The 2022 AW Reading Challenge! Turning the page on a new year.

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Verboten

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I finished "The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang. This was a debut novel for her and it was excellent.

Rin wants to do something better with her life than illegally produce and sell opium with her family. She wants to go to school. She goes against her parents and studies insanely hard for months to try to get into Sinegard, a very well known military school. Rin finds herself and powers that she never knew she had. This is a tale of strength among so many other things. Rin is awesome. This story starts a trilogy. I will definitely be reading the next two to continue to go on the journey with Rin.

1. Halcyon days: A book published the year you turned 21 (or age 12 if you aren’t yet 21) - The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich - IN PROCESS
bo weather, or with a weather-themed title. - Weather by Jenny Offill - DONE
3. Howdy, stranger: A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. - Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
4. Let’s go clubbing!: A book in a celebrity’s book club. - Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Reese Witherspoon's Book Club) - IN PROCESS (AUDIOBOOK)
5. Tag team: A book by more than one author. - Cemetery Dance by Preston & Child
6. Armchair voyages: A book taking place somewhere you have always wanted to go, but have never been. - Silent House by Orhan Pamuk
7. Continuing on: A book from any point in a series that is NOT the first or the final. - Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
8. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. - Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier - DONE
9. What everyone else was reading: Any book from a significant year in your life on the New York Times Best Seller List - Intensity by Dean Koontz
10. Out of this world: A book taking place in space or on another planet. - Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
11. Pages on pages: Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. - The Midnight Library by Matt Haig - DONE
12. Getting started: Read the first book of a series. - The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang - DONE
 

MAK4Him

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Okay, so I finished Shadow Knights by Jennifer Anne Davis and I really did enjoy all of the twists in the plots and throughout the relationships of the MC (Reid). I really liked how the author conveyed her (Reid's) thought process before making certain decisions/actions. There were some characters that I thought I understood but then they'd behave/react differently from my expectations so I became somewhat confused on their motives/intentions. Which made me undecided whether I liked them or not. LOL. IMO this made me hungry for more.

Overall, I'm glad I read it and want to continue with the next one in the series, Book 3 Hidden Knights.

3. Just the facts, Ma’am: The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz. Currently Reading
9. Coming to a theater near you: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
12. What everyone else was reading: Any book from a significant year in your life on the New York Times Best Seller List The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy
13. Out of Time: How To Stop Time by Matt Haig.
15. Halcyon days: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams Currently Reading
16. Lol random: The Black Dwarf by Sir Walter Scott
24. Continuing on: Shadow Knights by Jennifer Anne Davis Done
28. Alma mater matters: I DO I DO by Ellie Cahill. Done
30. Succinct: Hyperspace by Michio Kaku.
35. Namesakes: Silas Marner by George Elliot Currently Reading
37. I spy: Any Means Necessary by Jack Mars.
41. Armchair voyages: Don Quixote by Cervantes.
 
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oneblindmouse

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I finished The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop. This is the third book I read by this intrepid traveller who describes in vivid detail her journeys to far-flung places during the late 19Th Century, in this case up and then down the Yangtse River in China in 1897. After a long difficult journey upstream, in which her houseboat was towed up perilous rapids by impoverished yet surprisingly cheerful “trackers” who smoked opium every evening, she abandoned the river to traverse virtually uncharted country in an open chair (which was considered scandalous for a woman, and earned her much opprobrium and abuse from the locals) to reach obscure mountain villages bordering Tibet, before descending the Yangtse River back to Shanghai. She describes all sorts of experiences, from walking through the freezing night at 12,000 ft with snow up to her neck, and surviving rockfalls, riots, hunger and thirst, and abuse from locals, to sleeping in pigsties and on roofs, and thwarting Chinese officialdom intent on preventing her visiting remote semi-autonomous regions. Her adverse experiences do nothing to daunt her spirit, but only seem to fill her with a sense of freedom and exhilaration. Despite all her hardships, she expresses appreciation for the Chinese, their industriousness, ingenuity and filial piety, though she is dismissive of their “superstitious beliefs”. She waxes eloquent in her descriptions of the scenery and variety of natural species, and though in earlier books she makes sketches of places of particular interest, on this trip she turns to photography, heaping scorn on “amateur photographers” who need dark rooms, while she can develop excellent photographs on a tiny boat during the night. She is very interested in Chinese culture, and intersperses her commentary on her daily adventures with her outspoken opinion on all she encounters, from education, religion, bureaucracy, commerce, to opium, missionaries, and politics. Though most of her thoughtful observations are interesting and relevant even today, considering the revolutionary changes that China underwent in the 20th Century, some will be deemed offensive to current tastes, but I didn’t find that detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book, as I have nothing but admiration for this stout-hearted 64-year-old Englishwoman travelling alone in 1987.

