Nickelini in 2023

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Nickelini in 2023

Editado: Maio 23, 11:19 pm

New to me plants! My house came with hellibores and they were the first plants to bloom in my garden, even before the croci. Why haven't I grown these before! Spring was late to Vancouver, but looks to finally be here

About me: I'm Joyce from Vancouver, BC, Canada. During the day I investigate fraud for an insurance company, which is pretty interesting. I live with my husband, and sometimes our 22 year old daughter. But she's off later this month for her semester abroad at the Canterbury Christchurch University (England). Our older daughter is currently home for a month for Christmas, but will be going back to her life in Luzern, Switzerland in a week.

Otherwise, my main interest is getting my new house decorated, and in a month or so I'll start working in my new garden. I also have a huge photo project starting this month. I was learning Italian, but that got put on the back burner when we bought our new house. I would like to get back to it, if possible.

All this means I probably won't have much time for reading in 2023, but I will try my best. I gravitate to books written by British authors (lately more current fiction than older books and classics, but I love those too), and I naturally read more books written by women than men. I also read quite a bit of CanLit. I'm trying to focus on books in translation, but I'm focusing on current or popular books from the country of origin, and not so much on highbrow literature in translation.


May 2023

17. Family Album
16. Dreaming of Florence

April 2023

15. The Collector, John Fowles
14. English Animals, Laura Kaye

March 2023

13. The Union of Synchronized Swimmers, Cristina Sandu
12. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
11. The Sea, John Banville
10. Hotline, Dimitri Nasrallah

February 2023

9. The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O'Neill
8. Night Train, A.L. Snijders
7. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
6. Three Hours, Rosamund Lupton
5. Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy

January 2023

4. Death Goes On Skis, Nancy Spain
3. Superfan, Jen Sookfong Lee
2. Snowblind, Ragnar Jonasson
1. Shiver, Allie Reynolds

READING STATS (updated monthly):

Nationality of the author:

UK - 6
Canada - 4
Iceland - 1
Australia - 1
Netherlands - 1
Ireland 1
Finland - 1


Female - 9
Male - 6

Language other than English

Icelandic: 1
Dutch: 1
Finnish: 1

Year Published:

2017 x 2

Where my reading took me:

French Alps, 2017 & 2007 / Siglufjudur, Iceland 2008-2009 / Vancouver, 1976 - 2021 / Schizo-Frenia (pseudo-Switzerland), February 1947 // Darwin, Australia 1967 / Somerset 2019 / London 1995 / Netherlands 2020 / Montreal 1913-1942 // Montreal 1980s / Ireland 2000 / Toronto & Michigan alternative world 2014 - 2034 / Soviet Bloc & others 1990 to ? // London & Lewes, 1962 / Cambridge & Tuscany, 2016

Previous header photos:

Jan - mid-March

I took this picture of my new house just before Christmas. All the snow has melted long ago, but I thought this was a nice wintry picture. The room to the left of the staircase is going to be turned into a library once we get our adult daughters set off again later in January.

Editado: Jan 2, 9:56 pm

2022 Year End Stats

Non-fiction: 8
Memoir: 5
Fiction: 34
Total: 47

Life really got in the way of reading this year. Not that I didn't have time to read, but there was just no room in my brain for anything other than what I was doing. (Last year I read 83 books)

Female authors: 33
Male authors: 11
Mixed, unknown, etc. : 3
As usual, I read more books by women. I follow my interests, it's not on purpose.

Different authors: 47 (did not read more than one book by any one author)
New to me authors: 30
Reread: 1

Age of books - mostly I focused on more recent books. 40% were published in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The oldest book was 1946

Author's nationality:

UK: 17 books (36%)
Canada: 11 (23%)
USA: 4 (8%) - all non-fiction
Switzerland: 2 (4%)
France: 2
Italy: 2
Ireland: 2
Finland: 1 (2%)
Sweden: 1
Norway: 1
Australia: 1
Turkey: 1
Greenland: 1
Germany: 1
This is a fairly typical number of different countries. There are always lots of UK & Canadian books. The other countries vary. I was trying to focus on books from Italian authors, but I packed them in the spring and didn't find the box until a week ago.

Books in translation:

French: 3
German: 2
Swedish: 2
Italian: 1
Norwegian: 1
Greenlandic: 1

Editado: Jan 2, 9:56 pm

nothing to see here, folks

Jan 3, 6:29 am

Found you! Lovely snowy picture of your house - and how wonderful to have a room you can turn into a library! I look forward to hearing how that progresses - and to following your reading, of course.

Jan 3, 8:22 am

I love the windows in your soon-to-be library. I had plans for a library in my new house, but it became a classroom for my nieces, with the exception of one wall. Oh well, I have other walls in the house, right?

Jan 3, 8:25 am

>1 Nickelini: That's a lovely picture, and a lovely house! Like >4 rachbxl:, I'm jealous of your library space! Looking forward to following your reading throughout the year.

Jan 3, 10:13 am

The house looks amazing like that! I'll be interested to see what you read this year, as always.

Jan 3, 10:23 am

Happy New Year, Joyce! I am looking forward to following your reading this year, and best wishes for the decoration of your house and all the other endeavors.

Jan 3, 11:32 am

Happy new year, Joyce! I dropped a star. I hope to be more active on LT this year than last. In any case, I've decided to regularly take a look at your thread. Happy reading.

Jan 3, 1:01 pm

Hi Joyce! Lovely photo of your new house. Looking forward to following your reading, especially the Canadian bits of it.

How cool that your daughter is coming over to UC for a semester! What's she studying? Quite a lot of the kids I teach end up there, mainly to do engineering. It's a lovely campus - I used to bike there to study in the library in my last year at high school when we lived in Christchurch.

Jan 3, 3:35 pm

>4 rachbxl:, >5 labfs39:, >6 Julie_in_the_Library:, >7 ursula:, >8 MissBrangwen:, >9 Ameise1:, >10 cushlareads:

Visitors! Hello everyone. Welcome, and thanks for you kind words

>10 cushlareads: - Oops! She's not going to the University of Canterbury - She's going to Canterbury Christchurch University, which is in Canterbury, England. I'm sure given the choice, she'd rather spend January to April in New Zealand than those same months in England ;-)

Anyway, she was supposed to spend this past autumn at the University of Utrecht. But in July the universities in the Netherlands advised all the international students that if they hadn't secured housing, then they should cancel. It was such a huge disappointment because it was a fabulous urban planning program (she's getting a BA in Geography with plans of going on to get a Masters in Urban Planning). So Canterbury, Kent was a backup. Not a particularly special program, but they guaranteed housing. And she will be taking an English history class on Wednesdays and then Friday they go on field trips to see what they just learned about. So that sounds fun.

Jan 3, 3:51 pm

>11 Nickelini: I wondered if there was another one! I even googled before I posted but of course my Google algorithm will find the local one first. I'm sure she'll have a great time there too - and the history field trips sound excellent.

Jan 3, 4:27 pm

Happy new year, Joyce! That's a very handsome house, and like the rest of the library-less peasants, I'm green with envy. :)

Nice that both your kids are securely taking flight into independence!

Jan 3, 7:56 pm

1. Shiver, Allie Reynolds, 2020

cover comments: Is this a thriller set on an isolated mountain top? Who knew?

Comments: Ten years since she's seen them last, and ten years since someone in the group disappeared, Milla meets up with a group of fellow Brits who she used to snowboard with back in the French Alps. Once they are at the top of the mountain, they find they are trapped, their phones disappear, and someone is seriously messing with them. Is it one of the others, or someone else. The story is told in alternating chapters "Now" and "Ten Years Ago".

I found that the villain was unrealistically evil, and that actually Milla acted pretty much the same, even though she's the protagonist. Further, I found Milla's drama over her love triangle and crushes was a yawn. I did like the unique Olympic-level snowboarding background (if a bit over detailed), and I loved the French Alps setting.

Oh, and the explanation to the mystery and conclusion was ridiculous.

Rating: lots of rave reader reviews for this, quite a few hate reviews too. I'd give it 2 stars, but the setting bumps it up to 3. Although it's a bit of a stinker, I don't mind that I read it.

Why I Read This Now: I thought it would be a fun, snowy end to 2022. It snuck into the new year.

Recommended for: people who aren't very selective about their thrillers

How I Discovered This: in 2020, there were 4 books published that were thrillers, set in the Alps, written by women, and I think all Brits too. Shiver got quite a bit of press at the time. I've now read all four and here is my ranked list:

1. The Chalet, Catherine Cooper - this one got no press or promotion at all, but it was the best of the lot. It's weird how some books get so much attention and others none

2. One By One, Ruth Ware - not Ware's best, but I liked it well enough

3. Shiver, Reynolds

4. The Sanatorium, Sarah Pearse - I'm not all that picky about the thrillers I read, but this one was really bad

Jan 3, 10:56 pm

>12 cushlareads:
I googled too -- I think the university she's going to is quite small

>13 LolaWalser:
That's a very handsome house, and like the rest of the library-less peasants, I'm green with envy. :) Aw, thanks. We're pretty thrilled, and when the library is done it's going to be so cozy and comfortable. Normal people would just call it a "living room" but because we are going to do a wall of built in book cases and no TV, we're calling it a library

Yes, it's nice to have kids that can (mostly) take care of themselves and pay their own way

Jan 4, 4:13 am

Hi there and a happy new year! Your house looks fantastic. I especially love that you had snow. Christmas here in Germany was rather warm for the season and it's been raining a lot, unfortunately.

Jan 5, 9:14 am

>14 Nickelini: in 2020, there were 4 books published that were thrillers, set in the Alps, written by women” - unique selection. Sounds like fun reading

Happy New Year. And lovely picture, and the library idea sounds terrific.

Jan 7, 12:06 pm

That's a beautiful house! I also love the idea of a library... looking forward to photos of that too.

Jan 7, 4:10 pm

Hi, Joyce. I’m just passing through, and dropping a star along the way. I’ll be checking in once in a while. Great picture.

Jan 8, 4:18 pm

Oh I love the house, Joyce. Just gorgeous. Look forward to your 2023 reading.

Jan 8, 6:32 pm

Good luck with your library plans Joyce. Your new house looks beautiful.

Jan 16, 8:56 pm

>16 OscarWilde87:, >17 dchaikin:, >18 lisapeet:, >19 NanaCC:, >20 AlisonY:, >21 wandering_star:

Oh nice, visitors! Welcome to my thread everyone, and thank you for all the nice comments and compliments

>16 OscarWilde87: I especially love that you had snow. Christmas here in Germany was rather warm for the season and it's been raining a lot, unfortunately Well the snow all washed away on Christmas Eve and it's mostly rained since then. We've just come through an unusual January warm spell with over a week of temps over 10 C. Which is nice in the city, but all the snow melted off the ski mountains.

Update on library plans: we've had one quote on the book shelf wall (it's grown to include a small bar as well), and our second quote is coming later this week.

Editado: Jan 17, 1:30 pm

2. Snowblind, Ragnar Jonasson, 2010; translated from Icelandic by Quentin Bates, 2017

cover comments: When I stop and look at it, I find it rather pleasing. But it's not eye catching.

