A Man in the Zoo by David Garnett

Garnett won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Lady into Fox, which is a strange little book, as is A Man in the Zoo which continues the animal theme. A young man and his fiancee have an argument at the zoo, which ends with her telling him he belongs in a cage, so he takes her up on it and offers himself as an exhibit. He's allocated a well-appointed cage in the ape exhibit, next to the orang-outans. I was entertained by this novella, but I think I missed the point. Although it's light and humorous on the surface, the underlying tone is resigned and bleak.

jul 29, 7:43 am

aug 3, 2:42 am

2. Books I Own
5. ClassicsCAT

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani is the third book in The Novel of Ferrara, an elegy for the Jewish community of Ferrara. Bassani saved his parents and sister from the invading Germans, but the rest of his family died in the Holocaust, as did the rest of the Jewish community. We're told at the beginning of this semi-autobiographical novel that the Finzi-Continis died in a concentration camp in 1943.

The narrator is unnamed, so for convenience I'll call him Giorgio His family is integrated into the fabric of Ferrara; they observe Jewish rituals but see themselves as Italians as well. By contrast, the extremely wealthy Finzi-Continis hold themselves aloof from both the Jewish community and the wider Ferrarese community. Micol and Alberto Finzi-Contini, both of a similar age to Giorgio, are educated by tutors in their huge, opulent mansion outside Ferrara, which is surrounded by many acres of walled garden. Micol and Giorgio first meet at the wall, when they about ten years old. She invites him in, but he dithers too long and it's ten years before they meet again, brought together by Mussolini's racial laws of 1939. Jews have been banned from the tennis club, so Micol and Alberto invite the Jewish ex-members and their friends to play on their home court. Every afternoon for the summer, the young people play tennis, and a close friendship develops between Giogio and Micol. Outside the garden Anti-Semitism spreads and the danger for Jews increases, but the people behind the wall ignore reality. It's not just them: the Jews of Ferrara refuse to believe that their Italian friends will turn on them.

There is such a feeling of temporariness. Giorgio, Alberto and another man have academic conversations about films and literature. Alberto takes great pride in his possessions. Giorgio fancies himself in love with Micol. To the reader it all seems so pointless, because we know what's going to happen.

There was too much academic chit-chat for my liking and the translation is a bit clumsy, but I found The Garden of the Finzi-Continis well worth reading. Bassani was there.

aug 3, 10:21 am

>304 pamelad: Thanks for this review. This one is on my list of books to read before I travel to Italy next summer. Who was the translator on the edition you read?

aug 3, 5:06 pm

>305 markon: The translator is Jamie McKendrick, who is the first person to translate the whole of The Novel of Ferrara into English. If you were planning just to read The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, I've read that the Isabel Quigly translation is better than McKendrick's.

Will you go to Ferrara? I'd like to go there because it's a World Heritage Site and not far from Ravenna, which I'd like to see again. The first time we went to Ravenna we rushed around to see the mosaics in the pouring rain, but they deserve more time.

aug 5, 2:23 pm

Hi, Pam! Do you have any opinion on the veracity/read-worthiness of author Robert Hughes on Australian Histories, such as The Fatal Shore?

aug 5, 3:56 pm

>307 Tess_W: It's years since I read The Fatal Shore, but I remember being impressed. It's brutal though, because there's a lot of detail about penal colonies. Well worth reading. Well-researched.

Redigerat: aug 5, 4:50 pm

>306 pamelad: Unfortunately, no. I'm on a group tour (this is my first international travel trip), and we are focusing on Florence and Rome, with side trips to St. Francis of Assisi and Pompeii. But I'm not unhappy about that. I prefer to do a deep dive a few places, rather than trying to see everything. Even so, I know I'll miss some things.

If I read the The garden of the Finzi-Continis, my library has an Everyman's edition, translated by William Weaver (2005), or I can buy a copy of the McKenzie translation easily. Looks like Quigley might be hard to come up with.

Redigerat: aug 9, 4:56 pm

8. Crime

Death with Blue Ribbon by Leo Bruce

Carolus Deene has been asked to investigate a protection racket. Criminals have threatened a restaurant proprietor. a very nasty piece of work, that unles he pays up the reputation of his famous French restaurant will be destroyed. He's expecting a visit from a famous food critic, also a nasty piece of work, so he calls in Carolus Deene. There's not a lot to this short book, but I enjoyed the humour, as usual.

5. ClassicsCAT

Behind the Door by Giorgio Bassani

The fourth book in The Novel of Ferrara describes a year in the life of the narrator. He is in the fifth year of secondary school and feeling isolated because his closest friend has to repeat the previous year and has moved to a school in Padua. Two classes have been combined, 5A and 5B, with a minority from the narrator's 5B, none of whom are friends. The top student is Carlo Cattolica, whom the narrator both admires and dislikes. A new boy, Luciano Pulga, arrives and attaches himself to the narrator.

I read this novella without knowing where it was going but was interested all the same. It's only in the last sentence that everything becomes clear. Unfortunately, the translator had the bad taste to use a contemporary cliche, which is a disservice to Bassani.

aug 5, 5:17 pm

>309 markon: Apparently the Wiliam Weaver translation is very American and no better than the McKenzie translation, so despite its short-comings, it might be worthwhile reading the whole of The Novel of Ferrara in the McKenzie translation. Have a great trip!

aug 5, 5:25 pm

>308 pamelad: I'm going to put that on my WL and ponder when it comes up again. It is 1153 pages and one review says there were pages and pages about minor governmental officials, overseers, etc. I don't want to read about that. It also says history of the aboriginals is miniscule. Thinking......!

aug 5, 9:56 pm

Your first international trip! That's thrilling! Florence is beautiful, Rome has a shocking number of antiquities just piled all over the place and Naples/Pompeii is pure, amazing chaos. If you get a moment, just stand on a busy corner and watch the traffic.

Redigerat: aug 6, 5:26 pm

3. Wish List Thank you christina_reads.
8. Crime

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

Rosalind Thorne is hanging onto her position on the fringes of society by the skin of her teeth. Her father, a baronet, ran away leaving enormous debts and evidence of forgery, a hanging offence. Rosalind makes herself useful to the women of the ton, and has the support of her godmother, Lady Blanchard who is a patroness of Almack's so she is still invited everywhere. When the body of a young man is discovered in the ballroom of Almack's, Rosalind's access to the ton is a big help to the investigator from Bow Street, the charming and handsome Adam Harkness. Adam isn't the only romantic interest: Rosalind's ex-fiance, who is now a duke, is still in love with her despite having deserted her when her father's scandal destroyed her prospects.

I enjoyed A Useful Woman despite a few drawbacks. The author gets the titles wrong, which is unforgiveable in a Regency mystery. She calls a Countess "Your Grace" and a Duke "Lord Whatever." Here is a useful guide to Speaking to and of Titled Persons Another drawback is the plot, which relies on some very unlikely behaviour. But this is a promising start to a new series, adn I have already started another. Not the second, which I have put on hold, or the third, which I started and was instantly annoyed by, but the fourth, A Lady Compromised, which is going along nicely.