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop DONE
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym DONE
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole
4. Dearly departed: Inés y la alegría [ Inés and joy] by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston
6. Getting started: Bone rattler (Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison IN PROGRESS
7. Continuing on: El Prisionero del Cielo
[The Prisoner of Heaven], (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, book Nº 3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps by John Buchan DONE
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal
10. Still time for more chapters: Cuadernos de Lanzarote I by Antonio Lobo Antunes
11. Out of Africa: North of South by Shiva Naipaul
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs (or from Goodnight to Good Morning) by Alice Corkran
 

mrsmig

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I roared through my Dearly Departed choice - Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny. The story of a beat-up WWII minesweeper, its paranoid captain and dysfunctional crew is familiar to those who've seen the classic Humphrey Bogart film version. What I wasn't prepared for was the liveliness of Wouk's prose, and his darkly humorous style. Thoroughly enjoyable read.

3. Just the facts, ma'am. Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape, by Cal Flyn

8. Locked up. The Sanatorium, by Sarah Pearse FINISHED

12. What everyone else was reading. The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller FINISHED

18. Better known for. Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park with George, by James Lapine FINISHED

23. Getting started. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde FINISHED

24. Continuing on. Wolves Eat Dogs, by Martin Cruz Smith

27. Upstaged. Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief, by Paula Vogel FINISHED

41. Armchair Voyages. The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland, by Nan Shepherd

44. Let's go clubbing. The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles

45. Face your fears. Chimpanzee Politics, by Frans de Waal

48. Dearly departed. The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk FINISHED

50. Loose ends. A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor FINISHED
 

Verboten

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I finished Daisy Jones and the Six. This story was a delightful fiction depiction of what it's like to be in a successful band. All the traveling, the song writing, the relationships, etc. You fall in love with Daisy Jones and Billy. I fell in love with each of the characters in this book in a different way. It was narrated by a lot of different people, including but not limited to Benjamin Bratt and Jennifer Beall. Someone for each character I think, so it was pretty cool to listen to. It's written like a screen play, which is a little strange and some people really hate that part, but I thought it was creative. It's being adapted into a movie (or maybe already has been?). I'd watch it and recommend this book to people.


1. Halcyon days: A book published the year you turned 21 (or age 12 if you aren’t yet 21) - The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich - IN PROCESS
bo weather, or with a weather-themed title. - Weather by Jenny Offill - DONE
3. Howdy, stranger: A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. - Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
4. Let’s go clubbing!: A book in a celebrity’s book club. - Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Reese Witherspoon's Book Club) - DONE
5. Tag team: A book by more than one author. - Cemetery Dance by Preston & Child
6. Armchair voyages: A book taking place somewhere you have always wanted to go, but have never been. - Silent House by Orhan Pamuk
7. Continuing on: A book from any point in a series that is NOT the first or the final. - Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
8. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. - Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier - DONE
9. What everyone else was reading: Any book from a significant year in your life on the New York Times Best Seller List - Intensity by Dean Koontz - IN PROCESS
10. Out of this world: A book taking place in space or on another planet. - Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
11. Pages on pages: Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. - The Midnight Library by Matt Haig - DONE
12. Getting started: Read the first book of a series. - The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang - DONE
 
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oneblindmouse

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I finished Bone rattler, the first of Eliot Pattison’s series set in colonial America. Duncan McCallum, a Scottish convict on an English ship bound for the New World, is forced to aid his masters unravel a mystery after a series of murders and apparent suicides occur. Against a backdrop of cultural clashes between English, Scots, Iroquois, and French during the Seven Years War (known in the USA as the French and Indian War), Pattison weaves a tale of greed, deceit, distrust, bravery, murder, and mysticism that owes nothing to the popular Highlander series that it predates.

Although I loved Pattison’s Inspector Shan series set in Tibet, I was a tad disappointed with this mystery. The beginning is very hard going, the plot is unnecessarily convoluted, and although the suspense comes to a head in a dramatic finale, all the many loose ends are then hurriedly tied up on the last few pages. However, the author is a master of dealing sensitively with difficult issues, and always gets his historical facts right, so I shall certainly read the next book in the series.

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop FINISHED
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym FINISHED
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole
4. Dearly departed: Inés y la alegría [ Inés and joy] by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston
6. Getting started: Bone rattler (Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison FINISHED
7. Continuing on: El Prisionero del Cielo
[The Prisoner of Heaven], (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, book Nº 3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps by John Buchan FINISHED
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal
10. Still time for more chapters: Cuadernos de Lanzarote I by Antonio Lobo Antunes
11. Out of Africa: North of South by Shiva Naipaul
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs (or from Goodnight to Good Morning) by Alice Corkran
 

Chris P

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I Faced My Fears and survived, and finished Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Nothing can kill me now.

Casaubon and his friends at an academic press begin lampooning the various crackpot conspiracy theorists who come in with manuscripts tying the Templars to just about every religion, government, and intellectual movement before and since. The publishers decide to pull a prank by pulling together one great Plan from the bits and pieces of the rejected manuscripts. Haha, great fun, until they discover The Plan they have devised is, in fact, right on the money--and now "They" are coming for them.

