The 2021 AW Reading Challenge! New Year; New Hope; New List.

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Gatteau

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I'm amending my list slightly to include a couple other things I've been reading, because they fit in these categories too.

I picked up Amy Schumer's The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo because I've always enjoyed her stand-up and her show, and I like having a bio (specifically a comedian's bio) for bedtime reading. It's got a lot of depth. Naturally, much of it was quite funny, and she seems genuinely surprised by the amount of fame she's managed to acquire, and how she got there; but she also goes into a ton of detail about the not so fabulous parts of her life, from an abusive relationship (scary) to a father with serious medical issues (heartbreaking). All of it flows seamlessly though, in my opinion, the right balance of up and down, kinda just like... life. It sounds cheesy, but most of the book just felt like chatting with a friend about things. It took me three different borrowings from the library to finish it, mostly reading off and on before bed, so each time going back to it it was like, oh hey Amy, what's goin on?

I am also currently reading Finder and enjoying all the fantastic world-building, discovering something new on every page.

And next up, I plan to start Spinning Silver - Chris, I know you have this on your list as well!

1. It’s all fun and games: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo Finished 1/10
2. Laughing Matters: Animal Farm by George Orwell (also The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer Finished 8/15)
3. That old black magic: Soulless by Gail Carriger
4. Keep up with the Joneses: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
5. Succinct: Renegades by Marissa Meyer
6. I’ve met them: The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond (ALA 2016 in NOLA, briefly for a book signing) Finished 7/16
7. After the Fall: Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade
8. Out of this world: The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel (also Finder by Suzanne Palmer, Reading)
9. Freebies: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde (Christmas present from my sister, from her book club last year) Finished 8/8
10. Holy moly some authors like to use an awful lot of words: The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray by E. Latimer Finished 1/24
11. Pixies and Dryads and Elves, oh my: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (also The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold Finished 6/18)
12. How we got to where we are: A Promised Land by Barack Obama Finished 4/17
 
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Tocotin

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I finished The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai (loved it), and read 5 more books from the list while AW was down.

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
2. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm
3. Camilla by Frances Burney (instead of Evelina by the same author, which I intend to read later)
4. Circe by Madeline Miller
5. Memories of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary McCarthy

I loved The Haunting of Hill House – it was my first time reading Shirley Jackson, and there is something about her style that just hits the spot for me. I'm definitely going to read more of her.

I liked Memories of a Catholic Girlhood – I enjoy Mary McCarthy, although sometimes her cleverness and hyper-attention to detail can be unsettling. Camilla was fun too, much more fun than I anticipated; despite being wildly long and overly moralistic, the book has some fantastically amusing social observations and characters. It also has a sympathetic portrait of a 18t-century nerdish girl! She was my favorite character.

Zuleika Dobson was okay – it was just an overlong joke, but I liked the writing style. Circe didn't do anything for me, I'm afraid, I was tired by the misogyny and the martyr complex of the main character. I thought it was going to be about victorious Circe the devourer of men. Alas.

Now I'm reading Illidan, which is a World of Warcraft novel. Sadly, there's too many night elves so far, and no orcs. I know, it's about Illidan, who was a nelf once, so night elves are a given, but... At least gimme blood elves, I beg of you!

I also started Miss Mackenzie, but I'm reading another Trollope right now, so poor Miss Mackenzie is on hiatus. (It is lovely, by the way)

Updated list:

1. Year of the Ox: Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope started
2. Laughing matters: Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
3. That old black magic: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson FINISHED
4. East meets West: The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai by Han Bangqing FINISHED
5. Another mother’s tongue: Heat Source by Kawagoe Sōichi (熱源)
6. Alma mater matters: Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm FINISHED
7. Ye olde booke shoppe: Camilla by Frances Burney FINISHED
8. Locked up: The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson
9. Freebies: The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria by Annie Gray
10. Face your fears: Circe by Madeline Miller FINISHED
11. Pixies and dryads and elves, oh my!: Illidan by Andrew King started
12. Like a novel, only real: Memories of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary McCarthy FINISHED

:troll
 
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Chris P

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Another quick one for Laughing Matters: Nothing to See Here By Kevin Wilson.