Comments: Ari Thor Arason has just finished police training and is offered a job in Iceland's most northern town. It's late 2008, and the economic downturn has walloped Iceland. Jobs are scarce, so he jumps on the opportunity without considering his live-in girlfriend and their life in Reykjavik. When he arrives, Ari learns that everyone knows everyone else in town, and nothing much ever happens there. Except this is a crime novel, so of course things happen. And it snows a lot, and then the town is cut off from the rest of the world by an avalanche.

I enjoyed the almost cozy atmosphere and decidedly winter feel of this isolated murder mystery.

Snowblind is the first book in the "Dark Iceland" series. I'm not one to read a series, but I am intrigued enough to try the next one, Blackout. I want to see if Ari grows up a little, and also the setting is interesting because it's set against the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, which I remember well because it stopped flights between Vancouver and Europe for a while and I couldn't order books from the Book Depository for weeks. Quite the disaster, really.

Recommended for: fans of isolated murder mysteries. This is not a fast paced suspense thriller, but more of an intriguing slow build where you get to know the characters. Jonasson translated Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, so perhaps it's modeled in the style of Christie? I wouldn't be able to say since I haven't read a Christie novel for a hundred years. Note that I've read very little Scandi-crime or Nordic-noir, so I have no idea how this compares to the rest.

Why I Read This Now: I was in the mood for its dark January setting

How I Discovered This: I think I heard some BookTuber talk about this author and then I saw this sale edition at a favourite bookstore, I snapped it up

Rating: 4.5 stars

Jan 17, 3:27 pm

>1 Nickelini: I LOVE the house!

>14 Nickelini: re the love/hate. I guess we don't all value the same things in a book. I, for one, would take your word for it :-)

>23 Nickelini: I've read 9 of Jonasson's books now and have liked all on one level or another. I liked this one, it's part of his "Dark Island" series (solid 4 stars on each from me). There are several more books in this series.

The ones I rated low (3 1/2 stars) were of his "Hidden Iceland" series.

Jan 17, 3:57 pm

>24 avaland: oh, good to know. As I said, I will find a copy of book 2. I'll avoid the other series for now

Editado: Jan 17, 11:06 pm

>23 Nickelini: I liked this one as well. Your review is a reminder to check to see if the library has the next in the series on Kindle.

Edited to add: They do! On hold

Editado: Jan 17, 11:16 pm

>25 Nickelini: For what it is worth, I liked the other series as well. It is told in reverse order, going back in time, which requires the first one to be somewhat vague and almost annoying in places but I like his style so decided to keep reading. While I prefer the Ari Thor stories, I liked the others as well. :)

But then I and Lois seem to have that happening on a few authors - I tend to be more forgiving to my authors when I really like one of their series and end up liking the other series more often than not. But there are a lot of books out there - everyone finds their own “give up” point. :)

Jan 18, 8:24 am

>23 Nickelini: I'm not always a big murder mystery reader, but that one appeals for whatever reason. Maybe in lieu of having actual snow here in NYC so far this winter? That feels vaguely ominous in itself, and it would be fun to read a book to match that mood. My library has it too.

Jan 18, 10:31 am

>26 nancyewhite:, >28 lisapeet: - I hope you like it if you read it

>27 AnnieMod: I'll keep an open mind ;-)

Jan 18, 2:18 pm

>23 Nickelini: I liked that one too and have read the second and the third one too. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I did.

Jan 19, 1:24 pm

Hi, Joyce! Happy to finally get started on 2023 and to find your thread. Love the new house, and the photo is wonderful. We've had very little snow so far this winter. Good old global warming, I'm afraid.

Jan 26, 12:29 am

>30 Ameise1: I'm looking forward to them. I don't usually read series, but I'll try one or two more of this one

>31 Cariola: Thanks! We've had a rainy January and for this time of year it hasn't been cold. I'm ready for winter to be done. Have you had snow now?

Jan 26, 1:53 am

3. Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart, Jen Sookfong Lee, 2023

Look at me! Only the 25th of January, and I've already read a book published this year. Unheard of for me

cover comments: usually I'm not crazy about this Andy Warhol-ish look, but I actually love it here. The hand drawn alterations fit the content of this memoir, and the mix of bright colours fits the current publishing trend that tells you this is a book about a not-white woman

Rating: 4.5 stars. After you read my comments, you may think that rating is just biased, but I checked GoodReads and there are 49 reviews with an average rating of 4.25. So it's not just me and my personal favoritism. Also, today Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart was on the Canadian Non-fiction Top 10 Best Sellers List.

Note: I've previously enjoyed two of Lee's novels, Conjoined and The Better Mother. She has been a CBC Radio presenter, and did a bang up job defending Fruit, by Brian Francis, on CanadaReads.

Comments: Through a series of essays with a loose theme of pop culture, Sookfong Lee talks about growing up in Vancouver, Canada as the daughter of Chinese immigrants. When she was 12 and her father died after a lengthy battle with cancer, she found comfort in watching Bob Ross with his soothing ASMR voice; when her mother disappeared into deep depression, she identified with the orphan Anne of Green Gables. Princess Diana helped her navigate the expectations of having to be the "good girl" that is expected of Chinese girls in Canada, and Awkwafina showed her that she could be herself and break out from stereotypes. The most interesting chapter for me was "The Boys on Film" and her early crushes on white boys in movies, such as John Cusack in Say Anything, and then growing up to date too many white guys who treated her as their fetish. I don't think of myself as someone who cares about pop culture (now as an adult), but she uses it in an interesting way to explain how she figured out how to fit into her surroundings and the overriding whiteness everywhere around her.

The recurring struggles she deals with are absent parents (father through illness and death; mother through mental illness), racism (lots of racism), fitting in and not fitting in, divorce, single motherhood, and life as a struggling writer. This memoir is raw, sometimes angry, and intimate. I think most readers would agree with that.

For me this was particularly intimate because I kinda know the author. In that I've met her a handful of times, talked books with her, and been in her house (so it was interesting to read the bits where she talked about that house, because I could picture it exactly. No imagination needed). Lee is the ex-wife of a friend of mine, a good friend of my husband's. So it was pretty interesting to get into the mind of who to me is a passing acquaintance, but also someone a friend talks about.

Conversation my husband had yesterday:

Husband: "Joyce bought Jen's book"
Jen's ex-husband: "____ (new wife) bought Jen's book"
Other friend speaks up: "yeah, I bought it too"
LOL. Turns out everyone is buying it

Why I Read This Now: I knew this was just published and happened to be at the little bookstore at the mall, and they had 2 copies. I was going to read it after I finished my current book, but then it was Lunar New Years, and I always like to read an Asian book on that day, so I picked this up

How I Discovered This: I follow the author on Twitter

Recommended for: readers interested in experiences of children born to immigrants, and Asian immigration, told in a unique, relatable, and thoughtful way.

Jan 26, 6:55 am

>33 Nickelini: Fantastic review, Joyce.

Jan 26, 10:47 am

>34 labfs39: thanks!

Jan 26, 11:44 am

>33 Nickelini: sounds terrific. And cool that you have a kind of acquaintance with the author. I hope your husband’s friend doesn’t come out too badly.

Jan 26, 11:49 am

>36 dchaikin: LOL that's what everyone is asking. He's unscathed. She's very professional and respectful, and they are currently coparenting, so I don't think there would be any benefit to trashing him. In the acknowledgments to her book The Conjoined, she made glowing comments about him, which I thought was really nice.

Jan 26, 1:31 pm

>33 Nickelini:

Yay, Awkwafina! I didn't realise she'd been around long enough to mark an adult's development (I first heard of her a few years back on Trevor Noah's show). Noting the book, good to see more Chinese-Canadian stuff coming up.

Jan 27, 12:00 pm

>33 Nickelini: I am a fan of essays, so this one goes on my WL. It sounds like one I would like.

I do like atmospheric mysteries, and I've seen other positive comments on Snowblind, so I will look for that one as well.

Jan 30, 11:33 pm

4. Death Goes On Skis, Nancy Spain, 1949

cover comments: Absolutely love this. I use vintage travel posters in my vacation photo books, so this is very much my aesthetic. Also, this scene happened in the novel, so bonus points.

Comments: In 2020 Virago republished this 1949 novel.

It's February 1947 and a large group of loosely connected English people travel to a ski resort in the central European country of Schizo-Frenia, where most of the inhabitants speak German and the currency is the franc - just like their neighbour Switzerland. English people who could travel to the Alps in 1947 were naturally wealthy and, in this case, very spoiled and nasty. There is the perfume company owner who was a huge drip, but who most of the females in the book are crushing hard on; there are his two unpleasant daughters who are both teenagers and little children simultaneously, there is a Russian ballerina (who I think was supposed to be the protagonist?), and a famous film star, and several female characters--all admirable in some way--throwing off strong lesbian vibes. A few miserable, weak men, and so on. There were a handful of local cardboard characters.

This is a novel that I'm sure some have described as a "lark" and where rich Brits behave in selfish and silly ways, and there are a couple of murders, but no one is too fussed about that. Especially the newly widowed husbands. It's all veddy English in that "tally ho, pip pip and all that rot" sort of way. It was rather light and amusing at times, but for the last 1/5th I was entirely frustrated with these shallow, horrid people. But the last 3 pages were quite surprising and did redeem the novel, somewhat.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Why I Read This Now: I love a book set in the Alps

How I Discovered This: Simon Savidge of Savidge Reads. I'd never heard of Nancy Spain. She sounds like a fascinating character on her own.

Recommended for: readers who like silly novels that might be described as a murder mystery with distasteful characters

Editado: Jan 31, 12:59 am

Building the Library Update (for those who are interested)

We were in the midst of getting quotes on building a library wall for our living room. We were considering a quote from one company that seemed super on top of things, but pricey. And the product wasn't real wood. Which is okay, I guess. But I wanted either dark wood, or a finish that I could paint to be the same colour as the living room walls (a warm neutral that Benjamin Moore describes as a neutral khaki-stone and that my husband realized yesterday wasn't a shade of white.)

Anyway, we weren't sure about the finishing so went to look and feel it at the showroom yesterday, and then on the way home we stopped at a furniture store* and my husband spied this massive bookshelf they had on sale. It's the colour I want, made of maple, and at 11.5 feet wide and 9 feet tall, was just short of the width we wanted. Some measuring, some negotiating, and we got it for $7000 less than the built ins we almost bought. And those weren't even wood.

The only hitch is that the other company was going to handle the lights, which now we have to figure out on our own. I'm so happy to have a dark, moody bookcase though, and more what I wanted. Lights will come along

I'm pretty excited. The movers are bringing it in tomorrow, and my next step is to figure out which books go where, and then we can do the lighting (shelf height needs to be determined). All my books can come out of their boxes! And the rest can go in the Billy bookcases in the basement.

Here's a photo from the store (I used the 1.5 lens to get it all in, so it's not clear how huge it is):

*Even though we find so much online (my husband is a Facebook Marketplace beast -- he's found some amazing pieces since we moved), I really like to go into a store and actually see what you're buying. I like to touch and see. And have it delivered!

