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jenn

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.

Bonus Batch of Books Added to BL

Bonus round of books added.

 

 

9780307908070
9780385521314
9780399580765
9780399582981
9780425284407
9780525513926
9780525538615
9780525558316
9780525574712
9780525621645
9780525644125
9780525644132
9780735218864
9780807064320
9780823437887
9780823441662
9781101870204
9781426220074
9781426333163
9781426333170
9781506708386
9781524720209
9781524720216
9781524747282
9781524762179
9781524787202
9781524787226
9781524789961
9781576879177
9781598536010
9781601429568
9781609808969
9781612197555
9781616956509
9781633885301
9781944466206
9783791384214
9780143198680
9780147531001
9780307957290
9780375412783
9780385538800
9780385544368
9780399179389
9780399184901
9780399544460
9780399549656
9780399549663
9780399559419
9780399559433
9780399582110
9780399587047
9780399587276
9780451469939
9780451489630
9780525513988
9780525517054
9780525521877
9780525522713
9780525534440
9780525537526
9780525538141
9780525554165
9780525558521
9780525578871
9780525645085
9780735218826
9780735223318
9780735228276
9780735229297
9780763680251
9780763693459
9780763696085
9780812994766
9781101870402
9781101871430
9781101986646

 

(show spoiler)

 

Turns out, every imprint uses a different encoding on their book summaries, the result of which is a whole lot of garbage with a little bit of synopsis.  So tomorrow I'll be back at the scripting board to see if I can clean up the most egregious bits of the mess.  Which means there might not be another post for a day or two.

 

https://reststop.randomhouse.com/resources/images/ISBN-299x450.jpg/

 REPLACE the "ISBN" in that link with the actual ISBN number of the cover you want.

 

By the by - should I keep posting these, or are they starting to clutter up people's feed and be annoying?  Let me know please!  :)



Today's Added Books

Another haul for the chronically bored, snowbound or insomnia ridden. Or, just like adding covers.  ;-)

 

9780143131069
9780345807144
9780399581908
9780451478757
9780451490278
9780451490773
9780525432593
9780525434184
9780525434535
9780525533283
9780525557913
9780525566939
9780525567899
9780525573715
9780735291577
9780807059357
9781426220234
9781465479372
9781506705071
9781506706535
9781506707556
9781524790981
9781536203523
9781590519080
9781611806823
9781612197777
9781623173111
9781632367211
9781641290401
9781681372402
9781681373294
9781682558355
9781684054060
9781684055128
9781786782083
9781786782212
9781786782274
9781786782328

(show spoiler)

https://reststop.randomhouse.com/resources/images/ISBN-299x450.jpg/

 

REPLACE the "ISBN" in that link with the actual ISBN number of the cover you want.

 

In a nerd update, MT's coding guru employee fixed the issue with the descriptions - so now all the book records that have a synopsis to copy over, will include it.  They might be missing line breaks or have wonky numbers where apostrophes should be (though I'm trying to catch those as I see them), but they'll be there.

 

I really do have a new appreciation for just how impossible it is to ensure feeds are consistent.  You know those annoying "authors" that are really just a giant list of author names that BL is riddled with?  Well, those are because Penguin/RH, at least, sticks all their authors in one tag and sometimes it's just a list of names, and other times it includes their roles (illustrated by: or translated by: or even translation from the French by:).  Since there's no consistency, it's impossible to write a script that will predict all possible variations.

 

Anyway, party on!  

 

 



More books added ...

UPDATE: DarthPony has reported that all the books in this batch have had their covers added!  Because she is awesome.  :)

 

After banging my head against the computer for 2 days trying to solve the case of the missing book summaries, I've cried uncle;  I'm shamelessly exploiting MT's workforce, submitting my code to one of his employees whose coding mojo is stronger than mine and asked him to "fix it" (on company time, of course).  

 

In the meantime I've added another 40+ books.  This time I got smart and remembered to extract the ISBNs before the program deleted them from the master list.

