#34. The Unhappy Medium (T. J. Brown)

Book: The Unhappy Medium, by T. J. Brown

Genre: Fantasy / SF

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 438 pages

Briefly, it’s the tale of a theoretical physicist who is a complete sceptic about the supernatural, to the point of having his own TV show on the topic, who meets his comeuppance and is reluctantly converted.  He becomes an agent of the supernatural… working for the goodies against the baddies, of course.

Comments: I am not a reader of science fiction or fantasy.  I just don’t get the appeal.  But there was enough humour in this book to keep me reading.  Some of the dialogue between the protagonist and the characters from the “other world” provoked me to laughter out loud.  The characters of Newton Barlow, his daughter, his dead mentor, and the ancient Greek were very well developed.  This book won’t convert me to the genre, but it helped me to see that it’s not all bad!

Challenges: Full House Challenge, for the category “Paranormal or SF or Dystopian”; ebook reading challenge.

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#33. Just Perfect! (Teisha Mott)

Book: Just Perfect! by Teisha Mott (Persaud Girls series #2)

Genre: Fiction

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 394 pages

Briefly, it’s chick lit set in Jamaica, about a rich kid who discovers that she can’t control everything in her life.

Comments: I chose this book because it’s set in Jamaica, and I thought I’d learn something about the country.  Well, I didn’t.  Nor did I find the characters or the storyline in the least convincing.  But, ya know, no one holds a gun to my head to make me keep reading any book.  And I did read it to the end.  It’s the second book of a series, I’m not inclined to read any of the others.

Challenges: Ebook reading challenge

#32. Do Me, Do My Roots (Eileen Rendahl)

Book: Do Me, Do My Roots, by Eileen Rendahl

Genre: Fiction

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 245 pages

Briefly, it’s about three sisters who get together once a month to dye each other’s hair.  One is a widow, one separated, one not married.  It’s about their relationships with men, with their parents, and with each other.

Comments: This is a “chick lit” type book that treats real issues, like family bonding, the loneliness of widowhood, the support of women – especially sisters – for one another.  It’s funny, has a fairly predictable happy ending, but not superficial.  I enjoyed this a lot.

Challenges: Ebook reading challenge

#31. Going Upside Down (Elise Williams)

Book: Going Upside Down, by Elise Williams

Genre: “A contemporary travel/romance novel”

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 347 pages

Briefly, it’s about a British student who accompanies her parents to Australia for a cousin’s wedding, and then stays on to backpack around for a few months.  As it says, it’s a cross between a travel book and a light romance.

Comments: I think I may have missed the word “novel” when I downloaded this as a freebie.  I was expecting a real-life account of a backpacker’s experience in Australia.  No doubt the book is based on some real life experience, but for me the family back-story was a little too far-fetched to take seriously.  Nevertheless I enjoyed this as a holiday read – whilst shaking my head in middle-aged fashion at the superficiality of youth :).

Challenges: Ebook reading challenge.

 

NB: the eagle-eyed reader will notice that my book reviews skip from #29 to #31.  That’s because #30 was a book which I reviewed for a work-related professional journal, so will not be mentioning it on this blog.  But it counts towards my annual reading statistics.

Deal Me In mid-year survey

Dale, aka Bibliophilopolis, the host of the Deal Me In short story reading challenge, has asked participants to respond to a mid-year survey.  I’m a bit late, but here are my replies.  I also posted them in the comments section on his own blog.

Mid-Year Survey:

1. Do you have a favorite story or author so far? – Two stand out: The Sniper by Liam O’Flaherty, and Mme Zitta Mendès, a Last Image, by Alaa Al Aswany. I bought a novel by Al Aswany based on my impression of his writing from this story.

2. What is your major “discovery” from DMI this year? Either from the posts of fellow participants or from your own story roster – or both. My first short story of the year was by Ursula K. LeGuin, and I discovered that not all fantasy/science fiction is bad!

3. Would you participate in the challenge again in 2015? At this stage, I’m just not sure – I would participate again some time in the future, but not necessarily as soon as next year.

4. Do you think a weekly wrap-up post is necessary? Would you prefer a monthly wrap-up?  Whatever works for you! I’m happy either way.

5. Do you have any good ideas for suit “themes” to share for others who might try the challenge again? I haven’t gone with themes at all, so I haven’t any suggestions.