Close up:

Jan 31, 10:08 am

>41 Nickelini: What an amazing bookcase! I experienced something similar. I had a carpenter who was going to build built-in bookcases, but he disappeared when he found he could charge $1000/day labor elsewhere. I finally bought some cases and am quite happy, although they are not as nice as yours. Great find!

Jan 31, 10:45 am

>41 Nickelini: what a lovely piece! serendiputous that you found it. Think your books will be very happy there!

Fev 1, 11:55 pm

Extremely hunky bookcase! God I miss shopping for stuff in person. I wouldn't even know where to go looking here, everything that's not a chain drugstore or bubble tea is gone.

All my books can come out of their boxes!

Top ten bliss-infused sentences for sure.

Fev 2, 4:15 pm

>42 labfs39:, >43 cindydavid4:, >44 LolaWalser: Thanks!

>44 LolaWalser: - everything that's not a chain drugstore or bubble tea is gone.

Right? It drives me bananas. I see new buildings with obvious businesses on the lower levels and wonder if something wonderful will open there. But it's always an insurance office, yet another dentist, and a Subway

Fev 2, 5:44 pm

>40 Nickelini: Where on earth did you get that book from. It can't still be in print.

Fev 2, 10:37 pm

>46 baswood: virago republished it in 2020. I think they did a bunch of Nancy Spain books. >47 kac522: graciously posted a link. I think I ordered my copy from the Book Depository

Fev 5, 11:46 am

Those shelves are delicious. And good deal-hunting on your part!

Fev 5, 11:59 am

The bookshelf is lovely. You will have fun filling it.

Editado: Fev 5, 2:04 pm

We just booked flights to Australia for November to meet up with friends there so I’m looking for good Australian lit suggestions, particularly books set in Queensland
ETA- by literature I don’t mean high brow stuffy books — thrillers and romance suggestions welcome. Maybe I’ll even reread the Thorn Birds. That book slayed me when I was 19

Fev 5, 2:02 pm

>49 lisapeet: >50 NanaCC:
I have the first try at filling it. I find a bookcase is a work in progress so will continue to tinker at it

Fev 5, 2:15 pm

>41 Nickelini: Great find, Joyce. I can't wait to see a photo of everything in place.

Fev 5, 2:16 pm

>51 Nickelini: Last November in the Virago Group we read authors from Australia and New Zealand published by Virago. The thread is here:

H. H. Richardson is a favorite of many readers; she was from Melbourne. I read The Getting of Wisdom, which was only so-so for me, but most people adore it.

Fev 5, 2:34 pm

>51 Nickelini: Tim Winton is an Australian author who always keeps me engaged. One of my all time favourite authors is an Australian Janette Turner Hospital. You may remember her from the days when she was a so-called Canadian author. She has a dark view of the world, but writes it really well.

Sounds like a great trip.

Fev 5, 8:49 pm

>51 Nickelini: Ha! I too was slayed by the Thorn Birds as was every bookish teenage girl my age (56)

Fev 6, 12:01 am

>51 Nickelini: Bill Bryson has a very funny book about his travels there.

the road to Coorain is an excellent memoir to read

Avoid Mutant Message Down Under marketed as non fiction, it was soon dicovered this was very much fiction and the book is an awful read

Fev 6, 7:05 am

Fab bookcase plans, Joyce! I'll enjoy seeing the finished products ....

Fev 6, 11:01 am

>53 BLBera:, >58 avaland: - I'm looking forward to the "finished product" . . . although I wonder if a book case is ever actually finished. And Lois, you've certainly inspired bookcase envy in your previous posts ;-)

Fev 6, 11:06 am

>54 kac522:, >55 SassyLassy:, >56 nancyewhite:, >57 cindydavid4:

Thanks for the good Australian suggestions. I went through my boxes last night and found 13 books by Australian authors that are also set in Australia--Including two by Tim Winton that I haven't read yet (I've read 3 by him in the past), and also 2 Virago classics. So I do have a start. It's just that none of them are set in Queensland, so I'm still looking for something more suitable. It's sort of like someone planning a trip to Vancouver and having only books set in Nova Scotia and Ontario. Sure, it's CanLit, but not quite a match.

Editado: Fev 6, 11:37 am

Maybe a search on the tag "Queensland" in LT?

Fev 6, 12:04 pm

>41 Nickelini: That's so exciting! I confess I'm a little jealous - I live in a small condo, and a real private library is well beyond my reach for now. Someday, though!

Fev 6, 12:45 pm

>61 kac522: I've found 3 or 4 possibilities there. I'll have to see what people's comments on them are

Fev 6, 4:04 pm

>60 Nickelini: It's sort of like someone planning a trip to Vancouver and having only books set in Nova Scotia and Ontario. Well I can certainly relate to that!

Janette Turner Hospital's Oyster is set in Queensland where she grew up.

Fev 6, 4:28 pm

I envy your trip to Australia. We went about 10 years ago, and I loved it. I read a lot of books from Australia, found many Australian authors to my liking so I've read a LOT of books I've tagged "Australia" (over 200 books in my library have that tag, not all read though). So I have a few recommendations.

Not sure how many of these are specifically set in Queensland, but Lantana Lane by Eleanor Dark is set there, a quirky novel about quirky people that I loved. Eleanor Dark also wrote an epic trilogy (a la Colleen McCullough) of which I've read only the first, The Timeless Land, and it was very, very good (historical fiction). Liane Moriarty is the Australian writer whose Big Little Lies was transported to the US for TV adaption. I haven't read that but her books Nine Perfect Strangers and Truly Madly Deeply were good, but probably not set in Queensland. Some older Australian books/authors I really liked include Henry Handel Richardson, Henry Lawson, Picnic at Hanging Rock (on which the famous movie was based), and Careful He Might Hear You.

Great nonfiction about Australia which I read before my trip and found invaluable were In a Sunburned Country, Terra Nullius, and Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence. Not sure if you like mysteries but Gary Disher's Hal Challis series is great, but it's set down Melbourne way.

Female Australian authors I like: Gail Jones, Thea Astley, Jessica Anderson, Kate Grenville. Not an Australian author, but Johanna Sinisalo wrote a good novel about some people hiking in national parks/hiking trails in Australia and New Zealand, Birdbrain.
Better stop before you ban me from your thread for being a pest.

Fev 6, 6:32 pm

>65 arubabookwoman: Truly Madly Deeply?????

Was her book the basis for the movie of the same name with Allen Rickman? Loved that move esp with him in it. My first movie with him in it,what a wonderful actor. anyway, as you were sayig....

Fev 6, 6:59 pm

I have read only one of these and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the setting:

Fev 6, 7:41 pm

>66 cindydavid4:--No wonder I couldn't find the right touchstone. The name of the book is actually Truly Madly Guilty. Nothing to do with the movie. Sorry for the senior moment.

Fev 6, 9:51 pm

hee, np Just enjoyed the flash back of watching Rickman on the screen. sigh

Fev 7, 10:47 am

>64 SassyLassy: I got burned by Janette Turner Hospital once, so was in no hurry to give her another chance, but Oyster looks really good. There's a "cult" tag -- I love books with a cult aspect. Thanks!

>65 arubabookwoman: - oh that's an awesome list. Lots to look for there.

>67 ELiz_M: that's a great list too . . . I see there are contemporary books listed, which is what I'm leaning toward. So much AussieLit (including my own TBR pile) is either historical fiction or set in the dusty outback -- two settings that I'm not into at the moment

>68 arubabookwoman: Truly Madly Guilty sounds like fun. Thanks!

That's lots for me to look into. I'm confident that there are treasures in there. Thanks again, everyone! (and keep them coming if you have more ideas)

Fev 7, 7:19 pm

Update on my Aussie book search . . . I made a list of about 2 dozen of the books from above, plus from YouTube videos on Australian novels, and I have some saved to my Chapters-Indigo and Amazon wishlists. So many were only available on e-readers. A bunch more I found on Book Depository, but ouch! the prices . . . >$40 CDN for a paperback. And a bunch were out of print -- even though they aren't all that old :-(. There are some I'm very interested in, so I'll keep a list and look when I'm in Australia. I see there's a QBD Books near where my Australian friend lives.

Fev 8, 7:23 am

Wow, wonderful news about your trip to Australia!!!

You have got so many suggestions already, but I want to add Crimson Lake by Candice Fox which takes place in Far North Queensland. I have not read it myself, but it has been recommended to me in the Category Challenge, and I wanted to mention it since you specifically asked for novels set in QLD.

Fev 8, 7:23 am

We went to Australia in the early years of LT when we had a fair number Aussie LTers (until FB came along). It was a terrific trip, 10 days on our own. I have just under 100 Aussie books, mostly novels under the tag "Australian Authors". I haven't reviewed all that many.

Editado: Fev 8, 10:29 am

>72 MissBrangwen: I'll look for that one. It sounds familiar

>73 avaland: Off to check out your shelves . . .
I remember your trip, and also I remember all the wonderful Australians who I used to know here. People do come and go . . .

Fev 9, 10:16 am

>40 Nickelini: I've set Death Goes on Skis aside for the moment because I am totally frustrated by the characters (yes, I'm probably in the final 1/5). I was always intending to come back to it, but now sooner rather than later given what you say about the last few pages redeeming it slightly.

>46 baswood: I bought Death Goes on Skis recently in Waterstones in Cambridge - I'd never heard of it (pure coincidence that Joyce was reading it at the same time as me) but it was on display and caught my eye (that cover!)

Fev 10, 10:37 am

It's not Queensland (NSW), but I'd recommend The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville if you've not read it for your Oz trip.

Editado: Fev 10, 1:09 pm

>75 rachbxl: Well if you do finish it, I'm interesting to see if you think the ending makes it not so bad (my thought at the end was "well, at least there's that")

>76 AlisonY: Thanks -- I'll take a look at this one. I've read something else by her, and I did have another kicking around. I'm not sure if it made the move to my new house or not. The Idea of Perfection sounds like a fun premise

Fev 11, 6:52 pm

5. Maestro, Peter Godsworthy, 1989

cover comments: my 1991 Bloomsbury edition cover is not available here on LT so I just picked this random cover. No comments to make other than the actual cover I have is pretty weird and ugly

Comments: It's 1967 and teenage Paul has just moved to Darwin, Australia from the sophisticated south. He and his parents all have hopes that he has a future as a piano virtuoso. Luckily for them, the retired Herr Keller, and Austrian immigrant, is available to coach Paul on his piano endeavors. Perhaps "coach" is not a valid term to use, but his techniques are too unconventional to call him a "piano teacher". Paul also entertains the idea that perhaps Herr Keller is a former Nazi war criminal. Basically the novella Maestro is a bildungsroman about the self-absorbed Paul, and his slow discovery of who Herr Keller actually is and what he went through. There are also overlaps that match with author's real life--Adelaide homeland, time lived in Darwin, medical careers, and music devotion--but perhaps that's not a surprise for a first book.