 

If anyone has time to kill and wants to add covers, the spoiler tags contain the list of ISBNs I added today.  

 

Reminder for finding the images for the books in this list:

https://reststop.randomhouse.com/resources/images/ISBN-299x450.jpg/

 

REPLACE the "ISBN" in that link with the actual ISBN number of the cover you want.

 

 

9780385542845
9780399550447
9780399550454
9780451471253
9780451478412
9780451488947
9780525534761
9780525536208
9780525557432
9780525557999
9780525573067
9780525573128
9780525576709
9780525580461
9780525650584
9780553539714
9780735231894
9780744019636
9780744019704
9780756415525
9780763692636
9780804176729
9780807069158
9780812988987
9781101871058
9781101996409
9781524742089
9781524763084
9781524766689
9781524766696
9781524791988
9781598536034
9781603094436
9781612197432
9781616959876
9781949061406
9781984802439
9781984802620
9783791358307
9783791384702

 

(show spoiler)

 

I've added a tag called Added Books.  I'll TRY to remember to include this tag on my future posts to make it easier to find them for people who might at some point have time, but that time is not now. 

 

Happy Bookliking.  :)



The Last Equation Of Isaac Severy: A Novel In Clues

The Last Equation Of Isaac Severy: A Novel In Clues - Nova Jacobs

I feel like this book was both better than I thought it was, but not quite as good as I expected.  The former because my reading was more fractured than I'd like and the book never got a chance to really suck me in; it was always getting interrupted.  The latter, because its novel-to-mystery ratio was higher than I'd have wished.

 

Isaac Severy was a brilliant mathematician whose last act before dying was writing a bombshell of an equation, which he hid away.  Days after his death, his granddaughter receives a letter from him with his last wishes: to burn all his work save this equation, which she should delver to one trusted colleague and no one else.  But first, she must find the equation using the clues left for her as she goes about fulfilling his final requests.  

 

At the same time, the rest of the Severy family - blessed with brilliance and saddled with dysfunction - is left to pick up the pieces of their lives, re-orienting themselves after they lose their axis and another death unmoors them completely.  Hazel's uncle, Philip, is receiving mysterious notes and visits from someone eager to meet up with him and discuss his father's work, someone who was harassing Isaac in his final days. 

 

I ended up caring about most of the characters except Hazel herself.  She was pretty unmoored from the start, and never felt like she had much resolve.  For me this resulted in the impression that she never took any direction action to find the equation, so much as the clues threw themselves at her in desperation. 

 

Speaking of clues, my biggest annoyance of all was that one of the clues was not only not discovered by Hazel, but the reader didn't got left out too.  Both discover the solution after the fact, and it's a letdown.

 

These are minor grievances though, and I'm not sure I'd have felt the same way about these things had I been able to commit my time and attention to the book as it deserved.  Perhaps more focus would have allowed me to connect more with Hazel and the story's mystery.  Either way, it was an enjoyable read and kept me entertained, if not deeply invested.



I added 50 books today!

Also:  I have a new appreciation for the complexity of import scripts.

 

The program works - yay!  I've set it up to process 15 records at a time, opening a new Add Book window for each but not submitting it.  That allows me to fix the weird errors (example: a colon (:) in a title makes everything to the right of the colon go in the author space. Bad colon!) and manually hit 'enter' for any new authors not in the BL system.

 

Automating the clean up of Penguin/RH's feed is still a work in progress.  There are a lot of steps.  A LOT!  I still have to figure out how to not re-import the records I've already added to BL.  And the bug with the book descriptions is going to ... bug me.

 

But anyway - 50 new audio and ebooks in the system that will be released on the 19th.  Woot!

 

For those that would like to add images for these records (I love you), you can use this link to get them directly from Penguin:

 

https://reststop.randomhouse.com/resources/images/ISBN-299x450.jpg/

 

REPLACE the "ISBN" in that link with the actual ISBN number of the cover you want.  This should return an image that BL won't give you grief about in terms of size.  You can leave the size bit off at the end, but you have to keep the '.jpg' or else you'll get an error page.  

