I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
Task 1: List the 3 books you’ve read this year you’re most “thankful” for (your favs) or the one book you’ve ever read that changed your life for the better.
The books above aren't necessarily ones I'm thankful for in any obvious way, but they're all 5 star reads and will leave an indelible mark in my memory. They all brought me joy in one form or another too, so I suppose that's reason enough to be thankful.
The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars - Anthony Boucher: This book just hit me in all the feels. It was a serendipitous find for me, as I'd never heard of the title, or really, the author, before. It's a story about people who love Holmes, it had cryptic codes, and it was a little bit slapstick. This book represents the hidden easter egg of my reading year.
File on Fenton & Farr - Q. Patrick: This is a book I first discovered by reading The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards, and I fell in love with the idea of an adult forerunner to Encyclopedia Brown; nothing but the clues and testimony and the reader tries to solve the crime, with the answer in the back of the book. This book represented my childhood, revisited and all grown up.
At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails - Sarah Bakewell: This book is the one that keeps on giving. Its philanthropy began by being a great, engaging read. I listened on audio and the narrator was fantastic. It kept on giving by engendering great conversations between myself, BrokenTune and Lillelara, and it keeps on giving because I'm still thinking about it and chewing over the concepts that Bakewell discussed, and will for the foreseeable future.
Task 2: Describe your perfect meal. What would you cook for the perfect celebration, or, what would you have your imaginary personal chef cook for you?
I have no idea. Isn't that terrible? My knee-jerk reaction is the traditional turkey/ham Christmas dinner, but honestly, none of those foods would actually make my top 10 favorites. If I ignore the "meal" part of the question and stick to foods that make me roll my eyes heavenward and thank all that's holy, then the task becomes more manageable. These foods include, in no particular order:
Hush puppies: deep fried balls of cornmeal with onions and green peppers. Because I'm a Southerner. Also, cornbread.
Stone Crab Claws: This is a species of crab native to Florida. Its name comes from the extraordinarily thick shells that require hammers to break. The meat is sweet and absolutely delicious. But what I like even better than the taste is the fact that only their claws are harvested; the crab is never killed, and it's released back into the waters, where it regenerates new claws.
One of the few things Florida has done right environmentally is strictly policing the harvesting of these crabs' claws; you must have a license, only a very limited number of licenses are released, and there are strict rules on the size of the claws that can be taken. Loads of research was done to determine if one or both claws could be taken (both; as it turns out they use them only for show, not defence or hunting). Ripping claws off a crab is still distasteful, but it's loads better than wiping out a population through over-harvesting.
Corn in pretty much any guise makes me happy. On the cob, off the cob, creamed, grilled, buttered, whatever. It's all corn.
Dessert-wise, if it involves vanilla custard I'm probably swooning. Creme Brûlée, Portuguese custard tarts, vanilla custard slice, custard filled donuts (MT made a 'cake' for my birthday one year by piling custard filled donuts into a pyramid and sticking a candle on the top), whatever - it's all custard. Last year I had a bowl of ice cream just so I'd have something to pour my sister-in-law's homemade vanilla custard (still warm) over. The exception is flan - flan wobbles and it puts me off my custard love. I do not like my food to jiggle.
Task 3: Name a book you’ve read this year that you thought was full of “stuffing”.
I'm cheating here because it's not a book from this year.
I read The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco in 2017, and I know I'll not be popular for this choice, but nothing on my shelves - nothing - comes as close to being as full of stuffing as this book was (for me). The story was great but, oh my god, it never freaking ended. The theologising just went on and on and on, until sometimes I'd forget what the chapter started out being about. Again, brilliant story - just ... stuffed.
Task 4: Show us your 2018 book “harvest” – the books you newly acquired this year, regardless whether bought, received as gift or in whichever other way.
Really? It's not that I'm unwilling to fulfil this task, but I'm pretty sure it's not possible in any practical way; not without putting myself in the doghouse with my husband for the foreseeable future for the mess and chaos it would create.
