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review 2018-04-02 21:17
My KYD Reads ... or: Harry Potter, and What Else I read in March 2018
Harry Potter Box Set: The Complete Collection - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Gryffindor Edition - ROWLING J.K.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling,Stephen Fry
The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts,Gordon Griffin
The Red Queen - Margaret Drabble
A Red Death: An Easy Rawlins Mystery - Walter Mosley,Michael Boatman
Imperium - Robert Harris
The Distant Echo - Val McDermid,Tom Cotcher
Unterleuten: Roman - Juli Zeh
"A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels" by George North: A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays - Dennis McCarthy,June Schlueter

A big thank you to Moonlight Reader for yet another fun, inventive BookLikes game!  I had a wonderful time, while also advancing -- though with decidedly fewer new reads than I'd origianlly been planning -- my two main reading goals for this year (classic crime fiction and books written by women).

 

Harry Potter - The Complete Series

This was a long-overdue revisit and obviously, there isn't anything I could possibly say about the books that hasn't been said a million times before by others.  But I've gladly let the magic of Hogwarts and Harry's world capture me all over again ... to the point of giving in to book fandom far enough to treat myself to the gorgeous hardcover book set released in 2014 and, in addition, the even more gorgeous Gryffindor and Ravenclaw anniversary editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

 

 

That said, particular kudos must also go to Stephen Fry for his magnificent audio narration of the books, which played a huge role in pulling me right back into to books, to the point that I'd carry my phone wherever I went while I was listening to them.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling, Stephen FryHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry

 

 

As for the rest of my KYD books ... roughly in the order in which I read them:

 

Ngaio Marsh: Death at the Dolphin (aka Killer Dolphin)

Killer Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh Death at the Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh

Also a revisit: One of my favorite installments in Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series, not only because it is set in the world of the theatre -- always one of Marsh's particular fortes, as she herself was a veteran Shakespearean director and considered that her primary occupation, while writing mysteries to her was merely a sideline -- but because this one, in fact, does deal with a(n alleged) Shakespearean relic and a play based on Shakespeare's life, inspired by that relic.

 

 

The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts, Gordon Griffin

Freeman Wills Crofts:
The Hog's Back Mystery

 Part of Crofts's Inspector French series and my first book by Crofts, who was known for his painstaking attempts to "play fair" with the reader; which here, I'm afraid, hampered the development of the story a bit, in producing a fair bit of dialogue at the beginning that might have been better summed up from the third person narrator's point of view in the interest of easing along the flow of the story, and in holding French back even at points where a reasonably alert reader would have developed suspicions calling for a particular turn of the investigation.  But I like French as a character, and as for all I'm hearing this is very likely not the series's strongest installment, I'll happily give another book a try later.

 

 

Unnatural Death: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery - Dorothy L. Sayers, Ian Carmichael

Dorothy L. Sayers: Unnatural Death

Not my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey book by Sayers, but virtually the only one I haven't revisited on audio recently -- and as always, I greatly enjoyed the narration by Ian Carmichael.  That said, here again Sayers proves herself head and shoulders above her contemporaries, in devising a particularly fiendish, virtually untraceable method of murder (well, untraceable by the medical state of the art of her day at least), and perhaps even more so by hinting fairly obviously at two women's living together in what would seem to be a lesbian relationship.

 

 

The Red Queen - Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble: The Red Queen

Ummm ... decidedly NOT my favorite read of the month.  'Nuff said: next!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Red Death: An Easy Rawlins Mystery - Walter Mosley, Michael Boatman

Walter Mosley: A Red Death

I'd long been wanting to return to the world of Easy Rawlins' mid-20th century Los Angeles, so what with Mosley's fiction making for various entries in the KYD cards, including at least one book by him in my reading plans for the game seemed only fitting (... even if I ended up using this one for a "Dr. Watson" victim guess!). -- This, the second installment of the series, deals with the political hysteria brought about by the McCarthy probes and also makes a number of pertinent points on racial discrimination and xenophobia, which make it decidedly uncomfortable reading in today's political climate.