 

Of course that link only works for books published by Penguin Random House.  :P

 

I have no idea if this is going to make anything better for anyone - for all I know I'm adding the most obscure books in publishing history - but hopefully, hopefully, it will ease some of the frustration.  Assuming RL will let me do this regularly enough to matter.  Small victories.



What I've been doing instead of reading ... a question for my friends

The whole current situation with Booklikes's search has been simmering at the back of my mind for some time now.  A few months ago, I played around with trying to hack the ShelfIt widget to get it to work with sites other than Amazon UK, but that was a no-go.  But in the process I discovered a way to query Penguin / Random House's database and get a data dump of their front list and scheduled publications.

 

This weekend, I sat down and learned to write a program.

 

I can't recommend this as a weekend hobby unless you're a masochist.  Which, apparently, I am.

 

Long story short, I've written a program that pulls the (cleaned up) data from the PenguinRandomHouse feed and populates the BL Add New Book page. 

 

It's not perfect.  Drawbacks include:

 

1.  I have to do this manually and I can't share unless you're a Mac user - I could theoretically launch multiple Add New Book windows and auto-submit, but I'm pretty sure I'd crash booklikes, or be mistaken for someone trying to crash BookLikes.  So I still have to click "Submit" for each page myself.  It's ok, but it means small batches.

 

2.  Only Penguin Random House at this point and for the foreseeable future - creating a task that will clean up their import is one-time only, but very time-consuming and the will likely take me several hours to do tomorrow (I've been using a 4 record dump I cleaned up myself).  And I don't even know if I can get anyone else's import.

 

3.  No covers.  I can grab them from Penguin, but I can't upload them to BL - at least not with my newbie skills.

 

4.  Descriptions seem to be hit or miss.  They work with some records, but not others.  Trying to figure out why almost cost me my sanity and my laptop, so I'm going to accept some uncertainty here.  Also, genres are a no-go because I honestly can't be bothered trying to figure THAT mess out.

 

I've gotten far enough in this to share this with you without embarrassing myself later, but I'm still not sure how practical overall it will be.  It's not going to fix things on a grand scale, but it might soften the irritation a little bit.

 

So, my question to y'all is this:  are the lack of covers going to piss everyone off? Because I doubt I'll be able to go back and catch all the imports I manage to do and add the covers.  I can't stand not having covers, but I have to recognise my limitations - especially with my current RL workload.  

 

Thoughts?



The Long Paw of the Law (K9 Cop series, #4; maybe #5)

The Long Paw of the Law - Diane Kelly

This one is going to be short.  The book is too long.  Too much stuffing.  If we shaved away all the targets that qualify as 'author's research she must share so her accountant knows those deductions are legit', and then shaved away the overly long descriptive narrative about the places she goes and the scenery, and - I'm sorry - perhaps pared way back on Bridgit the K9's chapters (which to be fair are already short), this book would have some highly entertaining, unusual investigations for the reader to enjoy.  I even didn't mind the back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys.  The scenes in the compound made me edgy and tense, left with that icky feeling I've also always had since learning about religious cults.  This ramped up tension was then offset by the lighter side as Megan proceeded apace with the missing mother and the garage door burglary cases.

 

So, it was just an ok read, because it was way too overstuffed; done a disservice by a well meaning, but lax editor, but under all that maximum verbosity, there's a good couple of stories in there with strong females characters, strong family values, and of course, the kick ass dog.  I know this author can write much tighter stories; I've read them, so I'll keep an open mind about trying the next one.

 

(Note: this review might be messy; I was wide awake when I started it and my medications have all kicked in in the last 3-4 minutes, so I'm off to bed.  Any incoherence will be corrected in the next release - hopefully tomorrow.  :D   Night y'all!