Redigerat: aug 8, 5:10 pm

8. Crime

A Lady Compromised by Darcie Wilde

Rosalind is staying at the Devon the Duke's country seat in order to help Devon's young cousin Lucy prepare for her wedding, and so that she and Devon can get to know one another again and decide whether they want to marry. Rosalind is drawn into investigating the suspicious death of the brother of one of Lucy's friends. By raking up the mystery Rosalind is putting herself at risk of being ostracised by the local ladies, which would make her position as Devon's duchess difficult, affecting Devon as well as herself so he is not happy. The dead man is Colonel William Corbyn, brother of Helen, Lucy's friend, and Marius, who is in charge of draining the local marshes and building a canal. Many locals have invested heavily in the drainage works, and some would be ruined if the project, instigated by Devon, were to fail.

An entertaining read with lots of plot twists. The author seems to have a handle on people's titles now.

aug 8, 2:44 pm

Glad you are liking the Rosalind Thorne series! I'm reading book #2 right now, A Purely Private Matter, and hoping to get caught up with the series by the end of the year.

aug 9, 5:19 pm

8. Crime

Die All, Die Merrily by Leo Bruce

Bruce wrote classic, fair-play detective novels enlivened by sardonic humour. His Tales of the Pan Cosmos series features the wealthy amateur detective Carolus Deene, senior history master at a minor public school. Some of the recurring characters are the pompous headmaster, Mr. Gorringer; the loquacious housekeeper Mrs Stick, an accomplished cook who murders the French language; the silent Stick, gardener, handyman and husband of Mrs. Stick, who speaks for him; Deene's least favourite student, the precocious Priggley, who involves himself in Deene's investigations.

Mr Gorringer has asked for Deene's help in the case of an apparent suicide. The victim, Richard Hoysden, is the nephew of Lady Drumbone, a politician unaligned with any party, and beloved by the press for her willingness to embrace ludicrous causes, gleefully described by Bruce.

The Carolus Deene books aren't at all realistic. They're short, humourous and entertaining.

aug 9, 5:40 pm

>317 pamelad: I have this one on my shelves but have been dragging my feet because I wasn't impressed with the other Carolus Deene mystery I've read, Dead Man's Shoes. Glad to see you liked this one...might have to nudge it up the TBR list.

aug 10, 4:26 pm

>318 christina_reads: You mightn't like this one either. The plot relies on an unlikely "born murderer," and the amusement comes from the characters, who are like people you would have come across, rabbiting on. A bit like Barry Humphries' humour, but not as cruel. (Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Paterson are household names in Australia. Not sure about the US.)

aug 11, 10:39 am

>319 pamelad: Good to know! I'm beginning to wonder if Leo Bruce just isn't for me. I really loved Case for Three Detectives but haven't liked any of my other reads by him as much. Also, sad to say, I don't recognize any of the names you mentioned -- not sure if it's a US thing or just a me being ignorant thing!

Redigerat: aug 11, 4:30 pm

aug 11, 4:54 pm

Looking for Regency rubbish on KoboPlus, I came across Down with the Royals by Joan Smith. Not the Regency Romance Joan Smith, but a writer whose best-known book is Misogynies. Down with the Royals is only 86 pages long, and the title appealed, so I read it. It's outdated, having been published in 2015, but still interesting because one of the things it's looking at is undue influence by the Royal family, particularly by the then Prince Charles. It's a myth that the royals don't meddle in politics.

This is preaching to the converted. I liked it.

Redigerat: aug 12, 4:29 pm

8. Crime

A Counterfeit Suitor by Darcie Wilde

Rosalind Thorne is helping the widow of a wealthy businessman break into society. Together they're organising a charity ball, but something seems wrong to Rosalind. Is Rosalind's client, Mrs Walford, being honest? Rosalind's other job for Mrs Walford is to investigate Salter, the suitor of Augustina Walford, but perhasp things have gone further between Augustina and Salter than the girl's mother realises. And what about the Walford sons, Louis and Etienne? And the blackmailer, Fullerton? Adn the Bonapartists, scheming to release Napoleon from Elba?

Who murdered Rosalind's father? Could it have been her sister Charlotte who is now a courtesan, desperate to marry her protector to give her unborn child legitimacy? Do we really need the Regent cluttering up the plot?

Too many plot strands, some of which made no sense. Too many typos. Too many luxuriant houses (one is too many!). You know the kind - full of objets d'art, paintings, gilding and crimson velvet. Luxuriant.

And it's much too long! Almost 200 pages longer than A Useful Woman. I thought it would never end.

Redigerat: aug 12, 8:41 pm

I have a few under-populated categories, so in the spirit of the category challenge I'm going to try to add to them. Categories with fewer than ten books are:

1. Non-fiction Ten read. Hadn't added all my non-fiction reads to the category.
3. Wish List Added 2 completed book bullets that were in my Wishlist collection, leaving 3 to go.
4. Prizes and Lists Filled this with books I've already read.
7. Rest of the World (I could fill this easily though, because I haven't included British or American writers).
9. Book Bullets (This is like a second Wish List. Perhaps I will combine them.)

aug 13, 3:03 am

>324 pamelad: Good luck ticking them off. I love to tick off a list!

aug 13, 3:48 pm

>325 JayneCM: Thank you! I also love lists.

Working on the Wish List Category. I've just finished The Springs of Affection and have started The Herring Seller's Apprentice and Laughing Gas. Also reading The Stately Home Murder, which I'll add to Book Bullets because I saw it on DeltaQueen's thread.

aug 13, 6:26 pm

2. Books I Own
3. Wish List

The Springs of Affection by Maeve Brennan

This collection of short stories has three parts. The first seven stories are snippets of the writer's childhood in Ranelagh Crescent, Dublin, livelier and more cheerful than the stories that follow. The children are the bright spots in Brennan's stories: bright, hopeful and enthusiastic. The next group of stories focuses on the Deardons, Hubert and Rose. Rose hasn't been happy since her father died just before she turned ten. It's as though her character disappeared, and all that remained were obedience and uncertainty. She and Hubert seem to go out of their way to make each other miserable, and the only light in Rose's life is her son, Jimmy, who eventually leaves to escape Rose's suffocating affection. This section was so sad and bleak that I could barely keep reading: a testament to Brennan's writing. The last group of stories also concerns a disappointed married couple, Delia and Martin Bagot. They have never recovered from the death of their first child, their only son who died three days after birth, and the distance has grown so wide that Martin barely sees his wife and daughters. His wife's efforts to restore some closeness make him angry. Like Hubert Deardon, Martin Bagot feels contempt for his wife, thinks she is devoid of character and is ashamed of her. Like Deardon, Bagot believes he deserved better. Delia isn't as badly off as Rose, though, because her daughters love her.

The title story is the last one in the collection, and the longest. Martin and Delia are dead, and Martin's twin sister, Min, is remembering the day of their wedding. She's a bitter, snobbish old woman who never forgave Martin for deserting the family and marrying Delia.

I found this book heart-rending. It presents a bleak picture of marriage, and the lives of women, in pre-WWII Ireland.

aug 17, 4:31 pm

8. Crime
9. Book Bullets

The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird

Sloane and Crosby investigate the murder of an amateur archivist whose body has been found inside a suit of armour. The Earl of Orum's stately home is open to the public, and the body is discovered by a naughty boy on a guided tour. The mystery moves slowly, with lots of information about ancient weapons, chit-chat about the class system and sardonic humour. I was annoyed by the snobbery, and there's a sub-plot about possible police corruption that is utterly irrelevant, hence my impatience with this competent cosy crime novel. The book was quite readable, however, and is available on KoboPlus. A free book's a good book!