Lillian, down on her luck as if that's anything new, has kept in touch with her well-to-do high school friend Madison, who is now married to an esteemed senator and presumptive next Secretary of State, and is thrilled when Madison offers her a well paying job: Watching the senator's twin ten year olds from a prior marriage for the summer. There's just one catch: the kids are prone to spontaneous combustion when agitated. Bursting into flames doesn't hurt the children, and in time they've come to not fear it and kind of enjoy it.

The comedy wasn't as much as might be assumed from the set up, and the children's condition can be a proxy for anything you might want to substitute: bipolar, autism, drug addiction, what have you and the ways prestigious families can stuff the children into an oubliette of prep schools, care facilities, or even governesses so they don't get in the way of ambition. While caring for the children, Lillian comes to terms with her own chaotic, poverty-class upbringing and a mother that similarly didn't want her around.

Although published in 2019, I get the idea this an old, old manuscript from the 1990s or early 2000s Wilson had laying around and was able to get published once he'd achieved success with other books. At one point, Lillian says "of course I knew about the internet, I just wasn't good at techy things so I never learned how to use it." (But nobody in the book seems to use it, or even mention it.) This was to explain why she took the children to the library to research famous local figures, but there is also no mention of cell phones except in one instance where she needs to be told how to use one, and awaiting the arrival of the newspaper to learn more about a plot-connected incident. Actually, had Lillian not explained why she wasn't using the internet, I probably wouldn't have noticed it.

Looks like I've only got two left!
  • Laughing Matters: A humorous or satirical book. Nothing to see here – Kevin Wilson Done
  • I spy: A book featuring spies or espionage. Need to know – Karen Cleveland Done
  • Local hero: A book by a local author. First cosmic velocity – Zack Powers
  • 21st Century, 21st Year, 21st Letter: A book by someone whose first or last name begins with the letter U: House of Broken Angels – Luis Alberto Urrea Done
  • Locked up: A book taking place in a prison, mental institution or treatment center. Girl, Interrupted -- Suzanna Kaysen Done
  • What your parents read: Any novel from the year you were born. Love in the Ruins – Walker Percy Done
  • Out of this world: A book taking place in space or on another planet. Artemis – Andy Weir Done
  • Keep up with the Joneses: A book everyone else seems to have read but you have not. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak Done
  • Feisty feline fiesta: A book with a cat on the cover. Cat Chaser – Elmore Leonard Done
  • Pixies and Dryads and Elves, oh my!: A high fantasy. Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik
  • Run for the border: A book about or taking place in Central or South America. 100 years of solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez Done
  • Vast critical acclaim: A book that has won a prestigious award. Discomfort of Evening – Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Man Booker International award). Done
 
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oneblindmouse

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I finished The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies. Though highly recommended by my husband who is a big Davies fan, I was disappointed overall. I found the first third interesting, the second third tedious, and the ending downright disappointing. The College of St John and the Holy Ghost (known colloquially as Spook) is left a substantial bequest of books, paintings, etc. by a wealthy collector just when a former student and lecturer, now a defrocked priest, returns and causes havoc. Narrated alternately by Maria, a brilliant, beautiful (but not very believable) post-grad student struggling with her part-gypsy origins and her infatuation with her professor, and by Darcourt, a middle-aged priest who, in turn, is smitten by Maria, the book satirizes the world of academia through a host of eccentric characters bent on hiding their own secrets while uncovering those of others, and seeking fame and glory at all costs, even if that means theft or murder. Maybe I would have enjoyed the book more if I’d read it while in college or in the eighties when it was written, but I found it very dated, and I struggled with most of the professors’ dismissive views of women, though admittedly, Maria’s mother is one of the strongest characters in the book. Though unafraid to discuss sex and eschatological theories with great humour throughout the book, Davies ends with an unexpected and tame eulogy on marriage. I was underwhelmed.