Becoming

Becoming - Michelle Obama

I have so many disparate thoughts surrounding this book, but one very solid thought about the book itself.  So, the TL;DR version is:  it's excellent.  If you're a hellbent for leather "Republican", stay away from it; you won't enjoy it and it will probably do terrible things for your blood pressure, in much the same way as any new or conflicting idea of your world view might.  Rational conservatives, those with the ability to think their own thoughts and make up their own minds - and gasp - I'm one of those!, will find this woman to be the dignified, thoughtful, intelligent woman and class act that she is, even if, maybe, you may not agree with everything she advocates (though really, she doesn't advocate anything any normal human wouldn't).  Liberals, it goes without saying, have favourable odds of loving the hell out of this memoir of our First Lady.

 

That was, for me, a pretty provocative opening statement; I generally try to maintain a somewhat neutral facade here, though I'll never deny my personal truths.  I just don't feel it's necessary to wave them like a flag.  But - and this is relevant, so stay with me - my defences are low at the moment and I'm so damned tired of everybody's anger being channeled into tribalism.  "Liberals" pointing fingers at "Conservatives" and tearing strips off the whole lot, tarring them all with the same brush, and "Conservatives" ... when they're not tearing a strip off the "Liberals" and tarring them with the same brush, they're actively letting their inner child out, gleefully being petty and sniggering as they throw mud.  Bunch of damn fools, the entire dammed lot, and honestly, they all deserve one another.

 

As I said before, I am conservatively bent; I am not deficit inclined, nor am I inclined to embrace a lot of government in general (though there are exceptions - hello banking industry; you, you aren't to be trusted with so much as a plugged nickel).  Neither am I a racist, a bigot, nor an elitist.  I don't hate, nor do I deny poor people; their existence or their right to make a better life.  Anyone who knows me knows all of this, yet I don't think I'm ever getting the tar out of my hair.  I believe in diversity in all things, even diverse opinions.  Even the ones I don't like*.

 

Now, this is how I make all that relevant - Michelle Obama has written a book that succeeds, and is brilliant, because she does not fling mud; she does not tar anybody**; she writes about her thoughts, her beliefs, her values, her opinions, without ever once throwing judgements on anyone else's.  She does not build herself up by tearing down others, and here I think it's important to point out that she's not Suzy Sunshine and there aren't any unicorns flying out her backside.  I found what she didn't say to be as provocative as what she does say is not; moments when she chooses her words carefully, and where, in my opinion, she manages to convey that which perhaps she feels she can't say.  Though I admit, that might be wishful thinking on my part.

 

I've always admired President Obama; from the first he struck me as thoughtful, intelligent, and well-balanced with very little ego (or one that thrived on power, anyway), but at the beginning, Michelle was a bit of a non-entity to me.  Mostly because I've never gotten into what any First Lady was doing; she's not in office, has no public mandate, and is therefore of little interest to me.  But Michelle caught my attention with the organic vegetable garden - an initiative I was thrilled to watch unfold and succeed.  I still paid little attention, but every time she appeared on my radar, it was because she was doing something impressive, and doing it with dignity and grace.  By the time his second term ended, I was sorry to see them both go, and I was eager to read this book when it came out, to learn more about this woman who has never done anything but impress me.

 

A little part of my soul died when she stated for the record her complete disinterest in public office, because these are the kind of people I want running my country.  NOT because of their politics - I like both of them, but their politics are not entirely mine - but because of the people they are.  I don't have to agree with everything my leader does, but I do have to be able to respect him (or her) and their dedication to the process of doing what's best for the people - all the people - of the country.  The Obamas set - or reset - the standard for the highest office in the nation, repairing the damage wrought by so many previous administrations. To bring this back to the book - Becoming gives readers an insight into just how deeply invested they both were - but especially Michelle, since this is her story - in making the most of the incredible opportunities they were given to make positive, lasting change for as many people as they could, while keeping their family not just in tact, but healthy, thriving and close.

 

A note about her narration:  I'm not going to gush, because the truth is that it was apparent that she was told to read slowly and exactly off the manuscript, which is fair enough.  But I sort of wish she'd have been confident enough to read it in the voice she obviously wrote it in; occasionally that voice would sneak through just enough that I just knew, had she been able to be totally herself, it would have kicked the narration up a notch into absolute perfection.  But that's not a criticism - she did a phenomenal job and for anyone interested in this book who can do audiobooks, I'd highly recommend it, as I think it adds depth to hear her tell her own story.

