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Locus Amoenus: All By My Shelf

Watch the amazing Locus juggle several books at once, and try not to drop any! Free admission.

Professional Reader

Currently reading

Quartet in Autumn
Barbara Pym
Progress: 25/186pages
Cibola Burn
James S.A. Corey
Circe
Madeline Miller
Progress: 105/401pages
Las intermitencias de la muerte
José Saramago
Progress: 60%

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 186 pages.

Quartet in Autumn - Barbara Pym

Note: I'm reposting my previous blog post on this book, changing to the edition I'm actually using.

 

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"That day the four of them went to the library, though at different times. The library assistant, if he had noticed them at all, would have seen them as people who belonged together in some way."

 

And so we begin! I've been waiting for weeks to start this book, the first read of the Pymalong Club. I look forward to sharing thoughts with my fellow Pym buddies!

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 186 pages.

Quartet in Autumn - Barbara Pym

"That day the four of them went to the library, though at different times. The library assistant, if he had noticed them at all, would have seen them as people who belonged together in some way."

 

And so we begin! I've been waiting for weeks to start this book, the first read of the Pymalong Club. I look forward to sharing thoughts with my fellow Pym buddies!

Reading progress update: I've read 16 out of 401 pages.

Circe - Madeline Miller

"the grudges of gods are as deathless as their flesh"

 

I loved Song of Achilles, so I was thrilled to see this available through Overdrive (I recently received a Kobo reader, which connects to Overdrive, and I'm in love with it because I hated reading Overdrive books on my phone or Ipad).

 

So far, it has the same poetic language and first-person narration as Song, and it's something I absolutely adore about Miller's style.

Final Thoughts: Abaddon's Gate

Abaddon's Gate - James S.A. Corey

"Holden was starting to feel like they were all monkeys playing with a microwave. Push a button, a light comes on inside, so it's a light. Push a different button and stick your hand inside, it burns you, so it's a weapon. Learn to open and close the door, it's a place to hide things. Never grasping what it actually did, and maybe not even having the framework necessary to figure it out. No monkey ever reheated a frozen burrito."

 

I actually have to force myself to slow down when reading the books in this series, so I won't inhale them all in a couple of weeks and be sad when it's over (although I see that there's a new book out very soon). So far, I've been stretching the reading out for months, with breaks for other books in between.

 

There's a new cast of characters here to accompany the Rocinante crew on their latest mission. Holden and the crew are the only constants throughout the novels, and chapters are told from the perspectives of an always-rotating cast. However, by the end of each book we get to know these new characters perfectly, and laugh or cry along with them on their journeys. Also, it's sometimes hard for me to remember that Corey is actually a pen-name for two authors; the writing is so seamless that I can't tell any differences in style, or who is writing what.

 

And that's all I can really say without spoiling, except to point out that the story that began in the first novel continues its course, with ever more terrifying consequences for the universe. If you're a science fiction fan, I very much recommend the Expanse books.

Snakes and Ladders Reading Post

I'm playing in a bit of an unorthodox fashion, since I had a bumpy start because I didn't understand some of the instructions. But this is mainly my way of getting through some of the TBR material since I have a hard time choosing a reading order!

 

 

March 4: I rolled a 10, so square 39 it is. I chose Las intermitencias de la muerte, by José Saramago. I had read most of this book during a summer stay at my parents', but didn't have time to finish (I was reading their copy). So I'm restarting it, now that I have it on Kindle. I'm reading the excellent translation into Spanish by Pilar del Río, who was Saramago's wife as well as translator.

 

February 28: I rolled and got a 2. I only rolled one die, since my last book was only around 150 pages long. 2. So that's square 29: Someone travels by plane. Yikes! I need a couple of hours to think about it. Any suggestions?

ETA: I chose Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie. Thanks for the suggestion, Themis!

 

February 21: I'm starting with a book I'm already reading, which fits into square 27: Set during WWI or WWII. Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp,

by Józef Czapski.
 
 

 

 

 

 

1. Author is a woman

2. Genre: mystery

3. Set in the twentieth century

4. Published in 2019

5. Published in 2018

6. Title has a color word in it

7. Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D.