 

 

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Hugh Fraser, Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Another revisit, and in no small part courtesy of Hugh Fraser's narration, I liked the book a good deal better than I had done originally.  This is one of several entries in the Poirot canon where we learn about Poirot's phobia of dentist's visits, which obviously makes for the high point of the book's humour ... and of course it doesn't exactly help that it's Poirot's dentist, of all people, who turns out the murder victim. -- The plot features several clever slights of hand, and you have to play a really long shot to get the solution right in its entirety (even if strictly speaking Christie does play fair).  Well, that's what we have Monsieur Poirot's little grey cells for, I suppose!

 

 

Imperium - Robert Harris

Robert Harris: Imperium

The first part of Harris's Cicero trilogy, and both a truly fast-paced and a well-researched piece of historical writing; covering Cicero's ascent from young Senator to Praetorian and, eventually (and against all the odds), Consul. 

 

The first part of the book deals at length with one of Cicero's most famous legal cases, the prosecution of the corrupt Sicilian governor Verres, and Harris shows how Cicero employed that case in order to advance his own political career.  Notably, Cicero quite ingeniously also ignored established Roman trial practice in favor of what would very much resemble modern common law practice, by making a (by the standards of the day) comparatively short opening statement -- albeit a supremely argumentative one -- and immediately thereafter examining his witnesses, instead of, as procedural custom would have dictated, engaging in a lengthy battle of speeches with defending counsel first.  As a result of this manoeuver, Verres was as good as convicted and fled from Rome in the space of the 9 days allotted to Cicero as prosecuting counsel to make his case. 

 

The second part of the book examines Cicero's unlikely but eventually victorious campaign for consulship, and his exposure of a conspiracy involving Catiline, generally believed to be the most likely victor of that year's consular elections, who later came to be involved of conspiracies on an even greater scale, and whose condemnation in Cicero's most famous speeches -- collectively known as In Catilinam (On, or Against Catiline) -- would go a great way towards securing both Cicero's political success in his own lifetime and his lasting fame as a skilled orator.

 

 

Murder is Easy - Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie: Murder Is Easy

Another Christie revisit, and I regret to say for the most part I'm down to my less favorite books now.  This isn't a bad book, and the ending in particular is quite dark ... but the middle part, much as I'm sorry to have to say this, simply drags.

 

 

 

 

The Distant Echo - Val McDermid, Tom Cotcher

Val McDermid: The Distant Echo

Holy moly, how did I ever miss this book until now?!  Even more so since the Karen Pirie series is actually my favorite series by Val McDermid ... OK, Pirie herself has little more than a walk-on role here; we're talking absolute beginning of her career, and the focus is decidedly not on her but on her boss and  on a quartet of suspects involved in a 25-year-old murder case -- in fact, the whole first half of the book is set 25 years in the past, too, describing the immediate aftermath of the murder and its consequences for the four main suspects, chiefly from their perspective.  But still!  Well, I sure am glad I finally caught up with it at last ... definitely one of the best things McDermid ever wrote.

 

 

Unterleuten: Roman - Juli Zeh

Juli Zeh: Unterleuten

A scathing satire on village life, on post-Berlin Wall German society, on greed, on the commercialization of ideals ... and most of all, on people's inability to communicate: Everyone in this book essentially lives inside their own head, and in a world created only from the bits they themselves want to see -- with predictably disastrous consequences.  The whole thing is brilliantly observed and deftly written; yet, the lack of characters that I found I could like or empathize with began to grate after a while ... in a shorter book I might not have minded quite so much, but in a 600+ page brick I'd have needed a few more characters who actually spoke to me to get all the way through and still be raving with enthusiasm.  If you don't mind watching a bunch of thoroughly dislikeable people self-destruct in slow motion, though, you're bound to have a lot of fun with this book.