 

 

* Except the current idiot squatting in the White House; he opens his mouth and nothing but methane comes out.

 

** I loved, loved that the one time Michelle comes close to tarring anyone, it's for the one person who most truly and objectively deserves it.



The Flat Book Society: The March book has been chosen!

Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Matin Durrani, Liz Kalaugher

Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life by Matin Durrani and Liz Kalaugher was the resounding winner this round (or as resounding a winner as we ever get).  A little bird who knows has told Huggins that the first chapter is a bit slow, but the rest is "delicious".  Metaphorically speaking, of course; we don't allow book eating anything into the Flat Book Society.

 

We'll be starting March 1st.  Any and all are welcome to join in.

 

About the book:

 

The animal world is full of mysteries. Why do dogs slurp from their drinking bowls while cats lap up water with a delicate flick of the tongue? How does a tiny turtle hatchling from Florida circle the entire northern Atlantic before returning to the very beach where it hatched? And how can a Komodo dragon kill a water buffalo with a bite only as strong as a domestic cat's?

These puzzles – and many more besides – are all explained by physics. From heat and light to electricity and magnetism, Furry Logic unveils the ways that more than 30 animals exploit physics to eat, drink, mate and dodge death in their daily battle for survival.

Along the way, science journalists Matin Durrani and Liz Kalaugher introduce the great physicists whose discoveries helped us understand the animal world, as well as the animal experts of today who are scouring the planet to find and study the animals that seem to push the laws of physics to the limit.

Presenting mind-bending physics principles in a simple and engaging way, Furry Logic will appeal both to animal lovers and to those curious to see how physics crops up in the natural world. It's more of a 'howdunit' than a whodunit, though you're unlikely to guess some of the answers.

 

 



Unplugged and buying books ... therapy for the bibliophilic soul.

As you all know, life has been challenging at maison de chats fous.  I was feeling optimistic on Tuesday that I was finally getting a grip on the work projects, instead of them having a grip on me, but on Wednesday the projects regrouped and retaliated, and by Thursday night I was waving the white flag.  There was a moment on Wednesday where I gave serious consideration to an experiment designed to find out if my iPhone could reach terminal velocity if launched horizontally; like a frisbee.  Thankfully, I got called away and never had time to find out if my hypothesis had the right stuff.

 

Friday morning, I picked up my phone to check the weather, put it down, and didn't pick it back up again until today (Sunday), and then only to ask Siri to set a timer for 30 seconds, about a dozen times, while I stuck those 3M hooks all over the place.  Likewise, I did not touch my computer all weekend.  I didn't watch TV either, but that doesn't count, since I never watch TV anyway.  

 

Friends I met for coffee on Friday were bug-eyed that I left my phone at home.  But you know what?  I didn't miss it; I never gave it a second thought, in fact, until the same friends asked me about my calendar and I told them I didn't bring my phone with me. 

 

It's been an awesome almost 3 days.  I sat on the couch with my Easter-cat and listened to the fountains in the garden; I read; I worked on a 3000 piece puzzle that MT bought me for Christmas (which has, I think, cured him of buying ever larger puzzles - we haven't seen our dining table in a month).  I *gasp* went to a movie and dinner with friends (saw On the Basis of Sex; I thought it was good - not great, but worth seeing).  I've now seen 2 movies this year, which is 2 more than I've seen in the previous 5+ years.

 

Before the movie, my friends and I met at a used bookstore; we're all three readers, so we all made our own circuits, and walked out with bags stuffed.  I had a few finds I was excited about, including a biography of Conan Doyle by Hesketh Pearson, and - finally - a copy of Raffles by E.W. Hornung, Conan Doyle's brother-in-law.  I've been looking for a copy for awhile now, so I was super chuffed about that.  I also found a copy of The Nine Tailors, the only one of Sayers books I hadn't yet read.