Instead, I took the number of books added to my BL shelves in 2018 and subtracted the books on my To-Buy list, since theoretically I own all the rest. There are some audiobooks I checked out of the library that I didn't subtract because I didn't feel like trolling through my shelves to find them, and there won't be enough of them to make a difference. Ditto a couple of borrowed books that I read for real life book club.
So, roughly speaking, my haul for 2018 was 357 books.
Gracious, I outdid myself this year. 50+ of those were the bargain box of Agatha Christies, but that whole lunatic book buying spree through Florida accounts for most of it. So, that's the pic I'll post, though you've all seen it now at least once.
Task 1: “Confess” your book habits. Dog-earring? Laying books face down? Bending back the spines? Skimming? OR: Confess your guilty reading pleasure, or comfort reads.
I don't know how to say this without it sounding smug - no smugness intended - but I don't think I have any bad book habits; none of the standard ones anyway. If excessive book buying is a bad habit as some would have me believe *cough*mother-in-law*cough*, then yes, mea culpa. But I'm very careful to always use a bookmark, I don't write in my books, and I generally try to teat them well. I do tend to fall asleep while reading, so I often find them the next morning under the covers, but so far, they've survived unscathed.
Task 2: It’s “Pennants” day according to MbD’s husband: post a picture of your favorite team’s logo/mascot and the last time they’ve won a championship (or not).
Like BrokenTune, the sports I enjoy (baseball and ice hockey) are sports I enjoy for the love of the game, so I don't have 'a team' - I enjoy the game, not the competition. BUT ... there's one team that's always held a special place in my heart. Not because most of my family is from Chicago, but because they are the ultimate underdog.
For those outside the states that are unfamiliar with The Chicago Cubs Baseball team, until 2016, they were widely regarded as cursed. Known as The Curse of the Billy Goat, it was supposedly placed on the Chicago Cubs in 1945, by Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis.
Because the odor of his pet goat, named Murphy, was bothering other fans, Sianis was asked to leave Wrigley Field during game 4 of the 1945 World Series. Sianis’s family claims that he dispatched a telegram to team owner Philip K. Wrigley which read, “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again. You are never going to win a World Series again because you insulted my goat.” The curse lasted 71 years, from 1945 to 2016. But their losing streak goes even further back. They had the longest losing streak in baseball history - 108 years.
Game 7 of the 2016 World Series - a breathtaking, heart stopping game that went into extra innings - was the first and likely last time in my life I'll have ever wept over a game. I still get misty eyed remembering that game and the joyous aftermath.
Task 3: In centuries gone by, penance would often end up in what might be described as a very extended bad hair day (complete with sackcloth and ashes). Tell us: What’s a bad hair day to you – and what (if anything) do you do about it?
A bad hair day was every day of my life until 2007, when I stopped living in a part of the world with an average humidity of 90%. My hair is fine, but there's a lot of it, and it's curly, so as soon as it even *looks* like it might be a humid day, my hair starts to grow in volume and I look like a walking, talking embodiment of a chia pet.
As to what I did about it? I moved to the bottom of the world, where there's never a humid enough day to make my hair sit up and take notice.
Task 4: Early Christian spiritualists would sometimes do penance by spending time in the desert. If you’ve ever visited a desert region (or even live there), post a picture and tell us about it. Alternatively, post a picture of sand dunes (NOT with water in the background!).
My first experience with a proper desert was Abu Dhabi, when I was there for a work project in 2007. According to National Geographic, The Empty Quarter, or Rub al Khali, is the world's largest sand desert.
My co-workers and I went on a desert safari, where you go out in off-road SUVs, driven by the locals who obviously did not have to worry about pesky things like liability insurance. It was a blast, but there were times we went down dunes sideways and I had a distressingly up close and personal view of the sand from out my window.
Once we got out into the middle of nowhere, there was a bedouin camp setup for us tourists, and we could ride camels or 'snow' board down the dunes.