8. Author's last name begins with the letters E, F, G, or H.

9. Author's last name begins with the letters H, I, J, or K

10. Author's last name begins with the letters L, M, N or O

11. Author's last name begins with the letters P, Q, R, or S

12. Author's last name begins with the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z

13. Author is a man

14. Author is dead

15. Genre: romance

16. Genre: fantasy

17. Genre: horror

18. Set in a school

19. Set in the UK

20. Set in a country that is not your country of residence

21. Set in Europe

22. Set in Asia

23. Set in Australia/Oceania

24. Set in Africa

25. Snake - go back to 5

26. Part of a series that is more than 5 books long

27. Set during WWI or WWII: Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp, by Józef Czapski

28. Written between 1900 and 1999

29. Someone travels by plane. Death in the Clouds, by Agatha Christie.

30. Someone travels by train

31. Road trip

32. Genre: thriller

33. Set in North America

34. Snake - go back to 1

35. Has been adapted as a movie

36. Set in Central or South America

37. Has won an award

38. Newest release by a favorite author

39. A reread. Las intermitencias de la muerte, by José Saramago.

40. Characters involved in the entertainment industry

41. Characters involved in politics

42. Characters involved in sports/sports industry

43. Characters involved in the law

44. Characters involved in cooking/baking

43. Characters involved in medicine

44. Characters involved in science/technology

45. A book that has been on your tbr for more than one year

46. A book that has been on your tbr for more than two years

47. Snake - go back to 19

48. A book you acquired in February, 2019.

49. Recommended by a friend

50. Has a domestic animal on the cover

51. Has a wild animal on the cover

52. Has a tree or flower on the cover

53. Has something that can be used as a weapon on the cover

54. Is more than 400 pages long

55. Is more than 500 pages long

56. Was published more than 100 years ago

57. Was published more than 50 years ago

58. Was published more than 25 years ago

59. Was published more than 10 years ago

60. Was published last year

61. Cover is more than 50% red

62. Cover is more than 50% green

63. Cover is more than 50% blue

64. Cover is more than 50% yellow

65. Snake - go back to 52

66. Part of a series that is more than 10 books long

67. Set in a city with a population of greater than 5 million people (link)

68. Something related to weddings on the cover

69. Something related to travel on the cover

70. Something related to fall/autumn on the cover

71. Involves the beach/ocean/lake 

72. Involves the mountains/forests 

73. Categorized as YA

74. Categorized as Middle Grade

75. Set in a fantasy world

76. Set in a world with magic

77. Has a "food" word in the title

78. Set in a small town (fictional or real)

79. Main character is a woman

80. Main character is a man

81. Ghost story

82. Genre: urban fantasy

83. Genre: cozy mystery

84. Genre: police procedural

85. Written by an author who has published more than 10 books

86. Author's debut book

87. Snake - go back to 57

88. Comic/graphic novel

89. Published between 2000 and 2017

90. A new-to-you author

91. Snake - go back to 61

92. Reread of a childhood favorite

93. Author's first/last initial same as yours (real or BL handle)

94. Non-fiction

95. Memoir

96. From your favorite genre

97. Title starts with any of the letters in SNAKE

98. Title starts with any of the letters in LADDERS

99. Snake - go back to 69

100. Let BL pick it for you: post 4 choices and read the one that gets the most votes!

Final Thoughts: Death in the Clouds

Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot, #12) - Agatha Christie

Christie is always such a comfort read for me. I love starting one of her mysteries and slipping into an almost hypnotic rhythm of gathering and analyzing clues. It's like sitting down to a jigsaw puzzle on a rainy afternoon.

 

This was a new one for me, and for the most part I loved it. Because the murder takes place on a plane, the list of suspects is clearly defined. There are the usual red herrings and surprises, and by the end I was breathlessly turning pages as I tried to keep up with Poirot's reasoning. The result seemed somehow more convoluted than it needed to be, but that didn't keep me from racing to see whodunit!

Reading progress update: I've read 22%.

Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot, #12) - Agatha Christie

I'm really enjoying this one so far! I'm just past the inquest scene, which in itself was fascinating because of the way the media is portrayed as depicting it. Especially the "women's magazines" that hone in on the wardrobes of the female participants. Some things never change.

 

A couple of questions for anyone in the community who might be able to clarify:

 

1. One of the two higher-class women, Miss Kerr, is described as being "county," usually in a disparaging way and in contrast to Lady Horbury. What distinction am I missing.

 

2. The Irish sweepstakes, and the stigma behind them.

Reading progress update: I've read 3%.

Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot, #12) - Agatha Christie

Ok, I'm absolutely loving this after just a few pages. Just the cast of characters is amazing: a coked-up lady, a man who is either a dentist or has a serious tooth fetish, a doctor fondling a flute (please let that be the murder weapon), and a Mr. Clancy... writer of detective stories? Bwahaha! Awesome. I can't wait to see what happens.