 

 

All in all a really wonderful weekend.  :)



The Corpse at the Crystal Palace (Daisy Dalrymple Mystery, #23)

The Corpse at the Crystal Palace - Carola Dunn

 This is one of those series that's a reliable old friend for me.  Definitely cozy, a little bit frothy, and terribly innocent but never twee or precious, Dunn writes an historically accurate mystery that aims to offer a bit of harmless escapism.  She generally succeeds.  

 

Daisy and her step-daughter Bel are entertaining some young cousins for a week at their home in London, and on the agenda is a day at the Crystal Palace. When Daisy finds out that neither the nanny nor the nurse have been there, she ends up with a large group outing on her hands.  Everyone splits off to explore the huge building and grounds, and when it's time to meet back up, Bel and her cousins spy Nanny Gilpin running out of the "Ladies conveniences" in pursuit of another nanny.  They cannot resist following her, playing spy, to see what's up, and it's all great fun until they find Mrs. Gilpin unconscious in one of the ponds.

 

Meanwhile, Daisy arrives at the rendezvous point to find the nurse and her twins, but no nanny.  After an appropriate amount of time has passed, Daisy goes off to the Ladies conveniences to find out what's holding up nanny's return.  Only instead she finds another nanny, dead.  When Mrs. Gilpin regains consciousness (the children having dragged her out of the pond), she can't, of course, remember anything.

 

And so begins another amateur investigator by Daisy, who is determined to find out why her heretofore grave, humourless but ultra responsible nanny would hare off and leave the twins, even if it was in care of the nurse.

 

Dunn has fun playing up the meddling Daisy does, lightly pitting her in a race against her husband, DCI Alex Fletcher.  Daisy has a knack for purposely putting herself in the right place at the right time, but rather than press the point and interrogate, she merely observes and listens, picking up information as she goes, so it really isn't meddling.  This along with her connections to the peers of the realm (she's an Honourable), gives her access to information faster than the police and makes her contributions valuable, though  it pains her husband to admit it.  

 

The plotting of the mystery was so-so.  I should say, it was technically well done, but the motivation behind a couple of pivotal moments felt weak.  They worked, but only just.  This would probably be a crucial point in book 1, or any of the early entries, but by book 23 most readers are invested in the characters and will probably forgive a less than riveting plot for the chance to catch up with Daisy and her friends and family.  I did, anyway.



Whiskey in a Teacup

Whiskey in a Teacup - Reese Witherspoon

Where to begin... this was a Christmas gift from a friend here in Oz; a very thoughtful gift, as she saw it and thought, as a Southerner myself, it might be a touch of home for me while I am here on the bottom of the world.

 

This is what I'd call a 50/50 split of lifestyle and recipe book.  I'm mostly not a fan of lifestyle books, mostly because I'm pretty hopeless with the 'style' part, and I can't be bothered to care about my shortcomings.  I do enjoy a good recipe book though. 

 

I also know very little about Reece Witherspoon, except that for reasons I cannot explain even to myself, Sweet Home Alabama is a movie that has stayed with me over the years.  The smattering I do know about her seems admirable and anyone who uses their fame to start people reading is winning, as far as I'm concerned.

 

So, I went into this book with no clear expectation of what I'd think when I was done.  I'm done, and mostly, I feel meh.  But only because I'm certain I'm not the true target audience.  This feels like a book that was written almost exclusively for her fanbase.  Maybe.  Or maybe I just missed something. 

 

What I did enjoy was the reminder of all the ways being a Southerner is a wonderful thing.  I spent a lot of time yelling "Yes! This!" in my head about things such as, in no particular order, the kind of manners that were drummed into my head (I still use ma'am and sir, which does not fly here in Aus, let me tell you); frog catching; playing outdoors until the streetlights came on; how to carry on a phone conversation; how you introduce yourself.  I loved the section about accents, which made me laugh, because I still use a lot of those idioms and pronunciations.