Redigerat: aug 19, 4:44 pm

3. Wish List
8. Crime

The Herring-Seller's Apprentice by L. C. Tyler

A short, British crime novel with two narrators. The first narrator, Ethelred, is a hack writer who makes a modest living writing crime, historical and romance novels. The second is his agent, Elsie, a small round aggressive woman with a taste for chocolate. Ethelred's ex-wife has disappeared, leaving a suicide note in a rented car. Everyone in this sardonically humorous mystery is a caricature, and not a lot happens, so it's just as well it was short.

aug 20, 8:06 pm

>327 pamelad: Thank you for your detailed review. It is so sad to read about how many men looked down on their wives, and yet it is so important that these stories are told so that we don't forget them or their lives.

aug 21, 4:10 pm

>330 threadnsong: Things were rough for women in 1930s Ireland. Women's subordinate position was actually legislated.

1930s: loss of freedoms
While the first Irish Free State government supported women's rights, over the next ten years Taoiseach Éamon de Valera, who was not a supporter of women's emancipation, together with the church, enshrined Catholic and socially conservative teachings in law.6 De Valera’s conservative government passed legislation that eliminated women's rights to serve on juries, work after marriage, and work in industry. In 1932, the marriage bar was introduced in Ireland; it prevented any married woman from working in the public sector.7 Contraception in Ireland was made illegal in 1935 under the 1935 Criminal Law (Amendment) Act.8 Divorce was banned in Ireland in 1937.9

The 1937 Constitution of Ireland guaranteed women the right to vote and to nationality and citizenship on an equal basis with men, but it also contains a provision, Article 41.2, which states:

1° ... the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. 2° The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.

Redigerat: aug 21, 5:15 pm

3. Wish List

Laughing Gas by P. G. Wodehouse

I'm pleased to have found a Wodehouse I hadn't read, even though it's not really top-drawer. Laughing Gas is set in Hollywood, where Reggie Havershot, the new Earl of Havershot, has gone to fulfil his duties as the head of the family by salvaging his dipsomaniac cousin, Eggy. A toothache sees him in the dentist's chair, under laughing gas, at the same time as the child star Joey Cooley. While they are unconscious their wandering identities are exchanged, and they wake up in the wrong bodies. Comical misunderstandings ensue.

An exchange of identities under anaesthetic has to be an accident! I'm counting this for the Bingo square.

Redigerat: aug 28, 5:31 pm

Two to go for the Bingo. I have two possibilities for Author Under Thirty: The Shooting Party by Anton Chekov and The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster. Looking for a book featuring music or a musician.

I've already read The Longest Journey! Have put a hold on I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

Perhaps Show Boat by Edna Ferber for the Musical square. I think it's on my Kindle.

Completing the final categories:
3. Wish List: Finished!
7. Rest of the World: 3 to go. I'm only counting books by authors outside Britain and the US. (Australia and NZ have their own category.)
9. Book Bullets: 2 to go. I've just borrowed Cocktail Time, a book bullet from HelenLIz and have bought The Complaint of the Dove, a book bullet from Christina.

aug 28, 5:25 pm

1. Non-fiction
3. Wish List
5. CATs
August GeoCAT and September ClassicsCAT

Mission to Tashkent by F M Bailey

In 1919, at the beginning of the Russian Revolution, Colonel Bailey was posted to Turkestan, which had been taken over by the Bolsheviks. His job was to gauge the intentions of the new government towards Afghanistan: he was the last of the larger-than-life spies in the Great Game. Bailey was an adventurer, a naturalist, a game-hunter, soldier and spy. He spent much of his time undercover in Tashkent, in hiding from the brutal, lawless Bolshevik authorities. Thousands of people were summarily executed, some shot by drunken jail guards for entertainment. This reads like a Boys' Own Adventure, except that there are far too many characters to follow. I became quite lost and wished that I'd made a list of the main players. Bailey covers the ground at top speed, so there is little time for the details that would help distinguish one person from another. But the most important people stood out, particularly Manditch, who helped Bailey escape Tashkent; Tredwell the US consul; and the intrepid governess Miss Houston, whose assistance was indispensable.

This was a fascinating read, and despite its drawbacks I recommend it. It's available on Faded Page, which has a Send to Kindle option.

aug 28, 6:47 pm

I thought I'd read The Maintenance of Headway by Magnus Mills, but it doesn't seem familiar, so it's a Book Bullet from rabbitprincess and I've already borrowed it from the Open Library. It's about bus drivers, so I might have mixed it up with The Scheme for Full Employment, which is about van drivers, and which I've definitely read but have forgotten to record.

Magnus Mills is very funny, if you like his deadpan ridiculous humour.

aug 29, 4:09 am

>334 pamelad: That sounds fascinating - going to download a copy myself.

aug 30, 4:49 pm

>336 Jackie_K: I hope you like it. There's some overt anti-Semitism, which might be a reflection of the views of the upper-middle-class, public school Englishman of the time, but is shocking now. It's as though the author doesn't even think about it.

Redigerat: aug 30, 5:05 pm

9. Book Bullets rabbitprincess

The Maintenance of Headway by Magnus Mills

I thought I'd read this so was very pleased to find that I hadn't. Mills writes short, funny, deadpan books, often about working class people. This one is about London bus drivers, a group Mills knows a lot about, because he is one. If you've ever left home for the bus stop and sped up to a jog on seeing the bus in the distance, five minutes early, only to have it speed past you as it races to beat you to the stop, this book will explain all. It made me laugh.

Warning! I borrowed this book from the Open Library, and the copy I read finished mid-sentence. I wondered briefly whether this was an artistic choice, decided that would be most unlikely, and fortunately was able to borrow another copy. The 14-day loan is missing the last few pages.

Redigerat: sep 1, 6:09 pm

Completing the remaining categories with a minimum of ten in each.

3. Wish List Completed.
The tenth book was Mission to Tashkent

5. CATs
Concentrating on the GeoCAT and ClassicsCAT and dipping into the SeriesCAT. I've found a book for the June GeoCAT: Sunbirds by Mirandi Riwoe.

7. Rest of the World
Three to go. I'm only counting books by authors who are from the country they're writing about i.e. born there or long-term residents.
I'm reading two that will count - The Novel of Ferrara (Italy) and Brotherhood (Senegal) - and have plenty of others to choose from e.g. crime novels by Friedrich Glauser and Soji Shimada Seishi Yokomizo.

9. Book Bullets Almost done.
Reading two books from the book bullets category: Cocktail Time (HelenLiz) and The Complaint of the Dove (christina_reads) for eleven.

sep 1, 8:46 pm

>339 pamelad: I've had Mission to Tashkent on my TBR for sometime. I'm disheartened to hear that there are so many characters one needs a play bill. That is the often the reason I don't like a book!

sep 1, 11:38 pm

>340 Tess_W: The number of characters is a drawback, but the book has plenty of things to recommend it. Bailey was right there, watching the revolution.

sep 3, 5:48 pm

9. Book Bullets HelenLiz

Cocktail Time by P. G. Wodehouse

Lord Ickenham, otherwise known as Uncle Fred, is on the loose in London while his wife is away. His nephew, Pongo Twistleton, has become sadly sedate and responsible since his marriage, so Uncle Fred is in search of excitement. An anecdote about a small boy whose aim with a sling shot and a walnut is unerring, inspires Uncle Fred to aim a walnut at a top hat worn by his old school friend Beefy Barnstaple. An unlikely and amusing series of events ensues.