 

Also, I'm surprised that the steward indicated there was to be no smoking. I figured it would be normal, since even a couple of decades ago I remember flying in planes that had smoking sections.

 

I haven't read even half of Christie's works, but she's always been a comfort read for me. She was my grandmother's favorite author, and had the entire collection of novels (translated into Spanish, since she didn't read English - I can still picture the covers, though). Reading a Christie novel is, for me, like sitting down to a homemade meal. So a big thanks to the lovely Themis for suggesting this novel; it had been a while since my last Christie read!

Final Thoughts: Lost Time

Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp  - Józef Czapski, Eric Karpeles

"THIS ESSAY on Proust was dictated in the winter of 1940–41 in the cold refectory of an abandoned convent that served as the mess hall of our prison camp at Gryazovets in the Soviet Union."

 

At Gryazovets, Czapski and a group of fellow Polish officers were being imprisoned and forced into hard labor. This, in itself, was remarkable, since most of their fellow officers had been executed outright. Only this small group survived.

 

The officers decided to continue with a project that had begun in one of the camps they had transferred from. In order to keep their minds occupied and temporarily escape the despair of their current existence, each officer would prepare lectures on a topic they remembered well and were passionate about: travel, history, music... This was a highly educated group of officers, and the topics were varied and erudite.

 

Czapski himself was a painter, but during the span of a few years he had lived in Paris, and become immersed in Proust's work. The author had only recently died, and Czapski was able to meet people who had known him, and who made his reading of Proust's multivolume novel a more enriching experience.

 

So he chose this work, a novel about forgetting and remembering, as his way to communicate with his comrades in the prison camp:

 

"Initially taking up À la recherche du temps perdu on the basis of aesthetic inquiry, Czapski soon recognized its value as a practical template for survival. The lectures offered a viable counterpoint to the repeated interrogations the men were forced to endure. His lectures were an act of resistance, stimulating the recovery and retention of personal memories that could protect and defend his colleagues from the attempt to deprive each of them of a sense of self."

 

Czapski managed to dictate his lectures, and was later able to save the notes when he left the camp. The final version collates two dictations, and moves fluidly from one topic to the other. Several times, Czapski points out that he's not quoting accurately or that he's forgotten certain details; and it's only then that the reader is brought back into the reality of the context of the lectures. The result is a truly moving testimony to the power of the human mind:

 

"involuntary memory is in itself a kind of resurrection, bringing the past back to life, 'taking on form and solidity.'"

Final Thoughts: Excellent Women Re-Read

Some Tame Gazelle / Excellent Women / Jane and Prudence: An Omnibus - Barbara Pym

I'm so glad I decided to take a few days to re-read this novel after listening to the audio book version. My mind tends to wander when I listen to books, and I had missed some great details.

 

I liked this even more the second time around, and I liked Mildred even more because she's such a well-written character. She has a deep internal life that sometimes translates eccentrically to her outside world. She's both kind and petty, and a shrewd observer of people and daily rituals. I especially loved observations like this one:

 

"Our trays rattled along on a moving belt at a terrifying speed, so that at the end of it all I found myself, bewildered and resentful, holding a tray full of things I would never have chosen had I had time to think about it, and without a saucer for my coffee."

 

I related to this! How many times have I not had enough time to shop for some article, and ended up with something I would not have normally chosen!

 

The prose is beautifully written, and I felt at the end that I had expanded both my vocabulary and my knowledge of post-war England.

 

The Pymalong Club begins its first read on March 15, with Quartet in Autumn, and I can't wait!

DNF: Will Haunt You

Will Haunt You (Fiction Without Frontiers) - Brian Kirk

I give up. I made it 20% into the novel and just couldn't make myself care enough to continue. This may be someone else's cup of tea, but in the end I decided I had (much) better stuff to read. Here are my main problems with this book:

 

1. I had no clue what was going on. I don't mind a novel starting in media res, but at some point things have to start making some sense for me to want to keep reading. And yes, I get that there will be an "all will be revealed" moment somewhere down the line, but I honestly didn't care enough to find out.

 

2. While I love a good forced confinement story (Misery is one of my favorite novels ever, in any genre), this one just felt like a trip through one of these extreme haunted houses that have become popular in recent years. Instead of gripping psychological terror, it's simply torture porn and seems to be geared towards being consumed more as a film than a novel. This is made worse by the fact that the main character doesn't have enough of a personality to drive the story forward. He's simply a prop for things to happen to him.

 

3. The popular trope of book/video/message that curses anyone who handles it has become overused and boring. In this case, it's a book, and there are sporadic, clumsy callouts to the reader (that is, us) warning us to put the book down, or mentioning that there's a camera recording us right now... yawn. This might have worked if it had been better planned.