 

 

Von Köln zum Meer: Schifffahrt auf dem Niederrhein - Werner Böcking

Werner Böcking: Von Köln zum Meer

Local history, a read inspired by conversations with a visiting friend on the history of shipping and travel by boat on the Rhine. -- A richly illustrated book focusing chiefly on the 19th and 20th centuries, and the mid-19th-centuriy changes brought about by diesel engines and the resulting disappearance of sailing vessels (which, before the advent of engines, were pulled by horses when going up the river, against the current): undoubtedly the biggest change not only in land but also in river travel and transportation, with a profound effect on large sectors of the economy of the adjoining regions and communities.

 

 

And last but not least ...

 

 

Dennis McCarthy & June Schlueter: "A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels" by George North -- A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays

The lastest in Shakespearean research, also a read inspired by conversations with the above-mentioned visiting friend, and a February 7, 2018 New York Times article on a possible new source text for passages contained in no less than 11 of Shakespeare's plays.  The story of the discovery itself is fascinating; the research methods applied are in synch with modern Shakesperean scholarship ... and yet, for all the astonishing textual concordance, unless and until someone proves that Shakespeare not only had the opportunity to see this document but actually did (at least: overwhelmingly likely) see it, I'm not going to cry "hooray" just yet.  According to the authors' own timeline, Shakespeare would have been about 11 years old when this text was written, it was kept in a private collection even then, and there is no record that the Bard ever visited the manor housing that very collection -- which collection in turn, if the authors are to be believed, the text very likely at least did not ever leave during Shakespeare's lifetime (though it was undoubtedly moved at a later point in time).  And Shakespearean research, as we all know, has been prone to a boatload of dead-end streets and conspiracy theories pretty much ever since its inception ...

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text 2015-12-31 12:31
2015 Reading Recap

Goodreads has a book statistic this year, which I think is pretty neat. So if you want to see mine, you can go HERE .

 

 

Favorite New-To-Me Authors 2015
Anne Bishop
Avery Cockburn
Matthew Iden

Favorite Established Authors 2015*
Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon
Devon Monk
Ilona Andrews
Jill Shalvis
K.J. Charles
Megan Erickson
*) I must at least read 2 books by them in 2015

Favorite Series 2015*
House Immortal (Devon Monk)
In Focus (Megan Erickson)
Kate Daniels (Ilona Andrews)
Lunar Chronicles (Marissa Meyer)
The Others (Anne Bishop)
*) Must at least have 2 titles that I read this year

Favorite 5-stars book 2015
Come On Closer (Harvest Cove, #4) by Kendra Leigh Castle Crucible Zero (House Immortal, #3) by Devon Monk Jackdaw by K.J. Charles Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels, #8) by Ilona Andrews Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4) by Marissa Meyer

Favorite 4.5-stars book 2015
A Seditious Affair (Society of Gentlemen, #2) by K.J. Charles Archangel's Enigma (Guild Hunter, #8) by Nalini Singh Infinity Bell (House Immortal, #2) by Devon Monk The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1) by Rick Riordan Written in Red (The Others, #1) by Anne Bishop

Favorite Couple 2015
Ben and Jonah (Jackdaw)
Dominic and Silas (A Seditious Affair)
John and Fergus (Playing for Keeps)
Kate and Curran (Magic Shifts)
Larkin and Shane Come On Closer)
Scarlet and Wolf (Winter)

Favorite Heroine 2015
Kate Daniels (from Kate Daniels series)
Matilda Case (from House Immortal series)
Scarlet (from Lunar Chronicles series)

Favorite Hero 2015
Curran (from Kate Daniels series)
Naasir (from Archangel's Enigma)
Simon Wolfgard (from The Others series)

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text 2015-12-27 13:20
2015 Reading Recap, Part 2: The Self-Interview
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton
The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q - Sharon Maas
Shire - Sarah Wood,Ali Smith
The Sticklepath Strangler - Michael Jecks
Burmese Days - George Orwell
The Skeleton Road - Val McDermid
Hogfather (Discworld, #20) - Terry Pratchett
Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (Poirot) - Agatha Christie
A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel

Olga Godim came up with this creative way of summing up her reading year and challenged everyone to do their own.  Well, while I'm back here ... I'm in!