I hadn't read this Wodehouse before, so was very pleased to find it.

sep 7, 2:20 am

5. GeoCAT
7. Rest of the World

Brotherhood by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr

The book begins with the execution of two young lovers whose affair is a sin against the fundamentalist morality of the Brotherhood, which has taken over the town of Kalep, along with much of the north of the country. The inhabitants are cowed, and the hospitals are full of people whose limbs have been chopped off in accordance with Sharia law. Seven citizens are driven to resist, so they meet in secret to publish a journal.

This was a difficult read, not just for the brutality, but because the book had little structure, there was a good deal of repetitive philosophising, and the writing was dull. I can't tell whether the banal prose style was the author's, the translator's or a combination of the two. The characters didn't come alive, possibly because their function was to deliver the author's thoughts.

The writer is from Senegal, but the country and the city are imaginary.

sep 18, 6:06 pm

Just back from a week in Queensland. We saw some whales, dolphins, pororoos and big lizards and lots of spectacular scenery. First time on a plane since 2019. Also the first hire car since 2019. They don't have keys any more! Or real hand brakes. And the motor turns itself off when you're stopped at the lights.

10. Bingo Writer Under Thirty.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I rarely read science fiction, but I enjoyed this classic. It's a collection of linked short stories about robots, beginning with a basic, child-minding robot and ending with a world run by robots. Robots are more ethical than most human beings because they are governed by the three laws of robotics: a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; a robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

6. Australia and New Zealand

God Forgets About the Poor by Peter Polites

This is the fictionalised story of Polites' mother, from her birth in a poor, Greek mountain village during WWII, as a young woman in Athens, and as the mother of two children in the western suburbs of Sydney, married to a violent man. Polites translates the characters' Greek names into English: the mother is Honoured; the sister is Resurrection; the son is All Holy. This is an affectionate portrayal of a loving, domineering woman, with her faults and her strengths. It's also an interesting look into Sydney's Greek community, and the strong ties that first-generation Greek immigrants have with their homelands.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it. There is the occasional grammatical error, which I put down to English teaching in Australian schools in the seventies, when grammar wasn't seen as important and people couldn't hear themselves think because of the open classrooms.

sep 19, 6:05 pm

11. Historical Fiction Challenge

The Novel of Ferrara: The Heron by Giorgio Bassani

The Novel of Fera is a collection of six books in which the narrator looks back on Jewish life in Ferrara before and during WWII. This book, the fifth, differs from the previous four in that it is recounted in the first person by a named narrator, and is set outside Ferrara. The middle-aged Edgardo Limentani is a disappointed man. His wife, a Catholic peasant whom he feels is beneath him, is having an affair with her accountant. She is the nominal owner of Limentani's properties, an arrangement put in place at the outbreak of WWII. Limentani has a young daughter, but he is alienated from her and isn't sure whether he really is her father.

The story takes place over one day. Limentani has arranged a day's duck shooting in a swamp outside Ferrara, near a village where his cousin, once his closest friend, lives. He hasn't seen his cousin since before the war. The day starts badly, with Limentani being delayed by a conversation with his wife. As the day goes on, his own lethargy and apathy delay him further. He focuses on his misery, his bodily functions, and his disgust for himself, his surroundings and the people he meets. When he eventually meets his guide, hours late, and the shooting begins, the death of a heron brings him a revelation.

The Heron was so very depressing. Limentani is an unsympathetic character, but Bassani makes his misery real and the clumsy translation can't quite dull the intensity. I so wish that a better writer had translated this book.

sep 20, 5:56 pm

2. Books I Own
4. Prizes and Lists
Guardian 1000

A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr

This is a re-read because our book club is going to discuss it. I read it before I went to Queensland but forgot to record it.

The narrator, Birkin, has been employed to restore a mural in a country church. It was painted in the middle-ages and has been covered in plaster for centuries. The austere vicar would rather the mural stayed hidden but has no choice, so he has to put up with Birkin, who is camping in the bell-chamber. The vicar also has to put up with Moon, who has been employed to find a grave and is camping nearby.

Both Birkin and Moon fought in WWI, which has just ended. Birkin is still suffering from shell-shock and has been deserted by his wife. Over the course of the month, he is adopted by the local chapel-going families, falls in love with the vicar's beautiful young wife, and begins to recover. He is writing the book as a much older man, looking back on an idyllic time.

A strongly felt, elegiac, poetic little book.

sep 20, 8:27 pm

344 Sounds like you had a lovely week away. I always think I should get a new car soon before they change so much that I won't be able to drive!

>348 kac522: I loved Carr's A Month in the Country. After reading it I heard there was a movie featuring Colin Firth as Birkin - can't remember who played Moon except that it was an actor I like. The only place I could find it was on YouTube but it was an accurate portrayal and very well done.

Redigerat: sep 20, 9:29 pm

>346 pamelad: I re-read A Month in the Country this year for my book club, too. I was struck this time by the slow reveal of who Birkin is (we're not told his name for at least the first several pages or so), and I felt that the book slowly revealed all the characters (especially Birkin), just like Birkin was slowly chipping away and revealing the mural.

>347 VivienneR: Kenneth Branagh played Moon! It was his first major movie role (he was well known in theater and TV) and an early leading role for Firth. They are SO young in that movie.

Here's an interview Firth did about the making of the movie:

sep 20, 9:29 pm

>346 pamelad: Going on my WL.

Redigerat: sep 21, 1:39 am

>349 Tess_W: If there is such a thing as a "perfect" book, A Month in the Country comes close to it for me. Every sentence, every word, really, is important, without feeling intentional or pedantic. And it's short--the NYRB edition clocks in at 135 pages.

sep 21, 4:37 pm

>348 kac522: There's a lot going on below the surface in A Month in the Country. One thing that struck me was Birkin's pride in his work, and his admiration for the medieval painter who'd used the best pigments so that his work would last, even though it's unsigned. Then there are the class issues, with Birkin being welcomed by the chapel-goers, who are his own kind and are prepared to offer him warmth, food and company, unlike the vicar who doesn't even pay him on time, so that he can barely afford to eat. I watched the Firth video and was interested in his impressions of the book.

>347 VivienneR: I'm looking for the film, which is not readily available in Australia. Google Play looks like a possibility - I'll have to set it up on the TV.

We booked a Corolla at the car-hire place, because you never know when you might have to reverse park into a small space, but they gave us a big SUV. Just as well we don't mind walking, because sometimes we had to go a long way to find a big enough parking space!

>349 Tess_W: I hope you like it, Tess.

Unfortunately, our book group meet-up has had to be postponed because our host caught Covid. She's recovered but has given it to her son.

Redigerat: sep 21, 7:18 pm

>351 pamelad: So true about all that goes on in that little book! There's also the North/South divide--in the first couple pages you can tell that Birkin is feeling out of place as someone from the South of England coming to the North of England for the first time.

sep 22, 3:11 am

The Victober Challenge is over on Kathy's thread

1. Read a Victorian work featuring a stranger/outsider:
2. Read a piece of Victorian ‘New Woman’ fiction
3. Read a Victorian work by an author who is new to you
4. Read a Victorian first-person narrative
5. Read a Victorian work in which class features strongly

Read five Victorian (1837 - 1901) British books in October. I'm choosing to interpret "British" as anywhere in the British Empire, including Australia and have come across a handy collection of Colonial Australian Popular Fiction. Here it is on Amazon.

I have started early with Melbourne and Mars: My Mysterious Life on Two Planets by John Fraser, which was first published in 1889. It fits categories 3, 4, and 5.

