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Bluebird

Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

The Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett

This was a great choice to read for my first foray into Pratchett’s Discworld as I did not need to know anything of prior books to fully enjoy it. And, it worked quite well as a stand-alone book. Of course, now I want to continue reading further adventures of the Wee Free Men and hope to come across more of Tiffany Aching, the 9 year old witch introduced in this tale.

 

This is an uproarious fantasy, adventure tale. Tiffany is not particularly fond of her younger brother, Wentworth. He is obnoxious, only interested in “sweeties”, and is chronically “sticky”. But when the Queen of Faeries steals him, Tiffany sets out to save him armed with only her frying pan and the help of the Nac Mac Feegle. The Nac Mac Feegle are 6” tall blue skinned, red haired men who speak with a Scottish accent and whose main interests are drinking, fighting and stealing. If you like the irreverent humor of Monty Python or Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series, I suspect you will enjoy this book. I highly recommend this as an audio read. Stephen Briggs does an admirable job with Pratchett’s writing. It’s simply hilarious!

Marina By Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Marina - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The story captured my attention right at the outset. Fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai disappears from his boarding school for seven days and nights and then suddenly reappears at the Barcelona train station. What follows is his story of the events that led up to this disappearance.  

 

Oscar stumbles upon an old broken down mansion and befriends Marina, the daughter of an ailing portrait painter. When Oscar and Marina follow a mysterious veiled woman, they become embroiled in an old mystery. This is a gothic tale that devolves into the macabre and grotesque. All the elements I loved in Shadow of the Wind are here: Carlos Ruiz Zafon excels at building characters, describing places and creating atmosphere. His words just draw me in. Sadly, the style itself felt a bit disjointed and not as engaging as his other works—too much of the story revolves around Oscar and Marina seeking out people who may help to solve the mystery and then listening to them tell of past events. While not nearly as compelling as the Shadow of the Wind, I think it’s a worthwhile read for Ruiz Zafon fans.

 

I received this book as a giveaway from the Librarything Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

Gulp by Mary Roach

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach

Once you get past the ick factor, this is a fascinating book. I’d previously read Stiff, so I suspected this would be a humorous and somewhat irreverent view of our digestive system. Roach did not disappoint! She starts with taste and smell, moves on to saliva, down the rest of the alimentary canal to the end product. She talks to doctors, scientist and prisoners. She gives us a birds-eye view stomach digestion via a hole in a man’s stomach, teaches us what is and is not o.k. to smuggle by ingesting as well as what type and quantities of contraband is smuggled rectally into prisons. We learn about Elvis Presley’s megacolon and get the answer to how he died and why his weight fluctuated so dramatically. We learn how fecal transplantation can cure a gastrointestinal infection. And so much more. Roach dug up many factoids and anecdotes—some went a bit too far, but interesting nevertheless. Some may think it’s too much information, but Roach once again gives us a humorous look at a topic others would shy away from. I was ambivalent about reading this via audio, but was quite happy with my choice. The narrator, Emily Woo Zeller, did a nice job of conveying Roach's wry humor.

The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax - Dorothy Gilman

Mrs Emily Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey is a widowed senior citizen with grown children. She feels she has outlived her usefulness and “loathes” her volunteer work. After a visit to her doctor, she is struck with an epiphany: she recalls that when she was growing up she had planned to become a spy--so she decides that's what she'll do.  She does some research and then boards a train to Washington DC to offer her services to the CIA.  What ensues is an amusing spy adventure.  Mrs Pollifax is accidentally sent to Mexico City as a courier, and when the job goes awry she ends up a prisoner in Albania.

 

Written in the 1960’s and set during the Cold War, this is the first in a series of 14 books. I recall my grandmother reading these in her Reader’s Digest Magazine many years ago and saying they were some of her favorite reads.  I enjoyed this first book and plan to continue with the series. And as I’ve heard later books in the series are even better, I may end up agreeing with Grandma.  I highly recommend this as an audio read. Barbara Rosenblat is wonderful as the “voice” of the charming and resourceful Mrs Pollifax.