Apparently Maestro was voted one of the all time top 40 Australian novels, and was commonly used in the high school curriculum, to fairly positive reactions from students. Not sure if it's still being read at Aussie schools, but I can tell you that this won't be read at schools in the USA, as there are scenes with adults having sex! And Paul having sex! And we certainly don't want to give teenagers any ideas whatsoever ;-)

Why I Read This Now: I was struggling to pick up the other novel I've been reading, and this was on my short-books-for-a-short month pile, and then we booked our flights to Australia, so the Australian book won out as The Book To Read Now

Rating: a strong 4 stars. There is some really stunning writing. I don't know why Peter Goldworthy isn't known outside of Australia, and I don't know why he hasn't written more books. He's also a physician, so maybe writing isn't his first love

Recommended for: readers who enjoy beautiful writing set against a musical background; readers looking for a book set in Darwin that doesn't have a crocodile.

How I Discovered This: An Australian LT friend sent me a Peter Goldsworthy novella, Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam and I was blown away by it. Goldsworthy went right on my must-read-everything list, so when I found this (and Three Dog Night) at a used bookstore, I bought it right away.

Fev 11, 7:15 pm

Oh joy another new to me author!Looking forward to reading it

Fev 11, 8:35 pm

>78 Nickelini: Oh I loved Three Dog Night - even more than Maestro. I agree with you about why isn't he better known?

Fev 12, 7:30 am

>78 Nickelini: as there are scenes with adults having sex! And Paul having sex! And we certainly don't want to give teenagers any ideas whatsoever ;-)

The horror!

readers looking for a book set in Darwin that doesn't have a crocodile

Lol. You are on a roll this morning, Joyce!

Fev 12, 9:59 am

>78 Nickelini: I'm not familiar with Godsworthy at all, but I'll keep an eye out for him now.

Fev 12, 10:49 am

Some Aussie books set in Queensland that I've read.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute (only partially set in Qld)
Most of William McInnes work (memoirist who grew up in Brisbane)
Vigil by Angela Slatter

Fev 12, 5:37 pm

Fun review, but could my prude mind manage? (I’m still scarred by a fb post - that place where anything goes - years ago by a neighbor complaining about a Margaret Atwood novel - maybe Oryx and Crake? - assigned in high school to their daughter that discussed sexual exploitation, and hence was terribly inappropriate. Naturally this parent had not read the book or even gotten the assignment right. It wasn’t the book assigned. But she got lots of deranged fb sympathy and likes and shares.)

Fev 13, 12:22 am

>84 dchaikin: OMG I'm scarred by your experience by proxy. That sort of thing makes me crazy. And what a weird take on Oryx and Crake

Fev 13, 12:24 am

>82 lisapeet: - I'll be interested to see if you can find him, and then what you think

>83 rhian_of_oz: Oh, thanks! That's awesome. Jane Harper comes up again and again and again, so I'm sure I'll read her. She's a new to me author

Fev 13, 1:26 am

>86 Nickelini: The Lost Man is a good one, too!

Fev 13, 11:13 am

I came across a review of Stone Sky, Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe (2020) and thought of you because it takes place in the Queensland gold fields.

Fev 13, 7:45 pm

>87 wandering_star:, >88 labfs39:

Noted, and thanks! :0)

Editado: Fev 13, 8:41 pm

6. Three Hours, Rosamund Lupton, 2020

cover comments: looks like a snowy thriller. Oh, it IS a snowy thriller. Sold.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Comments: In western Somerset, school is starting for the day, snow is starting to fall, and there's an explosion in the school's forest. One of the older students, a Syrian refugee suffering from PTSD, recognizes the sounds immediately and convinces enough adults to take it seriously. Then the headmaster is shot. And thus begins the 3 hour siege on the progressive school that in Canada we'd call K-12 (all school ages). The snow falls heavily, and various groups of students, teachers and parents feel the terror.

At times I didn't want to read this because school shootings are highly upsetting, but I also couldn't stay away from it for long. For me this was a well-planned, compelling read, and more complex and thoughtful than the average best seller thrillers. It also had more soul. . . I was a bit puzzled by the recommendation plastered on the front cover: "Broke My Heart" - Marian Keyes. This was a thriller--it's not supposed to be heart breaking. By the last 50 pages I felt that comment strongly.

It wasn't perfect, and perhaps 4.5 stars is a bit high, but I gave it .5 star for how it absorbed me. I'd have loved a map of the school property because there were multiple buildings and lots of snowy forest, and even a beach. (I had to look up Somerset on a map, because I don't remember being close to beaches when I was there. Yes, silly me, Somerset is also on the water; there is more than Bath). You can never go wrong with a map in a book.

And a character list. It's a school with all the ages, lots of teachers, parents arriving, and also police officers. Many characters, although the main characters were distinct. I did struggle a bit with the teenage dynamics but it came together.

Also, when it becomes clear who the main shooter is, everyone seems shocked that he's a "psychopath". Duh. There are a lot of psychopaths out there, and they don't all become school shooters, but if you ARE a school shooter, not a stretch that you're a psychopath. And when a shooter is revealed about halfway into the book, it's been vividly obvious forever by that point that the only reader who would be surprised is an overextended parent who's listened to this on audio book while doing 5 loads of laundry, worked the shift at the grocery store, got the kids to soccer practice and flute lessons, and repaired the leak under the kitchen sink.

But oveall, I thought it was a terrific thriller

Why I Read This Now: I like snowy books in winter, spring is coming on here so I best get at them, and mainly -- they last books I've been reading have been soooooo male. I thought a female author might write something where women were more than shadows that appear every 20 pages or so (nothing against men, but books and movies that are just about men tend to bore me beyond belief)

How I Discovered This: I follow all the major publishers on Instagram and this Penguin release was all over social media when it was published in 2020. I kept waiting for it to show up in shops and on my Canadian websites, but it never did. I waited for 2 years and then I ordered it from Book Depository from the UK. Even now, if I order it from Amazon Canada, it comes from the UK Book Depository.

I guess I just don't get the publishing industry.

Recommended for: people who want to write a thriller. Read this, take notes, and see how it's done. Rosamund Lupton sets some of the bars high. I also recommend this to readers who like an isolated mystery

Fev 18, 10:57 am

I've added both Maestro and Three Hours to my WL, Joyce. I hope I can handle the sex. I love it when parents complain about books they haven't read.

Editado: Fev 19, 12:31 am

Every year I say I'm going to get better at ditching books that aren't working for me. Here are two I DNF'd today:

The Wolf and the Watchman, Niklas Natt och Dag - Swedish historical fiction ... I really tried but at 24% I had to tap out

Jonathan Livingston Seagull - I picked up a first edition for $1 to put in my kids' bookshelf because I remember reading this when I was 10 and enjoying it. I also remember hearing it panned over the years. Yesterday I tossed it in the charity box, but then thought I'd reread it and see if I remembered anything and also what was so bad about it. I thought because it was under 100 pages, and many of those pages were black and white pictures of seagulls in flight, it would be a quick read. But it just made no sense and was weird and boring. Chucked it at page 58.

And now I'm happily reading a lovely (so far) book, The Lonely Hearts Hotel. I do love Heather O'Neill's writing

Fev 19, 12:35 am

>91 BLBera: Looking forward to your thoughts if you're able to find copies to read

Fev 19, 1:38 am

7. Bridget Jones's Diary, 1996

cover comments: Original cover. Huh. Not "chick lit" is it now.

Comments: Bridget Jones, late 1990s, London, singleton. This is her story, very loosely based on Pride and Prejudice, inspired by the author's love of Colin Firth playing Mr Darcy in the 1990s P&P. The first time I read this I was about the slightly younger than Bridg, but a smug married, and a lot of her diary entries reminded me of my 14 year old self. And I knew nothing of Pride and Prejudice, book or mini-series. I thought BJD was a hilarious book at the time. I also enjoyed my first reread about 5 years ago.

Book vs. movie: actually, pretty different. The clever and funny lines are often the same, but used in slightly different situations. This was one of the reasons I wanted to reread this, as it turned out I now remember little of the book.

Why I Read This Now: I was avoiding another book, needed something with female characters, I wanted to reread this because I've seen the movie version so many times, and, finally, it was Valentine's Day. BTW this is not a love story, and not even really much of a romance

Rating: I sometimes struggle to rate rereads. This was originally a 5 star read, and although I wouldn't give it that if I read it for the first time now, but I'm not going to begrudge it those shiny stars

Recommended for: cultural historians studying 1990s singleton London

Fev 19, 5:39 am

>94 Nickelini: It's so long since I read Bridget Jones too. Still love the film...

Editado: Fev 19, 12:27 pm

>92 Nickelini: I remember when I first read seagull, thought it ok but abit too sweet for my taste even in HS. Then I found a send up title "Ludwig Von Wolfgang Vulture" that had us laughing in college.

Fev 19, 6:56 pm

>96 cindydavid4: that sounds so entertaining

I think Jonathan Livingston Seagull requires some religious interpretations. I discarded my own copy last year, July.

>94 Nickelini: I haven’t read Bridget, or seen the movie. I should try to the movie first.

Fev 19, 8:53 pm

>97 dchaikin: If you want to watch the movie first, that's fine. I love it, it's my go-to comfort film. But when I read the book it really shows that Bridget isn't nearly as much as an idiot as she is in the movie. In the book, the foolishness is in her head, but not necessarily how she actually behaves

Fev 19, 8:55 pm

>96 cindydavid4: That's funny!

Fev 20, 12:13 pm

I’m adding Maestro and Three Hours to my wishlist, Joyce. I always love your reviews, and these were both excellent.

Fev 20, 9:09 pm

>100 NanaCC: Oh, thank you! You're so nice. I hope you enjoy those books too if you read them

Fev 21, 8:51 am

>1 Nickelini: in a month or so I'll start working in my new garden
Do you know what's already there or do you have to wait to see what emerges in spring? How much yard space do you have? The house is lovely!

Fev 22, 11:24 pm

>102 qebo: Do you know what's already there or do you have to wait to see what emerges in spring? How much yard space do you have??

I had to ask my husband, because I forgot . . . about 55 ft wide x 120 ft deep. I think that's what he said. With a house in the middle, and a garage in a corner. This house was built 5 years ago and they did landscape to some degree. Their plantings were thoughtful in that they picked plants and repeated them. But not necessarily the right plant in the right place. The front is pretty much set, but I will tweak and swap out plants I don't like with better choices. I've never had fountain grass before, and they are pretty awesome.

We bought it in March when it seemed to have no garden (I'm a 12 month garden lover, so I know have some work to do) but when we got the keys June 30th, the garden was bursting. They definitely had zero spring bulbs, and I am a huge spring bulb fan. I planted about 300 this past autumn, but I will obviously need to build on that. I work full time, and my back isn't what it used to be, so I need to pace.

The back yard is okay -- they obviously did somethings, but I'm not sure if they just ran out of time or ran out of money? Or, they had a dog (really lovely cinnamon labradoodle) and thought "we have a dog, this is the yard". I had a dog person over and she said it was an awesome yard for a dog. But we aren't dog people (I LOVE dogs on video and think they are wonderful. But I don't want one). We also don't have much need for lawn, so once we get the house furnished, we plan to hire someone who knows what they're doing to design and landscape something that is environmental, easy to care for, and pleasant.