Another I'm planning to try is Force and Fraud by Ellen Davitt, a murder mystery first published in 1865. The Sisters in Crime Awards are named for Davitt.

sep 22, 3:36 am

Some possibilities from the Text Classics series: The Life and Adventures of William Buckley; For the Term of His Natural Life; Bush Studies; My Brilliant Career. I've read My Brilliant Career recently but have never read the others.

My first criterion is "short" and the next is "entertaining".

sep 24, 4:32 am

1. Books I Own
11. Historical Fiction Challenge

Simon the Coldheart by Georgette Heyer

I was expecting a romance and there is one, but it's a small part of the book, which is mainly about a medieval man-mountain clanking around in gold armour and leading his men into battles. Simon is beloved by his mentor, his men, his friends, his numerous pages, his squires, King Henry, everyone he comes across really, except Margaret, Countess of Belyen, which is not surprising because this is the 100-years war and Simon demands that the French Margaret declare loyalty to English King Henry.

At fourteen, Simon, who is the bastard son of Malvallet, demands to be taken on as squire by Malvallet's enemy, Fulk of Montlice, not because he has anything for or against his neglectful parent but because he wants to succeed by his own merits.

This is an early Georgette Heyer, 1925, and not one of her best. She didn't want it to be re-published. It's not bad, but there isn't a lot of character development and apart from being the manliest man who ever donned a suit of armour, there isn't much to Simon.

Redigerat: sep 25, 12:37 am

5. CATS and other challenges
8. Crime

The Devil Loves Me by Margaret Millar

Dr Paul Prye, psychiatrist and amateur detective, is waiting at the altar for his bride, Nora, when there is a scream from outside the church. One of the bridesmaids has collapsed, and Pryne realises that she has been poisoned. The bridesmaid recovers, but by the end of the book three people are dead. This is a character-driven crime novel, and with Prye being a psychologist there is a lot of character analysis going on. The members of the wedding party are staying at Nora's mother's house and it becomes clear to Prye and the official detective, Inspector Sands, that one of them is a murderer.

I guessed the murderer, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment.

The Devil Loves Me takes place in Canada and was first published in 1942, so I am counting it for the October GeoCAT, North America, and the October ClassicsCAT, women writers. I'm a week early.

sep 25, 12:22 pm

>356 pamelad: Wow, that is a compelling premise for a mystery! BB taken.

sep 25, 4:13 pm

>357 christina_reads: I read a lot of Margaret Millar's books in the seventies but hadn't come across any of her early ones. I found this one in the Open Library, and have now found a couple more on KoboPlus: The Listening Walls and Vanish in an Instant. It's good to see so many old crime novels being re-published. I'd like to see some more of Mabel Seeley's books re-published too.

I have finished The Novel of Ferrara! The last book, The Smell of Hay was a quick read. I'm counting it for the bonus category of the Historical Fiction Challenge, a book over 500 pages.

sep 25, 4:45 pm

The Smell of Hay by Giorgio Bassani from The Novel of Ferrara

This is a collection of short stories and other snippets. The racial laws of 1938 have separated Bruno Lattes, a minor character from The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, from the Catholic girl he loved, and he tries to renew their friendship. Orthodox, Eastern European Jews flee to Ferrara. The narrator meets some of the privileged young men from his youth: they had such plans, but they stayed in Ferrara living the lives they swore they would escape. Behind every story is the fate of the Jews of Ferrara. In 1942-1943, all the remaining Jews in Ferrara, over a hundred, were sent to Germany and only one survived.

Redigerat: sep 25, 5:22 pm

I've accumulated a pile of books for the October ClassicsCAT: some vintage American crime novels (which can also count for the GeoCAT) and Sara Dane by Catherine Gaskin, which I last read when I was about twelve and which will count for the Historical Fiction Challenge (set in Australia and over 500 pages). Thea Astley, who was my initial choice, is on the backburner because I'm in the mood for something lighter, but I have A Descant for Gossips on the ereader.

As well as the two Margaret Millar crime novels I have one by Dorothy Salisbury Davis - God Speed the Night.

Forgot the two I've set aside for the Victober Challenge: Jill by Amy Dillwyn and Gloriana by Lady Florence Dixie.

Redigerat: okt 21, 4:54 pm

6. Australia and New Zealand

Melbourne and Mars: My Mysterious Life on Two Planets by John Fraser

Fraser emigrated to Australia from Lancashire and was dying of consumption in Melbourne when he wrote this political science fiction novel. It was first published in 1889 and has been reissued in collaboration between Melbourne University and Grattan Street Press in the Colonial Australian Popular Fiction series. There's an interesting introduction by an academic who did a PhD on the history of popular phrenology in Australia and New Zealand, which is relevant because Fraser was a phrenologist. He believed the now soundly debunked premise that people's characters can be determined from the shapes of their heads.

This started off well, with the class struggle in the northern mill towns as wealthy mill-owners reduced weavers' wages, leaving them close to starvation. The main character, Adam Jacobs, is the son of a law-abiding weaver who is caught up in a riot, unfairly found guilty and sentenced to transportation. Adam's mother follows her husband to New South Wales, taking the children. At the start of the book, Adam Jacobs is a 45-year-old merchant in Melbourne, married with children. But he has another life as a little boy on Mars, which he is recording in a diary. The Martial (Fraser's term) Adam Jacobs is called Charles Frankston, and in the diary he grows from a toddler to a successful young man.

Mars is colder than Earth, with less atmosphere and less water, so the Martials are physically adapted to life there. They're a much older and more developed society than that of Earth, so there is no crime, no sickness, and no belligerence. Pathogenic organisms have been eliminated, as have dangerous animals. Mars is run on principles of altruistic socialism. Much of the book describes Martial life in enormous detail. It is Fraser's ideal society, based on science. rationality, equality and religion. It does not appeal to me at all and I found it dull reading, except for scientific bits that appealed e.g. Fraser seems to predict the Haber Process, which converts atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen compounds, and he is concerned about the exhaustion of fossil fuels. On Mars there are unlimited supplies of electricity from the centre of the planet. He's very much down on Malthus and leaves it to the Martials to limit population size by what appears to be intuition, altruism and cooperation.

I'd recommend the book as an historical oddity, but not as a work of literature. It's far too didactic.

sep 28, 4:41 pm

5. CATS and other challenges
8. Crime

The Listening Walls by Margaret Millar

Another good one from Margaret Millar. A woman dies in Mexico City and another woman goes missing. The brother of the missing woman is convinced that her husband has done away with her. Lots of twists and turns.

The book was first published in 1959, so is another early entry for the October ClassicsCAT. It's written by a Canadian and partly set in San Francisco, so it also counts for the GeoCAT.

sep 28, 5:46 pm

>362 pamelad: I think that was the first Millar I read, way back when. I'd like to re-read them all at some point.

okt 1, 6:37 pm

>344 pamelad: I wouldn't mind doing a reread of I, Robot. With AI so much in the news these days, it would be interesting to take a closer look at Asimov's ideas.

okt 1, 8:15 pm

>344 pamelad:, >364 mathgirl40: I remember hearing an interview from the 70's with Isaac Asimov, who said that I, Robot is probably the book he would most likely be remembered for. I've always meant to read it.

okt 2, 4:55 pm

>363 NinieB: I think the first Millar I read was Beast in View, which I don't remember. It's good to see her old books back in print, and I'll definitely read more of them.