Such was the great set-up, but unfortunately it was all buried under too much book. Don't get me wrong, it's a good solid, and mostly engaging read, just oof, so much of it. Eco goes into great depth on the various theories, not only those supporting the legends but also in devising their Plan. I also found the formula of "Long explanation"/"Sarcastic Comment or Tangential Question"/"Long response" to wear thin, even if it is typical of the type of writing they are lampooning. The discussions were interesting, but I had to take the same approach I do to the Matrix movies: I know I'm not going to understand a thing, so just go along with it and enjoy. The language is quite good, as I expected, and I see how he tried to connect all the various parts but he simply asked for too much of an investment on the part of the reader. This would have been an awesome book at half or two-thirds of its word count.


1. Just the facts, Ma’am: Nonfiction on any subject. The Pioneers – David McCullough
2. Just the (alternative) facts, Ma’am: An alternate history. A Nation Interrupted – Kevin McDonald
3. Girls chase boys chase girls (or any combination thereof): A book with a love triangle. An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
4. Out of Africa: A book taking place in Africa (including North Africa). Weep Not, Child – Ngugi wa Thiong’o
5. Let’s go clubbing!: A book in a celebrity’s book club. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides (Oprah’s Book Club)
6. Three-color mythology: A graphic novel or comic book. Home After Dark – David Small
7. Face your fears: A book that intimidates you, for any reason. Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco DONE
8. Namesakes: A book by an author who shares your first or last name (maiden name counts). Hour of the Witch – Chris Bojhalian
9. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. In Five Years – Rebecca Serle (New Years) DONE
10. Pages on pages:
Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson
11. Howdy, stranger: A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins
12. Dearly Departed: A book by an author who died within the past four years. Tales from the Ant World – E.O. Wilson
 
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Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Well, I faced my fears and survived too:

Face Your Fears/Gramma Would Have Loved This: The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne: We picked up a copy of this from Mr. Siri's grandfather's estate in 1994.

As you might note, it's taken me a long while to push myself to read it. Back in the mid-'60s when my Mom returned to college to get a Masters so she could teach, she took a class in 19th C literature; the professor of that class said that he thought this was an inferior book and had them read Hawthorne's The Marble Faun instead. Now, Mom often enthused about the books she liked (with the result that I read both Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice on my own before I turned 17) but she was resoundingly silent about The Marble Faun....and if the professor thought that book was the better one... There was also the dauntingly small font of the book we acquired from Granddad. But when I learned that the characters (most of them) in the wip I was flirting with would have read this book in their first year of high school, I knew I'd have to read it. So I got a larger print version.

It was still a push to force myself to read parts of the first few chapters. There was much authorial posturing. There were long passages that amounted to not much. There was a lengthy cringe-worthy section delicately saying he's not going to ridicule an old lady when he's doing exactly that. And there are references to Jim Crow: no, not the set of laws, but an obvious slur that refers to a species of gingerbread man.

But there were some interesting passages that suggested I really needed to read this book. And you know what? I really did need to read it. I now have a really good idea of what inner process my MC goes through to make a major decision; I've already got it in my outline.

Also, despite the posturing and the cringe-worthy references to old ladies and people of color, most of the characters are treated to an in-depth look above and beyond what one usually gets.

And so, my feelings about this book are mixed. I can't in good faith recommend it, but I'm glad I read it.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

oneblindmouse

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I finished (Read it again, Sam) Down the Snow Stairs (or from Goodnight to Good Morning) by Alice Corkran. I read this book as a child and remember disliking it. Now I understand why. This beautifully illustrated hardback, which had belonged to my mother who was Spanish and who obviously read it when learning English, is a Victorian morality tale for children, indoctrinating them with the belief that they will only accrue happiness and reward if they are “good” and resist “temptation”, rather than being “naughty, disobedient, selfish, vain or lazy”. The 8-year-old protagonist Kitty lies tossing and turning in bed on Christmas Eve, wracked by guilt at having taken her crippled younger brother Johnnie out into the snow to see her snowman, thereby unwittingly having caused him to develop a life-threatening fever. Suddenly the snowman appears beside her bed, then leads her down the snow stairs to Naughty Children’s Land and Punishment Land where she meets naughty children, pixies, sprites, and Love. The suspense builds gradually, as in order to return home, receive forgiveness and Love’s blessing (only possible on Christmas Day), and save Johnnie’s life, Kitty must resist a series of temptations to be naughty. No surprises as to the outcome. The story reminded me a lot of Kingsley’s Water Babies and Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop FINISHED
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym FINISHED
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole
4. Dearly departed: Inés y la alegría [ Inés and joy] by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston IN PROGRESS
6. Getting started: Bone rattler
(Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison FINISHED
7. Continuing on: El Prisionero del Cielo
[The Prisoner of Heaven], (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, book Nº 3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps by John Buchan FINISHED
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal
10. Still time for more chapters: Cuadernos de Lanzarote I by Antonio Lobo Antunes
11. Out of Africa: North of South by Shiva Naipaul
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs (or from Goodnight to Good Morning) by Alice Corkran FINISHED
 