6. Have you gotten much of a response from other readers of your blog (other than fellow DMI’ers I mean)? No, but my blog is really only for my own enjoyment and to help me deepen my reflection a bit. I’m not doing it for the same of interaction with others, unlike a lot of other bloggers.

7. Can you recommend any good resources (on line or otherwise) for those looking to populate their DMI roster? Two online resources I’m using are classicshorts.com and flavorwire.com .

8. Does DMI rate favorably in comparison with other book blogging challenges in which you’ve participated? Why or why not? It compares very well, because you [Jay] keep really on top of things and we all know what’s going on in all quarters! Some hosts just set up the challenge and don’t “re-appear” again until almost the end of the year. That’s fine too, I’m not complaining, but the level of your personal involvement and commitment is very encouraging.

9. What is/are your favorite part/parts about The Deal Me In challenge? The randomness of the selection of what story to read next, and the fun way of doing it with cards.

10. Conversely, what do you NOT like about the challenge or what would you change about it?  Sometimes I don’t like “having to” blog about my reading every week, but in fact that’s self-imposed and I know I probably wouldn’t read as well if I didn’t blog about every story. Not that my blogs are anything brilliant, but they do prevent me from merely skimming a story (so easy with some shorts) and calling it “reading”.

11. Feel free to add any other general comments. A big thank you to Jay!

Short Story #25. Homecoming (Laila Lalami)

Deal Me In Reading Challenge: I drew the nine of diamonds.

Story: Homecoming, by Laila Lalami [from The Granta Book of the African Short Story]

Comments: “Hold on,” I thought, when I checked the title listed against the nine of diamonds, “haven’t I read that story already?  Quite recently, in fact?”  But no, when I double-checked, everything was in order.  The first story I read was The Homecoming, by Namibian Milly Jafta, this is Homecoming, by Moroccan Laila Lalami.  The protagonist in this story is a young man, Aziz, who has been working for five years in Spain as an illegal immigrant, and now returns home.  His mother and his wife want him to stay, but he has not saved enough to start a business at home.  He wants his wife to return to Spain with him, but she doesn’t want to go.  And as he stays for a little while, he begins to see that in fact it wouldn’t work out… home looks different than he has remembered, he has changed, there is a new gap between him and his loved ones.  Eventually he prepares to return to Spain alone.

A thoughtful, tense, touching story.  I have this author on my list of African writers to watch out for in future.

2014 challenges, at the half-way mark

So, how’s it going?

Some good, some not so good, one definitely doubtful.

My favourite challenge is also, unsurprisingly, the one in which I’m making most progress, the Full House Challenge.  14 out of 25 books completed = 56%, and I’ve begun at least two others.

For the Deal Me In short story challenge I’m a just a little behind, 24 books out of 52 completed = 46%.  Blogging about each story is not strictly speaking part of the rules, but I feel that if I don’t do that I’m not going to keep in the challenge at all.  If I can read and review two stories per week instead of one over the next month, I’ll be back on track.

The Back to the Classics challenge is not going well.  I thought I’d really like this one, but I’ve only completed two books out of a total of ten-and-a-movie, 18%.  Perhaps with careful planning I’ll be able to get back on track here, but I can see it being a rush at the end of the year… Let’s keep working towards it.

Read Scotland: I signed up for 1-4 books, so technically I’ve achieved my goal by reading two books.  But I’ve got a couple more on my list, hopefully I’ll get to them.

The Africa Challenge also has a low target, 5 books.  As yet I’ve only completed one (20%), but two others are well in hand and I think I’ll be able to make this one by the end of the year.

For my personal Reading round Munster challenge, I need to read one more book by the end of September.  I know the particular book I want to read, and need to order it (secondhand paperback) soon.  I’ve read 5 out of 6, = 83% completed.

I’ve read 3 out of 6 books for the I Love Library Books challenge, exactly 50% so I’m right on target there.

Audio books is another one where I can say, technically, that I’ve achieved my goal, because my goal was 1-5 books and I’ve listened to 2.  Audio books just don’t work well with my lifestyle, so I may leave it at that.

That leaves two other challenges where I’m doing well: The Non-Fiction reading challenge (13 out of 16-20, i.e. over 80%) and Ebook reading challenge (19 out of 25, i.e. 76%)  I know I’ll be tempted to go up to higher levels of challenge in both of those, but perhaps I need to focus on catching up in some other areas first.

Overall, I reckon I’ve read (and blogged) about 57% of my target reading for the combined challenges.  So my goals remain achievable, but I will need to be strategic in my choices!