>364 mathgirl40: I liked his concern for ethics.

>365 threadnsong: Definitely worth a read, and not too long.

okt 2, 7:51 pm


Flowers for the Judge by Margery Allingham

The seventh Albert Campion book is set in a family publishing firm. One of the partners is found dead and another partner, who is in love with the dead partners' wife, is tried for the murder. Campion is looking for the real murderer.

I don't remember reading this before, but am pretty sure I have. It's not one of the bleak Campions, which is a relief. I enjoyed it.

okt 3, 4:53 pm

5. CATs and Other Challenges

From this Dark Stairway by Mignon G. Eberhart

This was the only Sarah Keate novel I hadn't read. It's not published as an ebook, the paperback costs $A37.40, and it's not available from the Open Library. But I found it in the Internet Archive! I'd thought that all the books in the Internet Archive were able to be borrowed from the Open Library, but they're not.

Sarah Keate is a middle-aged nurse with a practical outlook and a sardonic sense of humour. She has been caught up in a few murder investigations while working with private patients (people wealthy enough to employ a private nurse tend to have lots of greedy relatives with questionable ethics), but now she is on night duty in a hospital, managing the private wards. The man for whom the hospital is named, Peter Malory, is a patient on the edge of death with a heart condition, waiting for surgery. The surgeon is Malory's sworn enemy, and on a slide into alcoholism, but he is the only man capable of performing the operation. Also resident in the hospital are the surgeon's wife who was injured in a car crash that was due to her own recklessness, and Malory's spoiled, hysterical daughter who has a serious case of sunburn.

There's a heatwave in the city of B____ and Eberhart creates the atmosphere brilliantly. You can feel the oppressive heat and sympathise with the tired nurses and fractious patients. The crime itself centres on a secret formula so the plot is artificial and silly, but there are lots of suspects, plenty of twists and turns, and a feeling of menace. And there's Sarah Keate, who is far and away Eberhart's most successful character.

From this Dark Stairway was first published in 1931, so I'm counting it for the October ClassicsCAT, and it is set in the US, so it also fits in the GeoCAT.

okt 4, 6:11 pm

5. CATS and other challenges
8. Crime

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

The third Margaret Millar I've read in the last two weeks is not up to the standard of the other two. The writing is tired in comparison, the main characters are unsympathetic, and there's an abrupt and unnecessary romance. You need to be able to care what happens to people, and I didn't. That said, the book held my attention and I whipped through it.

okt 6, 8:27 pm

Adding a new category, 13. Big Books, for long books and weighty books. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Patrick White's Nobel Prize, I've started a re-read of The Tree of Man, which I read in the seventies.

Some other candidates are:

Two long Thingaversary books from 2021: Segu by Maryse Conde and The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk.
Some worthy non-fiction: Stalingrad by Antony Beevor; The History of Philosophy by A. C. Grayling; The Popes by John Julius Norwich.

I'll be happy to finish two.

okt 8, 8:35 am

>370 pamelad: Good luck with the big books! I have Stalingrad and The Books of Jacob on my shelves. For some reason, my motivation is gone for BB's!

okt 8, 4:58 pm

>371 Tess_W: Same here, but I'm going to try to overcome the lack of motivation by reading a bit every day until I've finished. I'm finding The Tree of Man an easier read than Voss.

okt 12, 2:47 pm

>353 pamelad: The Victober Challenge is a really good idea, but I haven't got far. Categories more restrictive than I would like? I have a few books on hand but no enthusiasm for reading them. Perhaps I'll make a Victorian category next year, a nice broad one.

Redigerat: okt 18, 2:24 am

4. Prizes and Lists
6. Australia
11. Historical Fiction Challenge
13. Big Books

The Tree of Man by Patrick White

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of Patrick White's Nobel Prize, so I have re-read The Tree of Man which I first read in the seventies when White, until then barely known in his own country, came to our awareness.

At beginning of the 20th Century Stan Parker's father leaves him a remote bush block. Stan clears the trees by hand and builds his own house, then marries a young woman from the nearest town. Amy is an orphan, overworked and underfed by her aunt and uncle. She and Stan work hard to establish their small farm and look toward the future. At first theirs is the only house in the area, but others move in and establish small farms. By the end of the book the ramshackle farms are gone, replaced by neat brick houses on suburban blocks, and the once-remote, nameless place is an outer-suburb of Sydney. We see Stan and Amy grow together, then apart, and finally settle together into an undemanding affection. Once they tried to know one another, but they realised they never could. White depicts Amy as growing increasingly coarse and superficial as Stan becomes more spiritual. She resents his separateness.

I very much enjoyed the first section of the book, where the Parkers faced the future with optimism. As their lives narrowed, gloom and misery descended. Their two children, Ray and Thelma, were a great disappointment and both Stan and Amy were oddly detached parents, giving me the impression that the children were more vehicles for carrying White's philosophy than actual people. Both Ray and Amy moved to the city where their sad and pointless lives contrasted with their parents' hard work and simplicity.

White's idiosyncratic prose brings the bush to life, and his descriptions of a flood and a bushfire are just as real. The fifty or so years and nearly 500 pages of The Tree of Man are well worth the effort.

I read Voss in 2021 and noticed some similarities: the contrast between the corruption of the city and the spirituality of the country; the almost-biblical language; the man who searches for enlightenment; the venal characters on whom White focuses his loathing. That's the hardest thing about reading Patrick White: so many people disgust him.

okt 18, 8:09 am

>374 pamelad: Great review. Would you say this one is an easier way in to White than Voss?

Redigerat: okt 18, 6:36 pm

>375 NinieB: Definitely. Voss is so grandiose, but The Tree of Man has a more human scale. I didn't much care what happened to Voss, but was interested in the Parkers, their neighbours, and the gradual changes in the place where they lived, from isolation to suburbia.

okt 18, 5:10 pm

2. Books I Own

Past Mischief by Victoria Clayton

Miranda's philandering husband, Jack, has been found shot dead and no one can understand how it could have happened, but we won't worry too much about that because the important thing is that he's out of the way and Miranda can move on with her life. She has three children and a beautiful old house in a village by the sea, not too far from London. The thoughtless, selfish Jack, who cashed in his insurance to buy an Aston Martin, has left his family short of money, so Miranda decides to take in paying guests (she's short of money in that upper-middle class way, where it's a bit of a pinch to pay the servants and the private school fees). The book was written in the nineties but set in 1974, so Miranda and her friends have read The Female Eunuch and are questioning why they have put up with such sub-standard men, but gently, because it's a cosy domestic novel with a bit of humour, a bit of romance, and happy endings all round. The number of happy endings is ridiculous as Miranda and most of her friends end up with exactly what they want. it's very tidy!

okt 18, 5:43 pm

>374 pamelad: I haven't had any desire to read another Patrick White after reading Voss but perhaps I could give Tree of Man a closer look, it doesn't sound quite as intimidating.

okt 18, 7:47 pm

>374 pamelad: definitely one I would like to attempt in the future

okt 19, 4:41 pm

>378 DeltaQueen50:, >379 Tess_W: It's definitely worth a try. I hope you both like it.

9. Book Bullets DeltaQueen50

The English Air by D. E. Stevenson

I saw Judy's review, borrowed the book from the Open Library, and was a quarter of the way through when I ran across the dreaded blank page syndrome. I tried moving from single pages to double, trying a different browser, closing and re-opening, leaving it for a few hours, but nothing worked so I had to buy the book. (It's on Kindle Unlimited, but I am currently subscribed to KoboPlus.)