From the top of the dune - the specks towards the center are my co-workers.
I can never resist a camel ride, although this time I probably should have. If you've never ridden a camel, you mount/dismount while they are sitting down on the ground. Once you're in the saddle, the camel gets up and away you go. Unless you get my camel:
That's me, hanging from the camel by my left foot (which was caught in the saddle), after my camel decided 'eh - I'm standing up now'. For the record: I AM NOT THAT FLEXIBLE. This is as close to the splits as I've ever gotten in my life. I hung there until that camel herder came back and cajoled the camel into sitting back down. Which took 100% too long.
At sundown, we entered the camp and enjoyed a bedouin feast, a hookah (which I didn't try), or take the opportunity to try on the native attire. We wound up the evening with a belly dancer performance.
More recently MT and I were in Uluru, which some of you may have seen pictures of already. According to my atlas, Uluru lies in the middle of several deserts in Australia's Red Center: The Simpson desert is to the east, the Great Victorian Desert to the south, the Gibson to the West, and the Tanumi lies to the north. If you're brave enough to do the drive, this is NOT a road you want to run out of gasoline/break down on.
I won't bore you with pictures I've already posted; I'll just include this one, as it has the trifecta: the desert, Ayer's Rock (Uluru) and me, well, my shadow anyway - MT and I are in the middle there - successfully on a camel; no inhuman stretching required.
I'm reading this with BrokenTune, and for all intents and purposes I'm a total Wagner newbie; anything I've read about him (if I have) hasn't stuck around, so I'm going in fresh.
I've only read the forward and introduction so far, but it's obvious I'm in for a ride; Wagner was not a sedate or boring man. If it weren't for the anti-semitism, I'd be looking forward to the rest of the book with 100% zeal. The anti-semitism is dinging my zeal to learn about Wagner. Simon Callow's writing, however, promises to be the spoonful of sugar that will help get the nasty down (sorry about pillaging Mary Poppins).
Task 1: Make two “prophesies” you think will come to fruition in 2019 in your personal or reading life.
1. I will fail any attempts to reduce my TBR. (This is not a defeatist attitude, this is a pragmatic one; MT and I will be in Florida next July for my mom's birthday and I'd really like to say I'll be strong and stay away from the Friends of the Library shops, but I'd be lying.
2. My ongoing shelving issue will remain an ongoing shelving issue.
Are they really prophecies when you're forecasting a sure thing?
Task 2: The Five Pillars of Islam include almsgiving and the pilgrimage to Mekka. Tell us: Have you ever donated books or rescued them from (horror of horrors) being trashed? Alternatively: Is there a book-related place that is a place of pilgrimage to you?
See above, re: my FOTL addiction for the answer about rescues. And though nobody could be blamed for reading my book haul posts and thinking HOARDER!, I do cull my books several times a year, donating in a typical year about 100 books to the only Friends of the Library anywhere near where I live in Victoria. I just buy more than I donate.
There are a few places that are pilgrimages to me, depending on where I am in the world; places that are at the top of the priority list every time I'm there. When I'm at home in Florida, it's the, you guessed it, Friends of the Library sale areas inside our public libraries. It's pretty much the first thing I do the first morning I'm there (it's literally across the street from my mom's house). Repeat visits are made throughout my stay; you know, just in case new stuff has come in.
When my bff and I are both in the States at the same time, I'll go to see her in Atlanta and when that happens, a pilgrimage to Chattanooga, Tennessee is a must. McKay's used books is just off the interstate highway and it was my mecca when I lived in N. Georgia for 5 years.