Last summer was unusually dry here, and quiet hot, and I was maintaining this house plus my old house was still for sale, so I had two gardens to care for. I did very little watering here, and thought "if it's not drought tolerant, I'm fine with it dying". So later this spring I will see what survived the long drought, our unusual cold spells this winter, and whatever survives, stays. I know they planted a lot of hydrangeas in unsuitable places, and way too many of the same hostas. Love both of those, but I'm good to see some of them die, and I have a long list of plants that I love to replace them.

I'm very much looking to see what happens between now and June. And identifying the 10% of plants that I haven't figured out yet.

Waaaay more of an answer than you asked for!

Fev 23, 2:39 am

Joyce, your garden project sounds very interesting. I agree, spring flowers are very important for me too, so I keep adding them. Last autumn I planted a lot of daffodils, as there were not many of the existing ones left.

Fev 23, 7:48 am

>103 Nickelini: Like you, I bought a house with a decent landscape and have spent the last two years tweaking. I've added some bulbs and more local varieties like lupin and columbine. I managed to kill a beautiful purple grass the first winter, but others have withstood my ill-treatment. I have never had grasses before. This spring I'm going to dig up all the hostas on one side, create a better bed with a border, and replant them. I also want to redo the front beds by the house, taking out a blue spruce that is too close to the house now that it has grown and all the juniper, a plant I dislike despite it's low maintenance. Seattle was a much milder climate than here, so I'm having to learn lots of new tips and tricks.

Editado: Fev 23, 3:46 pm

We were so lucky in getting this house. Our first house was down the street, unlandscaped and missing some things we wanted in cabinets and floors; but we didn't have all that much money and figured we'll do a little here and there. D made me a brick garden that I grew veggies in, and we planted a few desert plants but not enough.

So four years later we noticed a yard sale near by.. Guy was selling his house and we were interested. It was much bigger than hours with good tile and cabinets. He took us out back and oh my gawd! It was march and every wildflower of the desert was there includeing many desert shrubs bulbs and plants. they had an Az room with sky lights perfect for indoor plants. We thought we wouldn't be able to keep up with it all, but they set up things so well that basically we just added water (well more than that but we didn't feel we had to reinvent the wheel). over 24 years later weve added our own touches but a lot of the original structures still stand. As some of the older trees are dying back we are finding replacement that dont need as much water, and trying to find more plants for hummingbirds and butterflis. Its were I spend most of my time when its not summer, sitting on my porch swing reading and enjoying our little bit of paradise

Fev 23, 5:14 pm

>106 cindydavid4: Sounds lovely, Cindy. I would love to see photos.

Fev 23, 5:55 pm

>103 Nickelini: Waaaay more of an answer than you asked for!
Exactly what I'd hope for!

I was maintaining this house plus my old house was still for sale, so I had two gardens to care for
You have my sympathy; I had a similar overlap and the yard that got my energy was the one I wanted to attract a buyer.

Fev 23, 6:38 pm

>104 Ameise1:, >105 labfs39:, >106 cindydavid4:, >107 labfs39:, >108 qebo:

Oh! What lovely gardening conversation has been going on. I love it.

>104 Ameise1: - I was taught that daffodils are supposed to multiply every year, but I find out they do for a bit and then slowly dwindle away. I had to replant masses of daffs twice in the 25 years after I initially planted them at my old house. And every year I'd stick in a few bulbs of interesting variety just to keep it interesting. I'm on the hunt for "February Gold," which, if planted in a sunny protected spot, will bloom in February here most years. I need those!

>105 labfs39: - That sounds like a big job, but I'm sure it will look amazing when you're done

>106 cindydavid4: - That sounds gorgeous! Yes, let's see photos sometime

>108 qebo: - Yes, those pesky potential buyers! I just wanted to play in my new garden!

Fev 25, 1:28 pm

>107 labfs39: how do you add photos?

Fev 25, 2:37 pm

The same way you add a book cover. Instead of the book cover location I point to the picture’s location on the internet. In my case I’ve uploaded my pics from my phone to my Pinterest board.

I’ve tried bringing pics from my phone directly into LibraryThing but the always came up sideways. Someone nicely explained the work around but it was too much for me so I just go through Pinterest

Editado: Fev 27, 11:13 am

8. Night Train, A.L. Snijders, 2021; translated from Dutch by Lydia Davis, 2021

cover comments: love the European minimalism

Comments: A.L. Snijders is a Dutch writer who specializes in very short stories. Some are a paragraph, at most, a page and a half. He writes in a clean, direct style and captures life in late 20th century-early 21st century life in the Netherlands. A few of the stories are masterful.

Rating: 3 stars -- a few perfect 5 star stories and a lot of meh

Recommended for: people who like plain, sparse writing

Why I Read This Now: have actually been reading this for several months as it was my work book. The short short story format lends itself nicely to coffee breaks

How I Discovered This: late night internet rabbit hole

Fev 27, 5:51 am

Over the years I've read two or three anthologies of "very short" stories (one was Chinese, the other from the era of 'flash fiction" in the early 90s). And as you note with your read: some great, some not. I note your recommendation....

Fev 28, 11:26 pm

>113 avaland: I was flipping through Night Train again to note the stories I really liked, and I found I reread and liked more of them than I did the first time through. But of course, no short story collection is ever all fabulous stories

Mar 1, 12:57 am

9. Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O'Neill, 2017

cover comments: Perfect for this book. Also, who doesn't love a blue cover?

Rating: 4.5 stars

Why I Read This Now: O'Neill is one of my top favourite authors, and I've loved every book of hers that I've read. Yet I kept putting off this 2017 novel because it was set mostly in the 1930s (all her other books have been more contemporary), and it involved circus elements, and (cringe), clowns! It just didn't sound like my jam. I really dislike clowns.

I like Heather O'Neill's clowns.

Anyway, back to why I read this now. I was looking for something in my past reading journals, and came across my notes from Heather O'Neill's The Girl Who Was Saturday Night from this time in 2019. I'd copied eight and a half pages of quotations from that novel and really enjoyed reading them again. And I remembered what an unusually cold February we had that year, and how that novel set in Montreal was perfect for my mood, and since now four years later we are having unusually cold weather (maybe not so unusual anymore?), I thought I'd try Lonely Hearts Hotel.

Comments: Rose and Pierrot are born in 1914 to young teen mothers, and end up in an orphanage in Montreal. They stand out from all the other waifs in this oppressive environment and form an inseparable bond. Both are witty and charismatic. Rose dances and improvises make believe scenarios. Pierrot is nimble in general, erudite in speech (although he often doesn't understand what he's just said), and gifted at the piano. They end up performing for wealthy people in Montreal, with the payment going to the wicked nuns at the orphanage, until they hit their mid-teens. Then they are sent off as servants, or companions, in wealthy homes, until they fall into the squalor of drug addiction and prostitution. Eventually Rose and Pierrot reconnect as adults in the Great Depression and are able to actually make their childhood fantasy of the "The Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza" a reality. With underworld ties, however. And that's the first half of the novel.

It's whimsical, tragic, sad, magical, funny, depressing, and I loved every minute.

Look, I can't do this novel justice. The whole circus and clown thing had me avoiding reading this for years. But it turned out that I found the clown parts completely amusing (maybe it's a Montreal Cirque du Soleil thing vs. a USA Barnum Bailey thing. Probably), and I thought, as I was reading the humorous clown interview chapters, "Montreal is lousy with clowns!", but then I saw that I'd written that down from the Girl Who Was Saturday Night. I should have trusted that O'Niell would transcend the circus theme. But I was wary. For years one of my book club friends tried to get us to read Water For Elephants and I was pretty sure I'd hate it. I gave it a chance and hated it. Maybe when it comes to circuses, just go with the francophone version.

BTW, Lonely Hearts Hotel is a weak name for the novel, and I think "The Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza" captures more of the book, but perhaps wouldn't appeal to adult readers. Hmmm. "Pierrot and Rose" would have been better, but I'm not a book marketing guru.

Recommended for: If you've read this far, maybe you. I get that O'Neill is not for everyone but I just love looking at raunchy, seedy life through her rose coloured lenses

People who don't like this complain that it was compared to a more famous book (that it's not like), that it's too crude, that the author uses too many similes, that there are too many horrible events, that the author tries too hard to be clever. Probably they're right. But I love it.

How I Discovered This: long time Heather O'Neill fan, so when this came out I knew I'd read it eventually even if it had a circus theme to it

Mar 1, 1:04 am

BTW - It's still February here in Vancouver, but already March for the rest of the world and I'm embarrassed to say that I can't change my thread top picture because it looks like that again today. I haven't double checked, but I think we had the biggest snowfall on record for this date since records began. It's been a very late winter for us . . . normally the crocus are in full bloom, some daffodils, but all I've seen so far are a couple of handfuls of snowdrops, four branches of cherry blossoms, and 3 crocus. Meanwhile my kids in England and Switzerland are sending me pictures of spring blossoms galore.

I hope to find a more springlike picture for me thread soon!

Mar 1, 10:47 am

>115 Nickelini: For years one of my book club friends tried to get us to read Water For Elephants and I was pretty sure I'd hate it. I gave it a chance and hated it. Maybe when it comes to circuses, just go with the francophone version.

I like clowns and I hated it as well! Only the very beginning with the elephant stampede was it a worthwhile read

Mar 1, 11:17 am

It has been the strangest winter. We just got 8" and another foot coming Saturday.

Mar 1, 11:25 am

>118 labfs39: Ugh! I'm so ready for spring

Editado: Mar 1, 9:04 pm

It is raining again. I think we've had more rain in the last two months than our state usually gets in a year. (ETA just checked "The 2023 average so far is 1.23 inches, greater than the past five years' averages.") Snow in Phoenix and i ever heard about Nevada mts getting somel. Im not complainiing I love rain, but I fear this is a sign of something seriously wrong

Mar 2, 10:34 am

>120 cindydavid4: What is "somel"?

Mar 2, 3:57 pm

>121 Nickelini: sigh another typo. Meant to say 'some' My apologies!

Mar 4, 12:50 pm

>112 Nickelini: Despite my long time overseas, I have always held on to my interest in Dutch literature, but I have never heard of this author. But now that I have, I will probably start noticing.

Mar 6, 3:50 pm

Still winter here (as Lisa notes in >118 labfs39: ). Thankfully, some of it is actually melting today.

Mar 6, 6:36 pm

>123 edwinbcn: - I'll watch to see your thoughts if you ever read him

>124 avaland: Ugh! We still have snow too, although it's melting. So done with it

Editado: Mar 13, 3:14 pm

10. Hotline, Dimitri Nasrallah, 2022

cover comments: sure, it's fine

Comments: Set over about one year, this novel is loosely based on the author's mother's experiences of moving from war-torn Lebanon to Montreal in 1986. Her husband had applied to move his family to Canada, but then went missing and was presumed dead. With little family support in Beirut, Muna goes ahead and takes her son Omar to Montreal. She was trained as a French teacher, but nobody wants to hire a Lebanese French teacher in Quebec.To make ends meet, she takes a job as a hotline operator for a diet company.

I was expecting her story to be about the crazy things people said to her on the phone and how hard it is to work with the public. It wasn't that. This is definitely a story of her struggle as a single mother in a new place where everything is strange, and life was indeed challenging. But what stands out for me from this novel is the small kindnesses she encountered through the minor characters.

