Tag Archives: tbr

Wrapping up 2020

I’ve done a summary post of the books I read, places I visited, etc., for the last couple of years. 2020 has very little to recommend for itself looking back. The early months were pretty good, but later not so much.


  • Terceira in February (highly recommend)
  • Pittsburgh for hockey (first week of March, just pre-lockdown)
  • Antietam/western MD for a weekend in July
  • Cape Cod for an isolated and quiet trip in September


  • Online only – several Frank Turner shows, not much else.


  • Can’t remember if I saw anything in the theater early on.
  • Signed up briefly for Disney+ in order to see Hamilton and the first season of The Mandalorian.
  • A lot of Netflix, including Schitt’s Creek (meh), Derry Girls (like it), and Bridgerton (not sure I’d bother with future seasons/series).
  • Currently watching the new season of The Expanse on Amazon. I love Chrisjen Avasarala as a character.


I finished 33 books. The highlights were Megan Whalen Turner’s The Return of the King and Ben Aaronovitch’s False Value. There are two former autobuy authors who finally tipped over the edge for me to not even being library borrows, and a lot of ~meh~ mixed in. I tried a couple of self-published works from writers I’ve found via fandom(s); sometimes the original fic works for me and sometimes not, which is perhaps a function of the canon and backstory in fandom that requires more work to establish in original fiction. I’ve been letting myself read Obama’s memoir in bits and pieces, as a comfort, so I started in 2020 but it will finish as a 2021 read. (It’ll be a highlight, I’m pretty sure.)

Books I’m looking forward to in 2021:

  • Anna K. by Jenny Lee, a YA retelling of Anna Karenina. I haven’t read Anna Karenina since high school and my memory of it is such that I’m curious to read a YA adaptation.
  • We Own This City by Justin Fenton. Non-fiction account of the Baltimore City Police Gun Trace Task Force, whose members have been federally indicted for a variety of crimes, including racketeering, drug dealing, and illegal searches and seizures.
  • The new installment in Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton Yukon series.
  • What Abigail Did That Summer, a novella in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.

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The last Temeraire book

I managed to read a book!

Having said that, I finished it mostly so I could say I had finished the series rather than being really engaged.  League of Dragons felt like a let down to me; I just didn’t really care about or believe in the ending for Lawrence and Temeraire.  The series ending just felt…unsettled, to me, for lack of a better word.  The Big Conflict is under control [spoiler: Napoleon is exiled in the end] but all the social issues that supported the plot and story arc are not resolved.  Why bother to point them out or make me care as a reader if the series just stops with little or no progress on their front?

I’m on a bit of a roll, reading-wise.  After reading LoD, I picked up a couple of library books.  One is finished, A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev.  I recognized the name from reviews, maybe at Dear Author or elsewhere, but didn’t remember the substance of any reviews.  The book blurb implied (to me) a sort of Indian chick lit, but it read as a beefed up Harlequin Presents.  That’s not necessarily a negative; I’ve consumed a large quantity of HPs in my reading career.  It wasn’t really what I expected, but once I readjusted my expectations, the book was fine and entertaining, a pretty fluffy read, although I really didn’t care for the hero and didn’t buy the character revision or retconning at the end to make him appear less like a selfish jerk.  (He was a pretty typical HP alphahole.)

Now trying to read Middlemarch.  Some day I shall finish it.  I hope.  And I’ve got $50 and change in Apple rebate money burning a metaphorical hole in my pocket.

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Borrowed from the library

I stopped by the library over the weekend and picked up a few of books, sort of at random.

The Telling by Jo Baker.  Her Longbourn didn’t really appeal to me, and the housemaid bit here may wind up being repetitive, but I like the idea of two timelines.

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu.  The cover art caught my eye, and I want to read more non-European and non-American writers.

A recent Victoria Thompson/Gaslight mystery.  I find this series to be of variable quality in terms of writing and mystery construction, but easily consumed.

Also TBR is an Oscar Hijuelos book I received as a Christmas gift.  The Joy of Half a Cookie (non-fiction) is my current commute book, to be followed (at some point in the distant future, given my reading pace) by Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia.

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Getting into a reading groove?

I have read two books and a novella in the last 7-10 days, which feels kind of amazing.  Before the Years Long Reading Slump, three books a week – or more – was nothing.