False Colours by Georgette Heyer

False Colours - Georgette Heyer

What’s a boy to do when his identical twin brother goes missing just before an important dinner to meet his fiancé’s family and get their seal of approval? Why impersonate him, of course! Although the plotline is predictable, this is another enjoyable regency “romp”. Heyer has once again created some memorable characters and wonderful regency dialog. Phyllida Nash’s narration is entertaining. However, too much talk and not enough action relegate this to no more than 3 stars for me. I don’t recommend this as a first Heyer read, but I think fans of her works will enjoy.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

It's 2044 and the world is an overcrowded and dark place to live. Oasis, a virtual reality utopia, is where most people go to escape. You can go to thousands of worlds--and it feels real! When the creator of the Oasis and many other video games dies, he leaves control of his company and his immense fortune to anyone who can solve his puzzles to find the "easter egg" he's hidden in Oasis. While likely to be most enjoyed by computer/video/arcade game "geeks", I think this will appeal to anyone who grew up in or around the 1980's and had any interest in the culture of the times--not just games and computers. I never played video or arcade games (not even Pac Man) and never owned an Atari, but I still enjoyed this book immensely! It's a great homage to 1980's pop culture (actually it covers some of the 70's and 90's as well). So many fun memories came to me while reading this--my favorite of all the references was to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but if you have fond memories from television, movies, or music of the times it's probably mentioned in here. I read this via audio book and Wil Wheaton was an excellent choice. I've no doubt that his narration is the reason why it got 5 stars from me.

The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas

The Midwife's Tale: A Mystery - Sam   Thomas

1466 York England, The town is under siege by rebel forces. While the city is governed by Royalist supporters, a woman is tried for the murder of her Parliamentarian husband. Only Lady Hodgson, a well-respected midwife, believes in her innocence and hunts for the true killer. Lady Hodgson and her resourceful servant Martha look after the townsfolk—both the poor and the privileged. It's nice look at midwifery of the period as well as a satisfying historical mystery. I will definitely continue with the more of the series, however it can be read as a stand alone work.

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon

End of Event Meme:

 

Which hour was most daunting for you?  

      Hour 13.  After dinner I was just too tired to continue

 

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?    

      For a historical fiction reader, The Midwife's Tale

      I read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams years ago:

           it would be a great choice to keep you reading into the wee hours

 

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

       No, the organizers are fantastic!  Thanks much for all your hard work.  

       I had great fun and hope to participate more next year!

 

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

       What didn't!  I particularly liked the hourly challenges. 

 

How many books did you read?   About 1½ books total

 

What were the names of the books you read?

        finished: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

       read from start to finish:  The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas

       started: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

 

Which book did you enjoy most?   The Midwife's Tale

 

Which did you enjoy least? I enjoyed them all

 

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

       I wasn't a cheerleader.

 

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  If I can get the time off from work, I'll definitely participate again-as reader and maybe cheerleader.

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon: Mid Event Meme

1. What are you reading right now?

         I'm still reading The Midwife's Tale: A Mystery - Samuel Thomas 


2. How many books have you read so far?

         I'm on my second book of the day

              finished: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot 


3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

        If I get to it, The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. - Sandra Gulland 

        However, I think I need to read a fast, light book next


4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

         I switched days with a few co-workers in order to have the weekend off

 

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

         Only a few--nothing too time consuming


6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

         How little actual reading I'm getting done.  I'm enjoying reading many blogs and participating in the challenges.


7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

         No.  Everything is great!


8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?    Try to get more rest the night before.  


9. Are you getting tired yet?

         Yes, yesterday was a busy day and I didn't get much sleep

 

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

        No, I'm new to readathons and the only tips I know have come from experienced readathoners

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Hour 6 Mini Challenge

The Best Books of My Reading Year:

Although the year is only 4 months old, I've had some memorable reads:

 

The Best Book of the Year:  

   A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel - Anthony Marra    

   runner up: Doc: A Novel - Mary Doria Russell 

     it's too hard to pick just one here.  Both are wonderful reads!  

        Marra's book is heart-wrenching and thought provoking.  

        Russell's book brought Doc Holliday and the Earps to life for me.

 

The Best Mystery Book: The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler 

      What can I say...it's a classic.

 

The Best Sci-Fi Book:  Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time) - 'Robert Jordan', 'Brandon Sanderson'  It's such a great book that it made the slog through some of the middle books in this series worthwhile.  It's the penultimate book of the Wheel of Time Series (Book 13).   