1. East meets West: Pachinko
by Min Jin Lee DONE
2. Bits and pieces: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor DONE
3. How we got to where we are: A Very English Scandal
by John Preston DONE
4. Succinct: Chance
by Joseph Conrad DONE
5. After the fall: Ashes of the Earth
by Eliot Pattison DONE
6. Freebies: Baudolino
by Umberto Eco
7. Year of the Ox: Burmese Days by George Orwell
8. Alma Mater Matters: The Rebel Angels
by Robertson Davies DONE
9. Holy Moly, Some Authors Like to Use an Awful Lot of Words: The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
by Ian Mortimer
10. Play it again Sam: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
11. No Cliff Notes this time: Talking Heads by Alan Bennett
12. Locked up: Swirling Red Dust by Takna Jigme Sangdro
 
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Brightdreamer

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Finally getting back to this, though not sure I'll finish by year's end; been in a weird headspace for a while, and doing most "reading" via audiobook.

But I just started Seanan McGuire's The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, second in her Ghost Roads series. Whereas the first book was a collection of short stories that built to a larger narrative about Rose, the "Phantom Prom Queen" of urban legend, this one looks to be more of a book-length narrative. So far, so good... (And I have the third and presumed final book. Angel of the Overpass, in the TBR pile already; I hear rumors that this one ends on a cliffhanger, and so I'll want the next one on hand.)

Updated List (finished 7/12):
-1 - Year of the Ox: Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire - FINISHED 2/6
-2 - Freebies: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, by Nghi Vo - FINISHED 6/11
3 - The Other Side: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, by Seanan McGuire - STARTED 9/5
-4 - Out of the park on first at-bat:
Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko - STARTED 1/12, FINISHED 1/18
5 - Waxing lyrical: Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell
-6 - I’ve met them!: Ashes of the Sun, by Django Wexler - FINISHED 6/27
-7 - Out of Time: The Girl from Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig - FINISHED 5/30
8 - Dearly Departed: Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine
-9 - Keep up with the Joneses: Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov - STARTED 1/8, FINISHED 1/11
-10 - Vast critical acclaim: The Forever War, by Joseph Haldeman - STARTED 6/11, FINISHED 6/14
11 - Read it again, Sam: Moon Dreams, by Brad Strickland
12 - Bits and pieces: Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection, by Seanan McGuire
 
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mrsmig

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I finished Oakley Hall's Warlock this afternoon, my I've met them! selection and the final book of my 2021 Challenge. I have mixed feelings about it. It's a big, fat monolith of a western, very slow to start with opening chapters that are utter Name Soup, but I stuck with it and eventually all the moving parts settled into a comprehensible order, and about midway through I was actually looking forward to reading more. Hall's prose tends toward the stately, but there are moments of utter rawness as well. If you want a big, chewy story with lots of conflicted, multi-level characters, you might enjoy it.

Chris P, thanks once again for setting up this year's Challenge. I might review the original list and see if I want to do some extra credit reading, but for now, I'm calling this done.

1. Year of the Ox. The Children's Blizzard, by Melanie Benjamin. FINISHED 1/31/21

8. Girls chase boys chase girls. Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. FINISHED 1/11/21

10. 21st century, 21st year, 21st letter. Baba Yaga Laid An Egg, by Dubravka Ugresic. FINISHED 3/28/21

22. Tag team. Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition, by Owen Beattie and John Geiger FINISHED 8/25/21

27. Succinct. Later, by Stephen King. FINISHED 7/12/21

30. I've met them! Warlock, by Oakley Hall. FINISHED 9/14/21

32. Verboten. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. FINISHED 5/30/21

33. What your parents read. Dead Man's Folly, by Agatha Christie. FINISHED 3/9/21

36. Bits and pieces. Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019. FINISHED 7/16/21

37. Out of this world. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi. FINISHED 4/3/21

38. Freebies. Vesper Flights, by Helen MacDonald. FINISHED 2/20/21

42. LOL random. Uncle Wiggily's Story Book, by Howard Roger Garis. FINISHED 8/5/21
 

Chris P

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Congrats on finishing!
 