(Picture from their website - http://www.mckaybooks.com)
When I'm in The Netherlands to see the same bff, then it's ABC books in Amsterdam:
And when I'm in Sydney to visit the in-laws, it's always Berkelouw Books in Paddington:
(Picture from Sydney.com)
Task 3: Prophets are messengers. Tell us: Which book characters are your favorite messengers (no matter whether humans, angels, (demi)gods, etc.)? I'm drawing a serious blank here. This is why my grades in English belied my love of reading; I suck at breaking down what I read beyond 'gee that was good' or 'omg that sucked'. So, for this I'm going to have to take the easy way out and say The Archangel Michael who plays messenger for God in the Charley Davidson series. He's not particularly likeable, but I do chuckle each time there's a scene with him in it, mainly because Charley completely rains on his stoic parade.
Task 4: Muhammad was a merchant before becoming a religious leader. List 5 books on your shelves in which a key character makes / undergoes a radical career change.
1. Mercy Thompson series (Moon Called): she starts off as a mechanic; by the last book of the series (so far) she's wife to the alpha of a werewolf pack and protector of a large chunk of the Northwest USA.
2. Greenhouse Mystery Series by Wendy Tyson: MC starts off as a lawyer and becomes an organic farmer.
3. Sarah Booth Delaney Series by Carolyn Haines: she comes home after a failed stage career and becomes a private detective.
4. Death on Demand Series by Carolyn Hart: another failed stage career, but Annie comes to her new career as a mystery bookshop owner through an inheritance.
5. Lord Peter Whimsey books (Whose Body?) by Dorothy L. Sayers: he's a shell-shocked war veteran and dilettante at the beginning of the series, but becomes a Private Inquiry Agent/Detective. (This one might be a bit of a stretch...)
Task 2: Tell us: What are the tropes (up to 5) that you are not willing to live with in any book (i.e., which are absolutely beyond your capacity for tolerance) and which make that book an automatic DNF for you? (Insta-love? Love triangles? First person present narrative voice? Talking animals? The dog dies? What else?)
1. Cruelty to animals, or any scene involving animal death. I automatically avoid books I know of (i.e. Wuthering Heights will forever be an unread classic for me), and DNF those that catch me unawares. Between Bambi and Ole Yeller in my formative years, I've scarred forever. (This includes non-fiction too, by the way; I skip the sections/chapters that include animal testing in any science book.)
2. Gratuitously violent scenes. I can put up with a lot in the abstract, but if the author is going to wallow in any kind of violence, and make the reader do the same, I'm out. I'll either skip the scene completely or dnf the book.
3. Love triangles. This one is tricky though. If I know a book or series features a love triangle, I won't read it. If I'm reading a series that's introduced a love triangle, I'll see if it resolves itself quickly (within 2-3 books), or the author is going to play it to the hilt. I can forgive the former, but I'll drop the latter. The only exception to this is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. This is the exception that proves the rule though.
4. The Big Misunderstanding and The Big Miscommunication. I loathe both of these and they both stem from stupid characters too stupid to open their stupid mouths and talk. It's also lazy writing - why work hard as plotting when you can just make your characters stupid enough to create your plot devices for you? There are exceptions, I'm sure, but I've yet to read one of them.
Task 2: Make an offer of peace (letter, gift, whatever) to a book character who has particularly annoyed you this year.
I wasn't sure I'd be able to do this one because unless prompted about specific characters or even books, I have a terrible time with recall. But as I was perusing my shelves to see if any covers triggered a response I came across Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and suddenly I was in the game again.
So, here it goes:
I'm sure it's no secret to you that you annoyed me from cover to cover; I certainly didn't keep my mutterings to myself, nor did I curb their volume. In spite of my lack of patience with you and your inconsistencies (while proclaiming all the while that you are a utterly consistent person), and in spite of your profoundly naive and delusional view of life in the face of an urban childhood, I did admire your ability to (eventually) pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and calmly face what needed to be done. Once you let go of your denial and delusions, you didn't muck about, you didn't cling, you didn't regress. I admired your perseverance in the face of extraordinary circumstances. I sincerely hope your life outside the pages of this book are blessed and you have a long, steady, healthy (dry) life ahead of you.