“Wonderment in Death” – eh, it was fine, very focused on procedure, which I like.

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan – It was sort of sweet in a fairytale kind of way.  I don’t know, maybe English village life is really like that, and it isn’t a fairytale or fantasy?  The romance angle seemed kind of forced and not really believable, but I liked most of the characters and even the ex-boyfriend wasn’t terribly vilified.  (Truly, I was more irritated by how passive Rosie was with him.)  I checked LibraryThing, because Colgan’s name looked familiar; I haven’t read her before, but I feel like back when chick lit was bigger I read other similar Brit chick lit writers.

The Martian by Andy Weir.  As much as I enjoyed the movie, the book is better.  The majority of the book, like the movie, is narrated by Mark Watney, and the voice and tone are just so funny and smart, without being maudlin or pedantic, and he makes what seems to me to be complicated science* simple.  I even liked the end of the book better; there are some wrap-up/HEAish type scenes tacked onto the movie, which were fine but not really necessary.  There are a few Big Things that occur in the book that don’t occur in the movie; I’m curious to know if they were filmed but edited out for time or pacing, or if they were not in the screenplay to begin with because they felt like Too Much.  (I didn’t think they were too much as a read the book over several days, but I can see how they would feel sort of overwhelming in the 2 hour span of the movie.)  One of my favorite things is Watney’s appreciation for duct tape.  Also enjoyable are his appreciation for how ridiculous his situation is and his eye-rolling at NASA as they micromanage him from 140 million miles away.

I’m not sure what to read next – I feel like I need to jump on this trend and keep reading, for fear of relapsing into The Slump.  I’ve got a book by Shelly Laurenston and translation of Mario Vargas Llosa by Edith Grossman, both library borrows, sitting on my coffee table.  But a bunch of Patricia Veryan’s Georgian and Regency novels have been digitized; I loved them when I was a teen, and I’m curious to see if they stand up to re-read and adult perspective.


*Neil deGrasse Tyson says the astrophysics and other science is right, but The Biochemist says Watney’s comments about bacteria in your body being healthy is not strictly true all the time.  I’ll defer to Science People.


Unrelated to reading, my NWHL jersey arrived today.  So excited.  I’ll wear it when watching games online after the Four Nations tournament.  And when I go to a game in February.  (Although I may have to check the schedule and get to a game sooner.)


I finished the second staggered shawl for a friend.  So sick of the pattern by the time it was finished.  But someone else asked if I could make one for them.  I think I’m going to have to say not until December or January, because I’m not ready for another identical project.  I want to try making a hat or something simple.


It was in the mid-70s today.  It felt like summer out.  And it’s apparently supposed to be similarly nice for the next couple of days.


We have a bunch of international people visiting for a conference right now.  For some reason the host didn’t organize any kind of map of the neighborhood or suggestions for lunch, just said go to the food court at Union Station.  Which, uh, would you tell guests to eat at the equivalent of a mall food court?  I would not.  I took a couple of people to Cafe Berlin; good beer and wine and the tail end of their Oktoberfest menu (so good).  Definitely going back there.

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The Wanted List

Right now I’m reading Sisters in Law, the dual biography of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I put Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in my bag for beach re-reading; I haven’t read it since it was first published, and hadn’t realized how much I’d forgotten and how much was omitted from the film.  The September installment of the In Death series was actually better than other recent installments, in my opinion, because it was all about procedure; the series is fading for me, but this was an okay installment.

I put the last couple issues of bitch in my beach bag, and have compiled of list of books and movies I want to see based on its reviews and articles.

The books on my wanted list now are:

  • If Nuns Ruled the World by Jo Piazza (non-fiction)
  • Passing by Nella Larsen (fiction set in the 20s, written in the 20s, about a black woman passing as white).
  • Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement (fiction)
  • More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico by Alice Driver.  The reason I haven’t bought this book is that it is $45 for Kindle, which I’m reluctant to pay.
  • Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani (YA)
  • The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper (planning this as a gift)

Also on my wishlist is The Hanging Tree, the next Peter Grant book; I’d pre-ordered a copy from Amazon.co.uk, but got a notice that publication had been pushed back 😦  But perhaps that means it’ll be better edited than the last book?