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Brightdreamer

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Finished The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, which - like the first book in the Ghost Roads series - is a fast-paced and interesting tale of the ghostly "twilight Americas" and the urban legend of the Phantom Prom Queen. Rose Marshall, the sixteen year old who has spent sixty years hitchhiking her way across North America and dodging the monstrous Bobby Cross - a man who struck a crossroads bargain for immortality, at the cost of forever feeding fresh kills to his demonic muscle car... which should've been Rose's fate, only she escaped in the moments after her death on Sparrow Hill road. In this installment, Bobby contrives to violate several sacrosanct traditions of the ghost roads in order to get Rose reanimated to life, so he can kill her again and harvest her soul... tearing her from her ghostly boyfriend and allies in the twilight Americas. After so long as a ghost, being trapped in solid meat with its disgusting needs and functions is truly a fate worse than death; worse, even if Bobby Cross doesn't get her, she's aging and changing every moment she lives, meaning that there's no guarantee that when she dies she'll go back to being the hitcher ghost she used to be, and she knows full well there are far more terrible possible fates for a soul than that. But Rose is nothing if not determined, no fainting flower in need of protection, and if anyone can find a way to escape the bonds of an unwanted second life, it's her. Very enjoyable, and looking forward to the third book.

Updated List (finished 8/12):
-1 - Year of the Ox: Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire - FINISHED 2/6
-2 - Freebies: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, by Nghi Vo - FINISHED 6/11
3 - The Other Side: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, by Seanan McGuire - STARTED 9/5, FINISHED 9/19
-4 - Out of the park on first at-bat: Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko - STARTED 1/12, FINISHED 1/18
5 - Waxing lyrical: Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell
-6 - I’ve met them!: Ashes of the Sun, by Django Wexler - FINISHED 6/27
-7 - Out of Time: The Girl from Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig - FINISHED 5/30
8 - Dearly Departed: Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine
-9 - Keep up with the Joneses: Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov - STARTED 1/8, FINISHED 1/11
-10 - Vast critical acclaim: The Forever War, by Joseph Haldeman - STARTED 6/11, FINISHED 6/14
11 - Read it again, Sam: Moon Dreams, by Brad Strickland
12 - Bits and pieces: Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection, by Seanan McGuire
 
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oneblindmouse

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I finished The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh, which was an unexpected personal challenge as my own sister died earlier this year. This short dark satire was, however, a fun read and had me laugh out loud, which is rare. Waugh makes fun of pompous expat Britons in Hollywood, the funeral industry, and popular culture in general in the 1940s. Dennis Barlow, a wannabe British poet and former scriptwriter fallen on hard times, has had to seek work at a pet cemetery, the Happier Hunting Ground, which emulates the fabulous Whispering Glades (human) cemetery. The latter is virtually a funeral theme park and treats death with callow sentimentality and crass commercialisation. None of the characters in the book are very endearing, but they revel in glorious names like Mr Slump the lonely hearts’ column writer, Mr Joyboy the mortician, and Aimée Thanatogenos the mortuary beautician. The love triangle is guaranteed to end badly for at least one of those involved, and I thought the ending very in keeping with the shallowness of all those involved.

1. East meets West: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee DONE

2. Bits and pieces: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor DONE

3. How we got to where we are: A Very English Scandal
by John Preston DONE

4. Succinct: Chance
by Joseph Conrad DONE

5. After the fall: Ashes of the Earth
by Eliot Pattison DONE

6. Freebies: Baudolino
by Umberto Eco

7. Year of the Ox: Burmese Days by George Orwell

8. Alma Mater Matters: The Rebel Angels
by Robertson Davies DONE

9. Holy Moly, Some Authors Like to Use an Awful Lot of Words: The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
by Ian Mortimer

10. Play it again Sam: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh DONE

11. No Cliff Notes this time: Talking Heads
by Alan Bennett

12. Locked up: Swirling Red Dust by Takna Jigme Sangdro
 
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Tocotin

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I finished two books.