I bought this book from a Friends of the Library shop in Florida, because the title grabbed me, and the synopsis said it was a blackly hilarious take on Arsenic and Old Lace.
It probably is (a take on Arsenic and Old Lace). And it's not bad. But it's not great either. It's a story that plays on, and exaggerates in small ways, the eccentricity that is often found in small towns in the Deep South (USA). These are all Good Christian Women (though the book isn't at all oriented toward 'being Christian') who have all been graced with names straight out of the Bible (Zion, Beulah and Sweet - from the hymn Sweet by and by) and have all grown up together. Sweet finds herself in a late-in-life marriage to a man that turns out to be a violent abuser, and Beulah and Zion take it upon themselves to graciously and politely do away with him before he does away with Sweet.
The elements are all there for a great story, but I found it a tad tedious. It felt like it took forever to get going, though as I look at it know, it was only 60 pages in that Sweet finds herself suffering the consequences of a hasty marriage and Zion and Beulah start plotting. If the domestic violence isn't a trigger warning, there is the aftermath of a horrible incident involving a pet canary that the main character Beulah kept bring up again and again. The first telling of it was bad enough but I almost DNF'd the book because she just kept bringing it up again and again.
The ending is ambiguous, which is fine, but the author stressed the ambiguousness of the ending too strongly so that by the last page I was muttering 'yeah, yeah, I get it - we'll never know' to myself.
It wasn't a bad book; I wasn't scrambling to read it, but I wasn't avoiding it either. It's very readable. It just isn't as gripping a story as it could have been had the characters and pacing been a bit more balanced.
My fellow Discworld fans: If you see this book, buy this book.
It's awesome; it's hilarious; it's not lying or exaggerating when it says it is "Compleat".
The amount of thought and attention to detail is astounding, especially in the trade directory.
And the piece de la resistance is the giant-size, pull out map at the back. I took pictures, which do not adequately illustrate the awesomeness. Mostly because it's almost 9pm and my home lighting is lacking.
I am here. And here. And here.
Task 1: Find some redeeming quality in the book you liked least this year and post about it.
I was going to do this task based on Murder in the Museum, but the only redeeming quality I could come up with was the cover and title. That's all I got - the book sucked.
Since this didn't seem in keeping with the spirit of the task, I decided instead to go with The Road to Cardinal Valley by Earlene Fowler, a book I liked only slightly more than Murder in the Museum.
All the things I didn't like you can read here, if you're interested, but in spite of it all, I did enjoy the setting of the small ranching town of Cardinal Valley and its multi-ethnic population of characters. When not involved in the plot, they are all (mostly) likeable, wise, affable characters. I liked that the teen with the best reason to be horribly cobbled by her own backstory ended up being the strongest, most independent, and competent character of the bunch.
Task 3: Tell us: What author’s books would you consider yourself a veteran of (i.e., by which author have you read particularly many books – or maybe even all of them)?
I'm a completist and a re-reader-ist so there are a few authors I could use for this task, but really there can be only one. And he's Scottish, so the possibly obscure movie/TV reference works.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes. The former one of only two authors I'd go out of my way for the chance to have dinner with (assuming death is not an obstacle) and the latter my numero uno literary hero.
I have read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon multiple times and as you can see above, I own several editions of both the complete works and individual titles. I'm pretty sure they're just the beginning too, because if I thought it was hard to pass by additional editions of Jane Austen's works (I have at least 2 of all her works, 3 of some, and I think I'm up to 4 P&P editions) it's downright impossible for me to pass by a good Sherlock Holmes - especially an older edition.
Even though I've read all the stories at least 4 times, there is a lot I learn every time - things I've forgotten or overlooked, or simply 'get' because of new life experiences. This makes me hesitant to go toe-to-toe with anyone over most of the stories themselves, but I definitely consider myself enough of a 'veteran' to wade into any conversation about Holmes and Watson as characters with confidence.
Task 4: Treat yourself to a slice of seedcake and post a photo.