Chris P

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I finished (Read it again, Sam) Down the Snow Stairs (or from Goodnight to Good Morning) by Alice Corkran. I read this book as a child and remember disliking it. Now I understand why. This beautifully illustrated hardback, which had belonged to my mother who was Spanish and who obviously read it when learning English, is a Victorian morality tale for children, indoctrinating them with the belief that they will only accrue happiness and reward if they are “good” and resist “temptation”, rather than being “naughty, disobedient, selfish, vain or lazy”. The 8-year-old protagonist Kitty lies tossing and turning in bed on Christmas Eve, wracked by guilt at having taken her crippled younger brother Johnnie out into the snow to see her snowman, thereby unwittingly having caused him to develop a life-threatening fever. Suddenly the snowman appears beside her bed, then leads her down the snow stairs to Naughty Children’s Land and Punishment Land where she meets naughty children, pixies, sprites, and Love. The suspense builds gradually, as in order to return home, receive forgiveness and Love’s blessing (only possible on Christmas Day), and save Johnnie’s life, Kitty must resist a series of temptations to be naughty. No surprises as to the outcome. The story reminded me a lot of Kingsley’s Water Babies and Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop FINISHED
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym FINISHED
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole
4. Dearly departed: Inés y la alegría [ Inés and joy] by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston IN PROGRESS
6. Getting started: Bone rattler
(Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison FINISHED
7. Continuing on: El Prisionero del Cielo
[The Prisoner of Heaven], (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, book Nº 3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps by John Buchan FINISHED
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal
10. Still time for more chapters: Cuadernos de Lanzarote I by Antonio Lobo Antunes
11. Out of Africa: North of South by Shiva Naipaul
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs (or from Goodnight to Good Morning) by Alice Corkran FINISHED
Sounds positively dreadful. No wonder so many of us grow up with issues.
 
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Chris P

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Having finished my Pages on Pages, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, I'm left with a strange feeling. This ended up not being my kind of book, which is surprising because it has a lot of the things I like.

In 1936, nineteen-year-old Cussy Mary Carter, the last, as far as she knows, of the "Blue People of Kentucky," a community of hillfolk with an unusually high incidence of genetic methemoglobinemia, takes a job with the WPA delivering books by muleback to the remote mountain families along her route. Aside of her struggle with the community that views her as "colored" and who remain fearful of her, there isn't an overarching conflict in the novel. It's mostly a series of conflicts that last a few chapters, and her interactions with the patrons on her route.

The strange feeling is that there really isn't anything I can complain about the book (aside from a few narrative devices I found distracting), the writing is good and tight, and most of the plot and characters are believable but I just wasn't taken with it. It's closing in on 30,000 ratings on Amazon and averages 4.something stars, and I can see how a lot of people would simply adore the book and find it moving (which they apparently do). Indeed, the last few chapters especially are both touching and angering (not an entirely happy ending), but this isn't the type of book I would normally read or how I would write such a book myself. I see the sequel is coming out in May, and although my interest is sparked, I'm not sure why exactly. Maybe I just need some time to digest this one.


1. Just the facts, Ma’am: Nonfiction on any subject. The Pioneers – David McCullough
2. Just the (alternative) facts, Ma’am: An alternate history. A Nation Interrupted – Kevin McDonald
3. Girls chase boys chase girls (or any combination thereof): A book with a love triangle. An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
4. Out of Africa: A book taking place in Africa (including North Africa). Weep Not, Child – Ngugi wa Thiong’o
5. Let’s go clubbing!: A book in a celebrity’s book club. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides (Oprah’s Book Club)
6. Three-color mythology: A graphic novel or comic book. Home After Dark – David Small
7. Face your fears: A book that intimidates you, for any reason. Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco DONE
8. Namesakes: A book by an author who shares your first or last name (maiden name counts). Hour of the Witch – Chris Bojhalian
9. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. In Five Years – Rebecca Serle (New Years) DONE
10. Pages on pages:
Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson DONE
11. Howdy, stranger:
A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins
12. Dearly Departed: A book by an author who died within the past four years. Tales from the Ant World– E.O. Wilson
 
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mrsmig

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Chris, I've looked at the book on Amazon a couple of times, but always found something else that had greater appeal for me. Maybe it's one I'll borrow from the library...
 
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Chris P

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Chris, I've looked at the book on Amazon a couple of times, but always found something else that had greater appeal for me. Maybe it's one I'll borrow from the library...
Yeah, definitely borrow this one.
 
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Verboten

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I finished Intensity by Dean Koontz. I felt like I'd read this before as everything seemed vaguely familiar, but I did finish it again. I am an old reader of Dean Koontz and his books have changed throughout the years, so this one was one of the later ones. I thought it was decent because the ending is as it should be, but I don't know that I was blown away.

Chyna witnesses the murder of friends and family and it's about her going after the killer to find his daughter who is in his basement. It's full of chapter endings that make you want to know what happens and what's going on with everyone, but I'd almost prefer his older stuff with monsters, etc.