 

The recipes look good too - there are a few I'd love to try, though MT has been shoved kicking and screaming onto the gluten free bandwagon for the foreseeable future to try to curb his inflammation levels (which, sadly for my love of all things gluten, might be working really well).  Since all the ones that sound best to me (chilli pie with cornbread topping) are not gluten free, they'll have to wait a bit.

 

All in all, not a book I'd have bought myself, but one I'll be happy to keep on the shelves. This one may connect much more with readers who are actively fans of Witherspoon's, as she comes across as genuine, honest, and sincere.



January ... it sucked.

That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means: The 150 Most Commonly Misused Words And Their Tangled Histories - Ross Petras, Kathryn Petras Notes From A Public Typewriter - Michael Gustafson, Oliver Uberti Big Science For Little People: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Child Discover the Wonders of Science - Lynn Brunelle An Atlas of Natural Beauty: Botanical Ingredients for Retaining and Enhancing Beauty - Victoire de Taillac, Ramdane Touhami

I read 15 books in January.  Which is, by any measure, a respectable number of books.  Except my Januarys are always a book buster month, because school holidays Down Under are in December and January, so I generally don't have to work, which means I can loll about alone with my books.  I read 33 books in January 2018 and 35 books in January 2017.

 

2019 was not blessed with this decadence; I started work again right after the New Year, while the schools were empty, trying to get ahead of a number of massive networking projects that all came together at the same time.  And the iPads.  OMG, the iPads.

 

Unfortunately, I didn't get ahead of any of them, really, and work got steadily busier as the month progressed, with me working almost 44 hours more than I was contracted to in the last 2 weeks.  This has sent my narcolepsy spiralling out of control, which means if I'm not moving, I'm sleeping.  I'm pretty sure there were a couple of times when I was moving and sleeping.

 

I'm sharing this little whinge-fest with you all not because I'm doing a (back of hand against forehead) woe is me!; I'm not - my life is very good, all things considered, and this hellish period will pass.  As I told a teacher who said to me with a look akin to pity that she hoped my day would get better: "well, it will end."  This will end too.  

 

But I am super disappointed with my reading this month.  The craziness/narcolepsy has left me too tired to read more than a page or two, and the constant fatigue has left my feelings too close to the surface to be safely allowed to socialise.  So not only is my reading down, but so too is my participation here, as a blogger, buddy reader, group moderator and librarian (::shudder:: don't ask me about the librarian queue - I'm afraid to look at it).  I was really looking forward to the Pymalong and I just couldn't keep up - words I have never once said about reading in. my. life.   In the grand scheme of things, it's nothing; no big deal.  But, it sort of is, to the part of my psyche that defines my sense of self as a reader first, and pretty much everything else second.

 

So, I'm not a happy camper; this, too, will pass.  Of the 15 books I did read, the best were all non-fiction.  Some reference-types, some books about books, and a collection of science experiments to do with kids at home.  

 

Moving along, My TBR Project is going well.  For every two books I read, I can buy a new one the next month.  For January I started with a book budget of 19 books (based on the average # of books I read per month last year).  

 

January

 

Debit

Credit

Beginning Balance

 

19

Books Bought

14

 

Books Read

 

15 / 2 = 7.5*

 

 

 

Ending Balance

 

13

* I round up to nearest integer.

 

 

Onward, February!



Excellent Women

Excellent women - Barbara Pym

I'm not entirely sure what I just read.  It's beautifully written, but I'd be hard pressed to outline its plot.  Beyond being a social commentary on single women in the 1950's, with a sidebar on the changing morays of post-war Britain, there's not a lot happening.

 

Mildred is a 30-something spinster, the daughter of a clergyman, living on her own in London and living for her local church.  Mildred is quietly wry about her lot in life, while also being something of a doormat; a combination that seems incongruous to me, though that itself might be a reflection of how far we've come: I have the luxury of not only thinking wry thoughts, but expressing them, and choosing not being anybody's doormat.