Illidan was a special experience. It's a game tie-in book from the World of Warcraft universe, so I read it more for the pleasure of meeting characters I know and love, than for good writing. Frankly, I expected not-so-good writing and I WAS prepared (haha, WoW pun) to like the book no matter what, but it was better than I thought and a lot of fun. [Okay, now I'm going to nerd out a bit.] Yeah, there were no orcs, but Illidan's character was quite well done; Maiev Shadowsong could have used some more depth, but I'd never cared for Maiev anyway. The most interesting character was Akama, I liked him and since I wasn't too familiar with his story, I'm glad it was there. Unlike many readers, I didn't mind that a lot of space was given to original characters – elves who became demon hunters as per Illidan's new project; if not for them, there would be nothing in the book of the Legion expansion, as most of the story is set in the Outlands aka the Burning Crusade (which is to this day the favorite expansion of many; mine is Pandaria, but I often level up in TBC because of nostalgia). And I have a demon hunter of my own, because why not. Last but not least, I thought the magic sequences were well done, the demon homeland in particular – I'd like more details – same with the battle sequences; my favorite was the last part, which essentially describes a Black Temple raid, complete with a raid group doing what they do, and being assisted by Maiev. There was even a warlock in there doing some good DPS, and I loved that, because I main a warlock.

The second book, Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope, was lovely and fun, but also pretty nerve-wracking and heartbreaking. It's a story of a quiet, but strong-willed and resolute lady named Margaret Mackenzie, who at the death of her rich brother whom she cared for during his illness, suddenly finds herself a heiress, and is being pursued by more or less scheming gentlemen who want her fortune. It being a Trollope book, there is no outcome more desirable for a woman than getting married, and so the author is openly rooting for Miss Mackenzie, while doing his best to throw various obstacles in her way. It's hard not to root for her, as she is not only doing her best to dodge the gentlemen, but also to care for the rest of her family, who aren't necessarily nice people. (I especially loved the bond she has with her little niece Susannah.) The novel is a standalone, but some characters from the Palliser cycle make cameo appearances here, and the religious circles of Littlebath bring to mind Barchester Towers, one of my favorite Trollope books. All in all, if you like his work, this book might be worth checking out.

All right, since there's not so much time left (!!), I think I'm going to read Tristram Shandy next.

1. Year of the Ox: Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope FINISHED
2. Laughing matters: Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne started
3. That old black magic: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson FINISHED
4. East meets West: The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai by Han Bangqing FINISHED
5. Another mother’s tongue: Heat Source by Kawagoe Sōichi (熱源)
6. Alma mater matters: Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm FINISHED
7. Ye olde booke shoppe: Camilla by Frances Burney FINISHED
8. Locked up: The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson
9. Freebies: The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria by Annie Gray
10. Face your fears: Circe by Madeline Miller FINISHED
11. Pixies and dryads and elves, oh my!: Illidan by Andrew King FINISHED
12. Like a novel, only real: Memories of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary McCarthy FINISHED

:troll
 
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Chris P

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I finished The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh, which was an unexpected personal challenge as my own sister died earlier this year. This short dark satire was, however, a fun read and had me laugh out loud, which is rare. Waugh makes fun of pompous expat Britons in Hollywood, the funeral industry, and popular culture in general in the 1940s. Dennis Barlow, a wannabe British poet and former scriptwriter fallen on hard times, has had to seek work at a pet cemetery, the Happier Hunting Ground, which emulates the fabulous Whispering Glades (human) cemetery. The latter is virtually a funeral theme park and treats death with callow sentimentality and crass commercialisation. None of the characters in the book are very endearing, but they revel in glorious names like Mr Slump the lonely hearts’ column writer, Mr Joyboy the mortician, and Aimée Thanatogenos the mortuary beautician. The love triangle is guaranteed to end badly for at least one of those involved, and I thought the ending very in keeping with the shallowness of all those involved.

1. East meets West: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee DONE

2.
Bits and pieces: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor DONE

3. How we got to where we are: A Very English Scandal
by John Preston DONE

4. Succinct: Chance
by Joseph Conrad DONE

5. After the fall: Ashes of the Earth
by Eliot Pattison DONE

6. Freebies: Baudolino
by Umberto Eco

7. Year of the Ox: Burmese Days by George Orwell

8. Alma Mater Matters: The Rebel Angels
by Robertson Davies DONE

9. Holy Moly, Some Authors Like to Use an Awful Lot of Words: The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
by Ian Mortimer

10. Play it again Sam: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh DONE

11. No Cliff Notes this time: Talking Heads
by Alan Bennett

12. Locked up: Swirling Red Dust by Takna Jigme Sangdro

So sorry for your loss!

