2022 personal Reading challenges

It’s now in the last month of the year, so of course the reading challenges for next year have come out. I might well do a post for links (this has worked well in the past) BUT in terms of personal reading challenges, I dont plan on doing anything formal.

I have *so* many books that my best attempt at a reading challenge would be ‘lets get off the sofa, eh?’. I’m not sure there’s a proper challenge for that LOL.

Previously there has been a paper reading challenge – but that does not cover the ‘excess books in the places they should not be’ challenge Perhaps I should have that as a formal challenge!.

I have found that making a list or specific set of books that I am going to read in a certain time frame is a lot like homework (who else dreaded the set reading list at school?), and can instantly turn me off reading a book. Part of the enjoyment of reading is deciding in the spur of the moment what I’m choosing next to read.

How about you? have you thought of about even doing a reading challenge next year? Have you decided on one (or more!) yet? If so, please share!

Book Review The Song of Peterloo by Carolyn O’Brien

The Song of Peterloo by Carolyn O'Brien #BookCover

Manchester 1819: Prices are high and wages are low, but as the poor become poorer, the rich are alarmed by their calls for reform.

Mill-worker Nancy Kay struggles to support her ailing mother and sensitive son. Desperate to provide for them, she is inspired to join the growing agitation. But, as she risks everything to attend a great assembly on St Peter’s Field, Nancy is unaware the day will go down in history, not as a triumph but as tragedy; the Peterloo massacre.

This is one woman’s story of belief in change, pieced together by her family and friends and the two men who share her momentous summer. A story of hope, and sacrifice, and above all, courage.

I’ve read several books about Peterloo, but still don’t think the situation is well known historically – the massacre of what is now accepted to be peaceful protestors fed up with high food costs and low wages by armed and horsed militia. Book included as part of A Box Of Stories, which means this book has been rescued from being pulped

This story is told from multiple voices/POVs. There is a difference in the “voice” between Mary/Nancy and other people in the story. Especially at the beginning, Nancy’s voice seemed forced as the local “there’s trouble at t’mill” speech pattern. I understand why it was done, it just jarred me every time. Once it moved from dialogue to description, this was less of an issue.

As it came to the crux of the issue, the relatively short chapters became even shorter, which resulted in a sped up pace in the storyline. Ultimately, there is a personal cost to both the mill owners and the mill workers

A slight issue with the secondary (and some of the primary) characters – their development only goes so far and then seem to be lost some where near the end – what happened to Adelaide and Joe?

Overall this was a decent take on the story, suitably personal for Nancy and the people around her, but lacking something about the extended characters (see above). The book would have not made the author top of the sales list but not sure it should have hit the ‘pulping’ list

For additional information on this issues, here’s the wikipedia page for Peterloo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterloo_Massacre </p>

Book Review: Nordic Fauna by Andrea Lundgren, John Litell (Translator)

Nordic Fauna by Andrea Lundgren, John Litell (Translator) #BookReview #BookCover #WITMonth

In these six short stories, Andrea Lundgren explores a liminal space where the town meets the wilderness and human consciousness meets something more animalistic. A train stops on the track in the middle of the night and a lone woman steps out of the open doors, following a call from deep in the forest. A father is haunted by the nocturnal visits of an elusive bird, and a young girl finds escape through the occult. From foxes to whales to angels, the creatures that roam through this collection spark a desire for something more in their human counterparts: a longing for transformation. 

The first of my 2021 subscription books from Peirene Press. Made up of 6 short stories, I have to admit that it took me much longer that it should have. I have struggled with Translated books in the past, but I dont think this was the issue here – I think it was a combo of short stories plus and overall lack of interest in reading or completing books.

Since there were large gaps in my reading, I’m not in a position to do a detailed review of each story. However, I will say the following:

The main character in 5 of the 6 stories are unnamed (and in many of the stories, the gender is also unstated)

There is a overall feeling of remoteness or connections with others. There is a sense of loneliness and a lack of connection with the other people in the stories (friends, parents, carers etc). I’ve looked at other reviews (something I do, especially when I am struggling with a review) and I have found that other people have also struggled to write reviews of this book

I did enjoy the tightness in the language, in that even in translation the narrative is “sparse” and I never got the impression there were not any excess words used.

I still have 2 books from this year’s subscription pack (there’s 3 a year, so they come every 4 months or so), and I now need to decide what to do with these books. I really dont fancy giving them to other people – they are simply too nice to look at and are a lovely publication, so I need to decide what to do.