 

When the flat beneath hers is let to a 'modern' married couple - the kind that were hastily married during WWII - Mildred's life is sucked into the vortex of their melodrama.  Again, something I could not relate to, but this time I couldn't even imagine a set of circumstances where Mildred's experience seems logical.  Except one, and it's the one I think Pym was using, though obliquely (by today's standards): Mildred was in love with, or crushing hard on, Rocky.  There's plenty of evidence that she was - but there's plenty to point to that shows Mildred's misery at doing Rocky and Helena's bidding as well, and again, that seems incongruous to me.  People who are crushing on their neighbours (or whomever) are generally happy to be involved in their crush's life.  Mildred is highly moral, but there's no evidence that her misery stems from the moral quagmire of crushing on a married neighbor, rather is feels like a bone deep fatigue with always being considered an "Excellent Woman".

 

Speaking of "Excellent Women", this sort of feels like Pym's true message; 'Excellent Women' are much admired and relied upon, but rarely loved or appreciated; indeed that being called an Excellent Woman is a rather back-handed compliment. If this was, in fact, Pym's intent, she sort of failed in my opinion.  The message is there, yes, but it's subtle; maybe a little too subtle, as it's drowned out by all the drama happening amongst neighbours and friends.

 

There are a few other things going on during all of this:  Julian, the vicar's, surprise romance with an unsuitable widow, Mildred's friend Dora - a bitter old prune in the making, and possibly the most awkward courtship I've ever read happening between Mildred and another character.  None of which added any depth to the story for me, nor made any of the characters more sympathetic.

 

As I said though, the writing was wonderful, and highlights included learning about the true meaning of being a slut ::grin::, and what might be one of the best character names ever: Everard Bone, couple with one of the most hilarious lines I've read in a while (context: a turned down dinner invitation):

 

Immediately he asked this, I realised that there had been a little nagging worry, an unhappiness, almost, at the back of my mind.  Everard Bone and his meat.

 

Buried amidst the terribly prim and proper setting of this book, this line struck me as inordinately funny, and evidence Pym had a wicked sense of humor.



Off-topic, not book related, and photo heavy.

My husband (MT) asked me how I wanted to spend my birthday a few weeks ago, a question he'll likely not ask me again in the future.  I told him I wanted, bodies being able and willing, to explore the nearby Otway National Park, which is primarily rain forest.

 

Last Sunday, the weather and personal health were in alignment and off we went on a series of short hikes around the park.  To say it was magic was understatement; everywhere we looked was another picture perfect scene.  I culled them down to the very best of the best, but there's still more here than I'd aimed for, so please feel free to skip this post if you're not into modern day 'holiday slides'; the TL;DR version is, if you're ever in Victoria Australia, the Otways should definitely be on the do not miss list.

 

We hit 5 places in total that included 2 waterfalls, 1 redwood forest and 1 lake.  The redwood forest is 80 years old, planted by veterans building roads through the area.  They're currently 60 meters tall and are expected to hit 120 meters in the coming years, making them some of the tallest trees in the world.

 

 

 

Old Beeches and Gums with amazing trunks were all over the forest:

 

 

 

 

A very iconic part of the rainforests here are the fern trees; not quite as tall as a palm tree, but usually about 10-12 feet (3 meters) tall.

 

Part of Triplet Falls, and possibly the winner for breathtaking scenes at every turn:



Reading progress update: I've read 48 out of 256 pages.

Excellent women - Barbara Pym

I know there are worse ways of dealing with stress than falling asleep, but it's so damn inconvenient.

 

I'm still enjoying the writing, though as Peregrinations said, there are moments throughout where I feel a tad out of my depth; comments made that I suspect are going over my head.

 

The one thing that's stopped me in my tracks was is this comment by Mrs. Napier:

 

'Oh, God, yes! You'd hate sharing a kitchen with me.  I'm such a slut,' she said, almost proudly.

 

I'm certain she's not commenting on her proclivities for bedroom activities on the dining table, but rather commenting on her low standards for cleanliness.  But it's still a very, VERY jarring use of the word slut, and one I've never seen used anywhere else in writing set in post WWII.  

 

Did this surprise anyone else?