 

Otherwise, the writing was actually quite decent. I just wish it had kept me interested.

 

If anyone else reads this and actually likes it, I would love to chat about it. And I'm not being sarcastic here; part of the problem might be that I'm just not the right audience for this book. But hey, maybe this means I won't get killed by the creepy book. Right?

 

I received this copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reading progress update: I've read 12%.

Will Haunt You (Fiction Without Frontiers) - Brian Kirk

I'm not sure how much I like this so far. For one, the beginning is really confusing; I get not wanting to give too much backstory, but there's such a thing as too much in the other direction. It's also one of these stories where the reader is supposed to now be implicated (by virtue of the book itself, which we now own and is supposed to be affecting us); so far, the references to this aspect have felt clumsy (there's a phrase at some point that says something like "I didn't notice the camera, which is like the one now pointed at you" sigh okay). Finally, and this is just a personal preference, I'm not too into the "person chased through the woods after car breaks down" kind of narrative (unless it's done by someone like King; I'll forgive that man just about anything). As much as I love reading horror, I'm not a fan of horror movies at all, and this feels a bit too much like a film trope at this point. But we'll see.

Reading progress update: I've read 424 out of 704 pages.

Some Tame Gazelle / Excellent Women / Jane and Prudence: An Omnibus - Barbara Pym

I'm so glad I decided to re-read Excellent Women. My mind tends to wander with audio books (even with excellent narrators, like the one for this novel), and I like seeing the words in print. That way I can catch little gems like this:

 

"I was so astonished that I could think of nothing to say, but wondered irrelevantly if I was to be caught with a tea pot in my hand on every dramatic occasion."

 

The Pymalong Club read of Quartet in Autumn begins in a couple of weeks, and I can't wait!

Snakes and Ladders Master Players Post

Reblogged from Obsidian Blue:


Feel free to follow other players!

 

1. Moonlight Reader

2. Themis-Athena's Garden of Books

3. Obsidian Blue

4. WhiskeyintheJar Romance

5. Peregrinations

6. Elentarri's Book Blog

7. Familiar Diversions

8. Lillelara

9. isanythingopen

10. Lora's Rants and Reviews

11. Locus Amoenus: All By My Shelf

12. Linda Hilton

13. Murder by Death

14. Tannat

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts: The Demon Magician

The Demon Magician - Alex Dunn

This was a very enjoyable read, and the plot twists kept me guessing until the last page; there are several times along the way when a solution to the central dilemma seemed to be at hand... only to have the rug pulled out from under us, and send us back on the road searching for another way out.

 

I liked the choice of teen characters for a story of greed, sacrifice, and redemption. Ella, true to her young age, wavers between narcissistic selfishness and a growing sense of empathy and social responsibility. The further she moves from catering to her own wishes, the closer she gets to getting herself (and others) out of a terrible mess. That’s not to say that adults can’t be selfish and self-obsessed, of course; but it would have been more frustrating to me to see an adult Ella going through the same ordeal. As she is, she’s still in a stage in life where she tries for easy solutions, but is growing into a sense of adult responsibility. So I was with her all the way, even through some terrible decisions. She learned from her mistakes, and moved on with grace and courage.

 

More than a “be careful what you wish for” cautionary tale (though it has elements of that), it’s a story about facing the consequences of our choices and actions, instead of burying our heads in the sand and hoping things pass while being grateful we’re not affected. As Ella learns at the end, everything is connected, and the smallest decisions can have huge consequences. She also learns some critical thinking, and to use her words wisely.

 

I only have a couple of issues with this book. One is the time jumps between some of the early chapters, as Ella starts touring with Jonathan. We don’t get to see the early stages of their relationship, and it felt jarring for me to start one chapter and realize that it took place a couple of years after the ending of the previous one.

 

There are also a couple of characters and storylines that could have been either elaborated on more, or dropped completely. For example, Ella’s friend Suzanne and her involvement in magic were given short shrift, to the point that I had a hard time accepting her sudden rejection of Ella. The same goes for the themes of peer pressure, social media, and the press. They’re important in Ella’s development, but are treated somewhat superficially. The story would have fared just as well without them.

 

But overall this was a real page-turner, and made for great weekend reading.

 

I received this free copy from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Reading progress update: I've read 43%.

The Demon Magician - Alex Dunn

I'm really enjoying the story and characters so far. My only complaint is that there are some time jumps between chapters that feel jarring.