Stacking Shelves

Book lovers have multiple ways of filling their shelves; by author, size, colour, Dewey Decimal etc.

I’m not really that complicated

I have two groups of books: the one i keep and the ones I will give to others.

The latter is broken down into two: those that I want to read, then let go, and the ones that will be let go, no matter what.

Normally in all situations I have previously packed by size. To some it makes sense – if you have 6 books the same size, you can pack another few horizontally, that you cant do with mixed sizes. Some order differently. I try my best to breath deep!

A few years ago I reordered by shelves into “Themes”, e.g. all the ‘Asian’, ‘Romance’ or ‘Crime’ Books together. As I am very much a ‘I’ll read what ever I’m in the mood for’ kind of reader’, I was quickly bored of this kind of sorting.

With new books coming into the realm on a regular basis, and in a greater number than I’m letting go, I also became a situation of the “will I read before letting go, or straight releasing?”.

Sometimes I will store by authour (not so common nowadays, due to various issues), but usually by publisher or some other supplier. e.g. all my Persephone greys will end up on a certain non release shelf, all my box of stories books will go asap, and my comic book/graphic novel stories will go where they need to. It’s now a case of “where will this one fit?!” (Books are on shelves, coffee table, bedside table and now in boxes on the floor).

I dont plan on reordering my shelves, at least any time soon. I want to get rid of the over flows I already have at which point I hope I will have the space, will etc to reorder – probably in book size. It will also give me the chance to sort out the books i no longer want to read.

What about you? What do your shelves look like? How are they ordered?

Book Review: One Night to Remember by Erica Ridley

One night to Remember by Erica Ridley #BookCover #BookReview

Notorious whip Giles Langford is surprised to learn his blacksmith is a girl, shocked to realize she’s the out-of-his-league sister of a duke, and horrified to discover he’s fallen in love with the impossible-to-tame woman anyway. With no money and no title, Giles has nothing to offer but his heart…

Felicity Sutton knows poverty firsthand, and she’s never going back. She might miss the smithy, but not the relentless desperation of no home and an empty belly. Of course she’ll accept the stability of a wealthy ton suitor. As for the penniless daredevil she loves, well… At least they’ll have one night to remember.

Meet the unforgettable men of London’s most notorious tavern, The Wicked Duke. Seductively handsome, with charm and wit to spare, one night with these rakes and rogues will never be enough…

I got this book a while ago, read part of it, but in going through my Netgalley library etc I realised I hadn’t finished it or reviewed it. This is my attempt to rectify that

This fits in with other books by this author (in this and other series) where it is female centric, and the woman often finds herself rebelling against expectation in order to find themselves

Much of this is over 2 weeks where Cole (aka Colehaven) has entered into a bet with another member of the gentry, which he bets that his curricle will beat the curricle of the other (Silas) in a race in two weeks time

Cole has promised his sister (the Lady Felicity) that it would not be him riding the curricle – in fact he has engaged the best smith in town (Giles) to maintain his curricle and drive it. The main/only proviso – that Lady Felicity is the apprentice to help on upgrading the curricle.

Over the next 2 weeks, Giles and Felicity fall in love, all whilst Felicity is trying to make an catch in the TON that would give her the stability she needed whilst allowing her the freedom to do what she wanted. Ultimately a major decision needs to be made – what does Felicity need more – the apparent stability of a titled husband, or love?

This was a decent story, but reading this a year after reading the other books in the series was interesting. It can easily be read alone, as whilst there are references to other stories in the series, this story is not dependant on having read the other stories in the series. There is ONE reference to distances being measured in “blocks” – a personal bug bear of mine when reading stories written for the American Market, but written about Regency London. Gah!

Book Review: The Colonel and The Enchantress by Paullett Golden

Lady Mary Mowbrah, daughter of a duke, fell in love with a man beneath her station. When he leaves for war, determined to earn her hand as a hero, she promises to wait for him, never dreaming the man who returns will be different from the man who left.

Colonel Duncan Starrett returns from war with honors, accolades, and a debilitating injury. As much as he still loves Lady Mary, he fears a future between them is now impossible.

​This is the love story of Mary and Duncan as they forge a future from the shadows of the past.

Different format to the usual romance – the couple had a romance at the beginning of the book, then meet up 5 years later, when Duncan has returned (highly injured) from active service. They are married before half way through the story and the rest of the book is spent working out how to be a married couple.