 

Olga writes: "Creatively, I decided to interview myself about my reading in 2015. The answers could only be book titles I read during the year. In the year 2015, what was your..."

 

Most Memorable Encounter

The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)

 

An old and treasured acquaintance, who still easily managed to outshine any and every other bookish encounter of the year.  Thanks again to Troy for making me seek him out again!

 

Best Vacation Spot

The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton)

New Zealand!

 

Most Exciting Adventure

Tie: The Secret Life of Winnie Cox and The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q (both by Sharon Maas)

 

Favorite Place

Shire (Ali Smith)

 

Least Favorite Place

Cloud Howe (Lewis Grassic Gibbon)

 

Worst Person You Met

Tie: Joseph Fouché (Stefan Zweig -- biography) and The Sticklepath Strangler (Michael Jecks, Knights Templar series)

 

Most Embarrassing Memory

Fifty Sheds of Grey  (C.T. Grey)

 

Worst Weather of the Year

Tie between the two extremes: Burmese Days (George Orwell) and Grey Granite (Lewis Grassic Gibbon)

 

Scariest Event

The Skeleton Road  (Val McDermid)

 

Funniest Moment

Hogfather (Terry Pratchett, Discworld)

 

Saddest Moment

Tie: Post Mortem  (Kate London) and The Gods of Guilt (Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer series)

 

Worst Food You Ate

The Five Orange Pips (Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes)

 

Best Food You Ate

The Christmas Pudding (Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot)

 

... and a few additions of my own:

 

The Understatement of the Year

A Place of Greater Safety (Hilary Mantel)

The French Revolution, from Robespierre's, Danton's and Desmoulins's point of view.

 

Most Precious Acquisition

The Blue Carbuncle (Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes)

 

Favorite Garment

The Chinese Shawl (Patricia Wentworth, Miss Silver series)

 

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text 2015-12-26 19:45
2015 Reading Recap
The Secret Life of Winnie Cox - Sharon Maas
The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q - Sharon Maas
The Skeleton Road - Val McDermid
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
Joseph Fouché: Bildnis eines politischen Menschen - Stefan Zweig
A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel
The Gods of Guilt - Michael Connelly
Face Off - David, Various, x Baldacci
Moriarty - Anthony Horowitz
Hogfather (Discworld, #20) - Terry Pratchett

No fancy graphics and no astounding numbers – in fact, rather average numbers for me, these days – but anyway, here we go:

 

Total Number of Books Read:

68

– including rereads
– but excluding my current read, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell (which is bound to take me all the way to the end of the year).

 

 

Rereads:

21

 

                         Including my annual Christmas revisitings:

 

                         Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol

                         Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors

                         Arthur Conan Doyle: The Blue Carbuncle

                         Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot's Christmas

                                                 The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

 

A Christmas Carol - Charles DickensThe Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle - Arthur Conan DoyleThe Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth GeorgeHercule Poirot's Christmas - Agatha ChristieAdventure of the Christmas Pudding (Poirot) - Agatha Christie

 

 

The Year's Top Reads

                    Sharon Maas: The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q.

                                         The Secret Life of Winnie Cox

                     J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit (reread)

                     Val McDermid: The Skeleton Road

                     Hilary Mantel: A Place of Greater Safety

                     Stefan Zweig: Joseph Fouché

                     Andrew Nicoll: The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne

                     Anaïs Nin: Henry and June

                     Michael Connelly: The Gods of Guilt

                     David Baldacci (ed.), Various Authors: Face-Off

                     Anthony Horowitz: Moriarty

                     Terry Pratchett: Hogfather (begun Dec. 2014)

 

 

Breakdown of Ratings:

  10

   10

   18

   23

   6

   1

 

 