Rating: 4 stars

Why I Read This Now: this is one of the contenders for CBC Canada Reads later this month. It was the one that sounded most interesting to me, and then a coworker had a copy to lend me

How I discovered this: CBC Canada Reads

Recommended for: readers who like earnest novels (a common trait for Canada Reads and CanLit in general)

Mar 15, 1:48 am

Interesting name, Dimitri Nasrallah.

Mar 15, 3:15 am

>127 LolaWalser: it is, isn’t it! What does it make you think of, I wonder

I only know Nasrallah from the classical music DJ on CBC. And Dimitri, to me, was always a name for a mysterious and attractive dark haired man

Mar 15, 1:56 pm

For an older gent I'd speculate romantically about leftist parents, but it's probably something more mundane, like the man is an Arab Christian (most are Orthodox). The combo is unusual to me because most Arab Christians I know choose neutral or Arabicised names. But it would be a practice much more common in Lebanon.

Mar 15, 5:01 pm

>129 LolaWalser: Oh, he IS an Arab Christian (culturally, at least). I wouldn't have known to pick up on that. I have a friend who is a Lebanese Christian and I was going to ask her some questions about this book, but I haven't seen her since I read it.

Mar 21, 11:29 pm

11. The Sea, John Banville, 2005

cover comments: nice

Comments: This fairly short novel meanders through Max Morden's memories of his wife's death from cancer, an unusual summer from his youth, and the current day. On the back of my edition, The Sea is described as "luminous," and that is the perfect word to describe the beautiful writing. I expected to abandon this within the first 30 pages, but to my delight it grabbed me and pulled me in. Then it had a flabby middle section, before coming around to an intriguing end.

The Sea won the Booker Prize in 2005 and is on the 1001 Books list.

Why I Read This Now: Every year I like to read an Irish book in March. Unfortunately, all the Irish books in my TBR have been there for ages, my reading tastes have changed, and I'm not all that interested in them. I thought I'd slough some off my TBR pile by abandoning them earlier, but I liked this.

Rating: 4 stars. Although I did enjoy much of this, it is a 193 page book that took me 12 days to read. I'd like to read it again one day.

How I Discovered This: It was a best seller back in its day

Recommended For: Readers who like gorgeous, lush language, who don't need a plot, and who don't mind characters who aren't very likeable.

Mar 22, 6:16 am

>131 Nickelini: This book was a random pick for me in a Litsy challenge I participate in. It's been sitting on my shelf forever, but your description makes me think I'll read it in April and likely enjoy it. What a well-timed review!

Mar 22, 11:37 am

>131 Nickelini: I've had that on my shelf forever too. I think I picked it mostly for the cover art, and also because it was getting so much buzz at the time.

Mar 22, 1:05 pm

>132 japaul22:, >133 lisapeet:

If either of you get to reading it, I'm interested in your thoughts. It really is a lovely book and I think the reason it took me so long to read is that my mind is full of other things at the moment and not the book's fault entirely

Editado: Mar 23, 1:59 am

Gardening Update Finally, spring seems to have arrived. Marked "tardy" in my journals.

I planted crocus and daffodils last autumn, and they finally showed up this week. But blooming earlier were the 7 hellebore plants (Lentin Rose), that came with my new house (2 white-pink-yellow-green, and the others a lovely plum shade). How have I never had this gorgeous plant before? They are my new favourites! I'm sad that I lived so much of my life with ignoring this plant (I knew about them but was uninterested for some reason). If you live in zones 5-8 this is a must for a shady spot in your garden.

ETA: I forgot to say, I've changed my thread topper to show pictures I took of the hellebore today. It was 14 degrees C and felt amazing!

Mar 23, 2:25 am

>131 Nickelini: Hm. I read this for the 1001 list, and remember literally nothing about it. I apparently rated it 4 stars. I just spent a few minutes reading your synopsis and willing it to trigger any sort of memory of the book but ... nope.

Editado: Mar 23, 3:23 am

Bookcase Update

These are the current places with books in my new house:

1. Library work in progress, picture taken on a sunny morning in March:

There is no comfy furniture to sit in here yet. But I like the start

2. My office is a bomb site:

3. My sad Ikea Billy bookcases in the corner of the basement, with approx. 12 boxes of books on the floor with no shelves for them. I gave away 2 boxes last week, but clearly I need more bookshelves! My husband says these Billy bookcases are shite and we will (eventually) get all new ones that will hold all the books (that I weed down):

How did I get so many books, and why do I want more?

I feel incredibly privileged to have all this space to try and fit in my books, and to have a "library" (this name came out of a family joke that isn't interesting enough to explain here). What I'm really wondering is how I crammed in all these books at my old small house! I truly was a squirrel hiding all my treasures.

Mar 23, 3:04 am

>136 ursula: Hm. I read this for the 1001 list, and remember literally nothing about it. I apparently rated it 4 stars. I just spent a few minutes reading your synopsis and willing it to trigger any sort of memory of the book but ... nope.

I can totally see that. I remember so many "meh" comments about this over the years, which is why I didn't read it for so long (15 years on my shelves), and why I expected now was the time to give it a go and toss it after 10, 20, 30 pages. I didn't expect to like it. And the story and overall meaning I might not remember, but as someone who likes to write fiction, I found his way of describing setting and movement to be illuminating. I copied many bits into my reading journal, which I rarely do.

Mar 23, 5:14 am

Those flowers are so beautiful! It is interesting to follow all the developments in your new house. The library looks great!

Mar 23, 6:25 am

>135 Nickelini: I'm so jealous that spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest/BC. Here in Maine, I have a few bare patches in my yard, but feet of snow still in other places. Supposed to get a few more inches Saturday night. I was looking at a bare patch yesterday and wondering when the ground will thaw enough to work with. I am so ready for spring. Your mention of hellebore reminds me of our lovely gardens when we lived outside Seattle. Truly a harbinger of spring, along with crocus and snowdrops.

>137 Nickelini: Ah, book porn! Ok, fess up, how many of us zoomed in to look at titles? Lol.

Mar 23, 10:59 am

>135 Nickelini: hellebore
I'm strictly native(ish) aside from legacy plants, but am tempted by hellebores. I had them at my previous house and it's delightful to see them emerging from the snow when winter is dragging on.
>137 Nickelini: Enjoy seeing the behind-the-scenes reality as well as the presentation of books. I think we last saw that bookcase in the store. It makes an attractive wall.

Mar 23, 11:19 am

>137 Nickelini: Pretty! My cats would make short work of anything on the shelves unfortunately! Bad enough to knock things over but one in particular loves to chew on books. Our future is glassed-in.

>138 Nickelini: Four stars said I liked it at the time, but apparently it didn't have staying power. I keep telling myself I'll start taking more notes on books I read, but well. Although reading on my phone or iPad I am far more likely to input quotes from books into the app I use for tracking my reading time, so at least there's that.

Mar 23, 2:00 pm

>137 Nickelini:

I spy nooks and crannies behind the front rows! Remember that bookcases, like nature, abhor vacuum. :p

I must defend Billys, as they have served me for twenty years without sagging despite being subjected to merciless abuse.

Them hellyboars look fetching.

Mar 23, 2:21 pm

>143 LolaWalser: "I must defend Billys, as they have served me for twenty years without sagging despite being subjected to merciless abuse." I have had mine for nine years, they have survived two moves and are still going strong!

Mar 25, 1:54 am

>139 MissBrangwen:
Thank you for your kind comments. Those flowers just grew without my doing a single thing, so I can't take credit other than to say "if you live in a climate that supports them, grow Hellibores". I did some research and they are native to Europe and China (?)

Mar 25, 1:57 am

>140 labfs39: Here in Maine, I have a few bare patches in my yard, but feet of snow still in other places. Supposed to get a few more inches Saturday night

Well my husband drove off tonight to play soccer and an hour later it was sleeting, so not exactly the Bahamas over here either.

Ah, book porn! Ok, fess up, how many of us zoomed in to look at titles? Lol. I do that in other people's pictures all the time!

Editado: Mar 25, 2:14 am

>141 qebo:
I'm strictly native(ish) aside from legacy plants, but am tempted by hellebores. I had them at my previous house and it's delightful to see them emerging from the snow when winter is dragging on.

You have my full respect, . . . but, maybe one little spot for a hellebore? They thrive in shade, and that's a big plus. I've turned into the Hellebore's head cheerleader.

Enjoy seeing the behind-the-scenes reality as well as the presentation of books. I think we last saw that bookcase in the store. It makes an attractive wall.

Oh, nice! I posted in a silly moment, and I thought it was fun at the time. I know on social media we all like to be perfect, and this isn't that.

Editado: Mar 25, 2:14 am

>142 ursula: My cats would make short work of anything on the shelves unfortunately! Bad enough to knock things over but one in particular loves to chew on books. Our future is glassed-in
Oooff! Adding glass is EXPENSIVE. Enjoy your cats (I do miss the my kitties Cole,Violet and Bella)

Mar 25, 2:12 am

>143 LolaWalser:

I spy nooks and crannies behind the front rows! Remember that bookcases, like nature, abhor vacuum. :p

Oh yes! This is very much a work in progress. Many stages from settled in. A friend advised me to be "careful of your back, get it right the first time" and I laughed and laughed. I like to do what think of as "massaging" my bookcases . . . a little move over here, a little alignment there . . . Nothing makes me happier

I must defend Billys, as they have served me for twenty years without sagging despite being subjected to merciless abuse.
and >144 MissBrangwen: I have had mine for nine years, they have survived two moves and are still going strong!

No shade on Billy bookcases! My comment was about this particular set of Billys . . . they have run their course and it's just time for fresh Billys.

Mar 25, 5:05 am

>148 Nickelini: Luckily I don't have books. ;) Or I mean, I have a few art reference books and a literal handful of sentimental ones, but mostly they come in from secondhand shops and go right back out, or they're books that are mostly trashed but still readable and they can go out on a sidewalk or be chucked into the garbage.

I used to have one hutch sort of thing from IKEA that I used for books a number of years ago, it had something like 3-4 shelves behind glass and a cupboard below. I didn't have cats back then, I just liked the look of it, but odds are I'll get something similar for the new apartment.

Mar 26, 12:58 pm

On The Sea.... it's a while since I read it, but I seem to remember I couldn't quite make up my mind about it. Parts of it I liked, but at other times it felt a bit depressing. I've not picked up another John Banville book since, which probably sums up my overall feeling on it.

Editado: Mar 27, 10:51 pm

12. Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel, 2014

cover comments: I like the deer, but the rest of it does nothing for me. I don't hate it, but it's not good either

Comments: Post-apocalyptic novel set before, during and 20 years after a pandemic quickly kills 99% of the people on the planet. Has been made into a TV series on AppleTV.

Why I Read This Now: It's a contender for this year's CBC Canada Reads. I've actually tried to read it twice in the past and never got very far. My husband bought this on a whim (something he does once a decade) and said it was "okay," and then my book club picked it and I was fine with the choice because I already owned the book. But I didn't get very far, as I put it down and just never got back to it. Another time I tried it on audiobook because it was available, but again, I listened once and then didn't bother again. Over the years, I've put this in the donate box a few times but it always came out because someone would say something super positive about it, or intriguing. This was the book's last chance.

