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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

*glingleglingle* The bookshelf fairy finally arrived!

So I'm still in the midst of slumpaggedon, but in between constantly hitting refresh over the weekend, checking to see if BookLikes was back up, my attention was consumed by our latest home project, which I've alluded to in my previous 2020 post.


The start of this DIY saga goes back to last May, when MT took possession of what was to become the company's new premises.  It was formally a sushi bar, and the owners left the space abruptly, leaving everything in situ.  The landlord refused to do anything to fit out the space, so MT negotiated with him to do it himself.  This meant we (I) had first pick of salvage, before the contractors came in, and part of the sushi bar was the bar itself.  A huge, solid, hardwood thing of beauty.  The contractors dismantled it for us, and we've been storing it.  Because I had plans ::rubbing hands together::.



It took some time to sort out exactly the way I wanted to do it, and the recent influx of furniture from MT's parents caused a complete re-think, but over the holidays we finally fixed on a plan of action and started ordering the necessary bits. 



Last weekend, MT and our incredibly kind neighbor with the cool woodworking tools started ripping the planks and cutting them down to size.  As you see above, we started on the wall behind the door - that way, if we screwed up it would be easier to hide it.




As you can see, we have high ceilings (14ft), and we're going all the way up.  I've done shallow shelves up top, as I'm planning to put paperbacks up there, and I didn't want the room to feel too top heavy.  We're also going to go all the way around the room, with plans to do the opposite corner this weekend.  We've already started, in fact:


Those planks above the fireplace are temporary so I can get more books off the floor; they'll be replaced with long shelves that span the width of the fireplace.  We just have to wait until the neighbor returns from holiday so we can cut the planks for the next section.


Stay tuned for updates.

Confessions of a Bookseller

Confessions of a Bookseller  - Shaun Bythell

The follow up to his Diary of a Bookseller, a book I enjoyed even more than I expected, so when I heard this was out, I immediately went out and bought it.


Every bit as good as the first, though where the first was primarily wacky and funny, this one had a sharper, more contemplative edge and, as far as my memory goes, this one feels a bit more personal.  The book he read/talked about made more of an impact with me in this book too, though I can't say why.


A great read if you like books about books, or memoirs of misanthropic booksellers.

Quick note about the BL 2020 Reading date bug...

Not good news, I'm afraid, and everyone should definitely check out Themis-Athena's post for the most reliable work-around.


BUT, I've been playing around, trying to figure out why it's not recording the 2020 dates, and discovered that if you change your book status from your shelf, using the "shelves" column, to the "currently reading" shelf, it WILL add a 2020 start date (which you can see if you've configured your shelves to display the "start reading" column.



HOWEVER, any attempt to add a finish date - either through the "Finished Reading" button on the dash, or through the shelf page - breaks everything (ie, the start date disappears, along with no data in the End Reading column).


So, the date recording function works properly when the book is moved to Currently Reading, but anything done through the Shelf Advanced pop-up does not.  I think someone forgot to define "2020" somewhere when they added the 2020 year to the pop up list (you'll notice it only goes to 2020, and I'm pretty sure last month it only went to 2019).   This is actually easy to do, as some of you might remember we (ahem - *I*) did something very similar when the Festive Tasks form was first setup.


None of this is helpful to any of us at the moment, as I doubt any of us are keen to leave read books in our currently reading shelf for the sake of a date, but I'm posting this in case someone - ideally the person who did the 2020 alteration in the first place - will get the message and be able to more easily fix it.

2020: So far so ... so-so.

On a personal front, 2019 started as it meant to go on:  crap.  This is reflected in my year in books, which I'm not even going to review, because I'm 100% sure it's crap.  I didn't come close to my goal, my participation in all the games this year was sub-par, and my participation on BookLikes in general was almost non-existent.


2020 is at least starting on a more positive note.  We're busy beavers here at the funny/animal farm, but we're both in good health and we've had some great news on the business transition front that will make life much more cheerful - or at least, less stressful.  My in-laws have run out of furniture and pictures to give us (I think / hope / pray), and I'm a lot in love with my new camera and itching to book my safari.


However, I'm still feeling down in the slumps, reading-wise.  This might be because we're up to our eyeballs in a home improvement project that has MT and I taking bets as to which of us is going to be the first to lose a kneecap in the middle of the night. I don't want to count on it, so I'm setting my 2020 goal at 150 books, maybe 125.  2019 has me spooked.