I'm always interested to read books that were written during WWII because you get the authentic point of view of people who were actually living through it. This one was first published in 1940. The story begins in 1938 when Franz von Heiden arrives to stay with his mother's cousins, Sophia Braithwaite and her daughter, Wynne. His father, a high-ranking Nazi, wants Franz to gather information about English state of mind, and Franz, as a loyal German, is eager to assist. But he finds that his pre-conceptions about the English are quite wrong, makes many friends, and falls in love the English way of life. (It does seem idyllic. These people are upper-middle class and don't need to work!) When war is declared Franz is horrified by what he sees as Hitler's betrayal, because he has been brought up to see Hitler as a god-like figure.

There are two romances, but they're not really necessary. I was interested to read about the positive response to the Munich Agreement, which in hindsight was seen as a betrayal.

okt 21, 4:47 pm

Plans for the rest of 2023.

June GeoCAT: something from the sub-continent or SE Asia, possibly The Home and the World.
November GeoCAT: The Village of Eight Graves by Seishi Yokomizo (also completes 7. The Rest of the World)
December GeoCAT: to be decided. Will I give Segu another try?

November ClassicsCAT: Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
December ClassicsCAT: A Month in the Country (already read) and Dubliners.

11. Second Historical Fiction Challenge
Babel - already started for the speculative and bonus categories and will be the second book in my new 12. Big Books category (re-numbered).
Three Fires - about a person, Savaranola.

12. Victober
This was a bit too ambitious. Instead, I'm thinking of a 19th Century Category for 2024.

okt 21, 10:49 pm

>380 pamelad: This one is on my WL. Hope to get to it in 2024.

okt 22, 9:30 pm

Hello and dropping by to catch up on your thread!

>370 pamelad: I commend you for adding a "big books" category. I found it takes a lot of the pressure off of my reading to know that, while I may be taking a couple of months to read a book, I'm still enjoying the storyline or research or characters. I feel less pressured to finish it quickly and perhaps lose some of the taste and enjoyment.

okt 26, 5:40 pm

>383 threadnsong: I'm finding that the trick is to read a bit every day. Even if I'm quite enjoying a book, if I put it down for too long, it's hard to get back to it.

>380 pamelad: It's an easy read, so you could knock it off quickly. I hope you like it.

okt 30, 2:02 am

8. Crime

Death Comes to the Rectory by Catherine Lloyd is the eighth, and currently the last, Kurland St Mary Mystery. I've read them all and preferred the earlier books. This one is lifeless. I didn't really care who murdered whom.

okt 30, 11:24 am

>385 pamelad: Oh, boo! I hate when a series just kind of peters out. I just checked out book #2 from the library, Death Comes to London.

Redigerat: nov 1, 4:50 pm

>386 christina_reads: When series go on too long the characters ossify. By number 8, Kurland in particular is irascible and not much more.

Redigerat: nov 2, 5:18 pm

2. Books I Own
11. Historical Fiction Challenge
12. Big Books

Babel, Or, The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R. F. Kuang is a work of speculative, historical fiction set in England in the early years of Victoria's reign.

In Canton a small boy and his mother are dying of cholera when an Englishman arrives and saves the boy, leaving his mother to die. The boy is taken to England where he becomes Robin Swift and is subjected to an intensive education in languages: Latin, Greek, English, and his own Cantonese. His fate is to become a translator in Babel, an institution that is part of Oxford University.

England is at the peak of its imperial power, exploiting the underpaid and overworked labourers in its colonies to feed its industries' needs for raw materials. British workers and their families have been left to starve as mechanisation eliminates their jobs. This is where the speculative element appears: the efficency of England's industrial processes is enhanced by the magic of silver bars that carry words or phrases in two or more languages. There can never be a direct translation from one language to another. Some of the meaning is always lost. The words on the bars are related in meaning, but there are differences, and it is in these differences that magic arises. The work of the Oxford translators is to come up with pairs or chains of words and phrases that will enhance particular functions. The bars can make trains run faster, protect buildings from collapsing, make mill machinery run so efficiently that far fewer labourers are needed, even manage the flow of waste though he sewerage system.

Once Babel could draw its translators from European countries, but as continental travel increases languages mingle and distinctions are lost, so Babel needs new languages. In Robin's first year cohort at Oxford are Ramy, an Indian Muslim, Victoire, who was born in Haiti, and Letty, the only white English student. Initially Robin, Ramy and Victoire believe that they are extraordinarily privileged to be Oxford students and are grateful to the people they see as their benefactors, but as time goes on they become aware of that they are exploited and held in contempt and that their privilege is at the expense of their native countries.

In order to enjoy this book you would have to be interested in linguistics, because there is a lot of quite academic discussion of word etymologies. I found these bits fascinating. The book covers some big topics including colonialism, racism, the exploitation of the poor by the rich, economics, trade unions, and political corruption. And, as the title indicates, the role of violence in achieving political ends.

A thought-provoking read. I enjoyed it despite the magical elements and managed for the most part to glide past characters who behaved and spoke more like contemporary Americans than people living in Victorian Britain. Recommended.

And 9. Book Bullets Thank you, RidgewayGirl!

nov 4, 4:50 pm

2. Books I Own
8. Crime

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

A lady in my tai chi class recommended Sally Hepworth as a Liane Moriarty read-alike, so I read this bargain buy that's been waiting on my Kobo. It held my attention but isn't in the same class. No humour, none of that sense of recognition you get with Moriarty's characters.

Lucy's mother-in-law has been found dead in suspicious circumstances. The story switches back and forth between the past and the present, and between the points of view of the Lucy and her mother-in-law, Diana. The other characters are Ollie, who is married to Lucy; Ollie's sister Nettie, who is desperate for a child and has had many miscarriages, and her husband Patrick; Diana's husband Tom; and in the background, Eamon, who is Ollie's shonky business partner. Tom and Diana are wealthy, but Diana believes that it would be a mistake to give Nettie and Ollie any money, no matter what financial straits they are in because it's character-building to be independent. Diana is hard on her children, but generous to the charity she runs, helping pregnant refugees.

Pros: not too long; set in Melbourne; held my attention.
Cons: humourless; flat characters; heavy-handed message; partly translated into American.

nov 4, 7:53 pm

5. CATs and Other Challenges October ClassicsCAT

River Lodge by Elizabeth Cadell

I struggled to find a category for this one. It's a light, humorous romance, first published in 1948. I didn't much like it, mainly because Roger, one of the main characters was such a bad-tempered man. Not amused. I pitied his wife, Ruth. Roger inherited a big house from his rich uncle, but he doesn't have the money for its upkeep so he turns it into a hotel (a residential hotel for guests). The first guests are friends and family members: a rich aunt; Goosy, a friend from Roger's army days, who is accompanied by a silent man who makes a lot of money drawing mermaids; Roger's brother Paul, almost as irascible as Roger, an actor who has thrown in a good part after an argument with the producer, Martin, and can't find another; Felicity, with whom Paul is still in love, even though she is now associated with Martin; Nan Hellier, sister of Felicity, a careless, irresponsible mother of twins; Brenda, older cousin of Roger, who helps run the guesthouse; Ruth's elderly aunt, who keeps getting lost, and her worried husband.

The plot is: will Paul and Felicity get back together?