There are several obstacles to the marriage working fully – in part because Mary is of a higher class than Duncan (so both have class issues); Her fractious relationship with her mother (with an interesting backstory), etc. The second half of the book had potential, as the two newly weds got used to being in a partnership, but sometimes I felt like running through treacle – plenty of detail but perhaps too much detail

The epilogue is a little overwhelming in having SO MANY children suddenly introduced in the last chapter of the book. It is set up as if there is or will be a sequel (or a prequel that I’m somehow missing out on).

One thing that did annoy me (very minor point) is to the repeated referral to the butler as “Mr x”. Bollocks. No Servant (even Butlers) would have the “Mr” designation, Valets are perhaps excepted from this rule. This is clearly for the American Market. For those who care, I would trust Julian Fellowes (and things like Gosford Park and Downtown Abbey) for clues.

About the Author

Celebrated for her complex characters, realistic conflicts, and sensual love scenes, Paullett Golden puts a spin on historical romance. Her novels, set primarily in Georgian and Regency England with some dabbling in Ireland, Scotland, and France, challenge the norm by involving characters who are loved for their flaws, imperfections, and idiosyncrasies. Her stories show love overcoming adversity. Whatever our self-doubts, love will out.

Author NameAdditional Author detail

Inspector Montalbano: The Spiders Patience, Series 3 Episode 3

The Patience of the Spider is book 8 in the series. In the book, Salvo is recovering from injuries from the previous book and having to pull himself out of self-imposed seclusion. This is different to the upbeat note on which we finished the previous TV episode Equal Time.

Please note that I watched this episode/read the book over a year ago and this post has been sitting around pretty much since then. I decided to publish in order to clear up my scheduled posts. Apologies if i have missed something as a result

Salvo is woken by Caterella who explains in his roundabout way that a girl has been reported missing. Her father went looking for her when she didn’t return home the previous evening, but he found nothing. Her moped was found by her boyfriend, off her usual route and facing the wrong way. The working theory is that it’s a kidnapping, so the team go to visit Susannah’s father Salvatore Mistretta at home. The house has a large hallway with impressive stained glass in one of the indoor doors. Rather than stand in the hallway, they go into a more private area, another large room that’s well-lit but heavily underused. There is no money to pay any ransom, with the house already mortgaged, and the mother lying upstairs dying from an unknown undefined illness.

Salvo goes to visit Tina, the girl Susanna was studying with the day before. A big fan of Salvo’s, she tries to delay him long enough to allow her friends time to come round for photos, and she lets it be known she’s single etc. Nothing really useful comes out from the interview and Salvo excuses himself as soon as possible (note to the set people: I think I’ve seen this apartment door before).

Salvo talks to Susannah’s boyfriend, who admits that they had had sex for the first time on the day she disappeared.

The Commissioner calls to say the kidnapping has been handed over to Valente as he is more experienced with kidnappings. A taped phone call is made to the house, and in talking things over with Valente…who Salvo calls Fifi….the theory is that these are not professional kidnappers and are therefore more dangerous.

Nicolò , the TV journalist, makes Salvo come to the office and plays him the kidnap tape – the same one that was played at the home. As they discuss whether to broadcast the recording, the rival station plays it anyway. It appears the tape has been sent everywhere which is contrary to what kidnappers usually do. It seems the family lost all their money about 6 years previously, Nicolo doesn’t know why.

Salvo gets a call from the Commissioner to say that Mimi has been in an accident, which means he will be out of action for a while. Salvo goes out with Galluzzo, who has some form of food poisoning. Whilst Galluzzo is on a toilet break in the bushes, Salvo looks around, sees a farm offering fresh eggs, but also thinks he’s found the girl’s moped helmet, which has been missing until now.

He visits the farm which does sell eggs, but the wife offers sex as a sideline, as a result of her husband losing his legs in an accident several years previously. She believes a car turned up one evening and turned around but she didn’t see who. Salvo says that she will be interviewed, but she must make out to be just an egg seller. The woman mentions Dr Mistretta (Susannah’s Uncle) in passing as the one who recommends pain relief, which costs money she doesn’t have.