Australia is also in the midst of trying to destroy itself; the stats are staggering, and I won't hit you with them here, but every state and territory in the country is on fire in a really, really big way, and where the fire isn't, the smoke is.  I honestly believe it will be a miracle if, by the time it's all over, there's anything but sand and concrete left.  


December 18th was the hottest day ever recorded over the entire country:  the average temperature for the nation (which is roughly the size of the USA) was 107.4 / 41.9C.  That includes Tasmania, whose nearest neighbor is Antartica.  3 days ago (Saturday) an outer suburb of Sydney hit 120 / 48.9C - the hottest place on the planet that day.  Melbourne reached 111 / 44C.  I  mention all this because we haven't had a day over 60 / 16C since Sunday.  My AC is having an identity crisis, and Australian weather is weird.


Meanwhile, we're all fine, but the chickens are complaining about not being able to get the smell of the smoke out of their feathers, and the cats have retired to bed for the foreseeable future; the fish don't understand what the fuss is all about but are requesting someone do something about all the bees stealing their water.  I can't imagine a scenario where we'd be in serious danger, but I catch myself wondering if the car is big enough for 2 cats, 4 chickens, and 2 humans, and how many of each species would come out intact at the end; please God may I never have to find out.

This is how obsessions are born ...

Choosing my new camera was a bit of a debacle that started with a month of research that made me want to scream, and culminated with my visiting 6 different stores over 2 days, trying to find the one I ultimately wanted in stock somewhere.  (hint to retailers everywhere:  on-line stock checks only work if they're accurate.)   I finally found my camera in one store, the bag in another and I bought my memory cards in the last one (because I work for the parent company and get an employee discount).


While I was buying the bag, the salesman and I started chatting about the camera I bought and that beyond the safari, I'd be primarily using it for pics of birds and other wildlife.  He suggested I try the shutter priority setting and set the shutter speed at the high range for taking pics of birds, to avoid blurring as they inevitably flew away.  Now, I know next to nothing about cameras beyond point, focus, shoot, so I've always shied away from the 'fancy' settings, but I'm determined to get the most out of this one, so the last couple of days I've been using it.  



OMG, look at that!  Guess how many birds I've been stalking like a maniac since I pulled this one off yesterday?  I used to swear a blue streak every time a bird flew away, now I'm actively hoping they won't sit still...


Sometimes, technology really is awesome.

Look Alive Twenty-five (Stephanie Plum, #25)

Look Alive Twenty-Five - Janet Evanovich

I knew my slump was abysmal when it took me two weeks to finish this book.  I'm still slumping big time, but at least I managed to finish it before the end of the year.  I'm marking this as an accomplishment, as my attention span is worse than Lula's at the moment.


Speaking of Lula, she was my only irritant in this book; her sandwich making 'genius' stretched the boundaries of believability more than her wardrobe usually does, and speaking of her wardrobe, kudos to Evanovich for making me laugh out loud - hard - with the scene in the deli where Lula's fashion choices prove incompatible with waitressing.  I haven't laughed that hard since Grandma Mazur shot the turkey.


Otherwise, it was a standard Plum novel, albeit with more Ranger time, which I appreciated.  Wulf from the between the numbers novels played a weird cameo part, and the book ended in something of a cliffhanger/lead-in to book 26, which is something new for Evanovich's novels.  I tend to dislike these in general, though not enough to get het up about it.


Sad to say this will realistically be my last read for the year 2019, ::sniffle::.

Someone got a new xmas/birthday present (it wasn't the bird)

As part of my trip to Africa next year, I got a new camera, and I got it early so I can figure out how to work it.  So far, not bad. 

Coral Reef Fishes

Coral Reef Fishes: Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean Including the Red Sea - Revised Edition - Robert Myers, Ewald Lieske

I bought this after our trip to Vanuatu (oh, to go back...) so I could attempt to identify the fish I caught in my photos.  It's a nice sized 'pocket' guide (you'd want a big pocket), perfect to travel with, and the color illustrations for each fish are gorgeous.


BUT, I have two complaints:


It's hard to find the fish you're trying to identify if you've never attempted a fish identification before.  Which, honestly, isn't the books fault - it's neatly organised into the different species, but if I've never seen a damselfish I have no idea that the fish I'm trying to identify IS a damselfish.  This is made more frustrating by the fact that damselfish don't all have common traits, so two fish that could not look more different if they had arms and legs, could totally both be damselfish.  I'm not sure this is a solvable problem, except with time and experience.


