wookiebender's 2024 reading

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wookiebender's 2024 reading

Jan 1, 8:16 pm

Hi all! Life seriously got away from me the last few years, but I'm hoping to rejoin this challenge properly this year. :) Looking forward to seeing what you are all reading this year, and taking a book bullet or two.

Jan 2, 12:04 pm

Welcome back, Tania.
I hope you have a great year of reading - I am looking forward to being hit with an array of book bullets from the Group.

Jan 2, 3:58 pm

Welcome back, fellow Aussie!

Jan 2, 8:07 pm

I'm back after a gap of a few years as well. Hopefully we have excellent reading (and posting on LT) years!

Jan 3, 6:53 pm

Thanks everyone! :) And I've finished my first book....

Jan 3, 6:55 pm

1. The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman

Delightfully twisty fun, a whodunnit set in an upmarket retirement village in Kent. Interesting characters and a well-constructed plot, I'll be back for more.


Jan 4, 9:58 am

I think the Osman books just get better and better with each one. I'm still shocked he managed to produce such fully formed characters in his first book. Plus I think if I'd read it not knowing I'd have thought the author was a woman, given the depth of the women characters.

Jan 7, 6:49 pm

2. The Beautiful Ones, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

An interesting and complex romance, with a spectacularly bitchy nemesis (she was so wonderfully evil sometimes I liked her more than the heroine 😂). It's also set in a world much like ours around the turn of the century, but with a small amount of magic. TBH, I was a bit annoyed that telekinesis was only ever seen as a parlour trick or a stage show, I thought it was strange no one had thought to harness it for practical uses. But a very minor quibble, the book itself was a fun read and a good page turner.

(And I feel like I've damned the heroine with faint praise, saying her nemesis eclipsed her. The heroine - Nina - was a delight, but the nemesis - Valerie - was spectacular in her scenery-chewing evilness.)


Jan 14, 6:43 pm

3. The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, James McBride

Set in a small town, on Chicken Hill, where the Jewish families are now moving a few blocks to a more salubrious area and Black Americans are moving in. Chona resists the move away from Chicken Hill, and she continues to run the Heaven and Earth grocery store, while her husband Moshe operates the local theatre. Both of them are important to both communities, even adopting Dodo, a young Black child who is deaf.

There were many characters whose lives intertwined, and I'm not sure if I just wasn't concentrating enough or if it was a flaw in the book but I kept on forgetting who was who when they popped back into the story after a brief absence. I'm currently think it's more likely to be me than the book, but it did detract from the enjoyment, although I was quite gripped by halfway through (although still with moments of "Isaac is who again? Fatty's dad was important how?" etc).

I picked this up now because it's on the short list for the Tournament of Books, and I do love following that along each year, and this year I'm hoping to have more skin in the game (so to speak) by reading some of the entries in advance. https://www.tournamentofbooks.com/the-2024-shortlist


Jan 17, 6:42 pm

4. Two Can Play That Game, Leanne Yong

Sam Khoo meets Jaysen (Jay) Chua as they both grab the last copy of a limited release game, which also has a Golden Ticket to a session with world famous game developers. Sam wants the Golden Ticket as part of her plan to become the best game developer of all time; Jay wants the ticket for his little brother. Sam and Jay decide to play five puzzler games in competition and the winner will take all. Classic "enemies to lovers" trope, with added joy of the Asian Gossip Network as Sam and Jay also deal with being the eldest siblings in immigrant families in Brisbane.

No idea if the games were real, but I wish they were, and I don't play computer games. Also, so excited to find out that the author has an escape room in Sydney, I'm booking tickets asap.