Rating: 3 stars. I actually rather enjoyed Mandel's writing, but I strongly dislike post-Apocalyptic stories. I look forward to reading other books by her as long as they aren't on this subject.

Recommended for: people who enjoy post-apocalyptic novels? As a rule, I don't read books about the Holocaust or slavery, and now I've added this subject/genre to the list. My husband says that "everything" is post-apocalyptic, but that's just his algorithm, because it's not my experience.

How I Discovered This: best seller

Editado: Mar 28, 9:51 pm

13. The Union of Synchronized Swimmers, Cristina Sandu, 2019; translated from Finnish by the author, 2021

cover comments: it fits the book quiet well, actually

Comments: This novella switches between the story of six young women who work at a cigarette factory behind the Iron Curtain and take up swimming in the local river and, on their own, becoming synchronized swimmers who eventually are allowed to leave to compete in the West. In between that story are the individual stories of Anita, Paulina, Sandra, Betty, Nina, and Lidia, years after they've defected and try to make life for themselves in various places. I liked how it was unique, clever, and interesting, but I didn't like (as with much "literary" translated fiction) it's overly cryptic. And also, even though it was written in Finnish, this shows nothing about life in Finland. What I most enjoy about reading translated fiction is when it transports me to that country and I can see life there. Often translated literature has no interest in showing any of that. Oh well, I keep looking.

Rating: 3.5 stars

How I Discovered This: I think an internet rabbit hole in 2021?

Recommended for: Readers who want to Finnish literature but not picky about it being set in Finland. Also, some of the negative comments came from people who were looking for a story about synchro swimming and there wasn't enough water wheels and back tucks.

Why I Read This Now: Time for something in translation, and this one was short so I didn't need to gird my loins for a long read.

(12 points to anyone who gets my gird my loins reference. After 29 years of marriage, my husband and I only speak in advertising jingles and TV and movie lines. LOL. Often it spills into real life and people look at me, baffled)

Mar 28, 11:09 pm

Funny, I would have assumed a Romanian, with that name.

Synchronised swimming, to me, begins and ends with Esther Williams movies.

I'm seeing Mandel being read everywhere by everyone. No doubt I'll make my way to her some day, slothfully.

Editado: Mar 29, 9:32 am

>152 Nickelini: Recommended for: people who enjoy post-apocalyptic novels

I had to chuckle because when I read this last year, I felt that it wasn't post-apocalyptic enough, if that is what she was striving for.

>153 Nickelini: What I most enjoy about reading translated fiction is when it transports me to that country and I can see life there.
Me too.

Edited to fix italics

Mar 29, 11:53 am

>154 LolaWalser: good call! The author was born in Finland to Finnish and Romanian parents. I took a double take at the name because I thought “Indian”, but no, that would be “Sandhu”

Mar 29, 11:57 am

>155 labfs39: LOL I guess there’s a post-apocalyptic scale then. I’ll set mine to zero

Mar 29, 12:42 pm

>156 Nickelini:

Wow! it was just a throwaway... well, that may explain why she went for the "Iron Curtain" theme.

Mar 29, 2:06 pm

>153 Nickelini: Synchronised swimming is just water up your nose

Mar 29, 2:28 pm

>159 baswood: you’re cute ;-)

Abr 14, 8:11 am

I love your book pics! How fun to get to go through boxes of books. And I love the flowers at the top. I loved Station Eleven, but I understand that dystopian novels aren't to everyone's taste. I have something by O'Neill on my shelves; I should give it a try.

Editado: Abr 16, 3:20 pm

14. English Animals, Laura Kaye, 2017

cover comments: Excellent cover. Who doesn't love a fox on a book cover? Great photo, and the colour filter tells the reader that something is off. As do the misaligned letters that make up the title.

Rating: 4.5 stars. English Animals is one of those books that few readers have heard of, but has high ratings from those who have been lucky enough to discover it. Also, I always love a book set at a country house.

Comments As a young woman, Slovakian Mirka tries for a new life in Britain. After struggling in London, she lands a job as an assistant to Sophie and Richard. They have a messy life and a messy relationship, and have inherited a country house in some unnamed location in England. Scrambling to try whatever it takes to support it, they juggle weddings, B&B, bird hunting, taxidermy. Of her many jobs, her focus is taxidermy, and Mirka goes from squeamish to proficient quickly, surpassing Richard's skill. In her free time, and to escape the chaos, she creates elaborate dioramas with small rodents acting out human scenes, such as a coffee shop (think Brambley Hedge or Richard Scary updated to 2017 England). These become a hit with a particular London art crowd and she can't keep up with demand. This part of the book fascinated me, but was rather minor.

I digress. English Animals is Mirka's story of trying to negotiate the situation she found herself in, and employee, but a pseudo family member, 15 years younger than the other two, and trying to juggle work & friendship with Richard while having a sexual relationship with Sophie.

Excellent first novel. I look forward to reading what Laura Kaye comes up with in the future

Recommended for: To start, I've seen comparisons to Cold Comfort Farm in several places. I haven't read that, so can't comment. Initially it reminded me of Bitter Orange by Clare Fuller, but then it went off on its own story. So if you like either of those books, find this. Also, people who like books set in English country houses, but not necessarily fancy, Chatsworth-type country houses, and more realistic "oh jeez, I inherited this monstrosity and I love it but how do I financially make this continue" reality of country houses,

How I Discovered This: Jen Campbell raved about this and I went to the Book Depository (RIP) and ordered it right away

Why I Read This Now: I was actually 1/3 into this a year ago, but then we bought our new house and I got distracted and it ended up in a box, so I've just now managed to get back to it. I hadn't forgotten it, but did restart from the beginning and happy I did. Also, I'm going to be in England in 10 days, so I like to read books set in places I'm visiting. Although, to be honest, probably 1/3 of the books in my TBR are British, so I could just blindly pick something off my shelves.

Abr 17, 5:44 am

>149 Nickelini: Room for Books...congratulations! :-)

Editado: Maio 15, 8:33 pm

15. The Collector, John Fowles, 1963

cover comments: a bit disjointed, actually

I read this back in April, and in the time since have holidayed on Vancouver Island and then England and Italy, so this is what I remember:

Comments: Twenty-something incel and orphan who collects butterflies as a hobby watches a young London art student, and thinks he'd like to possess her. After winning a lottery and sending his aunt and cousin off to Australia, he sets up a prison for her at a cottage in Sussex, and kidnaps her. He's creepy and infuriating, but compared to real life stories of captive young women that we've all heard since this was written in 1963, he doesn't actually do much to her. Other than lock her in a dank basement.

The first 120 pages are his version of the story. Then it switches to Miranda, the kidnapped woman's version of the story. She turns out to be rather insufferable. Just not interested in a privileged 20 year old's philosophy of life. This section dragged.

Parts 3 & 4 were short and the story picked up again, and the ending was wonderfully creepy

Why I Read This Now: I've owned this for over a decade and always wanted to read it. Somehow it bubbled up to the top of the pile

How I Discovered This: I've owned it too long to know, but probably from the 1001 Books list. Years ago I read the author's French Lieutenant's Woman, which I loved (and also the film)

Recommended For: I think this would appeal to a broad audience

Rating: 4 stars

Maio 16, 2:11 am

>162 Nickelini: This turns out to be available from my library on audiobook, so here goes!

Maio 16, 12:37 pm

>164 Nickelini:

It's been quite a few years, but I had a very different view of Miranda... this from what I wrote at the time:

Miranda is a prize-winning art student, a warm, sympathetic character without class snobbery, an artless young girl sexually seemingly as inexperienced as Clegg, but with a normal emotional past... (...)

Clegg is "scientific", inhibited, dead; Miranda is artistic, vital, life-loving. Clegg collects and catalogues; Miranda creates. Clegg has a rudimentary, mechanistic understanding of beauty as symmetry of shape; Miranda understands beauty as a matter of active feeling, perceiving as aesthetic even what is superficially ugly, unpleasant and formless. Clegg is a puritan with petty bourgeois notions of conventional morals and propriety; Miranda understands sex as a mode of communication, a bestowing of love, that cannot be dirty in itself. Clegg is closed upon himself and his obsessions; Miranda thinks about social injustice and the threat of nuclear war. Etc.

She tries everything she can think of to awake humanity in him and fails. This monster destroys her without a smidgen of pity and goes on to the next victim.

Maio 16, 6:04 pm

>166 LolaWalser: I see your point . . . definitely agree about Clegg. Maybe I'd be more sympathetic to Miranda if I didn't find her so tedious

Editado: Maio 17, 3:25 pm

16. Dreaming of Florence, TA Williams, 2018

cover comments: This is the style of cover I walked right past for decades but that I recently discovered can actually be a fun read. My husband and I were examining this picture last night to see if it could even be real and determined it could if there are roof decks on the houses that line the Arno River in Florence.

Comments: Late 20-something Debbie is struggling a bit with her life in Cambridge. She has a decent job teaching English, but her employer may have to lay off staff, she recently broke up with her fiancé, and she is weighted down with debt. An unexpected encounter results in her taking a chance and moving to Florence to teach English, and from there her life improves steadily, culminating in the expected romantic ending.

As with other books I've read by this author, there is actually very little romance and mostly just a story about a young woman living a new life in Italy.

Why I Read This Now: promised to be a light, fun book to read on my trip to Tuscany. A couple of years ago I decided to make an effort to read more fluff and fewer serious books. I think I'm currently at 6% fluff, so that's a start

How I Discovered This: I've read other similar books by the same author.

The author: surprised me. First, T.A. Williams is Trevor Williams, who lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He has a degree in modern languages and has lived in Switzerland, France, and Italy. Back in the UK, he runs a prestigious language school. His hobby is long-distance cycling. Not your usual "romance" book writer. I found that he's written a bunch of these sorts of books, several of which I've now ordered.

Rating: hardly a literary masterpiece, I still give this 4 stars because it's fun and I like to read fun books sometimes. I'd say this book is the literary equivalent of a strawberry milkshake.

Recommended for : you guessed it: readers looking for a fun book set in Italy

Maio 17, 5:40 pm

I like it! When are you leaving?

Maio 17, 6:36 pm

Maio 17, 8:50 pm

>170 Nickelini: Were you talking about a trip to italy? or am i on the wrong threae? if so my apologies? I am glad you are here and will be more careful in the future!!

Maio 17, 10:24 pm

>171 cindydavid4: No problems, I just didn't know what you were referring to with either sentence. My comments about Dreaming of Florence were on a book I'd read on my trip to Italy, so I've been and come back.

Editado: Maio 23, 11:13 pm

17. Family Album, Penelope Lively, 2009

cover comments: I like this. It's clean. And it speaks to the novel. I wouldn't say it captures the feel of the novel though, so not full marks

Comments: Family Album is a perfect name for this novel, as it's a collection of snap shot memories of the different people in this family, and although in the end it does tell the family's story, like a photo album, it's disjointed and only tells bits here and there.