Salvo visits Dr Antonio Peruzzo, who lives alone in a country home far too big for a single person. It was a working farm/press/grove but most is now shut up. Antonio says his Sister In Law Giulia was poisoned. Seems everything went downhill 6 years previously, where Giulia and her brother Antonio had been close after being orphaned as children. When Giulia got married she and Salvatore went to Uruguay, bringing Antonio with them. At this point of the interview, the phone goes….there’s been another ransom call. They ask for 6 billion lire, rather than euro, which gives a clue they are still thinking in old terms. Salvo wants to put pressure on Mistretta to come up with money, but Fifi is not sure…

The rest of the story comes out…Antonio Peruzzo makes money in Uruguay through shady deals, returns to Sicily, makes more shady deals, gets investigated, borrows money, doesn’t repay, companies are made bankrupt, everyone falls out. Giulia is now sick from life whilst her brother’s businesses are doing fine.

Salvo visits Mimi in hospital where he has broken ribs etc but is still walking. Salvo now thinks they didn’t kidnap Mistretta’s daughter but Peruzzo’s niece. The town’s gossips are split in two as to whether Peruzzo should made to pay of not. Photos of the girl, proving she’s still alive are sent in and Salvo has some of the photos enlarged, spotting something interesting on the wall. He also visits the Mistretta house, which looks a fabulous house, but the further in you get it is clearly in bad repair.

Mimi discharges himself from the hospital, reports that Peruzzo’s wife got recognised and attacked in the street and two lorries got set on fire the night before. Mimi thinks Peruzzo will pay up.

Salvo and Valente go visit Peruzzo’s lawyer Luna, who tells them the kidnappers rang Peruzzo 6 hours before they rang the police, to say that Peruzzo has the money but no instructions what to do next. Salvo doesn’t like the Lawyer’s use of the word “inexplicably” as he believes the lawyer has known a lot more for a long time.

Fazio pops round to tell Salvo that Susanna had been released an hour before with some drama.

Luna rings Salvo, all miffed, saying that Salvo didn’t think his client would pay up. Money was left in an old necropolis in a bag. Salvo goes to the necropolis and as he’s checking out the bag of money – it’s full of paper and no money -he gets a call from Fazio, saying Valente is on his way, being followed by journalists. Not wanting to be found on site, Salvo makes off, only to find boyfriend at police station having been dumped by Susanna – he realises the sex was a form of saying “Goodbye”. The mother has also died.

Book Review: Serial Killers – Up Close and Personal by Victoria Redstall

An actress who has bonded deeply with serial killers shares her insights into their minds
Victoria Redstall is a glamorous model, actress, filmmaker, and investigative journalist who has spent years visiting high-security prison and getting to know sadistic killers like Gary Ray Bowles and Keith Hunter Jesperson, “The Happy Face Killer.” These hardened killers have opened up to her in a way that they would never do to psychiatrists, prosecutors, or other authority figures, and have revealed terrifying chapters of their lives that might otherwise have stayed hidden forever. In this chilling book she shares every detail and insight, bringing the reader up close and very personal with some of the most dangerous and disturbed serial killers that the world has ever seen. 

I’m not a huge fan of True Crime books, but I thought I’d give this one a go. I started reading this book, and within the first chapter decided that I didn’t like the writing style. It was it is supposed to be “Up close and personal” but in the stuff I read, it was more about the author than what the subjects have to say. In the first chapter, there was minimal quotes from the killer or the people around him. Here are a couple of quote from the first chapter alone to give you some kind of idea

Following a stormy marriage, Wayne’s parents divorced in 1971, with Mrs Ford travelling the world for six years while leaving her boys in the care of their father, who was now living in the Golden state of Napa. This was a bad choice because Wayne didn’t see eye to eye with his father; indeed to put no finer point on it, they didn’t get on at all.

Ford then told another unlikely story which had the dectectives winking at each other in disbelief.

We have seen the mitigation cards played by these predators and their lawyers, who deal them out time and time again prior to sentencing. Simply put, it just doesn’t wash!

I had to stop reading after the first chapter – I was being interrupted from the narrative by the writing style. In reading the other online reviews (I tend to read reviews AFTER i’ve read the book itself) and it seems I’m not alone.

Book Review: Midnight Bargain of a Runaway Marchioness by Patricia Haverton

Midnight Bargain of a Runaway Marchioness by Patricia Haverton. Woman in yellow dress on staircase, back to reader, looking over left shoulder

“You’re my world and I’m incapable of not loving you.”

When her mother sneaks inside her bedroom at night and begs her to flee, Lady Rhodeia wastes no time. With only a small bundle and the clothes on her back, she runs away, hoping against hope that her betrothed won’t ever find her.