An easy read, but I didn't like the book much. My sympathy for characters who haven't inherited enough money that they don't have to work is absolutely zero and my sympathy for the angry men even less. I didn't think the resolution was a happy one and would have advised Felicity and Ruth to escape.

nov 4, 9:41 pm

>389 pamelad: I actually found it interesting, even if I figured out who the murderer was. But Ive tried a few of her others and they are all the same formula so I dont read any more

nov 6, 2:41 pm

>391 cindydavid4: I didn't really believe Diana's character, and she was central. I'd recommend Liane Moriarty instead. I started with Big Little Lies before the television series came out and was surprised to like it so much. Her books are also formulaic if you read too many, but it's worth trying one or two.

nov 6, 2:54 pm

11. Historical Fiction Challenge Person or Event

Three Fires by Denise Mina

I'd heard the name Savaranola, but knew nothing about him. Nor did I know where the Tom Wolfe got his title for The Bonfire of the Vanities, so this was an educational read, as well as being entertaining and short. Mina is an omniscient narrator writing about fifteenth century people and events from a twenty-first century perspective. I enjoyed it.

This completes my second Historical Fiction Challenge.

nov 6, 4:40 pm

>392 pamelad: yeah I had lots of trouble with Diana, which is how I figured it out fast. How does someone not help their immediate family? Ive seen Moriatys name but since I generally dont read mysteries, I skip her. But im gonna try that one thanks!

nov 6, 4:43 pm

>393 pamelad: yeah he was a real piece of work, lots of blood on his hands. I have read bonfire, and its quite educational as well.would be interesting to see how Mina adapts it to nowadays.

nov 7, 12:43 am

Journey's Eve by Elizabeth Cadell

The plot hinges on a fortune teller, and every time she was mentioned I put the book down. I just can't pick it up again.

nov 10, 4:07 am

>393 pamelad: Taken Three Fires as a BB. Already have Bonfire of the Vanities on my shelf TBR.

Redigerat: nov 12, 2:39 pm

>397 Tess_W: Three Fires is nice and short.

I read Bonfire of the Vanities when it first came out, 36 years ago! For me it's exotic, a book about a foreign tribe. It might hard to read if you live there. Though 36 years could create some distance.

Another popular book from that time is Barbarians at the Gate, non-fiction, also about corporate corruption and greed.

nov 15, 3:13 pm

4. Prizes and Lists National Book Award
5. ClassicsCAT

Augustus by John Williams

First published in 1973, this is the life of the Roman emperor, in epistolary form. The entries hop about in time and from person to person, giving a multi-layered picture of people and events. Because I knew nothing to start with, Williams' interpretation didn't upset any preconceptions, but I imagine that his fictional Augustus shares some of William's own qualities and is a kinder man than the ruthless emperor.

Williams also wrote Stoner, another worthwhile book, and quite different from Augustus.

nov 17, 3:17 pm

8. Crime

Midnight House by Ethel Lina White

I like vintage British crime novels, and Ethel Lina White has written some good ones. Not this one, unfortunately. It's a failed Gothic, with a big cast of unappealing characters that includes the dim-witted heroine who spends most of the book being scared out of her wits. No wonder. Thick fog, three dead women, two of them found in the same back lane. Don't go out there!

The house next door has been boarded up for 12 years and is about to be opened up, for reasons not entirely clear. Two men, the local doctor and a handsome, sporty type, are frightened that the re-opening will reveal secrets that would destroy their lives. They are both courting the sister of the heroine's employer, a twenty-nine-year-old golfer with a private income. The heroine's employer is a widower with two children. She is only nineteen and has been employed as their governess, but the children run rings around her. The widower had a nervous breakdown in India, so there's an outside chance that he's the murderer.

This was a real plod, but I kept going hoping it would improve. Perhaps the next one will be better? They See in Darkness is, like Midnight House, available on KoboPlus, so I'll give it a try.

Redigerat: nov 23, 5:23 am

4. Prizes and Lists
8. Crime
International CWA Dagger

The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre

In this sardonically funny novella, a middle-aged translator uses the information she picks up from doing Arabic translations for the drug squad to set up a big dealer. She needs the money to pay for her mother's aged care. In the writer's France the middle-classes are beggared by the costs of providing for their elderly parents, so dishonesty is the only option.

It's available in Kindle Unlimited.

nov 25, 10:47 am

>401 pamelad: .......heading over to Kindle!

nov 27, 3:38 pm

7. The Rest of the World
8. Crime

The Readers' Room by Antoine Laurain

It's not often that an unsolicited manuscript turns out to be worth publishing, and even rarer that it's as good as The Sugar Flowers. But the book's author, Camille Desencres, can't be contacted, which is a huge problem for Violaine Lepage, the woman in charge of the reading room, not only because the book is on the shortlist for the Prix Goncourt, but because real-life murders are replicating the plot of the book.

I was drawn in from the first page, when Marcel Proust appeared, folllowed by Georges Perec, Michel Houellebecq and Virginia Woolf and became immersed in the world of French publishing.

A nice, short entertaining read and, even better, it's available in Kobo Plus.

Redigerat: nov 28, 10:25 am

>403 pamelad: Ha, I coincidentally just read another Laurain title, The Red Notebook! It also contains many literary allusions, as main character Laurent owns a bookshop. Patrick Modiano makes a cameo appearance.

Redigerat: nov 28, 12:39 pm

>403 pamelad: Been on my WL for sometime, marking it for a 2024 read.
>404 christina_reads: I have this on audio to read. Also penning in for 2024.

nov 28, 1:46 pm

>404 christina_reads: - We read The Red Notebook for a book club read last winter and I want to read more by Laurain.

nov 29, 3:25 pm

>404 christina_reads:, >405 Tess_W:, >406 dudes22: The Red Notebook is on my ebook ready to go, just after Vintage 1954. I'm looking forward to spending some time in fifties Paris.

All of these books are available on KoboPlus, which has a better selection than Kindle Unlimited. But there are a lot more Kindles around than Kobos.

My Kobo Clara Ereader works a lot better than my Kindle Paperwhite, which has a very low battery life these days, despite my turning the brightness right down and turning on aeroplane mode. Does anyone else have that problem?

nov 29, 3:41 pm

It's my 16th LT anniversary today! Contemplating how to celebrate it. Sixteen new books would be too many, so four will do to start.

Redigerat: nov 29, 11:06 pm

>407 pamelad: Although I use the Kindle app, I use it on my Samsung tablet, so no help!

I'm with you about the thingaversary....I usually buy in 2-3 chunks! Happy thingaversary, btw!

Igår, 5:16 am

>408 pamelad: Happy Thingaversary!

Igår, 5:22 am

>408 pamelad: - Happy Thingaversary! Mine is in early Jan so I set aside books I've purchased the previous year as my Thingaversary books. After all - they are presents to myself.

Igår, 12:18 pm

>407 pamelad: I have a couple of Paperwhites and I have noticed that the older one is not holding the battery charge as well as it did in the past. It's a shame because the style and set up of my older Paperwhite makes it my favorite of the devices.

Igår, 3:40 pm

>409 Tess_W:, >410 MissWatson:, >411 dudes22: Thank you!

>412 DeltaQueen50: Perhaps it's an Amazon conspiracy! Akin to the way Apple slowed down older iPads and said it was for the owners' benefit.

Idag, 1:55 pm

>413 pamelad: sadly that wouldn't surprise me at all. For all the marvels of technology, the built-in obsolescence in so many devices really annoys me.