Got this one at the Sydney Writers Festival "All Day YA" last year - the youngest kid and I go each year and have a great day. :)


Jan 18, 6:12 pm

5. Horrorstör, Grady Hendrix

A horror novel, set in a haunted IKEA-esque big box store. Having spent a lot of time in IKEA lately (relatively recent house move), this appealed to me a lot. :)

The book was designed to look like an IKEA catalogue and it's spot on with the Swedish-esque names and the aspirational blurbs that slowly get darker and darker as our protagonists get swept up in the horror of the night, finding out their store was built on the site of a previous Victorian era panopticon-style prison with a completely insane warden.

But it's also funny. Our main protagonist, Amy, has a good line in snark and it's hard to not be charmed by the care that went into rendering this IKEA-knock off, ORSK. I don't generally read horror, and I did have to sleep with one eye open after the first half, but the humour kept me going and amused until the end.


Editado: Jan 24, 10:02 pm

6. The Time of the Cat, Tansy Rayner Roberts

I backed this on kickstarter, because I do enjoy Tansy's work, and c'mon, time travelling cats and their tv-show obsessed human companions? What's not to love!

It was a fun romp, filled with delightful characters (cats and humans) and a good sense of humour. The plot was a bit all over the shop, but kept me amused and happily turning pages.

And because I was an early kickstarter backer, I got to get a dedication to my cats. I may have gone overboard and listed all the cats I've ever lived with, plus my dad's cats. :D

"Tania and Robin, with Sweet Pea, Pippi, Porchie, Stumpy, Jimbo, Little Jim, Cocoa and Grampa's Arnold and Boy Cat, Tim, Ginger Jim, Jamie and Pebbles."

All fabulous cats, all have brought us much joy, and I wish they could take me time travelling back to all the best parties throughout time.


Editado: Jan 26, 1:33 pm

>9 wookiebender: Grocery Store like Deacon King Kong is a warmly told story set in the middle of very poor multi ethnic communities. I really like them both. Not so much The Good Lord Bird which has more angst than warmth.

Jan 30, 6:39 pm

7. American Mermaid, Julia Langbein

Another book from the Tournament of Books shortlist. :)

Penelope Schleeman has written a surprise best-seller, American Mermaid about a disabled young woman who falls into Boston Harbor and discovers that she is, in fact, a mermaid. Chapters from this book are interspersed with chapters from Penelope's life in LA where she is trying to write a movie adaptation of her precious book, with two bros who want to change the book too much.

I really liked both stories - the story of Sylvia the American mermaid was interesting (although a bit far fetched), the story of Penelope was a car crash that you can't look away from, and probably shouldn't laugh at, but I winced/laughed my way through her story.

Also a fairly brutal look at LA and the movie industry. (How they ever get anything completed and on the big screen is beyond me, so many spinning wheels need to align...)


Jan 30, 6:44 pm

Suddenly I'm reminded of The Making of Another Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks which I read last year and really enjoyed. Very very different take on LA and the motion picture industry, as it was obviously written by someone who loves the industry (and has done very well out of it).

I very much enjoy movies and going to the cinema, so it was lovely reading a "behind the scenes" that had the feeling of truth to it, telling the story of the making of a massive block-buster movie. American Mermaid was not a lovely behind-the-scenes take on Hollywood, but also had a feeling of truth, telling the story of a feminist tale unravelling at the hands of an industry where all women have to be young, beautiful, and sexy.

Fev 11, 7:49 pm

8. Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu

I don't often read short stories, but when I do, I always wonder why I don't read them more often, their shortness works well with my squirrel brain.

This is an excellent collection of sci-fi (or sci-fi adjacent stories). My youngest already knew of the title story (Levar Burton read it on a podcast), and warned me I would cry. They weren't half wrong.

Also such clever ideas in "The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species" and "An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition", reminded me of Sum by David Eagleman (to be honest, I think both books were picked up after recommendations made last year at the Sydney Writers' Festival, so they were already primed for comparison for me).


Fev 13, 9:39 pm

I find short stories tempting but difficult. When they're great, they're SO GREAT, and when they're not I'm left feeling so annoyed and incomplete.