The Loved One is one of my favorite Waugh novels. The humor is less understated than in Vile Bodies (which was okay but not memorable) or Handful of Dust (which I enjoyed thoroughly). I haven't read Brideshead Revisited, as a sort of pop culture oppositional defiance usually keeps me from reading anything popular; I'm more cool and edgy than to do what everyone else does. Or something.

Tocotin: my father read a lot of Trollope, but I haven't tried any yet.
 
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Tocotin

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So sorry for your loss!

The Loved One is one of my favorite Waugh novels. The humor is less understated than in Vile Bodies (which was okay but not memorable) or Handful of Dust (which I enjoyed thoroughly). I haven't read Brideshead Revisited, as a sort of pop culture oppositional defiance usually keeps me from reading anything popular; I'm more cool and edgy than to do what everyone else does. Or something.

Tocotin: my father read a lot of Trollope, but I haven't tried any yet.
Trollope has fantastic female characters, and I also very much enjoy his opinionated yet kind and understanding narration, and even his constant breaking the fourth wall. If you don't mind the latter and are prepared for some long-winded, but solid, Victorian storytelling, Trollope is a lot of fun. I don't even like Victorian period, I don't enjoy Dickens all that much (don't shoot!), but I do love me some Trollope.

By the way, I read Vile Bodies pretty recently and I share your opinion on it. I have Handful of Dust which I plan to read soon, and Brideshead Revisited which I can't bring myself to read for the same reasons as you, hehe. I actually considered tackling Brideshead for the Face Your Fears challenge this year, but ultimately chickened out. Maybe next time!

:troll
 

oneblindmouse

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I finished Burmese Days by George Orwell, having thoroughly enjoyed it. Based on Orwell’s personal experience in the police force in Burma (now Myanmar) in the 1930s, the book is a crushing indictment of racism and British imperialism and is filled with contemptible characters – bullies, drunks, racists, liars, extortionists. Corruption is rife, particularly in the case of the scheming Burmese magistrate U Po Kyin who is busily plotting his rival’s downfall. Even the protagonist, John Flory, a white timber merchant, is not a particularly likeable character. Adrift in a country he both loves and hates, he craves a companion and falls for the vapid young Elizabeth despite her embodying everything he despises about the sahiblog. Though Flory defies convention by befriending a native – the only likeable character in the book, the Indian doctor Veraswami – and attempting to fight injustice, he is too weak to stand up for his convictions. Although the descriptions of the jungle and its wildlife are few and far between, they are rich and evocative, and one gets a strong feel for the stifling heat and the longed-for rainy season. In summary, Burmese Days is a provocative story of racism, identity, hypocrisy, greed, and loneliness, which though slow at the beginning, speeds up to a dramatic finale.



1. East meets West: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee DONE

2. Bits and pieces: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor DONE

3. How we got to where we are: A Very English Scandal
by John Preston DONE

4. Succinct: Chance
by Joseph Conrad DONE

5. After the fall: Ashes of the Earth
by Eliot Pattison DONE

6. Freebies: Baudolino
by Umberto Eco

7. Year of the Ox: Burmese Days by George Orwell DONE

8. Alma Mater Matters: The Rebel Angels
by Robertson Davies DONE

9. Holy Moly, Some Authors Like to Use an Awful Lot of Words: The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
by Ian Mortimer

10. Play it again Sam: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh DONE

11. No Cliff Notes this time: Talking Heads
by Alan Bennett

12. Locked up: Swirling Red Dust by Takna Jigme Sangdro

 

Chris P

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By the way, I read Vile Bodies pretty recently and I share your opinion on it. I have Handful of Dust which I plan to read soon, and Brideshead Revisited which I can't bring myself to read for the same reasons as you, hehe. I actually considered tackling Brideshead for the Face Your Fears challenge this year, but ultimately chickened out. Maybe next time!