1. Halcyon days: A book published the year you turned 21 (or age 12 if you aren’t yet 21) - The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich - IN PROCESS
bo weather, or with a weather-themed title. - Weather by Jenny Offill - DONE
3. Howdy, stranger: A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. - Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
4. Let’s go clubbing!: A book in a celebrity’s book club. - Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Reese Witherspoon's Book Club) - DONE
5. Tag team: A book by more than one author. - Cemetery Dance by Preston & Child
6. Armchair voyages: A book taking place somewhere you have always wanted to go, but have never been. - Silent House by Orhan Pamuk
7. Continuing on: A book from any point in a series that is NOT the first or the final. - Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
8. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. - Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier - DONE
9. What everyone else was reading: Any book from a significant year in your life on the New York Times Best Seller List - Intensity by Dean Koontz - DONE
10. Out of this world: A book taking place in space or on another planet. - Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
11. Pages on pages: Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. - The Midnight Library by Matt Haig - DONE
12. Getting started: Read the first book of a series. - The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang - DONE
 

Chris P

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I finished Intensity by Dean Koontz. I felt like I'd read this before as everything seemed vaguely familiar, but I did finish it again. I am an old reader of Dean Koontz and his books have changed throughout the years, so this one was one of the later ones. I thought it was decent because the ending is as it should be, but I don't know that I was blown away.

Chyna witnesses the murder of friends and family and it's about her going after the killer to find his daughter who is in his basement. It's full of chapter endings that make you want to know what happens and what's going on with everyone, but I'd almost prefer his older stuff with monsters, etc.

1. Halcyon days: A book published the year you turned 21 (or age 12 if you aren’t yet 21) - The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich - IN PROCESS
bo weather, or with a weather-themed title. - Weather by Jenny Offill - DONE
3. Howdy, stranger: A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. - Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
4. Let’s go clubbing!: A book in a celebrity’s book club. - Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Reese Witherspoon's Book Club) - DONE
5. Tag team: A book by more than one author. - Cemetery Dance by Preston & Child
6. Armchair voyages: A book taking place somewhere you have always wanted to go, but have never been. - Silent House by Orhan Pamuk
7. Continuing on: A book from any point in a series that is NOT the first or the final. - Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
8. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. - Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier - DONE
9. What everyone else was reading: Any book from a significant year in your life on the New York Times Best Seller List - Intensity by Dean Koontz - DONE
10. Out of this world: A book taking place in space or on another planet. - Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
11. Pages on pages: Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. - The Midnight Library by Matt Haig - DONE
12. Getting started: Read the first book of a series. - The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang - DONE
I always enjoy Koontz when I read him, but he's not someone I seek out. I read the first three of the Frankenstein series and enjoyed them. I read the first two, was all excited for the third, but then Katrina hit New Orleans, where the series takes place, and it took him a couple years to produce the third book, presumably to incorporate the hurricane.
 

Chris P

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A really quick one from Out of Africa, Weep Not, Child – Ngugi wa Thiong’o. At only 156 pages, it could be read in an afternoon. I've taken some sick leave (covid test negative) and here I am with another one down. Weep Not, Child, follows teenage Njoroge as he enters school, but the Mau Mau rebellion against the British colonial Kenyan government in the late 1950s overtake his family. All is relatively peaceful until the returned Black Second World War veterans, having been shipped off "to kill White people we'd never heard of who were killing other White people we'd never heard of" demand the British settlers return the farmlands they had seized. Formerly friendly Whites clamp down on the locals as their lands are threatened, and turncoat Africans double cross their neighbors for personal gain.

I noticed two things while reading this. First, when Njoroge is childlike and uneducated, the narrative (although third person) consists of very short, declarative sentences as if a child were narrating. This was to the point I started to wonder if Thiong'o was in some way mocking the local Africans as simpletons. However, as Njoroge gains education and experience with the world, the narrative gets a lot more nuanced and rich. Second, in a recent thread here at AW someone mentioned that the "underdog versus powerful bad guy" trope is largely a European thing and isn't common in other literary traditions. Not that it's never seen and that European literature doesn't contain other narratives, but it's not common, and Weep Not doesn't fit the European trope. Njoroge's motivation is not to defeat Mr. Howlands, the local British landholder, nor to clear his family's name and save his father and brother. His motivation is to hold on to his hope that this darkness looming over Kenya will pass, and that his education will likewise bring him to better things. It's an interesting thing to keep in mind when reading this type of story.


1. Just the facts, Ma’am: Nonfiction on any subject. The Pioneers – David McCullough
2. Just the (alternative) facts, Ma’am: An alternate history. A Nation Interrupted – Kevin McDonald
3. Girls chase boys chase girls (or any combination thereof): A book with a love triangle. An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
4. Out of Africa: A book taking place in Africa (including North Africa). Weep Not, Child – Ngugi wa Thiong’o DONE
5. Let’s go clubbing!:
A book in a celebrity’s book club. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides (Oprah’s Book Club)
6. Three-color mythology: A graphic novel or comic book. Home After Dark – David Small
7. Face your fears: A book that intimidates you, for any reason. Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco DONE
8. Namesakes: A book by an author who shares your first or last name (maiden name counts). Hour of the Witch – Chris Bojhalian
9. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. In Five Years – Rebecca Serle (New Years) DONE
10. Pages on pages:
Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson DONE
11. Howdy, stranger:
A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins
12. Dearly Departed: A book by an author who died within the past four years. Tales from the Ant World– E.O. Wilson
 