Fev 14, 7:34 pm

I like to keep a book of short stories in the background so that once in a while, when I feel like it or cant decide what to read next, I can read a couple of the stories. But never all the stories at once.

Fev 19, 5:13 pm

>18 scunliffe: Great idea, but I can't not finish a book once I've started. (It's been a long battle to be able to put books aside that I'm not enjoying.) I know that attitude shouldn't apply to short stories, but I can see myself unable to put the book aside...

I was caught out with public transport yesterday (thunderstorm in Sydney meant trains weren't running on the North Shore line, sigh) so grabbed a book from the free bookshelf and it happens to be short stories again... I'm going on holidays at the end of the week so hopefully it'll fit in with my travel and I can drop it somewhere in Western Australia. :) (Yes, I'm going to visit the quokkas. Everyone asks. 😂)

Fev 19, 5:25 pm

9. Bear Head, Adrian Tchaikovsky

Sequel to the excellent Dogs of War, set some years later when the tide is beginning to turn against "bioforms" (genetically modified animals who have intelligence). Apparently having a dog sitting at the desk next to you, "stealing" your job turned the general populace against them. Also, right wing commentators are drumming up support for "collaring" the bioforms (taking away their ability to choose, making them compelled to follow orders). And we're beginning to build on Mars (thanks to Bees who set up the initial infrastructure making the atmosphere just-survivable if you've been genetically modified yourself).

Phew, that does seem like a lot! :D But Tchaikovsky is an excellent story teller, and all these disparate threads are drawn together, mostly thanks to Honey (a bear, a carry over character from the first book). The bad guy was so unbelievably awful he was well, unbelievable, but then you look over at Trump and maybe he wasn't so far fetched after all...


Fev 19, 5:29 pm

10. What You are Looking For is in the Library, Michiko Aoyama

Lightly intertwined stories about people looking for something in life who end up at the local library where they all get more than they originally expected. Delightful.

There is something about translations from Japanese that always sound slightly stilted to me. I'm never sure if it's a Japanese cultural thing that I'm not getting, or if it's "how we translate Japanese", or some other reason.


Fev 23, 2:07 pm

>19 wookiebender: Translation please, for this yankified pom......quokkas?

Editado: Mar 8, 12:32 am

Oh, quokkas are a very cute little (approx cat-sized) marsupial that is only found in Western Australia - on Rottnest Island mostly (I was told there are some in the Karri forests around Walpole, but they are nocturnal so we didn't see any there). They are known for looking like they're smiling and are happy to hang around humans. It's quite a thing to have a selfie with a quokka, but I'm too old and creaky to get down on the ground for that. 😊 Was very happy to see them in real life though, they're very sweet.


Mar 8, 11:31 pm

>23 wookiebender: Thank you, how can they not bring a smile to your face when you see those pics?

Ontem, 10:51 pm

Oohh no, I've run behind again. Let's try to catch up today... :|

11. City of Ghosts, V. E. Schwab

Story of Cass, a young girl who can see ghosts. Her family (including the cat) move for the summer to Edinburgh as her parents are ghost-hunters.

Rather fun with moments of real creepiness, but aiming for a younger audience than I usually read.


Ontem, 10:56 pm

12. Tom Lake, Ann Patchett

I really enjoyed this slow-burn story of Lara telling her grown-up daughters the story of the time she was in summer stock, and had an affair with a young actor who later became a major star. The family have all returned to the family farm due to COVID lockdowns and are helping to pick the cherries. To stave off boredom, Lara starts telling them their story, which takes a number of days.

I loved all the characters, and thought the slow reveal of everything was quite masterful. Highly recommended.


Ontem, 10:58 pm

13. The Storyteller and his three Daughters, Lian Hearn

Picked this one up in a secondhand store in Albany, Western Australia. Was a good solid story about a storyteller in 19th century Japan, trying to think of new stories as fashions change around him, and dealing with his grown-up daughters' marriages and lives. He gets swept up in the politics of the time, which I knew nothing about, so that was interesting too.