Alison is the engine of this disparate group. She was driven to fulfill her life goal being a mother of a bustling house full of children. The husband wasn't all that important, and Charles disappeared into his office to read and write esoteric books (he took lessons in indifference from Elizabeth Bennet's father and perfected the art). Paul, Gina, Sandra, Roger, Katie, and unusually-blonde Claire are all very different from each other and become adults who--mostly--live far away from the family home, Allersmead. Each chapter jumps around and focuses on the various family members, and the long-term live-in hired help, Ingrid.

Rating: I'm not sure. Having just finished it, I'm feeling 4 stars, but it's taken me a long time to read this 225 page book. Sometimes I thought it was just okay. 3.75 stars I guess.

Why I Read This Now: I was off for 1.5 weeks in England and 1.5 weeks in Tuscany. This was the book for the English part of my trip, and I have zillions of books set in England in my TBR but this one was the physically lightest of the bunch in front of me. I did start it on the plane and during my trip, but it was too discordant to click as a suitable travel read. I considered leaving it behind, but there was enough there to make me think I'd like it. I'm glad I gave it another chance when I got home.

Recommended for: people with patience to let the novel reveal itself

How I Discovered This: I've read 3 books by this author previously

Maio 24, 12:11 am

>173 Nickelini: people with patience to let the novel reveal itself

think I just might be a person that can do that. The few books Ive read by her Ive really liked. Thanks for the rec

Maio 24, 12:31 am

>174 cindydavid4: I'd love to hear another LTers thoughts on this. I was mixed but really liked it at the end

Maio 27, 9:21 am

I am a fan of Lively, but I haven't read this one.

The one that intrigues me is English Animals; I will look for that one. I love to discover first novels.

I read The Collector years ago and am still creeped out.

I love your comments and I love that you comment on the covers.

Editado: Maio 30, 6:55 pm

18. Nives, Sacha Naspini, 2020; translated from Italian by Cora Botsford, 2021. This has also been published with the title Tell Me About It

cover comments: Well, I don't hate it. But I also don't think it fits. The story is about an older woman, and then when she looks back on being the age of the girl in picture, that was 1982. Although I may have worn that outfit in 1982, the black and white picture looks more like 1952. So this is a NO. But Europa Editions don't usually have good covers, so there you go.

Comments: Nives' husband drops dead on the first page of the novella. Alone and lonely on their farm in Tuscany, with her daughter and grandchildren living in France, Nives soon brings her hen Giacomina into the house. Suddenly her world feels all right again. But then Giacomina has a medical emergency and late one night, Nives phones the veterinarian, who is also an old friend. This brings us to page 25. For the next 103 pages of the novella, Nives and Loriano have an extended conversation about their shared past. I found the change at this point to abruptly interrupt the tone and subject of the book, and I wasn't much interested in the new topics. By the end there were enough twists that I regained some of my initial interest.

Rating 3 stars. I think it's well-written, but I really didn't care all that much about their conversation

How I Discovered This: I shop the Europa Editions catalogue

Why I Read This Now: This was my backup book on my trip to Italy because it was physically small. I didn't get to it then because I didn't do much reading, but I still wanted to read it

Recommended for: many people love this one more than I did. I was just expecting something different

Editado: Maio 31, 10:32 am

19. Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer, Karen Wasylowski, 2011

cover comments: What even is this picture? Where are they? Why is Darcy galloping toward Colonel Fitzwilliam? I don't hate it, but what does it mean?

Comments: Darcy and Fitzwilliam is a piece of Pride and Prejudice pastiche, starting with a brief prologue set in 1813 when Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are packing up from their Easter visit to Lady Catherine De Bourgh where Darcy failed to entice Miss Elizabeth Bennet into marrying him. Chapter One jumps forward to 1815 and Darcy and Elizabeth are happily married. Mostly. Except the author has no idea who Austen's characters are, especially Elizabeth. Gone is the intelligent and witty heroine, who has instead been replaced by "some hysterical banshee" (this author's words). All the characters are unrecognizable, but the greatest insult was paid to our dearest, loveliest Elizabeth. Lady Catherine De Burgh plays a role in this novel too, and although she's actually rather fun, and I'd say vastly improved, she's not the same character. Now she's just a misunderstood doddering old aunt who has everyone's best interests in her mind. Sigh.

The first part of this long novel focused on the Darcys, with cousin Fitzwilliam hanging around. The second part was all about Battle of Waterloo war hero Colonel Fitzwilliam finding his one true love. I have to admit I skimmed this section because I absolutely don't care. He marries some young American widow with a young son. Her name is Amanda and it all felt very 1986 to me. There are complications. Part three was way too much about Elizabeth having a horrible childbirth experience (look, I've had my own awful birthing experiences and I do not need to read more about it -- especially when maternal mortality was so high. Do I want to read about Elizabeth dying? No. No sane author is going to kill off Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, So let's just not go there at all, m'kay?). Then it all comes together for everyone and the epilogue is Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam as grandfathers, sneaking a drink and a smoke and talking about their vast families and vaster wealth.

A few things that irritated me:
-Every once in a while it was clear that the author is highly influenced by the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice, which is not a good thing.

- Elizabeth here is a petite, even "elfin" little wisp of a thing. Excuse me? I can't blame this on following a bad film adaptation because both Jennifer Ehle (1995) and Kiera Knightly (2005) are 5'6'. Certainly Austen never makes Elizabeth sound like that stereotypical irrational tiny girl. References to her small stature were used to diminish the character.

- the tone was off . . . no one can replicate Austen, usually because they can use the words Austen used, but do not know how to construct her sentences, let alone add her wit. Here I often thought "that doesn't sound 1815", but then I'd look it up and the author was not wrong. For example, Darcy uses "zany". Turns out it's a word from the 1600s. But it felt wrong. Colonel calls Darcy a "brat" often. In another conversation, Darcy says "you should be medicated" when calling out silly behavior. Was there medication for mental states in 1815 in a way that someone would make such a casual joking comment? Sounds more 2015 to me. All I can say is the tone was off. Also, several times Darcy says "Cut line" as in "cut line, Lizzy". What does that mean? Maybe I've just missed this common Regency phrase. A few times the P&P timeline was wrong (has the author read the novel more than once?)

Kudos to the author for getting the Regency aristocracy right -- they were a debauched lot, and she named names. Readers who think they were all manners and good behavior are only looking for a fantasy. She brought this in enough to raise the book from a 1 star to a 2 star read for me.

This was pretty bad, but I was happy to hate read it. I've read worse Austen knock offs. Reader reviews are predictable -- some people think this is great fun and others hate it. Anyone who says in their review that "Jane Austen is spinning in her grave" are immediately ignored. I won't comment on the glowing reviews: It's great to find a book that amuses you and no one is holding this up for the next literary prize. In general, many complain about the characters being so very off. And the overall language. Also others have noticed that the author used the 2005 movie as her reference point rather than the novel. Where I am amused is by some of the bad reviews. Here are the common complaints that I'll speak to:

- A lot of this book is Darcy and Colonel kibitzing. Between the two (and only when together), they use a variety of swear words. Yes, this is realistic to how two men in a close relationship would have spoken to each other, even back then. Yes, Mr. Darcy is all politeness in a social setting, but if reading him curse gives you vapors, well, unclutch your pearls, grab some smelling salts and grow the f*ck up (said by someone who was raised to never swear ever ever)

- Darcy having slept with Caroline Bingley before he met Charles Bingley. This seems to twist a lot of readers. There are a lot of things we don't know about the background of Pride and Prejudice. I have theories about lots of things. We don't know this to not be true, or not be possible. In my mind, no, this didn't happen. I think it's unlikely. But this author using it in her story is just fine. Any reader who thinks 27 year old Regency aristocrat Mr. Darcy went to his honeymoon a virgin knows absolutely nothing about the era, or about life in general. Again, if this gives you vapors, well, unclutch your pearls, grab some smelling salts and grow the f*ck up. What I DID have a problem with is that the author had Elizabeth not realize that Caroline was hot and heavy after Mr Darcy, just discovers it, and then becomes unhinged. I'll have to watch the 2005 movie again to see if this was clear there, but obviously the author only skimmed the actual book. Further, she used this as a plot driver, which is just weak.

I guess I've prattled on enough. But I do need to write a hate review once or twice a year, so please indulge me.

Rating: 2 big shiny stars. I did have fun reading this not-very-good-book. What a lark! (oh sorry, that was Virginia Woolf)

How I Discovered This: sale table at a bookshop. Been in my stacks for years

Why I Read This Now: I watched the full 1995 P&P on the weekend (it had been a while) and thought some Austen pastiche might be fun

Recommended for: If you always had a soft spot for Colonel Fitzwilliam, this one might make you happy

Editado: Maio 31, 1:45 am

>178 Nickelini: I haven't laughed so much reading a review in a good long while. Thanks a million!

P.S. I did always have a soft spot for The Colonel, but I doubt this book will do him justice. When you find a decent book about him, let us know....😊

Maio 31, 8:08 am

>178 Nickelini: I've only read one P&P spinoff novel, and in it Elizabeth got very turned on in bed when Darcy kept his boots on, lol. Like >179 kac522: I am curious about Fitzwilliam, but not like this. I checked out the thread about the 2005 film version and have to ask, why did so many posts get deleted? Do people routinely go back and delete posts or did it get contentious? I didn't read all the way to the end. Fun review.

Maio 31, 10:37 am

>179 kac522: - Thank you, and my pleasure. I'll let you know if Colonel Fitzwilliam shows up in anything good

>180 labfs39: - Ack! when I posted the link I didn't realize that the really good stuff had been deleted. I've gone back and taken the link out of my comments. No point, really, although there are still a few good bits. There was a wonderful, detailed, scathing critique of why the 2005 P&P got everything wrong. I'm disappointed!

As to why people delete posts well after the conversation is over, I don't understand myself. Maybe in this case the expert opinion thought she'd been too opinionated? Clearly she was heated when she wrote -- but that doesn't make her wrong. Shrug.

(For my future reference, the thread is:

Maio 31, 3:31 pm

>181 Nickelini:

I think that if one deletes one's account, it also deletes all the posts by default.

Fun hate review. Yeah, the realities of the times don't jibe very well with romance. I had a similar discussion about Emma... when you start thinking that this guy knew her from a baby.

Jun 1, 2:50 pm

>178 Nickelini:
Here I often thought "that doesn't sound 1815", but then I'd look it up and the author was not wrong. For example, Darcy uses "zany". Turns out it's a word from the 1600s. But it felt wrong.

The language-themed podcast THE ALLUSIONIST did an episode last year on "the Tiffany problem." The name Tiffany is roughly 800 years old, but if an author uses it in historical fiction, readers will complain because the name is perceived as being much newer. A quick listen, about 17 minutes.

Jun 1, 6:02 pm

>183 KeithChaffee: Ooooh, I love that sort of thing! This book had an Amanda and I had to look that up. It didn't feel right. This reminds me of a conversation I was in years ago when the film Rob Roy was new and we were all rolling our eyes over a character named "Heather". No one thought it was a good name for a 17th century woman but I'm pretty sure we found out it was indeed possible.

Jun 1, 6:03 pm

>182 LolaWalser: I had a similar discussion about Emma... when you start thinking that this guy knew her from a baby


Jun 1, 6:29 pm

Sorry, sorry, sorry... :)