The article on TBI, which points out the absence of domestic violence victims among studies of TBI, was good.  I get that it was highlighting an area that was ignored in a major study, but also felt that its concentration on the NFL concussion litigation and failure to mention other sports and studies that point higher rates of concussion diagnosis among women (athletes) left a hole.

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Reading non-white authors

This article in the Washington Post caught my eye today.  I was really interested in the authors the writer mentioned.  Since the piece has links to a bunch of books at Amazon, I went looking.  Unfortunately, very few of the links were to Kindle books, and even the books with print profiles were often not available.

Then I checked my local library; two of them could be found and requested.  And both of those were available on Amazon, albeit at prices I am unwilling to pay for authors I don’t know.


Joseph Stiglitz gave a presentation today at work.  If you were one of the first 150 people into the auditorium, you got a copy of his book, The Price of Inequality.  Stiglitz was a pretty good speaker, in terms of boiling down economic theories to something a layperson like me could understand easily. I’m looking forward to reading the book…as soon as I finish my library books and Frank Turner’s memoir.

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Library haul

Despite the fact that I only liked The Splendour Falls, rather than loving it, I still checked out two other Kearsley books, The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden.  I’m not sure if I’ll get to both of them since abject adoration is usually the setting I need for a good glom, but we shall see.  Also borrowed Chelsea Cain’s One Kick; I’m pretty much finished with her other series and I found her behavior online re: this new release pretty ugly, so I’m not inclined to either buy her books any longer or read immediately upon release.

The library had a display of mysteries in translation, which made me think of Keishon and her enjoyment of many translated mysteries.  I ended up borrowing Off Side by Manuel Vazquez Montalban.  I know almost nothing about futbol except that El Clasico is a Very Big Deal and the team in the blurb (Barcelona) has a long history.


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An embarrassment of riches

I’ve finished The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe.  While I appreciated the writing and get the immigration policy critique involved, the plot felt extremely contrived. And frankly, I didn’t buy that the small time con man was a “better” man in the end.  Just relocated and better off financially.

After finish a book lately, I’ve seldom felt an urge to pick up the next book.  Right now, however, that is not a problem.  Not only do I still have Kearsley’s The Splendour Falls borrowed from the library, but no fewer than three new books have arrived for my delectation.

Frank Turner’s The Road Beneath My Feet – which, well, I might have to put England Keep My Bones on repeat.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s North to the Orient – ordered after the Air & Space Museum tour.

And Exploring Calvin & Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue – because Calvin & Hobbes.

Possibly I should read North to the Orient first, since I’ve promised to pass it on to others who were on the A&SM tour.

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The library haul

The closest “branch” to me now is the central Enoch Pratt library.  It’s got a huge selection but limited shelving, which means that if I don’t know what I want, there’s a limited amount of browsing space.  Still, I found several books when I visited on Saturday.

Concealed in Death – I hadn’t read this one.  It was fine.  Standard Robb.

I’m about 80% finished with Maria Duenas’s The Heart Has Its Reasons.  It’s pretty women’s fiction-y and I was enjoying until the melodrama was amped up to 11.  Now I’m basically rolling my eyes.  Eh.

Other books I checked out are:

  • Susanna Kearsley’s The Splendour Falls
  • The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in An IKEA Wardrobe  by Romain Puertolas — I couldn’t resist it based on the title alone.
  • The Demon’s Brood by Desmond Seward.  Is there that much about the Plantagenets, in terms of general history, that I don’t know?  Eh, maybe not since I was obsessed with Eleanor of Aquitaine and her descendants years ago, but it still caught my eye.

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Plus and minus

On the plus side:  I finished a book!

On the minus side:  It was kind of ~meh~.

The book in question is Why Kings Confess by CS Harris, one of the library books I picked up on Saturday.  It read well enough that I managed to finish it by Sunday evening, so it can’t have been terrible.  It was just…predictable.  As in, it was clear who and why, although not necessarily how, fairly early on.  But then again, it’s a 19th century police procedural, so maybe I should cut the author some slack.

Next up is A Corner of the World, which opened well.  The Richard Castle book is still sitting on my coffee table, so maybe I’ll circle back to it eventually.

And there’s tennis to watch (because #sleepisfortheweak) and the next few episodes of Orphan Black.  On the plus side, it’s different.  On the minus side, the science is kind of ridiculous even for a non-science-y person like me.


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