Cobalt Jade

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Finished my Read it again, Sam selection, H. P. Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness. There were a lot of things I'd forgotten about it, and a lot of things that struck me anew, and a lot of things I lately discovered. One was how "authentic" the expedition to Antarctica reads, even today, and in researching later, it's because of Lovecraft's life-long fascination with Antarctica and in following and reading the exploits of its explorers. I even consulted a map to find out exactly where he placed the Mountains of Madness (and the further, even higher, Mountains of More Madness). Following the coordinates he provided, there was no surprise in that the mountains and the ancient city are smack dab in the middle of the continent's most remote sector.

One thing that did not read true was the main characters' ease with the altitude Lovecraft describes -- the mountains passes are 24,000 feet to fly over in an airplane, and the plateau beyond 20,000 feet, so as New Englanders who are not accustomed to climbing high peaks they wouldn't be so at ease in their explorations, not hear the "strange piping" in the mountains' passes, simply because of the noise of the airplane whose engines in past times were much noisier than today. I am guessing Lovecraft never actually rode in an airplane.

And for some reason I invented parts of the story out of thin air. Like I was sure there was a bit where the main character and his companion encounter the Elder Things as shadows on a wall as they fumble about with human-sized matches, trying to get them to light, and indeed the smell of the struck matches is what drews the humans to that spot. But I had prefabricated all of that from my faulty memory. In the book, the humans smelled gasoline, and they never actually saw the (living) Elder Things or even shadows of them. Maybe the matches bit came from some other book.

I was also surprised at how Lovecraft repeated himself over and over, which I don't think would happen in this day of word processing. But it did set the mood. That's what the story really was, a mood piece, with the main character talking in the present day while treating his past self on the exploration as a puppet of sorts. It was kind of amusing, especially how often he stops the narrative and coyly only hints at horrible things for the reader out of kindness for not offending their sensibilities, and gets very long-winded about it. There's also humor in the idea that the Elder Things inflict on the humans the same thing the humans were going to inflict on them -- vivisection. But that wasn't played up.

Now, on to more cosmic horror with Roadside Picnic.
 

MAK4Him

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Hello again.

So I finished Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency last night. 🤣. I absolutely love the way Dirk's mind works and I really loved much of the conversations or dialogue. I literally was laughing out loud, a lot. My favorites were Dirk's phone call to Richard after he'd scale the wall to get into her flat and the bickering banter between Dirk and his secretary about her quitting but not quitting his employment.

My family and friends (I read at home and while waiting in the school's pick up lane) would ask what was so funny and I'd explain something like "....it's about an android monk who's an assassin but doesn't know he's an assassin and then a ghost, a time machine and oh yeah if that isn't enough let's throw in some aliens...".

Overall it was a funny read but I kind of knew that would be the case based on the feedback from listing among my challenge. Also the librarian's question "Is that the whole title?" when I asked to check it out. "You want that it should be more?"

Anyway, the one drawback was the lack of resolution. What happens to Gordon, or the "other ghost"? But I guess that's whole point of the continuation part, right? Which I'm not sure I'll be able to anytime in the near future. I might have to wait until next year. In the meantime I'm giving it a 👍🏽.

I am having issues with The Daniel Prayer, mostly because of my own filters regarding the author and things going on in my own life. I'm not giving up though, just setting it aside until next month. A similar situation is also being experienced with Silas Marner, not the author part but parental issue and the language. Typically I really enjoy reading older publications but I'm so tired these days, I'm struggling to stay awake. It isn't the book, it's just this particular season of my life. I might set it aside for just a bit.

Since How To Stop Time is also a library book, that'll be my next read.

Happy reading everyone!!

3. Just the facts, Ma’am: The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz. Currently Reading
9. Coming to a theater near you: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
12. What everyone else was reading: Any book from a significant year in your life on the New York Times Best Seller List The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy
13. Out of Time: How To Stop Time by Matt Haig. Currently Reading
15. Halcyon days: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams Done
16. Lol random: The Black Dwarf by Sir Walter Scott
24. Continuing on: Shadow Knights by Jennifer Anne Davis Done
28. Alma mater matters: I DO I DO by Ellie Cahill. Done
30. Succinct: Hyperspace by Michio Kaku.
35. Namesakes: Silas Marner by George Elliot Currently Reading
37. I spy: Any Means Necessary by Jack Mars.
41. Armchair voyages: Don Quixote by Cervantes.
 

oneblindmouse

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I finished Doves of War by Paul Preston (Just the facts, Ma’am). This excellent book gives the biographies of four women (two Brits, two Spaniards) involved as non-combatants in the Spanish Civil War (two on the side of the republicans; two on the side of the nationalist rebels).