I hadn't planned on doing this one, but today at coffee with a friend, the goodie case had this little bit of deliciousness:
Poppyseed cake with passionfruit icing. I'm ambivalent about poppy seed cake - until you add passionfruit icing.
Task 1: Share a picture of your favorite light display.
I have photos from Montreal years ago, taken during what might have been a Diwali Festival, though I'm not sure. It was many years ago and the memories are fuzzy, but most of the displays were creations like this one:
The other favorite is from just this past June; an art installation in the middle of the Australian desert, outside Uluru (Ayers Rock), called Field of Light. It consisted of 7 US football fields of hand blown globes, filled with changing LED lights. You can't get there by car, so it's either camel or tour bus and of course, it's pitch black out there, so these pictures don't really do it justice:
This is how you first see it, from a distant sand dune. Once it's all lit up and truly full dark, you can walk amongst them and watch as they change colors.
Task #4: During Diwali, people pray to the goddess Lakhshmi, who is typically depicted as a beautiful young woman holding a lotus flower. Find 5 books on your shelves (either physical or virtual) whose covers show a young woman holding a flower and share their cover images.
93 pages of book covers later, it turns out I actually had 5 books with women holding flowers on their covers. After seeing the struggles others have had, I was delightfully surprised. Though I would have been even more delighted had I not had to look through 93 pages to find them.
Task 2: Cleaning is a big part of this holiday; choose one of your shelves, real or virtual, and tidy / organise it. Give us the before and after photos. OR Tidy up 5 of the books on your BookLikes shelves by adding the CORRECT cover, and/or any other missing information.
Since I'm making librarian edits here pretty much all the time, that feels like a cop-out, so I'm going to focus on the first part of this task.
Most of you who put up with my non-book-review posts know about all of the things I'm about to use for this task, but only as individual moments. Strung together, they qualify for this task.
As you know, when I came back from my holiday home in Florida I broke all efforts to reduce my TBR piles by bringing home 4 boxes of books:
Did I have room for 4 boxes of books? Pfft... of course not. So, as you can see above, they ended up in tidy piles on the floor, where Easter-cat used them as a sort of obstacle course.
This is a state of affairs that could have gone on indefinitely, except that a friend was coming to visit for a week and her bed had to go in that room. It's a small room; really small. So not only did I have to get those books off the floor, but I had to get two bookcases out of that room so the bed would fit while also allowing her feet to touch the floor, the door to shut, and if I tried really hard, she'd have a small corner for her luggage.
My house is small - not tiny house small, but almost, and i have a small problem turning down furniture that belonged to MT's grandmother whenever his mom decides it's time to get it out of her house. So, not a lot of room to work with. Luckily MT was up to the challenge and found two solutions, one temporary and one probably permanent.
Before (along with the photo above):
The picture on the left is the end of our 'main' ::snort:: hallway, and will probably remain there in some fashion (might try to get two taller cases that fit that space) and the right is the corner of my bedroom; the bookcase and possibly one of the book spines there are temporary since, if the lighting was better you'd be able to tell there's a bedside table shoved in front of it, blocking the bottom shelf (which is MT's ... coincidence?).
Of course you know what this means, right? I have a blank wall in my library now. Crying out for new, taller, wider bookcases.
List your top 3 treasonous crimes against books. Not ones you’ve committed, but the ones you think are the worst.
1. Plagiarism. This is a case where imitation is NOT the sincerest form of flattery. Copying someone else's work without attribution demeans their efforts and talents and ultimately makes the plagiarist look like small.
2. Not returning borrowed books in the condition they were lent in. (Or, not returning them at all.). This one chaps my hide; with the exception of two people in my life I just don't lend books any longer.
3. Cracking spines, dog-earing pages or, treasons of all treasons, book art. I don't judge (much) what other people do in the name of love for their books, but my books are beloved objects that I treat with respect. Dog-earing and spine splitting make me flinch, but book art makes me nauseous.