Average Rating

Including Christmas rereads: 3,94

Excluding Christmas rereads: 3,87

 

 

Books Shelved as Favorites:

25 

Of these, new reads: 14

Rereads: 11 – including 5 Christmas rereads

 

 

Breakdown of Shelves:

(Note: Virtually all of my books are shelved in multiple ways)

 

Nobel Prize Winners: 1

1001 Books: 6

Classics: 46

Short Fiction: 37

Theatre: 3

Poetry: 2

Mysteries and Crime Fiction: 44

– American: 3

– British: 41

Fantasy: 2

Romance: 4

20th Century & Contemporary BritLlit: 16

20th Century & Contemporary America: 1

Canada & Canadian Literature: 1

Germany & German Literature: 1

France & French Literature: 5

Italy & Italian Literature: 1

Scotland: 6

Eastern Europe: 1

Russia: 2

California & Southwestern USA: 1

Down Under (= Oz & NZ): 1

Orient & Asia: 2

– India & Indian Subcontinent: 1

– Southeast Asia: 1

Africa: 1

Historical Fiction: 8

Key Historic / Period Elements or Setting (in contemporaneous fiction): 5

Nonfiction: 7

– History: 4

– Politics: 1

– Memoirs - Biographies - Letters - Diaries: 4

– Essays - Addresses - Lectures: 3

– Art & Architecture: 3

– Travel: 1

– Reference: 1

Humor - Comedy - Satire: 6

Children's & YA Literature: 1

Cats: 1

Anthologies: 1

 

So, not one of my most diverse and international reading years, it would appear – lots of classics, lots of mysteries and crime fiction, and predominantly British literature.  But on the plus side, in their vast majority good or even great reads, which ultimately is what's most important!

 

 

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text 2014-12-29 03:16
2014 End Of Year Review - Non-MM Genre




If the year 2013 would always remembered by moi as the year of "discovering the joy of Merlin/Arthur fan-fiction", then the year 2014 was the year in which I discovered three things (in regards to Non-MM Genre)

1) Rick Riordan and his Percy Jackson series was actually AWESOME
-- I gobbled up 9 books starting from The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2) until the last one The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5). And they were pretty 'lengthy' book too. It shows that if the books and the writing are great, then the pages don't matter.

2) Bec McMaster and her London Steampunk series was also incredibly awesome!
I did a steampunk challenge in April when I discovered this series. The challenge itself wasn't a success because I couldn't go through any other steampunk books. But hers? WOWZA!! How great the series is for me? Well, I only rated eight (8) books with my 5-stars rating this year, and TWO of them were her books

3) I discovered my way back to contemporary MF romance (Le Gasp!)
Yes people ... back in 2008, I practically switched track to MM romance. But this year, I discovered that contemporary MF romance could actually give me some satisfaction too. The kind of satisfaction that I couldn't get in MM ... satisfaction in actually reading ROMANCE. You know, the wooing, the slow-built relationship. Nothing smutty. Nothing erotic. Nothing "wham-bam-thank-you-man". Nothing insta-lust/insta-attraction. Nothing related to jacking off, solo shower, and mechanical sex scenes (you know, one finger, two fingers, three fingers, slot tab A to tab B). I guess diversity works :)

So I can say that the Non-MM genre this year is definitely more memorable to me in overall. I find quite a number of MF genre authors too along with few Urban Fantasy series that I'd like to follow in 2015.

Favorite Non MM Book 2014
The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Favorite New-to-Me Non MM Author 2014
Bec McMaster

Favorite Book by New-to-Me Non MM Author 2014
My Lady Quicksilver by Bec McMaster

Favorite Potential New Non MM Series to Follow
Burn for Me (Ilona Andrews)
House Immortal (Devon Monk)

Favorite Non MM Novella/Short Story 2014
The Queen's Army (The Lunar Chronicles, #1.5) by Marissa Meyer


Next chapter will be about my 2015 Reading Challenge

Cheers

AMI

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