First is the English Aristocrat and socialite Priscilla ‘Pip’ Scott-Ellis, who goes to Spain in pursuit of a Spanish friend, a pilot who happens to be related to the Spanish royal family. I found her naïve, politically ignorant, and superficial, though her hard work as a nurse in Nationalist hospitals, her courage, resourcefulness, and organizational skills cannot be denied.

Next is the story of the Communist Nan Green, who leaves her small children to follow her husband who is fighting in the International Brigades. She, too, volunteers to work in hospitals. The third biography is that of Mercedes Sanz-Bachiller, widow of an extremist Falangist leader, who sets up a system of soup kitchens for orphans in the nationalist zone, which after the war was extended to general social welfare throughout the country. This chapter gives a lot of detail on the in-fighting between the various nationalist organisations, and even though I have studied the Spanish Civil War in considerable depth, I struggled, and think a person unfamiliar with the topic would find this chapter challenging. The fourth biography is that of feminist art-critic and socialist member of parliament, Margarita Nelken, whose name rang a bell but about whom I knew nothing. Her liberal views on labour conditions, education, religion, sex and politics were ahead of her time, and were used against her by her enemies. Her switch from the Socialist to the Communist Party was a political error, as it led to her being overshadowed by the more famous “Pasionara” (Dolores Ibarurri). Curiously, the Spanish edition of this book has a fifth section, with a biography of Carmen Polo, wife of Spain’s dictator Franco. Ambitious, fanatically religious, obsessed with collecting jewellery and valuables that she never paid for, she not only supported her husband in his climb to power, but schemed wildly behind the scenes even as he lay on his deathbed. A very interesting read, but not perhaps for the uninitiated regarding the Spanish Civil War.

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop FINISHED
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym FINISHED
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole IN PROGRESS
4. Dearly departed:
Inés y la alegría [ Inés and joy] by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston FINISHED
6. Getting started: Bone rattler
(Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison FINISHED
7. Continuing on: El Prisionero del Cielo
[The Prisoner of Heaven], (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, book Nº 3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps by John Buchan FINISHED
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal
10. Still time for more chapters: Cuadernos de Lanzarote I by Antonio Lobo Antunes
11. Out of Africa: North of South by Shiva Naipaul
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs (or from Goodnight to Good Morning) by Alice Corkran FINISHED
 

Chris P

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I seem to have picked a number of short ones this year. It only took a couple days to finish Tales from the Ant World – E.O. Wilson, my selection for Dearly Departed, as Wilson died this past December.

Mostly a set of short chapters covering various examples of the fastest, or most aggressive, or cold-loving, or whatever ants, and a tiny part memoir, it reads like a series of blog posts collected into a book. I have to say I'm mostly disappointed in this collection, as there was no grounding of the material into a coherent structure, and the chapters were so short topics were only covered in superficial depth. Although I have a neat set of facts about a handful of particular ant species, I don't feel like I have much more of an understanding of the ants as a group, even if I wasn't an entomologist by training. Wilson has always been someone you needed to pay attention to in order to get his message (he's not very sound-bitey, or as crowd pleasing/pot-stirring as say Stephen Jay Gould), so his contribution to the science unfortunately didn't translate to either his writing or speaking. He spoke very much the way he wrote, and I am grateful to have seen him speak at a scientific conference about 20 years ago.


1. Just the facts, Ma’am: Nonfiction on any subject. The Pioneers – David McCullough
2. Just the (alternative) facts, Ma’am: An alternate history. A Nation Interrupted – Kevin McDonald
3. Girls chase boys chase girls (or any combination thereof): A book with a love triangle. An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
4. Out of Africa: A book taking place in Africa (including North Africa). Weep Not, Child – Ngugi wa Thiong’o DONE
5. Let’s go clubbing!:
A book in a celebrity’s book club. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides (Oprah’s Book Club)
6. Three-color mythology: A graphic novel or comic book. Home After Dark – David Small
7. Face your fears: A book that intimidates you, for any reason. Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco DONE
8. Namesakes: A book by an author who shares your first or last name (maiden name counts). Hour of the Witch – Chris Bojhalian
9. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. In Five Years – Rebecca Serle (New Years) DONE
10. Pages on pages:
Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson DONE
11. Howdy, stranger:
A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins
12. Dearly Departed: A book by an author who died within the past four years. Tales from the Ant World – E.O. Wilson DONE
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Another book down:

Authors Corner; Armchair Voyages—Italy: Getting Started; Gramma Would Have Loved This; Old World Charm: The Rainaldi Quartet by Paul Adam: At first, I really enjoyed this mystery set mostly in Italy, told from the point of view of a luthier, about how he and his policeman friend uncover the murderer of a friend and fellow luthier/violinist. The characters were each delineated in memorable ways. There are numerous humorous moments.

The plot revolves around collecting greed, which is something I know a thing or two about, being the daughter of Oriental rug collectors. My mother and older baby brother were both pistol-whipped and threatened with death during an armed robbery to grab the rugs, so murderous greed surrounding collecting violins doesn't seem implausible to me at all.

But around the three-quarter point, it all bogged down in tracking down a violin when they were supposed to be tracking down the killer. (So what else is new?) Yeah, that eventually led to finding the killer, but...