Ontem, 11:06 pm

14. Boys Weekend, Mattie Lubchansky

A graphic novel set in the not-too-distant future about Sammie, a trans woman, who is invited to their old friend's bachelor weekend. Problem is, they're not out to everyone yet.

The bachelor party is pretty toxic, with much active mis-gendering of Sammie and awful gender politics from the men (and one other woman) who make up the party. It is also set on an island where there are no rules. Most interesting and emotionally fraught scene was one where the partiers can hunt their own clones.

Oh, and there are also cultists trying to raise their Cthulhu-esque god.

I enjoyed this read, pacing issues aside. (As you can tell from above, there was a LOT going on. 🙃)


Ontem, 11:09 pm

15. The Librarianist, Patrick deWitt

The gentle, but compelling, story of Bob Comet, who has worked as a librarian in the same library for his entire working career. He's now retired and randomly gets involved at a local aged care facility.

Light on plot, but I found it hard to not love Bob and enjoy reading about his life.


Ontem, 11:45 pm

16. Chain-Gang All-Stars, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Marvellous, but devastating.

In the not-too-distant future, prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment can instead sign up for gladiator-style matches to the death with other prisoners. The popularity of these matches mean the prisoners are household names and heroes to many.

We follow a handful of different prisoners all hoping to last out five years and be released.

Adjei-Brenyah makes us care for these people, but also reminds us that they are murderers and rapists. It's not an easy novel, and it definitely gave me much to think about.

Fascinating footnotes referring to contemporary real-life prison system and racial inequities in the legal system highlight the actual pain and trauma people go through right now.


Ontem, 11:50 pm

17. A Tempest of Tea, Hafsah Faizal

Oh, this should have been so much more than it was. Vampires, tea shops, heist! What's not to love?

Well, the plot was a mess (try not to think too hard about the heist, it had so many plot holes it was like swiss cheese), the sexual tension was too much too soon (would have been much better as a slow burn), and there were too many missed opportunities (why no backstory on the tea shop and its workers?).

Of course, my child also read it and, after listening to me list all its flaws, asked if we were going to buy the sequel and I said "yes, of course! We need to know what happens!" 😂

So, the good stuff was that it was a fun page turner and we liked a number of the characters, and the twist ending does make us want to read on.


Ontem, 11:52 pm

18. The Man Who Died Twice, Richard Osman

Another excellent outing of the Thursday Murder Club. I'm very disappointed to find out there are only four books out in this series, as I want to spend the year reading nothing but Thursday Murder Club books.


Hoje, 12:00 am

19. Dungeons and Drama, Kristy Boyce

A fun YA romance, with two of my favourite tropes: false dating and enemies-to-lovers.

Riley, a musical theatre kid, is forced to help out at her father's game shop as punishment after "borrowing" her mother's car without a license to go and see Waitress on stage.

She joins a D&D game while fake-dating one of the gamers, and discovers that gaming is a lot of fun (well, duh, says this occasional gamer). Of course, Nathan is rather cute...

Nicely varied characters (the gamers are all nerdy, but they're different varieties of nerd which I appreciated), and I also enjoyed the musical theatre fandom. (When my kid found this in the bookshop I couldn't snap it up fast enough, musical theatre AND Dungeons and Dragons?? 😂)


Hoje, 12:11 am

20. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

An interesting loose retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau, focusing on Moreau's daughter, Carlota, and Montgomery, the mayordomo of the compound.

Carlota has grown up surrounded by hybrids and loves her isolated life and the two youngest hybrids who are her friends, Lupe and Cachito. Montgomery is a drunken Englishman with a dark past who is indebted to Hernando Izalde, a wealthy Mexican.

Izalde is also funding Moreau, looking for strong hybrid workers to work his plantations, and when his handsome and spoilt son Eduardo turns up, everything starts to go wrong.