The color plates, while gorgeous, are not the same as photographs if you're a beginner trying to identify fish for the first time.  I'd read that photos were better when I bought the book, but this title had the most comprehensive list of species and I figured it can't really be THAT hard.  But it can, and it is.


I've still found the guide useful and I'm glad to have it as a reference in my on-going Name that Fish! project, but I have also ordered a different guide with photographs to use as a companion reference.

365 Reasons to Love Your Cat

365 Reasons to Love Your Cat - Michael Powell, Suzanne Khushi

Like I needed a reason - or 365 of them.  I got this as a stocking stuffer this year, and it's sweet, the illustrations are quirky and wonderful, and it was nice to read a few of the more unusual ones and think "oh, thank god, my cat isn't as demented as I thought he was!"


I covered the most squares - I win!



Look!  I can touch the tip of my nose with my tongue!


Merry Christmas BookLikes!


To all my BookLiikes friends (where applicable) - Merry Christmas!  I hope you've all had a joyous and wonderful holiday season.

Murder at Kensington Palace (Wrexford and Sloane, #3)

Murder At Kensington Palace - Andrea Penrose

I enjoy this series so far, but this plot setup stretched the boundaries of plausibility a bit thin.  It was still good, and the outing of Charlotte Sloane was inevitable and handled well, but the murder setup involving her cousin was played too strongly for nail biting suspense, in my opinion (as was the denouement).  The rest was good though, and while I can't remember whodunnit, I do remember not guessing it too early in the book.


Overall a good read and I'll be on the lookout for #4.

The Burry Man's Day (Dandy Gilver, #2)

The Burry Man's Day  - Catriona McPherson

The quirky from book 1 doesn't hold so much in book 2, but boy howdy is the dark still there.  I'm not going to lie, while I was intrigued by the Burryman Festival, the description of the Burryman's ... costume? creeped me right out.  McPherson's detailed description made me feel claustrophobic and I could totally understand why children would cry upon seeing him.  


Dandy continues her unorthodox (for the times) partnership and I'm curious how the author is going to shape this investigative duo in future books.  I nailed the whodunnit part, but the ending... ugh, I did not see the ending coming and I was more than a little surprised and impressed that McPherson went there in what is ostensibly a cozy historical.


Will definitely read more of the series - and not just because I have the books.  ;)

After the Armistice Ball (Dandy Gilver, #1)

After the Armistice Ball - Catriona McPherson

Quirky, and a little bit dark.  It's been long enough now since I read it that I'm very fuzzy on most of the details, but I enjoyed it enough to immediately pick up book #2.  Dandy is a little odd at the start, and her partnership with a male character that's not her husband is innocent yet intriguing and challenging to my sense of what one could get away with during the time (the interval between WW1 and WW2).  

Stiletto (Book 2 of the Checquy Files)

Stiletto - Daniel O'Malley

Not as good as the first, but definitely as rambling.  I listened to the audio, straight from the first book, The Rook and the narrator changed.  Moira Quirk does a credible job, but I listened to both too close together not to notice the difference in voices and styles and it was a bit jarring.


I was also disappointed that this story has multiple POVs and very little page time is given over to Myfanwy Thomas, even though the summary would seem to indicate she's the central character.  She is not.  Mostly this story is told from the POV of a grafter character.  Understanding came before acceptance, but once I did accept it, the story was interesting enough to keep me listening.

The Rook (Book 1 of the Checquy Files)

The Rook  - Daniel O'Malley

Ok, I did as Darth Pendant suggested; I read the book then I watched the trailer for the new Starz series.  She's right - the trailer makes absolutely no sense.  Or, at least, based on what I saw in the trailer, has very little to do with the book itself. 


I also agree with DP that the book was good overall, but omg, the rambling backstory.  I swapped back and forth between the printed book and the audio, checked out from the library, and the audio made the rambling backstory feel, at times, interminable.  The narrator was good though.


Overall, I enjoyed it enough* that I immediately checked out the follow up, Stiletto.


*Imagine my surprise when I discovered Daniel O'Malley is an Australian author.

Owl be Home for Christmas (Meg Langslow, #26)

Owl Be Home For Christmas - Donna Andrews

This was the only Christmas story I read this year, and I started it just as everything started going pear shaped in RL, so it took me forever to read it.  I know this is a 'me' problem, but the longer it takes me to finish a book, the more scattered the story feels to me, so this entry by one of my favorite current authors got short shrift from me this year.  Still, it was good; the mystery was well constructed and the holiday spirit was high.  The Christmas dinner almost made me misty eyed and made me love Donna Andrews as an author just a little bit more than I already did.