There are two things Emmet MacLachlan, Marquess of Maynardshire, hates above all else: the Season and matchmaking. Furious at his meddling mother, he hopes a night ride will calm the beast in his gut. Until he finds an injured woman in the middle of a storm.

With Rhodeia’s true identity hanging above them like the executioner’s ax, Emmet is determined to escape with her to Scotland and start anew. A plan that quickly goes sour when Rhodeia’s father announces a bounty for her. And unbeknownst to them all, the beast that claws at Emmet’s gut has flesh, bone, and a heart made of stone.

Lady Rhodeia is an only child, who is generally ignored by her father – at least until he sees her use in marrying her off to the Earl of Carrington. Carrington is an older man, with a reputation for being a drunk, a Cad and a cheater, having a thing for younger women, and disposing of them when he’s bored.  Rhodeia’s mother is of much the same mind as her daughter – both are horrified at the thought of the marriage, so Rhodeia’s mother arranges for her to escape the house and travel to Rhodeia’s aunt in Scotland.

However, things don’t go entirely to plan and Rhodeia gets caught in a nasty storm, which results in her spraining her ankle falling off her horse and having to take refuge in a nearby abandoned cottage.  Little does she know, it’s not as abandoned as she initially thought, with Emmet Maclaclan, the Marquess of Maynardshire also taking cover. He has recently returned from India following the death of his father, in order to take over the running of the estate.   He finds the estate has been run into the ground, in part because of his mother’s frivolous spending and his father’s mis management and adultery.   Emmet also seems to be an eternal disappointment to his mother due to no interest in dressing accordingly, making the right connections, and by refusing to marry the woman who dumped him for another man 8 years previously. 

Meanwhile, Emmet and Rhodeia travel to London, in order to get Rhodeia’s ankle looked after. Neither of the MCs have told the other who they really are, not wanting to expose themselves as something more. Both do it for secrecy at the beginning but then cant think of ways to correct the other.

Two weeks later, Rhodeia’s father has been searching for Rhodeia, as he cant see beyond the marriage. He believes that Rhodeia is in London, and employs investigators to find her. Meanwhile Emmet’s mother employs an investigator to find out what Emmet’s getting up to, since he’s being so secretive.

Finally things come out into the open, at roughly the same time as Emmet and Rhodeia realise they love each other. Both get to confront their respective parents and at least Emmet’s mother has some reason behind her behaviour (even some of it is objectionable and she cant see anything wrong with it).  

The book draws parallels between the two leads and how they refuse to meet the expectations of the dominant parent which is a nice change to the standard Romance book – it’s usually only one Main Character that has the issue and it’s the other to teach that they can be loved by someone else. The Secondary characters are decently rounded out, considering – not enough that I would expect subsequent novels containing these SCs, but a bit better than other novels.

This was a reasonable (if unchallenging) Romance novel – slightly better than a lot of the other Romance novels, but not in the realms of Georgette Heyer (who I will say is in her own league!)

Book Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. Book Cover

Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense. It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.

And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.

This is a mixture of historical fiction with a modern mystery thriller with some parallels to the older story

I don’t know much (anything!) about LDS and “The Firsts” so I don’t know how much of the story is based in fact and how much is fiction.  I will presume that many liberties have been taken.

It starts with Jordan, a young gay man, who had been excommunicated from “the Firsts”, hearing that his mother has been charged with the murder of his father. Jordan’s mother is commonly referred to as “The 19th wife”. Jordan travels back to Measdale, whilst trying to work out if and how his mother did this.

The majority of the book tells the story of the beginning of the LDS and the breakaway sect of “The Firsts” – members of the LDS who believed that “celestial marriage” (pologamy) was the core of their faith as it was the only guaranteed way to get eternal glory in the afterlife.

Through letters, papers, books etc, the story of Bigham Young’s 19th Wife (Ann Eliza, and the struggles she has as being a multiple wife, which ultimately leads to her loss of faith, her divorce, her loss of income and her ultimate disappearance from history.  Meanwhile the story of Jordan and his mother does take a bit of a background story and hinges on a technicality.

I was removed from the overall story due to regularly thinking “how much is true?”, though I thought generally the book was good and entertaining. I’m not convinced that Jordan’s modern day story added much (quite honestly – too many step-siblings and sister aunts got confusing – but perhaps that’s the point!). Would I have gotten through the rest of the book without it though? Probably not!