:troll

If you think of it, let me know when you read Handful of Dust. I've read it twice, once in high school and again 25 years later. Both experiences were memorable, but very different.
 
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Tocotin

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If you think of it, let me know when you read Handful of Dust. I've read it twice, once in high school and again 25 years later. Both experiences were memorable, but very different.
You know what, Chris, I will read it now. I was actually thinking about swapping Tristram Shandy for Handful of Dust when you posted this! I know that Tristram Shandy is a classic and I usually like 18th century literature and am writing a story set in the 18th century (albeit not in England), and there were some funny moments which I appreciated, but I'm not feeling it as a whole and I don't want to focus super hard and overheat my brain just to be able to smile from time to time. So!

:troll chop-chop
 
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oneblindmouse

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I finished Baodolino by Umberto Eco. I was expecting to enjoy it, as I loved The Name of the Rose and love historical novels and murder mysteries, but somehow it didn’t work for me.

The story is set in the 12th Century, and we first meet the sixty-year-old Baodolino at the fall of Byzantium (Constantinople), when he rescues the chronicler Niketas, to whom he then narrates his highly unlikely story in a frustratingly rambling style while fully admitting he is an inveterate storyteller and liar. Growing up as an Italian peasant boy, Baodolino is adopted by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, also known as Barbarossa, whom he helps in his campaigns in Italy. After Barbarossa’s mysterious death in a locked room, Baodolino and his bunch of trickster friends set off on a quest of glory in search of the holy grail and the fabulous kingdom of the elusive Prester John, which is when the historical novel degenerates into a fantastical journey filled with mythical creatures, ridiculous adventures, and graphic violence, interspersed with philosophical and scientific arguments. Peddling fake relics and posing as the Magi, the friends travel to distant lands where they encounter strange creatures – Baodolino falls in love with a wondrous Hypatia intent on changing the world - wage battles, and engineer daring escapes from captivity. Although I found it tough going, I enjoyed the historical background, the murder mystery, which is solved at the very end, and the occasional funny incidents.

1. East meets West: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee DONE
2. Bits and pieces: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor DONE
3. How we got to where we are: A Very English Scandal
by John Preston DONE
4. Succinct: Chance
by Joseph Conrad DONE
5. After the fall: Ashes of the Earth
by Eliot Pattison DONE
6. Freebies: Baudolino
by Umberto Eco DONE
7. Year of the Ox: Burmese Days
by George Orwell DONE
8. Alma Mater Matters: The Rebel Angels
by Robertson Davies DONE
9. Holy Moly, Some Authors Like to Use an Awful Lot of Words: The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
by Ian Mortimer
10. Play it again Sam: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh DONE
11. No Cliff Notes this time: Talking Heads
by Alan Bennett
12. Locked up: Swirling Red Dust by Takna Jigme Sangdro
 

Chris P

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I finished Baodolino by Umberto Eco. I was expecting to enjoy it, as I loved The Name of the Rose and love historical novels and murder mysteries, but somehow it didn’t work for me.

The story is set in the 12th Century, and we first meet the sixty-year-old Baodolino at the fall of Byzantium (Constantinople), when he rescues the chronicler Niketas, to whom he then narrates his highly unlikely story in a frustratingly rambling style while fully admitting he is an inveterate storyteller and liar. Growing up as an Italian peasant boy, Baodolino is adopted by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, also known as Barbarossa, whom he helps in his campaigns in Italy. After Barbarossa’s mysterious death in a locked room, Baodolino and his bunch of trickster friends set off on a quest of glory in search of the holy grail and the fabulous kingdom of the elusive Prester John, which is when the historical novel degenerates into a fantastical journey filled with mythical creatures, ridiculous adventures, and graphic violence, interspersed with philosophical and scientific arguments. Peddling fake relics and posing as the Magi, the friends travel to distant lands where they encounter strange creatures – Baodolino falls in love with a wondrous Hypatia intent on changing the world - wage battles, and engineer daring escapes from captivity. Although I found it tough going, I enjoyed the historical background, the murder mystery, which is solved at the very end, and the occasional funny incidents.