 

Best Author:  Anya Seton 

I finally got around to reading Katherine and was "wowed".  She made me feel like I was right there in Medieval England.  I will definitely read more of her works.

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Progress

 

It's Hour 6

 

I got a late start, so my stats are rather miserable.

However, since I was nearly finished with a book before the day started I have a sense of accomplishment:  one book completed

 

 

Currently Reading: The Midwife's Tale: A Mystery - Samuel Thomas 

            

 

Books Finished:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

      

Total Pages Read:  70

 

Amount of Time Spent Reading: 90 minutes

 

Challenges Participated in:  Opening Meme, Cover Puzzle Challenge

 

Amount of Time Cruising Blogs of other Readathoners:  30 minutes

 

 

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon

Opening Meme:

 

What part of the world are you reading from today?

        California

 

Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

         looking forward to all--just hoping to finish a few

 

Which snack are you most looking forward to?  

         chocolate covered almonds!

 

Tell us something about yourself?

        this is the first readathon I've ever attempted

 

If this is your first readathon what are you most looking forward to?

        not feeling guilty about spending so much time reading!

 

Currently Reading:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral-And How It Changed the American West

The Last Gunfight - Jeff Guinn 3 ½ stars
After reading Doc by Mary Doria Russell, I wanted to delve a bit deeper. I only wish I'd read this first, as the "backstory" would have further enhanced my enjoyment of the novel. I enjoyed reading about the development of the frontier mining town of Tombstone and all the economic, political and social factors that played a role. This is well researched with extensive notes on where and how Guinn obtained his research. I really appreciated his explanations of where his source material came from and the problems inherent in many of the contemporary accounts.

Dissolution (Shardlake Series)

Dissolution - C.J. Sansom The first book in the Matthew Shardlake Mysteries. A historical mystery set in Tudor England shortly after the establishment of the Church of England and the beheading of Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII. Shardlake is a hunchback lawyer who works for Thomas Cromwell. He’s been charged with investigating the murder of a royal commissioner murdered in a monastery. Besides being a satisfying mystery, it met my expectations for a “historical” mystery as it is filled with rich details of the period and a compelling view of religion and politics at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in England. Wonderfully narrated by Steven Crossley. I plan to continue with this series.

Katherine (Rediscovered Classics)

Katherine (Rediscovered Classics) - Anya Seton, Philippa Gregory The incredible love story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gault—ancestors to the Tudor dynasty and the Stuarts. Spanning much of the 14th century, we see Katherine develop from an innocent young girl raised in a convent into a strong and wise woman. Anya Seton writes in such a vividly descriptive style with such well-rounded “characters” that I felt transported to Medieval England. I felt Katherine’s awe upon coming to court, her anguish at her lack of control over so much of her own destiny and her love for an unobtainable man. And, it's so much more than a romance. Intertwined in this beautiful love story are many rich details of 14th century life--for both peasants and royals, including events like the Black Death, and the Peasant's Revolt. I listened to this on audio, Wanda McCaddon's narration is a beautiful complement to this wonderful work.

The Splendour Falls

The Splendour Falls - Susanna Kearsley 3 ½ stars

This book is more a mystery with some romance rather than historical fiction. It's set mostly in 1990's Chinon, France, with just a few brief jaunts to the past to set the scene for the contemporary story. The book begins in the 12th century: King John's wife Isabella resides in Chinon Castle where she "hides a treasure without price" prior to fleeing the besieged Castle. There is also a brief journey to the end of WWII where another Isabella hides another treasure. The bulk of the novel revolves around Emily, who has been convinced by her cousin to join him in Chinon while he searches for the first Isabella's treasure. When he fails to appear, she becomes embroiled in the lives of the other guests at the hotel.

I love Kearsley’s descriptive style, however in this novel her descriptions overshadow the actually storytelling. At first I loved it, but by ½ way through I got tired of all the detail with little substance and nearly stopped reading. Fortunately I didn’t give up. By nearly 2/3 of the way in, the story finally took over and I was back to loving it by the time I finished. A bit convoluted and meandering, but with enough of a payoff to make me happy I stuck with it. Not recommended for first time Kearsley readers, but I think enjoyable enough for her diehard fans. I was enchanted by her descriptions of Chinon—it makes me want to plan a vacation there.