Also, while it was good to get some inside info on the luthier's trade, by the end, I was finding it a bit much.

I do intend to read the second book in this series. And I do know that my dearly departed Mom loved this book, because she told me so. But I'm wishing it were plotted better.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

oneblindmouse

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I finished A Traitor’s Kiss by Fintan O’Toole for my Old World Charm category. I found this biography of Richard Sheridan (my great great great great grandfather!) both fascinating and eye opening. Nowadays Sheridan is known primarily for his plays, having been the most famous playwright of his day, and having written The Rivals, Duenna, and A School for Scandal while still in his twenties, while his forty-year political career in the English Parliament, though himself born in Ireland, is largely forgotten. And he had quite an eventful life! Despite a miserable childhood in Ireland, left behind by his parents who moved for health reasons to France, where his mother soon died, Sheridan identified himself as Irish and was passionate about Irish independence. After a lonely existence at boarding school in England, he eloped with the beautiful singer Elizabeth Linley – causing quite a scandal – and then fought two duels, receiving serious injuries. Though he became a successful playwright and owner of the Drury Lane Theatre, Sheridan’s passion was politics. And he certainly lived in turbulent political times: the American and French Revolutions, King George III’s bouts of insanity, Prince George’s secret marriage to a Catholic, etc. As an Irishman espousing Irish self-government, Sheridan was repeatedly accused of treason, which is where I thought the book derived its title, but in the end I think it refers to the prince Regent’s betrayal of Sheridan, regarding Catholic emancipation, despite everything that Sheridan had done for him over the years.

The book also focusses on language. Both Sheridan and his father Thomas, also a playwright, were obsessed with words, but whereas the father believed in the spoken word and elocution, dreamed of a language common to all the peoples of England, Ireland and Scotland, and worked on the first English dictionary, the son believed in the power of the written word in his plays and of the spoken word in his famous speeches in Parliament where he pushed for change, wittily lampooning politics, politicians and celebrities by seeming to praise them while doing the exact opposite. Sheridan’s contributions to human rights - as co-prosecutor of Warren Hastings, head of the notorious East India Company – Catholic emancipation, and Irish freedom should not be underestimated. I found it a fascinating book, and learnt a lot about late Eighteenth-Century English history, and about an ancestor I’m very proud to be descended from. Though he wasn’t the best of husbands!

I’ve changed my Out of Africa book as I suddenly realized I read another book by Naipaul about Africa last year and didn’t much like it. I’ve swapped it for The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin, which just happens to be very short!

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop FINISHED
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym FINISHED
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole FINISHED
4. Dearly departed: Inés and joy
by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston FINISHED
6. Getting started: Bone rattler
(Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison FINISHED
7. Continuing on: The Prisoner of Heaven
(The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, book Nº 3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps by John Buchan FINISHED
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal
10. Still time for more chapters: Cuadernos de Lanzarote I by Antonio Lobo Antunes
11. Out of Africa: The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin, replacing North of South by S. Naipaul
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs by Alice Corkran FINISHED
 

Verboten

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I always enjoy Koontz when I read him, but he's not someone I seek out. I read the first three of the Frankenstein series and enjoyed them. I read the first two, was all excited for the third, but then Katrina hit New Orleans, where the series takes place, and it took him a couple years to produce the third book, presumably to incorporate the hurricane.
I used to seek him out when I was younger, but not so much anymore.
 

Verboten

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I finished Lost Children Archive. I give this book a 5. It was beautifully written. I thought that it was a true story, but it was fiction based on immigration and deportation. It follows a family through a long trip across the country. The parents both do jobs associated with sound. They record sounds of different things like the busy streets of New York, the sounds of children playing, etc. Kind of sounds like a pretty interesting job. They have two children. The interesting thing is that they always refer to the children as "girl" and "boy." The author doesn't ever use their names. The children go through lots of discoveries and learning. At the end of the families journey, they come across children being loaded up into a plane or a bus(I don't remember) to be deported or taken to a camp.

1. Halcyon days: A book published the year you turned 21 (or age 12 if you aren’t yet 21) - The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich - IN PROCESS
bo weather, or with a weather-themed title. - Weather by Jenny Offill - DONE
3. Howdy, stranger: A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. - Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli - DONE
4. Let’s go clubbing!: A book in a celebrity’s book club. - Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Reese Witherspoon's Book Club) - DONE
5. Tag team: A book by more than one author. - Cemetery Dance by Preston & Child
6. Armchair voyages: A book taking place somewhere you have always wanted to go, but have never been. - Silent House by Orhan Pamuk
7. Continuing on: A book from any point in a series that is NOT the first or the final. - Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
8. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. - Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier - DONE
9. What everyone else was reading: Any book from a significant year in your life on the New York Times Best Seller List - Intensity by Dean Koontz - DONE
10. Out of this world: A book taking place in space or on another planet. - Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir - IN PROCESS
11. Pages on pages: Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. - The Midnight Library by Matt Haig - DONE
12. Getting started: Read the first book of a series. - The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang - DONE