1. East meets West: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee DONE
2.
Bits and pieces: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor DONE
3. How we got to where we are: A Very English Scandal
by John Preston DONE
4. Succinct: Chance
by Joseph Conrad DONE
5. After the fall: Ashes of the Earth
by Eliot Pattison DONE
6. Freebies: Baudolino
by Umberto Eco DONE
7. Year of the Ox: Burmese Days
by George Orwell DONE
8. Alma Mater Matters: The Rebel Angels
by Robertson Davies DONE
9. Holy Moly, Some Authors Like to Use an Awful Lot of Words: The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
by Ian Mortimer
10. Play it again Sam: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh DONE
11. No Cliff Notes this time: Talking Heads
by Alan Bennett
12. Locked up: Swirling Red Dust by Takna Jigme Sangdro
Eco is one of those authors I'm intimidated by. I started and gave up on Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, but very much enjoyed The Prague Cemetery (but suspecting they were talking about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion without stating so was part of the interest). I see his books come up on BookBub fairly often, but always hesitate.
 

Gatteau

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I recently finished Finder and really enjoyed it! It's been a while since I dove into a good spacey story and this definitely satisfied. A lot of the world-building comes through the protagonist's eyes, either because we're learning the layout with him or because he already knows about something and sees how it relates to the new situation before him, and can therefore explain as he goes along. It also reminded me in some of the style, and that world-building, of The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn, one of my all-time favorites, so kudos there. Always cool to find a new book that puts you in the same mood as one you already love. I am intrigued by Fergus' exploits and have a fair amount of questions left over, so glad to know there is more of his story out there.

I think I'll be working in tandem on Soulless and Spinning Silver next, try to knock out a few more of these as we get toward the end of the year...

1. It’s all fun and games: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo Finished 1/10
2. Laughing Matters: Animal Farm by George Orwell (also The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer Finished 8/15)
3. That old black magic: Soulless by Gail Carriger
4. Keep up with the Joneses: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
5. Succinct: Renegades by Marissa Meyer
6. I’ve met them: The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond (ALA 2016 in NOLA, briefly for a book signing) Finished 7/16
7. After the Fall: Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade
8. Out of this world: The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel (also Finder by Suzanne Palmer, Finished 9/14)
9. Freebies: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde (Christmas present from my sister, from her book club last year) Finished 8/8
10. Holy moly some authors like to use an awful lot of words: The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray by E. Latimer Finished 1/24
11. Pixies and Dryads and Elves, oh my: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (also The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold Finished 6/18)
12. How we got to where we are: A Promised Land by Barack Obama Finished 4/17
 

Verboten

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I haven't been on lately. Lots of stuff going on. But, I'm still working on my challenge trying to get mine done by the end of the year. Hope everyone is doing well.
 
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oneblindmouse

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I finished The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. This is a highly readable detailed non-fiction description of life in 14th-Century England, as told to a time-traveller from the 21st Century, and covers everything from demographics, town planning, housing, and the law, to what people ate, what they wore, and how they spent their time (listening to music and stories, attending jousts, etc.) I found it fascinating as I love the Middle Ages.


1. East meets West: Pachinko
by Min Jin Lee DONE
2. Bits and pieces: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor DONE
3. How we got to where we are: A Very English Scandal
by John Preston DONE
4. Succinct: Chance
by Joseph Conrad DONE
5. After the fall: Ashes of the Earth
by Eliot Pattison DONE
6. Freebies: Baudolino
by Umberto Eco DONE
7. Year of the Ox: Burmese Days
by George Orwell DONE
8. Alma Mater Matters: The Rebel Angels
by Robertson Davies DONE
9. Holy Moly, Some Authors Like to Use an Awful Lot of Words: The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
by Ian Mortimer DONE
10. Play it again Sam: The Loved One
by Evelyn Waugh DONE
11. No Cliff Notes this time: Talking Heads
by Alan Bennett
12. Locked up: Swirling Red Dust by Takna Jigme Sangdro
 
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